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Article

Robert U. Nagel and Govinda Clayton

Mediation is now the most popular form of conflict management, and it has proven to be an effective means of resolving inter- and intrastate disputes. This article offers an overview of mediation in foreign policy. We first highlight which actors tend to perform mediatory roles, emphasizing the relative strengths and weaknesses of individual, state, and international organization mediators. Next we discuss the supply and demand of mediation, identifying the key conditions that promote third parties’ efforts to offer mediatory assistance and belligerents to accept the help of an intermediary. We then discuss the process and varying methods used by mediators, highlighting the range of actions from relatively soft facilitative mediation, up to more manipulative approaches. Finally we discuss the outcomes that mediation tends to produce and the conditions that influence the effectiveness of this preeminent foreign policy tool.

Article

Erin K. Jenne and Milos Popovic

In their seminal study “Resort to Arms,” Small and Singer (1982) defined a civil war as “any armed conflict that involves (a) military action internal to the metropole, (b) the active participation of the national government, and (c) effective resistance by both sides.” Internationalized civil wars constitute a newer classification, denoting a conflict involving organized violence on two or more sides within a sovereign state, in which foreign elements play a role in instigating, prolonging, or exacerbating the struggle. Small and Singer defined civil war as one in which a “system member” intervenes into a substate conflict involving organized violence. Although Singer and Small conceived “system members” narrowly as external sovereign states engaged in military intervention into the civil war in question, the definition has since been expanded by the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) and Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) to include other foreign actors—such as nonstate or private actors, diasporas, IOs, corporations, or cross-border kin groups—any of which can intervene to intensify a domestic civil conflict. From superpower interventions during the Cold War to more recent conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, internationalized civil wars have garnered increasing scholarly attention, primarily because they tend to be far bloodier and more protracted than noninternationalized civil wars. How to end such wars is a problem long bedeviling the international community. Civil wars are already more difficult to end than interstate wars partly because there are more players to satisfy in civil war settings, with multiple conflict parties coexisting on a single territory, and multiple factions within each conflict party—each constituting a “veto player” that might plausibly spoil a peace agreement should the agreement not satisfy their needs. This problem is exacerbated by an order of magnitude when a civil war becomes internationalized. When outside actors get involved in a civil war, the number of veto players rises correspondingly to include not only domestic players and internal factions, but also the involved external players, which may include foreign governments, diaspora groups, foreign fighters, and/or transnational social networks. Managing or ending internationalized civil wars is thus a highly complicated balancing act requiring attention not just to internal, but also to external veto players represented by all involved parties both inside and outside the conflict state. The traditional methods of conflict management involve electoral engineering, power-sharing arrangements, or other peace deals that seek to satisfy the aspirations of involved internal parties, while ensuring that the peace deal is “self-enforcing.” This means that it will hold up even in the absence of outside pressure. In internationalized civil wars, however, conflict managers must also satisfy involved outside actors or otherwise neutralize external conflict processes. There are multiple methods for doing this, ranging from effective border control in cases of conflict spillover to decomposing internationalized conflicts into civil and international conflicts, which are solved separately, to outright peace enforcement involving international security guarantees.

Article

Despite the decline in interstate wars, there remain dozens of interstate disputes that could erupt into diplomatic crises and evolve into military escalation. By far the most difficult interstate dispute that exists are territorial disputes, followed by maritime and river boundary disputes. These disputes are not only costly for the states involved, but also potentially dangerous for states in the region and allies of disputant states who could become entrapped in armed conflicts. Fortunately, though many disputes remain unresolved and some disputes endure for decades or more than a century, many other disputes are peacefully resolved through conflict management tools. Understanding the factors that influence conflict management—the means by which governments decide their foreign policy strategies relating to interstate disputes and civil conflicts—is critical to policy makers and scholars interested in the peaceful resolution of such disputes. Though conflict management of territorial and maritime disputes can include a spectrum of management tools, including use of force, most conflict management tools are peaceful, involving direct bilateral negotiations between the disputant states, non-binding third party mediation, or binding legal dispute resolution. Governments most often attempt the most direct dispute resolution method, which is bilateral negotiations, but often, such negotiations break down due to uncompromising positions of the disputing states, leading governments to turn to other resolution methods. There are pros and cons of each of the dispute resolution methods and certain factors will influence the decisions that governments make about the management of their territorial and maritime disputes. Overall, the peaceful resolution of territorial and maritime disputes is an important but complicated issue for states both directly involved and indirectly affected by the persistence of such disputes.

Article

Kyle Beardsley, Patrick James, Jonathan Wilkenfeld, and Michael Brecher

Over the course of more than four decades the International Crisis Behavior (ICB) Project, a major and ongoing data-gathering enterprise in the social sciences, has compiled data that continues to be accessed heavily in scholarship on conflict processes. ICB holdings consist of full-length qualitative case studies, along with an expanding range of quantitative data sets. Founded in 1975, the ICB Project is among the most visible and influential within the discipline of International Relations (IR). A wide range of studies based either primarily or in part on the ICB’s concepts and data have accumulated and cover subjects that include the causes, processes, and consequences of crises. The breadth of ICB’s contribution has expanded over time to go beyond a purely state-centric approach to include crisis-related activities of transnational actors across a range of categories. ICB also offers depth through, for example, potential resolution of contemporary debates about mediation in crises on the basis of nuanced findings about long- versus short-term impact with regard to conflict resolution.

Article

Prospect theory is a behavioral theory that holds that human attitudes toward risk are not fixed but can shift dramatically based on how a decision is framed. Instead of assessing different options in the abstract, individuals form a point of reference and weigh decisions based on how the outcomes may impact that point. When a proposition is framed as a potential gain, individuals exhibit risk-averse behavior and prefer certain gains over potentially more lucrative gambles. Conversely, when an identical question is posited as a loss, people become risk acceptant and are willing to gamble on potentially significant losses rather than accept even modest setbacks. Since first gaining prominence through the works of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, prospect theory has provided a valuable analytical tool for analyzing political decision making. Within international relations, the theory has been leveraged to gauge individual leaders’ attitudes toward risk when making decisions under uncertain conditions. This approach has yielded keen insights into a diverse range of episodes and issues including economic reforms, crisis management, and casualty sensitivity. Prospect theory also holds significant potential within the field of civil-military affairs. Although political leaders and military commanders ostensibly serve national interests, each possesses distinct interests and responsibilities. This means that even when facing a similar situation, civilian and military leaders may assess the situation from contrasting frames of reference and consequently possess conflicting attitudes toward risk. Such situations will lead to competing policy prescriptions and engender civil-military conflict. Incorporating prospect theory into our analysis of civil-military affairs provides a valuable tool for identifying policy preferences within individual actors and explaining how different frames of reference and risk propensities can shape civil-military disputes.