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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2000, Vol. 3 No. 2 .


Peacekeeping and Conflict Resolution
Tom Woodhouse and Oliver Ramsbotham (eds.)

London: Frank Cass, 2000
279pp. Biblio. Index. Hb.: 42.50; ISBN 0-7146-4976-7. Pb.: 17.50; ISBN 0-7146-8039-7



This book is timely indeed. As the field of peacekeeping is changing so rapidly, with many new actors committing themselves to peacekeeping, and new regional arrangements developing, it is fitting that the authors have chosen to bring to our attention many of the issues which are shaping current approaches to peacekeeping. In particular the book focuses on the necessity to ensure that current approaches to conflict resolution are taken into account when considering future developments in the field.

The issues are all here. To begin with, Tom Woodhouse takes us through the various recent critiques of conflict resolution, and in particular the role of peacekeeping interventions, arguing that many such criticisms arise from a lack of communication and respect between the field, which needs to be significantly addressed. Philip Wilkinson, speaking with the authority of his previous military background gives an extremely thoughtful overview of peacekeeping necessities, which points to the need to consider the overall results for the populace in terms of conflict resolution, and not just the military objectives achieved. The new recognition for the necessity of post-conflict, i.e. in 'making the settlement stick' is well articulated by Oliver Ramsbotham, with a useful and comprehensive framework which outlines the practical necessities for UN post-settlement peacebuilding.

Beth Fetherson revisits key concepts and many of the debates pertaining in the field using in particular the insights of Jabri, Foucault, Burton and Lederach and Habermas against which to develop her discourse. She finally arrives at the need to develop a post-hegemonic world that will legitimate a multiplicity of social meanings as realities, and in doing so, hopefully mitigate and prevent conflict. Tamara Duffey, writing from her experience in training peacekeepers in the field, warns against the problem of perceiving any peacekeeping force as a homogeneous group, and of the necessity to keep their differing national mandates, staff procedures, and cultural differences etc. in mind as operations develop. In addition, Duffey points to the need to understand the cultural conceptions of the conflict prevailing at local levels. She points to cultural differences within the Somali peacekeeping force, as well as the misunderstandings of Somali culture as contributing significantly to the failure of the peacekeeping mission.

Stephen Ryan offers a useful view of where peacekeeping has been, setting it in the context of contemporary models of conflict resolution approaches, and a look to its future. He suggests that the current trend may be away from UN peacekeeping, and that such activities may in the future be subsumed within the various developing forms of global governance.

For those who are coming fresh to the field of peacekeeping, for those who want to revisit the field for a state-of the art review of many current issues in the field, and above all for those who want to know how far the debate on peacekeeping/conflict resolution has progressed, this is an excellent reference book.


Professor Mari Fitzduff, INCORE



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