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CHAP T E R 1

Introduction to Conflict Resolution: Concepts and Definitions

In this third edition of our book we bring the survey of the conflict resolution field up to date at the beginning of the second decade of the twenty-first century. Conflict resolution as a defined specialist field came of age in the post-Cold War era. It also found itself face to face with fundamental new challenges, many of which have come into even sharper focus since the first and second editions of this book.

Why a Third Edition?
The first edition of the book (1999) was written at a time when, despite setbacks, conflict resolution approaches in peacekeeping, peacemaking and peacebuilding were widely seen for the first time to be central in global politics in the
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M2522 - RAMSBOTHAM PRINT (3rd edn).indd 4

04/02/2011 15:15

Concepts and Definitions

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The dissolution of the Soviet Union brought to a close the long period in which a single international conflict dominated the international system. Instead, internal conflicts, ethnic conflicts, conflicts over secession and power struggles within countries became the norm in the 1990s. These reflected not so much struggles between competing centres of power, of the kind that had characterized international conflict for most of the 350 years since the peace of Westphalia, as the fragmentation and breakdown of state structures, economies and whole societies. At their extreme, in parts of Africa, the new wars witnessed the return of mercenary armies and underpaid militias, which preyed on civilian populations, and were fed as much by what were meant to be overt flows of international aid as by covert criminal international networks. In this new climate, the attention of scholars of international relations and comparative politics turned to exactly the type of conflict that had preoccupied the conflict resolution thinkers for many years. A richer crossfertilization of ideas developed between conflict resolution and these traditional fields. At the same time, practitioners from various backgrounds were attracted to conflict resolution. International statesmen began to use the language, and international organizations such as

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