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 of these 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.

Final Report (February 2019): UN Sanctions and Mediation: Establishing Evidence to Inform Practice



Against this background, this project, conducted by the United Nations University, the Graduate Institute and swisspeace, and funded by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, pursues two main objectives. First, it will create a better understanding of the inter-linkages between sanctions and mediation. 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 research consists of 6 country context case studies. The countries include: Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen, and Libya.



Mediation Focal Point


Phase 1
Project launch and stakeholder consultations: June – August 2017

Phase 2
Case study research and analysis: September 2017 – May 2018

Phase 3
Synthesis and dissemination of research findings: June – November 2018



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:

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

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

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

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

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



Mr. Eckart Schiewek
Political Affairs Officer, UN Department of Political Affairs, USA

Case Study: Afghanistan

Ms. Rina Amiri
Center on International Cooperation, New York University, USA

Case Study: Afghanistan

Dr. Jean-Louis Romanet Perroux
Visiting Research Scholar,
Crown Center for Middle East Studies, Brandeis University, USA

Case Study: Libya

Full-time faculty member
School of Law, University of Valencia, Spain

Case Study: Libya

Dr. Lansana A. Gberie
Former Coordinator and Finance Expert of the UN Security Council Panel of Experts monitoring sanctions on Liberia.

Case Study: Sierra Leone

Dr. Joana Amaral
Research Associate,
Centre for Conflict Studies, University of Marburg, Germany

Case Study: Sierra Leone

Prof. Marcos Tourinho
Assistant Professor of International Relations
Fundação Getulio Vargas, Brazil

Case Study: Somalia

Dr. Dominik Balthasar
Senior Researcher
Statehood Program, swisspeace/University of Basel, Switzerland

Case Study: Somalia

Dr. Francesco Giumelli
Assistant Professor in International Relations and International Organization
University of Groningen, Netherlands

Case Study: South Sudan

Dr. Annette Weber
Senior Fellow
Middle East and Africa Division, SWP Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, Germany

Case Study: South Sudan

Prof. Francesco Mancini
Associate Dean & Visiting Associate Professor
Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy,
National University of Singapore, Singapore

Case Study: Yemen

Dr. Zuzana Hudáková
Visiting lecturer
European School of Political and Social Sciences
Lille Catholic University, Lille, France

Case Study: Yemen


UN Sanctions and Mediation: Establishing Evidence to Inform Practice Final Project Report, 19 February 2019

UN Sanctions: Liability or Asset in Mediation Processes? Background paper prepared for Oslo Forum, 25 July 2018.


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)



Notice of a Member State Open Debate on Mediation and Settlement of Disputes, Security Council 8334th Meeting, 29 August 2018. Outcome of the debate: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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




Outcomes of the debate: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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

Thomas Biersteker
UN Sanctions and Mediation Project Sanctions Focal Point
The Graduate Institute, Geneva
Email: thomas.biersteker@graduateinstitute.ch

David Lanz
UN Sanctions and Mediation Project Mediation Focal Point
Email: David.Lanz@swisspeace.ch

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