Increasing UK Conflict Resolution Capacity

Violent conflict within, beyond, and between states remains a pervasive phenomenon in contemporary international affairs and has been identified as one of the drivers of insecurity in the UK’s National Security Strategy of 2008 (and update thereof in 2009). Conflict manifests itself in different ways, has different causes and consequences, and requires different responses adequate for the type of conflict, the actors involved, and the timing of response over the lifecycle of a particular conflict. Consequently, for a major international security actor like the UK (as an individual state, within the framework of the Commonwealth, as a member of the EU and P5), identifying the capacities necessary to succeed as a third party in conflict resolution, mapping them onto what capacities exist across different Whitehall departments (principally, FCO, DfID, MoD) and thereby establishing gaps, and then working towards the consolidation, enhancement and further development of conflict resolution capacity is a key task for any government if it seeks to contribute to national and international security.

Conflict resolution, and especially the role of third parties in it, is a widely studied area in academia and a significant body of knowledge and understanding has been accumulated over the past two decades. The generation of this knowledge and understanding has been and remains, overwhelmingly curiosity-driven. While a lot of it is empirically well-informed (and theoretically grounded), it is mostly not geared towards application by policy makers, nor is it in many cases responding to specific needs of the policy community. Focusing on four key areas of conflict resolution capacity, identified in close consultation with key Whitehall stakeholders, this knowledge exchange project will hold thematic workshops within an overall framework of conflict prevention on: early warning, conflict resolution, natural resources, peacekeeping, and peace building.