IPI HomePublicationsPolicy PapersUN Mediation and the Politics of Transition after Constitutional Crises

 

print print  |  share share back back

Policy Papers - February 22, 2012

UN Mediation and the Politics of Transition after Constitutional Crises

Charles T. Call

 

 

While the United Nations has extensive experience in helping to mediate the end to civil wars and implement peace agreements, its experience with non-civil-war transition crises is comparatively limited. This study examines the UN experience in five cases of unconstitutional changes in government between 2008-2011: Kenya, Mauritania, Guinea, Madagascar, and Kyrgyzstan.  

The study examines some of the trends across these five cases, drawing lessons learned regarding transitional political arrangements and international mediation. The cases suggest that the use of power-sharing mechanisms to resolve either unconstitutional ousters of elected presidents or electoral disputes raises questions for legitimacy, democracy, and state-society relations. They also suggest that electoral disputes pose more risks for legitimation than unconstitutional ousters of duly-elected governments. Commissions of inquiry offer opportunities to facilitate the restoration of constitutional order without sacrificing justice. They facilitate mediation by “bracketing” the heated controversies over disputed events, removing them from the purview of immediate negotiations.

In each of the cases studied, international mediation played an important role in moving the actors towards compromise, and the UN was vital to these mediation efforts, providing crucial technical and political expertise during constitutional crises. The cases also reveal a remarkable ability of the UN to work collaboratively and effectively with regional and subregional organizations in mediation efforts.

Among the recommendations are the following:

1. Strengthen DPA’s Mediation Support Unit.
2. Expand and support UN regional offices.
3. Senior mediators should have experience with multilateral organizations beyond just the UN.
4. The UN system should systematically prepare for electoral disputes.
5. DPA should enhance communication with resident coordinators and cooperate with UNDP to prepare country teams for political crises.
6. The UN system should develop ways to monitor transitional arrangements.
7. The UN should avoid issuing a blanket condemnation of all departures from constitutional order and address crises on a case-by-case basis.

Charles T. Call is Associate Professor in the School of International Service at American University.

The Global Observatory

Is the Flood of Violent Images Further Dividing the West and the Middle East?
Though the majority of Middle East populations are concerned with peace and security, many outsiders perceive them as only interested in violence and extremism.

Key Global Events to Watch in April
A list of key upcoming meetings and events with implications for global affairs.

2014 Top 10 Issues to Watch in Peace & Security: The Global Arena
A list of ten key issues to watch that are likely to impact international peace and security in 2014, compiled by IPI's Francesco Mancini.

The Global Observatory, produced by IPI, provides timely analysis on peace and security issues, interviews with leading policymakers, interactive maps, and more.

Recent Events

April 05, 2014
IPI Opens Middle East Regional Office
International Peace Institute President Terje Rød-Larsen inaugurated IPI’s new Middle East Regional Office with a recognition of the area’s critical importance to the world and the rapid political changes underway in the countries of the region, and he asserted that IPI has an “important role” to play there.

April 03, 2014
In Horn of Africa, Links Between Disaster, Conflict, and Displacement
What are the links between climate change, conflict, and the displacement of people? A panel of experts discussed this nexus and its implications in the Horn of Africa at the International Peace Institute on April 3rd in an event cosponsored by the Nansen Initiative.

March 26, 2014
Derek Plumbly on Lebanese Resilience Amid Rising Challenges
Lebanon has exceeded expectations in dealing with the continuing fallout from the crisis in neighboring Syria, said Derek Plumbly, United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, on March 26th. Speaking at the International Peace Institute, Mr. Plumbly praised the Lebanese people for “actually sustaining a measure of stability in their country.”

View More