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date: 26 March 2017

Mediation and Foreign Policy

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics. Please check back later for the full article.

Mediation is a form of conflict management in which a third party controls some aspects of the peace process, but belligerents retain control of the eventual outcome. It is one of the primary foreign policy instruments through which states and international organizations attempt to manage and resolve violent conflict. Mediation offers a means to terminate violent conflict by reshaping a disputant’s perceptions or behavior, without using physical force or invoking the authority of the law. It is now the most popular form of conflict management and has proven to be an effective means of resolving inter- and intra-state disputes. This article offers an overview of mediation in foreign policy. First highlighted are the actors who perform mediatory roles, highlighting the relative strengths and weaknesses of individual, state, and international organization mediators. Next, is a discussion of the supply and demand of mediation, identifying the key conditions that promote third parties to offer mediatory assistance and belligerents to accept the help of an intermediary. Also discussed are the process and varying methods used by mediators, highlighting the range of actions, from relatively soft facilitative mediation, up to more manipulative approaches. Finally, the outcomes that mediation tends to produce and the conditions that influence the effectiveness of this preeminent foreign policy tool are investigated.