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Modus Operandi

En librairie

Transformation de conflit, de Karine Gatelier, Claske Dijkema et Herrick Mouafo

Aux Éditions Charles Léopold Mayer (ECLM)


Paris, Septembre 2007

Eido-Idea : pôle de Ressources et de Recherche pour l’Élaboration de Savoirs citoyens.

Some propositions and analysis to face the new challenges of peace in the world

This dossier proposes analytical studies concerning the state of peace throughout the world, presenting a collecting of the topical books. The project covered some of the most heated zone in the globe: Palestine and Middle East, the Balkans, Former Soviet Union and Central Asia, South America

Conflicts and Peace around the World

The post-cold war order does not seem to be stable. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union several wars have been registered. Our project covered some of the most heated zone in the globe : Palestine and Middle East, the Balkans, Former Soviet Union and Central Asia, South America. Due the nature of the project, it was impossible to cover other area of equal if not bigger importance, like Africa or Iraq. Similarly debatable is the absence of an in-depth analysis of the role of the United States. Indeed, in the current situation the USA are the most powerful state and the only one with the capacity to both influence the course of politics and economics in every part of the world and to identify and attack an enemy in every continent. Yet, exactly the role of global super-power has convinced us that it was impossible to treat the USA as a simple actor. At the same time, the role of International Organisation is of primary importance to keep peace, to avoid conflicts or, conversely, to foment them. Hence, instead of concentrating on yet other case studies, we believe that there are global trends which shall be analysed to have a coherent understanding of the issue peace/and war in the world we live in. Among them, we have identified the following : terrorism/religion, democracy, natural resources, ethnicity, economic underdevelopment& the role of civil society.


Religion has historically represented one of the main sources of conflict, at least since the Crusades. More recently, what Samuel Huntington has called the “clash of civilisation” has been the centrepiece of American strategy for the “War on Terror”. Indeed, it is undeniable that an important religious matrix is beyond some of the bloodiest conflicts, starting obviously from the Middle East. Islamic fundamentalism has been an issue since the 80ies when the mujhedin guerrilla attacked the secular state of Afghanistan and was financed by the Americans to fight the Soviet. However, this strategy obviously back-fired. Religion has often represented an easy and comprehensible ideology for poor people. Terrorism, on the other side, represents the easiest way to attack an enemy even without a structured army. Nowadays, terrorism/religion are the centre point of the debate simply because the West is involved in first person.


Ethnicity just represents the other side of the medal of religion. The two issues are, often, inter-related, as different ethnicities hardly share same religion – and this difference only exasperate the problems. Obviously, ethnicity represent a big issue particularly in the country of Africa, as political borders have been designed taking in no-consideration the ethnical situation – a legacy of the Colonial empires often underestimated in the West. However, at the same time, one of the worst conflicts in the recent years has been experienced by an European country – Yugoslavia – which was well known for its well balanced integration policies. Interestingly enough, the fall of Communism has brought down the idea of peaceful co-existence of different ethnicities. So, ethnically mixed countries like USSR, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia do not exist anymore, replaced by sort-of ethnically clean states. Russia is still an ethnically mixed country and in fact is the state with several problems, starting from the Chechnya situation. Yet, the very existence of Russia is strictly linked to the capacity to keep together different ethnicities. A similar problem is present in Serbia and Kosovo, where the situation is very fluid.


Democracy has, recently, become an issue for international relations. It is true that even during WWII there were claims of democracies fighting against dictatorship, but the claim was weak, considering that Stalin’s Soviet Union was a key element of the victory against Nazism. However, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, democracy and its support acquired a greater deal of importance in the conduction of American foreign policy. The idea is to actively promote democratisation, no matter what. This has been very important recently in the FSU, in cases like Ukraine and Georgia, where the West on the one side and Russia on the other side, massively intervened in the internal affairs of these countries. The same war in Iraq has been ex.-post justified as a war against a dictator (as was the war against Milosevic in Serbia). And the American sidelining along Israel is often considered motivated by the democratic status of Israel. Democracy represents an important piece of the debate in IR, as liberals have brought it at the centre of the stage. However, several problems arise. Democratic institutions are not obvious ones, as democracy developed in different ways. Therefore, the imposition of one single model – the Anglo-Saxon one – is extremely difficult in countries with different historical tradition and institutions. Often, moreover, democracy does not represent the best interest of a developing country, as it does not address coherently the problems of underdevelopment. Realist also contest the value of democracy in IR, as the defence of the state and not of the ideology is the real engine of foreign policy and – hence – wars.

Natural resources

Natural resources, needless to say, represent one of the major reasons for conflicts, now as in the past. Since the times of the Ancient Greeks, powerful states sought for colonies economically better endowed. Now the war for oil is one of the hottest issues of world diplomacy and is the core of any strategic plans of the great powers. So, from the one side, USA is actively engaged in the Middle-East which has always represented a key geopolitical area for its abundance of oil. Russia, instead, being rich of natural resources, exploits its pipeline system to strangle trouble-making neighbours such as Ukraine and Georgia or also to blackmail Europe. China supports African regimes like the Sudan one – with all the problems in Darfur – only for their strategic role in the new Great Game of oil. But oil is not the only resource at stake. Water, for example, is another. The election of Morales in Bolivia is related to the fight against privatisation of water resources. Similar cases have happened in all South America. And the control of water resources is a historical problem in the conflict between Israel and Palestina.

Economic underdevelopment&civil society

Economic underdevelopment is, in the eyes of the author, the main cause of conflicts and crisis around the world. In particular, the relations North/South and West/East develop along the economic problems. The same issue of natural resources is strictly connected with the problem of economic underdevelopment, as usually country rich of natural resources are economically underdeveloped. That makes them an easy target for the imperialistic goals of economic powers with an evident need of natural resources.

Similarly, economic underdevelopment is strictly related to the problem of democracy. In fact, historically, democracy has grown only in presence of strong economic development. The role of civil society has always been instrumental to the growth of both economic and democratic system. Hence, lots of the projects of international organisation and NGOs are related to the strengthening of the civil society. The classical western paradigm is to foster the growth of civil society to enhance economic development and stabilise feeble democracy. However, such paradigm is based on the western model of developments and too often it tends to ignore the real conditions of the countries where it is applied.

The same can be said for the standard recipes for economic development supported by the IMF and the WB. To many observes, the role of the NGOs and of the international organisations seem like the longa manu of the West to control the development of the South. Liberalisation and privatisation have created the conditions for an incredible re-distribution of wealth and this has created tensions among the communities, like in the case of Indonesia after the financial crisis. Above all, terrorism and religious fundamentalism have found a fertile soil in economic underdeveloped regions, and have found a very easy target in the West that controls the economic and financial lives of those countries. For all these reasons, economic development represents a priority for conflict resolution in the next years.

Fiches du dossier