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Face-Saving Maneuvers and Strong Third-Party Mediation: The Lancaster House Conference on Zimbabwe-Rhodesia

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image of International Negotiation

Where two opposing sides are engaged in violent conflict and a process of political disintegration, the ability to protect an already-contested legitimacy becomes crucial to a negotiated agreement. Lord Carrington, the mediator between the government of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia and the guerrilla forces of the Patriotic Front, helped the parties save face at the Lancaster House Conference in 1979. Using a tactic of strong third-party mediation, Carrington accepted responsibility for the concessions the opposing delegations made, allowing them to protect their reputation among supporters. This paper examines the three primary ways the parties at Lancaster House attempted to save face: using the mediator as scapegoat, engaging in sharp confrontation in public and flexible conciliation in private, and conducting “shadow” negotiations through Commonwealth Secretary-General Sir Shridath Ramphal.

Affiliations: 1: J.D. candidate (2009) at the Boston University School of Law, 4 Carol Ave, Apt. 8, Brighton, MA 02135 USA;, Email:


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