University of Stockholm, Political Science
Third Party Mediation by International Organizations: Using Information to End Wars?
While states are the main actors in conflict management, international organizations have gradually taken on more responsibilities in this domain. In the last twenty years, the United Nations has expanded its capacity for independent conflict management and there has been a proliferation of regional organizations aspiring to provide similar functions. The attempt by the African Union to mediate an agreement in Libya provides a recent illustration of this trend. So far, the progress of the African Union has been modest – an outcome that corresponds well with the general pattern: while more and more conflicts attract intervention by external mediators, mediation fails far more often than it succeeds.
Previous studies of mediation have identified some explanations as to when and how mediation works. Based on such studies, we have some understanding of what conflicts are possible to mediate, at what time to mediate, and which mediation strategies are more likely to succeed. However, much of the evidence is anecdotal and non-systematized, leaving key questions unanswered or unexplored, such as questions relating to mediation by international organizations, mediation in civil wars, and overall effectiveness.
In seeking to improve our systematic understanding of mediation, rational bargaining theories provide a promising avenue of exploration. Modeling conflict as a bargaining situation with two parties, such theories predict that a mediator can intervene to change the conflict parties’ payoffs or channel information, so as to reduce hostility resulting from miscalculation or commitment problems. According to theory, the effectiveness of an information-providing mediator hinges on the relevance and credibility of the information. These two factors may be captured through empirical measures of the information resources available to the mediator and of the relationship between the mediator and the conflict party.
Focusing on international organizations, my research aims to test information-related explanations of mediation, by ways of a quantitative overview study followed by in-depth, field-based case studies.