Multilateralism: An Approach To Conflict Resolution And Peace Building




An Approach to Conflict Resolution and Peace Building

After World War II, Western nations (United States, England, Germany and France) embarked on a mission to create institutions based on multilateral agreements in an effort to manage their historical conflicts and rebuild their worn torn nations. The West’s ability to successfully incorporate multilateralism into its economic, political and security institutions have allowed these actors to manage conflict between each other and live in peace with each other for half a century. While historical examples indicate that multilateralism has been practiced as early as 19th century, post-world war institutionalization of multilateralism indicates that multilateralism can facilitate conflict resolution and peace building.


According to the Multilateralism Group of the Institute of International Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, multilateralism “is a particular way of bringing together international actors to support cooperation, incorporate principles of non-discrimination, diffuse reciprocity, and generalize institutional structures” (MacArthur Online).  Bealey, Evans and Newnham agree that, in general, multilateralism is a “policy of acting in concert with others” to achieve mutual goals (Bealey 217, Evans & Newnham 256). Acting in concert, allows the actors to plan together; to settle or adjust by conference, agreement, or consultation; to act in harmony or conjunction; to form combined plans with others.

Concerts are generally the preliminary step to engaging in multilateralism because according to Charles and Clifford Kupchan, the concert is utilized by great powers as a decision making mechanism involving “informal negotiations and consensus” while posing no threat to state sovereignty (Ruggie, 18). According to Ruggie, a concert is “predicated on the notion of all against one” which binds concert members to a collective action.  In fact, the Concert of Europe is heralded as an ongoing example of a security regime that employed multilateralism.  The Congress of Vienna (1814-1815) and the Congress of Berlin (1878) are two additional historical examples of concerts and the application of multilateralism.  Respectively these concerts led to the formulation of the rules of diplomacy that are still in effect and significantly changed the existing political situation in Eastern Europe.  The value of these examples of multilateralism for conflict resolution and peace building is in their indication of actor’s preference for establishing an orderly and peaceful procedure by which to engage in establishing and maintaining relations.  This actor preference indicates a behavioral change of these actors from their pre-World War dispositions.

Evans and Newnham, with concurrence from Stanojevic, also point out that multilateralism is currently the “dominant pattern of activity in most issue areas” (i.e., trade, global warming, sea bed).  Multilateralism is dominant, compared to unilateralism and bilateralism, because of the increased interdependence driven by globalization.  Because of its dominance, the United Nations and its predecessor, League of Nations, were permanently established as multilateral diplomatic organizations to facilitate multilateralism and conflict resolution.

Theoretically, according to Ruggie, generic multilaterailism has been a part of nation state development primarily in “institutional arrangements [that] define and stabilize the international property rights of states” (Ruggie, 8).  More recently generic multilateralism has been used to define the multilateral institutional form because it refers to “coordinating relations among three or more states in accordance with certain principles” of conduct (Ruggie, 10).  In its institutional form, generic multilateralism adds substance to the realist self-help factor taking it to a higher level in which it is considered within a collective framework which in turn affects individual actor security.  According to Ruggie’s generic definition of multilateralism, this theory is expected to inject a collective pattern of behavior into an institutional form that incorporates the concept of multilateralism into its agreements.  Once the pattern of behavior has been established, the parties develop a collective reputation, “an indivisibility among the members of a collectivity with respect to the range of behavior in question” which socializes the institution (Ruggie, 11).  Additionally, when multilateralism is successfully implemented actors are expected to behave in a reciprocal manner towards each other.  In turn their reciprocity will generate cohesiveness among the members which will allow the actors to focus on long-term gains based on an aggregate over time (Ruggie, 11).

Theoretically and conceptually, multilateralism is the behavioral element of a multilateral regime. While a multilateral agreement creates regimes, multilateralism encourages the modification of aggressive actor behavior and cooperation among actors, while providing mechanisms for proactive management of disputes and resolution of conflicts between actors who wish to participate in a given international system.  Conceptually, multilateralism is defined by its historical application to institutional formation during the postwar era. It coordinated national policies on the basis of established principles for managing property rights, which in turn ordered the relations of party actors prior to World War II. The concept of multilateralism has created norms, rules and principles that are increasingly utilized to stabilize international relations in an effort to decrease the overall influence of prewar anarchical international forces and maintain a cohesive stability to ensure continued economic prosperity.  This concept has been applied regionally to manage economics, politics, and security relations.  The European Community (EC) is the most successful example of an economic and political regional multilateral regime. The EC has allowed Europe to move beyond balance of power politics and demonstrates the European actor’s commitment to the multilateral agreements that have enabled the EC to become an economic power of the 21st century.


Robert Keohane and John Gerard Ruggie agree that multilateralism began after WWII.  Ruggie, in his book entitled Multilateralism Affairs:  The Theory and Praxis of An Institutional Form, states that “the earliest institutional form of multilateralism” in the modern era began with the management of property rights (Ruggie, 14).  According to Ruggie, these multilateral arrangements “were designed to cope with the international consequences of the novel principle of state sovereignty in an effort to”possess territory and exclude others from it (Ruggie, 15). In fact, the issues of state sovereignty by these newly created nations reinforced the need to engage in multilateralism because without multilateralism property rights were not recognized as valid by the relevant other actors in the given international system (Ruggie, 15). According to Ruggie’s definition of multilateralism, multilateral agreements are distinguished by the “kind of relations” they produce and not the “number of parties” to a particular agreement. “What is distinctive about multilateralism is” that it coordinates national policies on the basis of certain principles that order the relations of the party actors (Ruggie, 6-7). Therefore, the test of whether or not a multilateral institution truly exists is the principle on which the agreement is based and the state behavior that it encourages.

According to Keohane, in his book entitled After Hegemony, multilateralism was utilized by the United States in an effort to create and control an international trade and finance regime. Specifically, the United States’ international trade and finance regime was developed to rebuild the European economy, contain communism and build a world economy.  Keohane used this regime and its subinstitutions [International Monetary Fund (IMF), European Payments Union (EPU) and the North American Treaty Organization (NATO)] to illustrate the dynamics of post-war multilateralism.  Keohane believes that multilateralism was the ultimate goal of United States economic policy in 1947/48.

By the end of the 1950s United States economic policy had successfully implemented economic multilateralism (Keohane, 147).  The dynamics of multilateralism, and specifically the behavioral element of multilateralism, is evidenced in the extent to which the United States was willing to go to ensure that its postwar trade and finance international regime was established.  Because the United States established trade and financemultilateralism, it was forced to inject dollars into Europe’s economy to balance the global dollar shortage.  This too is an example of the behavioral element of  multilateralism because it prompted the United States to coordinate national policies (i.e. legislation — Marshall Plan) on the basis of its hegemonic principles, which in turn ordered the relations of the party actors to this postwar economic regime (Keohane, 142). The United States maintained this multilateralism by controlling the “rule-making process” by balancing intervention and negotiation with both Europe and the United States Congress (Keohane, 143).

Keohane also used one of the trade and finance regime’s subinstitutions, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as an example of the postwar’s ecopolitical regime incorporating the concept of multilateralism into its institutional structure.  According to Keohane, the IMFwas created “to help regulate international monetary relations and trade in manufacturing goods”. United States multilateral partners, Europe and Japan, entered into this relationship with the United States because these governments wanted to “achieve rapid economic growth with democratic political institutions and capitalist economies” (Keohane, 182).  These complementarities of interest were encouraged by American leaders engaging in covert activities to “ensure that the ruling coalitions in power in Europe and Japan sympathized with the principles that the United States espoused for the world political economy”.  In turn, both Europe and Japan relied on United States military protection” and realized that economically, “they had to reach accommodation with the United States if they were to recover from wartime destruction” (Keohane, 182).  The IMF was an institution based on multilateralism because its party actors were willing to coordinate national policies on the basis of IMF principles, which in turn ordered the relations of the party actors. Based on the willingness of these actors to adjust their behaviors and national policies to accommodate the IMF regime, the IMF was an institution that embraced the concept of multilateralism both generically and formally.

The European Payments Union was an additional multilateralism effort between the United States and its European alliances.The EPU was basically a financial arrangement that was seen by the United States as an efficient and economically superior arrangement as well as “a way of promoting intra-European trade as a step toward eventual European participation in a liberal world economy”.  It was the key element to gradually shift Europe to a full multilateral economic disposition which would liberalize both trade and payments (Keohane, 145).  Both the IMF and the EPU allowed the United States to have “leverage over the evolution of European policies” (Keohane, 146) and the long-term attainment of its ultimate goal of multilateralism”.  Although the IMF and EPU do not meet the definition of a formal multilateral regime” (Keohane, 150), the United States chose to engage in multilateralism because by doing so it could have power over the coordination of both Europe’s and Japan’s national policies on the basis of IMF principles, which in turn ordered the relations of the party actors creating a stable ecopolitical international system.

Keohane offers NATO as an example of the security dynamics necessary for conceptualization of multilateralism.  According to Keohane, the United States used its military strength to “constructed a liberal-capitalist world political economy based on multilateral principles and embodying rules that the United States approved” (Keohane, 136-137) to build a world political economy. The United States’ relationship with NATO created a security influence for the north Atlantic area and Japan to agree to a multilateral relationship with the United States for the purpose of benefiting from a stable international monetary system, open markets for goods and access to oil at stable prices (Keohane, 139).  The examples offered by Keohane indicate that multilateralism’s conceptualization has, so far, been based on trade and money.

According to the above examples of the United States’ utilization of multilateralism, multilateral institutions that incorporate multilateralism into their structures modify aggressive actor behavior and encourage cooperation among actors.  Based on these examples, multilateralism would appear to regulate anarchy by creating a community that encourages self-management of party actors.  Specifically, it encourages cooperation in the coordination of national policies, reduces mistrust between parties and increases focus on long-term cumulative gains (Lebow; Risse-Kappen).  While multilateralism can be incorporated into international orders, regimes or institutions, it is not a given simply because an international order, regime or institution is based on a multilateral agreement.

But, can we create future multilateral regimes capable of both effectively and collectively managing international relations by conceptualizing multilateralism?  According to Clemens and Cook in their article entitled Politics and Institutionalism: Explaining Durability and Change, institutions endure!  Specifically, they endure “as a reaction against methodological individualism, technological determinism, and behavioralist models that highlight the flux of individual action or choice” (March & Olsen 1989 as quoted by Clemens and Cook, Online).  Theoretically, the patterning of social life is produced by institutions that structure action.  As we have seen from both Keohane and generic examples, multilateralism structured human relations in general and the postwar international system by effecting national policies.  Therefore, it is logical to conclude that multilateralism can continue to promote external coordination of national policies which will in turn facilitate conflict resolution and peace building.

In recent history, multilateralism has been employed as a foreign policy tool. The Clinton Administration was strongly influenced by academic theories which held that in the post-war era, military power would be less important than economic power and that the end of the Cold War would finally permit the United Nations to provide a workable system of global collective security (Britannica Online).  The concept of assertive multilateralism was unveiled by then Governor Bill Clinton in 1991.  Mr. Clinton delivered the details of this concept at Georgetown University in a speech entitled “A New Covenant for American Security”.  At that time, Bill Clinton advocated “shift[ing] the burden of maintaining peace to a wider coalition of nations of which America will be a part and exploring the possibility of establishing a United Nations Rapid Deployment Force that could be used for purposes beyond traditional peacekeeping, such as standing guard at the borders of countries threatened by aggression; preventing attacks on civilians; providing humanitarian relief; and combating terrorism and drug trafficking” (Snyder Online).

Soon after the Clinton Administration came to power, Madeleine Albright, Clinton’s Secretary of State, defined American foreign policy as “assertive multilateralism”.  Assertive multilateralism as a foreign policy was utilized at the beginning of Clinton’s administration.  In an attempt to have a successful outcome to America’s involvement in Somalia’s internal affairs, the Clinton administration “supported a U.N. resolution of March 26, 1993, that expanded the mission to include ‘the rehabilitation of the political institutions and economy of Somalia’” (Britannica Online). Based on Secretary of State Albright’s comments on this effort as “an unprecedented enterprise aimed at nothing less than the restoration of an entire country,” it appears that aggressive multilateralism is a state-building foreign policy tool.  The specific principles of assertive multilateralism according to Anthony Lake are: “enlargement” of the community of free nations; mutual moral, financial, and political benefits; and the expansion of democracy and economic progress.  To date, this state-building foreign policy has proved to be unsuccessful both in its debut as a foreign policy tool in the Somali Affair and subsequent international relations issues involving Haiti, Bosnia and Hercegovina.

As a result of the failure of assertive multilateralism, the Clinton administration revised its foreign policy and dubbed the revised policy “deliberative multilateralism”.  Deliberative multilateralism is applied on a case-by-case basis and “includes the stipulations that a given crisis be susceptible to a military solution with a clearly defined goal; that sufficient force be employed; that a clear end point be identifiable; and that United States forces go into combat only under United States command” (Britannica Online).

Because of the increasing inability of U.N. peacekeepers to effect safe areas in conflict zones, President Clinton signed Presidential Decision Directive 25 (PDD-25) in May 1994.  PDD-25 is “a policy directive outlining the administration’s position on reforming multilateral peace operations” (Snyder Online).  This directive not only outlined the conditions under which the United States would participate in future international peacekeeping operations but offered suggestions on how the United Nations could improve management of its peacekeeping operations.


Ethnic conflict is a product of the traditional world.  It was encouraged by colonialism and “exacerbated by [ ] modernization”.  While colonialism is the root of the current intensity of ethnic conflict, modernization is driving its intensity by creating increasing stresses on societies torn from their traditional structures by colonialism (Miall et al, 78). Transition from traditional societal structures toward modernization has resulted in ethnic conflict that was encouraged when the imperial powers drew borders within and between domains of homogenous people to deliberately breakdown the societal makeup of various regions.  Ethnic conflict, in turn, has undermined both modernization and development and created a level of global insecurity that threatens the world’s economic and political stability. Ethnic conflict is “rooted in clashes or invasions that occurred many years ago” (i.e., Serbia v. Kosovo); “erosion or even disappearance of central state authority in poor 3rd world countries experiencing economic, political and environmental stress”;  and the “spread of mass communications and other instruments of popular mobilization” which has enabled the average citizen to assess their position in “international affairs and how their behavior can be aggregated into significant collective outcomes” (Klare, 134-154).


Classic modernization is a development theory that assumes states are backward if they do not conform to a Western style of development.  In turn the West seeks to “enlighten” ethnic groups by imposing their style of development.The problem with classical modernization theory is that it inherently assumes that non-West states are incapable of developing policies that address their ethnic values and traditional way of life within a modernization plan.  By making such an ethnocentric assumption western style development continuously and systematically destroys the peoplehood of ethnic groups and creates a conflict environment.

The theory of international relations depicts ethnic conflict as a consequence of the lack of central global authority.  It is this lack of central authority that further contributes to international anarchy and the continuation of the security dilemma.  The security dilemma perpetuates the ethnonational dispositions of states as they attempt to safeguard their interests against their neighbors’ perceived hostile intentions.

Nation Building

Prior to the current state structure people lived in groups based on shared customs, traditions and racial features.  This kinship method of organized society created a system of cooperation that extended to neighboring communities.  “Once consolidated, ethnic [ ] identities became part of the group’s culture and were passed on from one generation to the next” (Palmer, 144).  These ethnic identities were central to increased protection from invasion and offered new opportunities for increased economic activities as well as serving as the foundation for traditional societies.  According to Klare, “humans characteristically seek to secure…their physical survival, health, [ ] material possessions” and way of life.  Way of life can be defined as value systems, language, art forms and religious views about a group’s place in the universe.  Collectively these elements of a group’s way of life depict their common bond or peoplehood.  Weber, Francis, Gordon and Schermerhorn all agree that this sense of people is essential to a group’s ethnicity.  It creates a social psychology within each member of the group that solidifies a spiritual attachment described as we-ness.  Marger further points out that the three elements essential to properly defining ethnic groups are ethnocentrism, territoriality and ascribed membership.

Ethnicity often translates into national communities that are focused on a particular way of life. These national communities are usually located within a specifically defined boundary that ensures a group’s way of life.  Klare points out that world stability depends on groups living in their own states.  However, over the years states have proved to be inefficient and the instigators of conflict within their borders.  Increasing dysfunctionalism of states have led its citizens to shift loyalties away from the state and toward national identifications. Ethnic conflicts are born out of ethnonational movements which threaten the stability of existing states.  Disintegration of these states results from national ethnocentrism.  This type of ethnocentrism is the belief that one’s nationality is special and superior to other nationalities.  It is this disposition that breeds ethnic conflict.

Since 1517, when religious reform was ignited by Martin Luther’s 95 theses, “sovereign states have assumed primary responsibility for controlling affairs within their territorial borders and managing foreign relations with other similarly empowered secular state actors” (Holsti, 319-339).  Under the state system people obeyed authority which  maintained authority structures for centuries.  However, people are not as cooperative with authority as they used to be and states are finding it increasingly difficulty to manage both their internal and external affairs.  Anarchy within states has risen and according to former “United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, today’s wars occur mainly within…state borders” and “the forces of fragmentation are causing states to fail, leaving its people without a government to protect them from chaos” (Kegley, 523).

Nation building occurred simultaneously with the development of commercialization, industrialization, literacy, communications, population increase and urbanization.  Collectively, these developments characterized the advent of modernization.  Nations, nation-states and nationalism are typical phenomena of modernization.  “Citizens of the newly-formed nation-states were forced to speak the same language”.  Ruling nationalist elites, conspiring with imperial powers, utilized the education-system and mass media to launch social engineering projects to metamorphose the heterogeneous populations of their countries.  These social engineering projects were expected to unify the “community to have the same historical symbols, derive from the same ancestors and, irrespective of social inequalities and class differences, pursue the same national interests” in an attempt to build nation-states (Yagcioglu, 3).

In general, building nation-states was an invention of colonial powers and involved restructuring the world economically, socially and politically. Economically, colonial regimes “replaced existing barter economies with a standardized monetary system”.  The introduction of a monetary system fostered social displacement by forcing migration to cities built by the imperial powers as bureaucratic bases of exploitation.  Once natives established themselves in the cities they became politicized.  While some more easily assimilated to city life, many were “unable to find entry into the modern sector of society”.  These transitional individuals were also “ignored by ineffective bureaucracies” which caused them to “seek emotional and material support by associating with compatible ethnic groups” (Palmer, 146).

During this period of nation building, government policies, facilitated by industrialization and capitalism, encouraged most nations to create a homogenous society within their boundaries.  However, breaking the peoplehood bond of ethnic groups was resistant to the needs and logic of industrial capitalism.  Instead societies and specific ethnic groups suffered under urban horrors generated by industrialization.  This misery forced ethnic groups to become more tightly bonded and develop an ethnonational disposition.

Assimilation was the homogenization strategy that was used to integrate ethnocultural minorities into the nation-state and was either voluntary or forced.  “Minorities [that] were viewed as non-integrable” were dealt with cruelly (i.e., forced migration, segregation, oppression, ethnic cleansing, massacres and genocide) (Yagcioglu, 4).  Unfortunately, assimilability changes overtime primarily due to change in government. This factor continuously reinforces ethnocentricity and exacerbates the potential for ethnic conflict.  “Relationships between the non-assimilable minority and the majority or the nation-state government became even more strained if that minority is linked to a state or nation that in the past inflicted a deep trauma upon the majority group” as in the case of the Hutus and Tutsis (Yagcioglu, 5).  In these cases, after the balance of power changes in favor of the majority, the minority may be eliminated because it is viewed as posing too much of a threat.

Global Security

Interethnic competition dates to biblical times and has become the plague of the post-WWII era.  The borders drawn after WWII separated homogenous societies.  These heterogeneous borders, together with the collapse of the Cold War, gave rise to global instability that has resulted in increased ethnic conflict.  Additionally, ethnopolitical cleavages have produced an increase in ethnic conflict especially since 1945 and further accelerated since the 1960s. 18 of the 23 wars in 1994 were based on ethnonationalism.  Additionally, ethnic conflicts have caused approximately 75% of the world’s refugees.

The level of global insecurity that ethnic conflict has produced, threatens the world’s political and economic stability by producing refugees and negatively affecting development.  In the past 50 years, ethnic conflict has resulted in human suffering beyond calculation.  The majority of ethnic conflict victims struggle to survive in makeshift accommodation where they reside for too many years.  The Palestinians are an example of an ethnic group that has resided in refugee camps since 1948.  The vast majority of the world’s refugees continue to reside in countries that lack the economic or institutional resources to care for them.  Perhaps, the most tragic, is the inability of the United Nations to affect political conditions that drive ethnic conflict and non-governmental organizations’ inadequate resources to meet the demand of such enormous numbers of displaced persons.  These conditions shatter families and nurture feelings of ethnic hatred that deepen with every generation perpetuating the cycle of ethnic conflict.  Politically, ethnic conflict undermines progress toward human rights and democracy and the refugees produced are subjected to political harassment by their host countries.  Economically, a country’s development is negatively affected primarily because of the brain drain that is caused by the migration of technicians and entrepreneurs in search of more stable economies in which to invest.

The destabilizing influence of ethnic conflict “often extends beyond the boundaries of the countries in which they occur” which negatively affects the global community and draws the entire world into the conflict.  Perhaps the most horrific historical examples of the destabilization of ethnic conflict are the Hindus and Muslims, Hutus and Tutsis and the crisis in Yugoslavia.  “The most recent casualty of ethnic conflict has been the peacekeeping role of the United Nations” whose safe areas have been overrun at will.  As a result “member countries of the U.N. are [ ] increasingly reluctant to place their troops in jeopardy by sending them to risk-prone areas” (Palmer, 150).

According to Nietschmann ethnocentric values threaten to engulf the globe in unprecedented violence.   He believes that this level of violence will overwhelm governments to the extent that ethnic conflict will become the primary axis on which 21st century world politics will revolve.  The power and independence of the state is expected to decline and the vacuum created will likely lead to extreme forms of authoritarian political environments in an attempt to decrease global instability.

Conflict Management and Peace Building

The current post-modern era presents new challenges in managing the potential for ethnic conflict because of the focus on information.  “As a result the whole world is experiencing two…mutually reinforcing trends: globalization and fragmentation” (Isaacs, 215).  Fragmentation is the primary factor driving ethnic conflict because ethnocultural groups are asserting their identities and forcing their independence within states.  Both elements are forcing governments to reexamine their public policies and how these policies have negatively impacted minorities and driven them to extreme assertive behaviors.

Future efforts to address ethnic conflict should be proactive and focus on increasing the strength of civil society.  Increasing “the capacity of the political system to regulate competing interests without state repression and civil violence” will decrease the likelihood of ethnic conflict and regulate any conflicts that breakout.  Based on recent history, “profound social and political change does not have to be violent (e.g., South Korea and Poland).  Ethnic conflict can be reduced by increasing the effectiveness of state bureaucracies through the incorporation of multilateralism principles.  This will allow state bureaucracies to address social issues and decrease elite and bureaucrat insecurities which often lead to the instigation of ethnic conflicts (Bond).

Efforts are underway to “manage, settle and resolve ethnic conflicts” based on the principles of accommodation without assimilation, consociationalism, federalism and secession” (Yagcioglu, 8).  While each of these options can be applied as needed based on the needs of a particular nation-state, Margaret Gibson believes that accommodation without assimilation is the best option.  According to Gibson, “if one rules out the option of assimilation as a state policy, as well as other brutal and coercive techniques to be implemented toward the minorities, and considering that there must be some kind of peaceful coexistence between the nation-state governments and ethnocultural groups, perhaps the best option…is accommodation without assimilation” because it offers progressive-conservation which will “improve the social economic and political condition of minorities and the preservation of their culture”.  Preserving ethnic culture will reduce the likelihood of conflict.  Additionally, this option is likely to establish a standard for the state to cease engaging in practices that are the core of the ethnic conflicts.

According to the Multilateralism Group, states, nongovernment organizations, firms, and other transnational actors are attempting to respond to an array of both new and old problems.  Because they are finding it increasingly difficult to apply traditional methods, “important forms of multilateral regulation, management, and political lobbying” are increasingly being used to address global issues.   Further, because multilateralism is “a particular way of bringing together international actors to support cooperation,…diffuse reciprocity, and generalized institutional structures” it is expected to be the primary avenue utilized by actors (MacArthur Online).

According to Lepgold and Weiss in their book entitled Collective Conflict Management and World Politics, Conflict management can be facilitated by elements of multilateralism arrangements based on a Collective Conflict Management (CCM) system.  This system, when properly designed, is an internationalized response to threats and use of force and offers preventive deployment, selective enforcement and peace (Lepgold/Weiss 109, 113).   The CCM system is an effective cooperative effort based on international community norms.  It is “a pattern of group action…in anticipation of or in response to the outbreak of intra- or interstate armed conflict”.  This conflict management method is used to “prevent, suppress or reverse breaches of the peace” (Lepgold/Weiss, 5).  Because CCM employs a variety of multilateral efforts it is especially effective in restoring and maintaining peace when the perpetrators have not been identified (i.e., non-intrusive monitoring of potential situations).  This type of multilateralism, provides mechanisms for proactive, decentralized management of disputes and resolution of conflicts between internal actors.  Adapting the Lepgold/Weiss model of a CCM system is more appropriate to deal with current conflicts.

A regionalized CCM system will enable the Lepgold/Weiss model to be more effective.  This type of scaled down CCM system uses the strength of regional actors to engage in historically supported mediation and other activities that have a greater proactive ability to manage and diffuse the conflict (Miall et al, 34).  “Regional actors [ ] understand the dynamics of strife and culture more intimately than outsiders” [i.e., the international community at large] (Lepgold/Weiss, 21).


In light of historical lessons, designing a global structure to manage conflict and effect peace based on Great Power values, policies and institutions with the goal of imposing these solutions on Lesser Powers will be ineffective in the 21st century and beyond.  Great Power arrogance has created the conflicts that cast a global shadow on every societies’ ability to survive, including their own. Perhaps the nations currently recognized as Great Powers will decide to act in concert with less developed countries.  Act in concert to avoid conflicts of democracies against Islam and/or China.  Act in concert to avoid the spread of chaos caused by increasing refugee populations. Act in concert to avoid the invasion of wealthy Northern societies by failed societies in the South.  Act in concert to avoid the ecological and demographic disasters originating in the less developed world because of the spread of industry and disease.  Perhaps the nations currently recognized as Great Powers will decide to act in concert to avoid the spread of nuclear and missile technology from disintegrating states into the hands of terrorists. Or, will 20th century Great Powers continue on their historical path of dictating solutions based on privileged thinking?  Thinking and attitudes that have created the escalating economic, political, and social disasters that depict the Western international system.  (Miall et al, 80)

Both assertive and deliberative multilateralism have failed and will continue to do so as long as Great Powers fail to act in concert with Lesser Powers.  The United Nations has proven itself incapable and ill-equipped to manage conflict and ensure security within conflict zones. Only Lesser Powers can address the internal conflicts created by the historical manipulation of Great Powers.  Only regional powers have an immediate vested interest to resolve neighboring conflicts.  Only Great Powers can agree to stop manipulating and start engaging in supportive measures to “assist” nations in practicing self-determination and encourage regions to manage their neighbors’ disputes.  Only acting in concert with each other in cooperative multilateralism efforts can both Greater and Lesser Powers decrease the likelihood of global violence and engage in behaviors that ensure current societies have a chance at productive and peaceful futures.

Multilateralism encourages the modification of aggressive actor behavior and cooperation among actors.  Multilateralism provides mechanisms for proactive management of disputes, resolution of conflicts and peace building.  Multilateralism can be proactively applied and structurally incorporated on a systemic level to modify aggressive actor behavior thereby ensuring cooperative international relations between Greater and Lesser Powers.  Multilateralism will effect actor behavior to deliberately decrease the likelihood of global violence while encouraging actors to engage in behaviors that ensure current societies have a “chance” at productive and peaceful futures.


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Source by I.A. Mohabier, MA

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