Defining Conflict/Post Conflict

The term “conflict” is derived from the Latin “to clash or engage in a fight”, and it indicates a confrontation between one or more parties aspiring towards incompatible or competitive means or ends. Conflicts, if controlled or managed constructively, do not lead to violence. Some conflicts are “mutually satisfactory while others end up frustrating one or all parties”.

Peter Wallensteen (2002) recognises three general forms of conflict: interstate, internal, and state-formation conflicts. Interstate conflicts are disputes between nation-states or violations of the state system. Examples of internal and state-formation conflicts include civil and ethnic wars, anti-colonial struggles, secessionist and autonomous movements, territorial conflicts, and battles over control of government.[5]

Some conflicts are country-wide (Rwanda), and others are localized in specific parts of a country (Sudan). Their origins, often multifaceted, range from ethnic and economic inequalities, social exclusion of sectors of the population, social injustice, competition for scarce resources, poverty, lack of democracy, ideological issues to religious differences (Nigeria and Sudan), and political tensions.[6] The conflicts in the Sudan, Burundi, and Rwanda are, in large measure, the result of historical discrepancies between the ethnic or tribal components of the population.As of November 2011, the number of counties listed as being involved in an on-going conflict stands at 56.[7][8]

On the other hand, post-conflict is a “conflict situation in which open warfare has come to an end. Such situations remain tense for years or decades and can easily relapse into large-scale violence”.[9] In post-conflict areas, there is an absence of war, but not essentially real peace. Lakhdar Brahimi states that "the end of fighting does propose an opportunity to work towards lasting peace, but that requires the establishment of sustainable institutions, capable of ensuring long-term security." Prolonged conflict can lead to terrible human loss and physical devastation; it can also lead to the breakdown of the systems and institutions that make a stable society work, and these are the very systems that need to be revived.[10].


[5]For more information, see


[8]Another way of defining conflicts relies solely on quantitative means. The UCDP divides armed conflicts into the following three subsets by level:

  • Minor Armed Conflict: at least 25 battle-related deaths per year and fewer than 1,000 battle-related deaths during the course of the conflict.
  • Intermediate Armed Conflict: at least 25 battle-related deaths per year and an accumulated total of at least 1.000 deaths, but less than 1.000 in any given year.
  • War: at least 1.000 battle-related deaths per year

For more information, see

[9]Junne, G. & Verokren, W. (Ed). Post-conflict development: meeting new challenges. 2005, Boulder, CO

[10]Lakhdar Brahimi, Former Special Adviser of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, State building in crisis and post-conflict countries, June 2007, Available at