Title: Preventing Violent Conflict: Assessing Progress, Meeting Challenges
Author: Lawrence Woocher
Institution: United States Institute of Peace
Publication Date: 2009
New wars will continue to erupt unabated if greater and smarter efforts are not made to prevent them. Current dangers stem from factors such as the rise of unstable regimes, global economic turbulence, climate change, and the shift in global power distribution. A wide range of governments and many intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations have made commitments to take serious efforts to prevent violent conflicts. However the international community as a whole has still not developed robust capacities to prevent violent conflict and to deploy them strategically. Practice rarely lives up to rhetorical commitments.
This report reviews the state of the conflict prevention field in terms of norms and political commitments, institutional capacities, and policy-relevant knowledge and discusses key challenges ahead.
The report asserts normative and political progress has not been fully matched with development of institutional capacities in governments, international organisations and non governmental organisations. Expanded conflict prevention capacities will not necessarily require new offices or institutions, but will require focused attention, resources, and a process to spur action in response to warning signs.
The knowledge required to prioritise and target prevention strategies is fairly well developed. More knowledge is needed to help move beyond a description of the conflict prevention toolbox to using these tools as part of empirically grounded prevention strategies.
Advancing the conflict prevention agenda will require navigating a series of challenges, including the rapidly changing context in which prevention strategies are applied, a set of difficult political and institutional factors that militate against vigorous preventive action, and the changing role of the United States in the global system.
The first step toward meeting the challenges is to make prevention a “must do” priority - on equal par with resolving active conflicts and rebuilding post-conflict states. Other steps include monitoring implementation of existing political commitments to conflict prevention and developing new political strategies to regularise the practice of prevention.