The international mediation of power-sharing settlements

Allison McCulloch (Corresponding Author), Joanne McEvoy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
26 Downloads (Pure)


Power sharing is largely accepted among scholars and policy-makers as a potentially effective mechanism for building peace in the aftermath of violent ethnic conflicts and self-determination disputes. Although the operation of power sharing may be prone to ongoing challenges and even political crises arising from the legacy of the conflict, international actors continue to promote power-sharing arrangements to manage self-determination and other ethnopolitical conflicts. This article investigates the normative and instrumental reasons why third-party mediators (on behalf of international organizations and/or states) turn to power-sharing strategies during peace negotiations. It considers the reasons why third-party mediators promote power sharing when its maintenance is likely to depend on their ongoing commitment and governance involvement. We argue that mediators draw from four different perspectives in their support of power-sharing settlements: international law, regional and internal security, democracy and minority rights, and a technical approach where mediators focus on the mechanics of power-sharing designs. The article draws on in-depth semi-structured interviews with officials from the United Nations and the European Union working for the organizations’ respective mediation units as well as documentary analysis of official mediation documents.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)467-485
Number of pages19
JournalCooperation and Conflict
Issue number4
Early online date10 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018

Bibliographical note

The authors declared the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research was funded by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


  • conflict mediation
  • ethnic conflict
  • external actors
  • power sharing
  • self-determination disputes


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