Where Envoys Aren't


This is the fifth essay in a series of seven that looks at the role of multilateral envoys in peacemaking

This series of essays was conceived to document and analyze the work of multilateral envoys, particularly their engagement in efforts to mediate or manage armed conflict. It necessarily focuses on the conflicts in which one or more multilateral envoys are present. This essay, in contrast, reviews the conflicts where envoys are not present, and attempts analysis of the reasons why this might be the case.

In their 2003 article “Where Do the Peacekeepers Go?”, Michael Gilligan and Stephen John Stedman observed that the literature on the determinants of peacekeeping suffered from several methodological problems. The most prominent of these was “a tendency to select cases on the basis of the dependent variable and, by doing so, to restrict the sample to peacekeeping operations that the UN has chosen to undertake”. This led characteristics that these cases had in common to be used as the basis for understanding UN intervention, while ignoring the cases of civil wars or interstate aggression in which UN peacekeepers had not been present. The result was analysis that could not fully address the factors responsible for the decision to intervene.

When the ‘intervention’ comes in the more modest form of a multilateral envoy, it is no less necessary to broaden the frame of reference to include the cases where multilateral envoys are not present. The high number of these cases serves as a sobering reminder that there are many other means of addressing armed conflict than the appointment of a multilateral envoy. There are also cases, perhaps Syria most prominent among them, where the presence of a multilateral envoy has quite clearly not advanced progress towards a settlement, or may reflect a strategy little more sophisticated than a desire for the international community to be seen to be doing something, rather than nothing, to bring an intractable conflict towards its end. Meanwhile, there are numerous examples of political processes in which other international actors – e.g., individual states and/or non-governmental mediators – have been involved. In some cases, the confidentiality of their engagement complicates their documentation. In others, the quiet or gradual engagement of a multilateral actor (for example through a mid-level official not formally named as an envoy) lends a degree of discretion to multilateral involvement that can also be difficult to quantify.

The data nonetheless indicates a relatively high number of armed conflicts in which sensitivities to national sovereignty or the nature of the adversary – especially in this era of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) – complicate external involvement in mediation or facilitation. The governments concerned instead pursue the military defeat of their opponent(s) or another purely internal solution.

Modesty is called for to excuse both the “snapshot” methodological approach adopted within this essay, as well as the limitations of its closing conclusions. The “snapshot” provided by the accompanying table correlates the incidence of armed conflict as documented by the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) between 2011 and 2014 with the presence of one or more multilateral envoy. Obvious methodological drawbacks to this approach are that it does not attempt to factor in important issues such as the gravity of the conflict (measured in battle-related deaths), its duration, or the moment within the conflict at which an envoy is appointed. Nor does the analysis include issues addressed elsewhere in this series such as the multiplicity of envoys present in some conflicts, or questions related to the challenge of evaluating their impact.

The findings developed from the data nevertheless suggest that “where envoys aren’t” can largely be attributed to three distinct, but sometimes overlapping factors:

  1. Regional dynamics, and in particular sensitivities regarding national sovereignty that manifest themselves in attitudes toward the UN and other multilateral actors.
  2. Push-back from strong states, again for reasons of national sovereignty.
  3. The nature of the adversary and, especially in the post-9/11 climate, the legal and practical difficulties of engaging with those labeled as terrorists and other extremists. This is a problem that has become more acute given the increasing fragmentation of armed groups, the blurring of criminal and political agendas, and the rapid spread of Salafi jihadist groups which have so far demonstrated considerable success in sowing division and polarization within and between a wide range of international actors.

Armed Conflict 2011-2014

The UCDP defines an armed conflict as “a contested incompatibility that concerns government or territory or both where the use of armed force between two parties results in at least 25 battle-related deaths. Of these two parties, at least one has to be the government of a state”. The table draws from the annual updates to the UCDP database Armed Conflicts, 1946-2014 included in the special data features published in the Journal of Peace Research, in each of the years 2011 (37 armed conflicts), 2012 (32 armed conflicts), 2013 (33 armed conflicts, subsequently revised to 34), and 2014 (40 armed conflicts). The figure of 40 armed conflicts made 2014 the year with the highest number of conflicts seen since 1999; it was also the year with the highest-number of battle–related deaths in the post-Cold War period.

Changes in the panorama of armed conflict during this four-year period are attributable both to processes set in motion by the upheaval in the Arab world that began in 2011 and to the deterioration of relations between Russia and the West. This has been at its most acute in Ukraine, but also manifests as hindrance to building international consensus on other crises, most notably including Syria. Revolutions and counterrevolutions in the Arab world contributed to the emergence of armed conflicts in Libya and in Syria, the latter by 2012 seeing exceptionally high levels of casualties for the post-Cold War period, as well as massive levels of displacement and other forms of humanitarian duress. Arab unrest also precipitated the deterioration of the situation in Iraq, markedly including the rise of the Islamic State, as well as the eruption of conflict in Mali and the exacerbation of violence and insecurity across much of North Africa and the Sahel. Elsewhere in Africa conflict surged in the Central African Republic, Nigeria and Somalia; South Sudan in late 2013 deteriorated into civil war.

This complex environment, in which many conflicts are characterized by the fragmentation of armed actors as well as the growing presence of jihadi groups, has brought with it unprecedented challenges to the tools of conflict management and response developed since the end of the Cold War. In many situations they have been found to be wanting.

The period was nonetheless one of active peacemaking. In Asia a major peace agreement was reached in the Philippines between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Mindanao, with a framework agreement signed in October 2012 and the final agreement in early 2014. However, the activity of other armed groups in the Southern Philippines contributed to the perpetuation of conflict in Mindanao in 2013, as well as the outbreak of a brief conflict in Sabah in Malaysia. Substantial progress has also been made in addressing Myanmar’s long-standing ethnic conflicts, alongside impressive steps away from authoritarian rule. The complexity of the ethnic conflicts in Myanmar contributed to the resurgence of fighting between the government of Myanmar and the Karen, Polaung and Shan in 2013, and fighting continued with Kachin, Kokang and Palaung in 2014. But steady advances have been made towards a national ceasefire agreement that in October 2015 was signed by eight out of fifteen officially recognized armed groups.

Over the four years, given annual fluctuations reflecting the decline or settlement of some conflicts and the emergence of new ones, UCDP recorded a total of 59 armed conflicts. Of these, twelve conflicts (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, South Sudan, Sudan, Ukraine-Donetsk, Ukraine-Novorossiya, and Yemen) in at least one year surpassed the threshold of 1,000 battle-related deaths, leading UCDP to classify them as wars. Meanwhile there were eighteen “internationalized intrastate armed conflicts”, which are defined by UCDP as armed conflicts that occur “between the government of a state and internal opposition groups, with intervention from other states in the form of troops”. These conflicts were in Azerbaijan (Nagorno-Karabakh), Afghanistan, Algeria, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Israel-Palestine, Mali (Ansar Dine/Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa [MUJAO]), Mauritania, Nigeria, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Ukraine (Donetsk), Ukraine (Lugansk), Ukraine (Novorossiya), Uganda, the United States (with Al Qaeda), and Yemen.

Where Envoys Are …

The table records the presence of multilateral envoys in more than half (34) of these 59 conflicts. With one exception (Pakistan), these conflicts include all twelve wars, and fifteen of the eighteen internationalized conflicts (the exceptions being Algeria, Mauritania, and the U.S.). This strongly suggests that both the gravity of a conflict and its degree of internationalization favor the appointment of multilateral envoys.

The 34 conflicts in which multilateral envoys have been present may nevertheless seem a low result given a widely shared perception of intense international activism. The number becomes lower still if we distinguish between those envoys directly mandated to engage in the mediation or facilitation of the armed conflict concerned, and those whose good offices or other role has a more tangential relationship towards it. In seventeen cases the envoys fall into the latter category, reducing the number of situations in which multilateral envoys were directly mandated to mediate or facilitate an end to armed conflict to only 17 out of 59, or little more than a quarter.

The conflicts in which an envoy, or more than one envoy was directly engaged include:

  • Azerbaijan (Nagorno-Karabakh)
  • Ukraine (Donetsk)
  • Ukraine (Lugansk)
  • Ukraine (Novorossiya)
  • Israel-Palestine
  • Syria
  • Yemen
  • Cambodia-Thailand
  • Central African Republic
  • Ivory Coast
  • Libya (Ghadafi)
  • Libya (Zintan brigades)
  • Mali (Azawad)
  • South Sudan (internal conflict)
  • South Sudan-Sudan (Abyei)
  • South Sudan-Sudan border
  • Sudan-Darfur/Sudanese Revolutionary Front.

It is striking that, of these seventeen conflicts, three were in Ukraine, nine were on the African continent, and four within or between South Sudan and Sudan, where several conflicts were addressed under the broad mandate of the Chairperson of the African Union’s High Level Implementation Panel for Sudan and South Sudan. Only one, the very particular case of the Cambodian-Thailand conflict over the temple of Preah Vihear and their common border, was in Asia. This long-standing conflict was, exceptionally, resolved through talks facilitated by an envoy of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The seventeen conflicts in which envoys have been present but played or continue to play more tangential roles generally embrace situations in which the UN and other international actors are heavily engaged, but do not have a direct mandate to act as mediator or facilitator in the conflict. This is typically because there is no peace process or engagement with the concerned armed group(s) taking place – with the Islamic State in Iraq, for example, or AQIM in Mali. Even in Yemen, where the UN has long played a central role, UN Special Adviser on Yemen worked closely with the Gulf Cooperation Council and the EU to support the Yemeni national dialogue but did not engage directly in the conflict between Yemen and Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula. (The role would have been coded as “more tangential” to the armed conflict were it not for the escalating violence in the conflict with the Houthis, with whom the UN was engaged, seen in 2014.)

Similarly, the UN and other envoys (the former, it should be recalled, work within the framework of a broad good offices mandate that may be either implicit or explicit in the role of a representative or envoy of the UN Secretary-General) played significant supporting roles but were not directly mandated to facilitate or mediate talks between:

  • Afghanistan and the Taliban (even as engagement with the Taliban was pursued by a variety of official and unofficial actors, including the UN)
  • Somalia and Al Shabaab (although successive UN SRSGs explored the possibility of supporting dialogue)
  • the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the M23 (March 23 Movement, whose talks were facilitated by Uganda)
  • Mali and Ansar Dine and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO)
  • Rwanda and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), with whom engagement would in June 2014 be attempted by the Community of Sant’ Egidio, to the outrage of Rwanda)
  • Nigeria – where a high level UN envoy became engaged only in 2014, with his efforts largely concentrated on preparations for elections in early 2015 – and Boko Haram
  • The government of Myanmar and ethnic armed groups (although a UN Special Adviser on Myanmar offered support to the peace process overall )

Meanwhile, in December 2011, three years after the collapse of the Juba peace talks between Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the AU appointed a Special Envoy on the LRA– but with a mandate to “provide overall political and strategic coordination of the operation against the LRA”, rather than to attempt a new political process.

… And Aren’t

Beyond the 34 conflicts in which envoys have been directly engaged or present, there are 25 cases in which no multilateral envoy has been involved. In some conflicts, as expected, this is because – as in the previous category – there is no public political process or engagement underway. In others, it is because a peace process has taken shape, but it has not been deemed appropriate or helpful to engage multilateral envoys within it. The regional distribution is of note: twelve (out of total of nineteen Asian conflicts) of the 25 no-envoy conflicts are in Asia; a further six (out of a total of 24 African conflicts) are in Africa;, three (out of eight) are in the Middle East; two (out of two) are in the Americas;, and two (out of six) are in Europe.

In a number of cases the state concerned sought a military solution against an armed group it held to be and/or formally designated a terrorist organization. Examples include the conflict between Russia and the Caucasus Emirates in Chechnya; that between Ethiopia and the Oromo Liberation Front; that between Algeria and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and MUJAO; and that between the U.S. and Al Qaeda. A number of these conflicts emerged or escalated during the four-year period. The Islamic State in Iraq (ISI) mutated into the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) and launched a dramatic offensive against the government of Iraq in mid-2014. Levels of violence in the conflict between Nigeria and Boko Haram, which first erupted in 2009 – and where, as noted above, a multilateral envoy was not directly involved – also accelerated from to over 1,600 battle-related deaths in 2013, and over 4,600 in 2014.

India and Pakistan, meanwhile, pursued distinct but predominantly militaristic policies against the six conflicts within the two countries. The four in India included its decades-old conflict in Kashmir; its conflict with the Communist Party of India (Maoist) in states in central India; and territorial conflicts with two rebel groups, the Goro National Liberation Army, formed in 2010, and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland, which had low but fluctuating levels of violence. Pakistan continued its territorial conflict in Baluchistan and its conflict with different branches of the Pakistani Taliban and other armed groups. The threshold of violence in the latter remained at a level of war in all four years under review (talks were attempted in early 2014 before a return to a military offensive). Concerns about sovereignty – especially on the part of India – have also long precluded the engagement of a multilateral envoy in the inter-state conflict between the two countries, which was recognized as active by UCDP in 2014, albeit only at a low level.

The conflicts in Iran, Tajikistan and Mauritania did not register as such in the UCDP database after 2011. Iran appeared to have subdued the Kurdish rebel group Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan after a large offensive in 2011. In Tajikistan a low intensity conflict against the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan dwindled as the government pursued its leaders in the courts. And in Mauritania there was little fighting with AQIM after 2011 in part, UCDP surmised, because AQIM was active elsewhere, notably in Northern Mali.

The confidential nature of some peace processes, especially in their early stages, complicates their documentation, but in at least six of the conflicts in which no multilateral envoy was present there has either been a public peace process without the involvement of an envoy, or indication that a more confidential process has been underway. The latter is the case in the long-running conflict between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party where in early 2013 Prime Minister Recip Erdogan confirmed the existence of talks with Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned Kurdish leader.

Standing in contrast to the Turkish case is the complex and very public international involvement in the peace process in Mindanao, in the Southern Philippines, where multilateral organizations have been involved but kept at arms’ length. The Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) facilitated talks with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) that led to an agreement in 1996 from which later agreements have drawn. The Philippine government sought the involvement of ASEAN in the MILF process, but encountered resistance from Malaysia – which became the facilitator of the talks – over the involvement of Indonesia. The EU, meanwhile, was keen to develop a role for itself, but remained outside an International Contact Group (ICG) formed in 2009 with a composition that mixed states (Japan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Kingdom) with international NGOs (The Asia Foundation, the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD Centre), Conciliation Resources and Muhammadiyah). Both the EU and OIC were mentioned in the terms of reference of the ICG, and implicit within its composition was an understanding that the EU would be kept informed and play a major role in peace process support. A peace process with the Communist Party of the Philippines, meanwhile, has languished, but continues with the facilitation of Norway.

Norway is also one of two facilitators – the other being Cuba – in a very active peace process, public since 2012, that seeks to bring to an end the armed conflict between the government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The talks are held in Havana, Cuba. Other international actors involved include Chile and Venezuela as ‘accompanying’ states, and in 2015 delegates of the UN Secretary-General and the president pro-tempore (Uruguay) of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) were appointed to support talks on a ceasefire and disarmament.

Regional states also have leading roles in a slow developing peace processes addressing the conflict between Ethiopia and the Ogaden National Liberation Front, facilitated by Kenya, and in Southern Thailand. Early in 2013 Malaysia assumed facilitation of the process between Thailand and the Pattani insurgency, which had long been conducted confidentially by the HD Centre. The HD Centre and the Community of Sant’Egidio, work in a coordinated fashion to facilitate different tracks of the peace process between the government of Senegal and separatist movements in the Casamance. Unofficial actors also played a successful role in support of the peace process between the government of Mozambique and RENAMO, the Mozambican National Resistance, that concluded in an agreement to end the low-level armed conflict that had developed in advance of the elections held in 2014.


There are exceptional cases in which the gravity of a conflict or crisis such as a coup precipitates the appointment of an envoy or envoys without consent. However, in most circumstances, the factors determining the presence of a multilateral envoy reflect issues of both supply and demand. A multilateral entity has to be ready to deploy the envoy, and the parties concerned – with the government invariably the primary interlocutor for an envoy sent in representation of other states – have to be ready to receive and engage with him or her.

The data suggests three broad findings to explain the interplay of supply and demand that determines the appointment of multilateral envoys:

Finding 1: Sensitivities Toward National Sovereignty Evident Within Regional Organizations And In Attitudes Toward The UN And Other Multilateral Actors Contribute To Determining The Presence Or Absence Of Envoys.

There is considerable regional variance in the cases in which no envoy is present. Most striking is a comparison between Africa and Asia, the two regions with the highest number of armed conflicts in the 2011-2014 period. Envoys were not present in only seven out of the 24 armed conflicts in Africa, but 12 out of 19 conflicts in Asia. Moreover, even this figure skews low given that five out of the seven Asian conflicts in which an envoy is indicated as present were in Myanmar, where the UN Special Adviser had limited direct involvement in the peace processes with ethnic groups. (An envoy of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation was in 2014 appointed to address the issue of the Rohingya.) A fourth was the anomalous case – in Asian terms – of Afghanistan.

The data reflects what is amply documented elsewhere in this series: multilateral organizations vary greatly in the mandates and sensibilities with which they approach conflict intervention due primarily to the sensitivities of member states over their sovereignty. The UN has a universal mandate, but finds differing degrees of receptivity to its involvement in different regions, and little room for a political role in Asia. The European Union, uniquely for a regional organization, has no internal mandate and a global presence, but rarely assumes the lead in a mediating effort; in Ukraine, it is unsurprising that it is the OSCE, whose membership includes Russia and Ukraine, as well as EU member states, that has assumed the prime responsibility for peacemaking.

The African Union and African sub-regional organizations, on the other hand, have developed norms and practices that reflect a high tolerance for intervention and appoint envoys on a regular basis. As the reach and capacity of African regional organizations has grown, so the tendency for their envoys to engage – either with the support of the UN or independently of it – has also developed. (The relatively small role, in political terms, played by the UN in efforts to resolve the conflict in South Sudan is a good example of this).

In Asia, meanwhile, sensitivity to intervention is high and regional organizations do not have robust mandates for peace and security. There is insufficient consensus within ASEAN’s member states, for example, to play the good offices role outlined in its Charter, where the first or the organization’s purposes is defined as being: “To maintain and enhance peace, security and stability and further strengthen peace-oriented values in the region”. A more generalized aversion to the formalization of diplomatic roles contributes to a dearth of envoys. In several cases it has facilitated the involvement of non-governmental organizations in mediation and mediation support.

Finding 2: Push-Back From Strong States Can Preempt The Appointment Of Envoys.

A high number of the conflicts in which no multilateral envoy is present take place in strong states that actively resist external involvement, and especially that of a multilateral organization. Russia, India and Pakistan have clearly rejected the engagement of multilateral actors in their internal conflicts (seven in the four-year period under review). Nigeria similarly long resisted the involvement of either the UN or the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the regional organization in which it is the dominant power, in its conflict with Boko Haram. This was even as it was – in contrast to Russia, India, Pakistan or indeed China – relatively open to the involvement of NGOs (for example in efforts to address conflicts in Jos state). In 2014, in the exceptional circumstances of increased international attention after Boko Haram kidnapped over 200 schoolgirls, Nigeria did accept the engagement of a high level UN envoy. However, his efforts were focused on preparations for the general elections held in early 2015. During 2015 Nigeria assumed the lead of an ad hoc coalition of West African counterterrorism troops – the Multinational Joint Task Force – to fight Boko Haram in Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

Senegal has also resisted the involvement of ECOWAS in the Casamance. Ethiopia, meanwhile, preferred the facilitation of Kenya in its conflict over the Ogaden to the involvement of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, an eight-country sub-regional organization whose peacemaking capacities have long been complicated by the regional rivalries amongst its membership (prominently on display in the peace process it leads in South Sudan).

The power of strong states to resist outside intervention within their borders or in their “near abroad” has also been evident in a number of long-standing conflicts with levels of violence below the UCDP threshold of armed conflict between 2011-2014. There have, for example, been no multilateral envoys in Tibet, or to address China’s conflict with the Uighurs. The UN, meanwhile, was discouraged by Russia from exercising too assertive a role in Ukraine, and by South Africa, as well as Zimbabwe itself, from involvement in the latter. In the European context, Spain’s sensitivity to its sovereignty ensured that there was no EU or other formal international role in the Basque conflict – in contrast to Northern Ireland where the British government welcomed the engagement of a US mediator. But this did not impede a rather an unusual mix of informal international involvement in a peace process that contributed to the decision by the separatist group ETA to end its violence in October 2011.

Finding 3: The Nature Of The Adversary, Especially In The Post-9/11 Climate, Brings Legal And Practical Difficulties To Engagement And Restricts The Appointment Of Envoys.

An overlapping number of conflicts in which no envoy is present are those in which a state is in conflict with an extremist group, understood or classified by the state itself and the international community as a terrorist organization. (It is important to note that states routinely consider internal insurgencies as terrorist organizations, regardless of the existence of underlying grievances or legitimacy among some sectors of the population.) As we have seen, there were no multilateral envoys mediating or facilitating talks with extremists with varying links to Al Qaeda in Russia, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Algeria, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Somalia or indeed the Philippines (Abu Sayaf). And after the collapse of the peace process with LRA in Uganda in 2008, international engagement has been focused on support to military efforts to secure its defeat.

Engagement with extremists – especially by formal mediators – brings with it particular constraints of both supply and demand. In many cases international opinion has coalesced behind a view that only a military solution that brings the defeat of the terrorist opponent is acceptable. Legal impediments to engagement are also significant obstacles to many multilateral actors. These are most evident in restrictions on “material support” to foreign terrorist organizations contained within US legislation, but also reflected in national counter-terrorist legislation and UN sanctions regimes. UN officials enjoy diplomatic immunity from national legislations, but are nonetheless subject to political pressures from member states that can complicate their engagement. NGOs may frequently have greater capacity for early contacts and the opening of discreet channels for communication. All potential mediators, meanwhile, are challenged by situations in which an armed group has no wish to talk and will violently prevent engagement, or is prepared to engage but only on terms that restrict what there might be to talk about – for example, absolutist demands for an Islamic Caliphate.


These findings have different implications for the conflict resolution field. The presence of a multilateral envoy, or not, is a result of a variety of different contextual factors. In itself it may be value-neutral, even for the wider engagement of the international community, as innovative international support provided to the peace processes in the Philippines and Colombia demonstrates. And the increasing sophistication of mediation support offers new possibilities for the helpful involvement of multilateral actors such as the UN or EU even in situations when their envoys may not have a mandated role.

Meanwhile, there would appear to be a rising number of contexts “where envoys aren’t”, in which either individual states or experienced non-governmental actors may be more acceptable than a multilateral envoy. Both may be able to engage with more discretion than a representative of a multilateral actor. Non-governmental actors in particular are less restricted by political and diplomatic constraints than a representative of a multilateral actor, or even a state. They may therefore be able to make and sustain contacts with an armed group with a degree of acceptability that might elude a more formal actor.

Opposition from a strong state represents perhaps the greatest obstacle to the engagement of a multilateral actor, state, or indeed an NGO. But as adroit diplomacy by the UN has demonstrated in some cases, there may be circumstances in which what appeared to be unwavering hostility to its engagement can gradually be shifted towards acceptance that it might play a helpful role. The case of Nepal is illustrative. In that instance the UN was able to overcome initial Indian objections to a formal envoy through the quiet deployment of a skilled mid-level official. Over time, his efforts helped pave the way for a substantial UN role in the support of the peace process. In Colombia progress towards what seems a likely UN role in the monitoring of the ceasefire has followed a different route. Respect and support for negotiations led by national actors and an ad hoc number of individual states has paved the way for the UN’s technical know-how, and capacity to deploy a mission into what will surely be a complex post-conflict environment.

Regardless of the presence or absence of a multilateral envoy, in a world of increased armed conflict, but also diffusion of power, intense international activity, but also polarization, the fragmentation of armed actors, as well as the presence of increasingly powerful transnational networks and capacities, creative diplomacy is required. This should involve careful attention as to which entity may be best placed to provide it in order to avoid regional and bureaucratic rivalries that can further complicate an inevitably already complicated situation, rather than help nudge all involved forwards to a solution.

Teresa Whitfield is the Senior Adviser to the President & Head of Front Office at the International Crisis Group; an earlier draft of this article was completed when she was Senior Adviser to the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. Twitter |@WhitfieldTeresa


Armed Conflicts And Multilateral Envoys

Europe (6)

Armed Conflicts1Over govt. or territory2011201220132014Inter-nationalized conflict2Multilateral Envoy(s) present3
Azerbaijan-Nagorno-Karabakh TxxX X
Russia-Caucasus EmiratesTxxxx
Ukraine (Donetsk)T X XX
Ukraine (Lugansk)TxX X
Ukraine (Maidan)G x
Ukraine (Novorossiya)T X X X

Middle East (8)

Armed Conflicts1Over govt. or territory2011201220132014Inter-nationalized conflict2Multilateral Envoy(s) present3
Egypt – Islamic State (IS)-SinaiGx
Iran—PJAK (Kurds)Tx
Iraq-ISGxxXX X (x)
Israel-Palestine (Hamas, PU, PIJ)TxxX X X
Lebanon- ISG x (x)
Syria-FSA, JaN GxXXX X
Yemen-AQAP, Houthis GXXxX X X

Asia (19)

Armed Conflicts1Over govt. or territory2011201220132014Inter-nationalized conflict2Multilateral Envoy(s) present3
Afghanistan -TalebanGXXXXX (x)
Cambodia - ThailandTxX
India- BodolandT xx
India – GarolandTxx
India - KashmirTxxxx
India – CPI-MaoistGxxxx
India- PakistanTx
Malaysia - SabahTx
Myanmar - KachinTxxxx(x)
Myanmar - KarenTxx(x)
Myanmar - KokangTx(x)
Myanmar - PalaungTx4x(x)
Myanmar- ShanT xx (x)
Pakistan – Baluch.Txxxx
Pakistan – TTP etc. GXXXX
Philippines – MindanaoTxxxx
Philippines – CPP Gxxxx
Tajikistan – IMUGx
Thailand - PataniTxxxx

Africa (24)

Armed Conflicts1Over govt. or territory2011201220132014Inter-nationalized conflict2Multilateral Envoy(s) present3
Algeria – AQIM/MUJAOGxx x x X
CAR - SelekaGxx x X X
DR Congo - KatangaTxx(x)
Ethiopia – OgadenTxx x x
Ethiopia – Oromiya Txx x
Ivory Coast – post electionsGxX
Libya – Ghadaffi-NTCGXX
Libya- Zintan BrigadesGx X
Mali - AzawadTx x X X
Mali – Ansar Dine, MUJAOGx x (x)
Mali- al-Murabitun, AQIMG x (x)
Mauritania - AQIMGxX
Mozambique- Renamo G x
Nigeria – Boko HaramGxx XX (x)
Rwanda - FDLRGxx X (x)
Senegal – MFDC, CasamanceTx
Somalia – Al ShabaabGXXxX X (x)
S. Sudan – SSDM, SSLMGxx XX (x)
S. Sudan – SPLM/A in Opposition G X XX
S. Sudan – Sudan (Abyei)TxX
S. Sudan – Sudan (border)TxX
Sudan – Darfur/SRFGXXxx X
Uganda – LRA, ADFGxx x X (x)

Americas (2)

Armed Conflicts1Over govt. or territory2011201220132014Inter-nationalized conflict2Multilateral Envoy(s) present3
Colombia – FARCGxxxx
USA – Al QaedaGxxxX
Total 59373234401834 (17)

1Lists of armed conflicts from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program, Armed Conflicts, 1946-2014 dataset drawn from annual data feature in the July issue of the Journal of Peace Research. x denotes armed conflict (generating a minimum of 25 battle-related deaths a year); X denotes conflict classified by UCDP as war (generating more than 1,000 battle related deaths in a year).

2Conflicts that saw international involvement with troop support from an external state to one or both warring parties, within this three-year period.

3Multilateral envoy(s) engaged within this three-year period; in situations in which an envoy or envoys are engaged but without a mandate to address this specific conflict through mediation, facilitation or conflict resolution this is indicated by (x).

4Themnér and Wallensteen (2014) reported 33 conflicts as active in 2013, but Petersson and Wallensteen (2015) subsequently revised the 2014 data to include the Myanmar-Palaung conflict as active in 2013.

Stay Connected

Join our mailing list to receive regular updates on our latest events, analysis, and resources.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.