What is International Mediation?

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  • Written By: Pablo Garcia
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Images By: George Eastman House, Touch
  • Last Modified Date: 01 February 2020
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International mediation is an attempt to resolve disputes between nations. It operates on the same dispute resolution principles as those that apply to disputes between individuals. It is a way to give parties control over settling their differences with objective guidance in a neutral setting. International mediation can involve things like trade and commerce issues or be an attempt to prevent or halt armed conflict. Many countries use international mediation to settle disputes on a variety of issues.

In the area of trade and commerce conflicts, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has developed its own dispute resolution system. WTO is actively involved in settling many trade disputes. The United Nations (UN) has created the Model Law on International Commercial Conciliation. The European Union (EU) has designated methods of alternative dispute resolution like mediation a top political priority for EU countries in all conflict situations.

Mediators of international disputes are often highly respected individuals with a strong commitment to resolving issues peacefully. A sovereign nation with a strong interest in international or regional stability will often serve as a mediator in international disputes. Individual nations have immense resources to offer in the international mediation process, including political leaders with expertise in the cultures of the disputants and the nature of the conflict.


International mediation can be complicated by cultural and language barriers. There are also situations where the parties have a strong sense of national identity and a willingness to use force to maintain or overthrow the current balance of power. Mediation of seemingly intractable conflicts requires a deep understanding of the parties’ grievances and a tenacious commitment to resolving the conflict.

Special Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) like Amnesty International and the Carter Center, founded by former US President Jimmy Carter, may also aid in the international mediation process. Parties in conflict may view NGOs as more neutral in the situation as they should have no governmental agenda, and ideally, their only goal being to settle the dispute peacefully. This is also a consideration for using mediation organizations like the Quakers, the Islamic Conference Organization, and Oxfam. These organizations work not only to settle the conflict but also to bring about reconciliation between the parties.

Countries may also seek or accept UN help in mediating their disputes. The parties first must accept the UN’s mediation “mandate,” which means that the UN Secretary General has the authority to meet with all parties to the dispute. He also has authority to consult with all parties about solutions to resolve the conflict and to propose ideas and solutions. As with other forms of international mediation, the outcome is not binding.


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