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Home >Theology of Peace and War > Wesleyan Quadrilateral > Experience: Alternatives to War > Preventing Armed Conflict

Preventing Armed Conflict

War has many causes: disputes between nations and between groups within nations; armed rebellion against an existing government; desire for territorial expansion; economic self-interest. During the last ten years a number of organizations around the globe have given attention to prevention of armed conflict before it erupts. Here we offer reference to some of these efforts.

Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict

In May 1994 the Carnegie Corporation of New York established the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict to address the looming threat to world peace of inter-group violence and to advance new ideas for the prevention and resolution of deadly conflict. The Commission examined the principal causes of deadly ethnic, nationalist, and religious conflicts within and between states and the circumstances that foster or deter their outbreak. Taking a long-term, worldwide view of violent conflicts that are likely to emerge, it sought to determine the functional requirements of an effective system for preventing mass violence and to identify the ways in which such a system could be implemented. Its recommendations were contained in Preventing Deadly Conflict: Final Report (December 1997). Other reports are also available online. Hard copies of the Commission reports are available by contacting The Commission ceased operations in December 1999.

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

In October 2000 the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars created a Conflict Prevention Project to pick up on the work of the Carnegie Commission. In June 2005 this project was restructured into a Project on Leadership and Building State Capacity in response to the growing demand for leadership training directed at both the prevention of violent conflict and the reconstruction of war-torn societies. It has a series of papers on What Really Works in Preventing and Rebuilding Failed States.

Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict

An international network of civil society organizations working for conflict prevention and peace-building worldwide has come together as the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict. Divided into 15 regions, the Global Partnership has developed Regional Action Agendas on the role of civil society in conflict prevention and peace building in their regions. These served as the main input for Building People Peace: A Global Action Agenda for the Prevention of Violent Conflict, a manifesto presented to the United Nations at a Global Conference in July 2005 which brought together over 900 people from 118 countries. Participants unanimously agreed on the need for governments and inter-governmental organizations to direct greater priority and resources to early prevention of armed conflict and human security. They also highlighted the importance of the local ownership and the need for ongoing engagement between civil society, governments and international organizations for prevention and peace building to be sustainable. Follow-through activities are posted on an electronic network, People Building Peace.

Alliance for International Conflict Prevention and Resolution

A not-for-profit network of private and public organizations has formed the Alliance for International Conflict Prevention and Resolution to increase the effectiveness of the conflict management field and maximize its impact on international peace building. Presently 31 member organizations are working in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe. In areas affected by international and civil armed conflict, they seek to resolve conflicts without violence, facilitate post-conflict reconciliation, and promote social, economic, and conflict development.

United States Institute of Peace

The United States Institute of Peace is an independent nonpartisan national institution established and funded by Congress. Its mission is to help prevent, manage, and resolve international conflicts by empowering others with knowledge, skills, and resources, as well as by our direct involvement in peace building efforts around the world. It has many publications, some of them available online. Interested persons may sign up to receive a weekly e-mail newsletter containing notification of new publications

One of their publications, Preventing Violent Conflicts: A Strategy for Preventive Diplomacy (1996) by Michael S. Lund, contains an outline of policies and instruments of preventive diplomacy. The main elements are:

I. Military approaches
  A. Restraint of the use of armed forces
  B. Threat or use of armed forces
II. Nonmilitary approaches
  A. Coercive diplomatic measures (without the use of armed forces)
  B. Noncoercive diplomatic measures
    1. Nonjudicial
    2. Judicial or quasi judicial
III. Development and governance approaches
  A. Policies to promote national and economic and social development
  B. Promulgation and enforcement of human rights, democratic, and other standards
  C. National government structures to promote peaceful conflict resolution

Among nonjudicial measures are international appeals, fact-finding missions, bilateral negotiations, track-two diplomacy by nonofficial parties, third-party mediation, nonviolent strategies by oppressed people, economic and political incentives to induce cooperation.

Other Resources

Friends Committee on National Legislation, Peaceful Prevention of Deadly Conflict and Further Reading and Resources.


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