The theory and practice of mediation as framing: breaking impasses in the El Salvador peace negotiations

Frazer, Owen David (2022). The theory and practice of mediation as framing: breaking impasses in the El Salvador peace negotiations. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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Although mediation has been shown to be effective in helping warring parties to reach agreements to end civil wars, our understanding of how exactly mediators assist the negotiation process remains limited. Existing theories of peace mediation focus on how mediators can help parties to address strategic and cognitive obstacles to reaching a negotiated settlement. A communication perspective, which looks at the process of how the meaning of different aspects of the negotiation process is constructed, has been neglected. In any negotiation, parties compete to impose their preferred meaning on objects of discussion by framing them in a certain way. To advance in their negotiations parties must eventually arrive at a common framing. The puzzle addressed in this PhD thesis is how mediators bring parties’ frames into alignment.
Based on an analysis of cases of impasses in the 1990-1992 UN-mediated peace negotiations to end the civil war in El Salvador, this thesis develops a theory of mediation as framing. Adapting a general model of social mechanisms developed by Hedström and Swedberg (1998) based on the work of Coleman (1986), it elucidates three underlying mechanisms that explain how mediator framing works. The first is a “situational mechanism” that explains how a mediator with a certain framing capacity, through specific framing actions, causes a negotiating party to form a belief about what framing they should put forward. The second is an “action-oriented” mechanism that explains what kind of change in belief leads a party to reframe. In a third step, a “transformational mechanism” explains how individual parties’ acts of reframing interact until their frames align.
The theory of mediation as framing proposed in this thesis is an original contribution to the literature on peace mediation, which until now has paid little attention to the concept of framing. By elucidating the underlying mechanisms involved, the thesis also makes original contributions to the wider literature on negotiation and framing. It provides a clear framework that will be of direct practical relevance for mediators interested in understanding when and how framing can be used successfully to advance negotiations.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
School or Department: School of Government, International Development Department
Funders: Other
Other Funders: Centre for Security Studies, ETH Zurich
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JF Political institutions (General)
J Political Science > JZ International relations


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