Discussion of Lunds vision of an emerging norm of prevention in the context of the unfolding crisis in Zimbabwe

Seminar Paper, 2003

14 Pages, Grade: 1,7 (A-)


Table of Contents


Conflict Prevention
An Emerging Norm of Prevention
Problems Concerning Effective Prevention
Classification of Measures
Structural Prevention
Operational Prevention
Differences in the Implementation of Preventive Measures

The ‘Zimbabwe Case’
Brief Historical Overview
Economic Crisis
Internal Actors
External Actors
Root Causes


Print Sources
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In the first section, I will discuss Michael Lund’s vision of an emerging ‘norm of prevention’ in the context of the unfolding crisis in Zimbabwe. I will start by describing the emergence of a norm of prevention in the international community. Thereafter I will introduce the different types of prevention measures as well as the problems of implementation

In the second section, the crisis in Zimbabwe will be described. The history leading up to the present situation will be summarized briefly, the parties involved in the crisis will be introduced and the root causes of the conflict analyzed

In the last part, I will speculate on the reasons why finding a norm of prevention in the case of Zimbabwe is difficult or even not possible.

Conflict Prevention

An Emerging Norm of Prevention

A paradigm shift in dealing with conflicts is underway; as Michael Lund stresses, conflicts are not seen as inevitable, because increasingly ‘ questions are asked about what went wrong and who is responsible ’ (Lund 2002: 2). As a consequence of major failures in international peace operations, perhaps most important Srebrenica and Rwanda, the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan announced conflict prevention as the key issue for peace in the 21st century. In his Report on the Prevention of Armed Conflict, he puts emphasis on the importance of moving the United Nations and the international community 'from a culture of reaction to a culture of prevention' (United Nations 2001: 1). He followed up on this report with one of the most candid and self-critical documents ever to come out of the UN, namely the reports on Srebrenica and Rwanda. The Brahimi report in September 2000 continues this trend by ‘ [calling] for an end of half-measures, where wishful thinking substituted for a clear and well-supported plan of action ’ (Guéhenno 2002: 73).

In the report, Kofi Annan gives 29 recommendations for improving the UN’s capacities for conflict prevention. However, the Secretary General sees the member states as the key actors responsible for conflict prevention, since the United Nations have limited capacity (United Nations 2001: 1). The costs resulting from no prevention, as seen in Rwanda and Srebrenica, are cited as the main reason to strengthen conflict prevention. However, the short term costs of conflict prevention are in turn also the main obstacle to effective prevention, as the costs have to be paid in the present while the benefits lie in the future. Added to this is the difficulty that a successful conflict prevention hides the potential costs of the conflict that never erupted. Consequently the benefits might even not be seen as benefits of conflict prevention since the conflict was absent (United Nations 2001: 6).

While Kofi Annan puts emphasis on the role of member states in conflict prevention, Hampson and Malone see the United Nations ‘ uniquely placed to shift the normative framework of international action from reaction to prevention ’ (Hampson/Malone 2002: 94). Nonetheless, the efforts made within the UN regarding the issue of conflict prevention have at least achieved a growing consensus on the importance of preventing a conflict.

An important step towards effective conflict prevention is the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to hold war criminals responsible for their actions. The mere chance that they are going to be convicted at an international court could deter many crimes from being committed in the first place (ICISS 2001: 14).

Problems Concerning Effective Prevention

A major problem for an evaluation of past conflict prevention is the unavailability of data concerning successful prevention operations, mainly because successful conflict prevention is normally characterized by media absence. As Hampson and Malone point out ‘ it may be difficult to identify what actions prevent conflict, and even more so to prove that they were effective, given that a success is often a non-event ’ (Hampson/Malone 2002: 78). Nevertheless, it is commonly agreed that there has been successful prevention in Zimbabwe itself in 1976 (Kissinger Report), in Macedonia and in East Timor in 2001.

As mentioned above, the main argument in favour of conflict prevention is also an argument often used against conflict prevention - namely costs. Effective conflict prevention costs money and is rarely recognized by mass media or public opinion, as a result it is very unlikely for governments to spend money on prevention, because of the dependency on mass media and public opinion for legitimating actions without obvious benefit. The flip-side of this condition is that major governments are more likely to react to conflicts where major media interests are involved, as has happened in the case of Yugoslavia or Iraq.

Another important problem concerning effective conflict prevention is the broad variety of measures that can be undertaken and the internal tension between these. This will be described in the following section.

Classification of Measures

Michael Lund divides the different measures for conflict prevention into four categories (Lund 2002: 8) that can in turn be assigned to the two categories of operational and structural prevention, as coined by the Carnegie Commission on Prevention of Deadly Conflict (Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict 1997: XIII). Generally speaking all action that resolves disputes before violence breaks out can be regarded as conflict prevention. Actors of conflict preventions are states, regional organizations, the United Nations and private actors, such as NGOs or corporations.

Structural Prevention

Structural prevention, also regarded as long-term prevention, consists of measures helping countries to help themselves. Firstly, all development measures like local community economic development and legislative assistance can be regarded as measures for the prevention of potential conflict since everything that contributes to stabilizing the rule of law and the economy of a country is likely to prevent the eruption of violence.

Secondly, human rights measures, such as technical cooperation for capacity building and human rights monitoring presences, contribute to transparency and stability of a country. If human rights violations cannot be committed without being reported, it could amount to effective structural conflict prevention (Evans 2002: 2).

Operational Prevention

Diplomacy and political measures are examples of operational prevention. Fact-finding missions and good offices from the Secretary General are common means to address an acute crisis. These measures are normally undertaken on the watershed of a crisis - in other words, at the point in time when there is still a chance to prevent violence, but when it is already too late to address the root causes of the crisis in an appropriate manner.

The last category of measures is generally used to prevent even more violence from being committed. Humanitarian action measures like relief aid and refugee assistance and protection try to mitigate the outcomes of a crisis at the point in time when it is impossible to prevent the outbreak of large scale violence.

Differences in the Implementation of Preventive Measures

As implied in the terminology, there are basic differences between structural and operational conflict prevention. Structural measures are generally chosen to address the root causes of conflict or crisis while operational measures are chosen for short-term conflict reduction. Both types of measures are important as Schnabel/Thakur describe it: ‘ The roots for potential conflict need to be eradicated, while their offshoots need to be cut ’ (Schnabel/Thakur 2001: 251).

This need to balance the long- and the short-term highlights an inherent tension between different types of preventative measures. The lack of consensus in the approach to specific crises is often the result of differences in emphasis when it comes to the application of these measures, particularly on the African continent. Generally speaking the Western World (US and Western Europe) tends to provide operational prevention in form of sanctions or political threat whereas African countries places emphasis on long-term development, either through organizations such as SADC or plans such as NEPAD (Evans 2002: 5). Although the richest countries of the North agreed to spend at least 0.7% of their GDP on structural measures, most of them are lagging far behind this figure; in fact the average percentage spent by western countries is 0.27% (Das Parlament 2000).

The ‘Zimbabwe Case’

Brief Historical Overview

Zimbabwe was a British colony until 1965, known as Southern Rhodesia. From 1890 onwards the indigenous people experienced land deprivations as a result of British settlers taking the land for farming. Since 1930 about 51 per cent of the land was reserved for about 250.000 white farmers.

The right-wing Rhodesia Front came to power in 1962 and introduced one repressive law after another. This led to mounting discontent among the blacks and a general movement towards militant action. The black people started making more radical demands that resulted in the formation of nationalist political parties: The National Democratic Party (NDP) in early 1962, Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) and Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) subsequently. Prime Minister Smith responded to this by taking more drastic measures, declaring the independence of Rhodesia from Britain in 1965, the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI). Britain and the rest of the world imposed sanctions on Rhodesia which worsened the living conditions of the blacks both in the rural and the urban areas. These developments further strained relationships between blacks and whites, making an armed struggle for independence almost inevitable.


Excerpt out of 14 pages


Discussion of Lunds vision of an emerging norm of prevention in the context of the unfolding crisis in Zimbabwe
Stellenbosch Universitiy  (Department of Political Science)
Peace and Conflict Studies
1,7 (A-)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
518 KB
Discussion, Lunds, Zimbabwe, Peace, Conflict, Studies
Quote paper
Enno Dreier (Author), 2003, Discussion of Lunds vision of an emerging norm of prevention in the context of the unfolding crisis in Zimbabwe, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/21455


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