A study of large scale conflicts 1945-2000

On the Peaceboat November and December 2000


My reason for choosing the topic

“Peace research concentrates on the question of violence. In particular, it has come to focus on violence on societal conflicts.” (Wallensteen, 1988).


Although I admire much of the work by Wallensteen, and many other academics within the peace research society, I never understood this focus on violence. I have, as a reader, as a peace activist and as an engaged human being always asked myself why this almost unanimous focus on violent means, and the most terrible consequences of these means, should dominate an academic discipline called Peace Research. When I, after passing forty years of age, entered these academic circles it was partly in admiration and respect, but also with some curiosity for what could be found behind the walls of universities. But the major reason for this step was to investigate possibilities to do some decent work on other means used in the same types of conflict. In other words I wanted to do research on conflicts where at least some of the main actors did not take up arms.

Of course I have changed my topic several times, but the core has all the time been focused on understanding and mapping nonviolent means in societal conflicts. An early idea was to focus on irregular changes of regimes. I had by personal observation seen a tendency of more and more nonviolent revolutions took place around the world.

When I as a young teenager entered the peace movement I did so in opposition to the ongoing war in Vietnam, the Norwegian involvement in US nuclear strategy and the military system as such. I realised early the need for alternatives to the violent means and found Buddhist monks in Vietnam, Martin Luther King in USA, the civil resistance in Norway during second world war and first of all I found Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in India. Gandhi became the great source of inspiration and I probably used his example to argue for nonviolent options in many more situations than I had good reasons for.

When called up for conscription at the age of eighteen it was a natural thing to refuse. The many discussions following that decision forced me to think even more on alternatives to the violent options. The liberation of India was of course not always very relevant in discussion on other types of conflicts. But I used if for all it was worth (and more than that). After some years of general anti-militarist work I started a period I my life where the nonviolent movements around the world got most of my attention. I was active in the Norwegian section of War Resisters’ International and their working group on “Nonviolent Liberation Movements”. In most liberations wars and other conflict areas we found, and made contact with groups and individuals who fought with other means than arms. It was fascinating to correspond, discuss and meet many of those people who not only talked about nonviolence, but really used the techniques and strategies in real conflicts. I continued to read Gandhi and the more philosophical text on nonviolence. My understanding of the topic developed, and my interest of knowing more grew. I took active part in a number of nonviolent actions within the environmental and peace movement of Scandinavia. The combination of practicing and reading was fruitful and at the same time forced me to be very concrete and practical about these things. I developed concepts of nonviolent training with help from friends around the world and I started to write more extensively about my ideas and practice.

In the late seventies and early eighties I also worked in a group who tried to find out the truth about US-bases and installations in Norway. When the results of that work was published in the magazine Ikkevold in 1983 the Norwegian accused us for spying. After years of trial we were found “not guilty” by three against three votes in the Supreme Court. This was a fascinating time, both in Court and the many discussions outside. My interest for alternatives to the military system grew and I had growing problems with using Gandhi as a good argument for how to defend a country like Norway with nonviolent means. His struggle was from another time, a different context and for a different purpose. With inspirations from the philosophy of Gandhi, the practical examples described by Gene Sharp  (Sharp 1973) I decided to write a book on how to defend the city where I was born from an external military occupant (Johansen 1987). That work forced me to think very concrete and practical about how to use nonviolence; strategies as well as techniques. By that time the Solidarity Movement in Poland had showed the possibility to use nonviolence successfully against communist dictatorships. The Shah of Iran was forced to leave the country after a non-armed revolution by the followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. They managed to get rid of a regime with enormous military capacity and a freighting secret police force (SAWAK) without taking to arms themselves.

These were the fist signs of what I today think is a new “wave” of nonviolence in large-scale societal conflicts. Once more I was disturbed that so few peace researcher took on the work to study these cases. How and why does it work with nonviolence against an opponent with such enormous violent capacities? How do they organise these movements? What are their sources of inspirations? How does the internal decision making function? How do they communicate? Do they read Gandhi and other classics? Have they studied historical cases of nonviolence. I had been working actively in Eastern Europe for some time and got some answers to these questions myself, but I was looking for more scientific studies of these exiting events. In vain! Perhaps they did not saw what I was seeing?

Then the nonviolent revolution in the Philippines took place in 1986. Corazon Aquino came to power after a massive mobilising of supporters in Manila. Three years later the whole world was witnessing Eastern Europe vaporising in a number of processes. The fall of the Berlin Wall being one of the most spectacular and the inspiration for many other to transform their demands to action. With the exception of Romania all these changes of regimes took place without those wanting to change Status Quo taking up arms. The occupation of Tian An Men Square in Beijing in spring 1989[1] also gave us a glimpse of the nonviolent potential in largest country in the world. Then 1991 the whole Soviet Empire dissolved and a number of new states were born.

I was all the time observing, collecting material, travelling, taking part in seminars in all these new regimes. And this time I was sure that the peace researchers would wake up and take on what I, and many others, saw as their obvious responsibility: To map, describe, explain and trying to understand these fantastic examples of handling large-scale societal conflicts. But they were still mainly occupied by counting dead bodies in the most violent conflicts they could find! It was unbelievable for me; I could just not understand. Whenever I was invited to give lectures at universities I talked about Gandhi, nonviolence, civil disobedience, peace-building and similar topics. Every time I met a number of interested student eager to know more about these subjects. They came up to me after the lectures and wanted to get ideas about thesis they had to write, proposals for books to read and so on. I realised that the nonviolent ways of handling large-scale conflicts did not belong to the curriculum and hardly and senior researcher worked in this field. Some had years ago written articles about Gandhi, but none taken up the enormous amount of new empirical material produced the last twenty years.

When I was asked to start on a PhD programme at Department of Peace and Development Research at Gothenburg University I hesitated but in the end found it challenging and accepted. Due to lack of formal education I had to get a special approval to enter the university world. I am grateful for the support from Bjørn Hettne, Johan Galtung and Gene Sharp in that process.

Well, there I was and this is my first academic attempt to increase the understanding of nonviolent means used in large-scale conflicts. If some think I am too critical to contemporary colleagues and their work I am more than willing to join a discussion and let us hope that my worst impressions turns out to be based on misunderstandings and lack of knowledge.

Contemporary Peace Research and the focus on violence

The complexity of Conflicts[jj1]


It is very common to view conflicts as a violent disagreement between two parties. This view is supported by media, textbooks at schools as well as by many scholarly and academic works within the peaceresearch society. This simplification of the reality is to some degree understandable and it can be explained why it is so widely used. The conflicts most reported in media and most studied by peaceresearchers are those that have ended up in wars. They are in the focus because of the terrible consequences they have on societies as well as on human beings and nature.

The concept of wars being a violent conflict between two actors must be viewed as partly a consequence of the Cold War and partly a way of describing the reality in a simplified and “easy to read” way. The Cold War influence is very important. The whole world seemed to be divided into two camps, East and West. Or in the more rhetoric way: “The good guys against the bad guys”. A typical such case was the Vietnam War. The map of the world was coloured Blue and Red. The western dominated media reported what the Red did against the Good Guys.

Peace researchers have mostly focused on wars as a type of conflict with deadly consequences. With the words of Peter Wallensten:

“Peace research concentrates on the question of violence. In particular, it has come to focus on organised violence on societal conflicts.” (Wallensten, 1988)

In the literature the most used term for such conflicts is “war”. War has been defined in various ways but most of the definitions have in common that they describe war as an armed conflict with a specific number of deaths. The disagreements are more around the number and how to count the deaths than other aspects of the conflicts.

Most of the researches on large-scale conflicts are focused on armed ones. Wars have been studied from a large number of perspectives since the first works in this field were published. The traditions from Richardson (Richardson, 1960) and Wright (Wright, 1964) have dominated the majority of this particular tradition of research ever since.

My starting point will be that in the normal use of the term war is based on a misunderstanding and have several serious consequences. Wars are extremely complex social, political, psychological and cultural processes. To use the term «war» for the whole concept will make it difficult to identify the different elements in these processes. War is not a type of conflict; but an element in of some conflicts. It is one of the means that could be used to influence a conflict. I will argue that to define war as a type of conflict reduces the possibilities to study other options than armed means in order to influence the conflict. In other words: If you define war as a type of conflict then you limit and partly predefine the means to be used in the conflict. War is of course only one, of a wide spectrum, of means that are available for those who are engaged in large-scale societal conflicts. Conflicts with identical questions to disagree about, with identical relations between parties and with identical aims can be influenced (or solved) by a wide range of different means. For the moment let me just shortly, just to illustrate my point, mention diplomacy, non-armed revolutions and referendums as possible other means than wars to handle conflicts over territory.

What is a conflict?

In order to write about and discuss conflicts we need to have a reasoning about what a conflict is. I am not aiming for a definition, rather some reflections about the nature of conflicts. A definition of such complex processes as conflicts is not necessary in the context of this book, and perhaps beyond the possibilities of what is realistic to achieve today.

According to Webster a conflict can be described as one of three:

  1. a fight; battle; struggle.
  2. sharp disagreement or opposition, as of interests, ideas, etc.; clash.
  3. emotional disturbance resulting from a clash of impulses in a person. (Webster, 1977)

Conflict researchers as Rubin et al. describes a conflict the following way:

“Conflict means perceived divergence of interest, or a belief that the parties’ current aspirations cannot be achieved simultaneously.”(Rubin et al., 1994)

The dictionary can here be seen as the common way of defining conflicts; the mixing of behaviour and content. In addition they have in the third sub-point some reference to attitudes. Rubin et al. focus on the C-corner when they say that it is a matter of aspirations that cannot be achieved simultaneously. Here they are close to one of Galtungs descriptions; that the core of a conflict is a situation with incompatible goals[jj3] . If the goals are incompatible the outcome cannot be that parties get what they want at the same time. It could be that they can achieve their goals at different times. If the disagreement is around the use of a car for a summer vacation the outcome could be that they divide the summer in such a way that the actors use of the car does not collide timewise.

The time-factor is one of the most significant one, and one of the most neglected, in conflict analysing. I will come back to this in the chapter on Three Phases (page 14), but for the moment it is important to note that we are here dealing with processes that are fundamentally historical. They are not time reversible. All efforts to aim for a “solution” from the past are doomed to fail. The “life-cycle” of a conflict is of an evolutionary type. The changes of the conflict itself will go on during the whole life span of the conflict. It will develop in different tempos and in many “directions”, but all the time the conflict will be different from what it has ever been in history.

It is necessary to base all analysing of conflicts on the fact that they are complex entities. By complex I mean that a conflict is consisting of many relating parts like a composite or conglomerate. But it is more than that. As a social and psychological time-related process the conflict is not anything you could analyse with linear mathematical expressions.

It is essential to identify the different parts of the conflict and to understand them by themselves as well as understanding their interrelations.

One of the most attractive parallels to the science of conflicts I have found is meteorology. It is of course not a 100% equivalent phenomena but similar enough to use as an illustration to what I mean by the complexity of conflicts. The weather are today regarded as an extreme complex process which is influenced by a large number of factors. Just to mention a few of them: Temperatures (both in the centre of the “storm” and in the different surrounding areas), the speed of the winds in the area, the humidity, the amount and type of clouds,  the altitude of the sun and factors partly affected by humans like the level of ash and CO2 in the air. Not alone are these forces and conditions difficult to measure in any close to exact way, they are so numerous and interrelated that any attempt to predict the future are condemned to be very approximately.

In the theory of Chaos the weather has been used as an example of how small initial variations can have gigantic effects of the result. The theories of complexity and chaos are dealing with non-linearity models. Byrne discuss in his book “Complex theory and the social sciences” the need to move away from the simplistic and linear models in social sciences ever shall be able to describe the reality and how the social systems are working.

“The classic, and by now well-known, expression of this is in relation to weather systems. Efforts to model weather systems in mathematical terms are faced with the major – and indeed essentially insurmountable – problem that variations in initial conditions of the scale of the force of a butterfly’s wing beat can produce vastly different weather outcomes over quite short time periods.”(Byrne, 1998)

In conflict situations the “butterflies” can be found in many situations. Who could have predicted that a volunteer in the White House did not washed her dress when spots of the presidents sperm was spilled on it? And the consequences for US foreign policy was not trivial, to say it mildly.

Conflicts must be understood with these complex characteristics in order to be understood. It will never be possible to map all factors and their interrelations in full, but that is not say that we cannot do better than the widespread and simplistic models which are so common to day. In order to do that I will in the following introducing nine variables plus the important factor that in every conflict the numbers of actors are always >2. These analytic tools are valid for many types of conflicts. They are general and should be applied according to the contexts, needs and for what purpose the analysing is done. My own experience tells me that these variables are functional for a lot of situations when you are involved in conflict-work. They serve multipurpose situations and are adaptable to a variety of contexts.

These analytic tools can be used to get a better understanding of your own situation as an actor in a conflict, your role in the conflict or help you finding new ways of acting in the conflict.

Variables to include: Three Corners

This chapter will describe some tools to analyse conflicts. The analysing is done in order to understand the conflict, with its inner dynamic and the many processes going along simultaneously. The understanding is a necessary, but not sufficient, precondition for anyone who wants to work with and/or in a conflict.

Johan Galtung have introduced the “Conflict Triangle” as a tool to separate three components in a conflict. Namely the attitude/assumptions, the behaviour and the content/contradiction (Galtung, 2000). According to Galtung a conflict is the sum of A+B+C. The focus on wars, as mentioned above, is in this context a focus on the B-corner. The behaviour of one more actors in a war has such terrible consequences that researchers, media and textbooks have to a large degree ignored the importance of the contradiction as well as the attitudes/assumption actors have about each other. It is from this perspective that we can argue that war is not a type of conflict. War is a way of behaviour; one of the many possible means used in the conflict.


Anyone with the slightest interest in the conflicts in the Middle East will understand that the attitudes among the Israeli settlers or the Palestinian diaspora are extremely important factors in the conflicts. Disregarding your personal sympathy or empathy, factors like the attitudes among central actors like these groups are crucial to any change in the conflict. Some of these attitudes are based on a correct and real understanding of the historical and present situation in the region. Others are created on false information, rumours and misinformation. In every conflict propaganda are used to strengthen the own situation and weaken the opponents position. The stigmatisation of the actors is an integral part of the conflicts. It influence the attitudes to a large degree and form the base for the behaviour. For many actors it is important to create as bad assumptions of, at least some of, the other actors as possible. This is obvious of those actors who involve violence and/or arms in their struggle. In order for people to use terror and brutality against other human beings it is essential to create an image of “the others” not being as valuable as people from your own group. It is necessary to build a wall between “them” and “us”. We see this in the open propaganda on posters, radio-channels and in pamphlets produced by the armed actors. We also find this “production of enemy-pictures” in all the rumours that are so common in conflict situations. The stories “about the others” tends to be extreme simplifications, far from the truth and grow to the worse over time. For every link in the chain of people who hear a rumour and pass it on to the next person, the story have a tendency to be more brutal, less sophisticated and more extreme. The aim of these gossips is to stigmatise and create as bad a epitome of “the others” as possible.

It is not only the armed or violent actors who are actively influencing the attitudes in a conflict. Some of the actors most efficiently influencing the pictures of the actors in conflicts are the media. Media is the main source of information for most peoples who are part of a conflict or are suffering from the consequences of it. Mass media cannot be accused for being either skilled, neutral or trustworthy when they cover conflicts. That be local violent conflicts on the streets or the international conflicts like wars. Most journalists are not trained to analyse conflicts from a differentiated perspective and they are working under limited conditions and in a context where anything outside the realm of mainstream ideas are very restricted. Mass media an all levels (local, national and international) does not differs much in this context. Even if some are taking part in the propaganda more consciously and openly, while others are mainly passing on stories from other news agencies, they all are more or less parts of the propaganda-war. Even if there are some exemptions from the misleading media, they are still actors which tries to influence the attitudes and assumptions of other actors in the conflict.

The importance of the information-flow[2] can be seen in the enormous amounts of resources put into propaganda and so called “information”-campaigns during the Gulf War 1991 and the Nato-bombing of Yugoslavia 1999[jj4] . The war around the attitudes was just as intense, although fought with different means, as the war on the battlefield. Without a public support, the political and military decisions would be very difficult to implement.

In addition to media and rumours the most common factor influence on the attitudes are the direct adventures of conflicts and violence. When people are living under hard circumstances and are unsure about what will happen next the rumours seems to have an extra energy to develop so that the bad news are strengthen and the good news disappear.

The counter-forces, who tried to inform people about the real motivations and the actual consequences of these wars fought with less resources, but with similar means and ends, to influence the attitudes in people’s minds. Without a change in people’s assumptions the opposition would never succeed in mobilising against these wars.


The behaviours actors’ use in a conflict covers a wide spectrum of activities. It is useful to separate resources used by actors with armed capacity from actors who does not have or need such means.

Starting with those actors which has the option of armed means we can draw a spectra between two extremes. In one of the ultimate ends we will find the nuclear weapons USA used against the civilian Japanese populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 or the combination of bombed infrastructure and economical sanctions used against Iraq since 1991. In the first case numbers of deaths are counted in tens of thousands, in the latter in hundreds of thousands. In the other end of the spectrum I will argue that the active nonviolent resistance used to end the communist dictatorship in East Germany 1989 belongs, together with the removal of Slobodan Milosevic in Yugoslavia on October the 5th 2000 or the division of Czechoslovakia 1994. [jj5]

Between these extremes we have all sorts of activities carried out in order to achieve influence in a conflict. We have a number of less extreme forms of warfare as well as we have many forms of diplomacy, negotiations, mediation and talks between the parties. In some cases the conflicting parties can have direct communication, in other situations the interaction can be done through an actor both to some degree agree on. In the middle of the spectra there is a large number of cases where a mixture of several different means are used. Actors seldom or never use only one mean. That includes the most violent actors in the military end of the spectra. Never have an actor only used violent means. In every war or act of terrorism, the users of violence always combines the violent means with non-violent activities. There is no case when an actor in a conflict have solely used arms in order to achieve his/her goals.

The means which includes most violence and accordingly will have the most harmful consequences are those which in most cases will have most media attention. And, as mentioned above, just these consequences seems to be the main reason why research on the same conflicts dominate over those with little or no violence. That be in family situations or in large scale socio-political conflicts. There can be many reasons to look on the harmful or deadly consequences of conflicts, but it is probably not a good point of departure if the aim is to understand the inner dynamics of conflicts or to learn how to handle conflicts with less or no violence. In order to look for the best ways of how to handle conflict it makes more sense to study the best examples than the worst ones! If the aim is to reduce the level of violence in conflicts the study should obviously focus more on learning from those cases where the violence are avoided than on details about the consequences of violence. The most interesting cases are the many, so far mainly ignored, cases where creative and nonviolent conflict handling have been used.

Outside the spectra of most violent means we will find the ways of acting carried out by actors not  normally regarded as actors in conflicts. Here we will find the numerous economical decisions taken by states, companies and international organisations which will influence the outcome of the conflict. That can be backing up or withdrawal of support of specific actors in the conflict or it can be more general investments/disinvestments in the conflict area. The economical situation in a conflict area can have gigantic influence on the conflicting parties and on the population in general. The lack of possibilities to reach an expected level of welfare can contribute to the willingness to “fight for ones rights”.[3] (see chapter on Relative Deprivation Gap page 16)

Economical activities and circumstances can have crucial influence of the direction of conflicts. The economical tools have been used more and more by the large financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Backed up by USA these bodies have used the economical stick as well as the carrot in order to compel one or more actors to follow the policy or take the decisions they want.

In fact some the most violent examples of warfare so far in the modern history have included economical means. That is the use of economical sanctions against countries with a destroyed infrastructure. In some cases it is relevant to talk about a new type of Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD)[4]. The numbers of deaths due to these boycotts in countries with destroyed infrastructure are in fact higher than the total number of victims from all ABC-weapons ever used in our history.

We have seen these economical means been used with grave consequences the last ten years. The economical boycotts have traditionally been argued for by the “leftist” to force dictatorships or large multinational companies to change their policy. The economical campaigns against Nestle for their marketing of milk-substitutes in the third world or against South Africa during the apartheid-regime are typical examples of boycotts supported by solidarity movements. These are very different from the boycotts I will include in the WMD.

Let me use the case of Iraq as the main example. After the Iraqi troops had been forced out of Kuwait in 1991 the US-troops continued into Iraq and continued with massive bombing of large part of the territory. Most of the infrastructure was destroyed. Few bridges, power stations, pipelines for water supply, sewage-systems, electric power-lines and hospitals were left unhurt. After the withdrawal they launched the economical boycott. The effect has been extremely devastating for the Iraqi population. The lack of food, clean water, heating-systems, medicines, health-care, decent sanitation and electricity has so far killed more than one million of the population. Figures from some agencies are as high as 1.3 million. These numbers are higher than the total number killed by ABC-weapons so far in the history of mankind, included the bombs used against the populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in august 1945. This alone can justify to define the combination of destroyed infrastructure and economical boycott as a WMD. Let us call it D, D for Discriminatory. The main difference from the ABC-weapons is that the D-weapon is extremely exact in its effect. None believe that Saddam Hussein is affected by the D-weapon. He never goes to sleep, hungry, freezing and with lack of the basic medicines. The D-weapon only “hit” the weakest in the society; the newly born, youngsters, sick and old people.


The content or contradiction in a conflict is the question where the actors disagree. According to Galtung a conflict can be defined as “incompatible goals”; that is to say that a “resolution” of the content is impossible (Galtung, 1996). If we use that definition we need to introduce more concepts in order to cover the spectrum from mild differences of opinions to conflicts with contents were there is no possible solution. Keltner have introduced what he calls a “Struggle Spectrum” with six stages (Keltner, 1994). He starts with “Difference” and ends with “Fight or War”.  The second row in the table is Keltners description of the process leading to resolution.






Fight or War

Discussion Discussion








Violent Conflict

Keltner is here mixing the C-corner with the B-corner. His classification starts with three varieties of degrees of contradictions. The next three are examples of means (behaviour) to be used in order to influence the conflict. The interesting part of this is the try to make a differentiation of how deep the contradictions are. I will try to make another spectrum based on the same principle, but without mixing the contradictions with the many possibilities for behaviour.

In one end of the spectrum I will place “Differences of taste”. If two persons have different opinions of what sort of music is “the best” in a specific context, few will, in normal circumstances, even use the word conflict for such a situation. We talk about differences of opinions. Of course we all realise that such situations can, in intense situations, develop to be what is normally called a conflict situation. When, perhaps under influence of alcohol, two men in their twenties starts a fight over what music to play at the party, we obviously see that there is a conflict here after all. The actors will in this example still be called partners or friends.

If we move further on the spectrum the next part can be called “Open disagreement”. A typical situation can be when a group of persons cannot agree on where to go on vacation, or how to divide a sum of money among them. We can then have an open disagreement where arguments will meet and the conflict is open, visible and audible. It is in some sense more serious, deeper, than the musical example, since more is at stake. The actors in this type of conflict can be named rivals.

The next level of conflict according to Keltner is “Dispute”. Here the level of depth and seriousness has moved on to be even more fundamental. The actors can be called opponents and the wanted outcome will normally not include the other parts.

Boulding present a different Conflict Continuum. She starts with War of Extermination goes on with Limited War, Threat Systems and Deterrence, Arbitration, Mediation, Negotiation and Exchange, Mutual Adaptation, Alliance, Cooperation, Integration and ends with Union. (Boulding, 2000, page 90)

Conclusion so far

The three corners of the conflict-triangle triple the ways we can study, and work, in a conflict situation. But these three variables are only the first differentiation we need to do in order to understand the complexity of a conflict. To analyse a conflict from the conflict triangle point of view gives us a much more differentiated picture of what a conflict is. Instead of a single phenomena it will now become a three dimensional entity. Everyone involved in conflicts will realise that this will help as making very important distinctions about how to act in a conflict. You do not deal with the attitudes in the same way as you deal with the behaviours. Both attitudes, behaviours and contradictions are very important in every conflict, but they must be acted on with different approaches. The last corner in the triangle, the contradiction, needs a third approach.

Whatever your position in conflict is, be it involved actor, mediator, observer or something else, this easy three dimensional model is essential in order to understand what is going on as well as to act in an productive way.

Variables to include: Three Phases

The time-factor is as central to conflicts as in any other social-, political- or psychological process. If we do not take into account the time-factor we can easily do grave mistakes and aggravate the conflict instead of alleviate it. One serious error of not consider the time-factor is the common misunderstanding mentioned above, that war is a type of conflict.

The idea that violence (war) are equal to conflicts has two more significant consequences than those mentioned in the introduction; namely the lack of attention to the conflicts before the violence occur and the believe that the conflicts are over when the violence ends. Both these assumptions make conflict handling more difficult and less efficient. All conflicts starts long before the violence appear on the scene, and they will continue long after the violence ends. (Galtung, 2000) In many cases conflicts are handled without any violence involved. Most of these cases are not recognised and recorded. Or, due to the definition of violence as conflict, they are at least not recorded as conflicts. The most obvious and stupid consequences of that are that the conflicts were successful and peaceful handling is carried out, will never be studied. Most statistics and case studies on conflicts are around those where a considerable amount of violence have been use by one or more of the actors. So all the empirical material on conflicts to be studied are the ones where the worst possible means are used to influence them. This is true for conflicts at the individual level as well as those on the meso- and macro-levels.

If I should make a parallel to natural science it would be like building new knowledge within physics only based on those experiments, which failed. The successes would be left aside and mainly ignored. None would argue for such a scientific methodology in any of the natural sciences. I cannot see why it should be done in the research on and studies of conflicts! The results and knowledge of conflicts, their inner dynamics and understanding of how to handle them will differs enormously if the most successful and peaceful examples where included in the studies.


Before Violence

Since most conflicts never turn into a violent phase, this phase is the most common one. Probably most conflicts are never recognised at all. These conflicts are dealt with in a number of ways without any violence or other attention by people not involved in the conflict. There is, to my knowledge, not done any research on how many conflict situations we are dealing with in our daily life without reflecting upon them more than for the moment they happen. My guess would be that most humans have a spectrum of conflict handling mechanisms that are used without a clear consciousness. We are tackling a number of situations in a peaceful and nonviolent way every day. Handled differently, some of these could have developed to become deeper, more serious and with more actors involved.

In those cases we does not manage to handle the conflicts in a peaceful way the escalation begins immediately. More actors can easily be involved, more tough attitudes will develop, our behaviour change to be less peaceful, other and “resting” conflict-issues can be taken up and combined with the present one and in short the escalation can inter into a violent phase.

The possibilities to act in order to prevent a violent phase to occur are many. Two concepts will be guiding us in the following; Peace Building and Early Action.

The building of peace and a culture of peace is the safest way to improve our skills in conflict handling. When Galtung in his book “Peace by Peaceful Means” defines peace as “the state of affairs that makes the nonviolent and creative handling of conflict possible” (Galtung, 1996) he is “normalising” conflicts as a common and integrated part of our dreams about good life. Conflicts are not only unavoidable but just as natural part of our lives as all other social phenomena. All development of societies as well as individual humans implies changes and all changes can be sources of conflicts. The fact that most of these changes, and hence options for conflicts does pass by without us taking notice is one more indication that we are able to handle most conflicts in a “nonviolent and creative way”. The task for a Culture of Peace is to strengthen our capacity to handle the situations where we today fail in undertaking the peaceful an inventive actions in conflict situations. Elise Boulding have given an excellent overview of many of the Peace Culture efforts in our history, at present and possibilities for the future (Boulding, 2000). She opens our eyes for the many more or less hidden examples of culture of peace within every culture and society. Our own focus on the use of direct violence in some conflicts tends to diminish our capacity to see the traditions and cultural patterns of peaceful conflict handling. A good start for anyone who wants to take part in the building of a culture of peace is to study the history and learn from best part of your own culture.

The other important factor for the phase before violence is what is called “Early Warning”. The idea is to warn well in advance that violence can occur in the future. There are today many organisations that have systems for Early Warnings, but they are still refining them. The accuracy is still not at a satisfactory level and the possibilities to predict with acceptable precision are under discussion.

In my view it is neither the lack of accuracy in the predictions nor the maximal options for doing so which is the key difficulty. The number of warnings and the precision in them are more than satisfying. Early warning is not the main obstacle any more. It is good and necessary but not sufficient. International Alert and others are doing an excellent work even if there is more to be done on refining the tools. The main problem is the lack of “Early Action”. A good illustration of this problem, in the Before Violence Phase, is the case of Rwanda. There was no lack of warnings but an almost total ignorance from those who had possibilities and capacity to act. There is a serious shortage of willingness to act in international conflicts until the conflict turn into an escalation of violence and counter-violence. And even then the keenness to act is extremely selective. The reasons behind the selectiveness are often hidden and difficult to understand while the conflict still goes on. In some cases the motives get clearer after a while and it gets easier to understand why interventions, or lack of involvements, took place.

The shortage of Early Action can be explained from a pragmatic political point of view. The political systems in democracies contain a need for getting credit for your decisions in every election period.

The reason why we have a lack of Early Action is the lack of possible political credit for efforts in this field. When politicians are considering an Early Action they are faced with two possible outcomes. The first option is that violence starts in spite of the efforts to prevent it and the decision-makers will at best be ignored. It could also be that they can be accused for a complete disaster or even worse they can be blamed for what happened. The other option is that no violence occurs in the conflict. Then the main problem is that it is almost impossible to prove that the effort taken on was the reason that no violence took place. It is not easy to convince anyone that what was done prevented the tense situation from turning into a violent conflict.

In both these cases it is very difficult to get any political credit for such efforts. So in order to take on such duties we need more political courage from the politicians.

Despite a decade of warning about a violent confrontation in Kosovo very few steps were taken until the military troops were called in. Politicians took a great risk when they, despite many warnings from the military experts, started to eliminate large parts of the Serbian infrastructure. It was a complete failure and the result catastrophic. The willingness to fulfil the OSCE-mission in Kosova was not near the willingness to start a large scale three months of bombings to a price of at least 50 billion dollars. The resources and willingness to act was lacking for ten years but were suddenly available when military means was the wanted option. And by definition the Before Violence Phase ends when military means are in action.

The possibilities to act Before Violence is countless and multiple. If we have the conflict triangle as a point of departure, activities can be directed towards the attitude, the behaviour and the content/contradiction. All of these are important and should be taken most seriously. But I would argue that the Attitudes are more significant in this phase than the others. With improvements in attitudes the Behaviour will almost certainly be less violent. In the same way will a more positive attitude most probably make it easier to find an agreement on the contradictory issues. Common attitudes in conflicts are hatred, mistrust and extreme dislike.

The influences on attitudes are something that are used in order to build gaps and differences within a population. Kaldor describes this as a policy of exclusive identity, that “we” are different than “them” (Kaldor, 1998). In a case like Bosnia the policy of exclusivism succeeded in spite of forty percent of mixed marriages in 1990. The propaganda apparatus managed to split the Yugoslavian population in Bosnia, to split families and even marriages to such a degree that they went to war against former neighbours and their own relatives. Not in all cases of course, but sufficient numbers to wage a larges scale war. An Early Action activity here should focused on all the historical positive examples and the benefits of keeping together as a people on Balkan. The misuse of historical events, the exaggerations, the false rumours, the offensive reports in media and the hearsays are all possible to build counterforce against. Alternative media with more balanced description of what is going on is one possibility which many movements are using. The opposition in Tibet as well as in Burma have radio stations sending on short wave into the countries. On the Internet the number of sites with alternative news are growing constantly.

More discussion on attitudes on page 8.

The Before Violence phase should not be regarded as a gateway to the violent phase. Galtung argues that “(t)o describe this as the “prevention” phase to avoid violence is very cynical. A basic conflict is enough reason in itself for serious attention.”(Galtung, 2000, page 16) The main problem is that the conflicts seem to get too little attention if there is no or little violence attached to them.

The next phases should be regarded as the “worst case” scenarios. They will follow if not enough good quality conflict work is done from enough actors.

Relative Deprivation

The theories of Relative Deprivation (RD) are developed as a tool for explaining and to some degree predict the eruption of conflicts. Most works on RD have focused on conflicts where violent means are used. Or to be more specific, most of the works have not done the distinction between conflicts and violent means used in conflicts. One, of few, exemption is Lindström and Moore. They have used a theory of RD to explain how it is possible to explain mobilization (Lindström and Moore, 1995). They have made a synthesis of two theories: One on RD on an individual level and one on mobilizing on group level. They make it clear that the RD can only be used to explain the mobilization, not the choice of means.

The core of the RD-theory is the frustration that occurs when the individual feels a “perceived discrepancy between men’s value expectations and their value capabilities” (Gurr, 1970, p. 13). The” expectations” are the conditions a person considers to be her rights or possibilities to achieve. The “capabilities” are the circumstance she will accomplish or be able to preserve in real life. When the gap between expectations and capabilities are widening the frustration are growing. This gap can be a reality for the individual, as well as for a group, whatever the objective situation is. The important thing here is that the feeling of a gap between expectations and capabilities are big enough to create frustration. The actual situation is less relevant than the situation perceived by the individual or group.

The values on the Y-axis can be a set of different things. To illustrate what it could be we can use the value needs described by Burton (Burton, 1990). He differentiates four different levels of needs. The first on is the “Survival-needs”. Here we find the basic needs necessary for upholding life. Air to breath, water to drink, food to eat is among the most important ones. The next level Burton calls the “Well-being” and here we find much of what can be grouped as the goods of the welfare state. Decent living, a job with a salary big enough to live off, a basic level of social security and health care are typical examples on this level. The next level in Burton’s theory is “Identity”. Here we find the need to know whom you are, to belong to a group and to have some level of self-respect. The last level is what Burton calls the level of “Freedom”. At this level we will find the needs and desires for religious and political freedom as well as aspiration to be free in a more philosophical sense. In all these four levels of needs we will find a gap between what people would like to achieve or what they are hoping for and what they will be able to get in their life. The RD theories are saying that when the gap between these two are growing the frustration will increase and the probability for a conflict will develop.

Another scale of values that can be applied to the RD-gap is developed by Tedd Gurr in his classical book “Why Men Rebel”. He has three broad categories of values; Welfare Values, Power Values and Interpersonal Values (Gurr, 1970, p. 25-26). These are broad values that can be divided into subcategories. The Welfare Values are all the spectrum of economical values and what Gurr calls “self-actualisation values”. That is possibilities to develop and use ones own physical and mental capacities. With Power Values Gurr means the possibilities one have to take part in the decision-making in your own surroundings and about your own situation in the community (“participating values”). Another sub-value is the “security values” which, as the term indicates, are the possibilities to influence on the situations that decide on your own security. The last of the three values, the Interpersonal values are the psychological satisfaction one search for in equal interaction with other individuals and groups and the desire for safety you want from the society or your groups belief system about your own status and position in the society.

During Violence

This phase is the one most in focus in nearly every media, peace research program and other activities dealing with conflicts. As mentioned in the introduction it is very common to mix the (violent) behaviour with the conflict itself. When massive violence is used by one or more actors in a conflict the core of the attention is on the consequences of the violence.

One very widespread reaction to the use of violence is more violence. The additional violence comes from other actors in the conflict. This “counter-violence” will then easily be the ignition to a new round of violent escalation. The Old Testament have a famous quotation that “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. M.K. Gandhis comment was that “the whole world will end up blind and toothless”! The escalation and the spiral of violence that are very common phenomena during violence should not be seen as unavoidable. The work on conflict handling in the midst of violence must be focused on breaking that evil escalation.

There are several problems with the use of violence. The first I want to mention is the connection between means and ends. The core issue is this question is if there is a connection between the means used in a conflict and the outcome, the achieved goals, in the conflict.

The different actors have different roles during the violent phase. Some tends to look into the future and start planning for the time when violence ends. This is of course more common on NGO and village levels than among those directly involved in the violence. These groups and individuals have a tendency to both make their life as normal as possible in the present situation and they are building the base for a future society. Then we have those who are taking active part in the violence. The armed actors are predominately occupied with their struggle and logistic. Others again have enough with surviving from day to day. Leaders in armed groups are in periods invited to take part in negotiations. Their willingness to do so depend on may factors, one of them being what they can gain from talking or making deals. There is also always internal as well as external actors who make profit out of the violence. Here we find not only arm-dealers but all those who are supporting the armed actors with logistics and different services.


Conclusion so far

By introducing the three phases in a conflict we have now got six variables for analysing. That gives as nine possible combinations. We can act in each of the previous corners before, during and after the violence.





Before Violence      
During Violence      
After Violence      

The possibilities for the conflict-worker are now nine instead of one. This complexity shall not be confused with complication. The complexity gives are more opportunities to act in the conflict. It also gives a clearer picture of what is going on and it helps us to propose high-quality activities in order to facilitate, assist or support any of the actors in the conflict.

These three phases shall not be seen as something that will follow mechanically. Good conflict work in the first phase can avoid violence form occurring and hence jump over the second and third phase. Then we still will need to do parts of the work described in phase three, but the task will so much more painless. Still the reconciliation and resolution can be necessary elements in the conflict cycle.

Insufficient or unsuitable work done in the After Violence phase can easily result in new phases of violence. This segment in a conflict cycle will decide if the violence have come to an end or if the present is only an intermediate period between violent phases.

Variables to include: The Three Levels

Most actors have at least three different levels of decisionmaking and hence three roles in a conflict. The differentiation of each actor is important in order to be more exact in the conflict work. If large actors are regarded as one player and therefore are expected to act with one voice and with only a limited set of means we will fail to attend the rich variety of articulations and activities within these parties.

Top level

If we start with an example from the Middle East it is obvious that an actor as Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) have many levels. The president Yasser Arafat and his office, the heads of the departments and the ministers are the top level in the organisation.

Middle level


Grassroots level


Conclusion so far

By introducing the three levels in most actors we have three more variables to include in our analysing. We now have a total of nine, which gives as twenty-seven possible combinations. That is twenty-seven possible entrances to the conflict.




Before Violence

Top level Middle level Grass-root level Top level Middle level Grass-root level Top level Middle level Grass-root level
During Violence Top level Middle level Grass-root level Top level Middle level Grass-root level Top level Middle level Grass-root level
After Violence Top level Middle level Grass-root level Top level Middle level Grass-root level Top level Middle level Grass-root level

We should not consider each of these entrances as one option to act; rather they are doors into the conflict. Behind the doors the possibilities to act are numerous in each case.



Variables to include: The number of actors

Not Homogeneous


Existing datasets, their content and limitations

The major works on quantitative conflict research focus only on wars. This trend goes back to the works of Sorokin (Sorokin 1937), Richardson (Ricahrdson 1960) and Wright (Wright 1965). In the seventies Northedge & Donelan (Northedge & Donelan 1971), (Butterworth (Butterworth 1972), Frei (Frei 1975), Holsti (Holsti 1977) and Zacher (Zacher 1979) followed the same pattern. And the same is the case with more recent datasets by Small & Singer (Small & Singer 1982), Moaz (Moaz 1982), Kende (Kende 1982), Gödecke (Gödecke et.al. 1983), Levy (Levy 1985), Ganzel & Meyer-Stamer (Ganzel & Meyer-Stamer 1986), Luard (Luard 1988) and the yearly dataset from Uppsala Conflict Data (Wallensten & Sollenberg 2000).

There is also an overwhelming majority of these datasets which focus on armed conflicts. They only occasionally include conflicts without violent means. In those cases they incorporate other means the nonviolent means are grouped together and include everything from ordinary political activity within the system to large scale mass mobilisations and consequently there is no terminology developed to differentiate and specify the number of nonviolent means used in non-armed conflicts.

The cases covered in these datasets are conflicts over a lot of different issues. To the language of conflict triangle the C-corner differs a lot, while the B-corner is more or less belligerent means. The disputed questions are in most cases not even mentioned. As if they are not important! These lists are to a certain degree lists of dead bodies. Even if they differ regarding how to count the victims and how many victims you need to have a war, the main problem from mine point of view is the lack of other aspects of the conflicts.

Let me exemplify this point with a list of disputed issues between states in which the involved states have the option of using belligerent means or handling the conflicts more peacefully.

In the table 1 the categories of issues used by KOSIMO are listed.

1 Territory, borders, sea border
2 Decolonisation, national independence
3 Ethnic, religious or regional autonomy
4 Ideology, system
5 Internal power
6 International power
7 Resources
8 Others








These are all conflictual situations where either belligerent or nonviolent means could have been used. These issues have in some situations been influenced by violent means while in other similar situations without the use of arms. We have cases where exactly the same actors behave differently over the same issues with just a short interval between. [JJ6]

This makes me questioning the whole ideas of many of these lists of wars. The reasons for behaving differently in these cases, compare with very similar ones, are not fully understood and little research is done on that question.

One such category of behaviour that is hardly counted, categorized and done case studies on is mediation. Haas (1983) has observed mediation in 75 percent out of 108 conflicts from 1945 to 1965. Ganzel and Schwinghammer (1995) reports 131 mediated endings of wars from 1945 to 1992. In the KOSIMO data we find attempts to mediate in 55 percent of the cases. In those cases where there were no formal mediation and no belligerent means used there is no data available for how the conflict ended. Here there are important research areas waiting to be explored.

My point is to illustrate the point that war is not the only option for states in conflict, regardless of the issue in dispute, political system, cultural context or religion. More on other options follows in respective chapters.



I have already introduced a number of concepts which each of them needs to be discussed and defined. All of them will be treated individually and properly in separate chapters of the thesis. But let me say some introductory words about my preliminary reactions to other authors’ use of some of these terms.  The first and most obvious one is nonviolence. This concepts consist of two separate parts, both of them with a negative associations. “Non” as well as “violence” makes it difficult to be very enthusiastic about it. If we introduced mathematical rules to this field we could argue that by multiplying two negatives the result will be positive, but my experience is that most people does not think that way. Many (most?) languages have similar interpretations of the concept. “Ikkevold” in Norwegian, “Ahimsa” in Hindi, “Noviolencia” in Spanish and so on. One of the few exceptions is German were at least the second half of the word has a more positive flavour, “gewaltfrei” (free from violence). A German researcher introduced the even better term “Gutekraft” some time ago. Much more descriptive, but we must also bear in mind that all sorts of means can be used for a variety of different purposes. There is hardly anything intrinsic good in the mean itself. And it is also very difficult to have any new terminology accepted by a larger public.

When the term is used as a way of action, such as “nonviolent action” the diversity of terms is richer. From M. K. Gandhi we learned about the use of “Passive Resistance”[5], when he organised resistance in South Africa. He later abandoned that terminology, mainly due to a number of misconceptions and misinterpretations. People focused on the first part, “passive”, and the thoughts went in the directions of absence of acting. Gandhi later used the concept “satyagraha” which derives from Sanskrit literary means “to cling to the truth” or “truth force”. Not very much more clarifying for what is meant, but [jj7] at least he got rid of the obvious connection with passivity. But still a number of authors use the term passive resistance, which was given up by he who invented it, and got rid of it, more than 80 years ago. This is a typical example of the difficulties in introducing new concepts as well as getting rid of the old ones. Gandhi also separated what he called “Nonviolence of the strong” from “Nonviolence of the weak”. The difference could be translated to “nonviolence as a way of life” and “nonviolence as a technique”. The first one includes many aspects of life, like a philosophy, relations to other living being, to nature and for some a relation to ”higher unity”, God or some divine force. The nonviolence of the strong is something that influence and shall be conducted in acts, speech and mind. Only a limited fragment of “nonviolence of the strong” is related to actions in political conflicts. But Gandhi argued that it is the only way to achieve independence and a good life. He argued that the inner strength required for “nonviolence of the strong” is what gives the struggle power to convince the opponent about his or her wrongdoings. The concept was also a response to those who criticised Gandhi and his Satyagrahis that they chose nonviolence due to weakness and that they were cowards.

The “nonviolence of the weak”, the technique, is a parallel to a tool or a mean, to be used in societal conflicts. It can be learnt at courses and has similarities to the violent tools and means used in conflicts. The vast majority of nonviolent actions studied in this book belongs to the last category. The majority of cases are those were people have chosen non-belligerent options for pragmatic reasons. Not because they believe violence is wrong from an ethical point of view, but because they believe it is more efficient.

Gene Sharp in his book “The Politics of Nonviolent Actions” introduced the expression “Active Nonviolence” to prevent all possible misunderstandings and remove the impression that nonviolence was about NOT acting, being passive. His list of 198 techniques of nonviolent actions clearly shows the level of activity in these methods. It also indicates the rich diversity of varieties there is of nonviolent actions.

Above the term nonviolence is used as a form of action, but we also find the term connected to a form of conflict. It is frequently in conflict literature to separate violent conflicts from nonviolent ones. Here we find one more case were the focus on violence confuses and prevent us from understanding what is going on. And it also creates problems to describe the complex processes of (societal) conflicts as being either nonviolent or violent.

These phenomena I will return to several times later in the text, but let me shortly introduce what I will refer to as the “violent discourse”. As soon as one actor in a conflict turns to violence the whole conflict is called “violent conflict”. Even if the ten, fifty or hundred others actors in the same conflict never use any violent means the violence “takes over” and defines what sort of conflict it is. Let aside for the moment that the violent or nonviolent means only belongs only to the B-corner of the conflict-triangle, and by that only is one out of several ingredients in a conflict. But why should one type of means have “the right” to categorise the whole conflict. Why would it not be enough to have one actor using nonviolent means to call the conflict a “nonviolent conflict”? Or let us say that we apply a “democratic” principle and argue that we should count the number of actors using violent means and those using violent ones and let the majority decide! If more actors, for whatever reason, restrain from violent methods, the conflict could be classified as a nonviolent conflict.

The reason why the violent perspective dominates so much is not clear to me. What is it that makes the choice of violent means so much more important and fascinating to media, researchers and the public that they hardly pay attention to other than the cases were violent means dominate? It seems to be like an axiom, and not up for discussion. Well, I am not going to accept that. I will argue through most of the present text that these two ways of action in conflicts, with or without violence, needs to be discussed without letting one of them dominate the discourse. Both of them are problematic, complex and exist in many different forms and shapes, but they should be treated like equals. At least until good arguments for doing it differently appear. So far I have not observed logical arguments, only traditions, feelings and unchallenged estimations. That is not good enough for a scientific approach.

When I have been discussing with activists around the world about different means to be used in their conflicts I have often heard that “nonviolence does not work”. I have been talking to people active in resistance movements in Palestine, Eritrea, South Africa, Colombia, the Basque country and Chechnya; and they present “proof” that nonviolence is useless in their conflict. Often they have one, or a few, examples of nonviolent actions to refer to as evidence that nonviolence is not working. My question then is why they don’t apply the same principle when their violent means fails. Even after several decades without success most of them cling to the same violence. A fiasco in the armed tactic does not count, while a disappointment in the nonviolent one makes them abolish the whole concept. The normal response to my questions is silence.

In several “revolutionary” groups around the world there is a two observable positions on the question on violence contra nonviolence. The first is a sort romantic view on the violent means. This does not apply to most of those who have themselves been taking active part in armed conflicts; they have a much more realistic view on the possibilities and , more important, the limitations of violent means. But among the much larges group of “revolutionaries”, those who support those who use the arms, the almost religious believes in the armed struggle is very deep. We find “icons” of Che Guevara on their walls; they cannot present much empirical evidence for their conviction; other options are not discussed seriously and even the most disastrous consequences does not inflict any doubts in them. The believe that a revolution must be fought with armed means have long roots. Amanda Peralta in her book “med andra medel…” has investigated some of the foundations for this extreme strong links between revolutions and armed strug[JJ8] gle in the leftist tradition. When Engels and Marx did their studies of the growing industrial societies in Europe in the last half of the eighteenth century they realised that the distribution of power was very unjust and they saw a need for a rapid change in the structures of the societies studied. None of them new how to change the power-structure in society and was looking for advice and help. One of the few proposals they got was to study Karl von Clausewitz. They were told that his most famous book “On War” from 1832 could tell them something about means to be used in large-scale societal conflicts. This “advice” has probably been one central reason for the strong links between the need for revolution and that is must be carried out with war as the main mean. These terms have been so inseparable that few today can have a vision of a revolution without have the image of armed struggle in their mind.

A similar relation can be found when there are conflicts between states or between a state and an independence movement. The war-option is always very near. The less spectacular, although much more frequent ways of handling such conflicts are not in the centre of attention.

One of the arguments I can imagine, but have not seen spelled out in the literature, is that the consequences of violent means are so much more “important”. By “important” I would believe that the deadly consequences on human beings would rank high. And I have no problem to accept that those consequences are of utmost importance for those affected. That be the victims themselves, dead or harmed by violent means, or their surviving relatives and friends.

But let us dwell for a moment about the influence the violence has on the conflict. Are the deadly consequences of violent means important to understand the conflict? Will the content or the contradiction in the conflict be more understandable if the focus is on the violent means? I would argue in the opposite direction; that both the violent means themselves and the extreme focus on these means makes it more difficult to understand the conflict. The violent means functions as a sort of filter or fog, which draws attention away from the complexity of the conflict. One example of the misleading consequences of focus on violence is that the conflict is seen as en entity that exists only when violence is used. That every societal conflict has a pre-violence history tends to be forgotten when media, researchers and public only perceive the violent phase. In the same way will the post-violent phase disappear from our attention. Both of these are of utmost importance in order to understand the conflicts and of course for anyone who are acting in a conflict.

But I am not sure this it is that simple either. The consequences of different means used in a conflict cannot be a simple counting of the numbers of human causalities. We need to separate the intentions from the actual consequences and effects of a mean. The table below gives as four outcomes of the combination of intentions and effects. In both variables we divide in effect on human beings or not.


  Effect: Harming human beings Effect: No harm on human beings
Intention to harm human beings  Category I Category II
Intention not to harm human beings Category III Category IV






The first category includes much of what is part of most wars. One, or more actors intend to do harm on an other actor and they succeed. That could be missiles at the enemies military bases or, as have been more and frequent: Bombing civilians. One of the trends in the last decades is that the percentage of civilian victims in war has increased. This is due to several factors. The military strategies incorporate hurting civilians to a larger extent than earlier. When the British air force started the bombing of Dresden and other German cities they were not missing military targets, they were aiming at the working-class areas of Dresden. The numbers of civilian victims were higher there due to higher density of population. In middle and upper-class areas they have large gardens and hence fewer inhabitants per square kilometre. When USA used nuclear weapons against Japan in 1945 they also deliberately dropped them on civilians and not on military targets. Both Hiroshima and Nagasaki was saved from conventional bombs in order to “measure” the effect on cities not damaged by other weapons. This tendency has gone on and developed further. Civilian targets were bombed in the Gulf war 1991, Kosov@ 1990 and in Afghanistan 2001, just to mention some examples.

In category two we find those cases where the violent actors does not achieve their goals. Bombs and missiles missing their targets are obvious examples. Of course we also have examples were the bombs and missiles are missing the targets, but are hitting other human beings than those they were aiming at.

In the third category we find examples of boycotts were the public argument from those behind it is that they want to put pressure on a regime they dislike. The idea is to make the conditions so difficult for the leadership that they will resign in one way or the other. Exactly how that is going to happen is not very clear. The empirical facts so far seem to falsify the hypothesis that the leadership resign by free will or an internal opposition removes them due to economical boycotts. We have seen decades of boycott of Cuba and more than ten years of boycott of Iraq. The countries affected seem to join their forces against the external enemy and the oppositions put aside their critique for the time being. In both cases those affected of the boycotts are the weakest ones, those on the bottom of the society. It can be argued that these types of boycotts, especially when the country in question does not have a functioning infrastructure. USA bombed most of the infrastructure in Iraq and then imposed the economical sanctions. The situation in Iraq is more than one million victims since 1991. Most of them are newly born or very young kids, a lot of elderly people and a large group of sick people. They are deprived of the satisfiers of basic needs such as sufficient food, shelter, clean water, medicines and clothing. The numbers of victims are higher than the total number who has died due to use of WMD in our history.

The forth category we have all the examples of peaceful efforts achieving their goals, or at least not harming anyone. The strikes, protests and demonstration carried out by Solidarity Movement in Poland from 1980 to 1989 had a declared intention not to harm any human beings. These were examples of pragmatic use of nonviolent means. And they succeeded with their intentions; none was physically harmed by their activities. Another example is the demonstrations in Leipzig from September 25. to November 18. In 1989. The opposition, mainly based in the circles around Nicolai church formed the group “Neues Forum” and began organising peaceful protest with the outspoken aim of  “die politiche Apathie in der DDR beenden helfen” (Neues Forum, 1989). They succeeded with both their political aim and the strategical aim of not harming police, militaries or other representatives from the regime. More examples of this category will follow in the case-studies.

These four categories give us a preliminary partition of the two main categories of means, violence and nonviolence, to be in focus for this study. These four categories are all present when large-scale conflicts within and between states occur. One set of such conflicts is the increasing number of staes in the world. Since all territory on earth was occupied by states already in 1945, when this study has its starting point, all new states need to come as a result of dividing one, or more, states into new entities. These processes are often painful, conflict ridden and difficult. The way countries are born differs a lot and one of the differences is the means used by the main actors in those processes.

All four categories above are complex entities. The violence as well as the nonviolence comes in two forms: Structural and direct. Both of them can be directed against body (physical) as well as mind (psychological). All these aspects will be dealt with later.

“War is not the same as conflict” – the complexity of conflicts


Defining units of analysis


When UN was founded in 1945 the number of states signing the Charter were fifty-one. The number of members by the turn of the century is 189. That is an average of more than two new members every year during the whole period. The numbers of states have always been higher than the number of UN-member states, but these figures are a clear indication of the trend that the numbers of states have almost quadrupled in this period. The axis-powers Germany, Japan and Italy did not become members until later. By the end of the period the following states still are outside the UN-membership: Kiribati, Nauru, Western Sahara, Switzerland, Tonga, Tuvalu and the Holy See.

These new states have come in waves. The former colonies of Britain and France in South and South-east Asia achieved their independence from 1945 to 1949. A second wave lasted from 1955 to 1965 and included many former colonies in Africa. A third wave came when Soviet Union and Yugoslavia broke up 1989-1992.

This process has probably not come to an end and the numbers of nations within one or more states working for independence are high. The “Minorities At Risk”-project lists 233 politically active groups demanding more autonomy. Many of them want complete independence. And there are more nations in the process of becoming states not included in “Minorities At Risk”, due to the fact that the project only list groups they predict have a potential for using violent means in their struggle. One example of other nations working for independence is the Færo islands. They are not included due to the fact that they so far have chosen purely nonviolent means. Once more we are facing weaknesses in datasets due to the tradition of only counting cases with violent means. There are few reasons why not those conflicts without violence should be counted. Or at least accept the fact that conflict exists only as long as they include the use of violent means.


The basic unit of analysis of the study is the individual political regime which may or may not experience conflicts. Most empirical data will be aggregated to the yearly level, and the most feasible unit of time aggregation is thus country-years during which a conflict may or may not occur. Of course there can be more than one conflict within one year. Military coups have in some regimes occurred several times within a twelve-month period. The time period covered by the study is the period immediately following WWII to the year 2000 (included).  Since the WWII ended at different times in various places I will use the date for the formal capitulation by the German and Japanese regimes in the respective parts of the world as the starting point for the period for the study.

I define regimes as the governments of independent states satisfying the following criteria (laid out in Gleditsch and Ward): A state constitute an independent polity if it a) has an relatively autonomous administration over some territory, b) is considered a distinct entity by local actors or the state it is dependent on, and c) has a population greater than 250,000. I also include states that does not fulfil these criteria, but are recognised as independent states by UN.

The criteria set up in international law, that the entity must have control over its territory, in the meaning of military control, will not be included as a part of this work. There are several reasons for that, the most important being that many states does not have an army [jj9] and that the monopoly of violence is not a very attractive requisite for a state.

[JJ10] Conflict

The definitions of conflicts vary from context to context and from author to author. The linguistic origin is from the Latin conflictus – “to strike”;  “striking together with force” [JJ11] .

In the Oxford English Dictionary we find two definitions, none of them very helpful in the context of this thesis. They are:

“1. An encounter with arms; a fight; especially a prolonged struggle;

2. Dashing together of physical bodies”.

The first one is close to the common view that conflicts are closely connected, or even inseparable from the use of violence. More on that later. The latter one deals with a different phenomenon.


The list of synonyms has a wider and more enlightening: – dissension, strife, friction, disagreement, dispute, argument, quarrel, war, fight ……………………


More applicable for the discussion of governments in conflict are some of the definitions in the relevant literature.

Conflict is a dangerous opportunity

(Bolton, 1987 page 207).

Conflicts involve struggles between two or more people over values, or competition over status power and scarce resources

(Coser, 1967).

 A conflict of interest exists when the actions of one person attempting to maximise his or her needs and benefits prevent, block, interfere with, injure, or in some way make less effective the actions of another person attempting to maximise his or her needs and benefits

(Deutsch, 1973 pages 15 – 17).


Can be based on:

(1)  differences in needs, values, goals;

(2) scarcities of certain resources – power, influence, money, time, space,

popularity, position;

(3) rivalry.

(Johnson & Johnson, 1991, page 303)

Conflicts relate to deep human needs and values, sometimes expressed as problems or disputes.

A dispute arises when two (or more) people (or groups) perceive that their interests, needs and goals are incompatible, and seek to maximise fulfilment of their own interests, or needs, or achievement of their own goals (often at the expense of others)

(Tillett 1991, page 4)


A disagreement becomes a dispute “only when the two parties are unable and/or unwilling to resolve their disagreement, that is when one or both are not prepared to accept the status quo (should that any longer be a possibility) and to accede to the demand or denial of demand by the other. A dispute is precipitated by a crisis in the relationship”.

(Moore, 1986, page 5).


Latent conflicts are characterised by underlying tensions that have not fully developed and have not escalated into a highly polarized conflict. Often, one or more parties may not even be aware that a conflict, or the potential for one even exists.

(Curle, 1971).


Emerging conflicts are disputes where the parties are identified, they acknowledge that there is a dispute, most issues are clear, but no workable negotiation or problem solving process has developed.

(Moore 1996, page 17).


Manifest conflicts are those in which the parties are actively engaged in an ongoing dispute, may have started to negotiate, and may have reached an impasse.

(Moore, 1996 page 17)



One of the misunderstandings underlying the excessive focus on only those conflicts which includes violent means I think is based on the concepts of conflict which overshadow the fields of peace research and political science. Many of the definitions include violent means as a prerequisite for a conflict to be counted, or even for it to be conflict. The view that most conflicts exist long before they eventually may be turns violent are not taken into sufficient consideration by many datasets. Those who includes some forms of nonviolent actions gets of course many more cases of conflicts. The most typical form of nonviolent actions included in the datasets are demonstrations and public protests. For conflicts without direct confrontations very few identify them as conflicts. One exception is KOSIMO which includes what they call latent conflicts. By that they mean “a stage in the development of a conflict where one or more groups, parties or states question existing values, issues or objectives that have a national relevance” (Pfetsch and Rohloff, 2000).

Another problem with the definitions are the view that it must be incompatible goals for a conflict to be “real”. Galtung introduces a valuable aspect of conflicts when he defines the concepts of “elementary conflict formations” or “conflict atoms” (Galtung 1996). These are units like disputes and dilemmas. A dispute is a situation where two actors are pursuing the same scarce goal. A dilemma is a situation where one actor is pursuing two incompatible goals. Since most conflicts have a high number of actors (m>2) and the number of goals normally also are higher than one (n>1) the sum of “conflict atoms” must regarded as the totality of the conflict.


Defining violent and nonviolent means in conflicts

The project will set up criteria to assess to what extent nonviolent and violent means dominate in processes of political change. Delineating violent and nonviolent means of conflict and to what extent these are analytically distinct is not done in earlier works in the field. My starting point is that I define violent means or actions as intended, direct physical use of force against human beings or as intended use of structural violence (the example mentioned above, boycott, is typical for this category). By contrast, by nonviolent action, I mean direct nonviolent actions aiming at influencing societal conflicts. Some of these are outside the realm of ordinary political activities others will be inside.

Nonviolent means can, has been, and are used in many contexts and for a variety of aims. For my purposes, I am only interested in nonviolent action in the context of social and political conflict. The objectives of the conflict are political power and influence over a regime, counted as changes in the regime, either directly or indirectly. Or, as in some cases, the result of the conflict will be a change in regime or the creation of a new state, even if that was not the initial intention. My definition includes a wide range of actions aimed against representatives of the existing regime, or conversely, political opposition against this, that actively brings pressure and influence (including emotional or moral forms) in a dispute-ridden and contentious relationship between a regime and its opponents.

[jj12] I will develop a new typology for means used in large-scale societal conflicts. Present literature does not have a sufficient terminology due to lack of data on conflicts without belligerent means.

The few datasets that makes an effort to include conflicts dominated by nonviolent means does not makes the category useful for my purpose. They put a lot of different non-belligerent means in one basket. One recent example is Gurr, Marshall and Khosia in “Peace and Conflict 2001”. There they have two categories which are called “Conventional politics” and “Militant politics”. Both categories are described as phases in a process which have turned into an armed conflict phase sometime during the period of 45 years covered by their study (1956-2000). My focus is not on phases, but on  means used in the conflict.

Ted Gurr has in his “Minorities. A Global View of Ethnopolitical Conflicts” (Gurr 1993) scales for coding “Communal Political Action”. Under “Nonviolent Protest” he has six categories:

“0 = None reported

1 = Verbal opposition (public letters, petitions, posters, clandestine publications, agitations etc.)

2 = Political organizing activity on a substantial scale, including conventional party activity on behalf of group interests.

3 = A few demonstrations, strikes, rallies, total participations in the hundreds or low thousands.

4 = A number of demonstrations, strikes, rallies, total participation in the 10.000 range or higher.

5 = Similar events, total participations over 100.000.

6 = Other (specify). (recorded as 3 when constructing composite indicators)”

Then follows two more scales labelled “Violent protest” and “Rebellion”.

This is much more advanced categories than most other datasets. I find them very useful. The limitation that the cases are only those where a minority are “at risk” makes the dataset useful for a sub category of those cases I am studying.

These scales are developed in the “Minorities at Risk-project” and the dataset covers minorities, in countries, which the projects defines as being in risk of entering conflicts over their degree of self-determination. The dataset covers many cases where the minorities does not strive for their own state or a new regime. The six categories under “Nonviolent Protests”

The dataset best fitting my purpose is the KOSIMO  (Konflikt-Simulations-Modell) from Heidelberg University. It is presented in “National and International Conflicts, 1945-1945” and have as an outspoken goal “to develop a model of conflicts that included both non-violent and violent conflicts, domestic and international conflicts, state and non-state actors as well as structural and behavioural determinants, issues in dispute, domestic systemic conditions of actors and external constellations of international systems” (Pfetsch and Rohloff 2000). See also the five volume “Konflikte seit 1945” (Pfetsch 1991). The whole dataset updated to 1998 is available on http://www.kosimo.de. I will partly build my research on their dataset, but with a more differentiated terminology. But there is a number of reasons why it is necessary for me to develop a separate dataset.

Let me introduce two variables to start the work towards a new typology; a scale from “Institutionalised and organized violence as a part of the system” to “Institutionalised and organized nonviolence as a part of the system” on the means and three categories of actors; “the position”, “the opposition” and “the external forces”.

By actor I mean, in this context, an identifiable party in the conflict that has an agenda that differs from other parties. That can be an open agenda, or a hidden one. To be grouped as one actor it is not enough that they have something in common; large part of the agenda must be identical. In most conflict we find actors who for tactical reasons join their forces and efforts in the heat of the struggle.

The variable of means covers nine categories from the institutionalized repression by military and police forces to the peaceful institutions in societies with little violence of any form and well functioning processes for handling conflicts. The three types of actors are also categories and shall not be seen as single actors. All experiences from large scale conflicts tells us that the number of actors always are ginger than two. The common opinion that conflicts are between part A and part B does not reflect reality. Media coverage and textbooks which describes conflict in such simplified terms are not useful for understanding either the conflicts or the means used to influence their outcome. The important actors can more often be counted in the tens and sometimes with three digit figures. So the categories in the table below are just that: categories. The intention is not to give a full picture of the conflict, but to identify different means used by these categories.



Means used



External forces

Institutionalised and organized violence as a part of the system Repression by military & police Violent revolution Military intervention
Ad hoc violence used for specific purposes Paramilitary and

Police violence

Police and militaries loosing control


Riots Assassinations
Threats of violence Making police & military visible Preparing for violence in public space, media etc Public military buildup with intention to intervene
A combination of violence and nonviolence Invite to talks at the same time as ordering the police to attack Peaceful demonstrations turning violent Dropping bombs AND food
Threats of nonviolence Pledge to organize supportive demonstrations Public pledge to step up demonstrations Pledge to intervene
Ad hoc nonviolence used for specific purposes Spontaneous demonstrations in support of position Spontaneous protests, strikes, blockades… Spontaneous


Institutionalised and organized nonviolence as a part of the system Education, HR and welfare Demonstrations and building alternatives Peacekeepers, external peace builders

By “Position” I mean those actors who are in power and/or are supporting the present regime. They are domestic/internal; based in the country. That will include all parts of the state system, but normally also most of the financial institutions, large businesses companies and parts of the civil society and the main stream media.

By “Opposition” I mean those actors inside the country that are opposing the present regime. There can also be cases where representatives or whole groups of individuals who normally belongs to the “Position” can be in opposition.

“External actors” are those actors that not have their main base in the country/-ies were the opposition demands changes.

The variety of different actors in all these three categories is extensive and in the case studies several of them will be discussed in detail.

Similar to the way violence and nonviolence can be used by different actors, these means can also be directed towards different corners of the conflict triangle. Violent as well as violent actions can be used to influence the attitudes and/or behaviours of the other actors or they can be used to influence the content of the conflict.

The table below uses the same scale of means as the previous, but the other variable is the three corners of the triangle.

Directed at which corner of the conflict triangle

Means used








Institutionalised and organized violence as a part of the system

Permanent hatred

War, propaganda

Inevitable, Enforced solutions, No dialog

Ad hoc violence used for specific purposes

Bursts of hatred

Spontaneous use of force against opponent


Threats of violence

“If you don’t”

Pledge to use force “if necessary”

If you do not accept our offer we will decide without your cooperation
A mixture of violence and nonviolence

Love-hate attitude

Negotiations and fights simultaneously

Occupation and building peace simultaneously

Threats of nonviolence

We will help if you change…

Pledge to “go between”

Make public: We will start talks in public (or with other actors)

Ad hoc nonviolence used for specific purposes

Bursts of “love”

Spontaneous “go between”

Negotiations, mediation in peaceful atmosphere

Institutionalised and organized nonviolence as a part of the system

(Moral) Education,

Peace Culture


Conflict transformation,

Peace structures

In the conflicts where the issue is , power in a regime the revolutionary movements are in the focus. It is not enough to be critical to the present policy of the Position, the aim must be to replace the regime. It will also take up the cases were a change in the regime was not intended, but in the end became the result. But what is meant by a change in a regime. I will introduce four possibilities of outcomes of a change in regime. A regime can change by either getting rid of the structure and/or the leader. The following combinations come out:

Structure oriented

Get rid of structure

Replace structure

Person oriented

Get rid of leader

Remove everything, no alternative prepared

Alternative system ready, no leader prepared to replace the old

Replace leader

Alternative leader, no system to replace the old

“Total” revolution with alternatives







Shuffles in the cabinet or changing the individual leader of a larger regime — as when a military dictatorship replace an existing leader with another from the same group — are in themselves not sufficient to be counted in this study. But one military dictatorship replacing another from a different group will be counted.

I hypothesize that in cases where violent means have dominated the changeover process, the number and seriousness of difficulties for the new regime to establish a more democratic system are higher than in those cases the nonviolent approaches have dominated. Few will probably argue against this view, but the publications in this field so far indicate that there has been no research on this topic. Casper and Taylor examine why some countries succeed in installing democracy after authoritarian rule while other fail. And they do it from an elite bargaining perspective. They argue that a new democracy is more likely to make progress toward consolidation if negotiations during the transition process are relatively difficult. Although their research is based on extensive structured comparisons of the transition processes in twenty-four nations with a variety of different outcomes, they have not considered aspects of the means used in the bargaining taking place in the negotiation process in the transition such as the relative use of violent means versus nonviolent actions.

Existing definitions


New theoretical approaches

Other means than war

In the literature the most used term for such conflicts are «war». War has been defined in various ways but most of the definitions have in common that they describe war as an armed conflict with a number of deaths. The disagreement are more around the number and how to count the deaths than the much more interesting and important part of the definitions, namely the almost universal view that war is a form of conflict.

Most of the researches on large-scale conflicts are focused on armed ones. Wars have been studied from a large number of perspectives since the first works in this field were published. The tradition from Richardson and Wright have dominated the majority of this particular tradition of research ever since.

The Swedish research institutions have not been unique in this respect. SIPRI have focused on the arms; their effects, costs, trade and negotiations of reductions. The well known peace research from Uppsala is the project of counting armed conflicts based on the number of killings on the battlefield (Wallensten & Sollenberg, 1998).

Other research projects counts the number of deaths related to the conflict. Patric Brogan (Brogan1998) in his large work World Conflicts tries to cover most armed conflicts with deadly casualties. The An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Conflict and Conflict Resolution, 1945-1996 (Jessup 1998) includes not only wars but assassinations, coups, insurgencies, terrorism, massacres and genocides. Others have different ways of classifying the conflicts, but they all have in common that they focus on the conflicts where violent means dominate.

When war is defined as a conflict then the definition in itself creates a number of difficulties for the handling, or management, of the conflict. A conflict is a complex social, and often political, process and includes a number of component which needs to be studied separately both in order to understand the conflict and in order to deal with it. Keltner (1994) identifies four main elements in a conflict:

The means used to influence the conflict

The questions the disagree about

The relations between the parties

The aims or possible outcomes.

Each of these elements are of course in themselves complex entities. To use the term «war» for the whole concept will make it difficult to identify both the different elements and, more important, the range of other options than armed means in the conflict. First of all we will argue that to define war as a type of conflict reduces the possibilities to study other options than armed means in order to influence the conflict. In other words: If you define war as a type of conflict then you predefine the means to be used in the conflict. War is of course only one of a wide spectra of means which are available for those who are engaged in large scale societal conflicts. Going back to Keltner (1994) we want to stress that conflicts with identical questions to disagree about, with identical relations between parties and with identical aims can be influenced (or solved) by a wide range of different means. Below we will shortly describe two different sets of means used in large scale societal conflicts and make some proposals for future studies in the field of Peace- and Development Studies.

Nonviolent Revolutions

In the following we will try to illustrate some of the possible misunderstandings resulting from the definition of «war» as an armed conflict. We will use the examples of Poland in the eighties, the People Power revolution in Philippines in 1986  and the “velvet revolution” in Czechoslovakia 1989 and compare them with some of the civil wars in we have seen in last decades. In all cases the disagreement was about the political control of the territory.

The Solidarity movement in Poland did not accept the present government and their policy. The relation between the parties was more than hostile. The opposition in Poland had a long and violent history of struggle against the political leadership in their country. The Solidarity movement in Poland choose in 1980 to try with nonviolent means to achieve their aim. After many decades of armed upraising (the last one 1976) they developed a strategy of traditional nonviolent means such as demonstrations, strikes, blockades and occupations. They kept to their strategy despite the fact that the government, with military means, forced them to go underground for some time and threats from an invasion of Soviet troops. (Labedz 1984)

The case of People Power in the Philippines had a lot of similarities with Poland. The decision to avoid armed means was deliberately chosen. The most visible action was organised mass jogging with yellow t-shirts in the capital Quezon City. Although it appeared to the outsider to be a spontaneous action, it was in fact the end of a long run struggle to remove Marcos from the presidency. After a disputed election the armed forces split and General Ramos joined the demand from the demonstrators in the streets to accept Mrs. Aquino as the winner. Marcos never understood the, for him, mysterious power of people when the organise and unite in actions of protest and disobedience. (Mercado 1986)

In Czechoslovakia the revolution came as the final act of a several decade long opposition-movement. Charta 77 and other underground groups had joined in what was called Civic Forum and mass demonstrations and strikes followed. The opposition did not take to arms against the Soviet led invasion in 1968 and such means was never on the agenda in the years to come. According to a parliamentary committee investigation in 1990 the communist regime tried several times in November 1989 to provoke violence among the demonstrators, but Civic Forum managed to keep to the nonviolent line (Powers and Vogele 1997).

In these three cases civil resistance was only one aspect of a large range of factors leading to the victory for the opposition movements. But the means used had an important influence on the revolutionary process as well as on the outcome of the struggles.

Comparing these three examples with what is traditionally called civil wars raise some questions about the connection between means and ends and the importance for the countries possibilities for development after the revolutionary process.

Civil wars in focus

Since the end of the cold war the total number of armed conflicts have significantly been reduced.  In the same period the most typical armed conflict has changed from being a conflict between two or more states with more than 1000 battle-related deaths a year to be a civil war with less battle-related deaths (Wallensteen & Sollenberg 1998). Examples are Chechnya, the Basque country, East Timor and Afghanistan.

In these three examples the “question to disagree about” were the political control of a territory. The methods they have used to influence the conflict have in all three cases included guerrilla warfare as a dominant strategic mean. The responds from the respectively states have been severe military and policing activities. The civil population has suffered to a large degree from these activities.

The civil wars dominate the media-picture as well as peace-researchers and scholars in political science. The casualties among civilians; children, women and elderly people have been broadcasted and reported world-wide and no one are not aware of these victims. The terrible consequences of armed conflicts are to such a degree in the focus of political discussions that they tend to diminish other interesting trends in current areas of conflict studies.

The discussions on “democratic peace”, the research on the number and types of conflicts, the campaigns against specific types of wars or weapon systems are all necessary and important but there is a need for studies in another trend which has taken place the last decades.

Definition of active Nonviolence

A combination of techniques by which people can address conflicts, including threats to their security, without using violence. It is not an attempt to avoid or ignore conflicts. There are three categories of active nonviolence:

Nonviolent protest and persuasion (mainly symbolic acts of peaceful opposition or of attempted persuasion, extending beyond verbal expressions) (Sharp 1973)

Noncooperation (deliberate withdrawal of cooperation with person, activity, institution or regime with which the activists are engaged in conflict) (Sharp 1973)

Nonviolent intervention (a class of methods involving the disruption or destruction of established behavioural patterns, policies, relationships or institutions that are considered unacceptable; or creation of preferred alternatives) (Sharp 1973)

Any combination of these means will in the following be named nonviolent action.

Two comments about the terminology

This definition is descriptive and does not take into consideration any aspect of intentions of the participants or consequences of the actions.

Nonviolent action is used because it has a history and a tradition within the peaceresearch- and peace movement societies. It is not a perfect terminology, especially since the term «nonviolence» in many cases has been defined in a conceptual way, with a strong normative emphasis, and therefor not reflecting what is actually happening in the nonviolent action. Narayan Desai can be a representative from one end of the spectra when he at the WRI Council meeting in Paris 1983 defined nonviolence as «perfect harmony of all life». In the other end of the same spectra we find the use of «nonviolence» as everything which does not include direct, serious physical attacks on human beings. In the following our intention is to be very close to the tradition from Gene Sharp in his book «The Politics of Nonviolent Action» (Sharp 1973). That is more close to Non-Belligerent or Non-Martial than to the more philosophical definitions. But rather than introduce a new terminology we have decided to base our terminology on a well-known concept.

Practical examples of active nonviolence

The following classification system is based on Gene Sharp, The Methods of Nonviolent Action. These 37 classes will be the base for the database in the project. Each of the mapped items will be classified based on the information we gather from the sources above. In brackets we have mentioned examples of the types of actions which will be included in each class.


(Public speeches, Letters of opposition or support, Declarations by organisations and institutions, signed public declarations, Declarations of indictment and intention, Group or mass petitions.)


(Slogans, caricatures, and symbols, banners, posters, and displayed communications, Leaflets, pamphlets, and books, Newspapers and journals, Records, radio, and television, Skywriting and earthwriting).


(Deputation, Mock awards, Group lobbying, Picketing, Mock elections)


(Displays of flags and symbolic colours, Wearing of symbols, Prayer and worship, Delivering symbolic objects, Protest disrobing, Destruction of own property, Symbolic lights, Displays of portraits, Paint as protest, New signs and names, Symbolic sounds, Symbolic reclamation, Rude gestures)


(“Haunting” officials, Taunting officials, Fraternisation, Vigils)


(Humorous skits and pranks, Performances of plays and music, Singing


(Marches, Parades, Religious processions, Pilgrimages, Motorcades)


(Political mourning, Mock funerals, Demonstrative funerals, Homage at burial places)


(Assemblies of protest or support, Protest meetings, Camouflaged meetings of protest, Teach-ins)


(Walk-outs, Silence, Renouncing honours, Turning one’s back).


(Social boycott, Selective social boycott, Lysistratic nonaction, Excommunication, Interdict)


(Suspension of social and sports activities, Boycott of social affairs, Student strike, Social disobedience, Withdrawal from social institutions)


(Stay-at-home, Total personal noncooperation, “Flight” of workers, Sanctuary, Collective disappearance, Protest emigration (hijrat)).


(Consumers’ boycott, Nonconsumption of boycotted goods, Policy of austerity, Rent withholding, Refusal to rent, National consumers’ boycott, International consumers’ boycott)


(Workers’ boycott, Producers’ boycott).


(Suppliers’ and handlers’ boycott)


(Traders’ boycott, Refusal to let or sell property, Lockout, Refusal of industrial assistance, Merchants’ “general strike”).


(Withdrawal of bank deposits, Refusal to pay fees, dues, and assessments, Refusal to pay debts or interest, Severance of funds and credit, Revenue refusal, Refusal of a government’s money).


(Domestic embargo, Blacklisting of traders, International sellers’ embargo, International buyers’ embargo, International trade embargo).


(Protest strike, Quickie walkout (lightning strike)).


(Peasant strike, Farm workers’ strike)


(Refusal of impressed labour, Prisoners’ strike, Craft strike, Professional strike)


(Establishment strike, Industry strike, Sympathy strike).


(Detailed strike, Bumper strike, Slowdown strike, Working-to-rule strike, Reporting “sick” (sick-in), strike by resignation, Limited strike, Selective strike).


(Generalised strike, General strike).


(Hartal, Economic shutdown).


(Withholding or withdrawal of allegiance, Refusal of public support, Literature and speeches advocating resistance).


(Boycott of legislative bodies, Boycott of elections, Boycott of government employment and positions, Boycott of government departments, agencies, and other bodies, Withdrawal from governmental educational institutions, Boycott of government-supported institutions, Refusal of assistance to enforcement agents, Removal of own signs and placemarks, Refusal to accept appointed officials, Refusal to dissolve existing institutions)


(Reluctant and slow compliance, Nonobedience in absence of direct supervision, Popular nonobedience, Disguised disobedience, Refusal of an assemblage or meeting to disperse, Sitdown, Noncooperation with conscription and deportation, Hiding, escape, and false identities, Civil disobedience of “illegitimate” laws).


(Selective refusal of assistance by government aides, Blocking of lines of command and information, Stalling and obstruction, General administrative noncooperation, Judicial noncooperation, Deliberate inefficiency and selective noncooperation by enforcement agents, Mutiny).


(Quasi-legal evasions and delays, Noncooperation by constituent governmental units).


(Changes in diplomatic and other representation, Delay and cancellation of diplomatic events, Withholding of diplomatic recognition, Severance of diplomatic relations, Withdrawal from international organisations, Refusal of membership in international bodies, Expulsion from international organisations).


(Self-exposure to the elements, The fast, a) Fast of moral pressure, b) Hunger strike, c) Satyagrahic fast, Reverse trial, Nonviolent harassment).


(Sit-in, Stand-in, Ride-in, Wade-in, Mill-in, Pray-in, Jail-In, Nonviolent raids, Nonviolent air raids, Nonviolent invasion, Nonviolent interjection, Nonviolent obstruction, Nonviolent occupation, “treehugging”).


(Establishing new social patterns, Overloading of facilities, Stall-in, Speak-in, Guerrilla theatre, Alternative social institutions, Alternative communication system).


(Reverse strike, Stay-in strike, Nonviolent land seizure, Defiance of blockades, Politically motivated counterfeiting, Preclusive purchasing, Seizure of assets, Dumping, Selective patronage, Alternative markets, Alternative transportation systems, Alternative economic institutions).


(Overloading of administrative systems, Disclosing identities of secret agents, Seeking imprisonment, Civil disobedience of “neutral” laws, Work-on without collaboration, Dual sovereignty and parallel government).

The change of means used in large-scale conflicts

The change in the patterns of armed conflicts has happened in the same period as the examples of large-scale conflicts carried out without arms have been multiplied. Many conflicts with similar questions to disagree about, with almost identical relations between the parties and with similar aims have been carried out without arms. A variety of active nonviolence has been more widely used in large-scale social and political conflicts the last decades than in any previous period. Groups that for unknown reasons choose not to take up arms in their struggles take up these means. A very important question to answer for scholars of peace research, conflict resolution and development theory is WHY they chose to use non-armed means. There is very little research done of finding their sources of inspiration, where they have learned their skills from or what was their main arguments in favour of active nonviolence. In many cases the actors have a long history of violence and armed struggles when they decided to change strategy. In almost every example the opponents, which in most cases are states, have not changed their repressive and violent means to suppress the opposition.

In Nonviolent Action. A Research Guide (McCarty & Sharp 1997) the authors have described more than 2700 books and articles on nonviolent struggles and actions. According to them hardly anyone have tried to answer these crucial questions. There is also a lack of research done on the internal structure of these movements. Questions on how they choose their leadership, in what way they were able to communicate during their struggle, what type of decision making process they used and who took part in the strategic discussions and decisions are still to be answered. Research in these fields and questions will produce a better understanding of the empowerment many of these movements gained in a short period of time and against all prophesies.



The many options:

When states are in conflicts they can react in a variety of ways. The most visible way is to go to war. Wars have been more and more impossible to hide from the outside world. Even if the main media does not report on many of the wars going on to day there is always someone in the area that reports and makes them known abroad. Wars can be carried out in a wide spectrum of ways from “low-intensive” warfare to the spectacular ones when TV reports from the frontline. In one end of the spectra we find cases like when the US invaded Somalia and tens of TV-teams was invited to witness the event as the ships entered the beach outside Mogadishu. In the other end we find the many cases were the war starts silent and is difficult to detect by even those who are attacked. The paramilitaries in Colombia or the contras in Nicaragua are examples of that type of war.

But the options are much wider than so. Many of the other options are not as well known, at least regarding frequency and studies. Blum (Blum 2000?) has mapped four types of actions carried out by USA when they are in conflicts. The first category is Interventions (which can take place with or without bombings). He has 67 cases of US interventions between 1945 and 2000. Of these they used bombs in 24 cases. Then he has listed 35 cases where US has attempted or successfully carried out assassinations on important political opponents of US-policy. In 11 of these cases they have also used torture. The last category is where US has “perverted” the results of elections in other countries.[6]

Most of these forms of actions does not find their ways to the media until long after they ended. Some of them are by their nature classified and will not be known until they are old enough to be declassified or leaks are informing the public about what has happened.





Coup d’état

KOSIMO lists more than 370 attempted or realized coups d’état which they do not include in their dataset of conflicts. The main reason is that these cases do not fulfil the criterion of a “conflict of some scope, duration and intensity”. Here it can be argued that they are partly following the same tradition of focus on violent means. The lack of  “intensity” excludes most of them from being included in the database. I would argue that the following six three categories of coups could well be included.

  No victims Victims Uncertain
Attempted coups      
Successful coups      

Table 1

The lack of information on many of these cases makes it difficult to see the level of violence used. But some cases are extremely violent and should for all reasons be seen as violent conflicts with similar means used as in wars.



Perverting elections



During conflicts the flow of information is important to most actors. Most countries have special laws and governmental bodies with special responsibilities for the information services in times of crises and wars. The old saying that “the truth is the first victim in wars” in probably true in most cases. But since all these conflicts starts long before they turn violent we need to be observant and see that the propaganda-machines starts long before any bombs are falling. And the truth is sacrificed in many conflicts that never enter a violent phase.

Not acting

In a number of conflicts the actors can live with the present situation and does not act at all. The reasons for not acting will vary from case to case. Let me list some reasons and discuss arguments pro et contra each case.






Nonviolent protests


Building alternatives




Not being in conflicts

Out of two hundred and four states which has existed, forty-four of them have, according to KOSIMO, not experienced conflicts as a direct involved part between 1945-1995.

This is a remarkably high number regarding the often assumed conflictive nature of states. Almost one-quarter of all states since 1945 have been able to early and satisfactory negotiations and/or compromises for political questions and problems.

They are:

Andorra, Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belarus, Bhutan, Cap Verde, Cent. African Rep., Comoro Islands, Dominica, Fiji, Gambia, Ireland, Jamaica, Kirgistan, Kiribati, Luxemburg, Malagasy Rep., Maldives, Marshall Isl., Micronesia, Monaco, Nauru, Palau, Samoa ,West, San Marino, Sao Tome & Principe, Seychelles, Singapore , Slovenia, Solomon Island, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent & Grenadines, Swaziland, Switzerland, Tanganyika, Tonga, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Vatican and Zanzibar.







Data presentation (KOSIMO



Occasions, instances, points, moments, epoch, phase, episode, age, period. These are all descriptions and aspects of time. When we describe complex entities, such as conflicts, the time-factor is of course important. We have different ways of insert conflicts in our understanding of time. Common in scientific works is to describe political time in relation to the Christian calendar. That means that the day UN was established is referred to as October 24. 1945 AD. Other ways of describing the same day can be according to Islamic calendar, the Hebrew one or any of the many other ones. The reference to a religious event (which most probably is wrong) put the time-factor in one, of many possible, specific contexts.

Since this study covers the period from the end of WWI to year 2000 it has two different references. The starting point refers to an epoch in human history that in western countries are referred to as the Second World War, while the ending point is a turn of a millennium according to the combination of Christian calendar, a division of time according to the average time the Earth use for one orbit around the sun, and the decimal system. The period could also be called “the second half of the nineteenth century”, “the Cold War-period”, “the decolonisation epoch” or the last part of the second millennium. All of these ways to describe time put them in a context, and that context will influence our understanding of the content. If I called these 55 years for the birth of ”the age of nonviolence”, everything I wrote would be interpreted and analysed from the perspective of nonviolence. I am not calling it that, but the example can illustrate the point that it is not irrelevant how time is presented.

I will use two different perspectives on time in this study. The first one put emphasis on time as a process. A process is something floating, with some important dynamics. There is an interrelation between the different parts in the process follows a rhythm that does not always have the same speed or pace. This perspective on time is not catched by a watch and must be understood in as something different than a linear scale with exactly the same distance between each unit.

We will find that many of the conflicts studied belong to trends that are only observable from a specific perspective and at a particular level of analysing. One trend is not always following the last one. We will find overlapping as well as gaps between them. And several trends can be important at the same time.

Trends can only be observed by studying several cases. Some trends are observable on macro-level. The typical trend than the number of states in the world is growing is one such case. It is for obvious reasons not possible to understand that trend from studying on single case. Other trends will only become visible by studying from an “inside” perspective. For example the way social movements are organising themselves have changed in a more democratic direction. There are fewer examples of leaders and more examples of participatory structures in a growing number of movements. That is not easy to see without entering inside these movements.

One type of time process is the wheel or the cycle. These symbols indicate that the process repeat itself with some sort of regularity. That could be the period between events or it could be time span of each event. Let us take some examples. According to many historians the number of conflicts labelled “The Thirty Years War” from about 1618 to 1648 ended up with a “new world order”. It was a very turbulent period in European history and the result was difficult to predict. The modern state was born and it became the most important unit in international relations. International Laws and a number of institutions was organised according to this new entity. Then we had a new unstable and chaotic period of around thirty years from 1914-1945. The result was the Cold War and more or less a division of the world in two entities. Once more it was difficult to predict the result when the turbulence was at its heights. Some academics argue that we are in the midst of a new thirty years period now. This time the international order is unstable due to new types of wars (civil-, post-modern-, network- wars and so on), lack of respect for International Law, Globalisation and new forms of terrorism. Some place the start of this period at the time for the outbreak of the civil war in Sri Lanka 1983 others have comparable starting points with reference to the so called globalisation. If this is a similar period of immense changes in the international system, we have the same difficulties in predicting what will come out of it. The point here is to illustrate that such a cyclical view of time as the reoccurrence of thirty-years periods will both influence your understanding of what is going on and perhaps have impact on how you act in a specific situation.

Another type of cycles are those where events or chains of events are coming repeating themselves. Let us say that after every war there comes a ceasefire. This obvious observation is easy enough for an academic who can present lists of all wars in history that has come to an end. In a village outside Cali in Colombia this cycle is not that easy to grasp after more than thirty years of very violent wars. Or the historical fact that all empires come to an end also will include USA one day.  This understanding of cycles is important to bear in mind when trying to understand, predict or act in a conflict.

Other ways to describe the same time is to go away form the processes-perspective and to look at them as a succession of single events. Then the fall of the Berlin wall would then just be a single entity separated from the nonviolent revolution in Poland under the Solidarity movement, the perestroika or the influence of West Germany. It could even been studied as a case of “how to knock down a wall of concrete and steel with the use of hand tools”. So the understanding of what happened in East Germany in the autumn 1989 will differ depending on the context, or lack of context, you are describing in. Events seen in this perspective will have their own time-scale. The time is like capsulated in its own framework and the time does not relate to process going on outside its own realm.

This is not an argument against looking at single events as unique and separate entities. The question of context will decide what sort of information you get out of the study. It is not a question of the right or the wrong context; it is simply a question of how the contexts influence your conclusions and the interpretations of the conclusions.

The present study will consciously use several different time perspectives in order to get a more comprehensive understanding and being able to have a comparative view on the results.

The case studies included here are concentrating on how that specific case took place. The description of how the opposition in Yugoslavia organised themselves and what strategy they chose to remove Milošević is to a certain degree taken out of the Balkan context. The focus is on strategies, tactics, decision-making and communication within the movement.


What does geography has to do with irregular changes in regimes and/or conflicts? Geography is often regarded as an objective variable and therefore not discussed in a political context. First we can state that all conflicts regarding changes in regimes takes place in a geographical framework. We can place each case on the map or point at it on a globe. Since one category in this study is states/regimes and they obviously have a geographical setting, the geography needs to be discussed.

States can be defined as administrative and legal unites of a country. The country “occupies” a specific part of the Earth and can include one or, as in most cases, several nations. Most nations have a territorial base and in many cases territorial claims. My passport is issued by Norway. It is not obvious what is meant by “Norway”. Is it the territory inside the political borders of the state or is the state? What about the part of Norway that earlier belonged to the Sami nation? The Samis are today occupied by four states and a growing number of their population does not recognise the Norwegian state. This factor is even more obvious in cases like Palestine or the Basque country. Most international bodies does not recognise them as legal entities. You cannot be guaranteed that a letter mailed to Donosti, Euskadi will reach its intended destination.

Conclusion: as soon as we start putting names on territories we are acting politically. These political acts are very important in most of those conflicts we are dealing with in this study. The examples above can be expanded to regions, continents and most other geographical units. Indian newspapers describe shootings by settlers in Gaza as events taking place in Western Asia. Afghan news about the war in Grozny 1999 referred to it as a conflict between Chechnya and its neighbour Russia. The list of examples could be very long, but I think I have made the point clear.

In cases of changes of regimes and creation of new states the geographical factor are probably   more important than many other conflicts. Where to write borderlines on a map and putting labels on the entities will have an enormous impact on many conflicts for long time in future. Those lines drawn on the African map in Berlin 1884 have been the source for many bloody conflicts on that continent ever since.


Analyzing data: Trends to be found

KOSIMO on nonviolent conflicts

The list below is an extraction from the KOSIMO dataset with some modifications and cases added from other sources.

I have taken the two categories Latent conflict and Crises. These two categories includes conflicts were the accused or confronted party or parties react in a permissive, enduring or de-escalating manner, and they do not resort to violence. In other circumstances similar situations has led to escalation and in the end to full-scale wars. The ways these conflicts are handled by the core actors, which in most cases are states, should be of, at least equal interests, for peace researchers who wants to understand conflicts, their dynamic, processes, “life”, origins and “ends”. For anyone who wants to act in a conflict with the aim of preventing or decreasing violence, these cases are probably more valuable to study than those where the violence overshadows the contradictions and the suffering are in the focus. KOSIMO only lists those issues that were named by the initiator of the conflict. And they have a maximum of three issues per case.

State(s) Start End Issues


India – South Africa 1946 1959 Ideology, system
Namibia 1946 1966 Decolonisation, national independence, territory, border, sea border
Togo 1947 1957 Decolonisation, national independence
Ethiopia – United Kingdom (Gadaduma) 1947 1963 Territory, border, sea border
Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland 1960 1968 Decolonisation, national independence
Rhodesia (constitution 1961) 1961 1965 Decolonisation, national independence, ideology, system
Cameroon – Nigeria (Bakassi peninsula) 1961 1981 Territory, border, sea border
Ethiopia – Kenya (Gadaduma) 1963 1970 Territory, border, sea border
Djibouti (Afars – Issas) 1963 1977 Decolonisation, national independence
Niger – Ghana 1964- 1965 International power
Ghana – Upper Volta 1964 1966 Territory, border, sea border
Ghana – Togo 1965 1965 Territorial claims
Ghana (frankophone Africa) 1965 1966 Ideology, system
Ghana – Guinea 1966 1966 Hostages
Guinea – Ivory Cost 1967 1967 Hostages, ideology, system, international power
Tanzania – Malawi 1967 1967 Territory, border, sea border
Equatorial Guinea – Spain 1969 1969 Decolonisation, national independence, national power
Guinea 1970 1974 Invasion, national power
Portugal – Zambia 1971 1971 Economical sanctions
Libya – Chad 1973 1994 Territory, border, sea border
Mauritius – Malagasy Rep. – France 1976 Cont? Territory, border, sea border
Uganda – Kenya 1976 1977 Territory, border, sea border
Namibia – South Africa (Walfishbay) 1977 1994 Territory, border, sea border
Mauritius–United Kingd.  (Diego Garcia) 1980 Cont? Territory, border, sea border
Malawi – Zambia (Eastern Province) 1981 1986 Territory, border, sea border
Cameroon – Nigeria (Bakassi peninsula) 1981 1987 Territory, border, sea border
Zimbabwe – South Africa 1982 1982 Territory, border, sea border
Zaire – Zambia (Mweru Lake) 1982 1987 Territory, border, sea border
Chad – Nigeria (Islands in Chad-sea) 1983 1983 Territory, border, sea border
Uganda – Kenya (border incidents) 1989 1989 Territory, border, sea border
Zaire – Belgium 1989 1989 Others
Angola (secession Cabinda) 1991 Cont? Territory, border, sea border, resources
Ethiopia (Oromo) 1991 Cont? Ethnic, regional or religious autonomy, national power
Somalia (Somaliland secession) 1991 Cont. Ethnic, regional or religious autonomy
Zaire (autonomy Shaba) 1991 Cont? Ethnic, regional or religious autonomy, resources
Cameroon – Nigeria (Bakassi peninsula) 1991 Cont? Territory, border, sea border
Zanzibar (autonomy) 1993 Cont? Ethnic, regional or religious autonomy
Togo – Ghana (border violations) 1993 1994 Territory, border, sea border, ideology, system
Ethiopia – (Ogaden) 1994 Cont. Ethnic, regional or religious autonomy
Sudan – Eritrea 1994 Cont. Ideology, system, international power
Turkey (Russian claim) 1945 1947 Territory, border, sea border, international power
Sudan 1946 1953 Decolonisation, national independence, territory, border, sea border
Syria – Iraq 1949 1949 Ideology, system
Syria – Lebanon 1949 1949 Others
France – Egypt 1949 1950 Others (status of foreigners)
Jordan – Arab States (Exp. West Bank) 1949 1950 Territory, border, sea border, international power
Libya (Cyrenaica) 1949 1951 Decolonisation, national independence
Saudia Arabia – Abu Dhabi (Buraimi) 1949 1975 Territory, border, sea border, resources, international power
Iran (oil nationalization, change of gov.) 1951 1953 Resources
Iraq – Egypt, Syria (Baghdad pact) 1955 1959 International power, ideology, system
Tunisia – Egypt (Ben Yussuf) 1956 1957 International power
Morocco (Western Sahara) 1956 1976 Decolonisation, national independence, international power, resources
Tunisia (weapon sales) 1957 1957 Decolonisation, national independence, international power
Mauritania 1957 1961 Decolonisation, national independence
Iraq – Jordan (Arab Federation) 1958 1958 Others
Egypt – Sudan (Wadi Halfa) 1958 1959 Territory, border, sea border
UAR – Jordan 1959 1965 International power, others
Morocco – Spain (Chute and Melissa) 1961 Cont. Territory, border, sea border, decolonisation, national independence
Syria – Egypt (end of VAR) 1961 1961 Resources
Iraq – Kuwait 1961 1963 Territory, border, sea border, international power
Morocco – Mauritania 1961 1970 Territory, border, sea border, international power
Tunisia – Algeria (Sahara) 1961 1970 Territory, border, sea border
Morocco – Algeria (Tindouf) 1963 1970 Territory, border, sea border, resources
Morocco – Spain (Ifni) 1964 1969 Territory, border, sea border, decolonisation, national independence
Saudi Arabia – Kuwait (islands) 1965 Cont. Territory, border, sea border, resources
FRG – (Arab – German tensions) 1965 1972 Others
Baharein – Qatar (sea borders) 1967 Cont. Territory, border, sea border, resources
Iraq (Shi’ites) 1968 1978 Ideology, system, national power
Iran – United Kingdom (Baharain indep.) 1970 1971 International power, decolonisation, national independence
Iran UAE (islands) 1970 1971 Territory, border, sea border, resources
Afghanistan – Pakistan (Pashtunistan) 1973 1978 Ethnic, religious or regional autonomy, decolonisation, national independence, territory, border, sea border
Libya – Malta 1973 1973 1986 Territory, border, sea border, resources
Tunisia – Libya 1976 1988 Territory, border, sea border, resources
Oman – UAE 1977 1981 Territory, border, sea border, resources
Jordan – Israel (water) 1977 1994 Resources
Israel – Lebanon (Litany operation) 1978 1978 Resources, ethnic, religious or regional autonomy, others
Afghanistan – Pakistan (Pashtunistan) 1978 1986 Ethnic, religious or regional autonomy
Iran – UAE 1979 Cont. Territory, border, sea border, resources, international power
Iraq (Shi’ites) 1979 1991 Ideology, system, national power
Yemen PR – Oman 1981 1992 Territory, border, sea border
Yemen PR – Yemen AR (unification) 1986 1990 National power
Baharein – Qatar 1986 1991 Territory, border, sea border, resources
Iran – Iraq 1988 Cont. Territory, border, sea border, ideology, system
Iran – Saudi Arabia (pilgrims) 1988 Cont. Ideology, system, international power
Quatar – Saudi Arabia 1990 Cont. Territory, border, sea border
Turkey – Syria, Iraq (water) 1990 Cont. Resources
Iraq – Kuwait 1990 1990 Territory, border, sea border, resources
Libya – USA 1991 Cont. International Power
Iran (Rushdie affair) 1992 Cont. Ideology, system, others
Saudia Arabia – Yemen (border) 1992 Cont. Territory, border, sea border, resources
Tyrkey – Russia (Bosporus) 1992 Cont. Others
Armenia – Azerbaijan (Nagorny-Karabakh) 1994 Cont. Ethnic, religious or regional autonomy, decolonisation, national independence
Russia (oil exploitation Caspian Sea) 1994 Cont. Territory, border, sea border, decolonisation, national independence, international power, resources
Eritrea – Yemen (Hanish Islands) 1995 Cont. Territory, border, sea border, international power, resources
Monolia (status) 1945 1950 Territory, border, sea border, decolonisation, national independence, international power
Japan – USSR/Russia (Kurils) 1945 Cont. Territory, border, sea border
India (Junagadh) 1947 1948 Territory, border, sea border, decolonisation, national independence
Burma – China (border) 1948 1960 Territory, border, sea border
India (Indus channel) 1948 1960 Resources
Nepal 1950 1951 Ideology, system, national power
Indonesia (West Irian) 1950 1960 Territory, border, sea border, international power, resources
India (Goa) 1950 1961 Decolonisation, national independence
Thailand – Cambodia (border) 1953 1991 Territory, border, sea border
Korea (partition) 1953 Cont. Ideology, system, others
USSR- USA (Chinese Sea, piracy) 1954 1954 Territory, border, sea border
USSR – USA (air-traffic incident) 1954 1954 Others
North Vietnam (land reform) 1956 1960 Ideology, system
UUSR – USA (Soviet airspace) 1958 1958 Others
Thailand – Cambodia (border) 1958 1959 Territory, border, sea border
USA – USSR (downing of RB-47) 1960 1960 Others
USA – USSR (U2 plane shooting) 1960 1960 Others
China – USSR (tensions) 1960 1991 Ideology, system, international power
Malaysia – Philippines 1961 1977 Territory, border, sea border
Taiwan – China (invasion attempt) 1962 1962 Territory, border, sea border, ideology, system
Laos – Thailand – USA (Nam Tha) 1962 1962 Ideology, system, international power
China – Pakistan – India (border) 1963 1963 Territory, border, sea border
China – India (border) 1963 1993 Territory, border, sea border
India (Mizo) 1964 1972 Ethnic, religious or regional autonomy
China – USSR (diplomats) 1966 1966 Ideology, system, international power
Pakistan (Bangladesh) 1966 1970 Ethnic, religious or regional autonomy
North Korea – USA (Pueblo incident) 1968 1968 Others
Cambodia 1968 1970 Ideology, system, national power
India – Nepal 1989 1990 International power, others
China – Kazakhstan 1990 1993 Territory, border, sea border
China – United Kingdom (Hong Kong) 1990 Cont? Decolonisation, national independence
Thailand (democratisation) 1991 1992 Ideology, system
North Korea – IAEA 1991 1994 International power, others
China – Taiwan (Chinese maneuvers) 1993 Cont. Territory, border, sea border, ideology, system
France (Tahiti  atomic test) 1995 1995 Ethnic, religious or regional autonomy
Poland (communism) 1945 1947 Ideology, system, national power
Yugoslavia – Italy (Trieste) 1945 1954 International power
Austria (state treaty) 1945 1955 International power, decolonisation, national independence
GDR – FRG (division) 1945 1990 Territory, border, sea border, ideology, system, international power, national power
USSR – Norway 1945 1991 Territory, border, sea border, international power, resources
Albania – United Kingdom (Corfu) 1946 1949 Territory, border, sea border, international power
Hungary (communism) 1946 1949 Ideology, system, national power
CSSR (communism) 1948 1948 Ideology, system, national power, international power
USSR – Finland 1948 1948 International power
GD – FRG (Berlin blockade) 1948 1949 International power, ideology, system, territory, border, sea border
Greece – Albania 1948 1949 Territory, border, sea border, ideology, system
United Kingdom – Norway (fishery disp.) 1948 1951 Territory, border, sea border
USSR – Yugoslavia 1948 1956 Ideology, system, international power
Eastern Europe (Human Rights) 1949 1950 National power
Netherlands – FRG (border) 1949 1963 Territory, border, sea border
FRG – France (Saarland status) 1950 1957 Territory, border, sea border, resources
France – United Kingdom (Minquiers and Ecrehouse) 1951 1953 Territory, border, sea border
Hungary (C-47 plane shooting) 1951 1954 Territory, border, sea border
USSR – Sweden (Catalina affair) 1952 1952 International power
Eastern Europe (US interference) 1952 1953 Ideology, system
Icleand – United Kingdom (fishery confl.) 1952 1956 Territory, border, sea border, resources
CSSR (air traffic incident) 1953 1953 Others
GDR (17 June 1953) 1953 1953 Ideology, system, international power
Bulgaria (air traffic incident) 1955 1955 Others
Iceland (US-troops) 1956 1956 Others, national power
Netherland – Belgium (border) 1957 1959 Territory, border, sea border
GDR –FRG (Berlin status) 1958 1959 International power, ideology, system, territory, border, sea border
Iceland – United Kingdom (fishery confl.) 1958 1961 Territory, border, sea border, resources
Albania – USSR (tension) 1960 1991 Ideology, system
Italy (South Tyrol) 1960 1992 Ethnic, religious or regional autonomy
GDR – FRG (Berlin wall) 1961 1961 International power, territory, border, sea border
USSR – Finland 1961 1961 International power
Denmark – United Kingdom (fish. confl.) 1961 1964 Territory, border, sea border, resources
Spain – United Kingdom (Gibraltar) 1964 Cont. Territory, border, sea border, decolonisation, national independence, international power
Turkey – Greece 1964 1965 Others
USSR – Romania (tensions) 1964 1968 International power
Cyprus 1967 1967 Ethnic, religious or regional autonomy, national power
Greece Democratisation 1967 1975 Ideology, system
GDR – Denmark (border) 1969 1988 Territory, border, sea border
Sweden – USSR (Baltic Sea) 1969 1988 Territory, border, sea border,
Iceland – United Kingdom (fishery confl.) 1971 1973 Territory, border, sea border, resources
Greece – Turkey (Aegan Sea) 1973 1976 Territory, border, sea border, resources
Portugal (democratisation) 1973 1983 Ideology, system, national power
France (Corsica) 1975 Cont. Ethnic, religious or regional autonomy
Cyprus 1975 Cont. Ethnic, religious or regional autonomy, Territory, border, sea border
Iceland – United Kingdom (fishery confl.) 1975 1976 Territory, border, sea border, resources
Spain (democratisation) 1975 1982 Ideology, system
Poland – GDR (Stettin Bay) 1977 1989 Territory, border, sea border
Denmark – Sweden (Hesselö) 1978 1984 Territory, border, sea border
USSR (Volga Germans) 1979 1991 Ethnic, religious or regional autonomy
Poland (democratisation) 1980 1990 Ideology, system
Hungary (democratisation) 1983 1990 Ideology, system
USSR (perestroika) 1985 1991 Ideology, system
USSR (Estonia)[7] 1986 1991 Ethnic, religious or regional autonomy, decolonisation, national independence, resources
USSR (Latvia)1 1986 1991 Ethnic, religious or regional autonomy, decolonisation, national independence, resources
USSR (Lithuania)1 1986 1991 Ethnic, religious or regional autonomy, decolonisation, national independence, resources
Greece – Turkey (Aegan Sea III) 1987 Cont, Territory, border, sea border, resources
Greece – Turkey (Aegan Sea II) 1987 1987 Territory, border, sea border, resources
USSR (Krim Tatars) 1987 1991 Ethnic, religious or regional autonomy
USSR/Russia – Moldavia (Indep.) 1988 Cont? Ethnic, religious or regional autonomy, decolonisation, national independence
Georgia (Adcharia) 1989 Cont? Ethnic, religious or regional autonomy
CSFR (democratisation) 1989 1990 Ideology, system
GDR (democratisation) 1989 1990 Ideology, system
Albania (mass flight) 1989 1991 Ideology, system
Iran – United Kingdom (Rushie affair I) 1989 1991 Others
USSR (Karelia) 1989 1991 Ethnic, religious or regional autonomy, decolonisation, national independence
USSR (Ukraine independence) 1989 1991 Ethnic, religious or regional autonomy, decolonisation, national independence
USSR (Bellorussia) 1989 1991 Ethnic, religious or regional autonomy
Hungary – Slovaia (Gabchikowo power-plant) 1989 1994 Territory, border, sea border, resources
Liechtenstein – Czech Republic – Slovakia (real estate) 1990 Cont. Territory, border, sea border
Romania (minorities) 1990 Cont. Ethnic, religious or regional autonomy
CSFR (division) 1990 1993 Decolonisation, national independence
Yugoslavia (Serbia Sandchak) 1991 Cont.  
Ukraine – Russian Federation (fleet, atomic weapons) 1991 1994 Territory, border, sea border, decolonisation, national independence, national power, resources
Greece – Macedonia (name) 1991 1995 Others
Russian Federation (Tartastan) 1992 1994 Territory, border, sea border, decolonisation, national independence
Iceland – Norway (fishery zones) 1993 Cont. Territory, border, sea border, resources
Peru – Ecuador (Amazon river I) 1942 1960 Territory, border, sea border
Honduras – US (Swan island) 1945 1991 Territory, border, sea border
Dominican Republic (invasion attempt) 1947 1947 Ideology, system
Chile – USSR (Russian wives) 1948 1949 Others
Peru – Colombia (Torre Asyl) 1948 1954 Others
Dominican Republic (LUPERON) 1949 1949 Ideology, system, others
Haiti – Dominican Republic 1949 1950 Others
Puerto Rico – USA (status I) 1950 1952 Decolonisation, national independence
Dominican Republic – Cuba (sailors) 1951 1951 Others
Colombia – Venezuela (Monjes islands) 1952 Cont. Territory, border, sea border, resources
Liechtenstein – Guatemala 1955 1955 Others
Cuba – Dominican Republic 1956 1956 Ideology, system, others
United Kingdom – Argentina – Chile (Palmer) 1956 1958 Territory, border, sea border
Antarctic 1956 1959 Territory, border, sea border, resources
Haiti I 1956 1959 National power
Honduras – Nicaragua (border II) 1957 1961 Territory, border, sea border, resources
Guatemala – Mexico (Shrimp boat) 1958 1959 Territory, border, sea border, resources
Paraguay (Argentine support for rebels) 1958 1961 Ideology, system
Argentina – Chile (Palena dispute) 1958 1966 Territory, border, sea border
Argentina – Chile (Beagle I) 1958 1972 Territory, border, sea border, resources
Haiti II (exiled people) 1959 1959 Ideology, system
Nicaragua (exiled people II) 1959 1959 National power
Panama (revolutionaries) 1959 1959 National power
Cuba – USA 1959 1961 International power
Cuba – USA (Guantanamo) 1960 Cont. Territory, border, sea border, international power
Nicaragua (invasion attempt) 1960 1960 National power
Venezuela – British Guyana (Essequibo I) 1960 1970 Territory, border, sea border
Guatemala – Belize I (UK) 1960 1977 Territory, border, sea border
USA – Cuba (bilateral relations) 1961 Cont. International power
Guatemala – Mexico 1961 1961 Others
Bolivia – Chile (Lauca river) 1962 1964 Resources, territory, border, sea border
Brazil – Paraguay (Parana) 1962 1985 Territory, border, sea border, resources
Puerto Rico – USA (status II) 1962 1993 Decolonisation, national independence
Dominicanian Republic – Haiti (April-May) 1963 1963 Ideology, system
Bolivia – Peru – Chile (Tacna and Arcia) 1964 Cont. Territory, border, sea border
Argentina – United Kingdom (Falklands I) 1965 1982 Territory, border, sea border
Haiti IV (exiled people) 1968 1968 Ideology, system
Argentina – Uruguay (Rio de la Plata) 1969 1973 Territory, border, sea border, resources
USA – Peru, Ecuador (Tuna) 1969 1974 Resources, territory, border, sea border
El Salvador – Honduras (soccer war II (aftermath)) 1969 1980 Territory, border, sea border
Panama (channel II) 1970 1979 Territory, border, sea border, international power
Argentina – Chile (Beagle II) 1972 1977 Territory, border, sea border, others
Canada – France (St Pierre and Miquelon) 1975 1992 Territory, border, sea border
Nicaragua – Colombia (San Andres Archipelago) 1979 Cont. Territory, border, sea border
Argentina – Chile (Beagle IV) 1979 1985 Territory, border, sea border, resources, international power
El Salvador – Honduras (border) 1980 1992 Territory, border, sea border
Guatemala – Belize III 1981 Cont. Territory, border, sea border
Canada – USA 1981 1984 Territory, border, sea border, resources
Argentina – United Kingdom (Falklands III) 1982 Cont. Territory, border, sea border
Venezuela – Guyana (Essequibo II) 1982 Cont. Territory, border, sea border
Argentina (after Falklands defeat) 1982 1986 Ideology, system
Chile – Argentina (Campo de Hielo) 1985 1994 Territory, border, sea border
Brazil (constitution) 1986 1986 Ideology, system
Canada (secession attempt by Quebec) 1990 Cont. Ethnic, religious or regional autonomy
Cuba – USA (refuges) 1993 Cont. Others
Ecuador – Peru (Amazon River III) 1995 Cont? Territory, border, sea border, resources

More to add

And there are a number of cases not included in the conflicts listed. Many of the decolonisations are not included in the datasets I have used. That is due to several factors. The most important one is probably the definition of conflict used by my main source of data, KOSIMO. They define conflict in the following way:

As the clashing of overlapping interests (positional differences) around national values and issues (independence, self-determination, borders and territory, access to or distribution of domestic and international power); the conflict has to be of some duration and magnitude between at least two parties (states, groups of states, organizations or organized groups) that are determined to pursue their interests and win their case. At least one party is organized state. Possible instruments used in the course of a conflict are negotiations, authoritative decisions, threat, pressure, passive or active withdrawals, or the use of physical violence and war.  (Pfetsch and Rohloff, 2000 p. 32)

The main reason for this definition not to catch all cases of conflicts is probably the part on “some duration and magnitude”. I will supplement the KOSIMO dataset with cases from other sources. Colonies becoming independent in a peaceful way is one such category. The cases of wars are listed separately and with the same categories as for the nonviolent conflicts.

KOSIMO on violent conflicts

The next category in the KOSIMO is “Severe crisis”,

is defined as a state of high tension between the parties; they either threaten to resort to the use of force or they actually use physical or military force sporadically. The use of force is rather spontaneous and cannot be compared with a collective organised use of force. Military threats include the mobilization of regular troops, guerrillas or liberation-armies, the implementation of economic or military sanctions, the partial occupation of land, border territories or security zones and the threat or declaration of war. Different from the category “war”, the use of force in severe crisis must be limited to occasional border incidents, sea or land blockades, partial territorial occupations, brief arrest of people, e.g. opposition leaders, or the confiscation of goods. (Pfetsch and Rohloff, 2000 p. 31)

This means that also the category Severe crises are below the level of violence which most other datasets requires for a conflict to be categorised as war[jj13] . In addition the 262 conflicts listed above the KOSIMO dataset have 271 cases of Severe crisis. That makes the total number of conflicts, not categorised as wars, listed in KOSIMO dataset for the period 1945- 1995 five hundred and thirty-three. In the same period they have listed 108 cases categorised as wars. The definition of war in the KOSIMO dataset conflicts that fulfils the following three criteria’s:

The fight of at least two opponents with organised, regular military force

The fighting is not sporadic; it last for a considerable period of time

The fighting is intense, that is, it leads to victims and destruction. The number of victims and the scope of destruction is high (Pfetsch and Rohloff, 2000 p. 32)

This definition is not as exact as many other attempts to define wars. In order to compare with other definitions I will include other lists for wars covering the same period[jj14] .








[1] Her bør det nevnes noen av de mest sentrale bøkene.

[2] It can easily be argued that the word “information” is misused in this context. If information shall have any connection to truth or exactness it should NOT be used regarding media.

[3] This is not an indication about a necessary use of violence in the “fight”. Many fights have been fought with words as well as with active nonviolence.

[4] The common types of weapons called “Weapons of Mass Destruction” are Atomic-, Biological- and Chemical-weapons. One main reason for the opposition to these weapons are the fact that they are very general in effect. They do not separate either soldiers from civilians or enemies from friends.

[5] Fotnte

[6] In the presidential elections in 2000 they followed up this tradition by perverting their own domestic election.

[7] KOSIMO dataset does not separate these three cases



 [jj1]More discussion on Realists.

 [jj2]Need to include some common definitions of conflicts and other similar terms. Disagreement, problem, violence (can be taken from Den Nødvendige ulydigheten). Also some words about what sorts of conflicts these theories are applicable for.

 [jj3]Need to find a quotation for that.

 [jj4]Here I have to find references and good examples. Keen, Ottoson, Chomsky etc

 [jj5] Kolla årstalet

 [JJ6]Give some examples of this.

 [jj7]Sjekke Arnes bok Satyagraha and Group Conflict for his definition

 [JJ8]Hitta referans i Amandas bok

 [jj9] Referanse savnes til den som skrev boken om stater uten armeer,

 [JJ10]TA med mange definitioner på konflikt og diskutere disse.

 [JJ11]Her bør jeg finne en kilde.

 [jj12]Bør vurderes å flyttes fram

 [jj13]Her skal jeg ha inn referenser til Peter Wallensteen og andre.

 [jj14]Her bør Uppsala, og Singer & Small inn som jæmførelse

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Posted in Peace Research

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