Friday 17 June - 0940-1040

While the majority of today’s violent conflicts transcend borders, there are few international mechanisms to deal with them. What examples provide guidance on how to respond to such conflicts?

The majority of today’s violent conflicts ignore borders, involving non-state groups or groups that refuse to accept the authority of state sovereignty. Although these types of conflicts are far from new, there appear to be few international mechanisms capable of dealing with them. This session will look at current cases of conflict from across the globe, assess why they have been so difficult to address and offer examples of success that can be replicated elsewhere.

Session Report

In this session, the panellists explored the common – and increasingly uncommon – trends in modern international conflicts, particularly analysing the cases of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria.   

Looking at the advantages and disadvantages of international intervention, the panel agreed that while it is important to draw lessons from the successes and failures of previous conflicts, each country’s internal dynamics are different and therefore it is necessary to understand the reasons for intervening before individual or collective action is taken.

With the rise of non-state actors, it has become increasingly difficult for international coalitions to engage in successful conflict resolution, demonstrating the descent of the old Westphalian model. As a result, deeper partnerships are needed between local governments and international actors to foster regional and national stability.

The panel also explored the case of Pakistan and how the ongoing insecurity in neighbouring Afghanistan has affected its borders, particularly the spread of cross-border terrorism.

There was a consensus that regime change needs to come from within, not outside, a country’s borders otherwise the emergence of ambiguous cross-border non-state groups, such as ISIS, can create political vacuums.


Key Quotes

'It is important to learn lessons [from previous conflicts] but every country is different [because] the internal dynamics are different. There [should be] a question at the beginning, ‘What is intervention for?’, and I think often there isn’t honesty at this point. It’s not about how we get out but why are we going in? Who’s asked us to go in? For who are we going in? Very often it’s wrapped up that it’s about the people in those countries but often it’s not.'
Baroness Valerie Amos

'At times the outside parties make things worse; at times they may make it better…The negotiator needs to be empowered: a lesson from any successful peace arrangement is that the person in charge has to have some authority over the lawyers, the guns and the money.'
James O’Brien

'I’m a fatalist when it comes to interventions. Typically in the last 20 years, interventions have created more mess then the one they were trying to fix…If there was no 9/11, would the world still have come to Afghanistan to assist in the way it did?'
Hina Khar
'People need reform-orientated development; not intervention from outside.'
Rangin Spanta
'My instinct is that one must be careful before relinquishing the ideas of borders. Because of the rise of a multiplicity of non-state actors who operate across borders, because of the interwoven nature of the world today, it requires people who are trying to resolve conflicts to have a different knowledge-set to the one they have had. Traditionally, you had a Westphalian model…but now if you look at Libya, Syria or other conflicts, you’re dealing with highly splintered groups…that we don’t understand. '
Simon Gass