Diverse interests facilitate conflict mediation in international crises

DOI10.1177/0010836717716723
https://doi.org/10.1177/0010836717716723
Cooperation and Conflict
2018, Vol. 53(1) 118 –135
© The Author(s) 2017
Reprints and permissions:
sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav
DOI: 10.1177/0010836717716723
journals.sagepub.com/home/cac
Diverse interests facilitate
conflict mediation in
international crises
Jennifer De Maio and Katja Favretto
Abstract
We investigate the effect of ethnic pluralism on mediation in interstate and internationalized
civil crises from 1945 to 2010. We find that mediation succeeds when two conditions are met.
First, success is more likely when there are fewer disenfranchised ethnic groups in the disputant
population, because these groups are usually excluded from peace talks and often use violence
to challenge peace. Second, mediators are more likely to succeed when politically included
disputants, usually present at peace talks, comprise various different ethnic groups. Because
such groups, numerous as they are, pull and tug for dominance at peace negotiations, they are
unable to form decisive coalitions. As a result, third parties have a chance to serve in a more
authoritative role and influence a settlement.
Keywords
Conflict management, diversity of interests, ethnic identity, international crises, mediation
Introduction
In 1995, when the United States launched a massive mediation effort to end the Bosnian
war, identifying all the disputed sides and their internal power structures presented US
negotiators with a formidable challenge. A few weeks before the negotiations began in
Dayton, Ohio, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević convinced the Bosnian Serb leader-
ship to sign a letter in which all key players gave Milošević the final and deciding vote over
the Bosnia peace process.1 Nevertheless, the American mediators invited both Serb delega-
tions to participate in the Dayton Accords and did not exclude them from negotiations until
they confirmed that Milošević was indeed authorized to make decisions on their behalf. In
addition to the two Serb delegations, the United States welcomed representatives from
Western Europe, as well as Bosnian Muslims, Croats, and a delegation from Croatia led by
Corresponding author:
Jennifer De Maio, Department of Political Science, California State University, Northridge, Northridge, CA
91330-8254, USA.
Email: jennifer.demaio@csun.edu
716723CAC0010.1177/0010836717716723Cooperation and ConflictDe Maio and Favretto
research-article2017
Article
De Maio and Favretto 119
Croat President Franjo Tuđman. While the large number of bargaining coalitions slowed
down the negotiation process at Dayton, it allowed US mediators to take control of the
negotiations and exert their influence to get an agreement (Holbrooke, 1998).
Dayton had six different actors at the table, each with very different interests. One
would think this would have been a recipe for disaster: the diversity of interests coupled
with the pull and tug for dominance among the multiple actors should have made agree-
ment less likely. Yet mediation turned out to be successful, we argue, precisely because
of the diversity of interests at the table. Perhaps the greatest threat to mediated settle-
ments is that excluded or dissatisfied groups will emerge as spoilers, refusing to accept
the agreements and going back to the battlefield. The more diverse the interests repre-
sented at the table, the greater the likelihood that no such interest group is excluded. In
addition, Dayton, like most peace agreements, was a mediated settlement, and the pres-
ence of more diverse interests gave more power to the mediator. 2
In this article, we consider the role that diversity of interests plays in third-party medi-
ation of ethnic conflicts. Does a high number of groups vying for space at the negotiating
table make reaching a settlement more difficult? Do the prospects for conflict resolution
diminish if a group is excluded from the peace process? These questions have yet to be
answered by the literature on third-party conflict management and resolution. Many
mediation scholars find diversity of interests a significant explanatory variable in the
occurrence of mediation, but the literature has yet to explain why – or how – diversity of
interests affects mediation outcomes.
In order to build a more comprehensive theory of third-party intervention and conflict
resolution, scholars should study more closely the relationship between diversity of interests
and the success or failure of peacemaking. In this article, we expand on the mediation litera-
ture and investigate how disputants’ domestic ethnic politics affect mediation outcomes. We
posit that mediation is more likely to succeed when outside spoilers are kept to a minimum
and politically included groups are fractionalized. When peacemakers are working with
fewer disenfranchised ethnic groups in the disputant population, mediation is more likely to
succeed because these groups are usually excluded from peace talks and often use violence
to challenge the fledgling peace (Blaydes and De Maio, 2010; Stedman, 1997). In addition,
mediators are more likely to get a settlement when politically included disputants, usually
invited to peace talks, comprise various different ethnic groups. Because such groups,
numerous as they are, pull and tug for dominance at peace negotiations and suffer from col-
lective action problems, they are unable to form decisive coalitions to oppose the mediator’s
influence. As a result, third parties have a chance to gain momentum in the negotiations,
serve in a more authoritative way, and use their clout to get a settlement.
Empirical approach
Given the logic of the argument we advance, we would expect to find a positive relation-
ship between the success of mediated settlements and the diversity of interests that are at
the table during the negotiations. In testing this expectation, we are faced with three
complexities: (1) the selection problem regarding which disputes become mediated; (2)
the fact that, as Favretto (2009) shows, the success of mediation also depends on the type
of mediator; and (3) it is impossible to measure the key explanatory variable (the diver-
sity of interests at the table) directly.

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT