Ways to Prevent and Resolve Violent Conflict

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Ways to Prevent and Resolve Violent Conflict

To prevent and resolve violent conflict we must understand the sources and logic

of war. Two schools of thought currently dominate thinking on the causes of

contemporary conflict. The first sees violence as a response to a range of

grievances including systematic discrimination and human rights violations,

inequalities in wealth and political power, or a scarcity of resources,

particularly where these fall along existing social cleavages such as ethnicity

or religion. The second characterizes war as irrational either originating in

"ancient hatreds," causing a needless disruption along the normal path to

development, or simply as "mindless violence." These schools recognize that

leadership can play an important role in stoking the embers of conflict, but

both nevertheless see the principal dynamics of conflict resulting from popular

sentiment. But what if the principal motive behind conflict is greed not

grievance? Profit rather than political power seems to be a growing motivation

for violence in civil wars.

If economic rationales do play a major role in the motivations of the warring

factions, this represents a profound challenge to both prevailing schools of

thought. If we recognize that the longevity of conflict can be the result not of

anarchy but of economic gain, then there may be method to the perceived madness

after all. For those that see grievance or a fundamental conflict of interest at

the root of violent conflict the challenge is more profound. If economic gain is

a prominent motivation for armed conflict, the very basis for the resolution of

violent conflict through negotiation is undermined and the search for a

political settlement may be fut...

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