Summary of "Understanding Mediation's Role in Preventative Diplomacy"

Summary of

Understanding Mediation's Role in Preventative Diplomacy

By Jacob Bercovitch

This Article Summary written by: Tanya Glaser, Conflict Research Consortium

Citation: Jacob Bercovitch, "Understanding Mediation's Role in Preventative Diplomacy," Negotiation Journal, 12:3 (July 1996), p. 241-258.

Bercovitch examines 241 international conflicts occurring from 1945 to 1990. Mediation was attempted, often multiple times, in 60% of those conflicts. Bercovitch identifies nearly 600 mediation attempts made over the course of those conflicts. Based on an analysis of these mediation attempts, the author identifies a number of factors which correlate strongly with successful mediation.

Democratic states are often believed to be less likely to engage in conflict than non- democratic states. However, Bercovitch finds that once engaged in conflict, the political make-up of a state has little impact on that state's likelihood of accepting mediation.

Bercovitch also found that mediation was most likely to succeed when the adversaries both had well defined and legitimate identities. Mediation was most successful (64%) where one or both of adversaries had no significant cultural minority. Mediation was least successful (38%) where one or both of adversaries had a significant cultural minority. Power disparities between adversaries were also a significant factor. Mediation was most successful (51%) where there was little difference in power. Mediation was least successful (33%) where the power difference was great.

Regarding the timing of mediation, Bercovitch finds that "preventative mediation is more effective when it is initiated early, but not before the parties' positions have crystallized."[p. 251] Low fatality rates (100-500) were correlated with relatively high mediation success rates (64%). High fatality rates (10,000+) were correlated with low mediation success rates (39%).

Bercovitch finds that preventative mediation appears to be more effective at addressing certain issues than others. Resource disputes had the highest rate of successful mediation (70%), followed closely by ethnic disputes (67%). Next came ideology disputes (50%), followed by sovereignty disputes (45%) and lastly security disputes (41%). Many authors have argued that impartiality is a crucial ingredient to a mediator's success. Bercovitch argues that "effective mediation is more a matter of resource utilization, leverage, and influence than it is a matter of impartiality."[p. 254] Mediators who employ directive strategies are more likely to be successful (52%) than mediators who employ a communication-facilitative strategy (32%).

The mediation environment is also a factor influencing mediation success. Mediation was most successful when it occurred on the mediators' territory (54%) or on neutral territory (50%). Mediation was less successful when held in the parties territory (45%) and least successful when it moved between a number of sites (36%).