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Conflict, Civil War and Mediation


Admission requirements

MSc International Relations and Diplomacy students.


In their most violent form, (international) conflicts represent the costliest type of social interaction. This seminar-based course will focus on such conflicts, and familiarise students with a range of methods for their analysis and management. In the first part of this course students will observe and scrutinise conflicts along a continuum ranging from stable and durable peace to outright war, with numerous intermediate types of interactions that mirror conditions of unstable or conditional peace, crisis, and fragile transitional post-conflict environments where the threat of the re-emergence of violence remains and where the road to stable peace seems long and difficult. Each juncture requires a tailor-made conflict management activity, undertaken by the parties to the conflict themselves or assisted by outside parties. The selection of an appropriate method of conflict management is of fundamental importance whether a conflict will de-escalate into stable peace or will preserve potential to relapse into violence once again.

This seminar seeks to explore a range of factors pertinent to any conflict analysis and management:

  • Various theories that explain root causes and trigger mechanisms that lead to an escalation of violence.

  • Methods used to end or contain violent conflict, de-escalate tensions, maintain and enforce “negative” peace (i.e., the absence of war) while trying to build sustainable, “positive” peace where the expectation of settling conflicts through the use of violence essentially disappears altogether. The focus will be on matching methods of conflict management to the characteristics of conflict being analysed, such as the substance of the underlying issues, the nature of the parties, and the various stages of the conflict. This approach assumes that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ conflict management theory or approach that can be indiscriminately applied across all time, space, and issues.

Course objectives

Students should emerge from this seminar with an advanced set of tools to analyse conflicts, especially those that have a clear potential to escalate into various forms of violence. At the same time, students will learn how to select for the most effective responses aimed at managing conflicts so that the probability and intensity of violence is minimised, while the potential to build enduring peace is maximised.


On the right-hand side of the programme front page of the E-Prospectus you will find a link to the online timetables.

Mode of instruction

The course is seminar-based. The students are expected to participate actively in structured discussions on assigned readings for each class.
Attendance is mandatory
Study load: 140 hours

Assessment method

30% on the basis of class discussions
30% on the basis of class exercises
40% on the basis of a paper

Details for submitting papers (deadlines) are posted on Brightspace.

Failed partial grades or components should be compensated by passed partial grades or components.
The calculated grade must be at least 5,5 to pass the course. It is not possible to re-sit a partial grade or component once you have passed the course.
Partial grades will remain valid for one academic year.

Should a student fail the overall course, s/he can complete the course in the next academic year. In cases of exceptional circumstances, a student may apply to the board of examiners for a resit to complete the course in the same academic year.

Reading list

Assigned readings for the course will be announced in the beginning of the seminar.


The programme will register the students in Usis based on the group division. Use Brightspace for course information.


Dr. Paul Meerts


This course has been changed from a core course to an elective course.
This course is an elective designed for MIRD students. This elective is conditional on at least 5 students registering for this course. Second year students have priority for the registration to this course.