Conflict is defined in many ways; there is no unanimity among the scholars about what constitute a conflict. One school, dominant in North America, defines conflict in terms of clash of interest between two parties. Kenneth Building for instance, states: “Conflicts over interests are situations in which some change makes at least one party better off and the other party worse off, each in their own estimation.. .A fight is a situation in which each party to a Perceived conflict over interests acts to reduce the welfare of the other” johan Galtung, who represents another school, maintains that “injustice and structural violence” mark a conflict situation.

According to him, absence of physical violence and direct confrontation between actors does not necessary mean that structural violence is totally absent. Adam Curie presents a broader definition. For him, conflict is a situation where “potential development” of one party is “impeded” by another. However, the most widely used definition links a conflict situation with “incompatible goals” of parties.

According to Michel Nicholson, “a conflict exists when two people wish to carry out acts which are mutually inconsistent. The definition of conflict can be extended from single people to groups and more than two parties can be involved in a conflict.

The principles remain the same. A common element found in all definitions is the divergent goals and interest of two actors or parties who resort to various means in pursuit of achieving their objectives. Closely related to the concept of conflict is the term conflict resolution.


John Burton terms conflict resolution as a political philosophy. It is defined as an outcome as well as a peaceful means by which such an outcome is obtained. According to Hugh Mall, conflict resolution denotes a “change in the situation which removes the underlying source of conflict.

This may come about through a change in relationships between them, or through the dissolution and replacement of the original parties. If a conflict is settled by the military victory of one side and the other does not accept the outcome and begins organising another fight, the underlying conflict has clearly not been removed and such a conflict would not be considered resolved”.

Thus, the fundamental principles of conflict resolution are two: the parties should be satisfied with the outcome which meets their felt needs and interests, and there should not be use of any coercion to achieve such an outcome. John Groom says that a complete satisfaction of parties comes only if “they have, and do actually have, full knowledge of the circumstance surrounding the dispute and the aspirations of other parties”. He also maintains that conflict resolution is a goal rarely realised in practice. Before analysing the methods of conflict resolution, it is necessary to define the term conflict management.

It is regarded as a necessary preliminary step in the direction and process of conflict resolution. In other words, whether a conflict reaches a stage of resolution or not is dependent in part upon the ways in which it is managed. Conflict management process entails adoption of various measures including establishment of communication links and personal interactions between the adversaries, setting up of mechanisms to end or minimise violence, and seeking commitment of the parties to a political solution to their problem. The last measure paves the way for a peace process whose success will determine the resolution of the given conflict.


This includes bargaining power available, influence on the decision making institution or forum concerned, knowledge and negotiating skills available and other power attributes of the participants”. Second, there is the degree and quality of communication between the parties” which includes “their perceptions and understanding of the situation, abilities to receive information and to communicate to it Third, “if there is a third party involved, there are the Agrees of decision making power, degrees of neutrality, levels of analytical skills, and other attributes of third parties”. Conflicts are resolved in a number 0f ways. Some of the most significant methods are arbitration, mediation and direct negotiations. Arbitration is part of the larger process of adjudication.

It is one of the oldest methods of conflict resolution. Under this method a given conflict is referred to an impartial tribunal (arbitration tribunal or international court). Unlike a permanent court, an arbitration tribunal is an ad-hoc forum set up by an agreement between the disputants or conflict parties. It means that it is valid for a single conflict. The size of a tribunal is always small; it can have three or five or nine members.

In case of a three-member tribunal, each disputant chooses one member and the third one is neutral arbitrator chosen to both national nominees. If they fail to do so, an impartial third party such as the President of the International Court of Justice nominates a person. It is also possible to have three neutral members in a tribunal of five in some other cases the parties select a single arbitrator such as the UN Secretary General. The arbitrators are reputed judges or lawyers or diplomats or retired government officials. An important condition is that states are expected to comply with the award and therefore the tribunal decision is binding on the disputants.

Third party mediation is also an important method. It is an integral part of a larger bargaining or negotiation process in conflict. A variety of factors like private individuals, governments and regional and international organisations undertake mediation. The main objective of mediation is to change the behaviour, choice and perception of the adversaries so that a settlement between them can be reached. Each mediator adopts different strategies.


They include facilitation of communication between the parties and putting pressure on them to give up their tough position in negotiations. A mediator clarifies ambiguous issues, refers suggestions to the adversaries, and participates in negotiations and form rates proposals.

A mediator is biased or impartial. Coercion is forbidden in a Mediation process, but some mediators in practice use pressure tactics or provide various incentives to the adversaries with an objective of reaching a solution. A bilateral negotiation is yet another method for conflict resolution. Here, both the parties to the dispute engage in direct negotiations without an third party support.

It is a bilateral affair because the parties establish communication with each other, create atmosphere for talks, set the agenda, conduct hard bargaining and commit themselves to an agreement reached between them. The negotiation process can be long and difficult. It is also possible that talks can easily break down since there is no third party to moderate their Position.