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International mediation as the management of complexity

18th November 2014

International mediation as the management of complexity

Professor Laurie Nathan (Centre for Mediation in Africa, University of Pretoria)

This paper motivates and explores the argument that international mediation in civil wars should be understood as the management of complexity. I use the term ‘complexity’ not as a synonym for ‘complicated’ or ‘difficult’ but with the richer meaning afforded by complexity theory. I seek to show that this theory offers valuable conceptual and practical insights into mediation. The paper begins with an outline of the theory and then examines international mediation in civil wars through the lens of that theory. The final section discusses the failure of international mediation to respond adequately to the challenge of complexity.