Article 33

33.1.5 Good offices and mediation

Mediation and good offices are diplomatic methods of dispute settlement involving third parties. The third party can be a single state or a group of states, an individual, an organ of a universal or regional international organisation, or a joint body.

The good offices method is where the third party offers ‘good offices’ to the conflicting states to facilitate dialogue and assist states towards peaceful settlement of the dispute. The third party offering good offices must be acceptable to all the parties.497 Once the negotiations have started, the functions of good offices are usually considered to be completed.498

Mediation involves more active third party participation in the negotiations. The mediator conducts the negotiations between contending parties on the basis of proposals made by the mediator aimed at a mutually acceptable compromise solution.499 Mediation may be set in motion either upon the initiative of a third party whose offer to mediate is accepted by the parties to the dispute, or initiated by the parties to the dispute themselves agreeing to mediation.500 The mediator’s role can involve communication, clarification of issues, drafting of proposals, identifying areas of agreement between parties, and elaboration of provisional arrangements to minimise contentious and propose alternate solutions.501 The World Bank provided good offices and mediated the solution to the Indus River dispute, which resulted in the negotiation of the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty. Another example of a mediated dispute is the Israeli– Jordanian bilateral negotiations which were combined with informal discussions where American and Russian diplomats acted as mediators which resulted in the 1994 Treaty of Peace between Israel and Jordan.

497 For extensive commentary on good offices see United Nations Office of Legal Affairs, Handbook on the Peaceful Settlement of Disputes between States (United Nations 1992) at 33.

498 Vinogradov, Wouters and Jones, Transforming Potential Conflict into Cooperation Potential: The Role of International Water Law at 28. United Nations Office of Legal Affairs, Handbook on the Peaceful Settlement of Disputes between States at 42.

499 Brownlie ‘The Wang Tieya Lecture in Public International Law: The Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes’ (2009) 8 Chinese Journal of International Law 267 at 271.

500 United Nations Office of Legal Affairs, Handbook on the Peaceful Settlement of Disputes between States at 42.

501 Ibid at 43. See UN Model Rules for the Conciliation of Disputes, UN Doc A/50/33 (1993).


‘The process of settling a dispute by referring it to a commission of persons whose task it is to elucidate the facts and usually after hearing the parties and endeavouring to bring them to an agreement to make a report containing proposals for a settlement, which is not binding’

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