Helping resolve conflicts, peace-making, and supporting human rights and democracy are some of the key concerns in international dispute resolution. The science of conflict resolution, usually involving third party intervention, and now specialised networks and agencies, has become a major force in resolving many of the world's disputes in recent years.
Violent conflict interdicts development, economic growth and the maturation of political institutions and generates enormous short term real costs. The Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict has estimated that the costs to the international community of the seven major wars in the 1990s (excluding Kosovo and calculated before the close of the decade) had been $199 billion – in addition to the costs to the countries actually at war. As the UN Secretary-General has pointed out, more effective conflict prevention strategies would save tens of billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives.
The G8 adopted a ground-breaking statement on conflict prevention at the meeting of its Foreign Ministers in Berlin in December 1999. In the statement, the ministers committed themselves to strengthening the ability of the international community in conflict prevention by acting as a catalyst to ensure appropriate steps are taken by the UN, regional organisations, NGOs, international financial institutions, the private sector and directly affected states. The statement focuses in particular on light weapons proliferation, organised crime, child soldiers, mercenaries, illicit trading in commodities such as diamonds, environmental triggers to conflict and on practical steps individual G8 states could take.
The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) gives special priority to the elimination of conflict situations through political negotiation. In 1987, a six-member Committee on the Middle-East was set up to promote direct contacts between Arab and Israeli delegations and to promote parliamentary action in support of the peace process. In 1991, the IPU set up a six-member Committee on Cyprus to follow the situation more closely. Most recently, the IPU has strongly advocated a negotiated settlement of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia.
The International Council of Voluntary Agencies held a global forum [inter alia] to analyse the role of NGOs in promoting peaceful conflict resolution.
Indigenous Initiative for Peace, a group headed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu Tum, adopted a resolution at its first assembly calling for the creation of a new mechanism to resolve disputes between indigenous peoples and governments.
Mechanisms used by different Africa societies (e.g. Xhoso in South Africa, Oromo of Ethiopia, Dinka of Sudan, Igbo and Fulani of West Africa) to prevent disputes from escalating, to adjudicate land disputes, to float grievances and to promote dialogue and end wars, include techniques such as rhetoric, ritual affirmation, diplomacy, resort to clan assemblies, truth commissions and traditional law.
Conflicts are a completely normal aspect of life. The crucial point is not to avoid them but to cope with them rationally. Mastering conflict management effectively can reveal the useful and stimulating aspects of conflict that can lead to positive change. On the other hand, failure to manage conflict can leave a feeling of helplessness and even illness.