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Last Updated: 12/08/2004The Power of Timely Intervention
Reviewed by Norman Sixth Wokoma
Michael S Lund, Preventing Violent Conflicts: A Strategy for Preventive Diplomacy, USIP Press, 1996
Preventive diplomacy is not novel to conflict prevention, but its methodical application is only beginning to assume wider acceptance by a growing number of actors in a post-Cold War world. With the end of Cold War rivalries and the attendant cessation of big power confrontations, the world is increasingly experiencing more intra-state and regional conflicts with their widening impacts and accumulating costs for everyone. From experience, it is more cost-effective to employ proactive measures to deal with conflict than manage a post conflict situation. Therein lies the necessity to strategize preventive diplomacy as a viable proactive conflict prevention measure.
Michael Lund is a strong advocate of preventive diplomacy as a viable option for conflict prevention. He elaborated the seeming global interest in preventive diplomacy and examined the conceptualization and practicalisation of the notion within the framework of a multilateral preventive regime that seeks to harmonize the comparative advantages of respective local, state, regional and international actors. In doing this, the author examined the costs of inaction on the part of actors and posed preventive diplomacy as cost effective strategy. He thereafter outlines the practical strategy for preventive diplomacy and sets out the conditions for successful preventive action.
Given the adverse views on
“Action taken in vulnerable places and times to avoid the threat or use of armed force and related forms of coercion by states or groups to settle the political disputes that can arise from the destabilizing effects of economic, social, political and international change.”[i]
The author also elaborated on the
problem of intelligence gathering and analysis that form the basis of early
warning upon which preventive diplomacy can be situated. Against this
This distinction has helped to
facilitate a better appreciation of the cost-effective nature of preventive
diplomacy by actors and the attendant desirability of its deployment as a viable
conflict prevention strategy.
In holistic terms,
Firstly, his delineation of the stages of peace or conflict into five relatively distinct stages is problematic even as it provided a good measure of clarity on the entire project of conflict prevention. The stages appear to represent a continuum of fluid stages that, in practical terms, could be quite problematic to delineate, thereby creating the problem of possible wrong deployment of preventive diplomacy.
The author may also have
overstated the problem of intelligence gathering and analysis without
pin-pointing where the actual problems lie. While
Finally, even though
Nonetheless, the ideas espoused
Reviewed by Norman Sixth Wokoma. The reviewer is on sabbatical from the Nigerian Diplomatic Service doing postgraduate work in peace and conflict studies.