Conflict prevention

A policy in search of a theory or a theory in search of a policy?

Authored by: David Carment , Martin Fischer

Routledge Handbook of Ethnic Conflict

Print publication date:  October  2010
Online publication date:  October  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415476256
eBook ISBN: 9780203845493
Adobe ISBN: 9781136927577


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The claim that preventive statecraft is not just a noble idea but a viable, real world strategy has four principal bases. They are: the purposiveness of conflict interactions, the availability of early warning, opportunities for meaningful response strategies, and the unavoidability of international action.

(Jentleson 2003) Written in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War, Jentleson’s words ring true today just as they did when policy makers were faced with an unprecedented rise in ethnic conflict around the globe. Through an evaluation of both theory and policy, this chapter advances our understanding of why prevention remains, as Jentleson argues, both necessary and possible but also very difficult. Apart from this introduction, the chapter unfolds in five sections. In the first section, we discuss the conceptual aspects of prevention theory and policy. In the second section we engage in a broad discussion of ethnic conflict, and how its analysis can contribute to effective structural prevention. In the third section, supported by evidence from recent preventive activities by regional organizations and civil society, we assess conflict prevention policy in its operational guise, thus identifying key contributions to the field and opportunities for innovation. We conclude with some direction for future research and implications for policy.

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