INTERNATIONAL CONFLICT ANALYSIS AND RESOLUTION
2018/2019, Semester 1
Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (Lee Kuan Yew School Of Public Policy)
Modular Credits: 4
Conflict and violence produce disruptive impacts over the security, economic, and social wellbeing of our increasingly interconnected societies. In a time when conflicts are becoming more complex, a better understanding of their dynamics and of the means to address and solve them are a paramount necessity for future leaders and policy makers. This course offers the opportunity to develop analytical skills to understand today’s armed conflict and to learn key tools of conflict resolution. Not only it aims to equip students with a better understanding of how to address and solve contemporary armed conflicts and disputes, but also to develop assessment techniques that can be useful throughout their professional career.
The premise of the course is that understanding a conflict before taking action is a primary responsibility of policymakers, diplomats, activists, development and humanitarian actors among others. Misled engagements – whether they are locally-, nationally-, or internationally-led – may inadvertently strengthen underlying causes of conflict or the actors who are adopting violent means, and create new opportunities for violence. Research and practice have shown that peacemaking, peacekeeping, peacebuilding, and post-conflict development, have the capacity to exert negative and harmful impacts on conflict dynamics, deepening cleavages that exist in societies and exacerbating inter- or intra-group tensions. On the other hand, a well-conceived and thoughtful engagement may contribute to the reduction of conflict factors and help de-escalate deadly violence. In fact, most interventions hold the potential to have a positive impact by resolving crises, and enhancing local mechanisms and institutions that can address sources of violence.
The course is organized in three parts:
Part I: “State of Conflict” includes an introduction to the state and trends of contemporary armed conflict and civil wars, as well as to the main theories of causes of conflict (week 1 and 2);
Part II: “Tools for Conflict Analysis” includes a review of the main conflict analysis concepts and conflict assessment tools (week 3 to 5);
Part III: “Resolving Conflict” focuses on analyzing the main conflict resolution tools, including conflict prevention and preventive diplomacy, coercive diplomacy and the use of force, mediation and peace agreements, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding, as well as ways to deal with “peace spoilers,” such as terrorists, criminal actors, and non-state groups (week 6 to 12).
In sum, the content of the course focuses on:
Trends in conflict
: Features and dynamics of contemporary armed conflict and primary causes of war and violence;
: Main conflict analysis concepts and review of methodologies and tools for conflict assessment, their implementation and challenges;
From analysis to action
: Politics, practice, and challenges of conflict resolution;
Option for engagement in potential or actual conflicts
: conflict prevention and role of preventive diplomacy, coercive diplomacy and the use of force, peacekeeping, peacemaking and mediation, peacebuilding;
how develop policy recommendations for different actors (e.g. governments, international organizations, NGOs, businesses, etc.), write policy papers, and make presentations on specific conflict cases.
Sessions will include a combination of lectures, student presentations, Q&As, seminar-style discussions, case studies, and in-class group work. Video resources will also be used as additional source of learning. Extensive bibliographies and additional readings will be provided to the students who wish to develop more in-depth knowledge of specific issues.
The course aims to:
Foster an understanding of key concepts, approaches, and tools for conflict analysis and resolution;
Develop methodological and analytical skills to analyze conflicts;
Develop an understanding of politics and policy options for resolving conflict;
Provide an opportunity to develop in-depth knowledge about specific cases of armed conflicts and disputes, and ways to resolve them;
Introduce students to the “art” and techniques of writing policy briefs and to build presentation skills on complex conflict contexts.
Assignments and Grading
Your final grade will be calculated according to the following percentages: policy report proposal (10%); in-class oral presentation (20%); in-class peer review (20%); final policy report (40%); class participation (10%).
The assignments seek to enhance student’s analytical capacity and policy acumen, and to sharpen oral and written presentation skills. The assignments are intended to provide students with a full set of skills required for a conflict assessment and the development of conflict resolution strategies, which include writing a
; delivering an
; generating a
, and providing as well as receiving and integrating
The policy report and oral presentation assignments are intended to give students the opportunity to apply methodologies in analyzing a specific conflict case and coming up with a multidimensional picture rather than taking a position on a specific conflict. The objective of providing policy recommendations is to propose realistic and plausible solutions for addressing factors contributing to conflict, ending, or preventing deadly violence and finding long-term solutions for sustainable peace.
Since analyzing conflict and developing policy strategy for resolution are a team exercise,
students are encouraged to work in
teams of no more than 3
on a conflict case of choice
. In this case, the policy report proposal, the oral presentation, and the final report will be joint assignments. However, it is not mandatory to form a group. Individual conflict cases are allowed.
Policy Report Proposal (due date: week 5 – 11 September):
Students are required to draft a short policy report proposal (3-page max) that includes the following points:
Brief description of the conflict under analysis
Identification of your “client” (government department, international organization, NGO, etc.): you will have to write policy recommendations for this organization
Rationale: Why did you choose this case? Why is it important for your “client” to develop a conflict resolution strategy?
Brief outline of your final report: elements you wish to include, short synopsis of each section, and any other information you can already provide
Suggested: identify a short list of potential data sources for your analysis (e.g. Databases, websites, reports, books, interviews, etc.)
In-class Oral Presentation (due date: in-class presentations begin on week 7 – 2 October)
: One 15-minute in-class team presentation on our conflict case of choice followed by a short question and answer period. Students will be asked to
identify and assign a short video or podcast
[max 10 minutes] on the chosen conflict for the class participants and to
to support their presentation.
In-class Peer Review (Week 13 – 13 November)
Each team of students is asked to submit a draft of the policy report on
12 November, by 5 p.m.
the day before the last class session. These will be used for the in-class peer review process (described below). The instructor will
grade these drafts. Students are encouraged to take the commentary and feedback from the peer review into consideration during the revision of their policy reports prior to submitting the final draft. The last class session is dedicated to a peer review, during which each student is asked to evaluate one of their classmates’ final reports. These will be distributed randomly and without revealing the authors’ identities. Students have to review each report with a critical eye and provide written feedback that demonstrates their ability to distinguish between insightful writing and work that is lacking in analysis, fails to provide clear and concise information to the reader, and/or does not meet the requirements of the assignment. A review form will be provided for this process. The student’s care and effort in performing this peer review is part of their final class grade. The instructor will review every peer review comments to ensure that the results of the process are appropriate. This exercise has several advantages for students: 1) to practice evaluating and providing commentary on policy reports; 2) to learn about several different conflict cases; and 3) to gain the experience of having their own work peer reviewed.
Final Policy Report (due date
Friday, 23 November, 5:00 p.m.)
Students will be asked to write a policy report on the conflict case that they have chosen, providing an in-depth analysis of the conflict (applying one or a combination of several assessment methodologies discussed during the course) and policy recommendations for conflict engagement of their “client.” Topics may include inter-state disputes and armed conflicts, current civil wars, conflict involving non-state actors, areas with latent conflict and a potential for future violence, or unstable post-conflict zones. The policy recommendations should be addressed to a third party, such as a government, an international organization, a development agency, an NGO, or other actor with the ability to and intention of engagement in the area. The report should be
no longer than 8,000 words
, excluding cover, executive summary (no longer than 400 words), endnotes, and bibliographical references. The report should include the following components:
executive summary (no longer than 400 words)
assessment of your client’s interest and capacity to intervene
policy recommendations for conflict resolution
summarized list of references consulted during the research**
** Please note that as part of your research each student is
to collect data and information through at least
(by phone or in person) with experts or stakeholders relevant to your case.
: Master the readings, participate actively in the weekly class sessions, prepare discussion questions on weekly readings and engage in case study discussions. Active class participation not only helps students to put forward their arguments and critically engage the readings but it also gives them an opportunity to appreciate various points of views on a subject. Therefore, students are encouraged to speak up in class.
There will be penalties for late submission of the assignments. The grading scale is from F (Fail) to A+ (Excellent).
Please Note: The NUS norm is that no more than 30 percent of the students in a class should get A grades.