Mediating Conflicts of Indivisibility. A Conflict Type Approach to Mediation
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This paper endeavors to explore a conflict-type approach to mediation, i.e. to test the interdependence of conflict types and mediation profiles. It specifically looks at conflicts of indivisibility, asking whether the core properties of these most resistant conflicts suggest some mediation profiles to be more adequate than others and, more specifically, whether this conflict type restricts the menu of choices available to mediators. Taking stock of the research findings of several strands of largely unrelated literature, the most prominent of which is the ‘enduring rivalries’ research program, the paper first identifies two core properties of these conflicts, perceived indivisibility and self-reinforcing duration effects, based on an issue-oriented bargaining approach. It then synthesizes the research findings on conflict termination, integrating them into different theories on how to reverse path dependence. It afterwards discusses specifically the rather sobering mediation track record for these conflicts. On this basis, the paper turns to mediation goals and strategies, arguing that this conflict type indeed limits the choices available to mediators: as concerns the issue dimension, non-directive strategies are much less functional than directive strategies and fractioning seems to contradict the very nature of these conflicts; as concerns the perceptional dimension, continuous problem-solving efforts are the key to sustainable resolution.
This paper was prepared for the Panel ‘Third Parties in Peace Processes. Theoretical and Empirical Questions of the Annual Convention of the International Studies Association, San Francisco, 26 March 2008
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