In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Mediation via International Organizations

  • Introduction

International Relations Mediation via International Organizations
Zorzeta Bakaki
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 February 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 April 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0206


Several factors can increase the risk of war between states. But war primarily occurs when states believe (or, in fact, misbelieve, according to the Bargaining Model of War) that the likely benefits of combat outweigh the expected costs. Finding ways to prevent conflict in the first place—or a peaceful resolution to it once fighting has broken out—remains of vital interest to policymakers and scholars alike. If conflict belligerents cannot find a peaceful solution by themselves, international mediation is a frequently used tool. International mediation pertains to a third party getting involved in a dispute with the aim to ease the conflict peacefully for the belligerents. A mediator entering a conflict usually becomes part of it by manipulating the actors’ behavior and, as a result, the choices the opposing parties have. But how can and do international organizations (IOs hereafter) mediate, and thus, alleviate a conflict? IOs frequently employ different methods than state mediators, including peaceful interventions aiming to improve states’ relations or directly resolve rivalries. This article seeks to review the existing positivist literature on this and related questions. The review begins by offering definitions and a brief overview of the main components of the article, i.e., international mediation and IOs. The relevant work in the broader field of research is also discussed by looking at different methodological approaches: qualitative and quantitative studies. The article then proceeds by examining IOs’ role in the international system more generally as I discuss some crucial studies dealing with the question of why states delegate (at least some) power to IOs in the first place. To this end, the review also illustrates some concepts that are necessary for the study and understanding of IOs, i.e., international cooperation more broadly defined, centralization, socialization, and compliance. Against this background, we are then able to address the link between mediation and IOs. In particular, the review illustrates the reasons why and how IOs mediate. These thought-provoking ideas offer an illustration of the role of IOs as mediators. The article finishes with an outlook of the consequences of mediation via IOs, particularly in light of the fact that mediators usually aim not only to reach a settlement, resolve the conflict, and produce a peace agreement, but also to secure post-conflict stability.

General Overviews

This review first discusses those studies that offer a general synopsis of this article, i.e., international mediation and IOs. It also addresses the underlying and broader research field of IOs and points to the literature dealing with methodological aspects, both quantitatively and qualitatively. This section thus provides the necessary background information, definitions, and literature. Based on this, we are then able to move to more detailed aspects of mediation employed by IOs.

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