Conflict data sets can shed light on how different ways of measuring conflict (or any other international relations phenomenon) result in different conclusions. Data collection procedures affect our efforts to answer key descriptive questions about war and peace in the world and their relationship to other features of interest. Moreover, empirical data or information can answer some pointed questions about world politics, such as, “Has there been a decline in conflict in the international system?” The development of data on characteristics relevant to the study of international relations has undeniably allowed a great deal of progress to be made on many research questions. However, trying to answer seemingly simple descriptive questions about international relations often shows how data rarely speak entirely for themselves. The specific ways in which we pose questions or try to reach answers will often influence our conclusions. Likewise, the specific manner in which the data have been collected will often have implications for our inferences. In turn, proposed answers to descriptive questions are often contested by other researchers. Many empirical debates in the study of international relations, upon closer inspection, often hinge on assumptions and criteria that are not made fully explicit in studies based on empirical data.
Kristian Skrede Gleditsch, Kyle Beardsley, and Sara M. T. Polo
Joyce Neu and Louis Kriesberg
The field of conflict analysis and resolution (CAR) is primarily defined as ideas about and applications of ways in which conflicts can be addressed constructively. The boundaries of the field cannot be sharply drawn. There are scholars, practitioners, and outside analysts who sometimes apply conflict resolution ideas and methods but who do not self-identify as belonging to the field. They do, nevertheless, contribute to the field. The field also refers to people designated or self-identified as conflict analysis and resolution scholars and/or practitioners. This article focuses on the development of the CAR field as an interdisciplinary social science endeavor within the broad international relations domain. The major periods covered include (1) development of the field and its preliminary beginnings from 1914 to 1945; (2) emergence of CAR as a field between 1946 and 1969; (3) expansion and institutionalization from 1970–1989; (4) diffusion and differentiation from 1990–2008; and, (5) advances and challenges 2009 through 2017. From 1914 to 1945, as a result of World War I, there was a rise in pacifism. The creation of the United Nations in 1945 following World War II was intended as a means to prevent war and maintain peace. CAR research focused on analyzing the causes of violent conflicts. Researchers drew on psychoanalytic tools to examine, for example, attributes of leaders and social movements. From 1946 to 1969, as a result of the Cold War and national liberation struggles, the world experienced an increase in the number of conflicts. Governmental organizations worked to avert a possible nuclear war and to limit conflict escalation through the United Nations and by the creation of forerunners to the European Union. In the nongovernmental sector, high-level unofficial meetings began taking place to build peace and reduce tensions. CAR research grew and included the use of game theory and rational models. The period of expansion and institutionalization (1970–1989) saw the growth of alternative dispute resolution that positively affected the creation of new CAR institutions. Nongovernmental CAR organizations grew in number and effectiveness offering dialogue and problem-solving workshops to disputing parties. Research focused on nonviolent means of resolving conflicts as well as how conflicts can be waged constructively. From 1990 to 2008, the field witnessed a period of diffusion and differentiation. The end of the Cold War gave way to a period with fewer armed conflicts. Nongovernmental organizations and university programs in CAR increased. Intergovernmental organizations such as the UN and the African Union began to focus on professionalizing their mediation and peacemaking efforts. The period from 2009 through 2017 saw the field continue to grow. New challenges included the quashing of nonviolent resistance movements in the Middle East and North Africa, the impacts of climate change, the rise in terrorism, and the widespread use of technology for both positive and negative impacts on peace. This period saw a dramatic increase in the application of CAR research and experience in governmental and intergovernmental organizations’ work.
Clionadh Raleigh, Frank D. W. Witmer, and John O’Loughlin
Analysis of civil and international conflict is an important component of the fields of political science and international relations. The theories that animate the study of conflict have focused on a combination of economic and ethnic–ideological motivations, along with political and systemic factors such as alliances and support from external benefactors. However, few studies have presented a coherent and compelling account of the persistence and patterns of conflict since 1945. Many conflict studies that consider spatial phenomena ignore the particularities of the data and the context of spatial relationships. Three strands of research on spatial analysis of war can be identified: studies that explored how neighboring states influence the propensity for the international spread of disputes; studies that lend support to both spatial heterogeneity and dependence explanations of civil war patterns in developing states; and work that incorporates space into quantitative civil war studies by modeling how subnational characteristics affect civil war risk. In general, the qualitative literature on conflict has provided insights that help to identify predictive variables for quantitative analysis, in particular the local spatial distribution of violence and its trends over time. This is evident in the case of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where violent events have erupted since independence in 1960. Despite the substantial progress in conflict research, there are a number of areas that deserve further investigation, including the specific contextual factors that govern the ebb and flow of conflict such as terrain, forest cover, distribution of supportive and opponent populations.
Peace research is a component of the field of international relations (IR) that focuses on the causes of war and violence as well as the conditions of peace. The origins of peace research can be traced to the works of Plato, Thucydides, Hugo Grotius, Thomas Hobbes, and Immanuel Kant. The central debate in peace research revolved around the question of whether peace is to be defined simply as the absence of war and direct violence (“negative peace”) or the whether the concept encompasses both the absence of war and direct violence plus the presence of social justice (“positive peace”). Three primary waves of peace studies worldwide since its beginnings between the world wars can be identified: the first wave, roughly from the 1930s to 1960s, focused largely on the causes of war; the second wave was concerned with radicalization and democratization of peace studies; and the third wave saw the rise of two dominant fields—those of nuclear weapons, arms control and disarmament, and conflict resolution/management. During the 1990s, there was a renewed attention to research on topics such as sanctions, peacemaking, the concept of a culture of peace, environment, development, and conflict. Peace research and peace studies have in some ways brought about a transformation not only of dominant power structures, but also of the very concept of power itself. However, there are areas that need improvement, such as developing alternatives to armed conflict and injustice.
Paul R. Hensel
The International Studies Association’s (ISA) Scientific Study of International Processes (SSIP) section is dedicated to the systematic analysis of empirical data covering the entire range of international political questions. Drawing on the canons of scientific inquiry, SSIP seeks to support and promote replicable research in terms of the clarity of a theoretical argument and/or the testing of hypotheses. Journals that have been most likely to publish SSIP-related research include the top three general journals in the field of political science: the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, and Journal of Politics. A number of more specialized journals frequently publish research of interest to the SSIP community, such as Conflict Management and Peace Science, International Interactions, International Organization, International Studies Quarterly, Journal of Conflict Resolution, and Journal of Peace Research. Together, these journals published a total of 1,024 qualifying articles between 2003 and 2010. These articles cover a wide range of topics, from armed conflict and conflict management to terrorism, international political economy, economic development or growth, monetary policy, foreign aid, sanctions, human rights and repression, international law, international organizations/institutions, and foreign policy attitudes and beliefs. Data users who are interested in conducting their own research must: choose the most appropriate data set(s), become familiar with what the data set includes and how its central concepts are measured, multipurpose data sources, investigate missing data, and assess robustness across multiple data sets.