Conflict Resolution: Did You Know?
In this section on Conflict Resolution you will learn some of the tools used by international peace negotiators to solve conflicts in your own life and community. You’ll learn about developing mutual respect between those in conflict.
You’ll learn techniques for finding creative solutions that address the underpinning causes of strife. You’ll also meet the great peacemakers of our time, learn what they did, and how important they’ve been in promoting human understanding.
This section will teach you about the terrible effects of violent conflict. Conflict is almost always more costly than its original causes. The links here connect you to important organizations that are waging campaigns against violence all over the world. Learn how to get more involved and bring us one step closer to world peace.
The very word “conflict” sounds negative. We think of civil wars, violent demonstrations, missiles and bombs—people dying. All of these are examples of conflicts that have reached intolerable and destructive levels. In truth, conflict starts small. These are the disagreements we have at work, or with our parents, with our classmates and in our community—and these conflicts are normal. The challenge is to find ways to resolve them without the tension becoming damaging. If the conflict has already reached an intolerable level, the challenge is to lower the tension and anger so that solutions can be found. This is conflict resolution, and there are many ways go about it.
The first two goals, however, are always the same. To reach a resolution the parties in conflict must first find respect for each other and listen. Respect requires that both parties regard the other’s perspective and feelings. They can disagree over their views of the world, but they must recognize that that understanding shapes an individual’s decisions and desires. Arguing over whose viewpoint is more “correct” is often beside the point when trying to resolve a conflict. Far more important is the end result when both parties have stopped fighting and found a solution that addresses both their needs. Respect fits hand-in-hand with the ability to listen. Learning about the other’s views and desires can take a lot of patience, but it’s impossible without first listening and trying to understand. The work of finding a solution to a conflict can’t begin until both ingredients are found.
People are increasingly beginning to understand that violence and war do not solve conflicts. After all, at the end of a war someone surrenders, which is a “win–lose” situation, and the “losing” group or nation may continue to hold onto those same ideals that led to war in the first place. The only way a conflict can be resolved successfully is with a “win–win” solution in which both sides find benefits.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, famous for his peacekeeping efforts throughout the world once said, “Unless both sides win, no agreement can be permanent.”
Basic Facts: A Millennium of Conflict
- Since 1495, there has never been a 25-year period of time without war erupting somewhere in the world.
- There have been 210 interstate wars since 1815.
- The longest war was called the Hundred Years’ War where Britain and France battled for 116 years, ending in 1453.Britain introduced direct taxation on the income of its citizens because of the high military expense.
- The shortest war took place in 1896, when Zanzibar surrendered to Britain after 38 minutes.
- Since World War II, the number of conflicts between nations has decreased. Since the Cold War ended in the late 1980s, there have been 50 major armed conflicts.
- With the combined causalities of both World Wars, the Vietnam War, and the Korean War, as well as an increase of civil and region conflicts, the 20th century has been the bloodiest century in history.
- In today’s armed conflicts, more than 90 percent of deaths are civilians and half of them children. Less than 10 percent of casualties from armed conflicts are soldiers.
- The very first bomb that the Allies dropped on Berlin in World War II killed the only elephant in the Berlin Zoo.
- The Troubles was a period between the 1960s and 1990s when more than 3,000 people in Northern Ireland were killed because of ethnic and religious strife between the Irish and British.
- In 2003, government-sponsored Arab militias known as the Janjaweed or Jingaweit began to systematically murder, rape, torture, and wipe out entire villages of black Africans in the Darfur region of Sudan. The ongoing violence, displacement, and disease continues today.
- In 1994, the Rwanda genocide killed over half a million people including about three quarters of the Tutsi population. The UN Security Council assisted the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which charged at least 10,000 people with human right violations and crimes against humanity.
- In 1994, The World Health Organization declared violence as the “leading worldwide public health problem.”
- Of the 20 poorest and hungry populations, 16 of those states have recently experienced civil war, resulting in severe hunger and poverty.
- Not only is global military spending 170 times greater than global spending on education, but the lowest literacy rates and access to education are in areas of continued war and conflict.
- Over 9 million refugees of African countries have been internally displaced because of ongoing conflicts in Africa.
- Ninety percent of human death due to conflict are caused by small arms like handguns, sub-machine guns, landmines and grenades.
- Some 639 million guns make up the global stockpile of small arms—60 percent of them belong to civilians. The estimates for black market trade of small arms reach up to $10 billion a year.
- Violent conflict has caused some of the world’s worst environmental disasters too: The United States sprayed 17 million gallons of Agent Orange in Vietnam, which was known to be toxic to humans; 40 tons of depleted uranium were left behind in Kuwait and Iraq after the Gulf War from armor piercing bullets.
- Landmines still cover large areas of at least 90 of the world’s countries. About 25,000 people are injured or killed by landmines each year, primarily in Iraq, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Angolia and Africa. Africa, alone has between 18-30 million landmines. Not only do these landmines endanger human life, but also make land unusable in countries that already lack resources.
- In 1942, the United Nations (UN) was formed. While the UN was unable to completely resolve some issues and military conflicts, it was very successful in initiating communication between countries. UN peacekeepers and mediators have worked with national leaders to resolve disputes.
- The UN has been the most successful peace preserving and mediation institution even though its budget is only a small fraction, approximately 1.8 percent, of the global military spending.
- Though over 300 international conflicts broke out between 1945 and 2000, there were also 3,750 cases of mediation within those same years. Institutional mediation resolved 255 worldwide conflicts from 1945 to 1974.
- Civil wars in El Salvador, Mozambique, Namibia, Nicaragua, and South Africa were all brought to an end through civil negotiation and formal mediation.