Chapter 1: Introduction to Research Handbook on Mediating International Crises
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This Research Handbook brings together a number of perspectives on the practice of mediation in the international system. A diversity of origins and a wide array of actors typify conflicts and crises today. The widespread availability of lethal weapons at the disposal of parties to conflict have made civilian populations tragically vulnerable as they are often caught in the crossfire. These circumstances require a systematic approach to crisis management whereby we can attempt to match the conditions of conflict with appropriate conflict management mechanisms as we seek more effective control of conflict. Mediation, the subject of this Research Handbook, is but one of a number of tools available for addressing conflict and crisis – others include arbitration, adjudication, and intervention in the form of peacemaking, peacebuilding, and peacekeeping. We focus on mediation because we believe that when applied to the confluence of conditions that typify today’s conflict and crisis arena, mediation – either alone or in combination with other intervention mechanisms – can make a crucial difference in whether or not the international community will be successful in limiting conflict and crisis. Let us begin first by clarifying our thoughts on crisis. We feel the best way to think about conflict/crisis is as a continuum. At some point in an ongoing conflict, perhaps over land or resources, control of government, borders between states, and so on, that conflict, whether interstate or intrastate, reaches crisis proportions – widespread protests, threatening troop movements, violations of cease fires, or actual violence. That is, there has been a change in the disruptive interactions between the parties, resulting either in hostilities or in a higher than normal likelihood of violent hostilities. At that point, the conflict has escalated to crisis. It need not entail violence, but the probability that violence will ensue has increased.