National Conflicts: Management and Prevention

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2003

23 Pages, Grade: 2.0 (B)




1. Conflict: issues, types and dynamics
1.1. Conflict issues
1.2. Conflict types
1.3. Conflict dynamics, or escalation

2. The incidence of conflicts

3. The continuum from war to harmony

4. The outcomes of conflicts
4.1. Avoidance
4.2. Conquest
4.3.Submission or Deterrence
4.4. Compromise
4.6. Passive Settlement

5. Institutions and procedures for resolving conflicts
5.1. Negotiations
5.2. Mediation
5.3. Adjudication and arbitration


The list of the used literature sources

Appendix (Tables)


The post-Cold War change in political priorities brings with itself incompatibilities. Market competition and free trade have increased prosperity for some nations and groups but left others behind. Peace and human rights do not always go hand in hand. Democratisation and increased popular participation in government can lead to minority rights abuses. Economic development and democratisation cannot always be achieved simultaneously; in the long run, these values may be reconcilable, but in the short run, they can generate tensions.

Conflicts around the world have not declined, despite the end of the Cold War. From 1989 through 1993, a total of 90 large and small-armed conflicts occurred. At any given time, the number of violent conflicts fluctuates around 50 each year.

That's why in the post cold-war era, it has become more important than ever that the three actors in conflict prevention and resolution - governments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and intergovernmental organisations - went hand in hand. The crucial lesson learned from the previous peace processes had been that there could be no peace without the participation and the will of the parties and the populations involved, for which participation of civil society was fundamental.

1. Conflict: issues and types

Any social change can lead to a conflict. And in order to understand how to warn and prevent it, and when it's already broken out, how to deal with it - we should clearly define a conflict itself: its type, the involved parties, possible impact on the human security and structural stability, etc.

1.1. Conflict issues

According to K.J.Holsti[1], we can denote the following 6 types of the conflicts:

1. Limited territorial conflicts, where there are incompatible positions with reference to possession of a specific piece of territory or to rights enjoyed by one state in such as Israel's conquest of the Golan Heights and the Sinai peninsula in 1967, is fairly common. The issue of sovereignty over ethnic minorities is often related to the claim by one state to control territory held by another and, therefore, will also be classifies under the limited territorial conflict. Recent examples include a limited Ugandan invasion of Tanzania in 1978 to fulfil; a territorial claim; Somalia's 1978 "war of liberation" in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, claimed on historical grounds and on the fact that the region was populated by ethnic Somalis; and the Iraqi attack on Iran in 1980, with the objective of establishing full Iraqi authority over the commercially and strategically important Shatt-al-Arab waterway dividing the two countries.
2. Conflicts concerned primarily with the composition of a government. These types of conflict often contain strong ideological overtones; the purpose is to topple one regime and install in its place a government more favourably disposed to the interests of the intervening party. Examples would include the American efforts to "destabilise" the socialist Allende regime in Chile, 1970-1973; the Warsaw Pact's invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 to restore to authority the orthodox communists who had been replaced by the social reformers led by Alexander Dubček; and Tanzania's invasion of Uganda in 1979 to drive out Idi Amin, whose tyrannical regime had been denounced throughout the world as genocide.
3. National honour conflicts, in which governments undertake military threats or actions to vindicate some alleged wrongdoings. States may escalate some relatively minor incident into a full-scale crisis. The Greek invasion of Bulgaria in 1925, arising out of a border incident involving the killing of two Greek frontier guards, is one example. China's "punishment" of Vietnam through limited military operations in 1979 is another.
4. Regional imperialism, in which one government seeks to destroy the independence of another state, usually for a combination of ideological, security, and commercial purposes. Nazi Germany's incorporation of Austria in 1938 would be placed in this category.
5. Liberation conflicts, or revolutionary wars fought by one state to "liberate" the people of another state, usually for ethnic or ideological reasons.
6. Conflicts arising from a government's objective of unifying a divided country. Vietnam is a prominent example.

Table 1 shows those incompatible positions in the fields of territorial jurisdiction; rights on territory, and control over ethnic minorities are a major source of international conflict. Ideological confrontations between the great powers concerning the composition of governments in small states remain a hallmark of the cold war, as were the conflicts over German, Korean, and Vietnamese reunification. On the other hand, the blatant, unlimited imperialism typical of the foreign policies of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Japan during the 1930s is not to be found in the post-war period.

Incompatibilities can be seen in changes in objective circumstances—a lowered standard of living; demographic changes or population movements; technological changes that alter communications, material capacities, weaponry and relative power. Subjective changes can also generate conflict through, for instance, newly felt social resentments or a rising new nationalist ideology; these subjectively felt changes can arise whether or not objective changes have occurred. The parties’ emotional states and mental outlooks influence conflict. Time is a factor as well: observers note that with time, a conflict’s subjective content gains importance as its objective basis is obscured. Group or nation's objective circumstances do not themselves cause violent conflicts. Conflicts only arise out of these conditions—or changes in them—when it is perceived that interests are threatened by some other party.

1.2. Conflict types

Latent conflict . Sometimes an observer may believe that parties’ interests are incompatible but the respective parties are not aware of these incompatibilities. This may be caused by self-delusion, rationalisation, lack of knowledge, or suppressed information. Conflicts become manifest when these unacknowledged contrary interests become conscious and voiced.

Peaceful conflicts are handled according to regulated mechanisms to pursue competing interests. Various factors regulate conflict: national constitutions and laws, family and clan structures, court systems, Robert’s Rules of Order, the Law of the Sea, religious codes, habits of decorum, debate and discourse, among other mechanisms. Elections are a classic way that conflicts can be addressed peacefully.

Peaceful conflict resolution mechanisms can be traditional or modern, local, national, or international. Such mechanisms operate effectively in the regions and communities around the world called "zones of peace," generally keeping these areas’ social and international conflicts from becoming destructive and violent.

Violent conflict . Conflicts can become violent when parties go beyond seeking to attain their goals peacefully, and try to dominate or destroy the opposing parties’ ability to pursue their own interests. Recent research shows that violent conflicts—rebellion, inter-communal violence, and civil war—account for less than one percent of potential conflicts in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa and the former republics of the Soviet Union.

2. The Reasons for National Conflicts appearing after the Cold War

With the end of the Cold War, as at the end of both world wars, there has been a break-up of the Soviet Union Empire and the struggle of ethnic nationalities to establish themselves as sovereign nation-states (Czech, Croat, Slovak, Macedonian, etc.). Initially, this new birth of nations was generally greeted by the West as part of the progressive struggle against Communism and building in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union new, free, self-determined and capitalist nation-states. The early enthusiasm for the "parade of sovereignties" of 1990-91 was part of the initial euphoria over the victory of the United States in the Cold War: with the fall of communism in Europe, a new Liberal internationalism, backed by revitalised UN collective security on the Gulf War model, would fulfil in the East what it had presumably already achieved in the West. This is part of "New International Order".

According to William Pfaff[2], this new order implicated also in itself new danger. He warned that America might misunderstand once again the new conflicts of post-communism and the post Cold-War era in Europe, and in misunderstanding, would bring greater harm than good in its attempts at conflict solving. Pfaff also argues that European thoughts, assumptions, imaginations, qualities, ambitions, beliefs, understanding of classes, races and their relations, the alternatives to democracy (unimaginable to Americans) are not American.

Moreover, despite the emergence of some liberal elité in Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the successor states of the former Soviet Union, the crucial notion of citizenship is till defined in ethnic terms, which challenges any strictly liberal American approach to settlement of ethnic conflict, either for minorities within state borders or between neighbouring states. Because identity in these Eastern European and Balkan states is ethnic and therefore exclusive it is compromised if equal standing is accorded other nationalities within a country's borders. At the same time the frontiers between exclusive national groups within a country are usually indistinct or disputed, with different nationalities intermingled: hence today's ethnic wars.


[1] K.J.Holsti, International Politics: A Framework for Analysis, 5th edition (Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey), 1988, p. 400

[2] Sean Byrne and Cynthis L.Irvin, Reconcilable Differences - Turning points in ethno-political conflict (Kumarian Press, 2000), p. 27

Excerpt out of 23 pages


National Conflicts: Management and Prevention
Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg
Sociology of Development
2.0 (B)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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540 KB
double spaced
National, Conflicts, Management, Prevention, Sociology, Development
Quote paper
Nataliya Gudz (Author), 2003, National Conflicts: Management and Prevention, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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