Conflicts are easy to start, but much more difficult to prevent or stop.
The field of conflict prevention aims to find ways to prevent the escalation of violence, curb ongoing conflict and avoid the reemergence of violent conflict. This involves measures to strengthen and stabilize states and communities to be able to detect and respond to early warning signs of potential violence and implement systems to respond before conflict escalates.
For decades, conflict prevention as a peacebuilding strategy has been based on the concept of preventive diplomacy, a term first articulated at the United Nations by its former secretary-general Dag Hammarskjold in 1954.
In recent years, the United Nations and humanitarian organizations have increased their focus on conflict prevention around the world. A 2011 report from the U.N. secretary-general stated that “preventive diplomacy today is being conducted by a broader array of actors, using a wider range of tools, than ever before.”
In addition to diplomatic strategies, the practice of conflict prevention now includes operational prevention, which “relies on early engagement to help create conditions in which responsible leaders can resolve the problems giving rise to the crisis,” according to a report from the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict.