International Mediation Quo Vadis? The UN in Yemen's Civil War

Achievements, Challenges and Lessons Learned from 2015-2018

Master's Thesis, 2019

134 Pages








1. Problem Definition
2. Research Question
3. Relevance and Literature Review
4. Methods and Proceedings

1. Trends in Armed Conflict and Civil War Termination: The Middle East in Focus
3. The UN in International Mediation: SESGs at the frontline of war termination
4. UN Mediation in Yemen: From showcase to humanitarian nightmare
4.1. The Shadow of the Past: a long standing conflict re-ignited
4.2. Arab Spring and National Dialogue under SASG Benomar (2011-2014)
4.4. Military Intervention and Civil War under SESG Ahmed (2015-2018)
4.5. The world’s worst humanitarian crisis under SESG Griffith (2018-ongoing)

1. Meta-Theoretical Assumptions
2. Research Subject: Specification of key concepts
3. Conceptualizing UN Mediator Effectiveness
3.1. UN Mediator Effectiveness
3.1.1. UN-specific dimension: goal-attainment
3.1.2. Conflict-specific dimension: conflict settlement
3.2. Conditions for UN Mediator Effectiveness
3.2.1. Mediator-related conditions
3.2.2. Conflict parties’-related conditions
3.3. Alternative explanatory factors

1. Case Selection
2. Operationalization
3. Data collection methods
3.1. Desk study and literature review
3.2. Expert interviews
3.2.1. Sampling
3.2.2. Research ethics
3.2.3. Conduction of the interviews
3.2.4. Production of transcripts
3.2.5. Data analysis
3.2.6. Reflections and limitations of research

1. UN Mediator Effectiveness
1.1. Goal-Achievement
1.2. Conflict-Settlement
2. Conditions of UN Mediator Effectiveness
2.1. Mediator leverage
2.2. Mediator strategy
2.3. Mediator coherence
2.4. Mediator coordination
2.5. Conflict parties’ willingness to compromise
2.6. Conflict parties’ internal cohesiveness

1. Discussion of Research Findings
2. Lessons Learned and Ways Forward



This thesis provides a nuanced assessment of the effectiveness of the United Nations (UN)-led mediation process in Yemen’s civil war between April 2015 and February 2018 in order to detect lessons learned for one of the main challenges of our time: effective conflict management. Based on latest developments in armed conflicts, civil wars are the most destabilizing threats in the current international system as well as the most difficult types of conflicts to manage and terminate (Zartman 1995; Licklider 1995; Walter 2002). Especially since 2011, revolutionary dynamics and state fragility in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region led to highly complex internationalized civil wars that involve major-power tensions and features of proxy-warfare. Against this backdrop, the very limits of the “standard regime” employed by the international community to manage civil wars in the post-Cold War era, namely: mediation and peacekeeping, are being tested sharply (Gowan & Stedman 2018: 171, Crocker 2007). This thesis contributes to one possible way the regime could survive: namely through lessons learned (ibid: 178). While much is known about UN peacekeeping and peacebuilding, less so about UN civil war mediation (Beardsley 2010: 1). Hence, the thesis focuses on third-party mediation as the most common form of conflict management with a special emphasis on the effectiveness of the UN as a leading actor in applying this standard treatment (Gowan & Stedman 2018: 171).

Through utilizing six key conditions for mediator effectiveness from Bergmann (2017) in expert interviews, the thesis finds that the low degree of UN mediator effectiveness in Yemen was mainly related to the (coherent) partisanship of the UN Security Council (UNSC), whose Chapter VII resolution 2216 functioned as mediation mandate and rendered an impartial and balanced process impossible. This added to the missing leverage of the mediator on all sides and to the missing willingness of the parties to compromise as well as to the restraint of major P-5 and western governments to reign the regional actors in. Most apparent lessons learned include the need to reflect the complexities involved in the mandate and throughout the process. The mandate should allow for the inclusion of all actors directly or indirectly involved through negotiation formats on several levels. Incentives and disincentives need to be revised, highest priority and sufficient funds should be allocated to UN mediation and above all, an impartial and balanced process should be safeguarded against all odds as this tackles the trust in and the very credibility of the UN and the integrity of the rules-based system of international relations as a whole (Hill & Shiban 2016: 20).

Keywords: Civil War, United Nations (UN), International Mediation, Conflict Management, Peacemaking, International Organization (IO), Third-Party Diplomatic Intervention, Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Yemen, Houthi-Conflict, Anṣār Allāh, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General (SESG), Effectiveness


Herewith I would first of all like to convey my thanks to my research director, Dr. Thomas Nielebock, AkadOR and co-director Prof. Dr. Andreas Hasenclever of the Institute of Political Science at the University of Tübingen as well as to my former professor, Prof. Dr. Marco Pinfari from the Department of Political Science at the American University in Cairo for their valuable time, comments and advise.

Moreover, I would like to extent my gratitude to Dr. Marie-Christine Heinze and Dr. Andrea Warnecke from University of Bonn as well as Prof. Dr. Bilkis Zabara from Sana'a University and CARPO for facilitating the academic exchange on Academic Approaches to Peacebuilding and State Building in Yemen. In particularly, my thanks go to all the participants of the Summer School in Amman, especially to the Yemeni students, who were willing to share their experiences, inspired and motivated me through their impressive strength and commitment for a better future.

Last but not least, I would also like to express my greatest thanks to all the interviewees, who were willing to take part in this research project, who took their time and shared their valuable insights and expert-knowledge. Without their contributions it would not have been possible to conduct research in this particular field and on a country that still is deeply entrenched in a civil war that continues to cause starvation, death and destruction on an unprecedented scale.

May the wish of those young Yemeni students come true soon that we may be able to visit them in their beautiful country and experience the kindness of its people, who finally have been freed from the scourge of war.


List of Tables

Table 1: Common Instances Of Third Party Interventions

Table 2: Mediator Tactics Pursuant Of Strategy Employed

Table 3: Anonymized Review Of Interviewees

Table 4: Personalized Transcription Rules

Table 5: UN Mediator Tactics Pursuant Of Strategy Employed In Yemen (2015-18)

List of Figures

Figure 1: Number of Armed Conflicts by Type (1946-2017)

Figure 2: Type of Civil War Termination (1946-2013)

Figure 3: Civil War Mediation Initiated (1945-2004)

Figure 4: Civil Wars by Year and Region (1945-2014)

Figure 5: Battle-Related Deaths by Region (1989-2017)

Figure 6: Religious and Tribal Division of Yemen

Figure 7: Historical Division of Yemen

Figure 8: Al-Qaeda (AQAP) Presence in Yemen (2015)

Figure 9: Six-Regions Plan, Planned Federal division of Yemen (2014)

Figure 10: Expansion of Anṣār Allāh (2012-15)

Figure 11: Degree of UN Mediator Effectiveness In Terms Of Goal Attainment

Figure 12: Degree of UN Mediator Effectiveness In Terms Of Conflict Settlement

Figure 13: Degree of UN Mediator Leverage

Figure 14: Degree of UN Mediator Coherence

Figure 15: Degree of Mediator Coordination

Figure 16: Degree of Parties’ Willingness to Compromise

Figure 17: Degree of Parties’ Internal Cohesiveness

Figure 18: Timeline of Strikes, Ceasefires and Peace Talks (2015-18)

Figure 19: Degree of UN Mediator Effectiveness in Goal Attainment in Yemen (2015-18)

Figure 20: Expansion of AA, Oil and Gas Resources, Smuggling Routes (2015)

Figure 21: Saudi-Iranian Rivalry in The MENA Region (2016-18)

Figure 22: Petroleum Transit Volumes Through Arabian Peninsula Chokepoints With Pipeline Projects (2016)

Figure 23: Internal Divisions and Key Interest Groups in Yemen (2017)

Figure 24: Degree of UN Mediator Effectiveness In Conflict Settlement in Yemen (2015-2018)

Figure 25: Degree of UN Mediator Leverage in Yemen (2015-2018)

Figure 26: Degree of UN Mediator Coherence in Yemen (2015-18)

Figure 27: Degree of Mediator Coordination in Yemen (2015-18)

Figure 28: Degree of Parties’ Willingness to Compromise in Yemen (2015-18)

Figure 29: Degree of Parties’ Internal Cohesiveness in Yemen (2015-18)


AA Anṣār Allāh

AAS Anṣār aš-Šharīʿa

ACLEH Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project

AI Amnesty International

ASEAN Association of Southeast Asian Nations

AU African Union

AQAP Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula

BF Berghof Foundation

BRD Battle Related Deaths

CARPO Center for Applied Research in Partnership with the Orient (Bonn)

CAQDAS Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Software

CBM Confidence Building Measure

CCPR Coordinating Council for Popular Resistance

CoE Code of Ethics

COW Correlates of War Project

CRF Council on Foreign Relations

CWM Civil War Mediation Dataset

DGPuK German Communication Association

DPA Department of Political Affairs

DPKO Department of Peacekeeping Operations

DPO Department of Peace Operations

DPPA Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs

DW Deutsche Welle

EIA US Energy Information Administration

ERC Emergency Relief Coordinator

EU European Union

FAC Foreign Affairs Council

FAD First Armoured Division

FLOSY Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen

FSU Former Soviet Union

GCC Gulf Cooperation Council

GEE Group of Eminent Experts

GPC General People’s Congress

GWoT Global War on Terror

HC Humanitarian Coordinator

HI Humanitarian Intervention

HIIK Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research

HR Human Rights

HRC Human Rights Council

HRW Human Rights Watch

HS Human Security

IAC International Armed Conflict

ICB International Crisis Behaviour Dataset

ICG International Crisis Group

ICM International Conflict Management Dataset

ICOW Issue Correlates of War Dataset

IDP Internally Displaced Person

IGO Intergovernmental Organization

IHL International Humanitarian Law

IHRL International Human Rights Law

IISS International Institute for Strategic Studies

IO International Organization

IOCM International Organizations Conflict Management

IR International Relations

ISIL Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

ISIL-YP Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - Yemen Province

JCPOA Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

JIAT Joint Incidents Assessment Team

JMP Joint Meeting Parties

KSA Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

LAS League of Arab States

MB Muslim Brotherhood

MbS Mohammed bin Salman

MENA Middle East and North Africa

MEMO Middle East Monitor

MSF Médecins Sans Frontières

MSU Mediation Support Unit

NDC National Dialogue Conference

NDSP National Dialogue Support Programme

NIAC Non-international Armed Conflict

NDF National Democratic Front

NG Non-Governmental Organization

NLF National Liberation Front

OAS Organization of American States

OHCHR Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

OSASGY Office of the Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Yemen

OSESGY Office of the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General on Yemen

P-5 Permanent Members of the UN Security Council

PDRY People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen

PKO Peacekeeping Operation

PMD Policy and Mediation Division

PNPA Peace and National Partnership Agreement

PRIO International Peace Research Institute

RC Resident Coordinator

RCC Redeployment Coordination Committee

RF Russian Federation

RoY Republic of Yemen

SASG Special Advisor of the Secretary General

SAM Shabab al Moumineen

SCR Security Council Report

SCSS Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies

SESG Special Envoy of the Secretary General

SG Secretary General

SIPRI Stockholm International Peace Research Institute

SM Southern Movement

SRC Supreme Revolutionary Committee

SRSG Special Representative of the Secretary-General

SSG Strategy Support Group

TFPM Task Force on Population Movement

TPI Third Party Interventions and Militarized Interstate Disputes Dataset

UAE United Arab Emirates

UAV Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

UCDP Uppsala Conflict Data Program

UN United Nations

UNDP United Nations Development Programme

UNGA United Nations General Assembly

UNHCR United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

UNHRC United Nations Human Rights Council

UNITAR United Nations Institute for Training and Research

UNMHA United Nations Mission to Support the Hudaydah Agreement

UNOCHA United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

UNOPS United Nations Office for Project Services

UNSC United Nations Security Council

UNSCR United Nations Security Council Resolution

UNSG United Nations Secretary General

UNSMIS United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria

UNVIM United Nations Verification and Inspection Mechanism in Yemen

UNYOM United Nations Yemen Observation Mission

USA United States of America

WFP World Food Programme

YAR Yemen Arab Republic

YDP Yemen Data Project

YPP Yemen Peace Project

YR Yemeni Riyal

YSP Yemen Socialist Party

ZOA Zone of Agreement


1. Problem Definition

“Since one of the most promising approaches to the peaceful settlement of disputes is skillful third-party mediation, we, the United Nations, have a responsibility to “we the peoples” to professionalize our efforts to resolve conflicts constructively rather than destructively and to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.”

— Ban, Ki-moon 2009

“This is a challenging moment for those states, international organizations and private institutions that wish to play a role in bringing peace and stability to turbulent areas around the world.”

— Crocker et al. 2018: 93

They are brutally violent, long-lasting, highly intractable (Regan & Aydin 2006; Sambanis 2000) and wreak unfathomable levels of damage, destruction and death not seen since World War II (Heydemann 2018: 59). They usually ignore the basic principles of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and currently lead to the highest levels of human displacement on record (UNHCR 2018). As the most prevalent and most destabilizing type of conflict in the international system (Greig 2017; Walter 2013: 656; Lutmar & Bercovitch 2011: 3; Sisk 2010: 238), contemporary civil wars pose a serious threat to regional and international peace and security (Art. 2(7), Ch. VI and VII UN Charter) as several UN-Security Council resolutions (UNSCR) confirm (Cockayne et al. 2010; Sisk 2009: 6).

After nearly two decades of decline in the number of civil wars, the trend has gone into reverse, most acutely in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) with civil wars unfolding in Libya, Syria and Yemen (Fearon 2017: 21; Jones & Stedman 2017: 34, 37; Ban Ki Moon 2012: 4; Themnér & Wallensteen 2012). When compared to post-Cold War conflicts, some analysts identify even a new generation of civil war in the region (Mancini & Vericat 2016: 2; Klein Goldewijk 2017: 107, 110; Bercovitch & Jackson 2009: 32; Gowan & Stedman 2018: 181), where revolutionary dynamics, state fragility, transnational jihadism, a high degree of fragmentation and internationalization are intertwined with multiple regional and major-power tensions (ibid: 171; Crocker et al. 2018: 1) as well as complex features of proxy-warfare (Fearon 2017: 26).

These dynamics with their increasing barbarity led to consternation globally as they look like a throw-back to the Cold War treatment of civil wars and thereby substantially pressure, or even undermine, the fundamental premises of the current “standard regime” which was promoted by the post-Cold War international order (Dixon 1996: 671; Jones & Stedman 2017: 37; Gowan & Stedman 2018: 171, 181-82). In contrast to the more robust option of Humanitarian Intervention (HI), it mainly implies international mediation and peacekeeping as the expected and preferred international response to civil wars, which were mainly put into practice by the UN as the “chief global peacemaking body” (ibid: 171-72; Iji 2017: 83).

While much is known about UN peacekeeping (Collier et al. 2008; Doyle & Sambanis 2000, 2006; Greig & Diehl 2005; Fortna 2003, 2004a, 2004b, 2004c; Gilligan & Sergenti 2006; Sambanis & Doyle 2007), less so about UN conflict mediation (Beardsley 2012: 335), which is both the organization’s most frequently utilized conflict management strategy (Fretter 2002: 100) and so far considered the most common and effective means to prevent escalation, manage disputes and promote a peaceful settlement in civil wars (Gartner 2012: 77; Dixon 1996: 671; Sánchez 2015: 548; Haixia 2007: 589; Bercovitch & Jackson 2009: 32, 46; DeRouen & Bercovitch 2012: 59; DeRouen et al. 2011: 663; Assefa 1987: 8). Given the changes in armed conflicts in general and the dynamics in the MENA region in particular, the thesis focuses on its implications for international mediation as one supporting leg and key pillar of the current “standard regime” carried out under the auspices of the UN.

Especially one country in the regional conflict complex of the MENA region has long been classified as a positive example of peaceful political transition, to which UN mediation contributed. But in 2015 it slided into a devastating civil war that by 2019 has left an estimated 60-80.000 people dead (ACLEH 2019; Cockburn 2018), pushed 14 million to the brink of starvation (S/PV.8379) and is referred to as the “worst humanitarian crisis of the world” (UNOCHA 2018; Guterres 2018a): Yemen. After several attempts to settle the conflict peacefully, now the third UN Special Envoy, Martin Griffith, tries the almost unattainable: peace in Yemen.

This research project investigates UN mediator effectiveness in the civil war in Yemen between 2015 and 2018 and discusses implications for ongoing and future mediation attempts in similarly complex high-intensity conflicts at the fault-lines of major power tensions (Hill 2015: 445). While peacemaking is a risky business (Gartner 2012: 79) and mediation neither a panacea nor a naively optimistic search for peace (Bercovitch & Gartner 2006; Wallensteen & Svensson 2014; Greig & Diehl 2012; Regan et al. 2009), it is necessary to better understand and professionalize it — first and foremost for the sake of the people in Yemen that are confronted with unimaginable human suffering on a daily basis, but also because we are becoming more reliant on diplomacy, not less (Pickering 2014).

2. Research Question

Based on an initial analysis on the degree of UN-mediator effectiveness in the civil war in Yemen from 2015 to 2018, the thesis focuses on the question:

Why was the UN-led mediation process in Yemen’s civil war under UN Special Envoy Ismaïl Ould Cheikh Ahmed from April 2015 to February 2018 not more effective than it turned out to be?

Derived from these findings, lessons learned for ongoing and future UN mediation attempts in similarly complex high-intensity conflicts at the fault-lines of great power interests are outlined. The dependent variable is the degree of UN mediator effectiveness, which is assessed with the help of six key conditions derived from international mediation literature and summarized in the framework of Bergmann 2017.

3. Relevance and Literature Review

The above explanations make the social relevance more than apparent, which first and foremost concerns the societies affected by civil war directly, who in this study mainly concerns the endless suffering of Yemenis, who are not only confronted with crimes that amount to war crimes from all parties to the conflict and to gross violations of international law as a Group of Eminent Experts (GEE) investigated (A/HRC/39/43 (2018)), but also with a humanitarian crisis of inconceivable proportion. However, as contemporary civil wars have a propensity to internationalize and produce negative externalities that spill over locally and regionally (Lutmar & Bercovitch 2011: 3; Sisk 2009: 6), the proper resolution of these “global evils” (Sisk 2004: 250) also affects the international community as a whole.

Similarly urgent is to understand ways in which civil wars can be terminated more effectively from an interdisciplinary, academic point of view. Hence, this study particularly focuses on the effect of International Organization (IO)- and more specifically UN third-party intervention in the shape of mediation on the outcomes of civil wars, and thereby leaves the causes of an intervention as well as the onset, duration and recurrence of civil wars aside. The topic lays on the interface between two research strands: (1) the study of mediation as a sub-discipline of peace and conflict studies and (2) the study of international organizations as a field of International Relations (IR), which the thesis tries to combine.

To the author's knowledge, neither strand has systematically explored the role of IOs in conflict mediation in general and their effectiveness in the context of civil war mediation in particular, thus related determinants remain only poorly understood (Lundgren 2014: 19; 2017: 613; Boehmer, Gartzke & Nordstrom 2004: 3, 12). This may root in the long-standing focus on discovering the causes of — mainly interstate war instead of peace in IR (Vasquez 1996: 273; Howard 2000: 10; Gilady & Russett 2002: 394), in the long prevailing image of mediation as a “mysterious art” (Meyer 1960: 160; Simkin 1971: 118; Steven 1963: 123; Schelling 1960: 22) or in the sheer complexity of civil war mediation (Lanz et al. 2008: 6).

While the overall body of literature on international mediation provides general evidence for its effectiveness (Wallensteen & Svensson 2014: 315; Balch-Lindsay et al. 2008: 347), civil war mediation research is still in its infancy (DeRouen & Bercovitch 2012: 70) with its findings remaining fragmented and piecemeal. It ranges from field reports (Crocker et al. 1999; Marker 2003), lessons learned and best practices (De Soto 1999; De Soto & Del Castillo 1995; Hampson 2003) over case studies (Jonas 2000; Messing 2000; Levy 2000) to large-N statistical analyses and the evaluation of newly compiled datasets. The latter include the International Conflict Mediation (ICM) (Bercovitch 2004), International Crisis Behaviour (ICB) (Quinn et al. 2006; Brecher et al. 2017), Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) (Kreutz 2010), Third-party Interventions and Militarized Disputes (TPI) (Frazier & Dixon 2006), Civil War Mediation (CWM) (DeRouen et al. 2011) or the dataset on diplomatic interventions and civil war (Regan et al. 2009).

The field is also constrained by insufficient theorization (Kleiboer 1996: 376; 1998; Gilady & Russett 2002: 394; Wallensteen & Svensson 2014). Although variables that may influence short- and/or long-term effectiveness are abound and discussed fiercely, “golden formulas” (Kleiboer 1996: 375; 1998: 18) on particular conditions and pathways to achieve effective mediation are still out of reach (Coleman 2015: 146; Diehl & Druckman 2010; Wall & Dunne 2012; Elangovan 1995). This may also be due to the missing consensus on definitions which concerns the independent as well as the dependent variables. With regard to the mediation outcome, the common dichotomous classification of “success” or “failure” depending on the achievement of an agreement is criticized (Touval & Zartman 1985; Kleiboer 1996: 374; Bercovitch & Jackson 2009: 33; Sisk 2009: 2; DeRouen et al. 2011: 666; Wallensteen & Svensson 2014: 323) and a more context-dependent definition demanded (Heldt & Wallensteen 2006: 34).

For a long time Bercovitch’s Contingency Model (Bercovitch et al. 1991; Bercovitch & Langley 1993: 637), where the context (nature of parties, dispute and mediator) influences the outcome via the mediation process (choice of mediator strategy), was the point of reference and led to fierce debates on variables within each of these categories. In recent years, elements of the bargaining theory of war (Fearon 1995; Powell 1996, 2002, 2006), which is closely linked to game-theoretic literature (Jervis 1988; Schelling 1960), have been incorporated into the research field and evolved into the “dominant approach in conflict studies” (Lundgren 2014: 19). This gave rise to a renewed debate on — primarily domestic-level — variables that challenge or favour a negotiated settlement (Walter 1997, 2009; Gilady & Russett 2002; Kydd 2003, 2006; Svensson 2007, 2009, 2013; Favretto 2009; Crawford 2003; Terris & Maoz 2005; Savun 2008, 2009, Maoz & Siverson 2008; Sisk 2009; Beber 2012; Beardsley 2011).

When it comes to the supply of mediation, IOs are taking on an increasing share of mediation around the world, particularly in civil wars (Lundgren 2017: 613-14). Especially the UN is the leading entity of all IOs engaged in the field (De Rouen et al. 2011: 665) and with a share of 25%, its representatives are the most common primary mediators, shortly followed by representatives of large governments (ibid; DeRouen & Bercovitch 2012: 65-66).

The academic literature on IO conflict management has its roots in functionalist theories that primarily discuss the rather passive role of IOs in promoting interstate peace through the reduction of transaction costs, uncertainty or even through socialization effects (Deutsch 1957; Nye 1971; Young 1972; Haas 1983; Keohane 1984; Greig & Diehl 2006; Dorussen & Ward 2008, 2010; Johnston 2001; Oneal & Russett 2001; Martin & Simmons 2012). Along with good offices, conciliation, fact-finding, arbitration or adjudication, mediation can be used as a more proactive means by IOs (Gent 2010: 11; Bakaki 2017). While some argue that IOs contribute to shortening or terminating conflicts (Boehmer et al. 2004; Gartner 2011; Goldstein 2011; Sisk 2009), others are rather skeptical about the effectiveness (Bercovitch & Schneider 2000; Regan 2002) or even assume its harmfulness (Beardsley 2008, 2011; Werner & Yuen 2005). Generally, a high degree of institutionalization (Boehmer et al. 2004), a preference homogeneity, more democratic member states (Pevehouse & Russett 2006), specialized instruments for conflict management or guarantee-related institutionalized capabilities as those to deploy field missions (Hansen et al. 2008; Lundgren 2014, 38; Lundgren 2017: 613) seem to influence IO mediation success. But there is little research particularly focusing on IO mediation in the domestic domain (ibid: 614), although civil wars are more difficult to end permanently than interstate conflicts (Gartner 2012: 71, 80; Licklider 1995: 681; Hartzell & Hoddie 2005; Walter 2002; Toft 2010; Quinn et al. 2013). Besides some case-based literature on IO civil war mediation (Bercovitch & Schneider 2000; Gartner 2011; Regan 2002; Lundgren 2017), research on the effect of institutional design across IOs (ibid) and some new datasets (International Organizations Conflict Management dataset (IOCM), Lundgren 2016), most studies keep their primary focus on interstate relations (Bercovitch & Regan 2003; Dixon 1996; Bercovitch & Diehl 1997).

Hence, there is a general lack of systematic research on IO mediator effectiveness in civil wars, let alone the effectiveness of their special representatives and envoys. In general, regional organizations, such as the European Union (EU), the Organization of American States (OAS), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the African Union (AU) or the League of Arab States (LAS) adhere to mediation as their preferred means of resolving conflicts (Bercovitch & Jackson 2009: 40) and are thus subject to high expectations (Art. 52 UN Charter). Their mediation efforts are championed as more effective in civil wars in their regions, particularly in low-intensity conflicts over non-salient issues (UNSCR 1809 (2008); Tavares 2010: 13; Gartner 2012: 83; Elgström et. al. 2003; Nguyen 2002; Al-Marashi 2008; Pinfari 2009; Nathan 2010; Gartner 2011), although more than half of their peace agreements fail in less than a week (ibid: 387-88). Here selection effects have to be taken into account that remind not to equate a failure to reach a peace with the ineffectiveness of mediation in general (Sisk 2009: 35). This holds true in particular when assessing mediator effectiveness of the UN as a global IO, which is often referred to as “mediator of last resort” (Iji 2017: 87; A/59/565 para. 15), as it is often assigned to the most exceptional and hard-to resolve cases which are likely to produce poor results even for the best mediators (Gartner 2011; Gartner 2012: 76-77; Gartner & Bercovitch 2006, DeRouen 2003: 258; Lundgren 2017: 615). Hence, some claim the UN cannot mediate due to its missing leverage (Touval 1994), although others find that its has unique assets surpassing any other organization or country (Snyder & Diesing 1978; Apakan 2013: 40) which increase the likelihood of both truce and treaty (DeRouen & Sobek 2004: 311ff). While the UN often succeeds as a short-term peacemaker, a follow-through with peacekeeping seems needed for sustaining long-term peace (Beardsley 2013: 382).

To summarize, while the single research strands of international mediation and IO conflict management are relatively young, their body of literature is extensive and generally assumes the effectiveness of mediation to terminate conflicts peacefully. However, definitional fuzziness, missing pathways and insufficient theorization are prevailing and the emphasis on the intrastate level has been relatively rare. Only few scholars took on the task to look into IO mediation in intrastate contexts, thus situations of civil wars. Still, debates remained mostly unmoved by the changes in international armed conflicts and the challenges that come along with them (Hill 2015: 447), especially in the MENA region. This study therefore tries to make a small contribution in this direction. It does not make absolute judgements about a dichotomous “success” or “failure”, but sees third-party mediation as an incremental, step-wise process (Heldt 2009; Gartner 2012: 75) and therefore tries a nuanced, context-specific and outcome-oriented assessment of the mediator effectiveness of one IO, namely the UN, and the role of its Special Envoys in a complex high-intensity conflict in the MENA region, for which it utilizes the framework of Bergmann 2017 that combines both research strands.

4. Methods and Proceedings

To answer the research question at hand, chapter II sets the stage and introduces the empirical setting on which the thesis is built, namely the current patterns and trends in international armed conflicts and war termination with a particular focus on the MENA region. Thereupon, a specific IO, namely the UN as an actor in international mediation, is introduced with a focus on the role of the Special Envoys of the Secretary General (SESGs) who actually stand on the front lines of war termination (Sisk 2010: 238). Within this context, their involvement in the developments in the Yemeni civil war are located. Chapter III clarifies the basic meta-theoretical assumptions and presents important concepts that lay at the core of the thesis before the main analytical framework for mediator effectiveness along the corresponding conditions is presented. Chapter IV clarifies the methodological procedure and explains the qualitative approach of a single case-study, which is supported by a desk-study and expert interviews. Chapter V pursues with the empirical analysis of UN mediator effectiveness under SESG Ismaïl Ould Cheikh Ahmed between 2015 and 2018. Finally, the research findings are discussed, lessons learned and future research questions are outlined in chapter VI.


1. Trends in Armed Conflict and Civil War Termination: The Middle East in Focus

The nature and intensity of civil wars and the patterns of their termination have changed dramatically and systematically over time (Sisk 2004: 250; Howard & Stark 2018a: 136). The bipolar international environment from the mid-1950s until 1989 witnessed a steady increase in the number of civil wars (Figure 1), that were first and foremost framed as non-negotiable zero-sum contests (Iklé 1971; Pillar 1983; Licklider 1995; Walter 1997; Gowan & Stedman 2018: 172), wherefore the predominant norm on how to end them was to ensure a total victory for the respective protégé. Hence, less than 20 % saw a negotiated outcome (Figure 2; Walter 1997; Howard & Stark 2018a: 134). Mediation and negotiation were mostly applied in interstate conflicts and amounted to only 8.65% in intrastate wars (Figure 3; ibid: 146).

The new international environment of liberal-democratic unipolarity and US-hegemony, which “unfroze” the UNSC (Fearon 2017: 25) after the end of the Cold War marked a watershed. After an initial peak of civil wars in 1992, their prevalence has declined until the mid-2000s (Figure 1; DeRouen & Bercovitch 2012: 60; Sisk 2009: 11). When compared to the previous period, the new wave of civil wars saw itself confronted with a sharp increase in civil war peacemaking efforts (Gartner 2012: 72-73; Jones & Stedman 2017: 34). These included mediation and negotiation as the preferred and most desirable (Sisk 2004: 251) tool of civil war termination (Mack 2008: 35; Howard & Stark 2018a: 130) that gained ascendancy over the idea to “give war a chance” (Luttwak 1999: 21; 2001: 265; Howard & Stark 2018a: 127). Approximately 34% of all civil wars were terminated on the negotiation table and only about 20.5% on the battlefield (Figure 2; Loundsberg & DeRouen 2018: 139; Howard & Stark 2018a: 134; Wallensteen & Sollenberg 1999; Mack 2006, 2008: 35; Harbom et al. 2006; Sisk 2004: 248). Mediation was attempted in around 24.19% of the cases (Howard & Stark 2018a: 146) with a peak of over 50% around 1991/92 (Figure 3; Gowan & Stedman 2017: 174).

The events of September 11, 2001, mark a turning point as the two-decade downward trend has gone into reverse since then (Guéhenno 2017: 1). This holds true particularly for internationalized civil wars, which further exacerbated around 2011/12 and led to the highest numbers of internationalized intrastate conflicts on UCDP records (Figure 1; Pettersson & Eck 2018: 535, 36). Despite the greater urgency, agreement on how to treat civil wars could not be achieved (Krasner & Eikenberry 2018: 198). A swing from political to military solutions became evident (Figure 2; Gowan 2018; Howard & Stark 2018a: 134) with negotiated settlements becoming even seven times less likely in conflicts that are associated with terrorist activities (ibid: 130, 135). When applied to the so-called “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (ISIL) only, this amounted to 31% of all conflicts as of 2017 already (Pettersson & Eck 2018: 536). These changes are often attributed to the fact that the global environment is in flux (Crocker et al. 2018: 21, 81), including the erosion of the liberal institutional order (Howard & Stark 2018b), increasing multipolarity (Haass 2010; Crocker et al. 2018: 22), rising authoritarianism and a general focus on security and stabilization instead of democratization (Howard & Stark 2018a: 131; Kupchan & Trubowitz 2007; Finnemore 2009; Brooks et al. 2012: 7; Monteiro 2011).

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Figure 1: Number of Armed Conflicts by Type (1946-2017)

(own illustration based on Dupuy & Rustad 2018;

UCDP/PRIO Armed Conflict Database)

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Figure 2: Type of Civil War Termination (1946-2013)

(own illustration based on Howard & Stark 2018a: 134)

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Figure 3: Civil War Mediation Initiated (1945-2004)

(own illustration based on CWM Dataset, compiled in DeRouen et al. 2011; Gowan & Stedman 2018: 174)

When breaking down the global patterns outlined above by region, the developments in the MENA region are particularly worrying. After a historic reduction in the number of civil wars, an unprecedented crisis is unfolding in the greater Middle East (Jones & Stedman 2017: 34) that began in the aftermath of 9/11 with the US-invasion of Iraq and deteriorated further following the “Arab Spring”-uprisings of 2011. The large number of civil wars in the region accounts for half of the wars recorded globally as of 2016 (Figure 4; SIPRI 2017: 30). Internationalized civil wars are particularly prevalent in the region (DeRouen 2015: 13), and in most cases Islamist organizations, such as ISIL or Al-qāʿida are involved (SIPRI 2017: 27; Dupuy & Rustad 2018). In addition, the region’s civil wars are ranking among the deadliest worldwide and accounted for more than 50% of all battle-related deaths recorded in 2017 (ibid; IISS 2017: 80). Hence, the region lies at the heart of global security concerns (SIPRI 2017: 23), also because its conflicts cause large negative externalities, affect strategic, economic or ideological interests of regional and major powers more directly (ibid: 12) and international peace and security more broadly (ibid: 88; Fearon 2017: 19, 28).

Although it has been the first region where the UN became involved (SIPRI 2017: 13), it has not been a fertile ground to apply the standard regime of conflict management (Fearon 2017: 28; Heydemann 2018: 48, 60; Apakan 2013: 40; Gowan & Stedman 2018: 180), but rather its hardest test (Jones & Stedman 2017: 37). With a rate of 95%, the MENA region has the largest number of wars with no PKO since 1989; the only exception being a failed UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) in 2012 (Fearon 2017: 29). In comparison, the region has attracted more mediation efforts in relation to its conflicts until 1989, which changed in the 1990s when the efforts matched the frequency of conflicts (Greig & Diehl 2012: 46-47) and since the early-2000s the occurrence, severity and global threat of civil wars in the region exceed respective mediation efforts (DeRouen & Bercovitch 2012: 68). While regional organizations, such as the LAS or the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) were rather unsuccessful (Greig & Diehl 2012: 46), external actors such as the UN have been most active (Bercovitch & Jackson 2009: 68), but even their successive efforts faltered in the continued disagreement of the major powers over the desired civil war outcomes, as the events in Libya, Syria or Yemen repeatedly showed (Gowan 2018; Jones & Stedman 2017: 37).

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Figure 4: Civil Wars by Year and Region (1945-2014)

(own illustration based on Fearon 2017: 21)

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Figure 5: Battle-Related Deaths by Region (1989-2017)

(own illustration based on Pettersson & Eck 2018: 535-547;

UCDP/PRIO Armed Conflict Database)

3. The UN in International Mediation: SESGs at the frontline of war termination

As the “chief global peacemaking body” (Iji 2017: 83), or the premier institution charged with the maintenance of international peace and security (Art. 1 UN Charter), the UN occupies a unique and central position in the field of civil war conflict management (DeRouen 2015: 158) and was involved in nearly every and some of the most intractable international conflicts since 1945 (Bercovitch & Jackson 2009: 67-68, Touval 1994). Among the various means to settle disputes by peaceful means as outlined in Art. 33 UN Charter, mediation is one of the most useful and frequently utilized conflict management strategy during all phases of the conflict cycle — or to speak with the “Agenda for Peace”: in preventive diplomacy, peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding (Fretter 2002: 100, UNITAR 2010: 2; Boutros-Ghali 1992).

The most important mechanisms of the UN in international mediation are mainly three bodies: the UNSC, the General Assembly (UNGA) and the Secretary General (UNSG). As the main organ responsible for international peace and security (Art. 24(1) UN Charter), the UNSC is also the most authoritative UN body that gets involved in new disputes of crisis nature (Bennett 1988: 129), for which it may deploy coercive measures, such as sanctions (Art. 41 UN Charter) or the use of force (Art. 42 UN Charter), but may also appoint formal and informal mediators or ask for a convocation (Zartman 1999: 71-73). In comparison, the UNGA has the right to make inquiries (Art. 13-14 UN Charter), be kept informed (Art. 10-12 UN Charter) and regularly engages in recommendations on dispute settlement (Art. 14 UN Charter; Bercovitch & Jackson 2009: 65) or even authorizes further action when the UNSC becomes deadlocked (Fretter 2002: 109).

But especially one function stands out as the most visible and important pillar of the UN’s conflict management structure (Bercovitch & Jackson 2009: 65; Cordovez 1987: 169-70), namely the role of the UNSG as the organization's Chief Administrative Officer (Art. 97 UN Charter; Bercovitch & Jackson 2009: 74), for which he is often assigned the status of a “secular pope” (Rød-Larsen 2009). Based on Art. 99 UN Charter, he may devote himself or appoint a Special Advisor (SASG) or a Special Envoys (SESGs) independently to represent his office and the UN as a whole. He may also be requested by the parties to the conflict directly or, based on Art. 98 UN Charter, he may be mandated by the UN deliberative bodies of the UNSC or the UNGA to execute their political decisions (Franck & Nolte 1993: 180; De Soto & Kirsch 2002: 62). Depending on the type and content of the mandate, it may either empower the UNSG or SESGs through the possibility to represent the will of the international community as expressed by the UNSC (de Coning 2010: 4) or constrain them (Nathan 2017: 45, 48; Iacob 2016: 401), thereby limiting their reputation, credibility and prestige as objective and impartial intermediaries (Bercovitch & Jackson 2009: 69; Franck 1995: 366).

Thus, especially SESGs, who act at the front lines of war termination have to play a pivotal, but often conflicting, complex and multifaceted role (Sisk 2010: 238). This not only includes carrying out the actual diplomacy as lead-mediator with heads of governments or parties to the conflict, but they also serve as principals of their respective missions and have to navigate relations with the UN as the mediating body, which by nature is a “multiparty mediator” itself, composed of different member states that act through its main bodies. Hence, SESGs often “end up using 90% of [their] time to negotiate within the UN rather than with the parties” (Rød-Larsen 2009). This mainly concerns the coordination of the complex relations between the UNSC and the UN Secretariat with its Department for Political Affairs (DPA), since January 1, 2019 the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA), the Department Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), since January 1, 2019 the Department of Peace Operations (DPO), the Policy and Mediation Division (PMD) and Mediation Support Unit (MSU). Beyond that, they often coordinate the UN system in the given country (de Coning 2010: 1), liaise with the Group of Friends of Mediation formed in 2010 and coordinate the overall international effort on the ground with other IOs, regional and subregional organizations, donor and humanitarian agencies and a vast network of NGOs (Sisk 2010: 237, 239).

Hence, when engaging in mediation in the field, SESGs can draw upon a wealth of organizational resources and unique capabilities that surpass those of any single organization or state in the world (Apakan 2013: 40; Snyder & Diesing 1978; Iji 2017: 83, 96). They can make use of the international status of the world’s most respected IO (Bercovitch & Jackson 2009: 74), the legitimacy, prestige and credibility associated with the office of the UNSG and the enormous political force that can be generated when the world community, and the members of the UNSC in particular, align their interests and reach a consensus on the conflict at stake (Bercovitch & Gartner 2006: 336; Georgiev 2017: 4; Iji 2017: 85; Crocker et al. 2018: 165, 168). This can indeed make the SESG a so-called “mediator with muscles” (Hampson 2003: 12). As the UN is the most universal IO (Bercovitch & Jackson 2009: 74), SESGs can draw upon a unique forum with well-established diplomatic networks. Furthermore, they can turn to the longstanding experience of the UN in mediating conflicts and its specialized institutional bodies, such as the DPA, the PMD and MSU with a pool of mediation experts and skilled support personnel that can be deployed within 72 hours (A/66/811 (2012)).

On the other hand, however, SESGs face a number of constraints in the altered conflict environment as outlined above that arise from their institutional integration as well as from the intergovernmental set-up of the world organization, which is a double-edged sword when mediating international conflicts. The predominance of highly complex intrastate conflicts with non-state armed actors often seem to have outmoded the underlying rationales and norms set out in the UN Charter, such as the state-centric processes and related principles of absolute state sovereignty and non-interference in domestic affairs (Bertram 1995; Fretter 2002: 104; Bercovitch & Jackson 2009: 71). They are confronted with contradictory norms centered around Human Security (HS), the promotion of human rights (HR), the peaceful settlement of disputes (ibid: 71, 186) or even international law — additional conflicts that manifest themselves in the mediation processes (Lanz & Gasser 2013: 15-16). A forceful posture is especially precluded when SESGs face a lack of cohesion, cooperation and consensus on how to terminate a war among the member states in general and the P-5 of the UNSC in particular whose resolutions or decisions are based on a consensual decision-making (Georgiev 2017: 4; Tunnicliff 1984; Rubin 1992; Bercovitch & Jackson 2009: 73; Fortna 2003; Stedman 1996: 362). On the other hand, a clear mandate and a specific framework may lock the SESGs in a fixed position and take away their freedom to adjust and maneuver as needed (Touval 1994: 53; Nathan 2017: 45, 48; Iacob 2016: 401). In addition, flexibility and a quick response in crisis situations may also be impeded by the general bureaucratic processes of the organization (Bercovitch & Jackson 2009: 73).

Moreover, as the organization is missing a standing army (Fretter 2002: 98) and is reliant on the goodwill of the member states to fund and provide sufficient resources (ibid: 104; Bennett 1988: 94), SESGs are often confronted with a relative lack of human as well as financial resources compared to the demand of and demands on UN mediation (Mancini & Vericat 2016: 5; Sánchez Ramos: 551; A/59/565, para. 102), thus mainly lacking political leverage of their own (Touval 1994: 45). The conditionality leverage SESGs may draw upon may include i.a. the incentive for a (re-)granting of international recognition, legitimacy or the promise to assist with expertise, with the implementation of peace accords (Röhner 2006: 9), in the form of aid programmes or the initiation of pledging conferences after the signing of a peace agreement (S/2009/189, para. 28). Disincentives may include targeted sanctions, commodity sanctions, travel bans, asset freezes and arms embargoes (ibid) — depending on the context at hand and the support received from the member states.

While some conclude that due to all these constraints, the UN cannot mediate (Touval 1994), others find that it proved adaptive over the years and still occupies a central role and strategic position, wherefore there is no better actor than the UN to coordinate the overall mediation work (Apakan 2013: 40; Bercovitch & Jackson 2009: 74). Put into context, how SESG Ismaïl Ould Cheikh Ahmed managed to mediate in one particular case, namely the Republic of Yemen (RoY), will be discussed hereafter.

4. UN Mediation in Yemen: From showcase to humanitarian nightmare

In the light of the foregoing, this chapter zooms into the events on the ground and the UN mediation efforts to curb further escalation in the RoY. As later developments are fundamentally linked to pre-2011 struggles, the efforts of the Mauritanian SESG Ahmed will be embedded in the longstanding conflict background of the Arab world’s poorest country that, due to its manifold interlinkages and power-struggles on local, regional and international level, resembles a mosaic of conflicts (Baron 2017; Salisbury 2016: 23) — despite its legal classification as non-international armed conflict (NIAC). Similarly, as he stands on the efforts of his predecessor, SASG Benomar, a Moroccan-born British, the mediation efforts of the latter lasting from April 2011 to April 2015 will be outlined likewise. While the course of the political transition under SASG Benomar was seen as a role model for the region as a huge and inclusive National Dialogue Conference (NDC) was launched, it could not prevent a full-blown civil war starting in 2015. Despite several rounds of negotiations in Geneva, Biel and Kuwait, by 2017 the multifaceted civil war in Yemen was regarded the fourth-most lethal war globally (Dupuy & Rustad 2018; SIPRI 2018: 3), surpassing even the conflicts of Syria and Libya in complexity (Cherkaoui 2018). Since February 2018, Ahmed’s successor SESG Griffith tries to curb the “worst humanitarian crisis of the world” (UNOCHA 2018; Guterres 2018a), which was and continues to be “entirely man-made” (OHCHR 2017).

4.1. The Shadow of the Past: a long standing conflict re-ignited

When analyzing ongoing conflict and conflict management efforts in the RoY, the highly complex and hybrid environment the SESGs entered has to be taken into account. The country’s conflict(s) stem from decades of underdevelopment and poor governance (Baron 2017) in a country that is characterized by deep divides with numerous social, political, sectarian, tribal and separatist cleavages (Orkaby 2017: 94-95; Brandt 2018: 104; Mancini & Vericat 2016: 3), which are incorporated in a complex web of stakeholders, alliances, rivalries and interests. This context poses a number of serious challenges until today (Baron 2016; Salisbury 2018a; Zyck 2014: 3).

In 1962, the modern state of Yemen came into existence with the overthrow of Imam al-Badr by an Arab nationalist revolutionary movement (vom Bruck 2005: 7), which effectively ended a more than 1000-years-lasting rule of the Zaidī Imamate in North Yemen that resisted both the Ottoman occupation from the 1870s to 1918 as well as the British rule in the South from the 1830s to 1967 (Dumm 2010: 71). Besides its powerful tribal alliances, North Yemen’s Shīʿite population is rooted in the “fiver” Shīʿah Islam in contrast to the “sevener” (Ismā‘īlism) or “twelver” Shīʿah, with the latter being the state religion of Iran, as depicted in Figure 6. These even ts attracted the involvement of external actors in their struggle over regional hegemony, such as Egypt, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the United Kingdom (UK) (Thiel 2015).

In addition, it gave rise to a series of civil wars with repeated interventions by external stakeholders. It began with the eight-years lasting North Yemen Civil War from 1962-1970 with Egypt and the KSA as most prominent external stakeholders and an UN observer mission (UNYOM) whose SESG Bunche was prohibited from speaking with al-Badr’s tribal opposition forces due to their missing recognition as a political entity (Orkaby 2015). By 1967 the South, led by the National Liberation Front (NLF) and the Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen (FLOSY) had won their own 4-years lasting war against the British and created their People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY, Figure 7) as an Arab communist state, which was primarily Shafi’i (Sunnī) with a weak tribal structure (Orkaby 2017: 100). The Yemenite War between the North and the newly created PDRY in 1972 flared up in the Yemenite boarder war of 1979 after the creation of the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) in the North in 1978. The North witnessed another war from 1978-1982 due to the National Democratic Front (NDF) rebellion and also the South experienced a civil war in 1986 that led to the creation of the unified RoY in 1990.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 6: Religious and Tribal Division of Yemen

(own illustration based on Ugo lini 2017; Izady 2000)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 7: Historical Division of Yemen

(Ugolini 2017)

These events did not lower the conflict rate as the North-South civil war in 1994 showed. In addition, the country saw an increasing presence of Al-qāʿida on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which expanded in the eastern region of Ḥaḍramūt in 1988 and — in exploitation of the unstable situation — continued to gain further control (Figure 8). Following the USS Cole bombing by AQAP in 2000 and the 9/11-attacks, Yemen became a partner in the mainly drone-driven counterterrorism operations of the US-Global War of Terror (GWoT). In 2011, Anṣār aš-Šharīʿa (AAS) was founded with a particular Yemeni agenda and since 2014, the country is confronted with the presence of Dāʿiš, or ISIL in the Yemen Province (ISIL-YP) as well.

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Figure 8: Al-Qaeda (AQAP) Presence in Yemen (2015)

(Ugolini 2017)

What is more, since 2004 the Government of Yemen (GoY), in times supported by Saudi-forces, fought six intermittent “Ṣaʿda Wars” with the hybrid political, military, religious grouping of Anṣār Allāh (AA), also known as the Zaidī Shīʿah “Ḥūthī movement” that drove the country into a cycle of violence that led to the “longest and most brutal conflict of modern Yemen” (Brandt 2018: 104, 106). While regional grievances have been high in almost all regions, it also holds true for former South Yemen, where a secessionist insurgency with the al-Ḥirāk movement is ongoing since 2009. Both movements questioned the legitimacy of longterm president Ṣāliḥ as well as the Yemeni unification (Schmitz & Burrowes 2017: 12).

4.2. Arab Spring and National Dialogue under SASG Benomar (2011-2014)

“Irhal! (Leave)” ! Inspired by the 2011-uprisings in Tunis and Cairo, also in the Yemeni capital of Ṣanʿāʾ urban youth, coupled with followers of AA, al-Ḥirāk or the Southern Movement (SM), tribesmen as well as members of the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) took their long-standing frustrations over economical, educational, health or food issues to the streets and marched together against the autocratic and kleptocratic patronage system of the 33-years long president Ali Abdullah Ṣāliḥ.

By April 2011, thus comparably early on in the process and without being invited by GoY or mandated by the UNSC or UNGA, Jamal Benomar pro-actively stepped into the fray as SASG to Ban Ki-Moon, thereby interpreting the role of the UN in more liberal terms and carving out his own political space (Mancini & Vericat 2016: 10; Zyck 2014: 4-5). Perceived as an impartial and honest broker concerned about the country’s future, he enjoyed high popularity and was commonly referred to as “Brother Benomar” (ibid: 7). Based on that he created a space for dialogue and a Yemeni-led transition process (ibid: 4; Murthy 2018: 130). However, president Ṣāliḥ held on to power, continued with massive attacks on protestors (Root & Salisbury 2014) and refused to sign the GCC Initiative (OSESGY 2011a) and its Implementation Mechanism (OSESGY 2011b). The latter earmarked: the establishment of an unity government with the presidency to be transferred to his deputy ʿAbd Rabbuh Manṣūr Hād ī while granting Ṣāliḥ immunity; the launch of an inclusive NDC; the release of unlawfully detained prisoners as well as the establishment of a committee to address security and stability issues (Brandt 2018: 111; Carapico & Philbrick Yadav 2014; Lackner 2016: 8-9). Although the GCC initiative was criticized by many factions within Yemen and also SASG Benomar questioned the broad immunity granted to Ṣāliḥ (Al Jazeera 2012), the international community stood united behind the GCC-mediation efforts (UNSC 2011a, b) and highlighted its initiative as a “role model for conflict prevention and political transition and a much-needed Arab Spring success story” (Root & Salisbury 2014). The adoption of UNSCR 2014 (2011) by consensus strengthened the position of SASG Benomar. With his frequent briefings to the council, he could obtain concessions from Ṣāliḥ and press the parties to reach a compromise (Zyck 2014: 6-7). Just one month after the resolution was passed, Ṣāliḥ handed over presidency — not power though (Al-Muslimi 2016). Shortly thereafter, UNSCR 2051 (2012) called for the cessation of all acts that undermine the unity government, threatening measures of Art. 41 UN Charter.

As Hādī, re-elected in a single-candidate ballot in February 2012, was tasked to oversee a two-years transitional period and to hold presidential as well as parliamentary elections thereafter, SASG Benomar closely worked with his office, key Yemeni stakeholders and received support from the UN as well as from the G10+ countries (UNSC-P-5; EU and GCC) (Berghof Foundation (BF) 2017: 40, 306-308; Fraihat 2016: 55). While he used his international backing as well as UN rules and standards — i.a. UNSCR 1325 (2000), 1820 (2008), 1888 (2009), 1889 (2009), 1960 (2010) or 2106 (2013) — to press for participation of women, he faced constraints from GoY to fully realize the “20 points” for greater participation of al-Ḥirāk and SM (Zyck 2014: 7-9).

However, as the “flagship” (Gaston 2014: 1) of the transition process, the NDC commenced as of March 2012 with 565 delegates, including GoY and a broad range of participants. Over 10 months, thematic working groups deliberated on the southern- and the Ḥūthī issue, transitional justice and statebuilding, good governance, military and security, independence of social entities, rights and freedoms, development, social and environmental issues, a new constitution and the implementation of the NDC outcomes to be overseen by a National Body (NB) (ibid: 3). Although the NDC concluded with nearly 2000 recommendations (Brandt 2018: 112), a Yemeni analyst concluded: “[it] r esolved all of Yemen’s problems—except for the secessionist strife in the South, the Sa‘da conflict in the North, national reconciliation, transitional justice and state building” (Thiel 2015). For the future state structure of Yemen, a committee with eight participants from the North and eight from the South was tasked to discuss this issues separately (Zyck 2014: 9). Their “Agreement on a Just Solution”, mediated by SASG Benomar, in which a federal structure was proposed was never approved by the NDC plenary, but forwarded to a “22-member Committee of Regions”, chaired by president Hādī to take the final decision on the number of federal states (Thiel 2015). Within two weeks, the committee put forward a six-regions federal plan (see Figure 9) and forwarded it to the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC).

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Figure 9: Six-Regions Plan, Planned Federal division of Yemen (2014)

(own illustration based on Ugolini 2017)

This was generally perceived as a unilateral decision by Hādī (Chatham House 2015: 13) and also major Yemeni groups rejected the proposal with reference to violations of NDC rules. Al-Ḥirāk complained it was not assigned one single territory, and AA that they were deprived of resources and territory they considered to be in their rightful sphere of influence, such as an access to the sea (Thiel 2015; Transfeld 2015: 2).

As the implementation of the NDC outcomes stagnated (Fraihat 2016: 80; BF 2017: 306; Transfeld 2014: 2) and the security and economic situation worsened continuously with a deep fiscal crisis unfolding (Salisbury 2014, 2016: 20-21), public criticism over Hādī’s management of the transition became ever louder (Salisbury 2018b: 14; Gaston 2014: 1; Schmitz & Burrowes 2017: 15). This development increasingly coupled with outbreaks of violence, especially in northern Yemen (Wils & Neuweiler 2018: 11), that remained largely unaddressed by SASG Benomar. Although he mediated a Peace and National Partnership Agreement (PNPA) (OSESGY 2014) between Hādī and AA, the latter — now allied with former president Ṣāliḥ — besieged the capital of Ṣanʿāʾ (Salisbury 2018b: 13), seized control of the state institutions and the Central Bank of Yemen (CBY), formed a Supreme Revolutionary Committee (SRC) and swiftly expanded south to ʾIbb province and west to al-Ḥudaida (Baron 2017).

Largely unimpressed by sanctions imposed by UNSCR 2140 (2014) or condemnations of their actions by UNSCR 2201 (2015) (SCR 2017), AA continued their state capture in 2015. They expressed their displeasure over the perceived extension of the CDCs’ mandate with which they supposedly included the six-regions plan into the draft constitution. When Hādī’s office director was on his way to deliver the document to the NB, AA kidnapped him (Thiel 2015). This gave rise to a set of chain reactions, such as the removal of the president from his own party, the General People’s Congress (GPC), the house arrest of Hādī and his cabinet and their resignation by January 2015. After Hādī managed to escape to ʿAdan, he retracted his resignation (Ghobari & Mukhashaf 2015). Although SASG Benomar facilitated another round of talks over a new unity government (UN 2015a), the AA-Ṣāliḥ alliance feared the formation of a new government (Schmitz & Burrowes 2017: Ixxix) and advanced southwards to access the strategic important Bāb al-mandab Strait and reached the outskirts of ʿAdan by March 2015.

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Figure 10: Expansion of Anṣār Allāh (2012-15)

(own illustration based on Ugolini 2017)

A missile attack on the presidential palace led Hādī finally to flee into exile in Riyāḍ, where he asked the UNSC for a Chapter VII resolution and called upon Yemen’s GCC neighbors to counter the “Ḥūthī coup” militarily (HIIK 2016: 136; Reuters 2015; Salisbury 2016: 25), for which the GCC-states expressed their willingness (S/2015/217). By 26 March 2015, a coalition led by the KSA and supported by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Kuwait, Senegal, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco1, Sudan and Qatar2 — launched the “Operation Decisive Storm”. It aimed at restoring Hādī as legitimate president to Ṣanʿāʾ through intense aerial bombardments, a naval and air blockade and special forces on the ground. Meanwhile, GCC countries exerted exceptional influence on the drafting of UNSCR 2216 (2015) with Jordan, instead of the UK, serving as the penholder of the text and mainly excluding other non-permanent UNSC members from the negotiations (SCR 2017). The resolution was passed under Chapter VII and was adopted with 14 votes and 1 abstention by Russia. It established a targeted arms embargo against AA and unilaterally demanded their disarmament and withdrawal from all seized areas without securing a future for them while on the other hand recognizing Hādī as legitimate president. Just one day after the adoption, Benomar stepped down as SASG to Yemen amidst criticism from local and regional actors.

4.4. Military Intervention and Civil War under SESG Ahmed (2015-2018)

As the main cornerstone and quasi-mandate, UNSCR 2216 became the framework for SESG Ahmed, who took office shortly before the launch of the second — and still ongoing — Saudi-led intervention, “Operation Restoring Hope”. Contrary to the name, the latter is made responsible for a “catastrophic” toll of civilian casualties (O’Brien 2015) due to the use of internationally outlawed phosphorus and cluster bombs (HRW 2016a; YPP 2019) and indiscriminate attacks on homes, schools, hospitals, markets, mosques, weddings and funerals, a camp of internally displaced people (IDPs), the Ṣanʿāʾ International Airport, facilities of aid organizations, water- and sanitation centers as well as factories, bridges, roads, seaports, fishing boats and fields that show attacks on food production and distribution especially in AA-controlled areas (Yemen Data Project (YDP); Orkaby 2017: 97; HRW 2016b; AI 2016, MSF 2016; UNHRC 2018; Mundy 2018). This increasingly amounted to an “economic” or a “food war” (ibid: 2), although starvation as a method of war is prohibited by Art. 54 of the Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Convention. As the Saudi-led military campaign did not obtain the desired results, the conflict saw the presence of KSA- and UAE-backed ground troops (Schmitz & Burrowes 2017: 16), which pushed back the AA-Ṣāliḥ alliance from ʿAdan, but established hard frontlines west of Mārib and in Al Ǧauf (Salisbury 2018b: 18). Reportedly, all parties to the conflict increasingly failed their obligations under IHL and International Human Rights Law (IHRL). AQAP and ISIL-YP, taking advantage of the escalating situation, expanded in territory, especially in Ḥaḍramaut, claimed the port of Al Mukallā and continued with attacks, even on the government headquarters in ʿAdan. In addition to the worsening security and economic situation, the humanitarian situation reached the UN’s highest emergency level as of July 2015, and by the end of the year, 80% of the Yemeni population, thus around 21 million people, were in urgent need of food, water and medical aid (Borger 2015; UNSC 2015d) and around 2.5 million people displaced internally (TFPM 2015: 3).

Since his appointment, SESG Ahmed tried to facilitate a return to political dialogue with a mainly binary approach that aimed at ending the “big war” between AA/GPC and Hādī/GoY by consulting with members of these parties, the GCC, states across the region as well as with UNSC member states. The latter expressed full support for his roadmap that foresaw sequenced political and security steps based on the NDC outcomes, the GCC Initiative and its Implementation Mechanism as well as UNSCR 2216 (SESG Ahmed 2015). Contrary to the repeated commitments made by the parties to cease hostilities and engage in talks (ibid), the first attempt faltered in May, while the second attempt brought about consultations in Geneva from 15-18 June. They, however, did not produce concrete outcomes (Baron 2016; UNSC 2015d) and the parties’ promise to come together at the end of September never materialized.

In a third attempt— supported by an initial, but not durable ceasefire — GoY and a joint AA/GPC delegation met for a second round of face-to-face negotiations at one table from 15-20 December 2015 in Biel (Switzerland). While a tangible agreement on how to end violence remained out of reach, they agreed on confidence-building measures (CBMs), a framework for a negotiation based on key elements of UNSCR 2216, the establishment of a De-escalation and Coordination Committee (DCC) comprised of advisors from both delegations and UN experts that was tasked to ensure success in the cessation of hostilities (CoH) as well as the realization of an agreement on humanitarian access to Taʿizz (UNSC 2015e). However, the talks seemed to stumble at the question of a prisoner swap and due to a military offensive by Saudi-backed forces (Baron 2016). In spite of the escalating military activities that rendered the next cycle of talks unfeasible, the DCC — supported by the EU, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Turkey, and the US — continued its work with Local Disengagement Councils (LDCs). SESG Ahmed tried to implement some of the commitments made and stepped up negotiations in preparation for the next round of talks based on the framework of Biel, the GCC Initiative, the NDC outcomes and UNSCR 2216.

Shortly before the talks commenced on 21 April 2016, SESG Ahmed negotiated a nationwide, yet fragile CoH. This, together with an agreement arising from substantial direct talks between KSA and AA on the Yemeni-Saudi border — one of the hottest fronts in the conflict (Baron 2016) — on humanitarian assistance to the Ṣaʿda region as well as on a prisoner exchange added to the positive spirit prior to and during the Kuwait talks (Wils & Neuweiler 2018: 16). Over a four-months period, the parties met in Kuwait directly and discussed sensitive issues in specific sub-committees around mainly five points: a) the release of prisoners and detainees, b) the military withdrawal by AA, c) the handover of weapons, d) the resumption of political dialogue as well as e) the restoration of a functioning state (UNSC 2016a). Despite the positive developments that led to increased humanitarian access and the release of 400 detainees and 54 children in the beginning of ʿĪd al- Fiṭr, they disputed the prioritization of the political or security track (UNSC 2016b), thus whether a retreat of AA from three major cities, including the capital of Ṣanʿāʾ should be pursued first or rather the set-up of a national unity government. While direct and indirect talks between KSA and AA achieved some ideas, the GPC- and GoY-delegation increasingly felt alienated with the latter finally suspending its participation (Wils & Neuweiler 2018: 18).

After SESG Ahmed had adjourned the talks due to ʿĪd al-Fiṭr, it took intensive persuasive efforts, including a first direct meeting with Ṣāliḥ in Ṣanʿāʾ (Schmitz & Burrowes 2017) to resume the talks on 16 July 2016. However, as the situation on the ground escalated, AA announced the formation of a new High Political Council, a new government and the convening of the parliament, which constituted a red line to GoY and received condemnations by SESG Ahmed. Upon rejection of his proposal to save the talks, consultations were postponed, but never resumed, which led to great frustration and a severe military escalation of the conflict.

In a new round of talks with regional governments, US Secretary of State Kerry urged the parties to return to the negotiation table and proposed to pursue the political and the security track simultaneously with a power-sharing formula that foresaw to sideline Hādī. While the Initiative was accepted by AA/GPC, it received strong objections from GoY (ibid: 16; S/2016/1035). Despite the increased diplomatic efforts and the formation of the “Quad” (KSA, UAE, UK, USA) that called for a CoH, every ceasefire announced failed within a couple of hours, cholera broke out and a famine that still takes great parts of the country hostage.

While the third year of war saw an increase in regional shuttle diplomatic efforts by SESG Ahmed to revive the ideas of the Kerry plan and to limit the humanitarian catastrophe through an agreement on the port city of al-Ḥudaida or the re-opening of Ṣanʿāʾ international airport (UNSC 2017a, b), the new US administration under president Trump increasingly favored a military rather than a political solution to the conflict (Salisbury 2017: 37). Also AA refused to meet with SESG Ahmed and on 22 May, while traveling in a humanitarian convoy, he was attacked in Ṣanʿāʾ (UNSC 2017a). The second half of the year saw a large-scale military escalation and an ever-deteriorating humanitarian crisis. Although the Saudi-led coalition tried to counter calls to set up an independent investigative mechanism in addition to their own Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT), the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) established a GEE in September 2017, which, after being prevented from entering the country over months, found that all parties to the conflict commit gross violations of human rights and international law that possibly amount to war crimes (A/HRC/39/43, UNHRC 2018). By the end of 2017, a schism within AA/GPC caused the assassination of former president Ṣāliḥ and conflict further escalated around Taʿizz and the west coast. By January 2018, the Southern Transitional Council (STC) that was founded as a “southern government in waiting” (Salisbury 2018b: 18) over the course of the previous year, seized the governmental headquarters in ʿAdan. SESG Ahmed stepped down in February 2018 and paved the way for his successor SESG Martin Griffith.

4.5. The world’s worst humanitarian crisis under SESG Griffith (2018-ongoing)

SESG Griffith was mainly confronted with the expanding battleground around al-Ḥudaida port through which around 80% of food and aid is delivered to the heavily import-dependent country, with the Yemeni Riyal (YR) falling to a record low of YR800 to the US-Dollar in September-October 2018 (ICG 2019a) and the increasing risk of “losing the fight against famine” (Lowcock 2018, in S/PV.8361). Although he repeatedly stressed the urgent need for a political solution, the first round of talks in Geneva by September 2018 did not materialize. However, the murder of the Saudi-journalist Jamal Khashoggi brought more attention to the role the Saudi-led coalition and Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) plays in Yemen, however the reluctance of the international community to reign the KSA in, remained low (Salisbury in: Walsh 2018). The US Secretary of Defense, Mattis and Secretary of State Pompeo (US 2018) as well as almost all UNSC members called for a CoH and the resumption of talks. Also members of U.S. Congress increased efforts to pass legislation to end U.S. military support for the coalition (ICG 2019b). Nevertheless, a UK-drafted UNSC resolution that called for a ceasefire to avert famine was stalled by the U.S. after the KSA had threatened that GoY will boycott the next round of talks (Borger 2018a, b). Consultations were finally held in Stockholm (Sweden) from 6-13 December 2018 and were preceded by CBMs. The parties reached several agreements, such as on the city and port of al-Ḥudaida, Salif and Ras Isa, on the exchange of prisoners as well as on Taʿizz, which comprised the “Stockholm Agreement” (S/2018/1134). In addition, an UN-chaired Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC) was tasked to oversee the redeployment of troops and the ceasefire in al-Ḥudaida governorate and the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM), established with UNSCR 2216 to police the arms embargo and control vessels, was enhanced. This was followed by the adoption of UNSCR 2451 and of UNSCR 2452, the latter establishing a monitoring mission to support the Hudaydah Agreement (UNMHA) as the implementation of the agreements seems increasingly difficult with fighting intensifying since mid-January especially in Saʿāda and Ḥaǧǧa governorate (ICG 2019c). While 24.1 million people (UNOCHA 2019) out of 29.9 million are in need of humanitarian assistance and 14 million at the brink of starvation (ICG 2019d), the World Food Programme (WFP)’s food depots around the Red Sea Mills were accessible just after five months in February 2019 while the food was “at risk of rotting” (SESG Griffith & ERC Lowcock 2019) while “[…] millions of starving people suffer” (UN 2019).


1. Meta-Theoretical Assumptions

This thesis rests on concepts and propositions from different strands of political science literature, such as (1) on international mediation and conflict management, a subliterature of peace and conflict studies, and (2) on literature on the effects of IOs, a subfield of the studies on International Relations (IR). Therefore, the underlying meta-theoretical assumptions are even more important to be clarified.

Many studies in mediation and conflict management take the rationalist explanations of war by Fearon 1995, namely: (1) incomplete information, (2) indivisible conflict issues and (3) the problem to credibly commit — particularly “in times of power shifts” (Gilady & Russett 2002: 397, 403) — as point of departure (Fearon 1995: 390-408). They are usually combined with elements of the bargaining approach, which is based on game-theoretic considerations of IR and models mediation as a form of “assisted negotiation” (Bercovitch 2006: 290), or as a “triadic bargaining process” between utility-maximizing actors (Bercovitch 1991; Touval & Zartman 1989; Beardsley 2011; Böhmelt 2011; Kydd 2006, 2010; Sisk 2009). Interests or preferences of the parties are assumed to be static and fixed. Mediators, may support them in overcoming their “barriers to bargaining success” (Bergmann 2017: 43) by helping them identify their zone of agreement (ZOA) and find an agreement within the same. Mediators may do so by (1) gathering and transmitting credible and qualitative information and by serving as a channel of communication to transfer the parties’ “signaling game” from the battlefield to the negotiation table (Bercovitch 1984; Kleiboer 1996: 374; Gilady & Russett 2002: 397). They may (2) provide incentives, show alternatives (ibid: 401) or (3) use their leverage and offer assistance in the enforcement of agreements reached (ibid: 403; Beardsley 2011: 34-36). This thesis utilizes a “soft rational choice ontology” (Haas 2001; Bergmann 2017: 43), which continues to expect the conflict parties to act based on rational cost-benefit calculations, but modifies it insofar as their interests may also be of a normative or ideational, thus of a non-materialistic nature (Snidal 2013: 87-88). Moreover, parties’ preferences may be subject to change due to their perceptions of the mediation process as well as events “inside and outside the negotiation room” (Bergmann 2017: 44; Haas 2001: 23), which allows for a more dynamic assessment of mediator effectiveness.

2. Research Subject: Specification of key concepts

This chapter briefly introduces the main concepts the thesis operates with, which includes first and foremost the notion of an “internationalized civil war”. The term “civil war” refers to a broad range of “armed combat[s] within the boundaries of a recognized sovereign entity” (Kalyvas 2006: 17) that reach the traditional threshold of more than 1,000 battle-related deaths (brd) per annum with a government (incumbent) as one side to the conflict facing one or more non-state actors (insurgents) (Correlates of War Project (COW); Gleditsch 2007: 294; Fearon & Laitin 2003: 76; Sambanis 2004: 816; Themnér & Wallensteen 2013). Several dynamics can lead to its internationalization: the spread of refugees or ethnic groups across borders or foreign interventions “that play a role in instigating, prolonging, or exacerbating the struggle” (Jenne & Popovic 2017). The internationalization brings foreign governments, diaspora groups, foreign fighters, and/or transnational networks to the scene, which exacerbates the problem of veto players “by an order of magnitude” (ibid) and makes these types of civil wars not only far more protracted and violent in nature, but also less amendable to negotiated settlements than inter-state wars (Lutmar & Bercovitch 2011: 8-9).

The shift away from interstate to more intrastate wars was accompanied by a shift of interpretation in international law, which led to a growth in extra-systemic efforts to manage these conflicts. The thesis employs “International conflict management” as the overarching umbrella term, with which it refers to a set of approaches and methods by third parties “designed to limit or control the level and scope of violence in a given conflict, while striving to accomplish a set of objectives at the national, dyadic, or international level” (Maoz 2004: 13; Bercovitch 2006: 290).

When engaging in conflict management, “third party interventions” may refer to a broad range of — mutually reinforcing — techniques that, depending on their degree of interference, are traditionally located on a continuum as displayed in Table 1 (Lahneman & Rudolph 2013: 12). They may be applied by a variety of actors, including states, IOs or NGOs.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table 1: Common Instances Of Third Party Interventions

(own illustrat ion based on Lahneman & Rudolph 2013: 12)

As a third-party diplomatic intervention, “international mediation” is defined in line with Bercovitch as “a process of conflict management, related to but distinct from the parties’ own negotiation, where those in conflict seek the assistance of, or accept an offer or help from, an outsider (whether an individual, an organization, a group, or a state) to change their perceptions of behavior, and to do so without resorting to physical force or invoking the authority of the law” (Bercovitch 1992: 7; Bercovitch & Houston 2000: 171). As set out, a variety of actors are involved in international mediation that work on different diplomatic “tracks” depending on who their measures are aimed at, thus on political elites (track I), with informal representatives of government parties (“track one and a half”), mid-level elites and their militias (track II) or on the general public (track III) (Sisk 2009: 200; Rambotham et al. 2016: 213). In armed conflicts, mediation becomes a form of peacemaking (Nathan 2017) as set forth in Boutros Ghali’s “Agenda for Peace”.

3. Conceptualizing UN Mediator Effectiveness

3.1. UN Mediator Effectiveness

Effectiveness is a concept used in both research strands, in IR as well as in international mediation research. In IR research, the effectiveness of organizations in general and of IOs and international regimes in particular are most frequently debated issues (Young 1992, 1999, 2001; Miles et al. 2002; Hovi et al. 2003; Gutner & Thompson 2010; Weaver 2010; Hegemann et al. 2013). While many models are discussed, the most predominant way to measure organizational effectiveness is by the extent “to which they [organizations] accomplish their stated goals“ (Cameron 2010: xv; Gutner & Thompson 2010: 231) — which holds true for research on the UN as well (Howard 2007; Bosco 2009; McDonald & Patrick 2010).

In international mediation research, the most common dependent variable is mediation success, which is much disputed (Kleiboer 1996) and conceptualized in many different ways (Frei 1976; Regan & Stam 2000; Regan & Aydin 2006; Beardsley et al. 2006), with the most predominant being the type of agreement that was achieved (no settlement, ceasefire, partial or full settlement) (Wallensteen & Svensson 2014: 322; CWM; ICM). When defining success in terms of the results and outcomes achieved, it is also referred to as mediation effectiveness (Bercovitch 2006: 293-294).

Hence, as the thesis combines both research strands, a non-dichotomous, outcome-oriented conceptualization of mediator effectiveness based on Bergmann 2017 is chosen for which the dependent variable is divided into (1) an “actor-centered” and (2) a “problem-centered” perspective on mediator effectiveness (ibid: 45; Rodt 2014: 19-22). For the thesis this translates into an UN-specific dimension which is evaluated with the help of the criteria of (1) goal-attainment and a conflict-specific dimension, which is captured with the criteria of (2) conflict settlement. These criteria are not mutually exclusive, but may influence each other (Bergmann 2017: 53).

3.1.1. UN-specific dimension: goal-attainment

The first perspective on UN mediator effectiveness captures the degree to which the UN has accomplished its stated goals as a mediator in the Yemeni context. Bergmann distinguishes between (1) process goals, (2) outcome goals and (3) impact goals (Bergmann 2017: 50-51). First, process goals relate to aspects of duration, costs, the negotiation agenda or normative aspects, such as the inclusion of specific groups or parties to the conflict (ibid: 50). Second, outcome goals relate to the substance of the agreement and may include preferences on what type of issues are addressed (ibid). Third, impact goals are related to broader and more long-term effects on conflict dynamics or the conflict environment (ibid). But as the variables associated with the latter add a layer of complexity that goes beyond the scope of this thesis, it focuses on the first and second type of goals. As the study aims at a nuanced assessment, the dimension of goal attainment is understood in terms of a continuum of degrees of effectiveness (ibid: 51).

As the UN might have pursued more than one goal simultaneously, a first step undertakes a relative, individual goal attainment to capture the degree of goal attainment for each individual goal ranging from a low degree over a medium to a high degree. When taking the findings from the individual goals together, the overall degree of effectiveness in terms of goal attainment can be assessed. It may take five different values ranging from (1) very low, over (2) low and (3) medium to (4) high and (5) very hight effectiveness as Figure 11 depicts (ibid). As the assessment period of this thesis runs over three years, the goals are seen and examined in a dynamic way. In addition, the relative importance of stated goals is taken into account (ibid: 52).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 11: Degree of UN Mediator Effectiveness In Terms Of Goal Attainment

(own illustration based on Bergmann 2017: 51)

3.1.2. Conflict-specific dimension: conflict settlement

Similarly, the criterion of conflict settlement is approached in a dynamic way as “single, comprehensive agreements are [often] not possible” (Sisk 2009: 44) in violent and protracted conflicts (Bergmann 2017: 48), let alone in in ternationalized civil wars. Thus the focus is put on the “relative progress conflict parties make towards the settlement of their conflict over the course of the mediation process” (ibid). Especially when mediation processes are still ongoing, an issue-based approach seems most appropriate (Ott 1972: 597; Bercovitch & Jackson 2009: 3; Crocker et al. 2018: 142).

Here, a first step explores the relative, issue-specific degree of settlement, thus whether the mediation has not solved any, only some, or all aspects of the individual conflict issue at hand and derives whether there is no settlement, a partial or a full settlement of the issue to the conflict (Bergmann 2017). A second step captures the overall degree of conflict settlement by viewing all issues together. It may take five values ranging from no agreement, over a process agreement, to a minor, major or even full settlement (ibid). According to the values of conflict settlement, the degree of UN mediator effectiveness for the dimension of goal attainment may range from a (1) very low, over a (2) low and (3) medium to a (4) high or even (5) very high effectiveness (ibid: 49).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 12: Degree of UN Mediator Effectiveness In Terms Of Conflict Settlement

(own illustration based on Bergmann 2017: 48-49)

3.2. Conditions for UN Mediator Effectiveness

As international mediation is a highly complex phenomenon, scholars agree that it does not lend itself to a single linear explanation of success or failure, cause and effect (Bergmann 2017: 53; Beardsley 2011: 114–25; Bercovitch 2009: 344; Greig & Diehl 2012: 117). Instead, it is better understood as a “reciprocal process” (Bercovitch & Houston 2000: 171), which might be influenced by a “myriad of factors” (Bercovitch 2009: 345) that also interact with one another (Kleiboer 1998 18-23). Combining important factors from both research strands, this thesis follows Bergmann 2017 in choosing six conditions of which four are related to the mediator at play, thus the UN, and two are related to the parties to the conflict. The conditions are discussed separately, adjusted to the UN and it is explained why they are chosen and preferred over others.

3.2.1. Mediator-related conditions

Mediator leverage

Mediator leverage is a key factor in mediation research and refers to the ability of the mediator to alter the costs and benefit calculations of the conflict parties (Touval & Zartman 1985; 2001; Zartman & Touval 1996; Bercovitch et. al. 1991: 14; Kleiboer, 1998: 40-48; Bercovitch & Schneider, 2000: 149; Beardsley 2009, 2011). Typically it is defined in terms of coercive and non-coercive measures of material or immaterial nature, or simply as “carrots and sticks”. Carrots, — mainly employed by SESGs — may include any form of economic benefits (assistance, grants, aid, trade/association agreements or lifting of sanctions) or political benefit (recognition, legitimation, (better) diplomatic relations, membership in organization etc.) (Sisk 2009: 54; Crocker et. al 2018: 165; Bergmann 2017: 56). While sticks, thus threats and punishments — mainly employed by the UNSC — may involve diplomatic pressure, naming and shaming, sanctions, travel bans, asset freezes, arms embargoes or the threat/use of military force (Sisk 2009: 55; S/2009/189, para. 27-29).

The thesis follows Bergmann in distinguishing this type of rather hard-power “conditionality leverage” from a softer type of leverage, which he refers to as “capacity leverage” (ibid: 54-57). The latter pertains to “institutional capacities, […] expertise and experience” (ibid: 56) the mediator can draw upon, to which counts: a well-functioning and effective diplomatic apparatus, established diplomatic contacts and networks with the opposing sides, previous experience in mediating conflicts, institutionalized pools of mediation experts, financial resources and staff or effective intelligence gathering capabilities (ibid; S/2009/189, para. 15-18, 59). Accordingly, it is assumed that these two types of leverage are positively linked to mediator effectiveness in terms of goal-attainment as well as conflict settlement (ibid: 57), which allows for the following hypothesis:

H1: The more leverage the UN possesses, the more effective it is as mediator. (cf. ibid: 56)

Based upon the assumption that a high degree of coercive and capacity leverage correlates with a high degree of UN mediator effectiveness, the thesis differentiates between three different degrees of effectiveness: a low, medium and high degree as described in Figure 13.

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Figure 13: Degree of UN Mediator Leverage

(own illustration based on Bergmann 2017: 54-57)

Mediator strategy

Mediator strategy is often seen as closely intertwined with the degree of leverage and control exerted in a given mediation setting (Wallensteen & Svensson 2014: 319). This thesis follows Bergmann's conceptualization that rests on the three ideal types of (1) communication-facilitation, (2) formulation and (3) manipulation (Touval & Zartman 1985: 12–13) to capture the de-facto behaviour of the mediator (Bergmann 2017: 57). The related tactics pursued by the mediator are closely linked to what the rationalist bargaining approach (Fearon 1995: 390-408; Beardsley et al. 2006: 62–66; 2011; Gilady & Russett 2002: 396-405) assumes as helpful for the parties so that they may identify their ZOA and reach an agreement within the same (Bergmann 2017: 58-59).

In this regard, (1) facilitation as the least interventionist strategy mainly tries to help with information revelation (ibid; Beardsley et al. 2006: 65–66; Bercovitch 1984; Kleiboer 1996: 374; Gilady & Russett 2002: 397). (2) Formulation allows for a more active stance and involves the suggestions of alternatives and coordination (ibid: 401; Beardsley et al. 2006: 63–64; Bergmann 2017: 58). And (3) manipulation makes it possible to actively propose solutions and use conditionality leverage to expand the ZOAs for all sides and offer assistance in the enforcement of agreements reached (ibid: 59; Beardsley et al. 2006: 64; Beardsley 2011: 34-36; Gilady & Rus sett 2002: 403).

While there is general consensus that the strategy or the combination of strategies employed does have an impact on mediator effectiveness (ibid: 319-20; Beardsley 2011; Bercovitch & Houston 1996), it is debated which strategy/which combination is most effective in which phase, in which type of conflict and for which duration of time. While some see manipulative strategies as most effective per se (Wilkenfeld et al. 2003: 292–93; Gartner & Bercovitch 2006: 833–34), others champion them particularly in high-intensity conflicts (Bercovitch & Gartner 2006) and civil wars (Siniver 2006: 821–23; Sisk 2009: 53–56; Touval 1996: 568) as well as for reaching a formal agreement (Wallensteen & Svensson 2014: 319-20; Bergmann 2017: 60). Given that the focus of this thesis rests on an internationalized civil war and given the outcome-oriented conceptualization of the dependent variable in terms of agreements reached, which in turn is connected to the achievement of the mediator goals, the following hypothesis is to be tested:

H2: The more control the UN exerts on the mediation process, the more effective it is as a mediator. (cf. Bergmann 2017: 61)

In order to capture the degree of control the UN exerted in the mediation context, the thesis investigates to which degree the tactics that were gathered from Beardsley et al. 2006: 66; Bercovitch & Lee 2003: 3-5 as well as from Capelos & Smilovitz 2008: 65-69 (summarized in table 2) were employed in different phases of the conflict. Accordingly, a low degree of control is related to the application of a mostly facilitative strategy; a medium degree to the active use of formulative tactics and a high degree to the use of manipulative tactics to move the parties to an agreement.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table 2: Mediator Tactics Pursuant Of Strategy Employed

(own illustration based on Bergmann 2017: 62)

Mediator coherence

Mediator coherence, understood as the “degree of coordination of actors involved in the conduct of […] mediation” (Bergmann 2017: 63) is assumed to have a positive influence on the effectiveness of mediation (de Coning & Friis 2011: 251, 53; Crocker et al. 2018: 165, 168-169; Sisk 2009: 188, 207). It is also regarded a key factor for UN mediation due to the composite character of the world organization (Iji 2017: 84) with its complex aggregation of state and bureaucratic interests (Beardsley 2013: 370).

To specify the concept, the thesis follows Bergmann (2017: 63-66) and modifies the conceptualization of Gebhard (2011: 109-113) for the UN. In this sense, “vertical coherence” refers to the degree of coordination between the UN member states’ policies and positions towards the conflict and the mediation effort and the consensus reached at the UN level (ibid: 109; Bergmann 2017: 63-64). In mediation research, emphasis is mainly put on the latter when stressing the importance that the P-5 align their interests in support of the me diation (Tunnicliff 1984; Haas 1986, 1987; Rubin 1992; Touval 1994: 52; Fretter 2002: 104; Hampson 2003: 12; Bercovitch & Gartner 2006: 336; Georgiev 2017: 4; Iji 2017: 85). “Internal, or intra-institutional coherence” refers to the degree of cooperation between different bodies, departments and agencies “within” the UN system that are involved in the mediation effort (Gebhard 2011: 111). Finally, “external coherence” relates to the degree of coordination between the UN and third actors involved (ibid: 109, 112), which will be addressed separately as mediation researchers discuss it with a different emphasis. Hence, the following hypothesis is derived:

H3: The more coherent the UN acts, the more effective it is as mediator. (cf. Bergmann 2017: 65)

In order to assess the degree of UN mediator coherence, the thesis takes a continuum with three values of coherence as a basis: (1) a low, (2) medium and (3) high degree as outlined in Figure 14 (ibid: 66).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 14: Degree of UN Mediator Coherence

(own illustration based on Bergmann 2017: 63-66)

Mediator coordination

Mediator coordination refers to the interaction of the UN with regional and subregional organizations, other IOs, states, NGOs, national and local actors involved in a mediation effort (UN Guidance for Effective Mediation: 18; A/66/811 (2012); S/2009/189, para. 12-14). It has been termed “external coherence” above, but is discussed in mediation research from a slightly different angle, namely from the perspective of “multiparty mediation” (Crocker et al. 1999) in an increasingly “crowded field” (Lanz & Gasser 2013; Svensson 2011; Vukovic 2016), where “forum shopping” (Crocker 2007; Crocker et al. 1999), “mediator hopping” (Greig & Diehl 2012) or an “unhealthy competition” (Iji 2017: 83) are to be avoided by the lead-mediator (Wallensteen & Svensson 2014: 321).

This thesis follows Ber gmann (2017: 67) in assuming that it is not about the sheer number of mediating actors involved (Crocker et al. 1999: 230; Böhmelt 2011: 122), but about the quality of their cooperation, thus whether they support each other by sharing information or pooling resources, which in turn may increase the mediator leverage and effectiveness. Hence, the following hypothesis can be derived:

H4: The closer the coordination between mediators in a multi-party mediation team, the more effective the UN is as a mediator. (cf. Bergmann 2017: 67)

In order to assess the degree of UN mediator coordination, the thesis works with a continuum of degrees ranging from (1) low over (2) medium to (3) high as displayed in Figure 15.

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Figure 15: Degree of Mediator Coordination

(own illustration based on Bergmann 2017: 63-66)

3.2.2. Conflict parties’-related conditions

As “[t]here tends to be too much focus on the mediators […] with that we are disempowering the parties to the conflict […]” (Ahthisaari 2008), this thesis includes a focus on the conflict parties as well, which are broadly defined as “political institutions/entities that individual negotiators represent in a given mediation process” (Bergmann 2017: 68). It is assumes that their characteristics are likely to influence UN mediator effectiveness (Greig & Diehl 2012: 131), especially in (internationalized) civil wars (Crocker et. al. 2018: 141).

By following Bergmann (2017: 68-72) the main explanatory factors in mediation literature — such as the parties’ identification (Modelski 1964: 142; Burton 1968), their number (Greig & Diehl 2012: 135) and cohesion (Assefa 1987: 13; Frei 1975: 484; Langenscheid 2000: 30; Bercovitch & Houston 1996: 21), their motives and willingness to compromise (Touval & Zartman 2001: 432), their previous relationship (Deutsch 1973: 5; Rubin 1981: 38; Bercovitch et al. 1991: 12; Bercovitch & Houston 1996: 22; Wilkenfeld et al 2003; Greig 2005; Beardsley 2010) or mediation experience (Kleiboer 1996: 364-68) — can be summarized in two variables: (1) in the parties’ willingness to compromise and their (2) internal cohesiveness, as follows hereinafter.

Conflict parties’ willingness to compromise

The conflict parties’ willingness to make concessions and to find a compromise solution to their conflict is regarded a key factor for mediator effectiveness in literature (Bercovitch & Lee 2003: 5) given the fact that parties participating in mediation may not only have an interest in the peaceful settlement of their dispute, but may pursue “devious objectives” (Richmond 1998: 709) and strategic interests that jeopardize the actual mediation effort. These may include national and international recognition and “face saving” considerations (Mitchell 1993: 283; Guelke 2003; Zartman 1995) or the interest to buy time in order to rebuild military strength (ibid: 9; Svensson 2007: 180; Bergmann 2017: 69).

According to the soft rational choice approach underlying this thesis, the parties are expected to act on the basis of a cost-benefit calculation, which includes not only material incentives, but also their perception of the other parties as well as of the mediator and the mediation process, thence also their expected gains influence their potential ZOA (ibid; Sisk 2009: 74; Richmond 1998: 709–10). Hence, the following hypothesis is suggested:

H5: The higher the conflict parties’ willingness to compromise based on their expected gains from a negotiated settlement, the more effective the UN is as mediator. (cf. Bergmann 2017: 69)

According to Bergmann (ibid: 69-70), the parties’ willingness to compromise starts with an inquiry into their economic and political cost-benefit calculations on national and international level, their red lines as well as their perception of the mediation process. This way, a potential ZOA can be determined, which is to be compared with their actual willingness to compromise shown in the negotiations. Also for this variable the thesis takes a continuum of three degrees as a basis ranging from (1) a low over (2) a medium to (3) a high degree as indicated in Figure 16.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 16: Degree of Parties’ Willingness to Compromise

(own illustration based on Bergmann 2017: 69-70)

Conflict parties’ internal cohesiveness

While it seems undisputed that the parties’ cohesiveness contributes to effective mediation (Burton 1968; Raymond & Kegley 1985; Kressel & Pruitt 1989; Kleiboer 1998: 21), literature discusses the concept in two different ways: (1) as the stability of the internal power structure, stressing the importance of clear ly identifiable leaders, who may secure the implementation of an agreement against internal resistance (ibid; Assefa 1987: 13; Bergmann 2017: 70) and (2) as the number and nature of domestic constituencies assuming the more exist, the less cohesive the party (Kleiboer 1998: 21; 1996: 365-66). This thesis follows Bergmann (2017: 71) in assuming that the underlying argument is the same, namely: “the more internally united a conflict party is and the stronger the support for the leadership by its constituents, the stronger the negotiators’ mandate and the lower the chances that factions within this party will act as spoilers”, which in turn increases the parties’ ZOAs and chances for a compromise solution (ibid). Spoilers are understood as “leaders and parties who believe that peace emerging from negotiations threatens their power, worldview, and interests, and use […] [violent or non violent means] to undermine attempts to achieve it” (Stedman 1997: 5; 1996; Greig & Diehl 2012: 134). Therefore, the hypothesis reads as follows:

H6: The more internally cohesive the conflict parties are, the more effective the UN is as mediator. (cf. Bergmann 2017: 71)

The variable is operationalized as a continuum of degrees ranging from (1) a low over (2) a medium to (3) a high degree as displayed in Figure 17 (ibid: 72).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 17: Degree of Parties’ Internal Cohesiveness

(own illustration based on Bergmann 2017: 63-66)

3.3. Alternative explanatory factors

As international mediation, especially in internationalized civil wars is a complex phenomenon, a huge variety of possible explanatory factors and independent variables have been discussed. The framework of Bergmann 2017 outlined and modified above so far excludes factors that are related to the “nature of dispute”, which encompasses: timing, conflict intensity or the nature of conflict issues (Ott 1972: 597, Bercovitch et. al. 1991: 12-14; Bercovitch & Langley 1993: 637; Bercovitch & Houston 1996; 2000: 29, 173; Greig & Diehl 2012: 130–31). How it is justified that these variables are not integrated separately, will be briefly outlined hereinafter.

Timing mainly refers to the question as to when a mediation attempt is most successful during a conflicts’ “life cycle”. Most frequently it is discussed under the concept of “ripeness” (Zartman 1989; 2000) in comparison to “readiness” (Greig & Diehl 2012: 129). Thus, it predominantly refers to situations, where a “mutually hurting stalemate” (MHS) exists, meaning that a unilateral victory became impossible and the perceived costs of continued fighting exceed the expected benefits of the parties (S/2009/189, para. 11; Hellmann 2012: 593; Bergmann 2017: 73). In line with Kleiboer (1994: 115-16), this thesis follows the argument that timing can be seen as part of the conflict parties’ motivation to settle their conflict, which varies enormously during the life cycle of a conflict and has been included in the conflict parties’ willingness to compromise already (Bergmann 2017: 73).

Similarly the thesis deals with the factor of conflict intensity. Although conflict intensity is discussed in literature separately — mostly assuming a positive relationship between a high-intensity conflict, measured in brd/annum (Bercovitch et. al. 1991: 13), and the willingness of the parties to “accept mediation and reach a settlement” (Greig & Diehl 2012: 130; Bergmann 2017: 74; Regan & Stam 2000; Greig 2005; Melin 2015) — it is also accounted for in the variable of conflict parties’ willingness to compromise.

Furthermore, literature assumes a positive relationship between the number and types of conflict issues at stake and the effectiveness of mediation (Ott 1972: 616; Randle 1973: 49; Lall 1966: 100). Prominently, Bercovitch et. al. (1991: 14) expect issues related to borders, territory and security to be easier to settle than those related to ideology or national self-determination. It is also referred to whether issues are tangible or intangible (Bercovitch & Langley 1993), thus conflicts evolving around intangible issues such as ideology or religion are often viewed to as zero-sum games with limited or even non-existent ZOA (Burton 1972a; Azar 1986; Greig & Diehl 2012: 131) in comparison to tangible, material interests that are portrayed as positive-sum games (Fisher 1978; Druckman 1993: 26-9). Besides the fact that even intangible issues can be transferred into tangible ones (Fisher 1971: 141-2; Rubin 1981: 30), there is a general consensus that most conflicts evolve around a multitude of issues (Kleiboer 1996: 354). Due to the resulting difficulties in assessing the extent to which the conflict issues affect UN mediator effectiveness, the thesis follows Bergmann (2017: 73) and Kleiboer (1998: 20) in excluding this variable from the framework. However, the empirical analysis conducted in chapter V will reveal whether this decision is justified or whether the framework has to be adjusted in future research projects.


This chapter gives an overview of the thesis’ methodological approach. It justifies the case selection, presents the operationalization of the theoretical framework and describes the methods chosen for data collection, namely a desk study, which is combined with semi-structured expert interviews.

1. Case Selection

In order to assess the effectiveness of UN mediation efforts in the evolving dynamics of contemporary conflicts in the MENA region, the thesis adopts a qualitative logic of inquiry and exemplarily resorts to a key method in social sciences and IR, namely case-studies (Bennett & Elman 2007: 170; Geddes 2003; George & Bennett 2005). It defines a case as an “instance of a class of events” (ibid: 5, 17) and a case study as the “detailed [empirical] examination of an aspect of a historical episode to develop or test historical explanations that may be generalizable to other [or a broader class of] events [or phenomena]” (ibid). Given the limited scope of this research project, a single case study design is selected for which the hypotheses from the theoretical framework are tested to figure out “whether and how much” (ibid: 25) the variables chosen mattered to the outcome. When looking at the MENA region, three countries saw UN mediation after the “Arab Spring”: Syria, Libya and Yemen. The latter stands out insofar as the country’s president was deposed by a UN-mediated power-sharing agreement (Transfeld 2018: 44) on which a unique transition process followed (ibid 2016: 151), that was often referred to as a role model (Friedman 2013) and as the “UN’s showpiece for successful conflict mediation” for the region (Transfeld 2018: 44). However, it quickly turned into an internationalized civil war that led to the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, which could not be prevented by UN-mediation efforts. While the efforts during NDC period under SASG Benomar were addressed by researchers already, the mediation efforts by SESG Ahmed, who took over in 2015 remained largely uncovered, although it seems that the period between 2015 and 2018 might have a high “degree of crucialness” (Gerring 2007: 238) for the theoretical framework, for the future of UN mediation in the region and for the standard regime of conflict management in general.


1 Morocco was a member of the coalition until February 2019

2 Qatar was a member of the coalition until June 2017

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International Mediation Quo Vadis? The UN in Yemen's Civil War
Achievements, Challenges and Lessons Learned from 2015-2018
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Sarah Ultes (Author), 2019, International Mediation Quo Vadis? The UN in Yemen's Civil War, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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