International disputes receiving third-party mediation are less likely to result in peace treaties than those negotiated bilaterally between the disputants. When belligerents do settle, mediated agreements are more likely to fail. Is mediation detrimental to conflict resolution? No. Third-party mediation represents a highly effective, but costly, means of peacemaking. Disputants recognize its costs and only employ mediation when they are unable to resolve a conflict between themselves, creating a “selection effect.” As a result, mediators are selected for the toughest cases – those least likely to end peacefully and mostly likely to result in fragile agreements. When the difficulty of resolving certain types of disputes is taken into account; however, we can observe mediation’s effectiveness. The ability of mediators to facilitate peacemaking in international disputes may at first appear to be weak, but an understanding of the conflict resolution process reveals their actual value and shows that appearances can be deceptive.
2 Penn St. J.L. & Int'l Aff. 27 (2013).
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