Where there are human beings, there are conflicts. Tonight, we had the evening talk “Conflict Resolution in International Relations” delivered by Dr. Serena Sharma.
The talk started with a discussion on tools available to resolve armed conflicts in international relations. We filled in a quite long table: sanctions, arms embargo, mediation, asset freezing, etc. But how have conflict resolution tools and strategies been employed in specific cases?
Dr. Sharma then exemplified this with the Kenya crisis in 2008 and the Libyan Civil War.
Back in Kenya in 2007, dispute and disapproval towards the general election triggered domestic “spontaneous violence”. This quickly escalated to organized violence and reprisals. The officials were reported to adopt excessive police force, which exacerbated the conflicts. Under the urgent demands of peace, related parties started multidimensional negotiations, including African conference of churches and Kenyan National Dialogue and Reconciliation (KNDR, AU panel of eminent African personalities). The kernel of the negotiations is: stopping the violence and restoring fundamental human rights; addressing the humanitarian crisis and promoting national reconciliation; overcoming the political crisis; developing longer term strategies for a durable peace. There was also international pressure to reach a resolution including enforcement of public statements, freezing of assets, threats to cut aid, travel bans and threat to use force. The final reconciliation was viewed as “a triumph for African diplomacy”.
However, Libya wasn’t that fortunate. Though international society adopted uncompromising strategies such as arms embargo and referral to the international criminal court, the government (alleged by some as a dictatorship) of Libya refused to concede and the civil war outbroke subsequently. When looking for the differences between this tragedy in Libya and the successful mediation in Kenya, we found the mediation declarations were quite similar. Regarding the convulsion in Libya, the UN’s resolution called for immediate cessation of hostilities; delivery of humanitarian assistance; protection of foreign nationals and political reforms to eliminate causes of the crisis. However, there seemed to be too many interested parties being mediators which left both the then-legitimate government and the anti-government armed forces too much “freedom” for bargaining. Perhaps this eventually resulted in the militarily intervening Resolution 1973 (strengthening of arms embargo & targeted sanctions; no-fly zone; all necessary measures to protect civilians).
Due to the differences in every aspect, there is definitely no formula in seeking for resolutions in international relations. All we can do is to respect the uniqueness of every region and every culture, in order to “beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks”.
Conflicts have never seceded from human civilization. Maybe there are always optimal solutions for each specific case but I still want to pray for even one day without gunfire.