Research Handbook on Mediating International Crises
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Research Handbook on Mediating International Crises

Edited by Jonathan Wilkenfeld, Kyle Beardsley and David Quinn

Current conceptions of mediation can often fail to capture the complexity and intricacy of modern conflicts. This Research Handbook addresses this problem by presenting the leading expert opinions on international mediation, examining how international mediation practices, mechanisms and institutions should adapt to the changing characteristics of contemporary international crises.
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Chapter 11: The lengths and limits of mediation in intrastate crises

I. William Zartman


While the job of a mediator is often considered to be one of facilitating the “what” of negotiationor helping the parties find an outcome on which to find agreement, most often the challenge is first to find the “when” or to bring the parties to a realization that they need to find a joint agreement to handle the conflict or problem because they are in a stalemate and it hurts them. This is the ripening function of a mediator.The curse of mediation is to find too many prospective mediators whom the parties encourage to compete with each other to proffer the most attractive outcome, thus undercutting each other.This is a problem especially when Track I (official) and Track II (unofficial) mediators are working the case. The answer is a need for coordination on all sides. A third challenge is to determine the mediatability of the conflict or problem: there are problems where the parties are obdurate against any attempt at ripening.

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