Effectiveness of Third-Party Coordination in Conflict Resolution: Evidence from Nepal
To what extent does third-party coordination contribute substantially to conflict resolution? While the strategies mentioned in the existing conflict management literature focus on the fact that third parties should be coordinated to make them effective in intervention processes, they do not address how such coordination strategies have contributed to conflict resolution in actual practice. In the light of this research gap, and drawing upon the case of the Maoist armed conflict and peace process of Nepal,the focus of this paper is to provide empirical justifications of coordination strategies from two perspectives: coordination success and coordination effectiveness. The coordination success component evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of certain third-party coordination processes in conflict resolution efforts. The coordination effectiveness component assesses the actual contribution to conflict resolution of different coordinated actions taken by third parties.
This research suggests that effectiveness of third-party coordination should not be evaluated only on the basis of certain actions and strategies adopted by the third parties in the course of conflict intervention. Rather, one must ask how certain coordinated efforts have actually contributed to the peace process; only this can inform us about actual coordination effectiveness. Third-party coordination success is only a first step towards coordination effectiveness. Coordination success provides a motivation for third parties to get involved in actual intervention efforts, helps them to come up with better intervention strategies, and clarifies their roles. It also contributes to make the peace process organize, durable, and discipline. This research further suggests that third-party interveners’ coordination is often a one-off event in armed conflicts and peace processes. Thus, its contribution to peace processes can only be measured on the basis of a particular case, or limited to discrete issues rather than the broader peace process. Likewise, the identity of the third parties and their acceptability to the conflicting parties, the nature of disputes, and the characteristics of mediators are also found to be quite relevant for influencing the occurrence and outcome of third-party coordination. Specifically, the role of a lead agency and the inclusion of powerful third parties in the coordination process is quite important for obtaining positive outcomes in the peace process. Other findings of this research suggest that intervention efforts where both local and external third parties are involved are more effective than the involvement of only local or only external third parties. This research also suggests that some of the intervention efforts in Nepal were successful only because of third-party collaborative efforts; some of their contributions are blurred with other national political processes; some of them were only successful because of higher emphasis given by the conflicting parties. Third-party coordination has also been effective in terms of its contribution to putting many third parties ‘on the same page’ regarding particular aspects of the peace process. In order to achieve the broader goal of lasting peace, third parties’ coordinated efforts need to be supplemented by other factors, such as the conflicting parties’ efforts and sincerity, spoiler management during the negotiation and post-agreement processes, and the meaningful people’s participation in the peace process.