Nils Petter Gleditsch
Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
Another set of conference papers (from 2016) has travelled the long road to an edited volume. The editors have done a good job of fitting the chapters into a coherent theme: the transformation of (seemingly!) intractable conflicts. The book has four sections on new actors, new dynamics, new strategies and methods, and new frameworks, although it is not always evident why a chapter is in one section rather than another. A chapter on global finance is interesting but not (to me) clearly an example of conflict transformation. The chapters range from the general and theoretical to the specific, with case studies on Northern Ireland, South Africa, the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iraq, and US vs North Korea, as well as gun murders in Syracuse, NY. A comparative study examines social media and fear in the wake of the 2015 terror attacks in Paris, another applies ripeness theories to five conflicts with outside intervention. In their introduction to the volume, Galia & Kriesberg note that a period with a series of cases with successful conflict transformations (such as South Africa and the ending of the Cold War) has been followed by a series of terrible failures. Yet, the book communicates a relatively optimistic outlook. In the final chapter, Elman & Gerard note (p 367) that the various chapters 'tend to concur that social conflicts can be transformed – no matter how long-standing or seemingly impervious to change the conflict is …' and that 'external intermediaries or the parties to the conflict themselves can take steps to de-escalate a conflict and move an antagonistic and violent relationship toward reduced violence, settlement, and even a sustained peace.'