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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1998, Vol. 1 No. 1 .

Preventive diplomacy through Fact Finding: How international organisations review the conflict over citizenship in Estonia and Latvia
Hanne-Margret Birckenbach.

(Hamburg: Lit Verleg Auslie Ferung, 1997). 421pp. Pb: DM 48 80; ISBN 3 8258 2864 6

The basic idea of "preventive diplomacy" has inherent appeal. Act early to prevent tensions from intensifying, conflicts from escalating, violence and war from breaking out. The challenge, though, has been to move from appealing idea to genuine strategies of statecraft.

This book, focusing on the Estonia and Latvia cases, is a useful contribution to this effort. Its assessment is a nuanced one, that breaks out of a strict success/failure dichotomy and speaks to the limits as well as scope of success.

The book's greatest value is as a trove of primary source material --- approximately 300 pages of policy statements, reports and other official documents from the United Nations, CSCE/OSCE and other sources.

It also is of value as a focused study on the particular strategy of fact-finding. Yet this also must be recognized as a limitation, for those who might be seeking an overall analysis of all aspects of preventive diplomacy in these cases. And while the author provides some conceptual analysis, framing the analysis in terms of state- centric vs. societalist paradigms, not only is this only pursued in a limited way, there is question whether this is the optimal analytic framing and theoretical approach for these cases.

The goal for those working in this field, both as scholars and practitioners, is build a body of knowledge. This has to be an empirical, theoretical, political and policy cumulative effort. This book contributes to that literature-building effort.

Bruce W. Jentleson Professor of Political Science University of California, Davis

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