Conflict resolution Analysis


The evolution of United Nations (UN) peacekeeping can be divided into at least three major time periods: the end of World War II and the formation of the United Nations until the mid-1980s, the mid-1980s until the end of the Cold War, and the post-Cold War period.

 (Michael, 1990) It is important to note that the Charter of the United Nations identifies the organisation’s principal role as the maintenance of international peace and security but does not contain any direct provisions for peacekeeping. Instead, peacekeeping emerged as a response to the Cold War hostility between the superpowers, and its principles and practices were established and defined as peacekeeping operations (PKOs Thomas G. Weiss and Jarat Chopra,) were mounted.

UN Role in Global Conflicts

During the first time period, the conceptualisation of peacekeeping evolved and peacekeeping operations were generally non-coercive, impartial, supported by the UN Security Council, accepted by the parties involved, and deployed after a cessation of hostilities had occurred to separate warring parties. The United Nations Operation in the Congo (UNOC) in 1960 was an exception as its mandate evolved to include restoring the territorial integrity of the country after the province of Katanga declared its independence.

A further element of these ‘first-generation’ peacekeeping operations was the general exclusion of troops from the five permanent members based on the desire for an impartial, independent UN force without any ‘special interest’ in the conflict. This practice was ignored, on occasion, as witnessed by France’s participation in UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) in 1978.

Other countries, including Canada, Ireland, Austria, Holland, the Nordic countries, Fiji, and Nepal, however, considered participation in UN peacekeeping operations to be an important component of their foreign policy and provided troops on a regular basis. National motivations varied, from Canada’s desire to justify its military and distance itself from the United States to the Nordic countries’ efforts to increase their international influence and reduce the possibility of superpower confrontation to Fiji, where PKOs served as opportunities for both added income and military training of its forces.( Morton Bard and Joseph Zacker, 1996)

By the mid-1980s, cooperation replaced confrontation, and stalemate in the UN Security Council began to wane. Supported by a growing consensus among the permanent members, the UN launched peacekeeping operations in various countries including Afghanistan, Namibia, Angola, and Nicaragua. In Namibia, in particular, UN troops performed a variety of jobs outside the boundaries of traditional peacekeeping, making UNTAG (United Nations Transition Assistance Group) the first of the second-generation PKOs.  During this ‘transition’ period, the member states, including the permanent members of the Security Council, began to accord greater credence to the United Nations and its role in mediating conflicts.

Post Cold War Scenario of Conflicts

The collapse of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War had a dramatic impact on the United Nations and its peacekeeping operations. In this third period, the Security Council, no longer immobilized by the veto of the five permanent members, approved UN observer and peacekeeping missions to conflict-ridden states in growing numbers. Between 1988 and 1991, the UN created ten observer missions and PKOs, a number which almost equals the 13 observer missions and PKOs mounted between 1948 and 1988.

By mid-1994, some 80,000 military troops and civilians were taking part in PKOs around the world. In addition, the definition of peacekeeping expanded as the nature of PKOs changed in several important ways. First, the permanent members of the Security Council began to send troops to participate in UN PKOs. In particular, France and the UK became very active in and major contributors to PKOs. Second, the UN initiated PKOs increasingly as a response to interstate rather than intrastate conflicts. Third, the Security Council began to approve PKOs under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which allows for the use of force. Fourth, the right to intervene for humanitarian purposes was accepted as a new justification for UN PKOs.

This expansion of UN peacekeeping activity has created numerous difficulties for the United Nations as an organisation and for the member states participating in the PKOs. In the post-Cold War world, the UN was increasingly called on to respond to ‘challenges of a different kind, with no peace to keep and humanitarian concerns raising demands for intervention with no clear guide-lines on how to proceed’.

The concept of peacekeeping expanded to include peacemaking, peace building, and peace enforcement operations-often designated ‘second-generation’ PKOs because they include military, political, social and humanitarian aspects seldom present in traditional PKOs. Moreover, as the number, complexity, and objectives of these PKOs increased, the terminology used to define them remained unclear. As a result, ‘peacekeeping’ is widely used as a generic term that encompasses all variations of first-generation and second-generation peacekeeping operations and includes UN-controlled or -sponsored PKOs and UN-mandated PKOs (controlled by a coalition of states with authorisation by the UN Security Council).

With these new types of PKOs, success has often proved elusive, as demonstrated by events in Somalia, Rwanda, and Bosnia. Bosnia, in particular, pointed out the weaknesses of UN-controlled peacekeeping operations as UNPROFOR (United Nations Protection Force) proved incapable of keeping a non-existent peace or halting the violence and widespread ethnic cleansing.

The perceived impotence of UNPROFOR eventually led to the creation of IFOR (Implementation Force) and, one year later, SFOR (Stabilisation Force). Both were NATO-led multinational forces with a UN Security Council authorisation. In the wake of UNPROFOR, governments shifted away from UN-controlled PKOs for difficult situations, opting instead for PKOs controlled by a regional organisation (NATO) or an ad-hoc coalition with a mandate from the UN Security Council. KFOR (Kosovo Force) and ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) in Afghanistan are two recent examples of this approach. At the time of writing (2002), it appears that peacekeeping has undergone a retrenchment as nations are less willing to commit troops.

The Cyprus Conflict

There is an inherent contradiction in the role of peacekeepers in Cyprus. If their mandate is to maintain a status quo in which forces are segregated, then they are not well placed to assist in building trust and confidence as part of the progress towards a settlement. Fetherston describes this paradox as one in which the military functions of peacekeeping — segregating the belligerents — conflict with the role of a third party in conflict resolution: bringing the parties together.

While Fetherston accurately describes the current situation, peacekeeping need not inevitably impede conflict resolution. It has always been understood that peacekeeping relies on diplomacy to resolve conflict, but it is also true that at the tactical and operational levels, military forces can be vehicles of peaceful change. The military analogy to this situation is the distinction between offence and defence. (Costas, 1993)

A peacekeeping force wins the “main defensive battle” when opposing forces stop shooting and moving against each other. “Offensive” operations to transform the conflict include building trust and confidence between the opposing forces, meeting the security needs of each side, and setting up mechanisms that inhibit the use of force at the tactical and operational levels. The seeds for these offensive peacekeeping tactics can be found in current practice and in conflict resolution theory. Whether offensive action is best conducted by military forces or by predominantly civilian task forces will depend, among many other things, on the stage to which a particular conflict has de-escalated. (Peter Loizos, 1988)

If peacekeeping is not inherently flawed, its limitations can be explained by failures of operational art, doctrine, tactics, techniques, and procedures. Like Haig at the Somme, peacekeepers today are close to mobilizing new tools and new ideas that will allow peacekeepers — military and civilian — to break through and defeat conflicts decisively. Integrating strategic, operational, and tactical levels of peacekeeping is a crucial step; examples of the interdependence of levels abound in UNFICYP.

When decisions leading to violence originate at the strategic level, they cannot be influenced directly by third party intervention at the operational or tactical levels. Either government or political authority in Cyprus can initiate troop movements, new defensive works, or acts of war that violate the cease-fire. Any such decision has to be addressed at the strategic level. Similarly, any progress at the operational and tactical levels requires the acquiescence of decision makers at the strategic level. (Michael, 1999)

Military Doctrine and Peacekeeping

Military doctrine for conflict is well established. Doctrine for conflict resolution is not so mature, but it is apparent that peacekeeping forces can do more than keep belligerents apart. Peacekeeping can be seen as a joint military and civilian operation in which defensive tactics are used to control and prevent violence and offensive tactics attack the sources of the conflict, de-escalate tensions, and restore trust and confidence between communities. As a conflict de-escalates, terms other than peacekeeping might be used to describe specific phases during which various techniques may be more or less useful to an intervening third party.

A simple view of the spectrum of conflict resolution might include the following stages: stop the fighting; drag the participants to the negotiation table; build enough trust to facilitate agreement; reach an agreement; and prevent recurrence of conflict. Traditional peacekeeping during the Cold War tended to stop at the first stage; wider peacekeeping involves other stages of conflict de-escalation, including conflict prevention, supervision of elections, and humanitarian relief, all with the aim of restoring just and stable peace.

Peace Pushing

“Peace-pushing” is a term used by Ron Fisher in his work on third party intervention. When third parties have sufficiently high stakes in a conflict, they may offer incentives or impose sanctions on parties to bring them to the negotiating table. (Fisher, 1993) International actions such as sanctions, blockades, and embargos are indirect means of influencing leaders at best, but have an even more uncertain impact on the propensity for violence from the bottom up. Bilateral incentives, guarantees, or the freezing of assets sometimes have a greater impact, but again an uncertain impact on the man in the attic who has a gun and hates his neighbour.

Peace-pushing at the strategic level relies heavily on the peacekeeper to hold the line at the operational and tactical levels, against both organized forces and the man in the attic. (Roger Fisher, 1993) At the same time, sanctions imposed by the United Nations may generate hostility towards the peacekeeping force, making it more difficult and more dangerous for them to hold the line.

Finally, the international community and the parties to the conflict themselves must engage in post conflict peace-building to prevent the recurrence of conflict. Military education and training can contribute to useful post conflict behaviour by belligerent forces. The relative importance of military forces may diminish as one moves from left to right, but there are vital military roles at every stage of conflict de-escalation. Military roles must be effectively integrated with the increasingly important civilian functions and agencies involved in conflict resolution. (Fetherston, A. Betts 1991)

Peacekeepers need a roadmap for intervention to control and prevent violence; it should cover the tactical, operational, and strategic levels of peacekeeping operations, from stopping the fighting to ensuring that fighting does not recur after a settlement. For war operations, this road map is provided by doctrine that describes the way the army should think about and wage war. But there is less clarity in doctrine for peacekeeping operations. (Ronald J. Fisher, 1989) Doctrine provides a common starting point. Nowhere is this more important than in multinational organisations.

Military and civilian peacekeeping manuals published since the 1970s address UN structures and processes, the principles of peacekeeping, humanitarian and economic operations, public affairs, legal aspects, logistics, and the role of civil police. New departures in election monitoring, national reconstruction, and humanitarian relief operations are reflected in academic documents, and will eventually make their way into circulated doctrine. But peacekeeping doctrine needs more than lists of planning factors and procedures. (Roger Fisher, 1991)

Conflicts may be redefined and thus made amenable to de-escalation by a variety of strategies. One has to do with changing the context of the conflict, for example, increasing the significance of viewing the adversaries as having a common enemy or a shared problem. Another strategy has to do with choosing that set of adversaries who are ready to de-escalate their conflict and not allowing the intransigent parties to veto or disrupt the de-escalation moves. Finally, another strategy is to select a subset of issues that are amenable to settlement, putting aside more difficult ones for the future, after confidence and trust have begun to develop. (Hugo Prein, 2004)

Middle East Conflict

The movement toward a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt can be used to illustrate the relevance of such strategies. When Anwar Al-Sadat succeeded Gamal Nasser as president of Egypt in 1970, he began to redefine the conflict with Israel not as one of the Arab nation against Israel and the West, but as a set of related specific disputes, including, for example, one between Israel and Egypt about borders. Conflicts with Israel were seen as best pursued within the context of improving relations between Egypt and the United States.

With the assistance of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who acted as a mediator, partial agreements were reached between Egypt and Israel entailing some withdrawal by Israel from the Sinai. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter tried to organize a Middle East Peace Conference, seeking a comprehensive settlement; but President Sadat did not see that succeeding and opted for breaking the barriers to a comprehensive settlement by going to Jerusalem and seeking an agreement among those willing to reach an agreement. (Herbert C. Kelmao, 2000)

One form of conflict resolution that has been applied to international conflicts is the problem-solving workshop. In this method, members of adversary countries or peoples are brought together for several days. Their exchanges are facilitated by a team of workshop leaders, as the participants learn about each others’ views of the conflict and as they explore possible ways in which their needs and interests may be fulfilled. (Jeffrey Z. Rubin, 2001) The role of intermediaries providing mediating services is a matter of considerable interest in the conflict mitigation literature.

The ideas developed about the many kinds of functions intermediaries can provide and the utility of different kinds of intervention for different circumstances is an increasingly significant body of material relevant for peace research and practice. Understanding the course of development of conflict helps in devising strategies for different stages of conflict reduction. The strategies needed to bring adversaries to the point that they would consider de-escalating the conflict or settling or resolving it are different from the strategies for negotiating an agreement. Such reasoning and the research upon which it is based, also helps in thinking about the timing for various kinds of peacemaking efforts. (Fetherston, 1993)

Negotiation Strategy in Conflict Resolution

Conflict resolution ideas are especially relevant in the conduct of negotiations. Although the circumstances may be right for negotiations, if negotiations are not efficiently conducted, they may not be completed before the opportunity has passed. (Louis Kriesberg, 1999) For example, although the 1977-79 U.S.-Soviet negotiations about the strategic arms limitations treaty were generally conducted effectively, some ways in which the negotiations were handled slowed the process, so that by the time it was signed in June 1979, circumstances had begun to change and the treaty was never ratified.

Many workers in the field of conflict mitigation give much attention to the multiplicity of actors in conflicts, including international conflicts. (Leonard Koren and Peter Goodman, 2000) This means giving attention to diverse constituencies and unofficial as well as official representatives. The expansion of the role of unofficial or Track 11 diplomacy is an example of one avenue for the use of conflict mitigation ideas by persons who are not government representatives. (Johan Hederstedt, 1992)

Kashmir Conflict and UN

Kashmir has been a major issue of conflict and clash between India and Pakistan since 1947.  In the years immediately following the World Wars and the formation of the United Nations, the concept of self-determination did not carry the same legal weight as it does in modern times. The concept of self-determination was limited and experienced its most pronounced development in the 1960’s. At the time of partition in 1947, self-determination had not yet evolved into a binding norm of international law.

Based upon the binding instrument of accession executed by Maharaja Hari Singh, the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir legally belongs to India. Although control should lawfully rest in the hands of India, the UN believes that new measures must be considered in order to move forward to a peaceful resolution of this situation. It is the UN’s belief that the strict application of international law has done nothing to relax tensions in Kashmir, and has in fact inflamed the circumstances. (Louis Kriesberg and Stuart J.

Thorson, 1999) A new modern understanding of self-determination, the overt suppression of express Kashmiri wishes both by India and Pakistan, and the inability of the parties to come to an agreement bilaterally, are all legitimate grounds for the development of new criteria to understand and mediate affairs.

The UN asserts that under the modern understanding of self-determination the Kashmiri people qualify for the right to determine their own status. (Thomas G. Weiss and Jarat Chopra, 1993) Kashmir represents a unique mix of Islamic, Hindu, and Buddhist heritage, which is culturally distinct from surrounding territories. The Kashmiri’s themselves refer to their unique identity as “Kashmiriyat.” Some would argue that since Kashmir is a largely Muslim state it should automatically be absorbed by the Islamic Pakistani state. However, the Kashmiri’s people represent a Sufi Islamic sect that practices an esoteric form of Islam which the fundamentalist Pakistani regime finds inimical to the state supported Islamic faith.

The Pakistani government has, in fact, funded numerous insurgency groups like the Jamaat-i-Islami Jammu Kashmir (JIJK) which have sought to marginalize Kashmiri nationalist groups and their vision of a free democratic Kashmir in favour of secession to Pakistan. Groups like that JIJK are largely dominated by Mujahiddeen from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Arab world. These external groups are fighting for a double agenda: to help liberate their “Muslim brothers” from India, and to impose an exoteric fundamentalist Islam on the mystical Kashmiri people.

These radical organisations have received little support from the Kashmiri masses themselves, who seem to favour a considerably more liberal version of their faith, and are instead mainly supported by the Pakistani government, albeit indirectly. Yoginder Sikand points out that by the late 1990’s, Pakistani jihadists were playing a key role in the fighting in Kashmir, eclipsing even local Kashmiri groups. These jihadists groups advocate Pakistani absorption of the Kashmiri state. It follows from this information that the fighting in Kashmir is largely imposed upon it artificially by outside groups and that the wishes of the Kashmir have not been legitimately represented by either the Pakistanis or the Indians.

Another important factor is that neither side has de facto control over Kashmiri territory. Following the criteria for acquisition of territory set forth in Malanczuk’s Modern Introduction to International Law, territory can be acquired through cession, occupation, prescription, operations of nature, adjudication, or conquest. Both India and Pakistan make claims to the territory based on the former three criteria.

However, neither state has truly effective control over the region, nor do they take into proper consideration the rights and wishes of the Kashmiri people whom they claim to control. Numerous terrorist organisations operate at large on both sides of the LOC, many of them willingly funded by the Pakistani government. India has been guilty of rigging “democratic” elections in Kashmir in order to advance their own interests in the region. India’s denial to the Kashmiris of their right to self-determination, its brutal suppression of the Kashmiri struggle which has resulted in the deaths of many thousand Kashmiris, and the rapid rise in India of anti-Muslim Hindu chauvinists are all causes for concern. (Martin Patchen, 1998)

The people of Kashmir must be allowed to decide the status of their own nation whether that decision is to become a full fledged part of India or Pakistan, an autonomous region, or an independent country. It is likely that the moderate Sufi Islamic sect will not chose to become a part of fundamentalist dictatorship Pakistan, nor is it likely to opt for full fledged membership in India where its rights have repeatedly been corroded and its autonomy rescinded. It seems entirely possible that through UN supervision of borders as well as free elections, Kashmir could evolve into a truly democratic state that rejects radical religious fundamentalism.

Therefore, the UN calls for the withdrawal of Pakistani and Indian forces from Jammu and Kashmir in its entirety, and the presence UN troops to police the borders and temporarily administer the region. The UN requires expulsion of Pakistani jihadist fighters and settlers from the area, since they consciously interfere with the un-tempered expression of Kashmiri sentiments.

Once the withdrawal of Pakistani and Indian forces has been carried out, a UN administered plebiscite will be conducted to determine the will of the Kashmiri people. If the Kashmiri’s opt for an independent state, there ought to be provisions enacted to protect it from political and military control by India, China, the former Soviet states, and Pakistan, including the establishment of a demilitarized zone and semi-permanent UN observer force to protect Kashmir from infiltration by foreign armies and terrorist groups. If the Kashmiri’s opt for inclusion in either the state of India or Pakistan, a permanent demilitarized zone should be created and patrolled by UN peacekeeping forces to ensure that aggressions do not re-evolve in the sub-continent. (Mitchell, C. R. 2003)


The tools for eliminating protracted conflict are available now. The soldierly skills of patrolling, establishing observation posts, and mounting shows of force are well developed, but are not enough. The procedures for holding meetings, negotiating agreements, escalating problems, arbitrating disputes, shuttling between opposing forces, and conciliating when possible are evolving in today’s missions. Research offers a choice of new contact skills that need to be developed by military leaders and practiced with civilian colleagues.

Military expertise is needed to help integrate operations and tactics across the spectrum of peace operations, but as conflicts de-escalate it is appropriate to expect military forces to diminish and civilian involvement to increase. However there are military roles at every stage.

The maxim that the conduct of war must be linked to the strategic aim at every level is unquestioned; so must it be for peace operations. Neither the aims and methods nor the interrelationship of different levels of peace operation are well explained in current doctrine, yet de-escalation and conflict resolution by peacekeepers can be and has been effective. Understanding how it works and translating it into international doctrine is a vital step toward managing protracted social conflicts.

There is a risk that the new emphasis on expanding peace operations will put large expeditionary forces into situations where their doctrine does not adequately equip them to combine interpersonal skills and military skills effectively. The consequence could be the inappropriate use of force at low levels to the detriment of conflict resolution at the strategic level.


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Fetherston, (A. Betts 1991) “The Problem-Solving Workshop in Conflict Resolution.” In Peacemaking in a Troubled World, ed. Tom Woodhouse (New York: Berg, 1991),

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