UN Sanctions and Mediation: Establishing Evidence to Inform Practice

United Nations University, February 2019.
Rebecca Brubaker, David Lanz and Thomas Biersteker.

Mediation and UN sanctions are two essential policy instruments used by the United Nations in its efforts to prevent and resolve conflict. These two tools are frequently deployed in conjunction, although the degree of their overlap in time and the sequencing of their application vary. Bodies of research exist on how best to use sanctions and on how best to mediate conflicts. Yet, relatively little is known about when and whether these tools work well or work poorly together. This report constitutes a first step in a long overdue effort to establish evidence that can be used to inform practice in the joint application of UN sanctions and mediation. It is based on an 18-month policy research project conducted by the United Nations University Centre for Policy Research, the Graduate Institute, Geneva, and swisspeace. The findings are derived from eleven cases exploring “distinguishable episodes of conflict situations” (or “DECS”) in Afghanistan, Libya, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen. These cases were researched by teams of sanctions and mediation experts working together to identify when and how UN sanctions and mediation efforts interact. The principal investigators then synthesized the findings from the cases into the following report.