After a nearly two decade long decline, the number of conflicts around the world has begun to increase once again. These conflicts encompass a complex interchange of local and international dynamics coupled with an increased number of actors involved and the goals they bring with them. Most of the conflicts fought in recent years have been intra-state (i.e., civil wars) and one of the most noticeable trends in these conflicts has been the increased fragmentation of the conflicting parties (Themnér and Wallensteen 2013). This poses a serious challenge to any peacemaking process. The creation of various factions increases the number actors whose approval is needed for an agreement to be accepted and, as a consequence, reduces the range of possible solutions. Furthermore, the multiplicity of actors opens the door to a more fluid set of alliances posing a challenge to the negotiation process (Cunningham 2006). To make matters even more complex, these conflicts have been characterized by another conspicuous tendency, unprecedented since the end of World War II: they have been increasingly internationalized in the sense that they saw one or more external states contributing troops to one or all conflicting sides (Themnér and Wallensteen 2014). While in principle external actors may affect an ongoing conflict by trying to manage it or by joining one of the sides in the fight, often these actors also pursue a separate agenda that may not fully align with that of the actors they may officially or unofficially support. In these cases, their presence may compound the adverse effects of an increased number of participants on the peacemaking process. First of all, it may distort the parties’ assessment of the extent to which a mutually hurting stalemate exists, as the parties may believe that with external help they may still be able to escalate the conflict and achieve victory through unilateral action. At the same time, external actors may have less of an incentive to negotiate because the costs of fighting they bear are lower. Finally, their involvement brings a separate set of demands to the process, which need to be addressed in order for the conflict to be solved. By reducing the range of possible solutions and diminishing the
sense of ripeness, external involvement may contribute strongly to prolonging the conflict (Cunningham 2010). Evidently, in an international system that lacks an overarching authority, international conflicts often attract the involvement of actors with interests as divergent as the ones discernable between the conflicting parties themselves. As an increase in the use of mediation seems to be less a matter of choice and more a fact of life, the field of international mediation is becoming both diversified and crowded (Crocker et al. 1999). The traditional notion of mediation as a process primarily conducted by state representatives has been expanded by the continuous proliferation of new international actors that are willing and able to manage conflicts. Mediation activities are increasingly conducted by international and regional bodies, non-governmental organizations, local actors and eminent individuals. Contingent upon their relative capabilities and willingness to engage, these actors may enter the process at various stages and assume different roles that will have an impact on the overall outcome. Mediation activities conducted by multiple third parties are commonly referred to as multiparty mediation (Crocker et al. 1999, 230). They include sequential, simultaneous and composite involvement of more than one external actor in mediating a dispute. The mediation efforts in the former Yugoslavia are an excellent example of sequential multiparty mediation. During the conflict, one actor after another became involved, building upon previous (failed) attempts to mediate a solution. As a result, in the case of Bosnia alone, by the time peace was brokered in Dayton, 144 different third parties had acted as mediators (Greig and Diehl 2012, 77). Multiparty mediation may also occur simultaneously involving many different mediators with various institutional foundations on the ground at the same time. This was the case in the multilevel peace processes in Tajikistan and Burundi in which ‘track II’ peace initiatives of the local civil society and international NGOs worked in parallel with ‘track I’ diplomatic efforts by neighboring states and international organizations such as the UN (Hara 1999; Saunders 1999; Iji 2001). Finally, multiparty mediation refers to interventions by ad hoc composite bodies and coalitions. In contemporary international society, which is becoming increasingly multipolar, ad hoc coalitions continuously change shape. The archetypical ad hoc coalitions of states are now complemented by the participation of other international actors. Looking at the reasons why states form coalitions, Frazier and Dixon argue that they “provide states the opportunity to act outside of formal multilateral settings but with some of the benefits of multilateralism such as legitimacy and pooling of resources” (Frazier and Dixon 2006, 391). At the same time, their multilateral composition might also be more appealing to the conflicting sides. Parties may perceive these groupings as not being subject to, guided by or in service of the interest of only one state. As each mediator enters the process with a particular set of resources and interests, the parties may perceive a coalition’s activities as more balanced and sensitive to their interests (Gent and Shannon 2010).