The CSS Blog Network

Mediation Perspectives: Challenges to the Multi-Track Approach – Insights from Syria

Image courtesy of ColdSmiling/Pixabay

Mediation Perspectives is a periodic blog entry that’s provided by the CSS’ Mediation Support Team and occasional guest authors. Each entry is designed to highlight the utility of mediation approaches in dealing with violent political conflicts. To keep up to date with the Mediation Support Team, you can sign up to their newsletter here.


This blog aims to shed light on some of the challenges facing the multi-track approach to mediation through the example of Syria. The multi-track approach refers to undertaking peacebuilding efforts at different levels and interlinking them where useful in order to reach sustainable peace. The concept has regained attention as numerous states suffering from conflict have failed to maintain long-lasting peace despite signing peace agreements at the national level. However, the implementation of the multi-track approach has rarely been tested through evidence-based research. This piece aims to raise some questions aimed at critically examining its application.

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Mediation in Armed Conflict, 1946-2012

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This graphic contrasts the number of conflicts that occurred between 1946 and 2012 with the amount of mediation that took place over the same period in both active-conflict and post-conflict states. To find out more about mediation in armed conflict, see Jonas Baumann and Govinda Clayton’s recent addition to our CSS Analyses in Security Policy series here. For more graphics on peace and conflict, see the CSS’ collection of graphs and charts on the subject here.

Number of Armed Conflicts Worldwide by Type, 1975-2015

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This graphic presents a breakdown of different types of armed conflict occurring worldwide from 1975-2015. To find out more about the role of religion in armed conflict, check out Jonas Baumann, Daniel Finnbogason and Isak Svensson’s newest addition to our CSS Policy Perspectives here. For more graphics on peace and conflict, check out the CSS’ collection of graphs and charts on the subject here.

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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Brexit and the Binary Bind

UK EU Leave image

UK EU Leave, courtesy Rareclass/Flickr

This article was first published on 1 July 2016 in the Kluwer Mediation Blog series

Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised by the whole Brexit affair. I’m not talking about the result of the vote itself, but about the referendum process, the behaviour it engendered, and its aftermath.

All the classic features were present. Classic features of what? Well, of binary processes. Those that offer a win/lose, yes/no, remain/leave outcome, and nothing else. Rather like courts, as it happens.

Of course, I realise that decisions do need to be taken, and referenda are intended to produce a clear picture of the will of the people (only just, on this occasion, but I suppose it’s clear at least). Nothing wrong with that.

But the problem is that for all the desire for clarity and decisiveness, binary processes come with some fairly hefty downsides. And these have been laid bare for all to see in the referendum process. I will mention three.

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