Project Overview

  • Analysts and policy practitioners will examine the role of mediation — and the specific function of Special Representatives of the UN Secretary-General (SRSGs) — in international peacebuilding efforts.


  • Timothy Sisk, Associate Dean, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver
  • Roland Paris, Director of CIPS, University of Ottawa

Paper Authors

  • “The SRSGs and Peacemaking: Lessons Learned”
    Elizabeth Cousens and Katia Papagianni, Henri Dunant Center for Humanitarian Dialogue
  • “Mediation and Peacebuilding in War-Torn Societies: SRSGs and DSRSGs in Integrated Missons”
    Cedric de Coning, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) and the African Center for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD)
  • “Mediating through the Muddle: The Case for Peacemaking with Power”
    Timothy Sisk, University of Denver
  • “SRSGs: Custodians of the Peace”
    Ambassador Terje Rød Larsen, President, International Peace Institute
  • “SRSG Mediation in Civil Wars: Revisiting the ‘Spoiler’ Debate”
    Marie-Joёlle Zahar, University of Montreal

Project Details and Goals

  • Recent research has focused on the critical institution of the Special Representatives of the Secretary General (SRSGs) as the “custodian” of peace processes; in addition to their own capacities in developing strategic direction for peace operations, in decision making over sensitive issues such as “spoiler management,” and in their coordinating function of “group of friends” and donor activities (and with non-governmental organizations), the SRSG’s serve – ostensibly – to effectively integrate various UN actors on the ground.
  • Surprisingly, there is little rigorous scholarly research on this key institution, both in terms of SRSG performance and ways to enhance their roles in providing strategic and operational coherence to peacebuilding operations. This track of the Sustainable Peacebuilding project will be one of the first projects to explicitly and critically address the SRSG functions, especially with regard to the role of these individuals in personifying sustainability through various phases of intervention (e.g., from peacemaking to peacebuilding) and over successive missions.

Timeline (to be confirmed)

  • Papers will be prepared for an initial consultation to be held in New York on February 19, 2009. The consultation will include the presentation of the papers and dialogue among the specialists and leading policy practitioners from the United Nations with a special focus on the high-level participation of those from the organization directly involved in mediation efforts (primarily, but not exclusively, the Department of Political Affairs and the Peacebuilding Support Office).
  • Following the New York meeting, a policy paper will be published for broader distribution that incorporates the papers presented and includes a summary of the collective deliberations.

Contact for Further Information

Elizabeth Cox, Executive Director
Center for Sustainable Development and International Peace
University of Denver
2201 S. Gaylord Street
Denver, Colorado 80120 USA
Phone: +1 303 871-7901; Email: [email protected]