1. Internationally the term “good office” has been used with different meanings, but its increased use is probably more appropriate since international law regards it as a political-diplomatic means of peaceful settlement of disputes.
2. Good office consists of the friendly intervention of a third country (or personality with respected moral authority or an international body) outside the dispute in question, which acts to consult with two (or more) states which are in conflict (armed or not) in order to start or resume direct negotiations between them. The purpose is to try to establish an atmosphere conducive to peaceful dialogue.
3. Any State may offer good office if disputing States request it. The good office of mediation by a third may have a different approach if that third State is merely attempting rapprochement of the parties without making any proposal for resolving the conflict.
4. In essence, good office’s manager urges the disputing nations to initiate or resume negotiations when the problem has outstripped the capacity of solution by the principal parties.
5. The good office can also act as mediator if that is requested. In mediation, the good office intervenes more actively, not only proposing a solution to the problem but involving itself in the discussions between the parties to discuss and encourage the proposed solutions. Mediation is halfway between the good office and conciliation because it does more than just to bring the parties in conflict to the bargaining table.
6. The good office makes efforts of goodwill and reconciliation which are not compulsive. They consist of urging the disputing nations to resort to negotiations between them. The manager of the good office, if he expresses his opinion on the matter of substance, became the mediator – a situation which can occur frequently in the course of the exercise of good office.
7. The good office is part of the so-called political-diplomatic methods of settlement that provides for in Article 33 of the UN Charter. It is applied first and may be followed by other procedures such as commissions of inquiry and conciliation, and also legal settlement including arbitration and judicial settlement which are binding on the parties.
8. The good office coexists with other forms of conflict resolution, some of which are “coercive,” not involving a war but can through certain actions compel a State to fulfil its international duties.
9. The methods of peaceful settlement in general are proposed to solve the problem or dispute before it causes major consequences for the affected States and to world peace. As international disputes are very different in nature, procedures to fix them are also numerous and varied. The UN in its Charter has established the most desirable methods of peaceful settlement, while authorising its Member States to choose the system they deem most appropriate.
10. The good office as a major aspect of diplomacy can prevent the exercise of force by showing the effectiveness of nonviolence, that is, the possibility of settling disputes without provoking violent conflict. The guarantee of a dialogue requires that existence always of a reason to negotiate. The real test of strength is not war but peace which is not a state but a task. The involvement of the good office in finding solutions is laudable and does not imply a weakness by nations seeking peace, since by its very nature, it assists in the control of hostile factors that prevent amicable settlement.
© by Odeen Ishmael