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Article

Conflict Management  

Sara McLaughlin Mitchell and Patrick M. Regan

The issue of armed conflict management was first mentioned in the inaugural issue of the Journal of Conflict Resolution in 1957, when Quincy Wright wrote that the resolution of international conflict can be facilitated by national government efforts “to prevent tensions for arising and aggravating disputes […] among nations. Such resolution can also proceed through the application of appropriate methods of negotiation, inquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement […] and the coordination of measures to prevent aggression.” However, there was remarkably little emphasis on studies of negotiation, mediation, or interstate bargaining before the mid-1970s. A more concerted focus on managing armed conflict began in the mid-1970s, and the 1990s and 2000s saw an explosion in the number of published quantitative studies on conflict management, driven in part by the significant growth in data collection projects on interstate conflict management. Over the past half-century, quantitative studies have identified the factors that promote the use and success of interstate conflict management. It should be noted that a lot of the usual suspect variables in the conflict literature, such as power parity, democracy, rivalry, and contiguity, appear in conflict management analyses as well. Yet the dialogue between these two literatures is often limited. On the other hand, conflict management courses typically organize themselves around the dependent variable, examining different forms of conflict management techniques (good offices, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, adjudication, etc.). Progress will be made on both fronts when we start thinking about these processes in a unified framework.

Article

Wars for Ethnic or Nationalist Supremacy  

Kristin P. Johnson and Ashlea Rundlett

Conflicts that occur along ethnic or nationalist lines are often the most protracted, violent, and difficult to resolve in the long term. Civil wars are often divided into two distinct types: ethnic/religious wars (identity), and revolutionary wars (nonidentity). The distinction between these conflict types is based on whether cleavages within a society occur along ethnic lines or along lines that cut across ethnic divisions and are focused on issues including class, ideology, or seeking significant policy orientation of change. The most significant theoretical and empirical contributions to the understanding of ethnic conflicts in recent years come from the disaggregation of civil wars focusing on micro- and group-level dynamics. This disaggregation supports theoretical advancement and a departure from using macro-level data with micro-level mechanisms supports transition from a monadic to dyadic study of ethnic conflict, and supports examination of potential causal mechanisms of ethnic violence. Scholarly traditions and theoretical approaches explaining identity mobilization along ethnic or nationalist lines, the contributing factors that explain the transition from mobilization to the exercise of political violence, the duration of identity-based conflicts, and the long-term prospects for settlement of the conflict have enjoyed a proliferation of studies using newly available data featuring subnational units. These include explanations of conflicts based in sociological foundations focused on the formation and maintenance of identity, structural explanations for internal conflict focus on the capacity of the state and the distribution of political authority within a political system, and the opportunity for rebellion.

Article

Mediation and Foreign Policy  

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

Conflict in Organizations and Organizing  

Anne M. Nicotera and Jessica Katz Jameson

Organizational communication scholars define conflict as interaction among interdependent people who perceive opposition in their goals, aims, and /or values, and who see the other(s) as potentially interfering with the realization of these goals, aims, or values. Given that organizations consist of interaction among interdependent people, conflict is inherent to organizational communication. Organizational conflict scholarship includes a rich and diverse body of literature that spans theoretical and disciplinary perspectives as well as methodological approaches and disparate goals, ranging from describing to understanding and predicting conflict behavior, impacts, and outcomes. Scholars conceptualize conflict as both a challenge to the status quo and an opportunity for innovation, creativity, and improved understanding and communication. Research on conflict in organizations has often focused on conflict styles to examine common approaches to resolving or managing conflict. Styles are often defined as predispositions, with the recognition that people also choose a conflict style based on characteristics of a specific conflict situation. The five styles are described as competing, collaborating, cooperating, accommodating, and avoiding. While there are hundreds of studies examining these styles, virtually all of them conclude that collaborating and cooperating styles are considered most appropriate and effective, while competing and avoiding styles are perceived as inappropriate and least effective, especially in the long term. Nonetheless, each style may be appropriate under specific circumstances. Other important dimensions of organizational conflict include how it is managed by leaders and members (supervisors and subordinates), intercultural conflict, and conflict within and across groups. Research has found a relationship between how organizational leaders manage conflict, their openness to the related phenomenon of employee dissent, and employee satisfaction with the organization, leadership, and their perceptions of organizational justice. An important consideration in all conflict contexts is attention to face concerns. In conflict with superiors, in intercultural conflict, and in conflict in work groups, communication that attempts to protect, rather than threaten, each party’s image is most likely to be collaborative, meet all parties’ interests, and maintain relationships. Because it can be especially difficult to manage conflict when there are power differences, it is helpful when organizations create a conflict management system (CMS) to assist organizational members. A CMS often includes a third party who can help organizational members better understand their conflict and assess their options, such as an ombudsperson or an employee relations advisor. CMSs may also provide an array of less costly alternatives to the formal grievance process or litigation, such as mediation and conflict coaching. An important arena in conflict scholarship focuses on conflict education, which examines curricula and programs for all levels, from K-12 to higher education, with the goals of creating communities grounded in shared responsibility and social justice. Research on the development of conflict education and training at all levels is necessary to help foster the innovative and transformational potential of conflict and its management.

Article

Conflict Management  

Patricia Elgoibar, Martin Euwema, and Lourdes Munduate

Conflicts are part of nature and certainly part of human relations, between individuals, as well as within and between groups. Conflicts occur in every domain of life: family, work, and society, local and global. Conflict management, therefore, is an essential competency for each person. People differ largely in their emotional and behavioral responses to conflict and need to learn how to behave effectively in different conflict situations. This requires a contingency approach, first assessing the conflict situation, and then choosing a strategy, matching the goals of the party. In most situations, fostering cooperative relations will be most beneficial; however, this is also most challenging. Therefore, constructive conflict management strategies, including trust building and methods of constructive controversy, are emphasized. Conflict management, however, is broader than the interaction of the conflicting parties. Third-party interventions are an essential element of constructive conflict management, particularly the assessment of which parties are intervening in what ways at what escalation stage.

Article

Conflict Escalation  

Richard Bösch

Even though most conflicts in everyday life manifest themselves as cursory bagatelles, there are conflicts that end up in situations of organized, collective violence (e.g., armed conflict). To understand how trivial contradictions can become meaningful conflicts in a broader societal context, it is crucial to examine the process of conflict escalation. Conflict escalation can be understood as an intensification of a conflict with regard to the observed extent and the means used. An escalating conflict represents a developing social system in its own right, having the legitimization of violence as a key feature. Here, a broader social science perspective on the concept of conflict escalation is offered, outlining its intellectual history, explaining its major perspectives and current emphases, and exploring newer avenues in approaching social conflict.

Article

Conflict Analysis and Resolution as a Field  

Louis Kriesberg

Conflict analysis and resolution (CAR) is defined by a set of ideas about avoiding, minimizing, and stopping violence that often is mutually destructive. CAR relates to all domains of conflicts, whether within or between families, organizations, communities, or countries. The CAR field emerged between 1946 and 1969, as numerous wars and crises erupted, associated with the Cold War and the national liberation struggles of the decolonization process. Many doctrines, theories, and research appeared to explain and influence those conflicts. New governmental and nongovernmental actions were also undertaken to prevent future wars by building transnational institutions and fostering reconciliation between former enemies. The rapid expansion and institutionalization of CAR began in the early 1970s, when many American pioneers in the field became discouraged by their failure to accomplish more during the 1950s and 1960s. The end of the Cold War in 1989 and collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 profoundly changed the world environment. Several developments contributed to limiting destructive international and domestic conflicts. These include the increasing economic integration of the world and the intensification of global communications; the growing adherence to norms protecting human rights; increasing number of democratic countries; and growing engagement of women in governance. Core CAR concepts include conflict analysis, conflict fluidity and subjectivity, and multiplicity of actors.

Article

War, Conflict, and Human Rights  

Chandra Lekha Sriram, Olga Martin-Ortega, and Johanna Herman

The relationship between human rights and armed conflict is rooted in historical debates among religious, philosophical, and international legal scholars about the nature of a just war, and appropriate conduct in war, which also have come to underpin and international humanitarian law. An understanding of the links between human rights, war, and conflict can begin with conflict analysis, as human rights violations can be both cause and consequence of conflict. In the most general sense, grievances over the denial or perceived denial of rights can generate social conflict. This may be the case where there is systematic discrimination based upon race, ethnicity, caste, religion, language, gender, or other characteristics. Alternatively, human rights abuses can emerge as a result of violent conflict. A conflict may have been undertaken by the parties primarily out of concern to promote a political or ideological agenda, or to promote the welfare of one or more identity group(s), or over access to resources. Human rights are also potentially transformative of conflicts and may make their resolution a greater challenge. Thus, conflicts that begin as conflicts over resources, religion, or ethnic or territorial claims, may, as they progress, create new grievances through the real and perceived violation of human rights by one or more parties to the conflict.

Article

Intractable Conflict and Peacemaking from a Socio-Psychological Approach  

Soli Vered and Daniel Bar-Tal

Intractable conflicts are demanding, stressful, painful, exhausting, and costly in both human and material terms. To adapt to these conditions, societies that are engaged in protracted, violent conflict develop an appropriate socio-psychological infrastructure that eventually becomes the foundation for the development of culture of conflict. The infrastructure fulfills important functions for the societies involved but can be a major socio-psychological barrier to peaceful resolution of the conflict. Transforming the nature of the relations between two societies that were in hostile and violent rivalry requires a dramatic societal change, replacing the socio-psychological repertoire among society members and establishing a new culture of peace. Peacemaking is a slow, arduous process; however, if successful, the previous rivals may establish stable and lasting peaceful relations.

Article

Conflict Analysis and Resolution as a Field: Core Concepts and Issues  

Louis Kriesberg and Joyce Neu

Core concepts of the interdisciplinary social science field of conflict analysis and resolution (CAR) are discussed. Work in the field is based on numerous generally accepted ideas about the nature of conflict and constructive approaches to conflict. These ideas include ways of waging conflicts constructively, tracing the interconnectedness of conflicts, and assessing the multiplicity of actors. Other important core concepts relate to stages of conflicts: emergence, escalation, de-escalation and settlement, and sustaining peace. Finally, current and future issues regarding CAR conceptualizations and their applications are examined.

Article

Interventions/Uses of Force Short of War  

Brandon C. Prins

Studying the initial steps of the militarized conflict process may help to better uncover regularized patterns that produce dangerous encounters and decision processes in world politics. An understanding of armed conflict short of war is essential if the international community hopes to prevent conflict escalation and contagion. Interstate war is increasingly viewed as the outcome of a complex decision-making process rather than of a single policy choice that commits a nation from peace to war. In this vein, examining lower-level violent conflict offers three immediate benefits. First, it increases the number of observations for empirical analysis. The second reason for is that wars typically begin as nonviolent disagreements over contentious issues. Third, examining low-level militarized conflict helps avoid, or at least helps to minimize, selection effects. In addition, recent scholarship on foreign policy decision making resulting in violent interstate conflict goes in two very different and possibly incompatible directions. First, theoretical and empirical attention to enduring rivalry suggests that lasting perceptions of threat between states establish an environment of mistrust and fear, which inhibits the resolution of contentious issues. A second research program defines the use of force as part of a larger bargaining process over the allocation of scarce resources.

Article

Adaptation to Current and Future Climate in Pastoral Communities Across Africa  

Edna Wangui

Pastoralists around the world are exposed to climate change and increasing climate variability. Various downscaled regional climate models in Africa support community reports of rising temperatures as well as changes in the seasonality of rainfall and drought. In addition to climate, pastoralists have faced a second exposure to unsupportive policy environments. Dating back to the colonial period, a lack of knowledge about pastoralism and a systemic marginalization of pastoral communities influenced the size and nature of government investments in pastoral lands. National governments prioritized farming communities and failed to pay adequate attention to drylands and pastoral communities. The limited government interventions that occurred were often inconsistent with contemporary realities of pastoralism and pastoral communities. These included attempts at sedentarization and modernization, and in other ways changing the priorities and practices of pastoral communities. The survival of pastoral communities in Africa in the context of this double exposure has been a focus for scholars, development practitioners, as well as national governments in recent years. Scholars initially drew attention to pastoralists’ drought-coping strategies, and later examined the multiple ways in which pastoralists manage risk and exploit unpredictability. It has been learned that pastoralists are rational land managers whose experience with variable climate has equipped them with the skills needed for adaptation. Pastoralists follow several identifiable adaptation paths, including diversification and modification of their herds and herding strategies; adoption of livelihood activities that did not previously play a permanent role; and a conscious decision to train the next generation for nonpastoral livelihoods. Ongoing government interventions around climate change still prioritize cropping over herding. Sometimes, such nationally supported adaptation plans can undermine community-based adaptation practices, autonomously evolving within pastoral communities. Successful adaptation hinges on recognition of the value of autonomous adaptation and careful integration of such adaptation with national plans.

Article

Children and Armed Conflict  

Susan Mapp

The United Nations has defined six grave violations that occur in war that impact children: killing or maiming of children, recruitment or use of children as soldiers, sexual violence against children, attacks against schools or hospitals, denial of humanitarian access for children, and abduction of children. These violations have a myriad of negative impacts on children, including biological, psychological, and social effects. Culturally appropriate support and care provided at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels can help alleviate these impacts and help children recover from these experiences.

Article

Intercultural Conflict  

Min-Sun Kim

Conflict, as part of interpersonal interactions, occurs in specific cultural settings. Viewing conflict as cultural behavior helps explain why disputes over seemingly similar issues can be handled so dissimilarly in different cultures. There have been numerous cross-cultural comparison studies of different conflict management strategies, most of them utilizing a “national culture” approach. The findings reported in the cross-cultural conflict literature point to a picture that collectivists value harmonious interpersonal relationships with others, preferring indirect or avoiding styles of dealing with conflict and showing concern for face-saving. Understanding the range of behavior choices and strategies available to manage conflict as well as differences in preferred styles adds considerably to people’s skills as effective communicators.

Article

Intractability from a Sociopsychological Approach  

Daniel Bar-Tal

Intractable conflicts are defined as being protracted, violent, perceived as being of zero-sum nature and unsolvable, total, and central, and parties involved have an interest in their continuation; they are demanding, stressful, painful, exhausting, and costly both in human and material terms. As an adaptation to these conditions societies develop appropriate sociopsychological infrastructure, which includes collective memory, ethos of conflict, and collective emotional orientations. This infrastructure fulfills important functions, on both the individual and collective levels, including the important role of formation, maintenance and strengthening of a social identity that reflects this conflict. It is institutionalized, disseminated, and eventually becomes the foundation for the development of culture of conflict. Its major themes appear in public discourse, cultural products, school books, and societal ceremonies. The emerged culture of conflict ends up serving as a major fueling factor to the continuation of the conflict and as a major obstacle to its peaceful resolution. The infrastructure serves as major sociopsychological barriers. These barriers stand as major obstacles to begin the negotiation, to continue the negotiation, to achieve an agreement and later to engage in a process of reconciliation.

Article

International Organization and Ending Conflicts  

Alistair D. Edgar

International organization as an idea or an approach to political and social conflict management and resolution—now often referred to under the rubric of “global governance”—has been the subject of much discussion by scholars and practitioners, and has taken shape in numerous historical examples. A landmark figure in thinking about war, peace, and statecraft during the earliest period undoubtedly remains the classical Greek general and historian Thucydides (460–395 bce); his History of the Peloponnesian War, chronicling the conflict between the Greek city-states of Athens and Sparta, features prominently in virtually all discussions of the subsequent emergence and development of ideas and practices of conflict management. Succeeding scholars have built upon Thucydides’ ideas. While the earliest theorists and philosophers brought out important discussions of war causation, and basic notions of political-social conflict management in divergent settings, political thinking about the context of state interactions and new mechanisms for constraining state behavior had not yet—by the early seventeenth century—reached the era of preparation for international organization. That would wait another 200 years. In the nearly three centuries from the Thirty Years War to the beginning of World War I, scholars of international organization identified a number of proposals that arguably demonstrate the development, growth, and deepening of thought about such mechanisms.

Article

Issues in Data Collection: International Conflict  

Kristian Skrede Gleditsch, Kyle Beardsley, and Sara M. T. Polo

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.

Article

Managing Conflict for Effective Leadership and Organizations  

Dean Tjosvold, Alfred S. H. Wong, and Nancy Yi Feng Chen

Leaders and employees deal with conflict as they collaborate in the everyday life of organizations and as they confront crises. Depending how they manage conflict, they can frustrate employees and provoke customer complaints but also stimulate their relationships and decision-making. The possibilities of constructive conflict are significant and documented, but the challenges to making conflict constructive are significant too. The practice of defining conflict as a win-lose battle has obscured ways of managing conflict constructively. Fortunately, researchers have developed concepts and findings that can help managers and employees manage conflict. A first step is developing a useful, unconfounded definition of conflict. Deutsch proposed that conflict occurs when there are incompatible activities. Team members are in conflict as they argue for different options for a decision. Deutsch also theorized that how people believe their goals are related very much affects their interaction, specifically their conflict management. They can conclude that their goals are cooperative (positively related), competitive (negatively related), or independent. People with cooperative goals believe that as one of them moves toward attaining goals, that helps others achieve their goals. In competition, people conclude that their goals are negatively related and only one can succeed in the interaction. In independence, one person ‘s success neither benefits nor harms the others’ success. Researchers have found that the nature of the cooperative or competitive relationship between protagonists has a profound impact on their mutual motivation to discuss conflicts constructively. Cooperative and competitive methods of handling conflict have consistent, powerful effects on constructive conflict. Team members with cooperative goals engage in open-minded discussions where they develop and express their opposing positions, including the ideas, reasons, and knowledge they use to support their positions. They also work to understand each other’s perspectives. They are then in a position to combine the best of each other’s ideas and create effective resolutions of conflict that they are both committed to implement. Teams that rely on cooperative, mutual benefit interaction ways of managing conflict and avoid competitive, win-lose ways been found to use conflict to promote high quality decisions, to stimulate learning, and to strengthen their work relationships. What has an impact on constructive conflict is not so much the occurrence, amount, or type of conflict but how leaders and employees approach and handle their conflicts, specifically, the extent to which their discussions are cooperative and open-minded.

Article

What Do We Know About Civil War Duration? A Bargaining Perspective  

David E. Cunningham

Civil wars vary greatly in duration—some end within months; others last for decades. What explains this variation? Civil wars drag on when no combatant can win a military victory and the various actors involved are unable, or unwilling, to reach a compromise agreement that resolves the war. Military victory does happen in civil war, but it is rare, so understanding why civil wars last as long as they do requires examining the barriers to negotiated settlement. Wars last longer when the parties involved perceive the war as less costly relative to peace and when the combatants are overly optimistic about how they will do in the war. Even when key decision-makers see the war as costly and are realistic about their chances of prevailing, negotiated settlements prove elusive if the parties cannot accept a division of the issues at stake or if the government or rebels are unable to trust the commitments the other side makes in a negotiation. Additionally, bargaining is more complicated when there are more combatants that must accept the terms of any agreement, and conflicts with more combatants last much longer than those with fewer. Many factors affect the bargaining environment, and these barriers to bargaining can explain why civil wars are on average quite long. International actions can alleviate some of the barriers and help combatants reach comprehensive settlements, as happened in the conflicts in Mozambique, El Salvador, Guatemala. In particular, peacekeeping and mediation strategies are effective at resolving wars sooner. International action in general is more effective, however, when the parties involved are interested in peace but need some help overcoming commitment or informational problems. These actions are much less successful when that interest is lacking. The current civil war in Syria has many of the factors identified as prolonging wars. It is an extremely fractionalized conflict, and many external actors are involved. Syria has a large majority population that has been historically excluded from political power and economically marginalized, and a minority government that has been dominant. These factors make reaching a comprehensive settlement very challenging and mean the war is likely to be very long-lasting.

Article

Dehumanization, Violence, and Genocide  

Steve Loughnan, Mayu Koike, and Casey Bevens

The question of why people act violently is perhaps one of the most enduring and meaningful in social psychology. Among the various ways humans have mistreated one another over the millennia, intergroup violence and genocide stand as terrible monuments to our capacity for violence. It is sensible and important, then, that the psychological underpinnings of this mistreatment are examined as well as the factors that lead people to enact, sustain, and excuse violence. The major psychological theories of dehumanization are outlined, from its roots in genocide studies to a focus on everyday aggression and violence, and modern approaches are presented, which seek to explain extreme violence. The ways in which dehumanization can contribute to violence at the interpersonal level are mapped, examining evidence also from the closely related field of objectification. Finally, dehumanization and violence perpetrated at the level of groups is discussed, covering the small but growing literature focused directly on genocides. Throughout the examination of interpersonal and intergroup violence, it is worth noting that dehumanization plays many roles; it is the cause, catalyst, and consequence of violence.