Contemporary Conflict Resolution

alt H. Miall, O. Ramsbotham
Published by: T. Woodhouse: Polity Press, 1999
ISBN: 10: 0745632130 13: 978-0745632131

Reviewed by: Roland Henwood, lecturer at the Department of Political Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa.
In Conflict Trends Issue 3 of 2000

The authors of Contemporary Conflict Resolution explained that it was written to meet the need for a single and comprehensive survey on contemporary conflict resolution. They also felt the book would make a valuable contribution to the management of post-Cold War conflicts. The target audience includes researchers, students, policy-makers, practitioners, as well as those involved in conflict resolution.

Chapter one gives a brief background into the manifestation of conflict around the world. This is done by way of an introduction to conflict resolution. The chapter also includes statistics of deadly quarrels, as well as detailed information regarding conflict resolution and the international community.

Chapter two deals with the foundations, constructions and reconstructions of conflict resolution. This is a very important chapter for those with an interest in the study of conflict, as it explains the development of conflict studies in terms of four different phases. There are the Precursors and Foundations (1950’s & 1960’s) – which explain the establishment of peace and conflict research with reference to exponents such as Kenneth Boulding, Johan Galtung and John Burton; there are the Constructions (1970’s & 1980’s) – which explain the development of problem-solving approaches to conflict based on the work of the Harvard School, Adam Curle and Elise Boulding; and finally, there are the Reconstructions (1990’s) – which explain some of the criticisms (such as culture and gender) and new developments (such as virtual diplomacy) in the field of conflict resolution.

The content of chapter three gives an overview of theories and frameworks, which enables the reader to understand contemporary conflict including the sources of contemporary international- social conflict, with conflict tracking and mapping.

Chapter four focuses on the prevention of conflict. This chapter includes sections on the causes and preventors of war, with special attention being paid to interstate and non-interstate war.

The case studies in this chapter include Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo. Working in war zones is the focus of chapter five. In this chapter, the problems and realities of war zones are explained, with reference to war economies and cultures of violence. The preparation of the ground for conflict resolution is also dealt with. The case study for this chapter is Rwanda.

Chapter six deals with the ending of violent conflict. Special attention is given to the challenges involved in ending violent conflict and war. South Africa, Israel-Palestine and Northern Ireland are the case studies discussed in this chapter.

Post-settlement peace-building is explained in chapter seven. The definition and challenges of post-settlement peace-building are discussed. Specific attention is given to the post-settlement peace-building standard operating procedures of the United Nations, and an evaluation of these procedures is offered.

Chapter eight takes the form of a conclusion, and focuses on the past and the future, as well as some of the pressing issues regarding the resolution of contemporary conflicts.

This is an excellent book for anyone with an interest in contemporary conflict resolution and is especially valuable for students new to the field of peace and conflict studies. The value lies in its overview of the history, development and theoretical frameworks applicable to peace and conflict studies. The emphasis on the resolution of conflict, and particularly on peace-building, is important as it denotes some of the contemporary thinking on conflict resolution. The use of diverse case studies from more recent conflicts, also contributes to strengthening the focus and value of the book. The fact that examples are included of both successfully resolved and continuing conflicts, also enhances the value of the book, as it serves to underline the importance of the case studies and their relevance within the context of the theories and frameworks of conflict resolution in the post- Cold War world. Although this book is not all-inclusive, it contains enough of the more substantive and important aspects of peace and conflict studies for it to be recommended to anyone with an interest in conflict resolution.

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