Legitimacy and norm diffusion in international peace mediation: the case of NGO mediators in South East Asia

A considerable gap in research exists when it comes to factors that influence the behaviour of mediators, particularly in regard to their normative agency. This dissertation fills this gap by taking a critical constructivist approach exploring underlying power distributions that influence a mediator’s normative agency in mediation processes. The dissertation examines the legitimacy and corresponding normative agency of mediation actors mandated by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in two ongoing mediation processes in South East Asia: the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement process in Myanmar and the Bangsamoro (Government of the Philippines – Moro Islamic Liberation Front) process in the Philippines. While NGO-mediators are seen to have little legitimacy, they are considered to have a high amount of normative flexibility, especially when it comes to contentious norms such the “inclusivity” of armed groups proscribed as illegal or as terrorists.
Asking this research question of how the normative agency of nongovernmental mediators is influenced by their legitimacy prompts the following initial questions: are nongovernmental mediators perceived as legitimate in the eyes of the negotiating parties and if so, how; do nongovernmental mediators promote the norm of inclusivity and how; do negotiating parties internalize the norm of inclusivity and if so, how? The dissertation assesses causal processes of nongovernmental mediator’s agency by using process tracing to investigate nongovernmental mediators’ normative agency surrounding inclusivity. The main contribution to this topic is threefold. First, it addresses important gaps in the literature on legitimacy and norm diffusion. Second, it addresses a research gap on nongovernmental mediators in mediation literature. Third, it adds empirical evidence to an often merely policy-based and prescriptive debate on the role of mediators in norm diffusion.

Supervisor:Laurent Goetschel
to be determined


Julia Palmiano Federer holds a MA in International Affairs from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. She is a PhD Candidate at the University of Basel. Her doctoral research analyses the role of mediators in norms diffusion, specifically in the contexts of the peace processes in Myanmar and the Philippines. Before joining swisspeace in 2013, she interned with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Human Rights Watch and the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. She has also worked as a research assistant for the Political Science Department of the University of British Columbia and as a project assistant for the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada. Julia works as a Program Officer in the Mediation program at swisspeace, where she is conducting her doctoral research in the framework of the Swiss National Science Foundation funded project, “Are mediators norm entrepreneurs?” 

Julia Palmiano Federer
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