What is the essence of international mediation in civil wars? The challenge of managing complexity

This BPC Paper discusses the place of complexity in the thinking and practice of international mediation in civil wars. Departing from the understanding that, in order to improve the quality of international mediation in civil wars, it is vital that scholars and practitioners address the challenge of managing complexity, the author discusses the failure of international mediation to respond adequately to this problematic, and identifies some practical ways in which mediation could be better equipped to manage it. If the management of complexity is the essence of international mediation, two broad questions arise: what should the mediator do to best manage the complexity, and what can be done to support her? The paper presents a range of more specific sub-questions and pointers – relating to research, theory, monitoring and analysis, planning, and organisational design and expertise – in the hope of setting out an agenda for further reflection and research.