Chapter 3: Approaches to conflict resolution

Conflict dynamics

It is not easy to categorize literature, as many authors use all the approaches mentioned. However, there may be more elements of a certain approach in some: Jakob Bercovitch (ed.) 1996. Resolving International Conflicts: The Theory and Practice of Mediation. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner. In this work, Bercovitch brings together a number of contributions on mediation, illustrating the many ways in which third parties can act in different types of conflicts. The focus is on international conflicts.

Ervin Staub 1989. The Roots of Evil: The Origins of Genocide and Other Group Violence. New York: Cambridge University Press gives an insightful analysis of genocide. In this work, he describes the origins of such one-sided violence in four cases demonstrating both the dynamics between perpetrators and victims and the role of the bystanders.

Basic needs

E. Azar and J. Burton 1986. International Conflict Resolution: Theory and Practice. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner and J. Burton 1990. Conflict: Resolution and Provention. London: Macmillan. These two books outline the framework of basic needs and how it relates to conflict resolution as well as conflict prevention. Burton argues for early action promoting the term ‘provention’.

A different approach stems from works on ‘greed’: Mats Berdal and David M. Malone 2000. Greed and Grievance. Economic Agendas in Civil Wars. Colorado: Lynne Rienner, and P. Paul Collier, V.L. Elliott, H. Hegre, A. Hoeffler, M. Reynal-Querol and N. Sambanis 2003. Breaking the Conflict Trap. Civil War and Development Policy. Washington, DC: The World Bank. In a series of case studies and with the help of statistical analysis these two books specify the economic factors that may lead to civil war. The ‘greed’ of actors appears more important than ‘grievances’ felt by marginalized groups. The debate has continued and is summarized in the following works: K. Ballentine and J. Sherman 2003. The Political Economy of Armed Conflict: Beyond Greed and Grievance. New York: International Peace Academy and P. Wallensteen 2014. ‘Theoretical Developments in Understanding the Origins of Civil War’, in E. Newman and K. DeRouen, Jr. (eds.) Routledge Handbook of Civil Wars, Routledge, Chapter 2, pp. 13–27.

Rational calculations

I William Zartman (ed.) 1995a. Elusive Peace. Negotiating an End to Civil Wars. Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, brings together a number of contributions demonstrating the possibilities of ending civil wars at particular rational moments that he terms ‘ripe’ and ‘hurting’ stalemates. This has been subject to a number of empirical works. Examples are Jannie Lilja 2011. ‘Ripening Within? Strategies Used by Rebel Negotiators to End Ethnic War’, Negotiation Journal, 27 (3, July): 311–42, Joakim Kreutz 2012. ‘From Tremors to Talks: Do Natural Disasters Produce Ripe Moments for Resolving Separatist Conflicts?’ International Interactions, 38 (4): 482–502 and Aytekin Cantekin 2016 ‘Ripeness and Readiness Theories in International Conflict Resolution’, Journal of Mediation and Applied Conflict Analysis, 3 (2): 414–26.

Synthesizing conflict analysis

There are a few attempts at bringing data together with conflict theory, in line with what is attempted in this chapter. Valuable is, for instance, Jeong, Ho-Won 2008. Understanding Conflicts and Conflict Analysis. Sage. There are also learnings between different fields that can deepen our understanding of conflict and conflict resolution, notably Olga Stepanova, Merritt Polk and Hannah Saldert 2020. ‘Understanding Mechanisms of Conflict Resolution Beyond Collaboration: An Interdisciplinary Typology of Knowledge Types and Their Integration in Practice’, Sustainability Science, 15: 263–79.