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Contact and Conflict Resolution: Examining the Extent to which Interpersonal Contact and Cooperation Can Affect the Management of International Conflicts1

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image of International Negotiation

Conflict between states, as well as between governments and non-state actors, continues to pose one of the most serious threats to individuals in the international community today. In an effort to reduce the destruction caused by these conflicts, a number of interventions, processes, and conflict management methods have been attempted. One of these methods involves facilitating conditions for positive contact between the disputants thus enabling them to develop a rapport of some sort. While this idea has received widespread theoretical support, there is little empirical analysis considering the benefits of such an approach. Here we examine how the context in which contact occurs can affect conflict management; we outline the assumptions that underpin conditions of the context, and discuss strategies, such as interactive problem solving, that have at their heart the goal of improving conditions of contact and communication as a prelude to conflict resolution. Our research goes beyond most studies, in that we subject the ideas of various conditions of contact and communication to an empirical test. We develop specific hypotheses on the role and relevance of the conditions of contact, and investigate the extent to which conflict management techniques can create positive conditions to contribute to conflict resolution. An original dataset including various conflict management techniques is examined to analyze our hypotheses. Findings indicate that factors such as the rank of a mediator and the type of conflict are more significant predictors of successful conflict management than the involvement of a third party facilitator. We examine both interstate conflicts and civil conflict to determine whether these different types should be managed differently.

Affiliations: 1: School of Political and Social Science, University of Canterbury Private Bag 4800, Christchurch 8042 New Zealand, Email:; 2: Claremont Graduate University Claremont, CA USA, Email:


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