Conflict and Peace-building

Why do conflicts occur and what can we do?

by TAKEUCHI Shinichi

Murambi Genocide Memorial in the south of Rwanda

Murambi Genocide Memorial
in the south of Rwanda

Since the end of World War II, wars among developed countries have ceased but armed conflicts in developing areas have become more frequent. Conflicts have led to extensive human suffering and physical damage and therefore have seriously hampered the development of those areas. Why do conflicts occur in developing areas? And what should be done in the event of a conflict?

The theme of armed conflict and its resolution is a core subject in studies of international politics and international law and many studies have been accumulated on the subject. However, the conflicts that have been so frequent in developing areas do pose a new question for us. Armed conflicts in recent years have been characterized by defying definition under the traditional framework in a number of ways: many occur not as interstate, but as intrastate conflicts; transnational politico-economic relations are deeply relevant to those conflicts; and they involve vast numbers of civilians both as victims and aggressors. Therefore, in order to answer the questions of why conflicts occur and why they have such characteristics, we need, more than ever before, to know exactly what is happening on the ground.

Studies in the area of peace-building try to answer questions such as how to reconstruct society in the post-conflict period, and what the international community should and should not do in the reconstruction process. These are themes that have been attracting wide attention, as the international community has been increasingly deeply involved in conflict resolution and peace-building of developing areas in recent years . Against the backdrop of changes in the international environment since the end of the Cold War, the principle of non-interference in internal affairs, a centerpiece of the sovereign state system, has been transformed. As a result, the developed countries, from a humanitarian standpoint and as a response for poverty reduction, or in view of their own security and various other considerations, are committing themselves more and more deeply to the reconstruction of post-conflict developing countries.

While studies of conflict and peace-building are practically important subjects of study, they are at the same time extremely exciting themes in a theoretical sense as they reflect the rapidly changing international relations. In studying the subject, an area studies approach that involves interpreting the actual events in the historical and societal context of the region is becoming increasingly important. IDE, as one of the Japanese centers of area studies, has actively carried out studies of conflicts and peace-building in developing countries in cooperation with experts in the field of international politics and international law.