Conflict Resolution For Maintaining Global Peace

Conflict Resolution For Maintaining Global Peace

Conflicts between individuals, groups, or states will involve an issue or bundle of issues. Issues may become complicated because, often, they may get interwoven with other issues. This is because conflicts are never stagnant; they always move or change their goals. New issues may emerge due to the hostile attitude towards each other.

Management of Conflict

Prior to dealing with issues of conflict, it is important to first reduce tension by changing the behavior of parties.

Management of conflicts is to be distinguished from conflict resolution because the issues remain as they are in the management of conflict. Managing conflict means changing parties’ behavior, while conflict resolution deals with conflict issues.

For instance, during the heightened crisis between India and Pakistan in May-June of 2002 over Kashmir, international diplomacy was at work to reduce tension, persuading both parties to withdraw armed forces facing each other on the Line of Control in Kashmir.

The decision to withdraw forces facing each other constituted a change in their behavior. This can be cited as an instance of management of conflict. However, the issue of conflict over Kashmir remains.

Understanding Of Conflict Resolution: A Framework

Peter Wallensteen provided an understanding of conflict resolution in a framework and addressed the following:

Conflict Resolution For Maintaining Global Peace

Conflict of views results in incompatibility.

Third is the behavior of actors; it can be constructive or destructive. Constructive actions are those that reduce incompatibility, for instance, trade promotion and cooperation with opponent states.

Negative actions are hostile acts, including closing the borders. Fourth is the stage where constructive actions lead to compatibility and peaceful coexistence.

The diagram shows that the central issue is the relationship and conduct between the actors. The survival of statehood is the cornerstone of national interest that can be promoted through a peaceful environment if the parties transform themselves into promoting mutually beneficial relations with each other.

Methods of Conflict Resolution

Conflict resolution works in phases;

  1. first prevention,
  2. second reduction of the intensity of conflict, and
  3. finally to an ultimate resolution.

However, such phrases are not universally applicable in all conflict situations.

At the state level, a conflict may be bypassed with the emergence of another conflict that requires more attention. For instance, before the September 11 attacks, the pre-occupation of the Bush administration appeared to be the containment of China in the Asia-Pacific region.

After September 11, the China issue had eclipsed its political horizon, and the focus was directed to countries Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, which President Bush called a part of an “axis of evil” in January 2002.

There are various methods and practices of conflict resolution, such as:

  1. toleration.
  2. avoidance,
  3. negotiation,
  4. mediation,
  5. arbitration,
  6. adjudication, and
  7. coercion.

Tolerance At a state level, many grievances are tolerated because of geopolitical considerations. This may occur when one party realizes that nothing can be done either to correct or modify the situation. If one does, it may worsen the situation.

Eventually, one party tolerates or endures the situation. Often, it happens with a smaller state. For instance, many Central American states had to tolerate US policy towards them.

Avoidance is another way to resolve a conflict. This means that one adjusts itself so as not to cause any conflict. In other words, one removes itself from a situation which is at the root of a conflict.

For instance, Bangladesh avoided a conflict with India in 1981 with regard to its claim of ownership of South Taipatty Island by not pressing its ownership claim at that time and left it for a settlement at the time of demarcation of sea-boundary with India in the Bay of Bengal.

Negotiation The basic technique of negotiation is a process of bargaining between the two sides for the search of a solution to a conflict.

Ordinarily, there are five steps involved in negotiation:

  1. preparation,
  2. discussion,
  3. putting a proposal,
  4. bargaining, and
  5. reaching an agreement.

An effective negotiator has to be well-prepared, clear-headed, insightful, persistent, determined, and an excellent communicator as well as a patient listener. Added to this, a sense of humor may facilitate a friendly environment during hard negotiations.

In all negotiations, compromise is involved, and it may be necessary to give something in return to the other side.

For instance, in the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, the Soviet Union withdrew offensive missiles from Cuba on the understanding that the US would not attack Cuba and would withdraw its missiles from Turkey.

Mediation Mediation is adopted by parties because in some conflicts the degree of bilateral relationship reaches a point that direct negotiations are unlikely to resolve conflicts.

A third party acts as a “middle person” to suggest the terms of settlement for ending conflicts. A mediator examines the issues and offers ways to settle the dispute.

Former US President Carter has been successful in mediation to resolve many potential conflicts. He persuaded Haiti’s strong military man to leave the country in 1994. He brokered a peace deal between Israel and Egypt in 1978, for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

Arbitration Arbitration is a quasi-judicial mode of settlement among states in which the parties agree to one or more arbitrators to make a decision on a conflict.

Many disputes have been resolved by arbitration process. In South Asia, India and Pakistan agreed to arbitration on the land border dispute of Rann of Kutch in 1968, and both agreed to comply with the decision of the arbitration.

The Taba Arbitration between Egypt and Israel in 1988 removed a political thorn in their bilateral relations.

Adjudication Adjudication means settlement by a judicial authority or Tribunal. The International Court of Justice at The Hague is the principal judicial organ of the UN.

Although the Court’s jurisdiction is voluntary, it has been able to decide many contentious cases between two nations when they agreed to submit to it.

The Anglo-Norwegian Fisheries case (1951) and the North Sea Continental Shelf Case (between Denmark-Netherlands and Germany) have significant impact on maritime international law. In 1973 Pakistan took India to the Court challenging the legality of the detention of its prisoners of war in India in 1971, but India did not submit to its jurisdiction

Coercion Coercion or force is the aggressive method of resolving a conflict. The elements of “pride” and “national security” are often involved in taking such coercive action.

It occurs in situations in which disparities in military power are so great that the reactions of the other party are not considered relevant. Winning is the goal of the game, and there can be only one winner. The Second Gulf War on Iraq in 2003 is a case in point.

However, such methods never solve the underlying causes of conflict. The conflict may revive again. For instance, mistrust of American policy toward Arabs continues as long as America does not take an active role in establishing a viable Palestinian state with secure boundaries.

Germany was defeated in the First World War, but its grievances were ignored by Western powers. As a result, it is argued that Hitler came to power with an obvious ambition to rule over Europe, showing European powers its might and supremacy over them.

Hitler’s unbridled ambition led to the Second World War in 1939.

Role of The UN In Conflict Resolution

Prior to the end of the Cold War, UN’s role in international conflict was limited because of the rivalry of superpowers – the US and the Soviet Union – and the fact that one side or the other had encouraged and supported the conflict either openly or surreptitiously.

These conflicts were known as “Proxy Wars”.

For instance, in Angola’s civil war, the government, being Marxist-Leninist, was supported by Moscow and Cuba, while Washington assisted the anti-communist rebels (UNITA), and the conflict continued for more than 20 years.

The Security Council of the UN, which was entrusted with the maintenance of international security and peace, could not function because, in most cases, either the US or the Soviet Union would exercise its veto power not to adopt any resolution ending conflicts.

With the end of the Cold War, a new environment of cooperation was ushered in between the US and Russia, the successor state of the Soviet Union.

This new spirit of great power cooperation enlivened the UN. However, the new spirit of cooperation was fractured during the most divisive debate in the Security Council on the war on Iraq in 2003.

The Second Gulf War was launched in 2003 without the explicit approval of the Security Council, and the unilateral action by the Anglo-American alliance jeopardized the role of the UN in resolving conflicts.

While the Security Council has been enforcing peacekeeping missions around the world, the UN has also been quietly re-examining its role in conflict prevention and conflict resolution. The UN is likely to engage more in a vastly expanded range of activities directed at conflict resolution, including:

  • intelligence gathering to provide the UN with early warning of impending conflict
  • preventive diplomacy
  • enhanced peacekeeping
  • enhanced collective security and enforcement

Former Secretary of the UN Perez de Cueller once described the resources at the disposal of the UN for gathering “timely, unbiased, and independent information” as “woefully inadequate”.

It is argued that the UN could have intervened in the Falklands War in 1982 if the UN office in Argentina had given the Secretary-General early warning.

Despite vast improvements in the UN’s intelligence capability, states will only reveal what they want the UN to know and will conceal any information that might disclose their real motives.

Preventive diplomacy appears to be the best means to prevent conflict before the parties resort to the use of force.

Such efforts will include on-site investigations of potential conflict areas, attempts to mediate and refer to the International Court of Justice for adjudication or to a Tribunal for arbitration. Conflict prevention could even include the stationing of UN forces in advance of conflicts occurring.

For instance, the stationing of a UN “conflict control” force on the Palestinian occupied territory could have brought some peace in the area, but the proposal was disapproved by the US because its ally, Israel, was opposed to it.

The Charter of the UN in its Chapters VI, VII, and VIII provide the UN its enhanced role in collective security and enforcement.

The phrase “collective security” means that the UN member-states have a collective responsibility to maintain or restore international peace and security across the globe. If a country is attacked, the UN will defend the country.

Prior to the use of force, the UN under Chapter VI would initiate peaceful settlement of disputes and call upon the states to resolve the conflicts peacefully.

Any member state may bring any dispute or any situation that might lead to friction or give rise to a dispute to the attention of the Security Council of the UN or of the General Assembly for the purposes of conflict resolution.

For instance, in 1976, Bangladesh brought to the attention of the General Assembly of the UN India’s unilateral diversion of water from the Ganges. The General Assembly intervened and adopted a Consensus Text urging the parties to settle the matter peacefully.

As a result, India had to negotiate with Bangladesh as to the sharing of the Ganges’ waters, and in 1977, the Ganges Water Agreement was concluded.

Chapter VII specifies what collective action may be adopted by the council to maintain or restore order.

For instance, when Kuwait was attacked and occupied by Iraq in 1990, the UN forces led by the US used force against Iraq in 1991 to withdraw from Kuwait. This action of enforcement was adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter.

Chapter VIII of the UN Charter encourages the UN to the development of pacific settlement of disputes through regional arrangements or agencies either on the initiative of the states concerned or by reference from the Security Council.

There have been instances where regional organizations, such as the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Arab League, Organisation of American States, Association of South-East Asian Nations, and African Union, have intervened to achieve pacific settlement of local disputes among the states within their respective regions.


Non-governmental organizations or individuals of reputation (such as former President Carter or former President Mandela) have stepped up in their efforts to resolve conflicts.

Although they do not seek to substitute negotiations at a government level, their aim is to supplement the efforts being made by the agents of state. The official and non-official efforts are often called “Track II” diplomacy.

In recent years, “Track Diplomacy II” was resorted to by the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

For instance, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) had a “Track II” counterpart, known as the Councils for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific, consisting of academic, other non-governmental security specialists, and government officials in their private capacities who met regularly and prepared reports for the official counterparts (Track I).

Often, Track II meetings consider issues that are too politically sensitive for Track I meetings. Furthermore, Track II specialists, being non-officials, are able to consider and discuss issues that could become international problems and devise strategies to cope with them.

Former President Carter successfully brokered peace deals between parties through “Two Track Diplomacy”. During January 2003, an informal channel of contact was opened with North Korea by Bill Richardson, Governor of New Mexico of the United States, on the prickly issue of resumption of a nuclear program in that country.

The United States Information Agency (USIS) was involved in initiating non-official dialogues between India and Pakistan during the mid-1990s, subsequently funded by the Ford Foundation, that brought together former senior foreign affairs officials of India and Pakistan to search for an understanding on bilateral outstanding issues, including the Kashmir dispute. Later, this helped to prepare the ground for subsequent negotiations at an official level.

Non-governmental organizations may play a key role in establishing channels of communication between the two parties. Parties often open up their minds to non-government organizations about their real motives and goals.

During the Cold War era, the Pugwash Conferences prepared the ground for US-Soviet dialogue. The most notable instance in recent years was the Oslo Agreement of 1993 between Israel and Palestinian leaders.

It was initiated by the Norwegian Academy of Social Sciences, which prepared the ground for the Israeli-Palestinian Joint Declaration in Washington in October 1993. The Oslo’s secret channel of communication was not known even to the US.