International Conflict Resolution

Conflicts become tedious when the unit in contention becomes a collective rather than an individual one. Peace psychology seeks to answer the questions of why large social groups like that of a country fall in conflict with each other and how the parties should arrive at some form of resolution. Kelman has done extensive work identifying the social-psychological dimensions of large-scale conflict and identified the core drive behind the emergence of conflicts. The text will discuss his approach and specific principles that guide effective conflict resolution.

International Conflict

On a global scale, there are conflicts between nations. Resource competition is undoubtedly a factor, but value and power disputes are frequently related and can dominate. In a steady and ongoing game of give and take, or threat and counter-threat, differences between governments are communicated through diplomatic channels, occasionally for the most extraordinary stakes. Many of the same social psychological illusions that characterise interpersonal and intergroup conflict can result from propaganda.

The rivalry between states is characterised by a dramatic alternating of peace and war, one of the most noticeable distinctions between the conflict between companies and nations. All other relationships exhibit this alternating of two opposite types of conflict—covert conflict fueled by promises, threats, and pressures during peace and overt conflict during war. However, international relations are where the overt-covert pattern is found in its most advanced form as a typical and essentially regular cycle.

The famous statement of Clausewitz that "war is an extension of diplomacy" acknowledges both the unity of the two systems of diplomacy and war as well as their starkly divergent patterns. We actually have two systems—diplomacy and war—each of which develops to the point that it gives rise to the other, resulting in a continuous, if irregular, alternation between them. We refer to the system of covert conflict in international relations as diplomacy rather than peace because it is essential to make a clear distinction between the system of covert conflict between states that has a high likelihood of eventually crossing the system boundary into war and the condition of genuine peace, or political integration, in which the institutions for the nonviolent resolution of disputes are present.

This brings up the second feature of international warfare. War symbolises a system border of deteriorating diplomatic ties and a lash out when the strain of those connections is intolerable for one side or the other. It also symbolises an ongoing threat to diplomatic relations itself. The degree to which the fear of war was employed as a tool in the conduct of diplomatic relations—for example, the essentially nonexistent danger of war between the United States and Canada—could be used to characterise the nature of diplomatic relations as peaceful or warlike. War danger in US-Russia relations is never improbable.

Some Dimensions of Global Conflict

Conflict resolution is a complex and multi-faceted process that requires a thorough understanding of the various dimensions involved. Here are some of the most critical global dimensions of conflict resolution −

Political Dimension

Conflicts often involve political issues, such as territorial disputes, power, and resources. Effective conflict resolution often requires addressing these political issues through negotiations and agreements that address the underlying political drivers of the conflict.

Economic Dimension

Economic factors can contribute to and exacerbate conflicts, particularly when access to resources is limited. Addressing the economic dimensions of conflict often involves promoting sustainable economic growth and development, reducing inequality, and increasing access to resources.

Social and Cultural Dimension

Social and cultural differences can be a significant source of conflict, particularly in situations where different groups have different values, beliefs, and norms. Effective conflict resolution often requires promoting social and cultural integration and addressing the conflict's underlying social and cultural drivers.

Legal Dimension

Conflicts often involve legal issues, such as disputes over human rights, the rule of law, and access to justice. Effective conflict resolution often requires addressing these legal issues through reforms and improvements to the legal system.

Environmental Dimension

Conflicts can also have environmental dimensions, such as disputes over access to natural resources and the impact of environmental degradation on communities and the environment. Effective conflict resolution often requires addressing the environmental dimensions of conflict through environmental conservation and sustainable resource management.

Psychological Dimension

Conflicts can also have psychological dimensions, such as the impact of trauma, fear, and mistrust on individuals and communities. Effective conflict resolution often requires addressing the psychological dimensions of conflict through programs that promote healing, reconciliation, and peacebuilding.

Social-Psychological Dimensions of International Conflict

Kelman has proposed that international conflicts occur due to particular dynamics within the social forces. He states that conflicts escalate due to several socio-psychological processes. For effective conflict resolution, these dynamics need to be reversed. He has given four factors that contribute to the nature of international conflicts, each of which expands in a comprehensive on the traditional view of international relations.

The four factors given by Kelman are −

  • People's collective fears and needs drive conflict.

  • Conflict is not a purely interstate phenomenon. Instead, it is an intersocial phenomenon.

  • Conflict involves exercising influence along multiple levels.

Conflict is a result of multiple interplaying factors.

All four factors will be examined in detail in the following paragraphs.

Conflict is Driven by People’s Fears and Needs

Humans have a strong drive for self-preservation. This drive is unlike a wild animal's first drive to survive. Humans, however, extend beyond their physical selves and perpetuate their existence through thoughts, ideas and beliefs. Conflict arises when the psychological survival of a person is threatened. Any threat to one's existence induces fear and endangers one's need for security and safety. Conflict is a byproduct of these emotions. It prompts one to develop a defensive front which inhibits the other party from intervening. An exhibition of one's strength counters any perception of vulnerability. This is seen in cases where nations at odds with each other showcase an array of military weapons to 'one-up' each other. Effective conflict resolution has to penetrate through these fears.

Conflict is an Inter-social Phenomenon

It is limiting to view international conflict as purely an interstate phenomenon involving dialogue on a national level. Conflict is deeply rooted in the general public's social, psychological, economic and cultural vicissitudes. It emerges out of basic human emotions. Coalitions between factions across conflict lines can foster resolution. Settlements that focus on the official, political level fail to address the broader social aspects of conflict and so fail to resolve the conflict entirely.

Conflict Involves Exercising Influence along Multiple Levels

At the international level, global conflicts can involve the actions and policies of international organizations, such as the United Nations, and the relationships and interactions between states and other actors. At the national level, conflicts can involve the actions and policies of governments, various interest groups and civil society organizations. Furthermore, at the local level, conflicts can involve the actions and relationships of communities and individuals. Understanding the interplay between these different levels of influence is essential to address global conflicts and effectively promoting peace and stability. Effective conflict resolution strategies often involve engaging with all relevant actors and addressing the root causes of the conflict rather than just its symptoms.

Conflict is a Result of Multiple Interplaying Factors

Some of the most common factors contributing to global conflicts include political, economic, social, and cultural differences; disputes over resources and territory; power imbalances; historical tensions and past conflicts; and competing interests and ideologies. In addition, technological advancements and the interconnectedness of the world can also play a role in exacerbating conflicts by facilitating the spread of information and ideas and enabling the rapid movement of people, goods, and weapons across borders.


It is essential to understand the interplay between these different dimensions of conflict resolution to address conflicts and promote peace and stability effectively. Effective conflict resolution often requires a comprehensive and multi-disciplinary approach that considers the complex and interrelated nature of the conflict.

Updated on: 14-Mar-2023


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