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Mediation Perspectives: Seven Avenues for Research in International Mediation

Peter Wallensteen

Peter Wallensteen speaking at the 2016 International Conference on Mediation.

What are new avenues for research in international mediation? This question was discussed at the International Conference on Mediation, which took place in Basel, Switzerland, in June 2016. It was jointly organized by the Centre for Mediation in Africa (CMA) at the University of Pretoria, the Global South Unit for Mediation (GSUM) at the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, and swisspeace, which is an associated institute of the University of Basel.

The utility of the conference lay in its focus on two topics. First, trying to bridge the research–practice gap by having both mediation researchers and practitioners attend the event. Second, the conference sought to bridge the North-South gap by hosting researchers and practitioners from both the Global North and Global South, and thereby helping to rebalance the present research asymmetry that exists in the world.

By drawing on a variety of perspectives, the conference highlighted the following areas of research as being particularly relevant for the further development of the mediation field.

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How Can Arms Embargoes be Made More Effective?

Gun

Courtesy Thomas Hawk/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies on 4 October 2016.

The AU is taking a well-timed look at how arms embargoes can be better implemented.

Arms embargoes are the most common type of sanction currently applied by the United Nations (UN), and one of the five main types of targeted or smart sanctions (others are diplomatic sanctions, travel bans, asset freezes and commodity interdiction).

The key aim of smart sanctions is to raise the regime’s costs of non-compliance (with the sanctions) without bringing about the wider suffering often associated with comprehensive sanctions, such as trade bans.

How effective these embargoes are in Africa is the subject of much debate; not least because the continent has been subjected to the majority of arms embargoes since the UN’s first stand-alone arms embargo against apartheid South Africa in 1977. Since then, several African countries have faced such embargoes; some repeatedly. Liberia, for example, experienced a series of UN-imposed arms embargoes in varying degrees and forms between 1992 and 2016. Despite this, illicit weapons continued to be trafficked into the country.

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Why Juan Manuel Santos Deserves the Nobel Peace Prize

 Colombia Grunge Flag

Courtesy Nicolas Raymond/Flickr

Juan Manuel Santos, the Colombian President, has been awarded the Nobel Peace Price “for his efforts to bring a more than 50-year long civil war to an end.” While international observers might have chosen other candidates this year, Santos deserves this award.

First, he secretly started peace negotiations early in his first administration when political opinion was inclined to further debilitate the country’s already weakened guerrilla groups, most importantly the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Thanks to his experience as Minister of Defense in the previous government, he recognized that a military victory would have taken many more years and produced many more victims.

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January 1, 2017: Let the Honeymoon for UN Reform Begin

Mosaic stain glass wall in the UN

Courtesy Mitchell_Center / Flickr

This article was originally published by the IPI Global Observatory on 19 September 2016.

Last year was a banner one for progress on multilateral norms, with adoptions of the Paris climate change agreement, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and “sustaining peace” resolutions by United Nations member states. It was also a notable year for a different multilateral genre: UN reform proposals. Comprehensive plans were developed by the Independent Commission on Multilateralism and the Commission on Global Security, Justice and Governance; and three blockbuster reviews of UN peace operations and architecture were completed—the High-Level Independent Panel on UN Peace Operations (HIPPO), the Advisory Group of Experts on Peacebuilding, and the UN Global Study on Women, Peace and Security. The bottom line was clear: dramatic changes are imperative in UN headquarters and the field if the world organization is to respond to the 21st century’s complex threats.

The stage was set for 2016, only the second time—the first was in 1996—that the campaigns for the United States president and the UN secretary-general would run in parallel. Both have been protracted. As the race to become the ninth secretary-general heats up, it is important to remember an essential consideration: on January 1, 2017, a “honeymoon” begins. The position still may be what the first secretary-general Trygve Lie called “the most impossible job in the world,” but the post-Cold War era has provided its holders with more possibilities for institutional housecleaning. And history provides lessons for 2016’s successful candidate. Many recall Lie’s successor Dag Hammarskjöld’s first year as an unparalleled struggle for institutional reform, but Cold War secretaries-general were less able quickly to shake up the world organization’s machinery than their post-Cold War counterparts.

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