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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2001, Vol. 4 No. 1 .

Contemporary Conflict Resolution: The Prevention, Management and Transformation of Deadly Conflict
Hugh Miall, Oliver Ramsbotham, and Tom Woodhouse

Oxford: Polity Press, 1999
345pp. Biblio. Index. Hb.: ISBN 0-7456-2034-5. Pb.: 0-7456-2035-3

This text evocatively sets forth conflict resolution options to resolve violent disputes in international and local arenas. The authors effectively argue that though conflict resolution faces similar dilemmas to those of traditional methods (including the role of coercion, force, inequality, oppression, intervention and autonomy) there is new hope on the horizon.

First, the nature of conflict and its resolution is placed in the context of the international community. An overview of conflict resolution models and available statistical data on "deadly quarrels" is provided in the introduction. Chapter Two describes conflict resolution as a distinct field of study, providing a brief history of the development theories and practice, in various contexts, illuminating the strengths and weaknesses of this "new" discipline. Chapter Three shifts focus to the contemporary situation, offering a concise overview of the theories and frameworks to understand and manage conflict and protracted "social" struggles, indicating a shift in focus from state-centric to societal levels of analysis. Sources of "international-social conflict," including methods for mapping and tracking disputes completes this complex segment of the book. Chapters Four through Six discuss violent conflict causes and prevention, working in war zones, war economies and cultures of violence, and the challenges of ending violent disputes. Numerous case studies are provided from the hottest spots in the world today, including Kosovo, Rwanda, Israel-Palestine and Northern Ireland. Chapter Seven defines post-settlement peace building and the challenges therein, both in the immediate aftermath and over the long term. A brief ten year analysis of United Nation's post-settlement peacebuilding missions in offered, concluding ". . . overall that the experiment has not been shown to have failed . . . ." (p. 214) Numerous informative tables and maps pepper the text. The conclusion paints a depressing yet hopeful picture of a global community drastically in need of dedicated and well-trained peacemakers.

This book is clearly and well written and researched. I only wish the text were expanded, especially Chapter Three's discussion of theory development and sources of social conflict, mapping and tracking, and Chapters Four through Six. Nonetheless, its structure makes it accessible to both experts in the field and those new to it. It would make an excellent text for any college level course on global conflict resolution, and I intend to use it next term. It makes an important contribution to the field. Hope is on the horizon.

The longed for tidal wave Of Justice can rise up And hope and history rhyme . . . . Seamus Heany, extract from The Cure for Troy in Contemporary Conflict Resolution by Miall, Ramsbotham and Woodhouse, p. 216.

R. Averell Manes

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