Conflict Analysis and Resolution

Conflict analysis and resolution (CAR) is the main theme of the CARIS website and the CAR page has two distinct functions. The first is to introduce CAR as a field of study, explaining what it is, why it is studied, and introducing core theories. The second function is to act as a resource centre by providing information on books, journals, organisations and websites linked to CAR and the associated field of Peace Studies. The resource centre for CAR also provides a complete bibliography of the sources used in its development.

The user is actively encouraged to explore these other sites, and also the free to access material in the case studies, but this does not constitute a recommendation to join a given organisation, donate, or pay for their services or products. The materials on the CAR page provide the user with enough resources to look at armed conflict with a balanced and critical outlook, and act as a hub to explore the subject further. There is only one recommendation: Question everything, don’t take what you see and hear in the media for granted and reach your own conclusions based on evaluating competing arguments.

What is CAR?

Conflict analysis and resolution is application of theoretical methods to the understanding of conflict with the aim of resolving conflict. In principle this can mean any situation between two or more parties and examples of this are: a married couple, competing goals in the workplace, political competition, groups within a society, nations, and alliances. A conflict does not need to be violent and can in fact be a part of everyday life although it is when a conflict becomes violent that it becomes a problem for all involved. CARIS is specifically concerned with armed conflict, such as the First and Second World Wars, the Arab-Israeli Wars, the Chinese Civil War and the Syrian and Iraqi Civil Wars, the conflict in the Basque Country and the ‘Terror Wars’ ongoing today.

In practice, there is much debate as to whether a given conflict is actually resolved or if it is transformed. An end to armed conflict can be understood as resolution as it marks the end of organised violence between the parties to the conflict. Yet, the underlying conflict between the parties will still remain but is contested through non-violent means, such as party politics. In effect, the conflict has been transformed from one of violence to non-violence but will still be bitterly contested.

At the most basic level CAR can be seen as having two stages. The first is conflict analysis whereby a conflict is analysed using theory in order to understand its characteristics, in particular, its origins, causes and the nature of the dispute between the parties involved. The second is conflict resolution whereby the information found during analysis is used to de-escalate the conflict and lead the parties involved towards non-violence in the pursuit of their competing goals.

Why Study CAR?

At first glance armed conflict can seem to be a constant and unrelenting state of affairs across the world. The media brings us reports of conflict in countries as far apart as Mali, Darfur, Syria and Afghanistan and as some conflicts, such as the wars in the former Yugoslavia, have ended others such as the civil war in Ukraine have begun. The prospect of conflict in hotspots such as Israel and the Korean peninsula is evident as tensions remain high. It is often forgotten that nuclear powers maintain their arsenals and capabilities and superpower rivalries remain. A final example is the ‘terror wars’ of the 21st century.

The existence and varied type of such armed conflicts and the harm that they do calls for a committed and long term response- resolving or transforming a conflict does not guarantee that it will not begin again at a later date- and in some cases it may seem that the violence will never end. Yet armed conflicts do end , sometimes due to an outright victory by one party over another, but often due to a negotiated settlement in which the new battle is to maintain the peace. One aspect of Conflict Analysis and Resolution is the study of the reasons why armed conflicts come to an end and the application of what has been learned to other conflicts.