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Thoughts on the Conflict Management Field after 30 Years

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This article surveys the emergence of conflict management from the academic and policy shadows into a far more prominent field of inquiry and practice. As the barriers to entry into third party roles collapsed at the end of the Cold War, the field of conflict management expanded, diversified, and fragmented into a range of practice areas (scholarly, policy-oriented, and operational). Four phases of this evolution are identified. An increasingly crowded field lacks gatekeepers or natural coherence, underscoring the need for leadership and sustained, coordinated efforts. The study of mediation has blossomed around the work of Zartman and others, while the policy community has swung back and forth in its enthusiasm for third party roles in an age where hard power and smart power vie for pride of place. Conflict management responses are increasingly spontaneous, ad hoc and case-specific. Debate is emerging over the pros and cons of engaging with armed non-state actors that are placed on proscribed lists in the struggle against terrorism. Post-conflict challenges continue to pose a severe test to practitioners of peacebuilding.

Affiliations: 1: Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University Intercultural Center Room 801, Washington, DC 20057 USA, Email:


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