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21st century warfare has made conflicts more dangerous and devastating with technological advances concentrated mainly in the military field, resulting in the development of more sophisticated and deadly weapons that have the potential to lead to mass destruction.
This scenario stems from a uni-polar world political system characterized by power disequilibrium and US hegemonic power seeing it as an opportunity to lead the world even by force. It poses several challenges for diplomatic approaches to end conflicts and prevent them from occurring, partly due to lack of efficient UN and the nature of parties to the conflicts- states which seek to preserve their sovereignty and impose law and order on one hand, and other armed groups backed by external powers to achieve their political ends through proxy wars, on the other hand. The art of diplomacy is an essential skill that enables a state to secure its political objective without the use of coercive force , propaganda and sometimes the ‘stick’ or ‘carrots’ to achieve a settlement. A country\'s diplomacy should thus be designed to produce preclusive victory and strengthen options for peaceful coexistence. Mediation is necessary in complex conflicts and disputes where mistrust has existed for long among rivals.
Mediation is designed to end conflicts and civil wars. But the question is to mediate with who; the terrorists or those who back them, and who would guarantee the terrorists’ compliance with what to be agreed upon? However, it is important to note that third party intervention should be impartial and neutral. Examples cited in the essays in this edition illustrate instances where different mediators with different motives played constructive roles, each from his own perspective based on certain mandate, past experience and rules of the game to bring an end to conflict.
They failed to find sustainable solutions for reconciliation in some cases of conflict such as: Israel-Palestine, Arab- Israeli conflict, Syria, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, India-Pakistan-China, Asia Pacific and Latin America to name a few. Ultimately, innocent civilians end up paying the highest price in most conflicts and usually, peace or non-peace is achieved at great cost. The geopolitical dimension, geostrategic location, natural resources abundance and potential challenge to the Pax hegemonic power compose the drivers of conflicts to its end.
These are impacting peace and conflict. Regional and international players play an important role as a peace brokers and in most cases, peacemaking efforts succeed when the intention for a settlement is clear and there is a consensus for doing so. The case of Northern Ireland is a clear example, and the methods used to address the Northern Ireland issue could be adapted in many regions. So, what are the methods that could be employed to prevent escalation especially when it becomes imminent and inevitable? Some countries use back door multilateral and bilateral diplomacy, while others seek to enter the hearts and minds diplomacy, to ease tensions and address high stakes in conflicts. What will be the empowerment granted to such tracks? Although preventive diplomacy has not been successful every time, it remains the best approach to take to manage military conflicts. Today, we live in a world of continuous crises and there is a dire need to erect pillars of peace and reconciliation.
Building consensus to settle disputes peacefully requires multi-level engagement and understanding of conflicts and interdependence. Domestically, there is a need for building the nation state, governance and strong institutions while maintaining state sovereignty , and internationally, a need to put ahead K.Waltz noble observation “ in war there is no victory ,but a different degree of defeat”. This requires an understanding of the roles of diplomats or representatives in the processes involving preventive actions and of what \'conflict diplomacy\' and \'conflict prevention\' entail. For instance, how is conflict diplomacy defined? What is the best way to exercise conflict diplomacy? What are the good examples of conflict diplomacy?
What are the drawbacks? What lessons can be learnt from past experiences in conflict diplomacy? Using case studies to illustrate, distinguished experts and practitioners provide answers to these questions in the essays in this edition. Published by The diplomatist magazine in its 10th anniversary.