Thursday, February 24, 2011

Peace Offerings: Theories of Conflict Resolution

This discussion paper by Matt Waldman and Thomas Ruttig takes a more theoretical approach to the current debate about reconciliation, often too narrowly described just as ‘talking to the Taliban’. It looks into various theories of conflict resolution and which insights they may offer for a peaceful solution of the Afghan conflict.

Peace Offerings: Theories of Conflict Resolution and Their Applicability to Afghanistan

Matt Waldman & Thomas Ruttig, Afghanistan Analyst Network, Jan. 2011

Despite the recent deployments of more troops and greater military resources to Afghanistan by the US-led Western coalition, there has been no abatement in the insurgency. It rather is increasing in lethality, territorial scope and mobilisation beyond their main base in the Pashtun ethnic group. As a result, doubts about the efficacy of conventional war-fighting, counter-insurgency and transition strategies grow and alternative means of mitigating the conflict come into sight.

The paper briefly discusses seven such theories and draws conclusions from them for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan: ripeness theory, theories of mediation, theories of reconciliation, power-sharing theories, credible commitment theory, spoilers’ analysis and local peace-building. While such theories are not panacean, they can help to understand the conflict and point towards practical steps that can contribute to improve the prospects for peace. The authors point out, though, that as abstractions they must necessarily be adapted to circumstances.

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