What Is International Conflict Resolution?

Pablo Garcia

International conflict resolution is an attempt to prevent or resolve armed conflicts between States or within States through mediation. Governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), or inter-governmental bodies like the United Nations (UN) carry out these attempts at mediation. Mediation efforts can also include aiding in post-conflict reconciliation, reconstruction, and internal stability.

The United Nations, which is headquartered in New York City, was designed as a forum where international conflicts could be resolved.
The United Nations, which is headquartered in New York City, was designed as a forum where international conflicts could be resolved.

Conflicts within and between States can arise from ethnic strife, religious conflicts, human rights violations, and competition for resources. They may also stem from fear of aggression, weakness of institutions, or the spread of political revolution. Mediation of these conflicts requires knowledge of the history and sources of the conflict and a commitment to resolving it through peaceful means.

International conflict resolution typically involves humanitarian aid.
International conflict resolution typically involves humanitarian aid.

The UN promotes international conflict resolution through UN resolutions, which are public appeals from the international community for the parties to resolve the matter peacefully. UN resolutions may also call for a ceasefire between combatants and a withdrawal to internationally recognized boundaries. Disputants can use the services of the UN Secretary General for communication between the adversaries, to form fact-finding missions regarding the conflict, and to provide observers to monitor ceasefire agreements. The parties in conflict may also request the Secretary General to act as mediator of the dispute.

The UN philosophy of peace is that it includes efforts to eliminate poverty and the reinforcement of democratic institutions. Resolution of international conflict must also include the issues of human rights and humanitarian relief. UN doctrine holds that respect for human rights is the essential condition for establishing peace.

NGOs perform vital international conflict resolution services. Because they are non-profit organizations not affiliated with any State’s political or foreign policy agenda, they are sometimes more trusted as mediators than are representatives of a particular State. NGOs can often act more swiftly than States or inter-governmental organizations and start a dialogue between the hostile parties until official diplomacy can take place.

The mediation services of NGOs like the Carter Foundation, headed by former US President Jimmy Carter, continue beyond the conflict stage. They involve efforts at overseeing agreements reached through mediation to end the conflict and meaningful post-conflict reconciliation. Many NGO’s continually monitor potential conflict areas and work to prevent armed aggression from erupting.

The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) is a non-partisan national institute funded by Congress. Like NGOs, USIP is committed to the work of international conflict resolution. It offers mediation services to disputing nations. Its work also extends to post-conflict issues, such as maintaining stability and increasing the conflict management capacity of the disputants. Post-conflict stability efforts can include reconstruction work, planning for rebuilding schools and institutions, and restoring necessities such as water and power.

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