Contemporary Conflict Resolution Processes: Diagnoses and Therapies


Fabio Fossati – TRANSCEND Media Service

31 Dec 2023 – The empirical evidence shows that since 1989 many conflicts have crystallized incompatibilities among different nations and/or civilizations, and that many conflicts have degenerated into wars (Huntington 1996). These (inter or infra civilization) conflicts may be defined as ‘cultural’ because they involve collective identities, along ethnic, linguistic or religious cleavages. Galtung (1981) defined civilizations as those groups of nations, sharing the same cosmologies.

  1. Models of conflict resolution

A conflict may end in three ways: resolution of the incompatibility, avoidance or freezing – where incompatibility persists-, mutual destruction. Starting from Galtung’s (1987) typology, twelve models of conflict resolution (or avoidance) have been identified (Fossati 2008, 2017).

Territorial conflicts are usually resolved thought either separation or integration. In separation, the actors cease to interact or divide the territory among them causing their incompatibility, as between the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Single-nation separations follow the “ordered” principle of national self-determination, when new states (like Slovenia, Eritrea, Southern Sudan and East Timor) are homogeneous according to the national identity of their citizens, following the principle of one nation = one state. This solution leads to single-nation states. Pluri-national separations lead to the secession of new pluri-national states, as in the other conflicts of Yugoslavia: Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia. In integration, a fusion comes about whereby the actors unify their territories, as between East and West Germany. Models of symmetric integration are teo: federalism, as in Iraq and Bosnia (Horowitz 2002), or consensual pacts, as in Afghanistan (until 2021) and Lebanon (Diamond, Plattner 1994, Lijphart 2002). In federalism, center political power is divided among state entities. In consensus pacts, there is a power-sharing agreement among the actors in conflict. If only administrative autonomy is conceded to minorities, as in Croatia or Macedonia, an asymmetric integration materializes. In compromise, neither actor achieves its objective; both agree on a complementary (50-50) solution concerning space (when land is divided) or time (when governments alternate). Confederations represent a compromise between integration and separation, as exemplified by the former USSR or Serbia-Montenegro, where former member states had the right to secede. Shared sovereignty, or “condominium”, is another compromise (but rare) solution. Pluri-national separations, (both) compromises and symmetric integrations are coherent with the governance scenario of “politically correct” pluri-national states. In exchange, conflict is on (at least) two goals and only one is achieved by each actor. For example, amnesty is granted to all those fighters that renounce to terrorism. In transcendence, both actors simultaneously achieve their objectives; for example, when democratic elections stabilize some peace agreements. In persuasion, one actor achieves its objective, and the other renounces its own, whether or not through coercion, which is an asymmetrical relation, where the weak has only two negative choices and the strong pushes towards the “lesser evil”. For example, this occurs through an arbitration.

In dominion, one actor imposes its objective and the loser does not agree. This often happens through a military victory after a war. In incapacitation, one actor physically neutralizes the other one, for example through expulsion of people from their lands (ethnic cleansing). In segmentation, one actor divides the other one into two actors and has a positive interaction with only one of them. In subversion, one actor promotes a change of authority in the other one and has a positive interaction only with the new leaders. In diversion, the actors freeze the old conflict and start a new relationship: negative (second conflict) or positive (cooperation), like between Taiwan and China. In multilateralization, the actors freeze the old conflict and start to interact with a new actor: jointly (the two old actors versus the new one) or separately (an old actor versus a new and an old one together); the typical example is United Nations peace-keeping missions.

  1. Diagnosis of contemporary conflict resolution processes

Since 1989, many religious, linguistic and ethnic conflicts turned into wars in many eastern European, African, Middle East and Asian countries. Few conflicts have been resolved through single-nation separation according to the ordered scenario anchored to the liberal principle of national self-determination. Single-nation states arose in Slovenia, Eritrea (separation from Ethiopia in 1993), East Timor (from Indonesia in 1999), in Southern Sudan (from Sudan in 2011), in Bougainville (in 2027?) through popular referenda. Among Yugoslavia’s separations, only the Slovenian one was single-nation, while the secessions of Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, and Macedonia were pluri-national; Montenegro’s separation (from Serbia in 2006) also gave rise to a pluri- national state. The declaration of independence by Kosovo in 2008 did not follow the self- determination principle because pluri-national separation only benefited Albanians.

Symmetric integration has been achieved through two scenarios. The first is federalism, which materialized in Bosnia (between Croats/Muslims and Serbs) after 1995 Dayton agreement, Iraq (among Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites after the 2005 referendum), Nigeria (after the 1960s’ Biafra War), Ethiopia (from 1995 to 2018), Somalia (since 2003, but was weak), and India (in Punjab, Kashmir, Assam, Uttar Pradesh). The second scenario is a consensual pact with the representation in government of all groups in conflict. This occurred in Ulster (between Unionists and Catholics after the 1998 Agreement), Lebanon (after the 1943 constitution), Afghanistan (among Tajiks, Uzbeks and Pashtuns from 2001 to 2021), Tajikistan (between Russians and Uzbeks in the north and Tajiks in the south from 1997 until 2006), Burundi (from 2003 to 2015), Sierra Leone (since 2002), Liberia (since 2005), Ivory Coast (from 2007 to 2010), Belgian Congo (from 2003 to 2006), Central African Republic (after the 2016 elections), Kenya (from 2007 to 2017), Zimbabwe (after the 2008 agreement), south Sudan (in 2020). Asymmetric integration only consists in the concession of administrative autonomy, as in Euskadi (within the Spanish constitution), in Croatia with Serbs (since the 2005 negotiations with the EU on enlargement), in Macedonia to Albanians (since 2001), in Turkish Kurdistan (from 2005 to 2015), between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza (from 1993 to 2023), in Pakistan (where federalism is only formal), in Bangladesh (in Buddhist Chittagong), in the Philippines (in the Muslim island of Mindanao), in Indonesia (in Aceh) and Papua (in Bougainville) to minorities, in Niger (after the mid-1990s peace agreements with the main Tuareg groups). In Christian Casamance of Senegal and indigenous Chiapas (since 2001), autonomy is partial, but violence has ended. Confederation is a compromise between integration and separation. There were no conflicts after the partition of former USSR, because confederations admit secessions. The Bosnian confederation is only formal because single polities cannot declare independence. Land compromise emerged in Cyprus between Turkey (30%) and Greece (70%), in Kashmir between India (60%) and Pakistan (40%), in current wars in Yemen, Libya, Sudan, and Somalia.

Exchange is the modality characterized by crimes against humanity; governments grant amnesty to criminals in exchange for an end to violence. This happened in the 1990s in both Algeria towards Islamic groups and Cambodia towards the communist Khmer Rouge. In Colombia amnesty to various communist groups has been extended to Farc in 2016, while Peru’s government has refused to grant amnesty to the communist terrorists of Sendero Luminoso.

Persuasion comes about if a state accepts (for example) an arbitration, examples being Libya’s return of the Aozou Strip to Chad, Nigeria’s renounce to Bakassi to Cameroon, and to Ethiopia’s return of Badme to Eritrea.

Transcendence can be realized if democracy resolves conflicts, as in post-apartheid Namibia and Mozambique, in post-1989 Guatemala and El Salvador (after the wars of the 1980s), in Nepal and Philippines (after the wars with domestic communist groups); in Ukraine it had worked for 20 years; in 2022 a war has started between pro-European West and pro-Russian East. In Dominican Republic, after the 1965 invasion by the USA, democracy emerged in the late 1960s. Haiti was subject to two American military interventions (in 1994 and 2004), and democracy was able to overcome both patrimonial right and populist left illiberal regimes. If regimes are authoritarian (like in Nicaragua) or hybrid (like in Haiti, Mozambique and Nepal), transcendence is only potential.

Conflicts in Cyprus (Greeks vs Turks), in Lebanon (Israel vs Hezbollah), in Kashmir (India vs Pakistan) were frozen thanks to multilateralization of United Nations’ peace keeping missions.

Other conflicts have been resolved through asymmetric processes like a military victory, so that a dominion materializes. This occurred to the UK against Argentina in the 1982 Falklands War, to China in Kashmir (Aksai Chin) against India, and to India in Arunachal Praedesh against China, to China against Tibet, Inner Mongolia and Xinyang (since the Communist Party repression after 1945), to Albanians against Serbs in Kosovo (after the 1999 NATO intervention), to Russians in Dagestan (in 1998), Transnistria (against Moldova), Novorussia and Crimea (against Ukraine), to Ossetians against Georgians in South Ossetia, to Israel towards Palestinians in West Bank (after the 1967 Six Days’ War) and Gaza (after 2023), to North against South Yemen in 1994, to Alawites against Sunnis in Syria, to Turkey and Iran against Kurds, to Talibans in Afghanistan, to Sri Lanka against Tamils (after government’s attack in 2009), to Myanmar against ethnic minorities, to Thailand against Muslims in Pattani, to Laos against some minorities, to Indonesia against the Christian population of West Papua Guinea, to northern Islamic against southern Christian in Chad (since the beginning of the 1980s and then after Deby’s victory in 1990), to Sudan against South Sudan in the Abyei region, to Tutsi against Hutu in Rwanda, to Hutu against Tutsi in Burundi, to governments of Guinea (with Conté’s repression), Ivory Coast (after Outtara’s victory in 2011), Belgian Congo (after Kabila’s victory in the 2006 elections) Angola (after government’s victory against Unita in 2002), Uganda (with Musuveni), French Congo (with Sassou-Nguesso since 1999), Kenya (with Kenyatta since 2017), Ethiopia (with Ahmed since 2018), Cote d’Ivoire (with Outtara since 2000), in Mali (since 2023), Tajikistan (with Rahmon since 2006), native Fijians against Indians in Fiji isles, and to Peru against the communist terrorists of Sendero Luminoso. Russia favored a segmentation of Chechnya, with an alliance with moderate Chechens; Sudan divided Darfur groups in 2020. Al Qaeda is trying to enact subversion in many states: in Chechnya (through Caucacus Front), Syria and Iraq (through Isis), Somalia (through Islamic courts), Nigeria (through Boko Haram), Yemen and Mali (with his own factions). If military victory is coupled with ethnic cleansing, there is incapacitation. This occurred in Abkhazia (against Georgians), in North Ossetia (in Prigorodny against Ingushes in 1992), to Azerbaijan against Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh (in 2023); on the Golan Heights (Israel against Syria) since 1967. In Cyprus incapacitation was reciprocal, with the expulsion of Greeks from the north and Turks from the south after 1974. Ethnic cleansing is often partial and some minority populations remain: in Western Sahara of Morocco against Sahrawis (in different phases after the withdrawal of Spain in the mid-1970s); in Darfur where Islamic Africans were expelled by Islamic Arabs in the late 1990s; in parts of Indian Kashmir where many Hindus were incapacitated by Muslims after 1989.

Many conflicts have a double dimension: one among the sociological (majority/minority) actors within a section of territory; the other among the states involved. The latter conflicts undergo a freezing process, with a de facto separation which is not recognized by international law. This has occurred in Northern Cyprus after the 1974 war between Greece and Turkey, Kosovo (also with the 2008 declaration of independence), Transnistria (after the 1992 war), Georgia in Abkhazia and South Ossetia (after the two wars of 1992/3 and 2008), Crimea and Novorussia since 2014/22, India and Pakistan (after the 1947 and 1965 Kashmir wars), and British Somaliland (since 1991).

In sum, most of these armed conflicts were very violent in the 1990s, but ‘mainstream’ ethnic, linguistic or religious wars ended, with few exceptions: Ukraine, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kivu, Central African Republic, Myanmar… But even if most of those wars have ended, only few conflicts have been resolved: many incompatibilities have only been frozen or are unstable. This is evident in regard to the above-mentioned de facto separations, to the asymmetric conflict avoidance processes (dominion and incapacitation), and to many consensual pacts – which seem efficient only in the short term. Instead, conflicts involving Islamic fundamentalist groups (in Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Philippines…) are crystallized (especially since the Arab spring of 2011) and they all live a violent phase.

  1. The influence of political cultures in conflict resolution processes

The basic analytical framework on the relation between political cultures and the three main scenarios of world politics (governance, order and anarchy) should be emphasized (Fossati 2017). The liberal value of the (potential) post-1989 world order is national self-determination, that leads to separations though popular referenda with the emergence of new single-nation states. Instead, (political or military) governance has never been linked to a single value and thus leads to pluri- national states; it has usually been supported by the promoters of the constructivist left political culture and their strong emphasis on the “politically correct” value of multiculturalism. When there is no governance at all, the main powers do not intervene (neither diplomatically nor militarily), and the so-called political laissez-faire prevails, there is anarchy; this scenario has been supported by the promoters of the conservative political culture, where interests prevail over values.

Before 1989, the USA and the USSR never promoted either liberal national self- determination or politically correct multi-cultural states. The choice of two great powers has been precise: never supporting national groups outside the West (or the East) and making ‘traffic light’ wars, where the USA (and their allies) fought the USSR allies (in Vietnam) or vice versa (in Afghanistan). The URSS did much more; nationalisms were repressed in the second world, through ethnic cleansing, forced colonizations, mass deportations. Neither leftist nor liberal ideologies’ intensive political cultures mattered before 1989 and the conservative anarchical scenario prevailed.

After the Cold War, national self-determination is still far from being guaranteed, except in some exceptions, when single-nation separations have materialized: Slovenia, East Timor, Eritrea, southern Sudan. In most conflicts, pluri-national states have been promoted; and ‘non-ordered’ governance (i.e. without any unit of measurement) has emerged in both symmetrical integrations (Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq) and asymmetric separations (as in former Yugoslavia except Slovenia), which have become or have remained multi-cultural polities. Anarchy materialized in the other cases (Chechnya, Kurdistan, Tibet, Sri Lanka…), in which there was no involvement of the main powers or of the United Nations to resolve conflicts (Fossati 2017).

There is an ideological explanation of this outcome. The conservative right has always been obsessed with an anti-liberal bias against national self-determination and secessions; its fear being of a ‘domino effect’. National aspirations not linked to the Western powers’ interests are considered to be diseases generating conflict, terrorism and wars. Thus conservative strategies of conflict prevention have been linked to anarchy, avoiding attempts at both governance and order. At most, asymmetrical integration (administrative autonomy) could be the low intensity conservative attempt at governance. Huntington (1996) supported the conservative strategies within a sort of ‘political laissez-faire’ among the main powers in order to prevent the ‘clash of civilizations’. Thus Western states should abstain from intervening when self-determination demands are raised by repressed nations (Chechnya, Kurdistan, Tibet) in the ‘zones of turmoil’. Military interventions by the West should be limited to strategic areas, like the Middle East, to contain violence that might damage Western interests, without encouraging any nationalist group.

The promoters of the constructivist ideology prefer non-ordered pluri-national states within a politically correct governance (Rosenau, Czempiel 1992) based on integration or asymmetric separations, multi-culturalism (Keating 2001), and cosmopolitan identity (Held 1995). A shared peace formula may lead to multilateralization within confederations (Galtung, Jacobsen 2000). There is an ideological bias against national self-determination, which is considered to be a new (not politically correct) form of apartheid. It is the ‘super-structure syndrome’ typical of post- Marxism. Leftist intellectuals criticized Huntington (1996). Political correctness is based on two principles: uniformizing what is different and never criticize the weak actors. Leftist leaders have never proposed separate peace as a resolution formula for Bosnia; nor did they support separation of Kosovo. However, this is only an apparent contradiction between integration and separation because both are pluri-national states. The USA and the EU did not support the symmetric separation (into two parts: one Albanian and one Serb) of Kosovo because it could have upset Dayton equilibria in pluri-national Bosnia. This is the ‘Dayton paradox’ within the ‘King Solomon’s syndrome’. The UE never supported secessions (not even in Montenegro), with the exception of Palestine with the formula two nations, two states (Tocci 2007) – that is refused for Ukraine and Russia. The Ukrainian state could not be divided (and even federalism was refused) and Zelensky (the weak actor) could never be criticized. Neo-conservatives have never supported national self-determination either: for example, in Iraq. Manichean leftists have suggested separations only when under-privileged actors have been involved, as in the Israel-Palestinians conflict. Nationalism would be acceptable if it is supported by a third-world actor, but it would become evil if consistent with a Western national aspiration. As researchers, we must only observe reality, and if there is some cultural violence, we cannot conduct ‘trials of intentions’, and we should limit ourselves to advancing suggestions on how to resolve conflicts. European nations waged cultural wars against each other for centuries; other peoples in the world should not repeat that mistake, but it is normal if they do so. Before political correctness became the prevailing culture, it was widely accepted that people with a common identity could constitute ‘their’ state.

Liberalism is the only political culture that supports order and national self-determination demands – leading to separate peace, and secessions of single/nation states – because its ideology is based on cultural pluralism, and free society pressures are preferred to state control. Realists and Marxists have always defended the interests of states or classes. American president Wilson (of the Democratic Party) was the main promoter of this value (with little success) in the 1920s. National self-determination can be the outcome of a referendum, organized by the UN, which often leads to a separate peace formula – even if populations may prefer pluri-national scenarios. The transfers of minorities should give rise to culturally homogeneous polities. Consensual or unilateral population movements are rare: the few exceptions have been (respectively) India and Pakistan after 1945 or Israel’s withdrawal from Sinai and from Gaza. National self-determination is not easy to achieve in these three scenarios: populations mixed together (as in the Israel-Palestine conflict), enclaves (as in the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict), and immigration floods within foreign countries (as in the Kosovo-Serbia conflict). Single-nation states could better manage conflicts with fundamentalist Islam, because their leaders could enjoy more legitimacy in the (more cohesive) populations.

The second complementary hypothesis on the convergence between governance and anarchy is anchored to rationality. Pluri-national states and frozen or unstable conflicts represent the mini/max option in the prisoner’s dilemma of game theory. National self-determination and order may resolve incompatibilities in the long period (option #I), but they may lead to more violence in the short term (option #IV). Rational decision-making is linked to the high probability that actors want to avoid that binary choice: the best and especially the worst ones. Rational behavior will seek to reach intermediate options through a non-intentional convergence between the promoters of conservative anarchy (the so-called political laissez-faire: option #III) – as in Tibet, Chechnya, Sri Lanka – and leftist political correctness in favor of multi-cultural and non-ordered governance (option #II) with the promotion of pluri-national states (either by integration or asymmetrical separation, as in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, Lebanon, Libya). Those polities have been anchored to consensual pacts, which in the short period are easier to accomplish than federalism. In sum, states do not collaborate and apply a rational co-ordination leading either to pluri-national states, or – if it fails – to anarchy. After 1989, conservative and constructivist strategies were promoted – interests and those ideas are compatible – more than liberal and Manichean ones. The convergence between the promoters of these political cultures was non-intentional. Governance or anarchy was preferred – see the prisoner’s dilemma prediction of the mini/max solution – because order was the best option; but it may also lead to the worst one: the incapacity to guarantee national self-determination which gives rise to conflict, war, ethnic cleansing, terrorism…

However, pluri-national states may be democratically inconsistent when citizens of a single nation become the parliamentary majority within the state and form a culturally homogeneous government, excluding the losing minority from power. In these cases, especially in Africa and Eastern Europe (like Ukraine or Israel), electoral democracies have often led to war. Power should be shared at all levels, but especially in public institutions (civil service, the judiciary, armed forces, security forces, and secret services). This is the perverse effect of electoral democracies: if many developing countries do not resolve the primary conflict among all the different national polities within them, they are bound to remain unstable. Moreover, consensual pacts are not easy to maintain in the medium period, and electoral democracy may lead again to conflict (and war), as in Belgian Congo or Ivory Coast after elections. The alternative is between a potential transcendence (with a power-sharing agreement in the neutral institutions, but not in government) and dominion, with ‘the winner takes all’ formula (like Zelensky in Ukraine). If after the elections all the main groups have to reach a pact, someone may object: why waste so much money to organize them if the outcome is more or less the same? Elections can only facilitate calculation of the percentages for the division of power. Federalism seems to be more compatible with consolidated democracies than consensual pacts because it decentralizes power and can better prevent and manage conflict.

The hypothesis of convergence between the promoters of conservatism and leftist political correctness, concerns the relation between interests and ‘some’ ideas. Because political cultures are a mix between interests and ideas, they represent the ‘building blocks’ of international relations and influence all actors: governments, regional alliances, global institutions, NGOs. This has happened, precisely because political cultures influence all of them, and not the contrary: governments or global institutions influencing political cultures (Fossati 2017).

  1. Therapies: ‘preferred worlds’ in conflict resolution

The modern phase of Peace Research (PR) was characterized by the positivist hope of influencing politics, and Galtung (1985) launched the ‘preferred worlds’ project – a sort of pacific engineering – to focus on those conflict resolutions closer to a positive sum game, while at the same time being equal and feasible (and not totally unrealistic). Peace researchers have been discouraged by the passage of Western societies to post-modernity (since 1968), which has greatly weakened rational projects like PR. Then, some mistakes have probably been committed by the researchers, with a sort of intellectual subordination to the ‘prevailing’ ideology of post-modern societies: leftist political correctness. There has been a constant tendency to support pluri-national states – with integrations or asymmetric separations – while national self-determination has been considered a ‘new-apartheid’ scenario. Many leftist researchers have often had the post-Marxist ideological bias against nationalism, idealistically assuming that conflicts will be transformed only when ‘politically incorrect’ collective identities are overcome (Fossati 2017).

Let us now consider the typical conservative objection: why are you intervening to promote conflict resolution? Everyone should be satisfied with the end of violence, even if wars sometimes start again. If you try to resolve frozen conflicts, wars are probably going to resume. Anarchic conflict freezing is the mini-max outcome: worse than a definitive solution, but better than war – which stem from attempts at governance or order. The objection is reasonable, but single empirical solutions may suggest whether or not there is room for improvement, and whether anarchy is the only strategy to be pursued. In fact, anarchy is likely to lead to zero-sum conflict resolution processes, such as dominion, incapacitation or (in the best scenario) asymmetric integrations. Then, many conflicts go through lengthy peace negotiations, and it is better to have some creativity; otherwise violence may resume, as it did in Lebanon and Gaza. In sum, liberal, conservative or leftist biases should not affect researchers, even if they condition politicians; nor can national self- determination become a panacea. Federations, more than power-sharing agreements or confederations (Galtung 2002, 2008), are probably the most equitable solutions.

These are ‘preferred worlds’, which must not be read as rigid positions. The two conflicts of Kosovo and Western Sahara could be resolved with a compromise with division of lands into two parts: the north under the sovereignty of Serbia/Morocco, and the south independent, also with exchanges of lands with Serbia. The Israel-Palestinian conflict could have been resolved with an independent state in all the PLO’s West Bank; instead, if Hamas does not renounce the destruction of Israel, administrative autonomy must remain in Gaza. Separate peace can be facilitated by exchanges of territories (between Israel and Palestinians) within and outside the 1967 frontiers.

Then, some Arab neighbors could give strips of land to the new Palestinian state. Falklands’ isles may become independence from both UK and Argentina, and Bougainville from Papua (in 2027?). Kurds have the right to build their own state, joining their territories in Syria and Iraq; Yemen could be divided between Shiite north and Sunni south. Separation between India and Pakistan in Kashmir should also be legalized. In Africa, Somaliland could become independent from Somalia without violating the 1963 OAU pact, because these two polities were decided by their empires: Italy and Great Britain. Condominium (shared sovereignty) could be implemented in Abyei between Sudan and South Sudan, with a formal agreement to share oil revenues.

There are some anomalous scenarios in former USSR where some territories were offered as gifts to other states. The return of these lands to their ‘mother’ nations seems the most equitable solution. Thus, Moldavian Transnistria should return to Ukraine; Ukrainian Crimea to Russia; the northern Ossetian region of Prigorodny to Ingushetia; Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia. In the Lachin corridor from Artsakh to Azerbaijan, there should be a UN peace keeping mission.

In Bosnia, Georgia (both Abkhazia and South Ossetia), Novorussia, Cyprus, Afghanistan, and Irian Jaya, referenda with a democratic choice between federalism and separation should promote peace. The victory of secessionists may also lead to integrations: with Croatia and Serbia (with an independent Islamic Bosnia); Russia; Greece and Turkey; Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan; Papua New Guinea. A referendum should be held in Kashmir so that populations can choose the exact frontier between India and Pakistan. Asymmetric integration (with autonomy) is to be applied by authoritarian China: in Tibet, Inner Mongolia and Xinyang. The same scenario applies to Iran and Turkey towards Kurds, minorities in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia (in Aceh). Autonomy should be strengthened in Chiapas. Confederations between Shiites and Sunnis are feasible in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. In the future, Sunni Iraq and Syria, or Shiite Lebanon and Syria, could be united within single-nation states. Those countries are characterized by the conflict with Islamic fundamentalist actors, like Al Qaeda or Isis, that cannot be resolved in the short term. Their power increased in pluri/national states (like Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan), and the conflict between Sunni and Shiite groups increased. In the medium term, Islamic fundamentalism could be weakened only by (more legitimate and moderate) authorities of new ‘single-nation’ states.

In Africa, federalism should be the solution, as consensual pacts seem feasible only in highly ethnically-mixed (between Hutu and Tutsi) Burundi and Rwanda (and in the Fiji Islands). Federalism can be applied in Sunni Libya, strengthened in Somalia, and exported from India to Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Philippines. This scenario can be implemented in Ukraine (between the Orange west and the pro-Russia east), in the Islamic nations of Russia (Chechnya, Dagestan) – the federal entities are the provinces and not the republics, which only enjoy autonomy and Tajikistan (between the Russian/Uzbek north and the Tajik south). In Ireland and Spain, a combination between federalism and consensual pacts could be implemented. Local governments should be managed by consensual pacts not only in Ulster, but also in Euskadi. Federalism could be implemented between Eire and Ulster (with the separation of Ulster from Great Britain) and among the various nationalities in Spain, whose autonomies already constitute an informal federalism.

However, Galtung’s (2002, 2008) suggestions also concern a fair and effective mediation process. First, all ‘tolerant’ (even if terrorist) actors must be invited to the negotiating table, except for those who do not accept the right of other actors to exist, and thus have genocidal intentions (like the PLO in the past and Hamas or Hezbollah today). Second, the mediator should conduct separate discussions with each actor, especially in the initial phase; only when common solutions can be envisaged may minilateral negotiations begin. Third, the mediator must have thorough knowledge of the history of the conflict, and must have an objective (his ‘preferred world’), but that objective cannot be managed rigidly (nor too flexibly). Fourth, there must not be a rigid pursuit of compromise, with a constant search for 50/50 solutions; more favorable (even if not excessively) solutions to a particular party may be pursued: equidistance is not always a virtue. Fifth, the mediator cannot be ideological, preferring either leftist pluri-national states (governance) or liberal self-determination (order), or conservative political laissez-faire (anarchy).

  1. Summarizing table on diagnoses and therapies of conflict resolution processes


Dominican Republic transcendence with democracy
Haiti potential transcendence with democracy transcendence with democracy
Chiapas asymmetric integration/autonomy more autonomy
Nicaragua potential transcendence with democracy transcendence with democracy
Salvador, Guatemala transcendence with democracy
Colombia exchange with amnesty
Peru dominion democratic government exchange with amnesty
Falkland Islands dominion Great Britain separation with independence
Ulster integration/consensual pact integration/federalism+consensual pact
Euskadi asymmetric integration/autonomy integration/federalism+consensual pact
Cyprus land compromise, multilateralization referendum –> ?
Croatia asymmetric integration/autonomy
Bosnia integration/federalism referendum –> ?
Kosovo asymmetric integration/autonomy land compromise
Montenegro pluri-national separation
Macedonia asymmetric integration/autonomy
TransNistria dominion Russians separation/integration with Ukraine
Ukraine dominion Ukrainians integration/federalism
Ukraine (Novorussia) dominion Russians referendum –> ?
Ukraine (Crimea) dominion Russians separation/integration with Russia
Abkhazia incapacitation Ossetians referendum –> ?
South Ossetia dominion Ossetians referendum –> ?
North Ossetia (Prigorodny) incapacitation Ingushes separation/integration with Ingushetia
Nagorno-Karabach incapacitation Armenians separation/integration with Armenia
Daghestan dominion Russia integration/federalism
Chechnya segmentation vs Chechnyans integration/federalism
Israel-Palestinians (Gaza) dominion Israel asymmetric integration/autonomy
Israel-Palestinians (West Bank) dominion Israel single-national separation
Israel-Lebanon multilateralization UN
Lebanon integration/consensual pact compromise confederation
Syria dominion Alawites, war compromise confederation
Iraq integration/federalism compromise confederation
Kuwait separation after Iraq’s dominion attempt
Kurdistan (Turkey, Iran) dominion Turkey/Iran asymmetric integration/autonomy
Kurdistan (Iraq) integration/federalism single-nation separation
Kurdistan (Syria) incapacitation of Turkey against Kurds single-nation separation
Yemen (1994) dominion of the North
Yemen (2010s) land compromise, war single-nation separation
Al Qaeda (Afg, Irq, Pak, Som) (project of) subversion ?
Western Sahara dominion/incapacitation Saraouis single-nation separation
Algeria exchange with amnesty
Tuareg (Niger) asymmetric integration/autonomy integration/federalism
Tuareg (Mali) dominion military government integration/federalism
Libya land compromise integration/federalism
Libya-Chad (Aozou strip) persuasion Libya with arbitrary trial
Chad dominion Islamic North integration/federalism
Sudan land compromise, war integration/federalism
South Sudan single-nation separation
Sudan-South Sudan (Abyei) dominion Sudan compromise with condominium
South Sudan (2010s) integration/consensual pact integration/federalism
Darfur segmentation vs Darfur’s groups integration/federalism


Senegal (Casamance) asymmetric integration/autonomy integration/federalism
Liberia, Sierra Leone integration/consensual pact integration/federalism
Guinea dominion government integration/federalism
Ivory Coast dominion Outtara integration/federalism
Nigeria integration/federalism, war integration/federalism
Nigeria-Cameroon persuasion Nigeria with arbitrary trial
Zimbabwe integration/consensual pact integration/federalism
Mozambique potential transcendence with democracy integration/federalism
Namibia transcendence with democracy integration/federalism
Angola dominion Mpla integration/federalism
Rwanda dominion Tutsi integration/consensual pact
Burundi dominion Hutu integration/consensual pact
Belgian Congo dominion Tshisekedi integration/federalism
Uganda dominion Musuveni integration/federalism
Central African Republic integration/consensual pact, war integration/federalism
French Congo dominion Sassou-Nguesso integration/federalism
Kenya dominion Rutu integration/federalism
Eritrea single-nation separation
Ethiopia dominion Ahmed, war integration/federalism
Ethiopia-Eritrea persuasion Ethiopia
Somalia land compromise, war integration/federalism
Somaliland integration/federalism single-nation separation
Afghanistan dominion Talibans referendum –> ?
Tajikistan dominion government integration/federalism
Kashmir (India-China) dominion China (exchange with A.P.)
Kashmir (India-Pakistan) land compromise, multilateralization referendum –> ? with redesign of frontiers
Kashmir (in India) federalism/incapacitation Hindus integration/federalism
Pakistan (Mohair, Baluchi) asymmetric integration/autonomy autonomy with redesign of frontier
India (Punjab, various conflicts) integration/federalism
Arunachal Pradesh (India-China) dominion India (exchange with Kashmir)
Sri Lanka dominion government integration/federalism
Bangladesh asymmetric integration/autonomy
China (Tibet, Xiny., Inn. Mong.) dominion China asymmetric integration/autonomy
Nepal potential transcendence with democracy transcendence with democracy
Myanmar (various conflicts) dominion government, war integration/federalism
Thailand dominion government integration/federalism
Laos dominion government integration/federalism
Cambodia exchange with amnesty
Philippines (communists) transcendence with democracy
Philippines (Mindanao) asymmetric integration/autonomy integration/federalism
East Timor single-nation separation
Indonesia (Aceh) asymmetric integration/autonomy
Indonesia (Irian Jaya) dominion Indonesia referendum –> ?
Papua (Bougainville) asymmetric integration/autonomy single-nation separation (in 2027?)
Fiji Islands dominion Fijians integration/consensual pact



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Fossati, F., 2017. Interests and stability or ideologies and order in contemporary world politics, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle.

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Websites: (Uppsala Conflict Data Program, Dept. Of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala Univ.) (International Crisis Group, Bruxelles) (Global Security, Washington) (International Conflict Research Institute, Ulster University) (Conflict Resolution Consortium, Boulder, Univ. of Colorado) (GlobalPeace index) (Amnesty International) (Human Rights Watch) (indexes on democracy) (United Nations)

(Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research: Conflikt Barometer) (SIPRI of Stokholm: Yearbook) (Sipri: Trends in Armed Conflicts) (SIPRI database: on military expenditures, on arms transfers…) (IISS of London: The Military Balance) (IISS of London: Armed conflict survey) (IISS of London: Strategic Survey) (Conflict Management and Peace Science) (Cooperation and Conflict) (International Journal on Conflict and Violence, Institute for Inter- disciplinary research on Conflict and Violence, Bielefeld University, Germany) (Journal of Peace Research, PRIO of Oslo) (Security Dialogue, PRIO of Oslo) (International Security) (Journal of Strategic Studies) (Long War Journal) (Security Studies) (Survival, IISS of London) (Copenhagen PR Institute, Danish Institute Int’l Studies) (Tampere PR Institute)


Fabio Fossati is associate professor in Political Science at the University of Trieste, where he teaches International Relations and Conflict Resolution. He published four books in Italian (Mercato e democrazia in America Latina; Economia e politica estera in Italia; I conflitti armati contemporanei: quali soluzioni; Introduzione alla politica mondiale), and one in English: Interests and stability or ideologies and order in contemporary world politics (Cambridge Scholars Publishing). He also published nearly 55 articles in Political Science journals. E-mail:



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One Response to “Contemporary Conflict Resolution Processes: Diagnoses and Therapies”

  1. Fabio, Thank you for your scholarly article.

    I agree with all the information you provide in such deep analytical detail.

    Where we differ is in the “Therapy” you ;propose. To me, the empirical evidence shows that the only therapy to end armed conflicts is to end manufacturing weapons, explosives, missiles, tanks, rocket launchers, bombing helicopters and drones, air FIGHTERS, and WAR ships.

    What’s the point in spending fortunes in the Armed Forces, train their members in the Art of fighting, killing, maiming, torturing, destroying buildings, if they’re going to be out of work?

    The only way politicians and economists can keep the War Industry alive is by creating “incompatibilities among different nations and/or civilizations” Whether these conflicts are ‘cultural’, involving collective identities (ethnicity, language, religion) or claims to a particular piece of land, or any absurd reason, the economy forces politicians to organise wars. And politicians, as well as military industrialists, use secret agents to infiltrate societies, factories, offices, universities, etc, to brainwash peace-loving people and divide societies.

    The Law dictates, imposes that the millions of workers in the war industry, like workers in any other field, are paid their salary at the end of each month. Without politicians organising wars, this would be totally impossible. If you were the owner of a Scud missiles business, you would not support a politician who makes you bankrupt because he’s against war.

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