Sunday, May 27, 2012

Preventing Violent Conflict: Chapter Five Summary

By Lisa A M Bauman
* Based on a review of chapter 5 of Contemporary Conflict Resolution by Ramsbotham, Woodhouse, and Miall

Chapter five explains the central purpose of conflict resolution: to prevent violent conflict. We do this by looking to past examples and identifying potential sources of conflict (pg. 123).The goal is not to avoid conflict altogether, but use constructive and creative measures to prevent violent conflicts; factors the promote peaceful change.
Preventing wars requires three questions to be first considered: 1) In what conditions is war not considered a possibility 2) What conditions reduce factors that cause incidence of interstate wars and 3) What political factors can reduce violent conflict (pg. 125-126)? When aiming to create such conditions, we seek to create "stable expectations of peaceful change (pg.  126)." It is crucial that all parties hold a part in the process of defining social goals; a process that is affected by the type and quality of the relationships and intercommunication that exists.

Preventing conflict requires deep or structural change which applies at any level of political community. This can only occur if there is an agreed and accepted values are embraced and upheld. Coercion, uneven allocation of community resources and roles, abuse of human rights, and the presence of illegitimate/unacceptable people will likely cause a violent conflict (pg. 129 and 132). Development and demilitarization is also a factor that tends to inhibit the inception of civil war (pg. 31).

Another key to preventing war is finding a system of early warning. To do this we must first identify the type and location of a conflict. We must also assess how close to war the conflict has become. Ted Gurr gave three factors to gauge the likelihood of a group to rebel: 1) collective incentives, 2) capacity for joint action and 3) external opportunities (pg. 133). Other methods are used, but it is difficult to find a precise warning.

The goal of early warning is not to find a precise warning, but to respond to the information to create a change that causes violent war to not occur. When disputes are close to the point of violence a wide range of policy options can be used to create light or operational prevention. Light prevention occurs in the form of mediation, conciliation, fact-finding, peace conferences, hotlines, and many more. Operational prevention occurs much wider than conflict resolution. This is early stage prevention where agreements and procedures are negotiated giving channels for dispute resolution that transforms contentious relationships (pg. 136-138). Unfortunately even when observations are made, they are sometimes overlooked (pg. 133).

The text shows that conflict prevention is not easy, but the effort is worth-while. The challenge is to encourage a capacity for change through prevention by early identification, communication, and transformation of the circumstance of emerging conflicts.

** For Com301U, Intro to Conflict Resolution, Portland State University, Spring Term, April 2012

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Conflict Resolution: Methods and Origins of Analysis and Mapping

By Lisa A M Bauman
* Based on a review of chapters 3 and 4 of Contemporary Conflict Resolution by Ramsbotham, Woodhouse, and Miall

These last two chapters (3 and 4) have outlined the framework and origin of conflict resolution analysis that draws on Edward Azar's "level-of-analysis." This approach takes into account the international, state, and sub-state levels of conflict when recording and attaining data for conflict resolution analysis.  Chapter three speaks about how quarrels have measured up in the past and the way we measure peace. Chapter four helps us understand conflict through scholarly and historical analysis methods and introduces us to the ideal of levels-of-analysis.

First, in chapter three, the book helped us define what level of conflict we will be discussing (conflict domain) (pg 63)." Although all levels of conflict are valid in the realm of conflict resolution, our focus would be on "actual or potentially violent conflicts, ranging from social conflict situations which threaten to become militarized beyond the capacity of domestic civil police to control, through to full-scale war (pg 63)." Defining the scope of the level of conflict proves to be helpful when analyzing data and statistics. The book gives several examples of how the "domain" of the conflict (or the scope) and the viewpoint (or presuppositions) can skew data.
Likewise, it is important to consider the measurement of peace. The authors provide us three examples of measurement. One measures on related deaths of a conflict. Another measures on the number of peace building and humanitarian activities. And the third measures by world economy, social structures, and social attitudes (pg 66-67). The methods of measuring peace and peacefulness vary but the goal is the same: "to expand the conflict domain to anticipate future trends (pg. 67)." This has been coming to fruition through tracking data over time.

Fortunately the authors see and evidence of long-term decline in armed conflict (pg. 70-71). Still, there is a warning in this statement because interpretation of statistical data can be difficult.

While analyzing the physical data we must consider several aspects including: conflict distribution, types (including terrorism), and even the way we map and track events. The distribution of conflict in modern analysis has been done by defining zones such as "conflict zone" or a "peace zone." Conflict events are even geo-referenced to precise places and dates and then related to geographical factors to offer new perspectives for conflict research (pg. 73).

It is easy to struggle when defining the "type" of a conflict. Scholars even disagree about categorization. To give a type to a conflict event we first must look at the situation through "generations" rather than terms of blanket typologies. This illuminates the historical and personal aspect of a conflict. Then, we try to be as "atherical" as possible, avoiding stereotypes and labels to form a more logical conclusion about data discovered. Now we can distinguish if the conflict is of revolution and/or ideology or identity and/or secession. Lastly, we look closely to see if the distinction is non-interstate or "not classic wars between two states (pg. 76)."
This brings us to the important idea of conflict mapping. Wehr said that mapping is "a first step in intervening to manage a particular conflict." He gives eight points of interest to define and analyze when mapping a conflict that gives the "full range of conflict types from interpersonal to international levels (pg. 89-90)."

Chapter four digs deeper into the ideals on conflict resolution and eventually helps us understand this concept of mapping and the modern idea of levels-of-analysis.
First, building on chapter one, we are given historical and traditional theories and frameworks on the subject where tools to understand if a conflict as internal, relational, or contextual are explained.

After this, we are introduced to Edward Azar who became influential in the 70's. He believed that "reducing overt conflict requires reduction in levels of underdevelopment. Groups which seek to satisfy their identity and security needs through conflict are in effect seeking change in the structure of their society (pg. 101)."
Azar (like earlier theories) saw that there was economic factors related to conflict in society, but he also found an effect on the social, economical, and physical feeling of security to parties involved.
Using historical analysis and modern findings including Azar's works, our ideals about conflict analysis have moved to a modified "levels-of-analysis" model (pg 111). This gives us five levels (including sublevels) of analysis: Global, Regional, State, Conflict Party, and Elite/Individual. The levels-of-analysis model gives us the very helpful "conflict mapping technique that has been integral in the conflict resolution field from the onset (pg. 118)." Conflict resolution study has even moved from the natural social sciences to exchanging inputs from sociology, political theory, social physiology, organizational theorym and other disciplinary areas (pg. 118).

** For Com301U, Intro to Conflict Resolution, Portland State University, Spring Term, April 2012