In an international system devoid of any central authority, mediation has often been advocated as being the most appropriate tactic in the realm of third-party conflict management. Traditional academic literature on international mediation derived most of its insights from labor-management disputes (Zartman 2008). These insights largely relied on the assumption that mediation is conducted by a single trustworthy third party that is does not have a stake in the conflict or its outcome. Over the past three decades, this traditional conceptualization of international mediation has experienced important advancements and change. For instance, as will be illustrated later in this book, over time, the issue of impartiality has been challenged and several theories specified conditions under which a third party’s bias might not be a liability to the peace-process. Similarly, mediation is no longer viewed as a mere dynamic of facilitating communication between conflicting parties, where third parties have very limited (if any) control over the conflict management process. Rather, mediators’ involvement is increasingly viewed to be pivotal in altering parties’ perceptions and preferences, and they do this not only by facilitating communication, but also by formulating viable solutions and incentivizing the parties to accept the terms that were initially unthinkable. As such, mediation is today defined simply as a process in which a third party helps conflicting sides to find a solution to their conflict that they cannot find themselves (Touval and Zartman 2006). Nevertheless, despite these important theoretical developments, the core assumption that mediation is conducted by a single third party still limits the practical applicability of various academic studies of international mediation. As numerous cases around the world have shown, international conflicts are increasingly being managed by more than one third party. Mediation increasingly involves more than one third party, and the growing prevalence of this model makes it imperative that we understand the costs and benefits of this multiparty intervention. While much has been written about the damaging effects of uncooperative multiparty mediation have on a peace process, this book explores another perspective – the benefits both to the peace processes and to the third parties themselves of cooperative action. It bases its conclusion on insights from game theory and an in-depth review of five cases of mediation. Given the increasing pervasiveness of this model it is crucial to understand its practical and
theoretical ramifications. Although some studies have devoted their attention in unveiling the effects of uncooperative relations between multiple mediators, this book takes on a different focus: it looks at the potential benefits that cooperative behavior may generate both for the peace process and for the third parties themselves. The conclusions are drawn from insights developed through a game theoretical model and an in-depth analysis of five cases of mediation. Take this case, for example. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, in the early 1990s the United Nations Secretary General (UNSG) entered a peacemaking process aimed at mediating an escalating conflict between Georgia and the breakaway republic of Abkhazia. Alongside the UNSG was Russia, formally entrusted with the role of ‘facilitator.’ Russian interest in managing the conflict was a direct consequence of its desire to maintain its strong influence in its ‘near abroad.’ Furthermore, a group of Western states – the United States of America (US), the United Kingdom (UK), Germany and France – joined the UNSCG as ‘Friends of Georgia.’ As the number of interested external actors increased, so did the complexity of the peacemaking process. The process was complex not only because of the long duration of the conflict’s destructive phase. In fact, the 13 months of violence were suspended with a cease-fire agreement facilitated by Russia under the auspices of the UN. Russian influence in the region was soon reflected in the choice of peacekeeping troops that were dispatched to the waraffected areas: instead of UN troops, the peacekeeping operation was entrusted to Russian forces, formally under the mandate of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The cease-fire agreement was never superseded by a comprehensive peace settlement. According to Whitefield there were two fundamental problems with the peacemaking process:
The first was the enduring importance to Russia of Georgia and the significance of Abkhazia in relations between the two. The second was that differences between the principal external actors widened. To Russia’s evident frustration, the “western Friends” (long perceived as partial by the Abkhaz for their robust defence of Georgia’s territorial sovereignty) encouraged Georgia in aspirations that included one day joining NATO. No confidence in a negotiated solution could be built and a complex spiral of events descended downwards towards the open conflict seen between Georgia and Russia in August 2008.