Peacemaking and Mediation: Dynamics of a Changing Field

From the Introduction: There is no question that today’s environment features elements of both continuity and change for peacemakers. We will identify important areas of consensus about peacemaking that have carried over from the late 1980s and early 1990s to the present, take note of continuing debates in the broader field of conflict management and resolution that affect the way practitioners and scholars think about their activities, and discuss certain “new emphases” in this field that can affect the way peacemakers operate, whether as state-based or unofficial actors.

It should be emphasized at the outset that peacemaking (including conflict prevention) and mediation are best understood as components of a broader field of activity and study summarized by the term “conflict management”––a term that incorporates the full spectrum of third party activities aimed at preventing, mitigating, suppressing, settling or resolving, and even transforming, violent conflict between and within societies. From the standpoint of the scholarly literature, peacemaking is rooted in the study of (1) negotiation and (2) conflict resolution.

But situating the field in this manner risks creating an overly narrow perception of what peacemaking is all about. Making peace and the threat or use of force both have a place in the arsenal of powerful actors, whether they operate in the interest of their “national security” or in the interest of broader notions of “international peace and security,” as defined in the United Nations Charter. The absence or failure of peacemaking results in reduced security. Peacemaking, in other words, is one of the major avenues leading toward enhanced security, and it deserves a central place in the diplomacy of states that have something to contribute, as well as in the activity of the UN Secretariat.