Conflict Resolution in a Changing World
Committee on International Conflict Resolution
The world has transformed rapidly in the decade since the end of the Cold War. An old system is gone and, although it is easy to identify what has changed, it is not yet clear that a new system has taken its place. Old patterns have come unstuck, and if new patterns are emerging, it is still too soon to define them clearly. The list of potentially epoch-making changes is familiar by now: the end of an era of bipolarity, a new wave of democratization, increasing globalization of information and economic power, more frequent efforts at international coordination of security policy, a rash of sometimes-violent expressions of claims to rights based on cultural identity, and a redefinition of sovereignty that imposes on states new responsibilities to their citizens and the world community.1
These transformations are changing much in the world, including, it seems, the shape of organized violence and the ways in which governments and others try to set its limits. One indication of change is the noteworthy decrease in the frequency and death toll of international wars in the 1990s. Subnational ethnic and religious conflicts, however, have been so intense that the first post-Cold War decade was marked by enough deadly lower-intensity conflicts to make it the bloodiest since the advent of nuclear weapons (Wallensteen and Sollenberg, 1996). It is still too soon to tell whether this shift in the most lethal type of warfare is a lasting change: the continued presence of contested borders between militarily potent states—in Korea, Kashmir, Taiwan, and the Middle East—gives reason to postpone judgment. It seems likely, though, that efforts to pre-
vent outbreaks in such hot spots will take different forms in the changed international situation.
A potentially revolutionary change in world politics has been a de facto redefinition of “international conflict.” International conflict still includes the old-fashioned war, a violent confrontation between nation states acting through their own armed forces or proxies with at least one state fighting outside its borders. But now some conflicts are treated as threats to international peace and security even if two states are not fighting. Particularly when internal conflicts involve violations of universal norms such as self-determination, human rights, or democratic governance, concerted international actions—including the threat or use of force—are being taken to prevent, conclude, or resolve them just as they sometimes have been for old-fashioned wars. In this sense some conflicts within a country’s borders are being treated as international.
There are various prominent recent examples. They include the delayed international military responses to genocide in Rwanda, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, and repression in East Timor; the unprecedented military response of NATO to repression in Kosovo; the establishment and enforcement of no-fly zones in Iraq; and the use of economic sanctions against South Africa and Yugoslavia. Threatened or enacted coups d’état against democratically established governments have also sometimes been treated as international conflicts, as in Haiti. Similarly, threats of the violent dissolution of states or of their dissolution into violence have triggered international concern, as in Bosnia, Albania, and Somalia.
How important are such recent developments? In particular, do they make any important difference in how the actors on the world scene should deal with international conflicts? Do the tools developed for managing international conflicts under the old world system still apply? Are they best applied in new ways or by new entities? Are there new tools that are more appropriate for the new conditions? How do the old and new tools relate to each other?
This book is devoted to examining these questions. This chapter begins the examination by identifying the major strategies of conflict resolution, old and new, that are relevant in the emerging world system. We use the term conflict resolution broadly to refer to efforts to prevent or mitigate violence resulting from intergroup or interstate conflict, as well as efforts to reduce the underlying disagreements. We presume that conflict between social groups is an inevitably recurring fact of life and that the goal of conflict resolution is to keep conflicts channeled within a set of agreed norms that foster peaceful discussion of differences, proscribe violence as a means of settling disputes, and establish rules for the limited kinds of violence that are condoned (e.g., as punishment for violations of codes of criminal conduct).
The new world conditions are validating some past conflict resolution practices that can now be more precisely defined and conceptualized and are bringing to prominence some techniques that had not been taken very seriously by diplomatic practitioners in the recent past. We consider the implications of these new developments for the practice of conflict resolution. What knowledge base can conflict resolution practitioners rely on in a world in which their accumulated experience may no longer fully apply? What can the careful examination of historical experience and other sources of insight offer them? We identify the ways in which a careful and judicious examination of empirical evidence can be of use to conflict resolution practitioners and the limitations of generalizations from past experience. Finally, we introduce the rest of the book, in which contributors address the above questions in the general case and in the context of a set of conflict resolution techniques that are likely to be important in the coming years.
TRADITIONAL AND EMERGING STRATEGIES FOR INTERNATIONAL CONFLICT RESOLUTION
The major practices of international conflict management during the Cold War period—the practices of traditional diplomacy—reflected the state system dominant in world politics for centuries. It made sense to treat international conflict as occurring between nation states that acted in a unitary fashion on the basis of stable and discrete national interests rooted in geopolitics, natural resources, and other enduring features of countries. If the behavior of states was dictated by such interests, it followed that conflict between states reflected conflicting interests. Such conflicts were often perceived as zero sum: the more one state gained, the more its adversary lost.
In the world of national interests the chief methods of international conflict management were the traditional diplomatic, military, and economic means of influence, up to and including the threat or use of force. These tools of power politics—the same tools that states used to engage in international conflict—were the main ones employed in efforts to address conflict.2 Thus, states or coalitions of states tried to prevent or mitigate violence by using threats of armed force (deterrence, coercive diplomacy, defensive alliances such as NATO); economic sanctions and other tangible nonmilitary threats and punishments, such as the withdrawal of foreign aid; and direct military force to establish demilitarized zones. States were also sensitive to the delicate balance of nuclear power that could be jeopardized by this kind of coercive diplomacy. For this reason, in particular, they sought security regimes (see Jervis, 1983) that provided norms devised to reduce the risks of escalation. The implicit understandings gained through
an extended arms control negotiation process served to reduce the chances of superpower military confrontations during this period.
Negotiation in the world of national interests meant balancing or trading the competing interests of states against one another or finding common interests that could be the basis for agreement even in the face of other conflicting interests. A search for common interests was characteristic of Cold War-era negotiations aimed at preventing military confrontations between the United States and the Soviet Union. For example, the negotiations to end the Cuban missile crisis and to develop confidence-building measures for avoiding accidental nuclear war were based on the common interest in reducing the risk of confrontations that might escalate to nuclear warfare. Such negotiations could proceed because it was possible to identify shared interests that cut across or partially overrode the conflicting ones.3
The traditional diplomatic strategies of influence were refined and elaborated greatly during the Cold War period. They continue to be relevant in the post-Cold War world, although their application is sometimes a bit different now (see Chapters 3 through 6). In deploying and threatening force to address and possibly resolve conflicts, there has been increased emphasis during the post-Cold War period on multilateral action (e.g., NATO intervention in Kosovo; the alliance that reversed the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait). States have increasingly looked to regional international organizations to advance conflict resolution goals, especially where unilateral state action might create new kinds of conflict and where influential nations within regions see merit in strengthening their regions’ institutions. Thus, for example, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), begun in the 1970s, matured in the 1990s into a formal organization—the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)—that has intervened in various ways in conflicts across a broad region, although not by force (see Chapter 14).
Military organizations are now increasingly being used in new ways and for new conflict resolution purposes. Armed force is infrequently used in direct interventions, even in Europe, where regional organizations are particularly strong (exceptions are the NATO air campaign in Bosnia and the Russian interventions in Chechnya and Tajikistan). Peacekeeping missions still sometimes physically separate adversaries to prevent further violence, but they also provide humanitarian relief, resettle refugees, and rebuild infrastructure.
Another new development is that states and associations of states are no longer the only actors that can use techniques of influence like those of traditional diplomacy. For example, in the 1980s, even before the end of the Cold War, transnational corporations, pressured by negative publicity about their investments, and even local governments used
their economic power to exert pressure against apartheid in South Africa. Small peace-oriented nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) can sometimes threaten states’ interests, for example, by threatening prospects for international assistance with a bad human rights report or deciding to leave a country because humanitarian relief efforts are being thwarted.
A striking development since the end of the Cold War has been the emergence from relative obscurity of three previously underutilized strategies for international conflict resolution. These strategies all deviate from the zero-sum logic of international conflict as a confrontation of interests (see Table 1.1). The observation that these strategies are now more widely used is not meant to imply that they are always used effectively. Also, the strategies are often used together, and sometimes the distinctions among them may be blurred. One strategy may be called conflict transformation. This is the effort to reach accommodation between parties in conflict through interactive processes that lead to reconciling tensions, redefining interests, or finding common ground. This strategy departs radically from the logic of enduring national interests by making two related presumptions: that interests and conflicts of interest are to some degree socially constructed and malleable, and that it is possible for groups to redefine their interests to reduce intergroup tension and suspicion and to make peaceful settlements more possible. Certain intergroup conflicts, particularly those associated with the politics of identity, are seen as having significant perceptual and emotional elements that can be transformed by carefully organized intergroup processes so as to allow reconciliation and the recognition of new possibilities for solution.
TABLE 1.1 Strategies and Tools for Conflict Resolution
The conflict transformation approach is seen in its purest form in a set of techniques pioneered in the 1960s by academics and NGOs under such names as interactive conflict resolution, citizen diplomacy, and problem-solving workshops (e.g., Fisher, 1997; Saunders, 1999; also see Chapters 7 and 8). This approach features facilitated meetings at which members of groups in conflict seek to understand each other’s positions and world views in order to create an atmosphere more conducive to the peaceful resolution of disputes. The intent is that over the course of the meetings the participants will come to reinterpret the relationship between their groups and the possible futures of that relationship and that this change in the perceptions of a small number of individuals will lead either directly (through concrete peace proposals) or indirectly (e.g., through the rise to power of people who accept new ideas) to a more peaceful future for the groups. In recent years, conflict transformation strategies have also been promoted by NGOs that are spreading ideas such as alternative dispute resolution to emerging democracies in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. The so-called truth commissions in South Africa and some Latin American countries use a strategy of conflict transformation when they work to construct a shared understanding of history that can be a basis for emotional reconciliation, tension reduction, and the creation of a more cooperative political climate (see Chapter 9).
A second previously underutilized strategy for conflict resolution is sometimes called structural prevention to distinguish it from “operational prevention,” which involves dealing with immediate crises likely to erupt quickly into deadly violence.4 Structural prevention involves creating organizations or institutionalized systems of laws and rules that establish and strengthen nonviolent channels for adjudicating intergroup disputes, accommodating conflicting interests, and transforming conflicts by finding common ground.
Structural prevention typically focuses on the problems of culturally divided states, especially those with weak democratic traditions, deep ethnic divisions, and histories of collective violence perpetrated by one group against another or by past governments against civilian populations. Various tools are available for structural prevention, including institutions for transitional justice, truth telling, and reconciliation (Chapter 9); electoral and constitutional design (see Chapter 11); autonomy arrangements within federal governance structures (Chapter 12); laws and policies to accommodate linguistic and religious differences (Chapter 13); training for law enforcement officials in following the rule of law; institutions assuring civilian control of military organizations; and the development and support of institutions of civil society. Such institutions, including a free and pluralistic press, a set of NGOs dedicated to their members’ common and peaceful purposes, organizations for alternative dispute
resolution, and the like, serve in part as arenas for the integrative negotiation of differences.
The third strategy is normative change, defined as developing and institutionalizing formal principles and informal expectations that are intended to create a new context for the management of conflict. Norms may also define responsibilities for states to prevent violent conflict. Although norms were established to manage conflict between states during the Cold War, a notable feature of the post-Cold War period is the effort to use international norms to regulate or prevent conflict within states.
In previous eras the principle of noninterference in the internal affairs of sovereign states provided that sovereigns had license to control conflicts within their borders, free from outside influence. Although this norm was often breached by great powers acting in their own national interest within their spheres of influence, it was rarely overturned in favor of universal principles that held all states responsible to common standards. This situation began to change in the later decades of the Cold War, when norms such as human rights, democratic control, and the self-determination of peoples were increasingly invoked against states that abused their citizens. In Europe the Helsinki Final Act of 1975 was an historic watershed in this regard, permitting oversight by the 35 signatories of human rights conditions in each of their territories. Efforts like those of the Helsinki Watch groups in the former Soviet bloc, the disinvestment movement against apartheid, the democracy movement, and the indigenous peoples’ movements in the Americas showed the potential of universal norms to galvanize world opinion for conflict resolution.
Of course, we are a long way from a world in which what is good for humanity consistently outweighs the prerogatives of states. Nevertheless, there are signs that universal norms, many of which are stated in the United Nations Charter and other international documents, are becoming embodied in transnational institutions that can exert influence on states. For example, human rights norms have, through the operations of the CSCE and OSCE, provided increasing leverage for the international community to curb organized state violence against minority groups. Continuing dialogue about the tension in international law between the norm of noninterference on the one hand and those of human rights and self-determination of peoples on the other may be leading toward a new international consensus on how to provide for the rights of minorities.5 Within the OSCE, for example, norms seem to be emerging that under certain conditions favor working out autonomy arrangements in preference to secession or submergence of minorities within unitary state structures (see Chapter 14). And the growing international acceptance of norms of democratic decision making are making it more legitimate for states, international donors, and NGOs to support struc-
tural prevention institutions in fragile states and to act against the perpetrators of coups d’état.
It is too soon to be sure that the increased prominence of these new strategies of international conflict resolution is an enduring feature of a new world system. However, it seems likely that many of the forces that have made these strategies more attractive are themselves enduring. If intrastate conflicts continue to pose serious threats to global security, if nonstate interests remain important, and if global integration makes foreign policy increasingly difficult to organize exclusively around coherent and unitary notions of national interest, conflict resolution is likely to rely more than in the past on the transnational activities of nonstate actors and on techniques that do not depend on traditional definitions of national interest. Nation states are likely to remain important actors in international relations for some time to come, however, and the possibility of violent interstate conflict remains a serious concern. But recent events presage a more complex multidimensional arena of international conflict in which both state interests and nonstate actors are important parts of the mix.
Under such conditions some recent trends are likely to stabilize. For example, NGOs with humanitarian and conflict resolution missions have a good chance to remain prominent players in world politics. Their comparative advantage lies in using conflict resolution tools that do not depend directly on power politics. Although NGOs can facilitate negotiations that trade off interests, states are probably better positioned to do this. NGOs are uniquely able to contribute by deploying the emerging tools of conflict resolution, as they have increasingly done in recent years. They have promoted conflict transformation by sponsoring interactive conflict resolution activities (see Chapters 7 and 8), providing training in informal dispute resolution techniques, and supporting various institutions of civil society that participate in democratic debate. They have contributed to structural prevention by advising on constitutional design and the rule of law, monitoring elections, and delivering information on other countries’ experiences with particular structural prevention techniques (e.g., Chapter 11, written by two staff members of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, summarizes knowledge on some constitutional design issues). The roles for NGOs in structural prevention are sometimes more prominent than the roles for states. And they have contributed to the development and enforcement of new international norms by promoting and monitoring conditions of human rights, treatment of minorities, and democratic governance (e.g., free and fair elections) and by arguing for international organizations to use their resources and influence to hold states to universal norms.
The recently increased acceptance of NGOs in international conflict
resolution, as evidenced by their increasing use as conduits for international aid, is attributable in considerable part to their increasing political clout within democratic systems as well as to the potential that diplomats see in the emerging techniques of conflict resolution and to the advantages NGOs have in using those techniques. Their continued importance will depend not only on their usefulness to diplomats in the aid-donor states but also on their acceptance by the parties to the conflicts they want to resolve. Thus, to be effective, these NGOs must be accepted by their potential clients as democratic, accountable, and true to the humanistic principles they espouse. They must also find ways to ensure that their activities do not make conflicts worse (see Chapter 10).
WHAT WORKS IN A CHANGED WORLD?
If the post-Cold War world is qualitatively different from what came before, does it follow that what practitioners know about conflict resolution is no longer reliable? A provisional answer comes from the results of a previous investigation by a National Research Council committee that reviewed the state of knowledge relevant to preventing major international conflict, including nuclear war. Between 1985 and 1987 this group commissioned 14 comprehensive review articles covering major areas of knowledge about international conflict (National Research Council, 1989, 1991, 1993). By the time the reviews were published, the Cold War was over and it seemed timely to reexamine the reviewers’ conclusions on the basis of the very surprising international events of the period around 1989. Stern and Druckman (1995) identified 104 propositions that the authors of the reviews judged to be supported by the evidence available at the time. Each proposition was coded in terms of how well it stood up against a list of five political surprises of the period.6
The Stern-Druckman investigation reached conclusions that may also apply to knowledge about conflict resolution techniques. First, the great majority of the propositions (about 80) were not tested by the surprising events. Thus, these conclusions from historical experience remained as well supported as before. Second, of the propositions that were tested by events, most were supported by the events that occurred. This knowledge was also unchanged by the shift in the world system. Third, however, some of the most critical events of 1989 were not addressed by any of the propositions. Available knowledge about the international system had virtually nothing to say about the conditions under which an international epidemic of democratization would break out, or a great empire would peacefully liquidate itself, or a new historical era would dawn without a great-power war. So, although much of what passed as knowledge before 1989 was still reliable knowledge after that time, much of
what in retrospect was important to understand about 1989 had never been seriously analyzed by the community of specialists. The main lessons of the end of the Cold War were not that previous knowledge was wrong but that there was no knowledge about some of the most important phenomena of the new era.
The results of that analysis suggest that, although it makes sense to look carefully and critically at what is known about the traditional strategies and tools of conflict resolution that have received considerable attention from scholars and practitioners, it is especially important to examine what is known about less familiar strategies and tools that received limited attention in the past and that may be of major importance under the new conditions. This book does not attempt to comprehensively review knowledge about the effectiveness of the conflict resolution techniques based mainly on the influence of tools of traditional diplomacy. Instead, the contributors were asked to examine only a few of these techniques and only in some areas of their application: threats of force by the United States (Chapter 3), economic sanctions (Chapter 4), methods for controlling “spoilers” in peace processes (Chapter 5), and the issues of timing and ripeness in negotiation and mediation (Chapter 6). Generally, what the contributors find is that the new conditions in the world have not invalidated past knowledge about how and under what conditions these techniques work. However, the new conditions do call for some modification and refinement of past knowledge and suggest that the old tools sometimes need to be thought of and used in new ways. Each of the above chapters includes a summary of the state of knowledge about the conditions favoring effective use of the techniques it examines.
Much closer attention is paid to the emerging strategies of conflict resolution and to the techniques that embody them, about which much less has been written. For most of the conflict resolution techniques that involve conflict transformation, structural prevention, and normative change, there is no systematic body of past knowledge from the previous era that is directly relevant to current needs.7 Practitioners’ experience in implementing these techniques has not been seriously applied to post-Cold War conditions, and international relations scholarship did not pay much attention to them in the past. Therefore, careful examination of what is known about the effectiveness of these techniques is particularly needed at this time.
Fortunately, these techniques, though underutilized, are not new. Each has a history that may hold lessons for conflict resolution in today’s divided states. For example, one type of structural prevention strategy is to offer autonomy—special status and governance rights—for certain culturally identified subunits in a unitary or federal state. There is a fairly long history of happy and unhappy examples of autonomy that may hold
valuable lessons for the current era. But it is only very recently that scholars have looked to cases like Scotland, Puerto Rico, the Soviet republics and autonomous regions, Catalonia, Greenland, the Native American reservations of the United States and Canada, the French overseas territories and departments, and the like to find lessons that might be informative in places like Chechnya, Bosnia, and Hong Kong (see Chapter 12). In the past, when such structural arrangements were the subject of scholarly attention, it usually came from specialists in domestic politics (e.g., comparative researchers on federalism) or international law, not international relations scholars, so the questions have been framed differently and the answers discussed in a community that rarely interacts with specialists in international conflict resolution.
The same situation holds for constitutional design. The world is full of constitutions and electoral systems, and their consequences for conflict management in their home countries are available for historical examination. However, until recently, relatively little systematic attention was paid to the question of how electoral system design shapes the course of conflict in a society (see Chapter 11 for a review and analysis of the evidence).
This book gives detailed attention to several nontraditional conflict resolution techniques in order to shed light on the potential for using techniques that employ the strategies of conflict transformation, structural prevention, and normative change as part of the toolbox of international conflict resolution. It devotes chapters to evaluating the effects on conflict of interactive conflict resolution workshops (Chapters 7 and 8), truth commissions (Chapter 9), “engineered” electoral systems (Chapter 11), autonomy arrangements (Chapter 12), language policy within states (Chapter 13), and the various conflict resolution activities of the OSCE (Chapter 14) and humanitarian NGOs (Chapter 10). The intent is to draw out lessons—what George (1993) calls generic knowledge—about the conditions under which each type of intervention in fact reduces the likelihood of violent conflict and about the processes that lead to such outcomes.
Our primary intent in conducting this exercise is to provide useful input to the decisions of conflict resolution practitioners—decision makers in national governments, international organizations, and NGOs— who must consider a wider-than-ever panoply of policy options, some of which they have not seriously considered before. The contributors to this volume were asked to summarize available knowledge with an eye to informing these decisions. We also hope, of course, to advance knowledge among specialists about the functioning and effectiveness of the various techniques of international conflict resolution. But the rationale for developing this knowledge is more than the curiosity of science. It is also to help in efforts to reduce both organized and nonorganized violence in the world.
THE CHALLENGE OF DEVELOPING USABLE KNOWLEDGE
Conflict resolution practitioners need many kinds of knowledge to achieve their objectives. Some essential knowledge is highly situation specific and can come only from examining features of particular conflict situations in the present—the political forces currently affecting the parties in conflict, the personalities of the leaders, the contested terrain or resources, and so forth. Other kinds of essential knowledge apply across situations. They tell what to expect in certain kinds of conflicts or with certain kinds of parties, leaders, or contested resources. These kinds of knowledge are generic, that is, cross-situational, and therefore subject to improvement by systematic examination of the past.8
Types of Usable Knowledge
The chapters in this book are organized around problems in conflict resolution and techniques or classes of techniques for addressing them. Problems are situations encountered repeatedly, though in different contexts, in the conduct of the practice of diplomacy or conflict resolution, such as deterring aggression, mediating disputes, managing crises, achieving cooperation among allies, and so forth. Practitioners typically consider several specific policy instruments and strategies for dealing with each of these generic problems. In this process they can benefit from several types of knowledge about them.
First, general conceptual models identify the critical variables for dealing effectively with the phenomenon in question and the general logic associated with successful use of strategies or techniques to address a type of problem. For example, deterrence theory in its classical form (e.g., Schelling, 1960; George and Smoke, 1974) provides a conceptual model of a strategy of conflict management. It presumes that the target of a deterrent threat is rational and thus, if well informed, can make a reasonably accurate calculation of the costs and risks associated with each possible response to the threat, and it prescribes the characteristics of threats that are effective with rational actors. A conceptual model is the starting point for constructing a strategy or response for dealing with a particular conflict situation.
Second, practitioners need conditional generalizations about what favors the success of specific strategies they might use. This kind of knowledge normally takes the form of statements of association—that a strategy is effective under certain conditions but not others. Although conditional generalizations are not sufficient to determine which action to take, they are useful for diagnostic purposes. A practitioner can examine a situation to see whether favorable conditions exist or can be created for using a
particular conflict resolution technique. Good conditional generalizations enable a practitioner to increase the chances of making the right choice about whether and when to use a technique.
Third, practitioners need knowledge about causal processes and mechanisms that link the use of each strategy to its outcomes. For example, one indication that an electoral system in a culturally divided society is channeling conflict in nonviolent directions is that each major party is running candidates from several ethnic groups. When party conflicts are no longer reflections of raw ethnic conflict, future political conflicts are likely to be less highly charged. Knowledge about such mechanisms is useful for monitoring the progress of a conflict resolution effort and for deciding whether additional efforts should be made to support previous ones.
Fourth, in order to craft an appropriate strategy for a situation, practitioners need a correct general understanding of the actors whose behavior the strategy is designed to influence.9 Policy specialists and academic scholars agree on this fundamental point: to act effectively in the international arena it is necessary to see events—and, indeed, assess one’s own behavior—from the perspective of the others acting in the situation. Only by doing so can a practitioner diagnose a developing situation accurately and select appropriate ways of communicating with and influencing others. Faulty images of others are a source of major misperceptions and miscalculations that have often led to major errors in policy, avoidable catastrophes, and missed opportunities. Area specialists in academia can make useful, indeed indispensable, contributions to developing and making available such knowledge, as can diplomats and other individuals on the scene of a conflict who have personal knowledge about the major actors.
All of these types of knowledge are generic in that they apply across specific situations. It is important to emphasize, however, that although such knowledge is useful, even indispensable to practice, a conflict resolution practitioner also needs accurate situation-specific knowledge in order to act effectively. Skilled practitioners use their judgment to combine generic and specific knowledge in order to act in what are always unique decision situations.
The contributors to this volume have attempted to develop the first three kinds of knowledge described above: general conceptual models of conflict situations, knowledge about the conditions favoring the success of particular conflict resolution techniques, and knowledge about the causal processes that lead them to succeed or fail. In doing this they have had to grapple with other important but difficult issues: defining success
for a technique of conflict resolution, setting reasonable expectations and time lines for evaluating success, identifying indicators of success, and deciding how to make general inferences when historical evidence is imperfect and when one can never know what the outcome would have been if practitioners had acted differently or if events beyond their control had played out differently.
Each contributor to this volume was asked to carefully define a technique or concept of conflict resolution and to evaluate the available historical and other evidence regarding the conditions for its success. In Chapter 2, Stern and Druckman discuss the challenges of making such evaluations. They identify the difficulties of making valid inferences about efforts to change the course of history and discuss strategies by which knowledge can be developed in the face of these challenges. The other contributors tried to meet the challenges, each by examining a particular technique, concept, institution, or problem. They tried to be aware of the limitations involved in using historical evidence to derive causal inferences about relationships between concepts or variables and tried to look dispassionately at historical experience and other sources of insight in order to evaluate the state of knowledge and, if possible, develop conclusions about “what works” in conflict resolution.
Most of the contributors used some form of structured case comparison to do their work.10 They defined the technique or concept they studied, identified a number of indicators of success and factors that may affect the likelihood of success, and then examined the available historical evidence to identify associations of conditions and outcomes (contingent generalizations) and causal mechanisms that might lead to those outcomes. The results of their efforts have been sets of propositions or empirically based hypotheses about the conditions and mechanisms by which particular efforts at international conflict resolution yield results that can be considered successful.
Uses of Generic Knowledge
It is our hope and expectation that the knowledge developed by the contributors will be of practical value. We do not expect that it will be prescriptive in the sense of providing a standard set of procedures that tell practitioners what to do in particular situations. However, it is intended to be useful to practitioners when they combine it with specific knowledge about what kind of situation is at hand. Generic knowledge also has diagnostic value for practitioners because it describes the characteristics to look for in situations that make a difference in terms of which actions will be effective. After a practitioner has accurately diagnosed a
situation, knowledge about what works in which situations comes more strongly into play.
However, even with the perfect diagnosis of a situation, generic knowledge cannot be expected to provide prescriptions for action, for several reasons. First, this kind of knowledge will never be solidly established in the fashion of a law of physics. For one thing, human actors can defy the laws said to govern their own behavior; for another, world conditions continually change in ways that may invalidate conclusions from past experience. Second, the many tradeoffs in any decision situation make general knowledge an imperfect guide to action. Sometimes, all the aspects of success cannot be achieved at once and choices must be made. Sometimes, conflict resolution outcomes are not the only ones relevant to practitioners, who must then weigh those outcomes against other desired outcomes (e.g., for government officials, continued domestic support for the government).
Despite such limitations, we believe the kinds of knowledge developed in this volume will prove useful to conflict resolution practitioners. They can help practitioners identify options for action they might not otherwise have considered, think through the implications of each course of action, and identify ways of checking to see if actions, once taken, remain on track. However, one must recognize that practitioners may resist accepting conclusions developed by systematic analysis. Many practitioners mistrust such conclusions and prefer to trust their own experiential knowledge and that developed by other practitioners. Anticipating this possibility, we have involved current or former practitioners in discussion about each of the studies presented in Chapters 3 through 14 from the earliest phases and in the review of the chapters. We hope that this sort of interaction between researchers and practitioners will, over time, improve mutual respect for and understanding of the kinds of knowledge that direct experience and systematic analysis taken together can provide. Bridging the gap between scholarship and practice remains an overriding challenge for international conflict resolution (George, 1993).
We believe this volume will also be of value for scholars of international relations and conflict resolution. For them it will collect useful knowledge, raise important issues for the future development of knowledge, and generate a variety of propositions to examine and hypotheses to test in future research in this area.
ABOUT THE STUDIES
The remainder of this book consists of 13 studies, one methodological and 12 substantive, concerned with particular techniques of conflict resolution. In Chapter 2, Paul Stern and Daniel Druckman set the context for
the substantive studies by discussing the general problem of making and validating inferences about international conflict resolution techniques. They identify the inherent difficulties of this task and show how progress can be made in the face of these obstacles. They conclude that a systematic approach based on social scientific concepts and techniques can produce useful generalizations about which techniques work under which conditions and thus raise the level of understanding available to conflict resolution practitioners.
The main challenges of evaluation defined in Chapter 2 concern developing analytical concepts, selecting cases for analysis, measuring outcomes and the factors affecting them, and making inferences about cause and effect. The conceptual challenges include defining and classifying interventions, defining success, and setting reasonable expectations for the effects of an intervention. The problems of case selection include delineating the relevant universe of cases and drawing a representative sample of them—for instance, the universe of known cases may not be representative of all actual cases. Measurement problems include taking into account events that cannot be observed, such as closed negotiations or unpublicized mediation efforts. Key inference problems are raised by the lack of adequate comparison situations and the need to compare actual events with imagined, or counterfactual, ones; the need to take into account the effects of other events that occur at the same time as the intervention; the need to consider indirect effects of the interventions; and the need to sort out the overlapping and conflicting effects of the multiple efforts that are often made to resolve a conflict.
The authors then consider ways of meeting these challenges. With regard to the conceptual challenges, they emphasize the importance of clear definitions and taxonomies of intervention types and of conceptual frameworks that link concepts together and generate hypotheses about the conditions under which interventions have particular consequences over a short and longer span of time. With regard to sampling, suggestions are made to carefully develop purposive sampling frames guided by theory as an alternative to the sort of random sampling that only has meaning in the context of a specified universe of cases. On measurement, ways are presented to deal with incomplete information, improve reliability, and construct appropriate indicators of various outcomes, rather than attempting to measure “success” as a unitary variable. The chapter discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the main available systematic methods of making inferences: experiments (including quasi-experiments) and simulations, multivariate analysis, and enhanced case study methods such as the approach of structured and focused case comparison.
The authors reach three important conclusions. First, they conclude that theory development, including taxonomies and hypotheses about
causes, outcomes, contingencies, and causal mechanisms, is critically needed to advance knowledge about what works in international conflict resolution. Second, a dialogue between theory and experience, with progress in each leading to refinements in the other, is the best route to improved understanding. Third, a strategy using multiple sources of data and methods of analysis, referred to as “triangulation,” is preferred for increasing confidence in evaluative conclusions.
Many of the substantive studies in Chapters 3 through 14 take up the challenges defined in Chapter 2, making new contributions to knowledge by clarifying concepts; defining types of interventions; stating explicit hypotheses about causes, effects, and causal mechanisms; defining outcome indicators; and so forth. In this respect these chapters may be previews of the directions that the field is likely to take during the first decade of the new millennium.
Below, we briefly summarize the topics and findings of the 12 substantive studies in this book. The summaries are not intended to substitute for the studies; rather, they are intended as a guide to the reader. We group the summaries under the four strategies of conflict resolution previously identified: traditional diplomacy and power politics, conflict transformation, structural prevention, and normative change. This classification is artificial in some cases because some conflict resolution approaches employ more than one of these strategies. For example, truth commissions may promote conflict transformation while also recommending structural prevention measures. These complexities are mentioned below and are more evident in the chapters that follow.
Traditional Diplomacy and Power Politics
Chapters 3 through 6 assess conflict resolution techniques strongly rooted in traditional diplomacy. Chapter 3, for example, focuses on the use and threat of force. It examines the limited ability of the United States, despite its military dominance in the post-Cold War era, to achieve diplomatic objectives through threats of force and limited (exemplary) uses of force. Barry Blechman and Tamara Cofman Wittes explain this paradox of power by identifying a number of conditions that, although neither necessary or sufficient for the success of a U.S. threat, favor the effectiveness of a threat when present.
The authors group these “enabling conditions” into two broad categories: those that make a threat sufficiently credible and those that make it sufficiently potent to overcome the reluctance of foreign leaders to comply with the demand. They conclude that the credibility and the potency of a threat together shape the targeted leaders’ evaluation of the likely costs of complying or not complying.
Blechman and Wittes examine eight major post-Cold War cases: Panama (1989–1990), Iraq (1990–1996), Somalia (1992–1995), Macedonia (1992–1996), Bosnia (1992–1996), Haiti (1994–1996), Korea (1994–1996), and Taiwan (1996). To a large extent they find that the enabling conditions were present in those cases in which U.S. threats of force secured compliance with the demands and absent in cases where the threats proved ineffectual. The authors go beyond this correlation to suggest how the enabling conditions operated to produce the outcomes in the eight cases.
The authors draw three noteworthy conclusions from their case analyses. First is the critical importance of how much is demanded of the target. The greater the demand made, the greater the reluctance to comply. Thus, in six of seven cases of success the demand made was a relatively modest one—compliance was relatively easy. A second finding was that coupling threats with positive incentives for compliance increased success. Positive incentives were employed in six of seven success cases. A third important lesson concerned the degree of public support for the policy in the United States. Potent threats are harder to sustain because they imply greater risks, triggering the U.S. public’s aversion to suffering combat casualties. This aversion, seen as a legacy of the Vietnam War, constrains American presidents from making threats that are sufficiently credible and potent to achieve ambitious objectives. The authors’ review of available evidence reveals that Bosnian Serb leaders, Haitian paramilitary leaders, Saddam Hussein, and the Somali warlord Muhammad Farah Aideed all believed they would be able to force a U.S. retreat by inflicting a relatively small number of casualties on U.S. forces. U.S. officials often have great difficulty breaking through such preconceptions of American weakness. The authors conclude that, as long as this situation continues, the targets of U.S. threats are likely to perceive them as signs of weakness rather than determination and, as a result, are likely to continue to be willing to withstand these threats until their perceptions are changed by strong military action.
The findings of this study suggest these possible implications for U.S. policy: (1) pick fights carefully, making demands that are not likely to be perceived as difficult to meet; (2) seek to demilitarize U.S. policy somewhat, relying to a greater extent on skillful diplomacy and positive incentives, backed in most cases by threats of force; and (3) when nonmilitary instruments of policy seem likely to be ineffectual but the president still perceives the situation to require action, act decisively. In this situation the authors suggest that U.S. officials make demands clear and urgent, make demonstration of military power incontrovertible, and make the threat sufficiently credible and potent to persuade the adversary to accept the demands.
In Chapter 4, Bruce Jentleson evaluates the success or failure of efforts
to achieve diplomatic objectives by the use of economic sanctions. The chapter clarifies several conceptual and methodological issues and identifies lessons drawn from a comprehensive assessment of experience with economic sanctions.
Jentleson discusses the use of sanctions both for deterrence and for coercing states to reverse past actions (“sanctions for conflict resolution”). His analysis reinforces the findings of previous writers on deterrence and coercive diplomacy, including Blechman and Wittes in Chapter 3, that the task of deterrence is easier than the task of compellence and that the success of sanctions, either for deterrence or coercive diplomacy, depends on the threat being perceived by the target as sufficiently potent to induce it to accept the demands on it. Again, as in earlier studies, Jentleson finds that the stronger the demand, the more credible and more potent the threat must be to achieve compliance. Jentleson concludes that the effectiveness of sanctions depends on “proportionality”—that is, the more far reaching the demand made on the target, the less likely sanctions are to be effective.
Jentleson’s analytical framework stresses two main sets of factors, the political economy of relations among the key actors and the design of the strategy by which sanctions are imposed. The key aspects of political economy are the extent of multilateral cooperation and the problem of alternative trade partners, the target state’s economic and political capability to defend against sanctions, and the sender state’s ability to limit its own domestic constraints. The crucial components of strategy design are the definition of objectives, the targeting strategy, measures for sanctions enforcement, and the broader policy of which sanctions are a part.
Proceeding from this framework, Jentleson assesses whether and how the post-Cold War environment has affected the efficacy of sanctions. The main pattern he identifies is “a paradoxical one of greater target state vulnerability to the potential coercive potency of sanctions on the one hand but more problematic political viability on the other.” He traces this “vulnerability-viability paradox” to three major systemic changes—the end of Cold War bipolarity, economic globalization, and greater global democratization. These trends increase vulnerability because of reduced geopolitical incentives for great powers to protect target states against other powers, the greater economic openness of virtually all economies, and increased political openings for target state domestic elites hurt by sanctions to serve as “transmission belts” and pressure their governments for policy change. At the same time, the “political viability” of sanctions has become more problematic in several respects: (1) international coalitions in support of sanctions are harder to build in some cases than before; (2) the economic impact of sanctions on nontarget citizens in target states and on nearby countries now can raise tough ethical issues and humanitarian concerns; and (3) domestic politics in the sending state can create
deep divisions as regards the state’s sanctions policies. We thus have the dilemma, as Jentleson states it, that “in some respects sanctions have more potential efficacy than before. In other respects it is more problematic to tap that efficacy.”
Given this dilemma, Jentleson advocates a policy of “sanctions realism,” which he describes in detail as “less frequent but more concerted use of sanctions.” He places great emphasis on the importance of multilateral cooperation, which he finds much more important for effective sanctions in the post-Cold War era than before. Consequently, unilateral U.S. sanctions are less effective than they were during the Cold War era. The threat of serious Western collective action in pursuing sanctions is vital to the sanctions being sufficiently credible and formidable to elicit compliance. Jentleson advocates that U.S. policy makers be selective in pushing allies for joint action on sanctions in return for eliciting sanctions cooperation on issues on which fundamental shared interests exist, such as nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, deterrence of interstate aggression, and prevention of terrorism. U.S. leaders should recognize that allied cooperation is least likely when it pursues sanctions that are largely externalizations of U.S. domestic politics. With regard to sanctions strategy, Jentleson emphasizes the greater potential efficacy of comprehensive and decisive sanctions over partial and incremental ones and the need to take enforcement more seriously, both to reduce leaks in sanctions and to buttress credibility. He also cautions strongly against turning to sanctions as a “default option” and stresses the need to integrate them into a well-formulated influence strategy that may include other coercive measures as well as positive incentives.
In Chapter 5, Stephen Stedman addresses the problem of dealing with “spoilers” in peace processes—local actors who attempt to disrupt efforts to terminate conflicts. Stedman examined the activities of spoilers in several recent conflicts and drew the lesson that it is important to distinguish between different types of spoilers. As noted above, it is important for policy makers in dealing with conflict situations to have a correct image of the adversary. Stedman presents an analysis of types of spoilers that can be used to classify spoilers and judge how best to interact with them in order to advance the peace processes they may try to derail. His typology focuses on important differences in the motives of spoilers and in their objectives; classifies spoilers as “limited,” “greedy,” or “total”; identifies three strategies for managing spoilers (withdrawal, a “departing-train” strategy involving a threat to move the peace process forward without involving the spoiler, and the use of inducements to address a spoiler’s grievances); and evaluates these strategies in terms of their potential for success with different types of spoilers.
Stedman finds that a correct classification of the type of spoiler is
critical for choosing the most effective strategy for neutralizing the spoiler’s effort to disrupt a peace process. He provides practitioners with a framework that can assist them in classifying future spoilers and with propositions that lead to advice on how to proceed once the spoiler has been correctly classified. Thus, the chapter requires the practitioner to use actor-specific knowledge to classify the spoiler; with that task done, Stedman’s analysis offers recommendations about the strategy to follow in dealing with a spoiler. Stedman also discusses the difficulty and uncertainty involved in correctly classifying spoilers.
In Chapter 6, I.William Zartman provides a major clarification and extension of earlier writings on the concept of “ripeness” and its role in bringing the parties to a conflict into serious negotiations. Unlike the other substantive chapters in this book, Zartman’s is primarily an elaboration of a theory as the basis for an empirical analysis of the effectiveness of a conflict resolution technique. Ripeness focuses attention on the timing rather than the substance of proposals for conflict settlement. Zartman maintains that more attention is needed to the timing question because those who focus on substantive aspects of negotiation have generally ignored or downplayed timing. Zartman reemphasizes that ripeness and the related notion of the mutually hurting stalemate are perceptual phenomena, necessary but not sufficient for the opening of productive negotiations. Not all ripe moments are seized, and some kinds of negotiations can take place in the absence of ripeness. In addition to a perceived stalemate, a perceived possibility of a way out through negotiation or mediation is also necessary for productive negotiations to begin.
Zartman summarizes references to ripeness in accounts by scholars and diplomatic practitioners and reviews the literature on the ripeness concept, presenting and analyzing a series of propositions about timing and ripeness. He notes the important refinements of the ripeness concept by a number of authors, including Stephen Stedman, who took the concept “beyond a single perception into the complexity of [the] internal dynamics” of each side to a conflict. This refinement expands the concept of the perception of ripeness to include a country’s patrons, its military officers, changes in leadership, and domestic rivalries.
Zartman notes a number of problems with the emphasis on the need for ripeness. One is that increased pain may increase resistance rather than reduce it. He postulates that “cultural” differences may explain this variation: some parties to a conflict may act as “true believers” who treat increased pain as a justification for intensified struggle. Zartman says that “in the current era, cases of resisting reactions…come particularly from the Middle East.” For example, he sees the United States in the Iran hostage crisis as having acted under the logic of the hurting stalemate, exerting increased pressure in the hope that the Iranian leaders would perceive
a stalemate and agree to negotiate; Iran, however, saw the U.S. strategy as indicating the opposite of the contrition Iran required as a basis for negotiation. Zartman concludes that negotiations with true believers take longer to come to fruition because ripe moments are harder to find.
Zartman discusses various suggestions for “ripening” conflicts to bring about negotiations as a conflict resolution technique. He emphasizes that, when ripeness exists, practitioners need all their skills to turn it into a successful peacemaking process. Ripeness, when created, only provides an opportunity for substantive knowledge and techniques of negotiation to come into play.
Chapters 7 through 10 discuss conflict resolution techniques that rely heavily on the strategy of conflict transformation. Chapters 7 and 8 focus on unofficial efforts by citizens outside government who use organized processes of dialogue, analysis, and the like to change conflictual relationships. The chapters examine these processes of “interactive conflict resolution” to assess how these “public” peace processes can work together with official processes. Interactive conflict resolution is a well-defined and systematic approach used in small unofficial meetings of members of groups in tension or violent conflict to stimulate their talk together about the problems that divide them and the relationships that underlie these problems. The objective, as Harold Saunders argues in Chapter 7, is different from official processes of conflict resolution. It is primarily to redefine problems and develop new frameworks of interaction. Interactive conflict resolution is especially useful for subjects that are taboo on official agendas and when formal contacts between official representatives are politically impossible. It can help to pave the way for negotiation, address the obstacles to progress, and work in the larger society where peace will be made.
The two chapters approach the same topic from quite different standpoints. Chapter 7 examines it from the standpoint of its practitioners, explaining what interactive conflict resolution activities try to do and providing the experience-based judgments of practitioners about how and why it succeeds or fails. Chapter 8 complements Chapter 7 by examining interactive conflict resolution from an analyst’s point of view. It approaches the issue of evaluation theoretically and methodologically with a conceptual analysis of the ways that workshops might transform conflict and a set of hypotheses that can be tested in evaluations of the technique by future analysts.
In Chapter 7, Harold Saunders points to the difficulty of using standard instruments to evaluate public peace processes and sets as the crite-
rion improvement in the practical capacity to make and build peace. He sees processes as successful if they help to define and diagnose the problem, establish a strategic and operational framework, and design a tactical framework or possible course(s) of action. Saunders and his collaborators present six case examples: early experiences with Israelis and Palestinians in the 1980s, meetings of a group of political leaders from opposing parties in Northern Ireland that came together to create a bill of rights, an expanded process in the Middle East, a six-year process in Tajikistan, a series of dialogues in newly independent Estonia, and a program of training workshops in Cyprus.
The experience of 30 years has produced a significant track record for interactive conflict resolution. According to Saunders, the work of citizens outside government in a multilevel peace process is increasingly fruitful as one moves across a spectrum from quasi-official situations— those in which the primary task is to develop analysis of conflict not available to government, provide a channel of communication where none exists, or find a particular solution to a problem in negotiation—to those situations where the main task is to analyze the dynamics of relationships and design ways to work in the body politic to change them.
Saunders finds that the contribution of interactive conflict resolution increases as the capacities of government diminish. Governments, Saunders concludes, desperately need this added tool for peace making and peace building. He concludes that projects that “work” are those that create well-designed opportunities for individuals in conflict to develop the capacity to take responsibility for applying what they have learned in new ways. As their skills increase, their sense of possibility increases. Saunders also concludes that policy makers working to resolve conflict in divided countries can extend the reach of peace making and peace building by consciously seeking ways of bringing both governmental and unofficial work under the same conceptual umbrella. If citizens’ groups add a capacity for conflict resolution to the capabilities of governments, the overall ability to make and sustain peace within civil society can be enhanced.
In Chapter 8, Nadim Rouhana examines the major theoretical and methodological issues in analyzing and evaluating processes of interactive conflict resolution. He develops a conceptual framework that links the activities of problem-solving workshops to their microobjectives for the workshop participants and their macrogoals in terms of the larger conflict. Rouhana argues that it is important to develop taxonomies of practice in order to identify which methods work in what types of conflict, at what stage of conflict, and under what conditions. In his view it is necessary to develop programs that provide training in intervention tech-
niques that are explicitly based on theoretical foundations and guided by research findings.
Problem-solving workshops, if they are to achieve their microobjectives, must generate new learning among the participants, who must retain part of that learning when they return to the conflict arena and demonstrate that learning in their political discourse and behavior. Learning can be measured by increased cognitive complexity and humanization in participants’ understandings of the adversary and by their ability to generate new options.
Problem-solving workshops that are successful at the macro level tend to be those that create visions of peace before official processes begin, help to overcome obstacles during negotiations, and help to create supportive dynamics in the society that can sustain peaceful relations once formal negotiations have concluded. Rouhana suggests that workshops may contribute through their exploratory function, their innovative function, their capacity to legitimate discussion among adversaries, by accumulating public support over time, by clarifying what can and what cannot be agreed, and by preparing the terrain for political action.
Rouhana examines how the effects of interactive conflict resolution may relate to the dynamics of conflict, proposes ways to conceptualize these effects, and examines how the impact of these processes on the dynamics of conflict can be assessed. He offers three tentative conclusions about how to enhance the effect of interactive conflict resolution workshops on the larger conflict. First, third parties can take on a more active role in increasing the impact of the problem-solving workshop, provided that the role itself is carefully coordinated with participants and is part of the design of the problem-solving workshop. Second, future workshops will have broader societal impact if conceived of as a joint learning opportunity for both participants and third party, on whom equal responsibility rests for transfer of insights into the broader societal context. And third, problem-solving workshops can be used as laboratories for conflict analysis. Understanding of the political needs of each party, their internal dynamics, their limitations and constraints, and the views of the other party of these constraints is important material to transmit to experts, publics, and decision makers.
In Chapter 9, Priscilla Hayner considers official truth seeking—one of the available mechanisms for confronting past crimes of a prior regime or its armed opposition—as a mechanism for resolving and preventing violent conflict. Official truth-seeking efforts are sometimes advocated as a way to heal the wounds of past conflicts—to transform a conflictual atmosphere into one more conducive to peaceful intergroup relations. Hayner notes an irony in this expectation that official truth seeking has come to be seen as a peace-making tool, considering that the process of digging into
such sensitive issues as the past crimes of powerful actors can easily lead to further conflict and even to threats of violence. This potential is sometimes seen in the fear felt by victims and witnesses when providing testimony to a truth commission.
The chapter summarizes the experience of over 20 truth commissions and considers three ways they may help with conflict resolution. First, the proposal to establish a truth commission may represent one of the positive components of a peace accord that entices the parties to a conflict (or perhaps one of the parties) to agree to a peace. Nevertheless, the negotiation of a mandate for a truth commission is often very difficult. Whether a truth commission is adopted, and what shape it takes, depends on the perceived interests of the parties, perceptions about whether truth seeking would spark new violence, and whether indigenous mechanisms are available to deal with past abuses. This positive effect of a truth commission happens, when it does, before the commission takes any action. However, the factors that determine whether a truth commission comes into being also affect its mandate, which in turn affects the chances of future violence.
Second, a truth commission may defuse conflicts over the past through reconciliation, that is, by conflict transformation. Hayner identifies several indicators that reconciliation may be occurring (e.g., acceptance of a shared history, reduced conflict about “the past,” apologies by perpetrators) and some conditions that affect the likelihood that reconciliation will occur (e.g., the existence of prior social ties between the sides). She also identifies conditions that improve the chances that a truth commission’s activities will lead to reconciliation. These include the extent to which the commission reaches out to all victims, provides for their security and psychological support, holds hearings in public, makes efforts to be fair in its process and its report, and invites the participation of all segments of society, including perpetrators.
Third, a truth commission’s report may lead to the adoption of reforms to mitigate conflicts and protect rights—that is, truth seeking may resolve conflict through mechanisms of structural prevention. Two classes of reforms are judged relevant for conflict prevention: those that hold those responsible for abuses to account (including legal and institutional reforms) and those that strengthen institutions for democratic conflict management (e.g., by strengthening the judicial system so that conflicts and grievances can be addressed within the formal system of dispute resolution, or increasing political representation of disenfranchised groups). The chapter identifies several conditions conducive to a truth commission’s efforts to advance effective structural reform. One is the strength of the commission (its resources, funding, breadth of investigation, etc.). Another is the extent to which careful advance thought was given to the kinds of structural reforms that may be needed. A third is the strength of the forces internationally and
especially within the society that can be brought to bear on implementing good recommendations.
The chapter concludes that, although truth commissions tend to focus mainly on their immediate products, “the real effect on conflict resolution will be in how the process of truth seeking is undertaken,” the impact on public policy, and the responses of public actors. Truth commissions make their strongest contributions to preventing violence when (1) civilian authorities are willing and able to implement the commission’s conclusions and recommendations; (2) perpetrators are weak and have incentives to acknowledge and apologize for past wrongs; (3) human rights groups and other elements of civil society are strong and support the commission and its recommendations; (4) the international community supports the commission and its recommendations; (5) the commission has a strong mandate and adequate resources; and (6) the old regime is no longer strongly supported or feared. These conclusions imply that international support for strong truth commissions, civil society organizations, and domestic institutions for peaceful conflict management can all contribute to peace making in transitional countries.
In Chapter 10, Janice Gross Stein considers what might be called a new pathology of conflict transformation—a set of new challenges faced by NGOs seeking to mitigate violence in the context of “complex humanitarian emergencies.” In many recent internal conflicts, humanitarian assistance has been systematically diverted by those who perpetrate violence against civilians and used to sustain their capacity to continue the violence. Humanitarian assets thus fuel rather than resolve the conflicts. Stein’s analysis suggests that complex humanitarian emergencies are likely to continue and that NGOs will continue to engage on behalf of vulnerable populations. Given the privatization of assistance and the retreat of the major powers as well as the United Nations from involvement in many world regions in recent years, Stein expects that NGOs will play an even larger role in the regulation of conflicts than they have in the past. They will continue to face situations in which a security vacuum exists and the perpetrators of violence will be tempted to use humanitarian aid as a weapon.
Stein assesses the troubling evidence that humanitarian NGOs have at times contributed inadvertently to the escalation of violence rather than to conflict resolution. The central challenge for NGOs is to find ways of minimizing the negative externalities of assistance as aid flows to the most vulnerable populations. NGOs have developed a set of practical tactics to minimize the diversion of assistance: they select foods that are less attractive to looters, “monetize” food, collaborate to standardize physical costs, and work to improve the sharing of information. These strate-
gies can reduce the scope of diversion but never eliminate the political incentives to tax assistance to fuel conflict.
Stein examines three explicit strategies, some of them counterintuitive, which could contribute to the mitigation of violence, and offers three recommendations to NGOs and international organizations. First, she calls on humanitarian NGOs to think politically and coordinate with diplomatic and military institutions. NGOs must acknowledge that their actions in a complex emergency can have profound political consequences. Even as they insist on the imperative of legitimate authorities assuming responsibility, they must explicitly analyze the political consequences of their strategies to mitigate violence—relief delivery, refugee protection, election monitoring, postwar reconstruction, peace building—and plan for these consequences. Stein calls on NGOs to (1) improve their analytical capacity so that they can participate more effectively at global policy tables; (2) improve their capacity to monitor the consequences of their actions so that they can properly assess the consequences of their strategic choices (e.g., by developing diagnostics for early identification of systematic diversion); (3) enhance the knowledge and skills required for effective negotiation with implementing partners, international institutions, and political leaders; and (4) develop a specialized understanding of the political economy of the humanitarian assistance marketplace that will enable them to press for more flexible rules of engagement in complex emergencies.
Second, Stein recommends that the UN secretary-general consider providing security from private markets when (and only when) public security for humanitarian operations is unavailable from global or regional institutions. Paid, volunteer, or professionally trained security personnel, employed without regard to national origin and beholden to their employer rather than to any single government, could reduce the likelihood of systematic diversion of humanitarian assets to fuel violence.
Third, Stein advocates that NGOs be prepared to consider seriously the option of temporary withdrawal when assistance intended for humanitarian purposes is being diverted into renewed cycles of conflict. Such a strategy requires coordination among the principal NGOs that are providing assistance and a clearly stated set of conditions for return.
Chapters 11 through 13 discuss conflict resolution techniques that rely primarily on the strategy of structural prevention: creating organizations or institutions that are intended to direct social conflict into nonviolent channels. In Chapter 11, Ben Reilly and Andrew Reynolds consider
“whether the choice of a legislative electoral system in a culturally plural society can affect the potential for future violent conflict.” They conclude that electoral system design can have a marked influence but that the most helpful electoral system for conflict resolution must be selected to suit the society.
The chapter classifies the great variety of electoral systems in use in the modern world and discusses them in the context of four broad strategies of constitutional design for divided societies, each of which features a particular electoral system. It finds that the appropriate electoral system design depends on factors specific to the country, including “the way and degree to which ethnicity is politicized, the degree of conflict, and the demographic and geographic distribution of ethnic groups. In addition, the electoral system that is most appropriate for initially ending internal conflict may not be the best one for long-term conflict management.” The chapter notes that electoral systems are often chosen by historical accident (e.g., adopting the system of a colonizing country) and only rarely designed on the basis of careful diagnosis of a country’s situation. Moreover, not all imaginable options are politically viable.
The authors discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each strategy of electoral system design and its appropriateness for particular kinds of countries, thus making it possible to diagnose a country’s situation for the purpose of choosing an electoral system. For example, “centripetal” electoral systems that seek to encourage vote swapping among ethnic groups, usually by establishing multimember districts and an alternative vote electoral system in which voters rank their preferences, seem to work well for conflict management in countries where a small number of ethnic groups are geographically intermixed or a very large number live in segregation—that is, in countries where it is practicable to devise multiethnic electoral districts. As another example, systems that allocate seats by ethnic category tend to ensure ethnic representation but also entrench ethnic divisions; as a result, they seem advisable only in countries where these divisions are already very deep.
Reilly and Reynolds note that new and established democracies have different requirements in electoral system design. For instance, the need for inclusiveness may decline, and the need for geographic accountability may increase, as democracy becomes more firmly established. As a result, a system that works well for an initial election or two in a transitional democracy may not seem so good when the democracy becomes established.
The fact that each electoral system has strengths and weaknesses implies that electoral design involves tradeoffs. It is necessary for the designers to choose among desiderata for the electoral system. Consequently, for a system to work well over time, the involvement of local actors in making the design decisions is key. Electoral system designers must also choose
between achieving a system that seems optimal and staying with electoral features that are familiar to the electorate. The evidence suggests the value of making moderate changes that take advantage of what familiar systems do well and changing only what they do not.
In Chapter 12, Yash Ghai considers autonomy as a strategy for conflict management. He defines a variety of autonomy arrangements “that allow ethnic or other groups claiming a distinct identity to exercise direct control over affairs of special concern to them while allowing a larger entity to exercise those powers which cover common interests.” The chapter documents the great variety of possible autonomy arrangements—a fact that creates broad opportunities for negotiation and compromise. The variety, Ghai notes, also creates a danger that negotiation will lead to agreement on arrangements that are too complex to make operational, creating a conflict between immediate and long-term conflict management objectives.
Ghai enumerates the various arguments for and against autonomy and the variety of criteria for success. He concludes that “autonomy can play an important, constructive role in mediating relations between communities in multiethnic states…but it is not an easy device to operate,” requiring great political and technical skills. To make autonomy work, it is necessary to recognize both the particular needs of the group granted autonomy and the common needs of the whole. Success does not depend on particular provisions of an autonomy arrangement: similar provisions have “produced quite different results in different countries.”
The success of autonomy arrangements can be assessed in terms of the purposes of granting autonomy, such as to acknowledge a group’s identity, to facilitate harmonious relations with other communities and the central government, to end a dispute, and to maintain the integrity of the state. It can also be judged by the extent to which interests are accommodated, by the durability of the arrangements, and by the ways it transforms preexisting relations (e.g., by leading to fair resolution of future disputes, improving ethnic relations, overcoming extreme positions, integrating rebels into society). Different parties have different expectations and apply different criteria of success.
Ghai finds that autonomy arrangements are most likely to be made at times of regime change, when the international community is involved, in countries with strong democratic traditions, when the area claiming autonomy is small and relatively unimportant to the central state, when sovereignty is not an issue (i.e., secession is not considered an option), when there are more than two ethnic groups, and when the grounds for autonomy are not explicitly ethnic. He finds that success, in terms of many of the above criteria, is most likely to be achieved under the following conditions: when autonomy is negotiated in a participatory manner,
when the arrangement provides for consultation and negotiation, when flexibility is built in, when there are independent dispute settlement mechanisms in the political and judicial arenas, and when several specific issues of institutional design are carefully addressed. Although history provides exceptions to most of the above generalizations, flexibility and independent dispute settlement mechanisms appear to be critical design criteria for lasting autonomy arrangements. The best way to meet the criteria seems to be situation dependent. For instance, what can work in a federation created by aggregation of independent units may not work in a federation created by the breakup of an empire. Also, success is more likely in countries with established traditions of peaceful political bargaining and judicial independence. The evidence implies that international involvement may increase the chances of success in countries lacking these traditions.
In terms of the social and political consequences of autonomy arrangements, Ghai finds that such arrangements typically begin as asymmetric, establishing special arrangements with the state for only certain regions or communities. Typically, national governments that grant meaningful autonomy feel pressure to offer similar opportunities to other regions, with the result that successful autonomy arrangements tend toward symmetry. There are exceptions for communities that are clearly and historically distinct, such as Greenland or Corsica, whose autonomy does not have this effect. A major conclusion is that true autonomy prevents secession, mainly by reducing the stridency of minority groups: cases in which autonomy preceded secession overwhelmingly involved refusals of the central government to respect autonomy provisions or the dissolution of the central state for reasons unrelated to autonomy.
Serious problems arise with autonomy when the autonomous community wants superior power to other groups or when it wants unique powers not given to other communities in order to mark its special status. Such problems with the theory of autonomy adopted in a country may overshadow the practical problems of managing the arrangements.
In Chapter 13, David Laitin considers the roles of language conflict and language policy in intergroup violence in multiethnic countries. The chapter considers two questions: What is the effect of language differences within a country on the potential for violent conflict between language groups there? What are the effects of policies for addressing language differences on the likelihood of such violence?
On the first question, Laitin finds that, unlike some other bases of intergroup conflict that are rooted in group identity, language differences do not increase the likelihood of violence; under some conditions, in fact, he concludes that language conflict can help contain violence. Laitin analyzed data from the Minorities at Risk database (Gurr, 1993) on 268 politically
active communal groups and found that rebellion of a minority group against the state is most intense when both groups have the same language. Controlling for levels of economic development and democracy in a country, for whether or not a minority group has an established rural base, and for levels of religious grievance, language difference has no overall effect on levels of violence but mitigates violence when religious grievances are strong. Laitin, relying on game theoretical analyses and case studies, explains these findings in terms of the ease of subverting oppressive language laws, the difficulties of organizing rebellion by minority-language entrepreneurs, and the tendency of language conflicts to be “fought out in translation committees, school boards, and bureaucracies.” Religious conflict is much more incendiary for several reasons—among them, that religious groups’ hierarchies can impose discipline and organize resistance and that there is much more social resistance to bireligionism than to bilingualism as a way for a minority to get along in a society.
The analysis of language policies, again relying on multicountry statistical comparisons, identifies five classes of language policies and reaches two main conclusions. One is that political bargaining over language grievances reduces the threat of violence regardless of the language policy a state has in effect and even if it is perceived as unfair. It is the refusal to bargain that predisposes to violence. The other conclusion is that there is no clear benefit of one language policy over another for defusing violence. For instance, in countries where several languages are recognized, there is no greater violence by minorities whose languages are not recognized than by those whose languages are. For international actors Laitin suggests that language policies that are unfair do not justify international intervention on the grounds of incipient violent conflict.
Several studies in this book conclude that the success of international conflict resolution techniques as varied as economic sanctions, truth commissions, and autonomy depends on international support. They suggest that creating international norms that can provide such support may in itself be an important strategy for international conflict resolution. In Chapter 14, P.Terrence Hopmann sheds some light on this hypothesis through his analysis of the efforts of the OSCE to prevent and resolve conflicts. He argues that the OSCE has developed into a security regime for the Eurasian region. It has created many of the conditions necessary for regional cooperation to maintain European security since the end of the Cold War. It has articulated shared values and constructed an institutional framework within which all members may attend to the security needs of one another, exchange information, and facilitate the peaceful
resolution of differences. It has also emphasized the development of common political, economic, and social principles based on the ideas of liberal democracy and market economies in an effort to create a “zone of peace.” Finally, the OSCE has created a set of structures intended to prevent conflicts, to mediate cease-fires in times of violent conflicts, to manage and resolve the underlying issues that have produced violence, and to assist states and regions that have experienced violence to rebuild their security. Thus, Hopmann’s analysis shows that the OSCE has used the strategies of structural prevention and normative change.
The chapter assesses the contribution of the OSCE to limiting the escalation of conflict and to promoting the abatement and resolution of conflict in the aftermath of violence. It pays particular attention to (1) monitoring, early warning, and conflict prevention to head off incipient violence; (2) negotiating cease-fires in ongoing conflicts; and (3) preventing the reignition of violence and assisting the resolution of underlying issues in conflict situations.
With respect to conflict prevention, Hopmann concludes that the OSCE experienced considerable success in Crimea. By intervening rapidly the OSCE mission was able to strengthen moderate forces on both sides and helped avert violence. With respect to negotiating cease-fires, the OSCE mission in Chechnya can be viewed as having played a positive role in bringing an end to the intense fighting between Russian and Chechen forces in the mid-1990s, but it fell short of its goal of restoring a secure environment within which Chechens could reestablish anything approximating a normal livelihood. With respect to prevention of the renewal of violence and conflict resolution, Hopmann concludes that it is necessary to establish an identity formula that guarantees the protection of the identity of the vulnerable group. In Transdniestria the OSCE was unable to achieve a long-term resolution of the conflict even though it did help prevent an escalation to violence.
Hopmann concludes that a real strength of the OSCE is its broad approach to security, linking the “human dimension” to virtually all of its efforts to prevent escalation and to facilitate the abatement and resolution of conflict. He finds that the OSCE has contributed significantly to strengthening democratic processes and institutions in countries undergoing transformation. The OSCE has also proven to be remarkably flexible in reacting to potential crises, which has enabled it to react rapidly.
SOME RECURRING THEMES
Although the studies in this volume cover widely diverse topics in international conflict resolution, a few themes arise repeatedly. It is worth noting
these recurring themes because the fact that they have emerged independently in these studies may reveal important features of international conflict and conflict resolution in the post-Cold War period. The themes may suggest important issues for practitioners to consider when they apply conflict resolution techniques, even those not reviewed in this book; they may also suggest promising hypotheses for researchers to explore.
Perhaps the most frequently recurring theme is the need for international coordination and support for conflict resolution processes. This theme appears in studies focused on traditional techniques of diplomacy (see Chapters 4 and 5 on economic sanctions and response to spoilers), conflict transformation (see Chapters 9 and 10 on truth commissions and humanitarian relief activities), structural prevention (Chapter 12 on autonomy arrangements), and normative change (Chapter 14 on the OSCE). Studies in this volume repeatedly and independently find that, across a broad range of conflict techniques, success is more likely if international support can be organized behind the efforts. The pervasiveness of this theme may reflect a general truth about the end of global bipolarity: coordination is difficult when there are no opposing alliances to facilitate it. The studies suggest that states and other actors in the international system that want to promote conflict resolution need to do more work to build the bases for international coordination in support of conflict resolution efforts.
Another frequently recurring theme is the need for strong internal institutions for nonviolent dispute settlement in divided societies. This theme appears explicitly in studies of conflict transformation (see Chapters 7 through 9 on interactive conflict resolution and truth commissions) and structural prevention (Chapter 12, autonomy arrangements). It is also implicit in the study of electoral systems (Chapter 11), which presumes that elections are an institution for nonviolent dispute settlement. The frequent focus on internal institutions for conflict resolution may reflect an increased international recognition of the threat of internal conflict. It is worth noting that the themes of internal institutions and international coordination are related: the studies of autonomy and of truth commissions both note that appropriate international assistance may help compensate for weaknesses in internal conflict management institutions.
Some recurring themes are associated with particular strategies of conflict resolution. For example, the studies of traditional diplomatic techniques (Chapters 3 through 6) confirm that basic principles of power politics, such as set forth in past work on deterrence and coercive diplomacy, operate as well in the present era as in the past. What may have changed, as the studies of economic sanctions and the threat and use of force both report (Chapters 4 and 3), is the ability of states to exercise these tools. Because of increased difficulty in applying these techniques,
both of these studies advocate that those who would employ them be more selective in their use and, when they do act, that they do so in a concerted and decisive manner.
The studies of conflict transformation (Chapters 7 through 10) reveal another recurring theme: that there are new and important roles for NGOs in international conflict resolution. NGOs can be important both for building support for peace within societies, as indicated in the studies of interactive conflict resolution, and in responding to complex humanitarian emergencies. The studies of electoral systems and truth commissions reveal yet another potential role for NGOs—as a carrier of lessons about peace making from one country to another. These studies together suggest that international conflict resolution may benefit from improved skills of various kinds within NGOs, including skills in conflict analysis and in coordination with governments and other NGOs.
The studies of structural prevention recurrently emphasize the importance of involvement of a spectrum of local actors in institutional design. This theme appears in the studies of electoral design, autonomy, and truth commissions (Chapters 11, 12, and 9) and is implicit in the study of language conflict (Chapter 13). These studies suggest that, in an era in which internal conflicts have gained greater importance, it is important for the parties to be actively involved in conflict resolution: participatory approaches are preferable to imposed solutions from above, and although outside technical assistance can be helpful, lasting success may depend on giving local actors the final say. Chapter 5 on spoilers addresses options for external actors when some of the parties will not participate.
The structural prevention studies raise two other recurring, and related, themes. One is that the institutions that can be agreed on in a peace settlement may not be best for long-term conflict management in the society. This finding appears in the studies of truth commissions, electoral systems, and autonomy arrangements. The other theme is that the success of structural prevention often depends on flexibility and willingness to keep bargaining. This theme appears in the studies of language conflict and autonomy. Both themes suggest that it may be very important to design flexibility into institutional arrangements that are intended to prevent future conflict.
We do not know enough yet to say that these recurring themes reflect enduring features of the emerging world system or that the lessons they may suggest are the right ones to draw from recent history. However, these studies, completed a decade into a new era of world politics, do suggest what some of the main issues may be in international conflict resolution in this era. Many of these, such as international coordination for conflict resolution, support of internal institutions for dispute settlement, strengthening the NGO role, devolving decision making power to
local actors, and designing flexible institutions, are quite different from the main conflict resolution issues of the Cold War period. To the extent that such issues emerge as critical, they will require new work from analysts and new understanding and skills from practitioners. We hope the studies in this book will help analysts and practitioners better understand and address the problems of conflict resolution in this new era.
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