The first edition of Peace and Conflict in 2001 documented a global decline in armed conflict from its peak in the early 1990s. They linked that decline to the ascendance of democratic regimes and the rising success of international efforts at containing and negotiating settlements to many serious armed conflicts, most of them civil wars.
In 2008, it appeared the subsidence of armed conflict and the surge in democracy had stalled and begun to reverse. The Peace and Conflict report pointed to a persistent “conflict syndrome” of instability and state failure that cripples the poorer regions of the world despite all efforts of the advanced industrial democracies and international organizations to take remedial action. The armed conflicts and mass atrocities of the last 15 years left in their wake weakened states, economies in shambles, and human suffering and dislocation on a large scale.
Peace and Conflict 2010 examines more closely the legacies of wars within states and the prospects for rebuilding them. Although much has been written in the four previous volumes of Peace and Conflict about active conflict, several chapters in this volume emphasize the challenges countries face as they enter the period immediately following the cessation of armed violence—a period widely referred to as the post-conflict transition.
While the overall number of active conflicts worldwide was declining in the early 1990s—a result of many conflict terminations in that period—other conflicts were becoming active. Joseph Hewitt (Chapter 3) takes a closer look at those that became active and reveals why a focus on post-conflict transitions is especially warranted. Strikingly, of the 39 different conflicts that became active in the last 10 years, 31 were conflict recurrences—instances of resurgent, armed violence in societies where conflict had largely been dormant for at least a year. Only eight were entirely new conflicts between new antagonists involving new issues and interests.
These sobering numbers serve as a reminder that many of the destabilizing dangers of the conflict syndrome initially highlighted in Peace and Conflict 2008—now reinforced in Peace and Conflict 2010—continue to pose serious challenges during the post-conflict phase, underscoring the urgency for identifying appropriate policy responses during post-conflict reconstruction.
SOURCE: Center for International Development and Conflict Management // University of Maryland