Third-party knowledge and success in civil war mediation

Document Type


Publication Date

June 2020


Within this article, we explore how third-party knowledge of ongoing conflicts shapes the ability of mediators to successfully end conflicts through negotiated settlements. Since the primary role of mediators is to share information, and combatants have incentives to misrepresent information, contextual knowledge about the conflict and actors is critical. We argue that experienced diplomats with greater knowledge of the civil war state, close knowledge of the combatants, and connections with civil society are less vulnerable and more effective in mediation efforts. We propose that third parties seeking a diplomatic solution to ongoing conflicts may be more successful when they maintain strong diplomatic knowledge of the disputants as well as knowledge of the processes by which previous mediation efforts have attempted to resolve the dispute. Using a seemingly unrelated bivariate probit model on peace agreements from 1989 to 2005, we find strong support that diplomatic knowledge matters significantly.