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          Conflict is as natural as the concept of peace contrary to the global or universal conception. Africans have particular ways of conceptualizing conflict. Traditional definitions of conflict regard it as “a struggle over values and claims to scarce status, power and resources in which the aims of the opponents are to neutralize, injure or eliminate their rivals” (Onigun Otite & Albert, 2001). However, conflict may generally exist wherever or whenever incompatible activities occur and may result in “win-lose character. The resolution, transformation and management of conflict may also produce a win-win situation.

          In a recent comprehensive review on the scientific study of conflict and war, Bremer  (1993) summarizes what is known about these phenomena and, traces the parameters of the ‘mental model’ of conflict.  Bremer’s catalogue of research findings, surveying hundreds of studies, is quite impressive.  It is also, alas, a reminder of how little we know about conflict termination and conflict management. The causes, characteristics and consequences, as well as the dynamics of conflict, and the various modes of transition from conflict formation to maturation are well represented in a myriad of studies. The final phase of the process, that of  conflict termination, has been all but neglected.

          At no time has the study of conflict termination faced such challenges, nor been so relevant to policy-makers, as it has since the end of the Cold War.  The growing number of new forms of conflict (eg. ethnic, religious, etc.), the persistence of some armed conflicts (eg. Korea, India-Pakistan,  Arab-Israeli), and the growing cooperation between the major powers, have all helped to affirm global interest in dealing with, or responding to, conflict.  Responses to conflict are not pre-determined; parties may respond to conflict in a variety of ways ranging from unilateral methods to multilateral measures (Fogg, 1985).  Here we wish to articulate the components of a conceptual framework of multilateral conflict management, and examine the effects of a particular kind of conflict on this strategy.  The class of conflicts we wish to examine is that of intractable or enduring conflict, and the specific conflict management strategy is that of mediation.

International conflict can not be viewed as a unitary phenomenon.  They have different dimensions and show different degrees of amenability to conflict management.  Common strategies or approaches that might be applicable in some conflicts, may be quite inapplicable in others. 

          If we are to bridge the gap between the scholarly community and policy-makers, we should, at the very least, suggest prescriptions regarding the efficacy of different methods and strategies of conflict management, and how they may be used to affect the termination of enduring or intractable conflicts.  Learning how to deal with the most difficult and persistent conflicts can take us a long way toward understanding the dynamics of conflict management in all other conflicts.

          Edward Azar (1986) first drew attention to the special features of what he termed protracted conflicts.  One of the defining characteristics of these conflicts was the difficulty of managing them peacefully.  Kriesberg (1993) talks about intractable conflicts which often sink into self-perpetuating violent antagonisms, and resit any technique of negotiation or mediation, or indeed other methods of peaceful management.  More recently the scholarly literature emphasized the fact that some conflicts are connected over time through high intensity, repeated cycles of violence, and general resistance to conflict management by invoking the concept of enduring conflicts (e.g. Goertz and Diehl, 1993).

          Some analysts (e.g. Waltz, 1979) conceive of all interstate conflict as being essentially the result of one cause only (i.e. the structure of the system), and as exhibiting similar patterns irrespective of the actors involved or the life cycle of the conflict.  We believe that there are fundamental differences between interstate conflicts; differences that may be expressed in terms of causes, issues, participants, and the history, or life-cycle, of a conflict.  Each of these differences may have prescriptive consequences for international conflict management.  Little work, however, has been done on how these features of a conflict affect its termination.  Here we wish to examine conflict management in the context that poses the greatest intellectual and practical obstacle; that of intractable or enduring conflicts.

          To talk about enduring or intractable conflict implies a concern with the longitudinal and dynamic aspects of a relationship.  At its simplest the concept is no more than a belated recognition  by scholars  that conflicts do not manifest themselves in a series of  single, unrelated episodes. Conflicts have a past (which may cast a heavy shadow on the parties), a present context, and presumably a future of some sort.   States involved in an intractable conflict learn to use coercive means, and are prepared to do so in a future conflict.  An intractable or enduring conflict is thus a process of competitive relationships that extend over a period of time, and involves hostile perceptions and occasional military actions.  The term itself acts as an integrating concept connoting a competitive social process where states become enmeshed in a web of negative interactions and hostile orientations.  This pattern is repeated, indeed worsened, every so often, with the actors involved unable to curb, or manage, the escalation of their relationships.

          Gochman and Maoz (1984) first drew attention to the presence of these conflicts.  Their work demonstrated empirically how a relatively small number of states have been involved in a disproportionately large number of militarized disputes.  Furthermore, they showed that this was a pattern that was likely to repeat itself.  Gochman and Maoz define these conflict-prone states as ‘enduring rivals’, and their conflict as an ‘enduring conflict’. These enduring conflicts account for a large percentage of all militarized disputes – about 45% of all militarized disputes between 1816-1986 took place between such rivals (Bremmer, 1992; Goertz & Diehl, 1992).  Half the wars since 1816 occurred between enduring rivals.  The likelihood of a military dispute escalating to a full scale war is twice that of a non-enduring conflict.  Whatever enduring conflicts may be, they appear prima facie to be very different from other conflicts, and should be viewed, wherever possible, within a different theoretical context.

          The suggestion here is that it makes sense to move from an episodic approach, and study conflicts, and conflict management, from a historical dimension, where prior interactions affect present behavior.  Shifting the unit of analysis from a single conflict to a long-term relationship, may have serious implications for the way we approach and manage conflicts.  We use the historical relationship of a conflict as one of our independent, contextual variables that may explain their course and outcome.


          The implications of an enduring rivalry for the study of conflict management are potentially numerous, though we have little systematic evidence that identifies trends or the effectiveness of different conflict management efforts.  Conflict management is widely understood to be an attempt by actors involved in conflict to reduce the level of hostility and generate some order in their relations.  Successful conflict management may lead to (a) a complete resolution of the issues in conflict (a change in behavior and attitudes), or as is more common in international relations, to (b) an acceptable settlement, ceasefire or partial agreement.

          Either way, conflict management connotes a mechanism that is concerned with defining (a) a conflict as ended (at least temporarily), and (b) deciding on the distribution of values and resources.  To that extent conflict management is a rational and conscious decisional process whereby parties to a conflict, with or without the aid of outsiders, take steps to transform, deescalate or terminate a conflict in a mutually acceptable way.  This is the case with intractable or other conflicts.

          The full range of methods and instruments that constitute conflict management is quite wide (see Fogg, 1985).  It varies from coercive measures, through legal processes to third party intervention and multilateral conferences.  For analytical purposes it is useful to divide all these methods to (a) unilateral methods (e.g. one-party threats), (b) bilateral methods (e.g. bargaining and negotiation, deterrence), and (c) multilateral methods (e.g. third party intervention).  Of particular interest would be the role of factors that affect the choice of a response, or an approach, to conflict, and how in particular certain conditions, such as being in an enduring conflict, and all that it implies, impact on the choice of conflict management method or its outcome.

          Factors affecting the course of a conflict or the manner of its management are numerous.  They involve the manner of interdependence, type of actors, and kinds of issues.  For our purposes these factors are best conceptualized as (a) contextual factors, and (b) behavioral factors.  Let us examine each set in brief.

Contextual factors that affect international conflict management include i) the character of the international system, ii) the nature of a conflict, and iii) the internal characteristics of the states involved.  The character of the international system affects the expectations of states, and the strategies they may use to break out of a conflict (Miller, 1995).  Features such as polarity of the international system, patterns of alignments, and distribution of power capabilities are all associated with different approaches to conflict (see Gochman, 1993).  A bipolar international environment, for instance, is likely to be more stable than a multipolar system (Waltz, 1979) in encouraging a balance between caution and resolve in responding to conflicts.  The termination of intractable conflicts, can be explicitly linked to the nature of the international environment in which they occur (e.g. Goertz and Diehl, 1995).

          The nature of a conflict or the characteristics of the issues that are its focus, are clearly crucial in determining how it is managed (Diehl, 1992).  Certain issues such as beliefs, core values and territorial integrity have a high saliency, and are apt to encourage decision makers to accept higher levels of costs.  This makes it much more difficult to manage such conflicts through traditional diplomatic methods (Snyder and Diesing, 1977).  Conflicts over salient issues are likely to be long-lasting and to entail the use of coercive methods as a way of reaching an outcome.  Other aspects such as the number of issues in conflict, the rigidity with which they are perceived, whether they relate to tangible interests (e.g. resource conflict) or intangible ones (e.g. conflict over values) may also affect both the duration as well as method of termination (Deutsch, 1994).

          The third contextual dimension that affects conflict management is that of the internal characteristics of the actors involved.  This refers to how certain structural properties of states affect their predisposition to engage in coercive or other forms of conflict management.  The nature of the polity has attracted the most attention recently (Maoz and Russett, 1992;  Ember, Ember and Russett, 1992; Dixon, 1993).  Here the argument is that democratic states are more inclined to use peaceful methods of conflict management (because of internal norms, liberal experience or electoral constraints), whereas non-democratic states are more likely to utilize coercive methods of management.

          Another factor here relates to the power capabilities of states.  Although there is not much empirical evidence to suggest a strong relationship, power capabilities can be linked to different conflict management behavior (e.g. a conflict between two equally strong countries may be prolonged because both have the material and human resources to carry on, and the willingness to tolerate high costs).  All these contextual factors affect directly the disposition to engage in different forms of conflict management, and how a conflict will terminate.

          The effects of some contextual factors on the origin, character and evolution of a conflict has been documented quite extensively (see Stoll, 1993 for a review).  Some studies have examined more specifically their effect on conflict management.  A number of propositions linking for instance the duration, intensity, fatalities and issue prominence to effective mediations (Bercovitch, 1989; Bercovitch & Langley, 1993) received considerable theoretical and empirical support.  Other studies linked the parties’ internal characteristics (Gregory, 1994) or power capabilities between them (Bercovitch, 1985) to different forms of conflict management by third parties.

          But what of the effect on conflict management of the second dimension, that comprising behavioral elements?  What is the relevance of past interactions and how does previous behavior affect current conflict management?  It is equally plausible to argue that experience conflict experience may dampen, or heighten, parties’ disposition to rely on a particular method of conflict management.  When heavy losses had been experienced during previous conflict behavior, lessons may be drawn by each state regarding the efficacy of coercion as a way of dealing with conflict.  If, however, coercive methods were successful in achieving basic objectives in the past, there is good reason to believe that decision makers may find it an attractive option in their present conflict.

          States in an enduring conflict are forced to consider  whether to escalate a conflict or not, which conflict management method to use, and whether or not to reciprocate in kind?  What are the consequences for conflict management of being in a “serial confrontation”? (Thompson, 1995).  Does prolonged experience of conflict elicit a preference for a particular method of conflict management, or does this experience produce so much ‘distortion’, stress and cognitive rigidity, that the states involved learn little from their past experience, and use the same old methods, repeated over time, unproductively?  This is the pattern of relationship that we wish to examine.

          The literature on the termination or management of enduring conflict is largely notable for its brevity and indirectness.  Deutsch (1973; 1994) claims that states involved in a negative interdependence, as states in an enduring conflict undoubtedly are, tend to use coercion to manage their conflicts.  Leng (1983) demonstrated empirically that states in repeated conflicts develop a power orientation and use increasingly more coercive methods of dealing with their conflict with each successive flare up.  Neither the attitudes, nor the conflict management behavior of enduring states are presumed to change much.  Enduring conflicts appear to take a life of their own. Another body of literature, however, suggests that not only do states learn, but under certain conditions they can forget their earlier hostile interactions and embrace a cooperative orientation (Mor & Maoz, 1996).


1.To examine the methods or approaches to peace building in international relation.

2. To examine traditional and emerging strategies for international conflict resolution.

3. To examine the tools for conflict and conflictb resolution in international relation.

4. To identfy the importance of conflict resolution.


1. What are the approaches to peace building in international relation?

2. Are there traditional and emerging strategies for international conflict resolution?

3. What are the tools for conflict and conflictb resolution in international relation?

4. Is conflict resolution important?


H0: There are no approaches to peace building in international relation.

H1: There are approaches to peace building in international relation.

H0: The best tool for conflict and conflictb resolution in international relation is media.

H1: The best tool for conflict and conflictb resolution in international relation is negotiation?

H0: Conflict resolution important is not important.

H1: Conflict resolution important is important.


This scope of this research work is  conflict and conflictb resolution in international relation.


Despite the limited scope of this study certain constraints were encountered during the research of this project.  Some of the constraints experienced by the researcher were given below:

i.       time: This was a major constraint on the researcher during the period of the work. Considering the limited time given for this study, there was not much time to give this research the needed attention.

ii.      Finance: Owing to the financial difficulty prevalent in the country and it’s resultant prices of commodities, transportation fares, research materials etc. The researcher did not find it easy meeting all his financial obligations.

iii.     Information Constraints: Nigerian researchers have never had it easy when it comes to obtaining necessary information relevant to their area of study from private business organization and even government agencies.  People find it difficult to reveal their internal operations. The primary information was collected through face-to-face interview getting the published materials on this topic meant going from one library to other which was not easy. Although these problems placed limitations on the study,  but it did not prevent the researcher from carrying out a detailed and comprehensive research work on the subject matter.


Conflict: Conflicts is defined  as people striving for their own preferred outcome, which, if attained, prevent others from achieving preferred outcome, resulting in hostility and breakdown in human relations. Conflict is seen as a breakdown in the standard mechanisms of decision making, so that an individual or group experiences difficulty in selecting an alternative. This is a narrow conceptualization of conflict and is not very useful for research purposes. On the broad side,

Conflict Resolution:  Miller (2003) posits that conflict resolution is “a variety of approaches

aimed at terminating conflicts through the constructive solving of problems,

distinct from management or transformation of conflict” (p. 8). For Mial and

Wood House (2001), by conflict resolution, it is expected that the deep

rooted sources of conflict are addressed and resolved, and behaviour is no

longer violent, nor are attitude hostile any longer, while structure of the

conflict has been changed.

Mediation: This is seen and described as the voluntary, informal, nonbinding process undertaken by an external party that fosters the settlement of differences or demands between directly interested parties.

Adjudication In traditional  Nigerian society, adjudication involves bringing all disputants in the conflict to a meeting usually in the chambers or compounds of family heads, quarter heads and palace court as the case maybe.


          This was the most significant aspect of conflict resolution. It is the end product of adjudication. After the disputants have been persuaded to end the dispute, peace was restored.

Negotiation:  Negotiation, “the secret is to harmonize the interests of the parties concerned”. Thus, even when the conflict involves a member against his or her society, there is an emphasis on recuperation and reinsertion of errant member back into its place in society.


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