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Mediating Rights-Based Conflicts: Making Self-Determination Negotiable

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image of International Negotiation

How can the international community more effectively prevent self-determination conflicts from escalating to violence? The most useful way is to make such conflicts "negotiable," rather than standing by while minority groups and governments square off against each other. To do this, the international community must (1) understand what causes the parties to choose violence; (2) understand the dynamics that make such conflicts intractable, including the rights claims; and (3) design interventions that create more favorable conditions for minority groups and governments to negotiate rather than fight. Drawing upon the analysis of two major self-determination conflicts, this paper argues that such interventions should: include a clearer statement from official international bodies about the conditions under which secession will be deemed acceptable under international law; provide a mediated process in which minority groups and governments can convene to discuss their concerns and interests; and foster collaboration between official and non-official third parties in these negotiations to draw upon the strengths of both in assisting minority groups and governments to work through their differences.


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