UN Photo / Eskinder Debebe

UN Sanctions and Mediation Project

Mediation and UN sanctions are two essential policy instruments used by the United Nations in its efforts to prevent and resolve conflict. Even though these two tools are almost always deployed in conjunction, the degree of their overlap in time and the sequencing of their application vary. Relatively little is known about when and whether these tools work well together or work poorly. Preliminary evidence suggests that in some recent cases their dual application improved, and in others, diminished the peace and security environment.

Within the UN system, there is no internal guidance on the integrated application and analysis of both tools. The gap in knowledge is further exacerbated by the fact that the two expert communities concerned – mediation and sanctions experts – generally operate independently of one another, and are driven by different logics and sometimes by different mandates. As a result, there are sensitivities regarding the joint application of sanctions and mediation. However, given the inter-linkages between mediation and sanctions in practice, and particularly in contexts where the UN Security Council is the common mandating authority, it is imperative that these two communities have a forum in which they can explore when and how these tools work best together in order to accomplish larger peace and security goals.



Against this background, this project, conducted by the United Nations University, the Graduate Institute and swisspeace, and funded by the Government of Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, pursues two main objectives. First, it will create a better understanding of the inter-linkages between sanctions and mediation and, in particular, of the conditions under which sanctions complement or complicate mediation, and vice versa. Second, this project will bring the two expert communities together to interrogate jointly when and how these tools should be deployed and how coordination can be improved in order to create space for joint engagement on this pressing policy challenge.

The core of the research consists of 6 studies of countries where UN sanctions and mediation interacted in interesting ways. The countries include: Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen, and Libya.



Mediation Focal Point



The project is supported by an advisory panel of senior policymakers and academics in the mediation and sanctions fields. Their role is to provide guidance and feedback throughout the course of the project. The panel members are:

Dr. Katia Papagianni, Director, Policy and Mediation Support, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, Switzerland

Mr. Kelvin Ong, Chief of United Nations Security Council Subsidiary Organs Branch, Security Council Affairs Division, Department of Political Affairs, United Nations, New York

Dr. Roxaneh Bazergan, Team Leader, Mediation Support Unit, Policy and Mediation Division, Department of Political Affairs, United Nations, New York

Dr. Peter Wallensteen, Senior Professor of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, Sweden

Dr. Laurence Nathan, Director of the Centre for Mediation in Africa, University of Pretoria, South Africa

Ms. Kimberly Elliot, Visiting Fellow, Center for Global Development, Washington D.C, USA

Mr. Nicholas Haysom, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Sudan and South Sudan, Ethiopia


Enhancing the Effectiveness of UN Sanctions, Security Council 8018th Meeting, 3 August 2017


Overview of Sanctions and Mediation

UN Targeted Sanctions
Targeted sanctions are applications of restrictive measures by a State, regional or international organization to coerce targets to change their behavior, constrain them from engaging in proscribed activities, and/or signal a violation of international norms. These measures include, but are not limited to, economic sanctions, and may be applied to States, individuals, non-State actors, sectors of activity, or regions of a country.

View Full Overview (60KB PDF)

International Mediation
Mediation is a method of settlement of disputes enumerated in Article 33 of the UN Charter, along with negotiation, enquiry, conciliation, arbitration, and judicial settlement. More specifically, in its Guidance for Effective Mediation, the UN defined international mediation as “a process whereby a third party assists two or more parties, with their consent, to prevent, manage or resolve a conflict by helping them to develop mutually acceptable agreements.

View Full Overview (64KB PDF)




Background Materials on Sanctions

Compendium High Level Review of United Nations Sanctions (1.8MB PDF)
Inter-Agency Working Group on Sanctions Inputs to High Level Review (2.3MB PDF)


Background Materials on International Mediation

United Nations Guidance for Effective Mediation (516KB PDF)



Rebecca Brubaker
UN Sanctions and Mediation Project Manager
United Nations University Centre for Policy Research
Email: brubaker@unu.edu

Alexandra Ivanovic
UN Sanctions and Mediation Project Administrator
United Nations University Centre for Policy Research
Email: ivanovic@unu.edu



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