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What is international mediation?

international mediation

Today we are going to talk about mediation with a particular  focus on multi-party mediation efforts. Even thought they might try their best, negotiatiors often do not succeed in reaching a negotiate agreement. In some cases, conflicting parties won’t even engage in negotiations without the help of an actor who is not party to the dispute. This outside actor is called a mediator or more generically, a third party. Third parties help disputants reach an agreement that they cannot reach on their own.

International mediation is widely understood as a voluntary and a non-coercive form of conflict management, wich is highly practical within the intricate dynamics of international relations, dominated by the principles of preservation of actors, independence and haptonomy.

Mediation represents an extension and continuation of parties own conflict management efforts. In other words an extension of the negotiation process itself. When an outside party enters the conflict in order to modify, alter, or influence the dynamics of previous relations between conflicting sides. At the same time mediators play a crucial role in formulating specific legally non-binding solutions or procedures for the purpose of ending hostilities or a crisis, or even suggest options for resolving a dispute.

International mediation refers to activities conducted by various international actors with the aim of managing international conflicts on interstate and intrastate levels. Just as disputants in these conflicts can be both state and non state actors, outside parties that could be motivated to mediate these conflicts can be just as diverse and numerous. They include representatives of neighboring states, of global powers states of medium and small relative size, representatives of global and regional, international organizations, global NGO’s, such as religious organizations or interest and advocacy groups.

Finally, even when individuals such as Jimmy Carter etc with an established international reputation in managing international conflicts could act as mediators, even thought they might not possess a particular mandate from a state or an international organization. Recent empirical studies have concluded that multilateral mediation efforts increase the chances of reaching a negotiated settlement. Coalitions serve as a good example of how states utilize their power in “an ad hoc” but still multilateral matter. Essentially, coalitions provide states the opportunity to act outside of formally institutionalized multilateral formats while still maintaining some of the benefits multilateralism might generate, such as increased legitimacy and pooling in of resources.

The typical ad hoc coalitions of states are now complemented by participation of other international actors. In fact, multi party mediation refers to attempts by many third parties to assist peace negotiations in any given conflict. Such activities might be undertaken by national governments, international or regional organizations, and transnational and non governmental organizations.

This concept refers to simultaneous interventions by more than on mediator in a conflict and interventions by composite actors, such as various groups of friends, and contact groups. Not every mediator enters the process with the same level or type of leverage. A mix of mediators with different leverages might add to the effectiveness of joint endeavor, as third parties might borrow leverages from one another. Inclusion of influential regional and global actors in the mediating coalition could help restructure both domestic and regional relationships.

That have complicated the achievement of a negotiated solution. Lastly, multi-party mediation’s advantage is that permits different mediators to enter the process according to their capabilities and characteristics a various stages of the conflict.

Crucial challenges that every multi-party mediation process is faced with the achievement of appropiate cooperation among the mediators and consequent coordination of their actions in the peace making process. The concept of cooperation and coordination, both, depart from the assumption that actors of the mediating coalition need to have shared goals on how to resolve the conflict. At the same time there’s still a clear difference between the two concepts. A necessary precondition for cooperation is that all parties recognize the mutua benefits of working together.

When parties perceive gains of a joint effort, cooperation might lead to a coordination of mediation activities, wich implies a more mechanical process of splitting the work in the most effective way and clarifying who needs to do what, when and how.

Third parties can resort to three fundamental methods or strategic roles that define their relationships with conflicting parties. The most accepted typology classifies mediators’ behavior and corresponding strategies on an intervention scale and level of mediators’ assertiveness in the peace process.

At the low end of this scale are strategies termed as communication or facilitation. As a communicator or facilitator, the mediator primarily focuses on helping the parties and communicating more smoothly, and facilitates their mutual cooperation, while exerting a very modest control over the actual mediation process.

Given the high level of distrust that conflicts usually produce, conflicting parties’ choices are conditioned by incomplete information about their opponent’s preferences and capabilities.

This in turn prevents the parties from identifying the mutuall acceptable alternatives to their belligerent relations. Facilitator or communicator provides the disputing sides with the much needed information, thanks to which the parties recognize the range of mutually preferable outcomes. However, even when the parties recognize their zone of possible agreement, they still have to agree on a specific outcome within it.

Due to a high level of distress that characterized mediated conflicts, conflicting parties might see some of the potential solutions, even though they are within their range of possibly acceptable solution as mutually exclusive which might lead the peace making process into a deadlock. As parties develop zero sum perceptions and employ hard bargaining attitudes. The mediators might redefine the issues at hand, and formulate specific alternatives. Since persuasion requires a certain level of involvement, the mediator does not only facilitate the communication between the parties, it rather gets involved much more directly in the process. It offers creative solutions wich could reduce commitment problems by emphasizing that belligerent is in no ones benefit and that current stale mate requieres immediate solutions.

Finally the most active strategy a mediator might use is described as mediation with muscle. when mediating with muscles, the mediator becomes a full participan who is able to affect that essence of the bargaing process by presenting incentives or delivering ultimatums to the disputing sides. Accordingly, there is an obvious difference between facilitacion and formulation on the one side, and manipulation on the other. the former two strategies employ a variety of methods such as facilitating communication, distribution of useful information and formulation of viable solutions. so that the disputants could identify an existing mutually acceptable solution within their range of available alternatives. the latter manipulative strategies however are used with the aim of enlarging the spectrum of possible solutions that are mutually desirable to continuing the conflict.

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