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

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Defining Mediation
  • The Study of Mediation
  • Data on International Mediation

International Relations Mediation in International Conflicts
Molly M. Melin
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 July 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 July 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0214


Mediation, like conflict, spans both history and the globe. Examples range from the diplomatic efforts by emissaries of several Greek city-states to create a truce between the Aetolian League and Macedonia during the First Macedonian War in 209 BC, to the decree by Pope Alexander VI to establish spheres of influence for Portugal and Spain in the New World in 1493, and to the efforts by President Jimmy Carter in 1978 that produced the Camp David Accords and a long-standing peace between Egypt and Israel. Actors outside a dispute may play varied roles in a dispute, but the role of mediator engages third parties to help resolve the conflict and generate lasting peace. Whereas mediators are not required to be neutral or unallied with a disputant, the third party does not overtly join the conflict on the side of a disputant. Early studies of mediation lacked the precision and information necessary for developing a systematic understanding of such a complex process; however, the topic of third-party mediation of disputes has seen a surge in the quantity and quality of research over the past twenty years. Because mediation is one of the most commonly used techniques for resolving issues among state actors, the importance of understanding the process of mediation and its outcomes cannot be understated.

General Overviews

Several publications offer general overviews of our knowledge about the mediation process. Kleiboer 1996 reviews work on mediation success, discussing the key contextual and process factors that generate the mediation outcomes. Bercovitch 2002 offers insights into the causes of mediation effectiveness. Greig and Diehl 2012 provides a general overview of mediation that is accessible to students and general readers. Wall, et al. 2001 discusses six topic areas covered by mediation research—the determinants of mediation, mediation per se, approaches used by mediators, determinants of the mediation approaches, outcomes of mediation, and determinants of the mediation outcomes. Wall and Dunne 2012 notes that even though it is known that the type of conflict, country, culture, and mediation institutions affect the mediation process, few studies have examined the relative effectiveness of specific strategies.

  • Bercovitch, Jacob, ed. Studies in International Mediation. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.

    This is an edited volume on mediation effectiveness and how best to achieve it. The work highlights the determinants of mediation success, the range and diversity of mediation in the contemporary environment, and new strategies of intervention.

  • Greig, J. Michael, and Paul F. Diehl. International Mediation. Malden, MA: Polity, 2012.

    Draws from a wide range of examples to explore how third parties use mediation. Accessible for students, practitioners, and general readers.

  • Kleiboer, Marieke. “Understanding Success and Failure of International Mediation.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 40 (1996): 360–389.

    DOI: 10.1177/0022002796040002007

    This article presents and assesses the state of the art in research on the course and outcomes of international mediation.

  • Wall, James A., and Timothy C. Dunne. “Mediation Research: A Current Review.” Negotiation Journal 28 (2012): 217–244.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1571-9979.2012.00336.x

    Using a “cybernetic mediation paradigm,” the authors discuss the choices that mediators and disputants make when they interact, all attempting to reach their own goals. This interaction produces outcomes for the disputants, the mediators, and other parties. The authors explore the way in which the type of conflict, country, culture, and mediation institutions affect the mediation process.

  • Wall, James A., John B. Stark, and Rhetta L. Standifer. “Mediation: A Current Review and Theory Development.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 45 (2001): 370–391.

    DOI: 10.1177/0022002701045003006

    Examines the determinants of mediation, approaches employed by mediators, determinants of the mediation approaches, outcomes of mediation, and determinants of the mediation outcomes.

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