- Isaiah 2:4
Violence prevention includes a wide range of policies and initiatives with the common goal of avoiding the violent escalation of a dispute. If we consider conflict as a dynamic process composed of alternate cycles of escalation and de-escalation, violence prevention finds its place right before the beginning of escalation, and also at the end of a phase of de-escalation. In the former, violence prevention is a short-term intervention to encourage a peaceful solution. In the latter, it is a prolonged initiative to stabilize and solidify a new peace agreement.
The activities that are considered to be part of violence prevention include:
The concept and practice of violence prevention have evolved from being focused almost exclusively on the short-term interventions of preventive diplomacy, to a new, more comprehensive approach that can be defined as structural prevention and includes long-term initiatives targeting the root causes of conflict.
Violence prevention re-emerged in the theoretical literature in the early 1990s, initially without significant practical application. It was presented as an official policy of the United Nations by then-Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, in his 1992 Agenda for Peace. The focus was on short-term preventive interventions. At about that time, the end of the Cold War had suggested that the international community could intervene flexibly and effectively to prevent the explosion of conflicts, an impression that was reinforced by subsequent failures to prevent violence in Yugoslavia and Rwanda. It was commonly believed that different behavior by neighboring countries, in the case of Yugoslavia, and a limited but robust military intervention in Rwanda, could have saved hundreds of thousands of lives. A subsequent successful U.N. deployment in Macedonia confirmed this idea.
Since then, the concept of violence prevention has developed further and moved its focus from preventive diplomacy, including a limited set of diplomatic or military initiatives, to more structural interventions. Academics and practitioners have stretched the concept to include, in addition to diplomacy and military operations, institution building, economic development, and grassroots community building. In the 2001 Report of the U.N. Secretary General on Prevention of Armed Conflict an "effective preventive strategy" is said to require "a comprehensive approach that encompasses both short-term and long-term political, diplomatic, humanitarian, human rights, developmental, institutional, and other measures taken by the international community, in cooperation with national and regional actors."
Structural prevention has its conceptual roots in part of international relations theory. The concepts of "security community," and Galtung's  "Warm Peace," as well as theories of integration and international regimes, identify the structural foundations of a peaceful international community. The structure of such a community does not consist of elements of pure power, but rather of norms, values, and shared interests. Similarly, the peaceful interaction among different groups within a state can be fostered by structural initiatives of constitutional engineering, economic development, institution building, and education.
Some authors do not agree that structural prevention is a necessary part of violence prevention. Lund,  for example, focuses his attention on prompt, short-term, interventions to avoid the potential escalation of a dispute to violent conflict. His definition is more focused on preventive diplomacy, and he considers structural prevention to be too broad a concept, difficult to distinguish from more general processes of democratization or economic development, and eventually closer to the concept of peacebuilding.
Thus one's definition of violence prevention is affected by one's assumptions about when this activity can and should be done, and what should be done.
WHEN to Intervene to Prevent Violence:
The stage a conflict is in is very important in determining what intervention tools are most likely to be effective. Early-warning indicators and signs help define the timing and the targets of the preventive measures.
Early-Warning Indicators and Signs
In order for policymakers to support preventive initiatives, it is necessary to develop frameworks that help predict conflict and suggest the most effective response, based on the nature of the conflict, its context, and dynamics.
In order for third parties and the international community to better predict and prevent violent conflict, we have to know the warning signs that precede it. The earlier the reaction to an incipient conflict, the greater the opportunity to reverse a deteriorating situation. We can be forewarned of impending crises through early warning indicators or signs:
There are numerous early-warning systems at work in conflict-prone regions around the world. The Clingendael Institute of International Relations  in the Netherlands has made an effort to track these systems in their report "Conflict Prognostication: Toward a tentative framework for Conflict." In the report, three violence-prevention models are discussed:
Early-warning models differ in terms of their objective, structure, manner in which data is collected, and mandate of the monitoring authorities. When choosing a methodology, one must determine whether to use short-term or long-term indicators, take a qualitative or quantitative approach, or collect generic vs. specific information. Most of these choices have to be adapted to the specific context of the region in which the data are collected, as well as to the availability and reliability of information.
Types of Indicators and Signs
Monitoring programs are formulated to provide the knowledge needed to tackle the issues that eventually lead to violent conflict. General indicators -- economic, social, legal, or environmental -- are monitored by governments (and often by international organizations) in most areas of the world. There is no consensus on which indicators most accurately predict the emergence of a conflict, and in some cases findings are contradictory. Studies done by the Clingendael Institute suggest that military and political conditions serve as triggers for the outbreak of violent conflict, while economic and social indicators reflect the societal background conditions that encourage discontent and political mobilization. Typical signs and indicators may include:
The Minorities at Risk Project is a quantitative system that analyses and monitors the state of minority groups around the world, in order to determine whether or not they are "at risk." Once in place, a project like this may serve as an effective way to predict and prevent the onset of genocide and rising intergroup tension. The following summation of the Minorities at Risk Project  is taken from Gurr's book, People versus States .
The Effectiveness of Early-Warning Systems
Challenges to the relevance and efficacy of early-warning systems include the problems inherent in data collection and system implementation. Local networks of civil groups or associations, educational institutions, or nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) can be effective in monitoring day-to-day changes in a society, since they are familiar with the context in which they are working. International nongovernmental organizations or other international organizations are often essential both for monitoring activities and for providing resources for local activities.
In order for early-warning systems to function properly, they must be integrated into the international framework and preferably the U.N. system. Even more importantly, they must be visible to local politicians and elites, who then have access to the information and can address the situation themselves. After gathering data, a number of additional problems may arise: where does the information go once it has been collected? Who has the mandate, willingness, or resources to act in those cases where the risks of impending conflict are unambiguous? Even if systems of early warning are in place there is still often a general absence of political capabilities, resources, and willingness to get involved on the part of international actors. Any violence-prevention system therefore has to be designed and institutionalized in such a way as to commit politicians and governments to certain responses.
HOW to Intervene
Violence prevention's effectiveness depends on the choice of the right targets and the appropriate tools.
The Targets: Causes of Conflict
Knowledge of the originating factors of a conflict is essential for the choice of the tools for prevention and the targets of intervention. Preventive intervention is more effective in addressing some factors rather than others, each entailing different policy implications.
It is possible to distinguish between different categories of causal factors. Brown distinguishes between:
Brown introduces a further distinction between different types of triggers:
In every conflict it is possible to define the sources of incompatibilities between different groups, as well as the "swing factors" that determine whether the dispute will be settled peacefully or will escalate to violence. Lund  classifies factors as:
On the basis of this distinction, three categories of causes are listed:
The Tools: Violence-Prevention Initiatives
Initiatives are actions taken by third parties or participants in a conflict, to prevent the development of a destructive conflict, to reverse an escalation or worsening spiral of violence, or to ease tensions that may exist in conflict-prone regions. The nature of a specific initiative should be determined by the cultural and contextual factors specific to each case, and adapted to address early-warning signs and indicators where such systems are in place.
Initiatives may have one or more of the following goals:
Rothchild  suggests "incentives" that third parties can use to prevent escalation at different stages of conflict. Third-party incentives are defined as:
Structural arrangements or distributive or symbolic rewards or punishments used by third parties to encourage a target state or movement to shift its priorities in a desired direction.
Rothchild sees conflict as moving through a dynamic series of five phases of conflict activity in relations. The following list identifies problems that need to be addressed at each phase of the conflict, and suggests initiatives that third parties could take to help prevent escalation:
Structural and symbolic aspects of conflict are present under the surface; there may be some expression of grievances; and real or imagined memories of past suffering.
2. Early Escalation Stage:
Increased politicization of conflict; rising tensions and military mobilization; struggle over control of resources or state; ethnic or group scapegoating; changes in balance of power; decreased space for compromise.
3. Later Escalation Phase:
Triggering of mass violence and major shifts in conflict relations; increased polarization and outbreaks of organized violence; rise in rhetoric communicated by elites; group demands increasingly nonnegotiable.
Major violence has ended but societal and inter-group relations are missing; uncertainty over commitment and a breakdown in communications; polarization, communal fears, and predatory behavior; self-interested and ambitious elites.
5. Military/Security Phase:
Vulnerabilities in ceasefires and demobilization phase; need for the implementation of promises and commitments; lack of economic or institutional resources; inter-group fears and misperceptions.
Coercive or Noncoercive Initiatives
As the list above indicates, third-party incentives can be coercive or noncoercive and their aim is to raise the opportunity costs of continuing on a destructive path, through changing the parties' calculation of costs and benefits. Sometimes "packages" of coercive and noncoercive incentives can be applied, with coercive ones becoming more dominant as the costs of altering preferences and the intensity of conflict rises. (See Power Strategy Mix.) Rothchild indicates that noncoercive incentives are more likely to result in a durable peace, and that if coercive methods are applied it is important to follow up with aid and political reforms in order to prevent a relapse of violence.
There are four main types of noncoercive incentives:
There are three main types of coercive incentives used by third parties:
Challenges of Preventive DiplomacyOne of the greatest challenges to preventive diplomacy is getting potential interveners involved before the conflict has escalated a lot, to the point of a hurting stalemate, which is traditionally the time that is thought to be "ripe" for resolution. So many would-be interveners tend to wait, hoping that the situation will get better on its own, or until they are sure that their overtures will be welcome. Actually, however, a great deal of good can be done before a conflict reaches the hurting stalemate stage. In fact, a general rule of thumb is that intractable conflicts are much easier to prevent than they are to cure. So the importance of early warning and early intervention is considerable.
 Galtung, Johan, Solving Conflicts: a Peace Research Perspective, (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1988)
 Lund , Michael, Preventing Violent Conflicts: A strategy for preventive diplomacy, (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Institute of Peace Press, 1996)
 See: The Clingendael Institute: http://www.clingendael.nl/
 Gurr, Ted Robert, Minorities at Risk - A Global View of Ethnopolitical Conflict, (Washington, D.C.: USIP Press, 1993)
 Gurr, Ted Robert, People versus States: Minorities at risk in the new century, (Washington , D.C.: U.S. Institute of Peace Press, 2000)
 Brown, Michael (Ed.), The International Dimensions of Internal Conflict, (Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press, 1996)
 Lund, Michael, Preventing Violent Conflicts: A strategy for preventive diplomacy, (Washington, D.C.: US Institute of Peace Press, 1996); and Lund, Michael, and Rubin, Barnett, and Hara, Fabienne, "Learning from Burundi's Failed Democratic Transition, 1993- 96; Did international initiatives Match the Problem?" in Rubin Barnett (ed.), Cases and Strategies for Preventive Action, (New York, The Century Foundation Press, 1998)
 Rothchild, Donald, S, "Third party incentives and the Phases of Violence prevention," in Lekham Sriram & Wermester (Ed.), forthcoming, International Peace Academy Press
Use the following to cite this article:
Fusato, Massimo. "Preventive Diplomacy and International Violence Prevention." Beyond Intractability. Eds. Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess. Conflict Information Consortium, University of Colorado, Boulder. Posted: October 2003 <http://www.beyondintractability.org/bi-essay/violence-prevention>.