Conflict management and resolution are processes for dealing with discord or facilitating peaceful and satisfactory cessations to conflict, and even potentially its transformation. Ideas and actions about how disputes are handled within various historical, geographic, political, economic, and cultural contexts and structures come from a range of positions, people, and institutions, with some approaches having empirical, experiential, precedential, authoritative, or intuitive support. The aggregation, analysis, and dissemination of these processes have led to the development of related fields within peace and conflict studies. Identified approaches to conflict management and resolution include, but are not limited to, alternative dispute resolution (negotiation, facilitation, mediation, case analysis, early neutral evaluation, conciliation, and arbitration), peacebuilding, and diplomacy. As an interdisciplinary field, scholarship is drawn from a broad range of academic disciplines, including social psychology, law, economics, and political science. These theories and processes are often systematically designed toward specific ends (e.g., management, analysis, resolution, transformation) and get applied at the individual, community, institutional, regional, state, and/or international levels. Through an analysis of the extant African studies resources focusing on conflict management and resolution, emergent themes fall into two broad categories: applied mechanisms of conflict management and resolution, and conflict issues affecting the continent. The African continent has seen its fair share of violent and intractable conflicts, both intra- and interstate. From the Arab Spring in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya beginning in 2010 to the Niger Delta conflict and Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria, Kenyan presidential election violence, or South African water shortages, conflict and the need for its management, analysis, and resolution are abundant. Engagement (not isolation) and active dialogue, collaboration, and conflict sensitivity (i.e., do no harm) are essential keys to studying, managing, resolving, and transforming the diverse range of conflict situations found throughout Africa. External, internal (i.e., indigenous or localized), and hybrid models can open and sustain pathways to peace. Many scholars now argue that conflict management, analysis, and resolution must address root causes, take an interdisciplinary approach, not conflate conflict and violence, use multiscalar perspectives (i.e., individual, group, state, interstate), and employ multicultural sensitivities attuned to cultural contexts and global sources of conflict. Scholars and practitioners must investigate and better understand the origins, causes, resolution, and consequences of conflicts in contemporary Africa in relation to their postcolonial contexts. Concerns include ethnic, religious, political, and environmental conflict factors, as well as demographic pressures. The stakeholder roles in post-conflict reconciliation and reconstruction should also be determined and continually evaluated to ensure effectiveness in African conflicts.
Conflict management and resolution is both a practice-oriented and a theoretically driven field, with significant scholarship such as Ramsbotham, et al. 2011 and other sources building empirical and semi-transportable models and frameworks based on contextually embedded cases and comparative studies. The 1980s saw a long-emerging field codify with works like Burton and Sandole 1986, which proposed a “generic theory” of conflict resolution that was inclusive-oriented to all stakeholders, while Sandole and Sandole-Staroste 1987 took on issues of scale in conflict management from the interpersonal to the international, and how they relate to each other. Another significant step forward for conflict resolution thinking and practice was the incorporation of culture and context in Avruch 1998. Avruch’s anthropological training primed his thinking about how engaging with the local contexts, symbolic patterns, and broader human conditions were necessary if better understandings about how conflict is resolved and transformed were to be found. Published by SAGE, Bercovitch, et al. 2008 is a compendium that advanced and expanded the field of conflict resolution through innovative insights and the proposition of future directions in the field. Published that same year, Nhema and Zeleza 2008 is a conflict management and resolution collection focused solely on the African context. The contributors argued that durable solutions to peace and security dilemmas on the continent needed to embrace the reciprocal nature of peace and development cycles, with each impacting the other in significant ways; in other words, without good governance, no development; and without development, no good governance. After decades of empirical research and lessons learned in conflict management and resolution being tested around the world, Jeong 2009 and Hansen 2013 are practitioner-friendly works that present best practices in preventing, managing, and resolving various types of conflicts using a proposed toolkit that includes negotiation, mediation, facilitation, and reconciliation. Jeong 2017 goes further to recognize the importance of peace studies in improving human well-being by connecting conflict studies with peace studies.
Avruch, Kevin. Culture and Conflict Resolution. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1998.
This book was the first to insist that culture matters when facilitating an end to conflict. Culture indicates historical and contemporaneous intersections of meaning and meaningfulness for local actors while analysts work to recognize unified patterns within these discrete struggles. Culture requires both broad and restrictive forms of conflict resolution to engage local contexts and larger swaths of humanity and the human condition.
Bercovitch, Jacob, Victor Kremenyuk, and I. William Zartman, eds. The SAGE Handbook of Conflict Resolution. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2008.
An anthology of conceptual, methodological, and substantive elements of conflict resolution commissioned by household names in conflict resolution, loaded into thirty-five compelling chapters by well-known contributors. The volume is full of deep insights, important analyses, compelling cases, and informed speculation. Contributors present a knowledgeable discussion of the current state-of-affairs, and a prediction of where the field is going. A great companion for scholars, researchers, and practitioners.
Burton, John W., and Dennis J. D. Sandole. “Generic Theory: The Basis of Conflict Resolution.” Negotiation Journal 2.4 (1986): 333–344.
Burton and Sandole, two very popular names in the field of conflict resolution, were among the first to advance evidence and assert that the theory of conflict resolution should be treated as a generic theory that advances behavioral sciences. They suggested research and curriculum content for resolving conflicts inclusively, as opposed to power-based and authoritative approaches, making their work especially beneficial to academics.
Hansen, Toran. The Generalist Approach to Conflict Resolution: A Guidebook. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2013.
Draws on and outlines a generalist approach to conflict resolution for social work. Hansen uniquely contrasts generalist scholarship and practice against specialized ways of conducting conflict resolution. Especially designed to equip scholar-practitioners in conflict resolution.
Jeong, Ho-Won. Conflict Management and Resolution: An Introduction. New York: Routledge, 2009.
An examination of the best ways to prevent, manage, and resolve various types of conflicts, from interstate to intergroup, in a way that expands existing theories in conflict management and resolution. Equips scholars with theoretical knowledge, while at the same time improving practical skills in conflict management and resolution approaches—negotiation, mediation, facilitation, and reconciliation.
Jeong, Ho-Won. Peace and Conflict Studies: An Introduction. E-book. New York: Routledge, 2017.
This highly cited book is arguably the most authoritative introduction to the field of conflict and peace studies since the end of the Cold War. While upholding peace as indispensable in the betterment of human well-being and posterity, Jeong not only analyzes the sources of violence and conflict, but also demonstrates how to manage and prevent them. The book discusses a variety of themes, including, inter alia, alternative security policies, methods of peaceful settlement, human rights, self-determination, environmental politics, global governance and nonviolence. First published in 2000 by Ashgate.
Nhema, Alfred, and Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, eds. The Resolution of African Conflicts: The Management of Conflict Resolution and Post-Conflict Reconstruction. Oxford: James Currey, 2008.
Analysts seek the causes of conflict to achieve peace and security in Africa. The peace-development cycle highlights barriers to both conflict resolution and the reconstruction of post-conflict societies. Theories and praxis must engage the reciprocal relationship between peace and development as co-requisites to durable solutions.
Ramsbotham, Oliver, Hugh Miall, and Tom Woodhouse. Contemporary Conflict Resolution: The Prevention, Management and Transformation of Deadly Conflicts. 3d ed. Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2011.
These renowned authors literally “wrote the book” on conflict resolution. This highly cited, fully revised and expanded work is a comprehensive look at the concept of conflict resolution and its foundations, including a treatment of preventing, containing, and ending violent conflict, with additional chapters on postwar reconstruction, peacebuilding, and reconciliation. There is also a theoretical overview and eight topical chapters.
Sandole, Dennis J. D., and Ingrid Sandole-Staroste, eds. Conflict Management and Problem Solving: Interpersonal to International Affairs. New York: New York University Press, 1987.
A unique perspective on conflict resolution through the interdisciplinary lenses of theorists, researchers, and practitioners, who explore constructive alternatives to the traditional approaches in dealing with conflict. Dissects violent conflicts, and their influences, that exist at various levels across the world, and ways to address them. Useful to all professionals and policymakers in the business of human relations.
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