Mediations as Tool for Resolve or Manage the Conflict: Civil Wars


Mediation in civil wars has grown exponentially. Civil wars fall in the area of concern for the whole world in contemporary times. But how do the intervention by the third parties decided? What are the factors that influence the behavior of the world to civil wars? Mediation is the tool used by international organizations as well as states to resolve or manage the conflict. How does the mediator influence the behavior of the parties involved in the conflict as well as what are the reasons for the failure of mediation?

Civil War Mediation

The civil war in its simplest form can be defined as the internal conflicts between the parties within a state including state actors as well as non-state actors. There is no exact definition that can close the concept of the civil war because of the variations in the elements of these conflicts around the world. Civil wars involving governments are mainly led by the non-state actors for internal or local disputes. According to UCDP, civil war can be defined as:

“a contested incompatibility that concerns government or territory where the use of armed force between two parties, of which at least one is the government of a state, results in at least 25 battle-related deaths”.

According to Bercovitch, Anagnoson & Wille:

“a process of conflict management where disputants seek the assistance of, or accept an offer of help from, an individual, group, or state, or organization to settle their conflict or resolve their differences without resorting to physical force or invoking the authority of law”.

Civil war mediation is complex mediation often mediated by a third party that is another state, international organizations such as NATO, UN, etc., or regional organizations.

Basis of mediation intervention by the third party

Third-party intervention and conflict management are dependent on some factors. The decision is mainly influenced of the economic ties, strategic alliances, and historical linkages as well as the urgency of the conflict. The urgency of mediation can be the humanitarian emergency in the state that is more likely to welcome the participation of the UN. Third parties often show conservation while involved in mediation because of the political and reputational factors attached to the failure in mediation. The conflict parties' interest also plays a significant role in conflict management because without the consensus of the parties involved in the conflict, mediation is impossible. On the other hand, third parties are either states or international organizations, it makes sense because states are responsible for the creation of the international organizations. Consequently, mediation by international organizations represents the interests of member states. For example, the colonial history of France and Britain has encouraged these states to mediate in their former colonies to manage the conflicts.


Strategy; Strategy of a mediation process is based on the decisiveness of the mediator. The most likely distribution of the strategy is; Facilitative 39% (mainly focusing on the outline of the process and assisting the parties to reach the mutually agreeable goal), Procedural 53% (main concerned with the objectives and the decision is enforceable), and Directive 8% (involve the mediator who has expertise in the area and give recommendations and suggestions to the disputants ). Mediators are anticipated to play a passive role in the process to understand the objectives of the parties in the beginning of the process. In the later stages, the mediator turns to observe the control over the process. The mediator can set the agenda, time, or the meeting location of the process. Mediators can also use a mixture of different types of mediation to produce fruitful outcomes.

Efficacy; The effectiveness of the mediation process cannot be achieved by the factor that agreement is achieved. But the main purpose of the mediation process is the achievement of a political agreement ensuring the mutually agreeable interests. Mostly, the achievement of an agreement cannot determine that another event is inevitable.

Determinants of mediation

There are many factors that indicate the need of mediation between the parties. Firstly, mediation is likely to happen in high intensity and long conflicts because of the cost demand. If the war proves costly in terms of duration and deaths, the parties involved will try to resolve the conflict through mediation. Long duration and intense conflicts indicate more costs and over time, the disputants increasingly find the need to utilize more resources to end the conflict by achieving their objectives. In long wars, the level of animosity increases, and the parties perceive each other as evil. Consequently, in these conditions, mediation is more likely to happen.

Secondly, another factor involved is the type of regime in the state. Civil wars are less likely to happen in democracies as compared to authoritarian regimes. The chances of rebel are less in democracies because in this system, opposition parties can participate in the election procedure to overthrow the existing government. Consequently, the public tend not to revolt because of the existing mechanism present in the state. On the other hand, the only method to change the authority is either to wait for the authority to die or through a revolution. The latter involves conflicts that often result in conflicts that shift to civil wars. As a result, the type of regimes has a great influence on the intrastate scenarios. Moreover, in civil wars, third-party intervention is favored by both regimes because the chances of violating the agreement are more in the absence of a third party. This is also the reason for mediation in civil wars.

Why does mediation fail?

There are numerous cases of failed mediation. Mediation is a process of third-party intervention that is based on the consensus of the party involves or disputants. Third parties choose the method of intervention (i.e. military intervention, mediation, or peacekeeping) by weighing the possible costs. Most specifically, failed mediation often involves the reputational as well as political costs by the mediating state or party. The results of failed mediation are less intense than other methods. Moreover, mediation is a less costly and low-intensity process of third-party intervention. Mediation can also prove less effective in comparison to other methods. Consequently, mediation plays an important role in shifting the scenario from war to peace, but mediation alone is not enough in war conditions specifically civil wars to achieve peace and stability.

There are factors involved in civil wars that are responsible for the complexities in these situations. The toughest and most difficult among these are ethnoreligious conflicts for the third parties to intervene in. Most researchers believe that the ethnoreligious conflict poses a greater risk for the mediation process as well as peacekeeping. The sensitivity of the issue impaired with the complexities in the scenario encourage third parties to shift their attention to the cases that can prove the success and move away from such complex conflicts unless they are of extreme importance and significance.

Mozambican civil war

Mozambican civil war was a 16-year-long civil war based on a local conflict when white minority entered Mozambique and carried out operations against the Zimbabwe National Liberation Army. This war broke after the country got independence from Portugal. It was a proxy war between the government-backed by the USSR and the insurgents backed by the USA. This war continued from 1977 to 1992. The primary actors in the conflict include FRELIMO Mozambique Liberation Front led by the central government and the RENAMO Mozambique National Resistance led by Andre Matsangaissa. The estimated casualties of this 15 year were approximately 1 million. It was a long and intense conflict in which neither of the parties were wining. It ended with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990 followed by a peace accord that was signed in 1992 in Italy allowing the UN peacekeeping. After this, free elections were held in the state. The military chaos ended but political rivalry remain between the two.

In 2016, the conflict intensifies resulting by the breach of the 1992 peace accords as well as economic imbalances in the country. In June 2016, mediators including South Africans, the EU, Tanzania, and Catholic Church mediated between both the parties on the respective issues.


In conclusion, civil wars are the most complex having tendencies to engage other parties. The intervention is always motivated by common interests and demands high costs from the mediator side. Civil war mediations are less effective because of the factors attached to it (such as religious and ethnic). Territorial conflicts are more likely to be mediated because of the intentions of the parties to achieve the mutually agreeable goal. It is a mechanism used by the international community to mitigate the intensities involved in civil wars. Civil wars are most likely to be intervened or mediated when the state falls in the sphere of interest of major powers or the world. In this anarchical world, the ultimate goal of states is survival and national interest. In order to achieve those national interests, states tend to participate in such conflicts that most likely increase the chances of complexity.


  1. Karl DeRouen Jr, J. B. (2011). Introducing the Civil Wars Mediation (CWM) dataset. Journal of Peace Research, 11.
  2. Momodu, :. S. (2014, july 4). The Mozambican Civil War (1977-1992. Retrieved from BLACK PAST:
  3. Mozambique country profile. (2019, March 19). Retrieved from BBC News:
  4. Rost, J. M. (2013). Mediation and Peacekeeping in Civil Wars. Civil Wars, 29.
07 July 2022
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