Are mediators norm entrepreneurs?

Project leader

Laurent Goetschel

Financed by

Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)

Time frame

01.04.2015 – 31.03.2018


Project homepage


Norms play an increasingly important role in mediation processes. Mediators are no
longer supposed to only bring a conflict to an end, they are also asked to integrate
certain norms into mediation processes. However, although the role and diffusion of
norms have been widely researched in international relations and peacebuilding
literature, the same does not count for the field of mediation. While the conditions
under which mediation leads to a sustainable agreement have been assessed, the role
of mediators in norm diffusion has only been treated in a largely prescriptive way in
policy debates. This is surprising given the fact that mediation is at the core of a wider
peacebuilding process.

Research Question

This project seeks to shed light on the role of mediators in norm diffusion by asking to
what extent mediators are norm entrepreneurs defined by Finnemore and Sikkink
(1998: 895) as actors who “attempt to convince a critical mass of [actors] to embrace
new norms”. More specifically, it addresses the questions of what norms belong to the
normative framework for mediation processes; whether mediators promote and imitate
norms and how; and which norms have been internalized in mediation processes.

Research Strategy

Methodologically, the project is based on a combination of case study and
process-tracing. Three cases of mediators are chosen which are mandated by the most
typical actors in the mediation field: an intergovernmental organization (the United
Nations (UN)), a regional organization (the African Union (AU)) and a state
(Switzerland). On the basis of these three cases, a two-level analysis is conducted.
First, and most importantly, the project assesses causal processes at the within-case
level focusing on the agency of mediators. It does this through process-tracing because
it allows for an in-depth description of a trajectory of change, namely the process of
norm diffusion, and analyzes closely the sequences of independent, dependent, and
intervening variables. Second, it conducts a comparison at the cross-case level
examining how the role of mediators as norm entrepreneurs varies between the three
cases. Data is collected through content analysis, interviews, focus group discussions
as well as participant observation.