|Note Regarding External Links on This Page
We are still in the process of converting the "external resource" links from our old computer system to our new one. Unfortunately, this is a time-consuming task which, because of limited funds, we are undertaking on a time-available basis. In the meantime, many of these references can be found by using our Search Plus External Links system.
Current Areas of Research:
Research is ongoing in all areas of interest discussed in the education and practice pages including the causes of violence and war, failed states, war crimes, and genocide, with particular attention being focused on the role of non-state actors, the problem of insurgencies, terrorism, and other forms of assymetrical warfare. On the positive side, research is investigating better strategies for early warning, what strategies are most effective for violence prevention and limitation, and how peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding can be done more effectively. Additional areas of attention include civilian-military cooperation in post-conflict stabilization and reconstruction, transitional justice, and DDR--disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of former combatants. The "more information link" to the right includes links to hundreds of studies on these topics and more, but for people wanting a more succinct listing of some of a few of the many useful studies, we list some highlights below.
Causes of Violence and War:
- Failed States. The only question about failed states and violence is which comes first. It really doesn't matter--solving the problem of failed states is essential if violence is to be prevented or limited after it starts.
- War Crimes and Genocide. Most of the research on war crimes looks at ways of dealing with them afterwards, in an effort to determine whether tribunals or truth commissions better deter future crimes, or promote democracy, which then is seen to reduce violence. The verdict on that question is not yet in. See, for instance,
- The Effects of Transitional Justice Mechanisms: A Summary of Empirical Research Findings and Implications for Analysts and Practitioners
- Nowhere to Run? Punishing War Crimes.
- Overcoming Evil: Genocide, Violent Conflict, and Terrorism
- Reconciliation after Genocide, Mass Killing, or Intractable Conflict: Understanding the Roots of Violence, Psychological Recovery, and Steps toward a General Theory
- Humiliation: Evelyn Lindler started the rapidly growing program on Human Dignity and Humiliation, persuasively arguing that humiliation is "the atom bomb of emotions" which perpetuates cycles of violence and retaliation. The program's website is stock full of information on both the problem and potential solutions with sections on research, education, and practice.
- Insurgency, terrorism, and assymetric warfare: Although we have been facing these challenges for decades, we still don't have many answers about how to prevent such violence, or how to stop it once it starts. Some recent studies include:
- Identity Issues - After the end of the Cold War, most conflicts seemed to be internal, involving identity conflicts of one sort or another. A lot of work has gone into understanding the nature of these conflicts, and how protracted violence can be avoided.
Responses to Violence and War:
- Early Warning - Some recent articles on impediments to successful early warning, and what can be done to do improve predictions of violence.
- Crisis Early Warning and Decision Support: Contemporary Approaches and Thoughts on Future Research
- Systemic Disconnects: Why Regional Organisations Fail to Use Early Warning and Response Mechanisms
- Using Quantitative andQualitative Models to Forecast instability
- Early Warning and Early Response: Conceptual and Emprical Dilemmas
- Information and Rumor in Zones of Conflict
- Violence Prevention and Preventive Diplomacy - Conflict scholars and practitioners have long known that preventing violence is much easier than stopping it once it has started. Yet not enough is known about how to do that, and even when necessary steps are clear, it is hard to get the resources to actually take preventive steps. These articles address these issues.
- International Diplomacy and the Privatization of Conflict Prevention
- Alchemy for a New World Order - Overselling Preventive Diplomacy
- The Price of Peace: Incentives and International Conflict Prevention
- YouTube - David Hamburg: Leadership & Prevention
- Overview of Conflict Prevention Capacities in Regional, Sub-regional and Other Inter-governmental Organisations
- Peacemaking/Diplomacy - Diplomacy has become much more complex over the last several decades, changing from a "simple" negotiation process undertaken by official representatives of state governments (i.e., "Track I diplomats) to a multi-track process involving officials and unofficials, each working in different and often overlapping roles.
- Peacekeeping - Peacekeeping has also become much more complex over the last several decades as the need for peacekeepers has rapidly accelerated, and the complexity of their missions and ambiguity of their roles makes their jobs more difficult--and often hazardous.
- Chartering a New Horizon for UN Peacekeeping
- Keeping Peace or Spurring Violence? Unintended Effects of Peace Operations on Violence Against Civilians
- Wanted: A Mid-Range Theory of International Peacekeeping
- IO Performance in Peacekeeping: Theories of Management and the Practice of Peacekeeping Reform
- Peacebuilding/Nationbuilding/Statebuilding - As the number of fraile and failing states grows, more and more states are wracked with violence or struggling with "post-conflict" reconstruction. (The term "post conflict" is in quotes because none of these states is ever actually beyond the conflict--not for decades at least. Yet it is a term that persists in the literature.) The actors, missions, and roles of peacebuilding, nationbuilding, statebuilding, institution building and democratization are getting increasingly intertwined, as discussed below.
- Supporting Statebuilding in Situations of Conflict and Fragility: Policy Guidance
- Challenges to Peacebuilding: Managing Spoilers During Conflict Resolution
- Strengthening Peace in Post-Civil War States: Transforming Spoilers into Stakeholders
- At War's End: Building Peace After Civil Conflict - Review
- Power Dividing as an Alternative to Ethnic Power Sharing
- Arms Control and Non-Proliferation (WMD and Small Arms) - this is a huge areas of research that is only touched on briefly here.
- Critical Geopolitics and the Control of Arms in the 21st Century
- Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament: Can the Power of Ideas Tame the Power of the State
- Arms Control for the Twenty-First Century: Controlling the Means of Violence
- Reducing the Role of Tactical Nuclear Weapons in Europe: Perspectives and Proposals on the NATO Policy Debate
- Human Security: This is another chicken and egg problem, but research on human security certainly informs research on causes of violence and war, and efforts to provide human security are themselves efforts to prevent or stop violence.
- A particularly useful source of information is the Human Security Gateway. To our disappointment, there are a few bad links on the front page, but if one digs deeper, there is much information of value here. Other useful articles on human security look at how to attain it:
- Democracy, Conflict and Human Security: Pursuing Peace in the 21st Century
- Multi-Track Diplomacy and Human Security
- Counter-insurgency/counter-terrorism efforts - Although terrorism and insurgencies are not new, surprisingly little work had been done on effectively dealing with these issues until relatively recently. We still have a great deal to learn.
- Civilian-Military Cooperation - A few years into the U.S. war in Iraq, military strategists determined that their problem was more "winning the peace," than winning the war. Counter-insurgency warfare began to look a lot more like peacebuilding (albeit with guns) than it looked like traditional warfare. However, peacebuilding with guns is fraught with problems, many of which have yet to be surmounted. Part of the challenge is figuring out roles--what tasks should be done by the military and what by civilians? How much should the two cooperate with each other? Talk to each other? How can intervening (or occupying armies) gain the trust of the local population (or can't they)? Some relevant studies include:
- "Post-conflict" Transformation, Stabilization and Reconstruction - This, too, is just an ever-so-brief introduction to recent work in this field.
- Transitional Justice - This topic is primarily covered in the rights challenge pages, but a few links are given here as well.
- DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration)
Some of the leading research organizations on these topis include:
- The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
- The U.S. Institute of Peace
- CDA--Collaborative Learning Projects
- Center for Peace and Conflict Studies--University of Sydney
- Centre for Conflict Resolution - University of Bradford
- Peace Research Institute- Oslo (PRIO)
- Transcend Research Institute
- Transnational Foundation
- School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University (US)
- International Peace Institute
Topics that seem particularly in need of further attention include the following:
Despite a great deal of scholarly and practical work on peace processes, a lot of questions remain unanswered. Among these are:
- When should outside actors intervene in "internal" conflicts? This is, of course, both a normative and an empirical question. It is known that it is much easier to prevent violence from occurring than to stop it after it starts. But when outside actors should get involved is by no means clear. It can certainly be argued that outside involvement can make matters worse, rather than better, depending on who they are and what they do. Even if intervention is likely to be beneficial, outsiders cannot, either morally or practically, get involved everywhere they might be useful. So scholarship is necessary to determine what factors make intervention more or less likely to be successful. If more were known about that, then outside parties could be more informed when they make decisions about whether or not (and how) to intervene to prevent or stop violence.
- Who whould these actors be? Usually, only large states are in a position to intervene, especially if military intervention is what is being considered. But there are roles for other actors to play--in early warning, conflict resolution training, development assistance, etc. Again research showing what works best under what circumstances is needed.
- What form should the intervention take? (Are there non-military options? What are they?) There are certainly many options, both military and nonmilitary. Case-studies of particular interventions are useful, as is comparative research that looks at multiple interventions to try to develop some guidelines about what is most effective when, and at what cost.
- What is the role of civil and commercial society in preventing or ending violent conflict?
- Increasing the use of nonviolent action to address grievances. Considerable research has shown that nonviolent direct action can be at least AS effective, and often more effective at getting grievances addressed than is violence. Yet, nonviolent direct action is not often used: violence often seems to be the strategy of first and last resort. The Governance Commons would like to see additional research which addresses what factors determine when disputants are willing to try nonviolent approaches, and what can be done to encourage more use of nonviolent strategies instead of violence in both international and inter-group (ethnic, religious, tribal) clashes.
- Responding to violent insurgencies. One particularly widespread use of violence is political insurgencies, which pit violent non-state actors against sitting governments and, at times, outside intervenors. To some extent this is a military strategy question, which is far beyond the scope of this website. But it is also a question of governance and peacebuilding. Governance theory asserts that if governments are effective and legitimate, insurgencies are much less likely to occur. Similarly, when and where insurgencies do occur, part of the necessary response to them is to establish effective and legitimate governance that will gain the support of the general population at the expense of the insurgents. Diplomats and peacebuilders thus need to focus on the governance aspects of civil conflict just as much (or perhaps even more) than the military focuses on security aspects and research is needed to determine how this is best done. The United States has been experimenting with a variety of approaches to addressing such insurgencies, ranging from the highly violent "shock and awe" used at the beginning of the second Iraq invasion to much "softer" SSTR--security, stabilization, transition, and reconstruction--approaches that focus not only on "destroying the enemy," but also building up infrastructure to provide for fundamental needs, building trust between parties, and developing collaborative approaches to joint problems. While it can, perhaps, be argued that the SSTR approach has been more successful than the shock and awe approach, especially in Iraq, SSTR has not been nearly as successful as hoped. Progress is transient, at best, in Afghanistan, and while significant in Iraq, its longevity after the final US troops leave is unclear. SO, the issue in need of much further study is: how can violent insurgencies be affectively prevented, and if not prevented stopped from becoming particularly destructive or strong? Failing that, how can they be coopted or defeated so that legitimate grievances are addressed, but in legitimate, nonviolent ways.
- Preventing and dealing with spoilers. A common result of peace negotiations is that some people get hurt (or perceive that they are being hurt) by the peace process. Whether they be arms dealers, warriors, or people with ideals that seem to be compromised in a peace agreement, some turn into "spoilers"--people who engage in violence after an agreement is being negotiated or signed for the primary purpose of "spoiling" the peace and returning to war. Although some research has been done on (a) how to limit the creation of spoilers and (b) how to limit a spoiler's ability to re-ignite war, this is still an area in need of a lot more creative work.
- Preventing war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Many times since the holocaust, the world has asserted that it must "never again" let such an event happen. Yet, genocide, crimes against humanity, and other war crimes continue to occur over and over again as the world watches, at times sending inadequate "peacekeepers," or at other times arguing about whether a particular event is or is not "genocide," if there is a "responsibility to protect," and if there is, how and by whom should it be carried out. As these debates occur, thousands, or even millions of people have died. Much research is needed to determine, among other things (1) what spurs genocide (2) how such tensions and triggers can be reduced and/or avoided, (3) what can be done more effectively to quickly stop war crimes and genocide once they begin.
- Dealing with refugees and IDPs. One of the common results of violent conflict is large numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) who need to be cared for as the violence is occurring, and repatriated after the violence ends. This repatriation process often leads to renewed conflicts, as property ownership is contested, Also, with the destruction the war caused, there is often not enough housing or employment to provide for the returning population as well as the people who remained in the war-torn area. Research is thus needed on the types of problems refugees and IDPs face in the refugee and IDP camps, how these problems can be successfully addressed, problems the individuals and the societies face when refugees and IDPs return "home," and how these problems can be successfully addressed without re-igniting conflict.
- Violence prevention through successful DDR (disarmament, demobilization, and re-integration of ex-combatants.) Another cause of recurring violence is the unsuccessful ddr of returning soldiers. Combattants must be successfully integrated into a society now focused on peace, not war. They must be able to receive an education or a job, and have a place where the "fit" into the newly forming political, economic, and social structure. If there is no such "place," the chances that they will take up arms again is highly increased. Research is therefore needed on what makes DDR efforts more and less successful, and what can be done under various conditions to improve the likelihood of success.