Bargaining, Bias and Peace Brokers: How Rebels Commit to Peace
In peace negotiations during a civil war, possible biased stand of the third party state is crucial. This article focuses on the relationship between the stand of the mediator and success of peace negotiations. Svensson examines the impact of government-biased and rebel-biased third party mediators on success of peace negotiations. He believes that whether the mediator is biased towards the government or the rebel group matters.
Svensson argues that “mediators who are biased for the government may provide a remedy for the rebel-sided commitment problem the parties encounter wehen they are to sign an agreement and terminate their violent behavior”. By accepting a government-biased mediator, rebels are provided an opportunity to prove their trustworthiness because the government has protection in case rebels renege. Therefore, Sevensson argues, accepting government-biased mediators enhances credibility of rebel commitment to peace. On the other hand, rebels prefer mediators who are sided with them. But rebel-sided mediators cannot provide security in case parties renege their agreement. Moreover, when the parties reach a negotiated settlement to end violence, rebel-sided mediator is less credible.
The author reminds us the fact that after a negotiated settlement, rebels give away their weapons and they are disarmed while the government forces, i.e. army, remain armed. Therefore, by accepting a government-sided mediator, rebels send a strong signal that they will not exploit the resources they get through a negotiated settlement. This is a reassurance for the government because the government knows that when rebels exploit the gains of the settlement, the mediator can intervene.
To test his argument, Svensson constructs a new dataset that includes all intrastate wars between 1989 and 2003. With regard to negotiated settlements, he is interested in regulation of incompatibility and change in the conflict behavior, that is end to fighting. He codes a mediator as biased if that actor provided support to one side. Such support must be public and known to the other side. This could be economic, military or political support.
He finds that government-biased mediators have a significant effect on the probability that the belligerents will sit at the negotiation table and give up their weapons. On the other hand, rebel-biased mediators do not have any significant effect. If there is a biased mediator that is biased towards both the government and the rebels, then probability of a negotiated settlement significantly increases.
In some conflicts, belligerents start negotiation at an earlier stages and some conflicts do not end up with a settlement. To find more robust results, Svensson runs more tests. He finds that “both government-biased and rebel-biased mediators may be useful for getting the parties to talk, but only government-biased mediators have an effect on these talks resulting in settlement”.
Findings of this article shows that if the objective is to start negotiation between the parties, then one-sidedness of a mediator is not a problem. But if the objective is to reach a settlement, then government-biased mediators do better job.