Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States
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Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States

Edited by Graham K. Brown and Arnim Langer

The Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States brings together contributions from a multidisciplinary group of internationally renowned scholars on such important issues as the causes of violent conflicts and state fragility, the challenges of conflict resolution and mediation, and the obstacles to post-conflict reconstruction and durable peace-building.
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Chapter 18: Fragile states and civil wars: is mediation the answer?

Carmela Lutmar and Jacob Bercovitch


Since the end of the Cold War and the changes it induced in the social, economic and political environments, a lot of scholarly attention has been given to the nature of conflict in the new post-Cold War environment. The traditional bipolar international system changed into a different system; East–West relations have been altered, and alignment tensions decreased, and with it came the expectation that a prolonged period of stability would characterize the new system. The great powers, acting through, and on behalf of, the international community, would effectively prevent any conflict from breaking out. The end of the Cold War, so we were led to believe, marked the end of conflict, or as some scholars said even the ‘end of history’ (Fukuyama 1989). An era of long peace was what we all expected at the dawn of the 1990s. What we have seen since 1991 is not a decrease, but rather an increase in the number and intensity of conflicts. The post-Cold War period has been characterized by an outbreak of nationalism, the accentuation of national and religious identity, and the eruption of violent conflicts in diverse places all over the globe such as Angola, Myanmar (formerly Burma), Sudan, Iraq, Russia, Turkey, Lebanon, Rwanda, Sudan, India, Ethiopia, Bosnia and so on. These conflicts, largely generated within state boundaries, have become known as civil wars. By one account only seven out of 111 militarized conflicts in the 12 years after 1989 were of the traditional conflicts between two sovereign states, and even these may have had a strong internal or communal dimension (Sollenberg and Wallensteen 2001). Clearly, as the study of these conflicts began to take the central stage of scholarly attention it became essential to begin to understand them and to develop policies designed to deal with them, ameliorate their destructive manifestations, and examine how we can reach agreements at the end of the conflicts and to make sure they are fully implemented.

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