Regional Organisations and International Mediation: The Effectiveness of Insider Mediators

  • Ole Elgström
  • Jacob Bercovitch
  • Carl Skau


During the last two decades of the twentieth century, the world witnessed an increasing number of regional conflict management efforts undertaken by regional inter-governmental organisations. There are therefore strong reasons to study the advantages and disadvantages of mediation efforts by regionalorganisations, and compare these with initiatives taken by the United Nations (UN). In this article, we argue that regional organisations have certain characteristics that in principle make them effective mediators. They are ‘insiders’, closely connected to the conflict at hand, with an intimate knowledge about local conditions, and a stake in the outcome. This article builds on experience from ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) interventions in West Africa to analyse the pros and cons of regional mediation. We find that the interventions did indeed produce beneficial results, but that ECOWAS mediation efforts were disturbed by the fact that its activities were seen as highly partial. We recommend regional mediators to be ‘impartial insiders’, paying special attention to creating relations of trust with all actors involved.

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eISSN: 1562-6997