Opinion: The future of prevention



Thisanjali Gangoda

Thisanjali Gangoda

Thisanjali Gangoda is an applied conflict management major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]

Prevention, in its simplest form, is any method used to contain, negate or thwart the escalation of conflict. There is a great deal to be said about prevention in relation to international conflict resolution, in that if there are increased efforts to prevent people and institutions from creating conflicts, there would not be a need for resolution.

It is not the absence of conflict that is vital to prevention, but rather, the efforts made by community members to foster dialogue concerning possible tension, violence and escalation. It is important for communities to be able to recognize the root of conflict, whether it is ethnic, religious, cultural, political, economic or any other type of discrimination and bias formed amongst two or more groups. If the cause is understood, then the opportunity stands to make amends before there is a breakout of conflict. Again, this relates to prevention in its most rudimentary form, as issues of prevention are in relation to operational and structural agendas of parties involved.

If we utilize prevention by operational standards, there is a notable sign of conflict building in a country where intervention forces would arrive in the area immediately. They would assist in monitoring borders with local authorities and setting up offices to organize diplomacy and communication between groups. This method of prevention is useful if outside forces are respectful of the country’s nationals and its customs, while also working in partnership with local officials. Prevention in no way promotes the creation of police states, as country sovereignty would therefore be at stake. If prevention by way of operational standards is initiated, it is vital for grassroots elements of community organization and involvement to be part of any action plans. This allows for empowerment of community members to construct their own methods of conflict prevention — ones that suit their specific needs.

These factors of prevention can be considered structural forces that enable prevention tactics to be used to their fullest. Many conflict theorists argue that the best methods of prevention involve more operational elements than structural. I believe that, in a logistical sense, it is more effective to have ground troops monitoring conflict areas, asserting power over the escalation of conflict. For short-term prevention, this is pertinent in quelling violence.

However, for prevention to remain a long-term effort, there need to be increased structural factors involved. This includes a focus on the development of a nation, the rights of people and an agreeable political agenda set-up. I believe that these are important factors in the building and sustaining of peace as well.

Nevertheless, there are many examples of countries that have managed to utilize these prevention tactics to their benefit. The future of prevention lies in the hands of nationals, and they can be encouraged through international diplomacy and awareness. I think there needs to be more effort when it comes to international conflict prevention. When there is a third party involved in prevention, it is key that they be well-educated on the core issues at hand and have a plan of action that is fitting for the case.

These issues are a matter of trust, respect and country sovereignty. At face value, it seems like a simple matter that can be sorted out via prevention tactics and altruistic motives. But countries that are in need of prevention and outside intervention are usually in stark disagreement with international “interference,” and well, can you blame them? There is a need for a new global agenda for change, and I think it is possible. The future of prevention lies in the hands of the people, not government or corporate entities.