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Canada and International Conflict Mediation

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Abstract This article explores the attitudes of Canadian officials towards international conflict mediation and towards the potential for greater official Canadian involvement in the field. The study is based on extensive interviews with Canadian officials who have been involved in mediation at various points over a 20-year period. It finds that Canada, and particularly the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), has taken a largely ad hoc approach to its involvement in the field. Prior to the initiation of this study, there had been no attempt to develop an institutional capacity in this field within DFAIT or to keep track of the personnel involved in such experiences, much less to develop a trained cadre of such individuals. This stands in contrast to the efforts of countries that have prioritized mediation as a foreign policy activity, such as some Scandinavian countries and Switzerland. Many of those interviewed pointed to these countries as potential models for Canada in this field, but it became apparent in discussions that most of those interviewees were not necessarily well-informed as to what these countries have done; there was just a general sense that these countries do it well and that Canada could learn from them. Moreover, none of the interviewees demonstrated significant familiarity with the vast literature on mediation. Those interviewed made recommendations as to how Canada might develop its official mediation capacities so as to play a more active and focused role in this field.

Affiliations: 1: Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa 120 University, Ottawa, ON, Canada K1N 6N5


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