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Conflict Between Generations


In 1957, Kenneth Boudling argued that the world was facing two major problems. The first problem was that the world was facing international relations problems. Many nations were likely to fight each other. Most of the neighboring countries had issues with boundaries, ethnicity, and religion among other triggers of conflict. There was unrest, and every nation was preparing to be military empowered because anything could happen. In fact, the world was working towards prevention of another world war. Secondly, there was an urgent need to make international relations an interdisciplinary enterprise so that conflicts facing the world could be resolved amicably. It would only be possible if more research were done to understand conflict and conflict resolution. Since then, there have been many changes in the field that has seen conflict resolution evolve. Conflicts have also evolved from interstate to intrastate and proxy wars as discussed in this paper.

First Generation of Conflict Resolution (1918-1945)

The first generation of conflicts resolution is referred to as the precursors. During this era, the world wars were happening. There were a lot of unrest in the world with nations coming against each other. There were allies formed with the basis of destroying the enemy. Liberal and socialist internationalists movements did not manage to prevent the world war using the knowledge that they had. Therefore, there was an urgent need to study peace as a science and come up with scientific methods of resolving conflicts. In fact, pacifism was born in this generation. Some people felt that it was necessary to do away with the culture of violence at all cost. They believed that it is only through doing so that the world can have peace.

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Even if peace studies were not institutionalized until 1954, there was a development that started in 1918. Scholars believed that there was a need to study International Relations as an independent discipline. Advocates of peace believed that the world could only become peaceful of there was an academic solution to the conflict. There was the need to understand the root causes of conflicts and lasting solutions to the violence. The research advocated understood that it was practically impossible for the entire world to agree on everything. However, they argued that it would be possible to resolve conflicts without using violent means. Similarly, it was not necessary for countries to keep fighting. Realism supported the idea too because they had seen the impacts of the war that had already started. Many people lost their lives, and there was no hope in the world.

Europeans were eager to see a peaceful world. Thus, between 1920 and 1940, there were several initiatives and proposals on conflict resolution. The European advocates believed that it would be possible to use the League of Nations to make the world peaceful. They wanted the world to learn from the past failures and strengthen the peace institutions. Similarly, American internationalists worked with the Carnage Endowment for International Peace in their search for a peaceful world. Germany founded a Peace Academy in 1930. In 1931, France Chaired the first international peace study at the University of Lyons. Everybody was uncomfortable with the state of violence in the world. Thus, people were ready to do everything possible to end the conflicts and live peacefully.

Most of the ideas in this generation were idealistic. Most of the proponents of peace initiatives were pure scientists. They were driven by the scientific causes and impacts of war. They understood that the impacts of war were severe and something needed to be done urgently to bring sanity into the world. The other advocates were medical practitioners. They argued in the medical way that is war is like a disease, then there should be prevention methods. They understood the mental and psychological impacts of war. People trusted that doctors world give them a solution in every situation. Thus, they were obliged to do something to save the fighting world.

The formation of the United Nations in 1945 was a result of multidisciplinary thinking. It originated from political science, psychology, and international Studies. The UN was the beginning of the end of interstate wars. The world agreed that there should be a non-governmental body that would advise the world on peace matters. Even if most of the leaders were the same with the culture of violence, it would be possible to change their mind gradually. Everyone wanted peace and thus had to cope with that. People had gone through hard times, and they had a lot of bitterness because of the international conflicts they had witnessed. People had vengeful minds but believed that peace could help them heal.

Pacifism and non-violence approaches dominated the precursors’ generation. Ideas from Mahatma Gandhi that there should be no violence made the world view things differently. Many people supported the Gandhian conflict model. They believed that peace would only be achieved if it is sought using peaceful means. There were several peace movements that followed the Gandian movement in India. Integrating the Gandhian ideas provided the world the basis of peace in the world.

Second Generation (1945-1965)

The foundation’s generation followed the precursor. After the end of the Second World Wars, a new threat emerged. There was a great advancement in technology because the warring nations had discovered means of winning the battle. There were many nations that were acquiring nuclear weapons. No country trusted the other. Everybody wanted to acquire military power to be on the safe side. Therefore, there was more tension that was before the world wars. Nuclear weapons have the capacity of destroying the entire universe. Since no one was certain of what would happen the next day, nations preferred to equip themselves with nuclear weapons so that the other nation will not dare touch them. The cold war period took a long time because the agreements did not assist immediately. Most of the nations signed agreements, but when they suspected that their enemy was still making nuclear weapons, they breached the agreement as well.

The practical development of peace institutions did not take place until the end of the Second World War. The world was too unstable during the wars such that it would not be practically possible to start something concrete. Therefore, the actualization of the peace institutions waited until the Foundation’s Generation. After the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombing in 1945, Theodore Lentz started the Peace Research Laboratory in Missouri. According to Lentz, the advancement in technology and scientific development increased physical power. However, they reduced the physical harmony that makes people have the urge to live in harmony. In this case, therefore, there was unrest need of harmonizing the scientific world, failures to which the superpowers would destroy the world with the weapons they acquired through science.

Several pioneers of conflict management followed Lentz’s lead. They were either at the Michigan University already or decided to join the university with the aim of getting a solution on how to harmonize the people. Some of the renowned pioneers are Kenneth Boulding, Johan Galtung, and John Burton. They wrote books and journals about conflicts and conflict management. They introduced new ideas in conflict management. They were dedicated scholars who researched to understand the perception of people about conflict, peace, and violence. Thus, they came understood what people in the ground thought about conflicts. Consequently, their well-documented works were used widely and helped change the perspectives of the people. In fact, they contributed to the end of the world war as they enlighten the world that there was no need to live in fear.

During this period, there was more public awareness, education, and publication of peace and conflict articles and journals to make people change their attitude. The peace advocates believed that the tension was as a result of the vengeful minds that the people carried from the World Wars. The period was full of mistrusts. However, people were still experiencing the consequences of the war. They were not ready to go through the same impacts again. They had lost relatives, friends, and property. Some were permanently disabled because of the injuries they acquire during the war. Therefore, people were ready to change and look for another solution that could help resolve conflicts differently in the future.

The Third Generation (1965-1985)

The third generation of conflicts resolution is referred to as the consolidation age. In the early 1970s and the late 1960s, the world had gone considerable steps into making the world peaceful. In fact, there was enough research that indicated what should be done if the international wars were to end. The world had agreed that there is the need to avoid nuclear weapons as much as possible, correct the historical injustices and inequalities at the global level, and achieve ecological control and balance at the global level. In this case, the world was attempting to formulate the theoretical solution to destructive conflicts. Appropriate and practical responses were seen as the only solution to the situation.

The first step was to deal with interstate conflicts. Most of the states were armed and ready to engage in war with the neighboring countries or any country that would challenge them. Thus, there was the need to from win-win agreements that will make the nations avoid going into war. Several agreements were done between nations, regions and at the international level. For instance, the alternative defense strategy that was established in the early 1980s was meant to convince the world to use alternative means to resolve their disputes. The countries agreed that they would do everything they could to avoid engaging in physical violence.

Secondly, domestic conflicts were also considered. There was the need to caution the nations because war at the domestic level was also dangerous. The world started negotiations on what should be done to avoid domestic wars. It was a difficult step because sovereign countries make decisions on what should be done in their countries. However, the international community agreed that there is the need for all countries to ensure there is good governance in their countries. Most of the times people in the same country fight because of bad governance. Even if there are other factors that trigger intra-state conflicts, bad or poor governance is the main cause. If there is a stable government that has the interest of the people, it can stop any conflicts such as resource-based and boundaries conflicts between ethnic communities.

Most of the countries had gained independence from the colonizers. Others were gaining the independence, and the world was becoming free from colonization. Therefore, countries felt sovereign, and they wanted to fight for their sovereignty. In this case, there were continuous inter-state conflicts between nations especially because of boundaries. Most of the conflicts did not turn out to be violent because the international communication was watching. The countries were always warned about the consequences and advised on how to resolve their disputes without necessarily involving war. Similarly, the United Nations was strong and could not allow nations to go into war. The world had learned lessons the hard way after the League of Nations failed to prevent the World Wars.

The practice of mediation was invested in this generation. Adam Curle is believed to be the father of modern mediation. He had witnessed many conflicts in African and Pakistan. During the Biafran War, Curle witnessed many people die in the conflict. The violent conflicts threaten the development that had taken place in the world. Therefore he felt the urge to investigate why people still fight even after feeling direct impacts of past wars. He volunteered to listen to the warring parties so that they can express their cases to him. As a mediator, Curle documented his experience in a book known as Making Peace. He argued that violence is the greatest enemy to development. He viewed peace as a crucial element in human development considering his academic background in social development.

In the late 20th century, mediation and reconciliation were known as the best solutions to conflicts. Nations were advised to look for a third party who would listen to them and help them talk. These alternative methods of conflict resolution were successful in many situations. The mediators are impartial individuals who have no interest in the conflict. They create an environment for the conflicting parties to discuss the causes of conflict. The mediator is an effective communicator who facilitates communication between the parties. He encourages them to suggest possible solutions to their disputes. The parties make the decision on which solution they will use. The mediator only helps them communicate so that they can understand each other.

The Fourth Generation (1985-2005)

The reconstruction generation followed the consolidation period. After the Cold War, the world was in a modern order. People had learned from past mistakes and could not repeat the same errors. There were many Non-Governmental Organizations that dealt with conflict management. A lot of researchers were available and explained most of the complexities concerning conflicts. However, conflict management is a complex discipline. Peacekeepers and advocates of non-violence understand that conflicts are complex because they are caused by deep-rooted causes that cannot be resolved at once. Therefore, the world was still cautious as they knew anything could happen. The NGOs were actively involved in public awareness to make the people embrace the culture of peace.

There were many developments in the conflicts management. Most of the nations could not fight as alternative methods of conflict resolution were already in place. In fact, this is the generation that scholars agree that there was some stability in the world. However, there emerged a new danger in the world. Religious based conflicts in started emerging. People who had lived peacefully as sisters and brothers started fighting because they have a different faith. The world faced a new menace that was unexpected. Terrorism was the greatest problem in this generation. Countries that had thought that the war was over were shocked to know that they have to fight with militia groups claiming to be fighting the Holy War.

Terrorism became more complex than any other conflict the world had faced. It was not possible to resolve terrorism using the alternative methods of conflict management because these militias claimed that their religion is endangered. Thus, they could not listen to anyone or take part in negotiations. The situation was made worse by the fact that terrorism is coined with many criminal activities. They kidnap people and ask for ransom, bomb buildings and kill people. They target the civilians who have no idea why they are fighting. Thus, terrorism made it complicated for the world that has just completed the war phases. Every nation was threatened by religious conflicts. Terrorism spread so fast that before a nation realizes, there is already a group terrorizing the nation.

The Present and the Future

Currently, there are hardly any conflicts between two states. However, the terrorism menace is affecting every nation. There are many terrorist groups in different parts of the world that every nation wants to fight. Terrorism is the global threat. The international community is fighting it using all means possible. The most preferred means of dealing with terrorism is the military way. Terrorists do not want to engage in negotiations or mediation processes. They are determined to fight for their religion despite the fact that no one is fighting any religion. Basically, these are criminals who want to terrorize the world using religion as the scapegoat. They have made the world wonder and go through pains after many attacks that have caused losses of lives and destruction of property.

There are several countries that have wars. In Africa, countries such as Congo, Burundi, South Sudan and Uganda are currently fighting. Power and poor governance are the main reasons causing the conflicts. The international community is doing the best it can do to help the citizens stop fighting. There are many methods that the people can use to resolve their disputes rather than violence. Similarly, nations are engaging in proxy wars as they avoid direct confrontation with the enemy country. In fact, most of the wars in the Middle East are as a result of proxy wars. Terrorism has become hard to curb because the terrorists are supported by nations that want them to fight specific countries. Proxy wars have made the fight against terrorism very complex. There are many illegal groups that are supported and hide behind religion whereas they are fighting on behalf of other countries.

The future of the world lies in the hands of sovereign nations. There will be no peace until all the countries decide that they will not fight, they will not support the war, and they will not fund other actors to fight. Methods of conflict resolution are likely to be more advanced considering the advancement in technology. However, the steps that conflict resolution pioneers took will never go to waste.


Conflicts have been there since the beginning of life. It is practically impossible for people to agree with everything. However, conflicting parties can always decide on how to resolve their disputes. If a conflict is not handled properly, it escalates into violence, and the consequences are destructive. Conflict resolution methods and strategies have been evolving since time in memorial. The academic journey started when the World Wars started. Many people have contributed towards this journey which has borne fruits. The evolution of conflicts resolution has seen the world move from interstate to intrastate and proxy wars. The world is not yet stable because of the terrorism, intrastate, and proxy wars. However, there are hopes that stability will be achieved in the long run if all nations are ready for the stability.

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