Conflict Resolution Terminology

Conflicts are dynamic and constantly changing they parties act and react to changing situations. This continuum is not intended to be finite, as these activities may overlap significantly in their definition and application to certain conflicts.

Conflict Prevention–activities that seek to prevent a dispute from becoming violent. May involve crisis management.

Conflict Management–activities that seek to stop, cool down or prevent further escalation of the violence and prepare the ground for a settlement. May involve peacekeeping, pre-negotiation, confidence-building measures, humanitarian and relief intervention.

Conflict Settlement–activities that seek to arrive at an agreement on the identified issues around which the parties are in conflict. May involve task-force discussions, negotiation, mediation, arbitration and other activities of peacemaking.

Conflict Resolution–activities that seek to discover, identify and resolve the underlying root causes of the conflict. May involve problem-solving or conflict analysis workshops; research, training and education programs; inter-group dialogue; reconciliation; and other activities of peacebuilding.

Conflict Transformation–activities that seek to change the conditions that give rise to the underlying root causes of the conflict, to prevent the outbreak of further violence, and to sustain a transformation from conflict-habituated to peace-oriented systems over time. May involve processes from all the other areas listed above, plus activities of nation-building, national reconciliation and healing, change agent and social transformation.

These activities occur with different parties. Conflict prevention, conflict management, and conflict settlement are generally legal, military, and political activities that involve officials from those fields.

Conflict resolution and conflict transformation can also involve officials, but are deeply socially- or community-based activities that involve highly motivated and committed people from many disciplines.

All these conflict activities can occur simultaneously. Coordination and cooperation between the parties involved in each can enhance the whole process.

by Louise Diamond, Ph.D. Co-Founder Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy