International Mediation

International mediation is utilized to resolve conflicts in international relations. The aim of the mediation is to reach a constructive resolution in a peaceful manner. The nations involved in the conflict may be antagonistic to each other, or they may vehemently guard their independence. The potential for conflict to escalate into great levels of violence, especially during an era of sophisticated weaponry, makes international mediation a viable tool in conflict resolution. Mediation is now widely used in international relations.

Research is not always readily available due to intense levels of secrecy. Researchers may not be able to enter the field, particularly the actual environment, given the security measures and confidentiality surrounding it. As a result, specific details rarely emerge, and a precise definition is contentious. Confidentiality in international mediation is so crucial to the process that all considerations play a part. For instance, it is not usually known that the mediation is going on nor where it is taking place. All documents, notes and statements are deemed confidential, and the mediator is not permitted to be involved in any legal proceedings, either as witness or to act on behalf of either party. Discussions between the parties is considered confidential and "without prejudice" at all times.

International mediation strategies depend largely on the issue pertaining to the conflict and to what extent the tension between the nations has manifested. Their previous relationship has a bearing on the conflict management techniques utilized.

Generally, mediation occurs when there is prolonged conflict, and there appears to be little or no movement on either side toward resolving the situation. Sometimes, issues of costs arise, and the conflicting parties agree to mediation. Contact between them, in this instance, may be direct or indirect.

The mediator is chosen as a third party who can effectively negotiate toward resolution. The goal is for the two conflicting parties to reach an agreement. An individual person may perform the role of mediator, or this function can be carried out by a group, organization or state. The third party is assumed to be neutral; thus, rather than imposing views on the disputants, the mediator works toward a mutually acceptable outcome.

The goal is to achieve a satisfactory result without resorting to legal means and, above all, to avoid force or violence. The idea that both parties have a will to resolve the conflict is significant. The mediator or outsider enters the fray as a provider of help to manage the conflict and effectively negotiate a settlement. The field is highly volatile and dynamic. It is one involving great complexities socially, politically and ethnically. Creativity is often utilized to find ways of moving beyond an impasse and getting closer to resolution. The context, the specific issue at stake, the disputing parties, the nature of the conflict at a given time and the specific skills of the mediator create a situation in which mediation can be effective or at worst, unsuccessful.

There are situations where the parties have attempted to sort out their differences but have not been successful. Mediation is then chosen as an option to prevent further decline in relations. As the process is considered nonbinding and noncoercive, conflicting parties often feel more comfortable accepting mediation help. This is different from arbitration, which presupposes that the parties are bound to accept an agreement. The fact that it is a voluntary method of resolving conflict, mediation diminishes what might be perceived as a threatening intrusion. Furthermore, it is meant to be nonjudgmental, given the neutrality of the mediator. When there appears to be little hope of sorting out differences, and there is a threat of impending violence, international mediation is seen as a welcome opportunity to reach a solution.

Successful mediation is also subject to both parties being prepared to move from their position. Great skills of negotiation are required by the mediator, as well as a certain flexibility in the process and a desire by the parties to reach a settlement.

International mediation is carried out on an ad hoc basis. Once the conflict has been resolved and an agreement reached, the mediator leaves the field.

International commercial mediation is a type of mediation pertaining to mediating between businesses in different countries. In these cases, there is a commercial interest and a focus on profit.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Resolving International Conflicts: The Theory and Practice of Mediation
Jacob Bercovitch.
Lynne Rienner, 1996
Peace through Agreement: Replacing War with Non-Violent Dispute-Resolution Methods
Gerald Rabow.
Praeger, 1990
Cultural Variation in Conflict Resolution: Alternatives to Violence
Douglas P. Fry; Kaj Björkqvist.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1997
A Century of Arbitration: The International Court of Justice
Nash, Michael L.
Contemporary Review, Vol. 274, No. 1600, May 1999
Some Reflections on Compliance with WTO Dispute Settlement Decisions
Vazquez, Carlos M.; Jackson, John H.
Law and Policy in International Business, Vol. 33, No. 4, Summer 2002
Transparency in WTO Dispute Resolution
Wallach, Lori.
Law and Policy in International Business, Vol. 31, No. 3, Spring 2000
Operation of Consultations, Deterrence, and Mediation
Parlin, C. Christopher.
Law and Policy in International Business, Vol. 31, No. 3, Spring 2000
Arbitration under NAFTA Chapter 11: Past, Present, and Future
, Marcia J.; Lewis, Christine W.
Houston Journal of International Law, Vol. 25, No. 2, Winter 2003
Commercial Arbitration in the Caribbean: A Practical Guide
M. J. Stoppi.
University of the West Indies Press, 2001
From the Ground Up: Mennonite Contributions to International Peacebuilding
Cynthia Sampson; John Paul Lederach.
Oxford University Press, 2000
Choice of Law in International Commercial Arbitration
Okezie Chukwumerije.
Quorum Books, 1994
Elusive Peace: Negotiating An End to Civil Wars
I. William Zartman.
Brookings Institution, 1995
Search for more books and articles on international mediation