By Brenda Salazar - International Relations degree student
Conflict resolution, according to Harvard “can be defined as the inform al or formal process that two or more parties use to find a peaceful solution to their dispute”. We are conscious that conflict is happening in different parts of the world, every single day, and prevent or resolve conflict without the use of violence is a goal in the 21st century. For that reason, the non-violent intervention in conflict is expanding globally. However, there have been too many efforts to reach peace and, even though they have improved the managing of a conflict, it is hard to settle them, since factors like history, culture, religion and power are present, and nowadays there are still challenges that make the conflict resolution harder to get. Some of them will be explained in the following lines.
First of all, unmet needs are the main reason why states behave the way they do and the way they react, since a conflict can be seen as an opportunity to meet their legitimate needs and make them give up of a certain “need” can create bigger conflicts because certain states feel that their identity or rights are being denied. A good example of this is the situation between Palestine and Israel, in which Palestinians feel their personal and national (security) needs are denied, meanwhile Israeli fight for their stated to be recognize in terms of religion and territory, so the conflict is based on unmet needs for both countries.
Additionally, the world’s natural resources are at risk due to population and technology growth, individual´s consumerism, and the economic interest on finite resources. This continue search for oil, water, gas and minerals is leading to more conflicts between states where fragile states, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Iran or Iraq in which these natural resources are found, are being exploited increasing the use of violence as a consequence of resource disputes.
Moreover, the fast pace of globalization has directly affected the way terrorism has expanded widely and faster that what we could imagine. Terrorism is definitely a challenge for conflict resolution since the use of violence as the major strategy to get their objectives (politically and economically) has no limits, rules nor borders making this a real threat for international law and government because their operations have weakened them, and even powerful and dominant states have been affected, United States damages on 9/11 attack.
Furthermore, the limited influence of “mediators of conflicts” after the war as ONGs or IGOs makes more difficult to resolve a conflict. An example of this is the United Nation, which function has been questioned many times as a consequence of their ineffectiveness to prevent conflicts, and the creation of rivalries among parties has been promoted instead. In conclusion, the necessity of techniques and methods are key in order to overcome obstacles regarding to 21st century conflicts.
All the actors in the international system need to be aware of this as well as the importance of implementing negotiation as a conflict resolution as an essential strategy to reduce the influence of post-Cold War relations, intra-states conflict and terrorism. Only when nations understand that even though conflicts sometimes will be inevitable and necessarily, they can also be seen as opportunities for actors involved to turn them as alternative way for creating positive outcomes, lasting change will be reached.