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Methods of Conflict Management


Admission requirements

Only students of the Advanced MSc International Relations and Diplomacy programme can take this course.


In their most violent form national and international conflicts represent the costliest types of social and political interaction. This seminar-based elective will focus on such conflicts and familiarise students with a range of methods for their analysis and management.

  1. In the first session of this course students will work on mediation as an instrument in management violent conflicts between different political entities.

  2. In the second session we will focus on negotiation as a tool in dealing with violent conflicts within one political entity. In other words: in situations of civil wars with external interventions. In both sessions a diplomat/practitioner will be invited to shed light on her/his experiences in these kind of violent conflicts.

3 - 4. In sessions three and four students will experience how to manage political conflicts through conference diplomacy. Can an international regime handle conflicts in such a way that value will be created instead of being destroyed? If international coordination is needed, while states and international and non-governmental organisations are in competition with each other, how to settle those differences in interest and perception? States look for ways to coordinate international action in dealing with cases of mass destruction. The selection of an appropriate method of conflict management is of fundamental importance whether a conflict will de-escalate into a stable situation or will preserve potential to relapse into conflict once again.

This seminar seeks to explore a range of factors pertinent to any conflict analysis and management. Methods used to end or contain conflict, de-escalate tension, maintain and enforce “negative” collaboration (i.e. absence of war) while trying to build sustainable, “positive” cooperation where the expectation of settling conflicts through the use of confrontation essentially disappears altogether. The focus will be on matching methods of conflict management to the characteristics of conflict being analysed and practiced. Such as the substance of underlying issues, the nature of the parties, and the various stages of the conflict. The approach assumes that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all ’conflict management methodology that can be indiscriminately applied across all time, space and issues. It is about people, parties, procedures, processes, preferences, perceptions and products.

Course objectives

Students should emerge from this seminar with an advanced set of tools to understand, analyse and manage conflicts, especially those who have a clear perspective to escalate into various forms of confrontation. At the same time, students will learn how to select for the most effective responses – strategy and tactics – aimed at managing conflicts so that the probability and intensity of competition is minimised, while the potential to build enduring cooperation is maximised, or at least optimised.


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.

Study load: 140 hours

Attendance Policy
Attendance is mandatory, subject to course structure (see syllabus for details).

Assessment method

25% on the basis of class discussions
25% on the basis of class exercises
50% 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.

  • Passed partial grades obtained in the academic year 2022-2023 remain valid during the academic year 2023-2024.

  • Passed partial grades obtained in the academic year 2023-2024 remain valid during the academic year 2024-2025.

  • 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.

  • The assessment method has changed from last academic year. Students that have valid partial grades from last academic year, may complete the course according to last years assessment methods.

Reading list

Readings will be from:
Jacob Bercovitch, Victor Kremenyuk and I William Zartman (eds.). 2009. The Sage Handbook of Conflict Resolution. Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington DC: Sage publications.


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


Dr. Paul Meerts


  • This course is an elective designed for MIRD students.

  • Previous course title was "Conflict, Civil War, and Mediation".

  • This elective is conditional on at least 5 students registering for this course.

  • Second year students have priority for the registration to this course.

This course is intensive, with all sessions taking place in the month of January.