Topics: Peace, Peace and conflict studies, Johan Galtung Pages: 46 (12141 words) Published: December 11, 2012

Introduction to Conflict Resolution: Concepts and Definitions

In this third edition of our book we bring the survey of the conflict resolution field up to date at the beginning of the second decade of the twenty-first century. Conflict resolution as a defined specialist field came of age in the post-Cold War era. It also found itself face to face with fundamental new challenges, many of which have come into even sharper focus since the first and second editions of this book.

Why a Third Edition?
The first edition of the book (1999) was written at a time when, despite setbacks, conflict resolution approaches in peacekeeping, peacemaking and peacebuilding were widely seen for the first time to be central in global politics in the context of what US President George Bush senior had (somewhat reluctantly) called a ‘new world order’. His successor, Bill Clinton, and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan both broadly subscribed to what we identify as the ‘cosmopolitan’ worldview shared by many if not most of the founders of the conflict resolution field. The aim of the first edition of the book was to explain what this meant. The second edition (2005) coincided with the apogee of the ‘neo-con’ reaction, associated particularly with the administration of President George W. Bush junior. The ‘global war on terror’ had come to dominate the stage, and conflict resolution appeared to have been marginalized and its cosmopolitan values either dismissed or co-opted and discredited. The aim of the second edition was to rescue the conflict resolution enterprise from this entanglement, and to reassert its distinctive nature and contribution in the first decade of the twenty-first century. This third edition (2011) appears at a particularly uncertain moment in world history, with the promise of a new US administration once again ready to embrace conflict resolution approaches in wider foreign policy formulation, but with mounting challenges from rising non-western powers (notably China), increasingly complex links between state failure and international terrorism, a severely shaken global economy, and embroilment in Afghanistan and Iraq continuing to wreak a fierce backlash against the whole concept of a ‘liberal peace’ – in which conflict resolution is often seen to be implicated. The aim of the third edition is to clarify the role of conflict resolution at the beginning of the second decade of the century and to redefine its cosmopolitan values in this 3

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Contemporary Conflict Resolution

uncertain and complex environment. Our central argument is that systemic complexity of this kind may make conflict resolution more difficult, but for the same reason renders it all the more relevant and urgent. As a defined field of study, conflict resolution started in the 1950s and 1960s. This was at the height of the Cold War, when the development of nuclear weapons and the conflict between the superpowers seemed to threaten human survival. A group of pioneers from different disciplines saw the value of studying conflict as a general phenomenon, with similar properties whether it occurs in international relations, domestic politics, industrial relations, communities or families or between individuals. They saw the potential of applying approaches that were evolving in industrial relations and community mediation settings to conflicts in general, including civil and international conflicts. A handful of people in North America and Europe began to establish research groups to develop these new ideas. They were not taken very seriously. The international relations profession had its own categories for understanding international conflict and did not welcome the interlopers. Nor was the combination of analysis and practice implicit in the new ideas easy to reconcile with established scholarly institutions or the traditions of practitioners such as diplomats and politicians. Nevertheless, the new ideas...
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