Conflict Prevention: Path to Peace or Grand Illusion?

By David Carment; Albrecht Schnabel | Go to book overview

4
Challenges to preventive action:
The cases of Kosovo and
Macedonia
Raimo Väyrynen

Basic features of preventive action

The origins of modern preventive diplomacy can be traced to the 1950s when Dag Hammarskjöld as the UN Secretary-General made great efforts to strengthen the preventive role of the world organization. The tenet of his policy was to keep great powers out of regional conflicts and thus forestall the increase in their destructiveness through external military intervention and arms transfers. Preventive action stemmed from the more general reasoning that external interventions could be avoided or tempered if a region is made more autonomous in terms of security. 1

The underlying rationale was expressed in Hammarskjöld's introduction to the 1959–60 annual report of the United Nations: preventive action “must in the first place aim at filling the vacuum so that it will not provoke action from any of the major parties.” Neutralization of the conflict zone – as in Gaza in 1956–57 and Laos in 1962 – was the principal tool of preventing the future involvement of great powers in local crises. Neutralization meant that the external powers agreed to keep a region as a sphere of absence in their mutual relations.

Hammarskjöld's approach covers, however, only one type of conflict action, i.e. the horizontal, cross-border escalation of violence. In addition, escalation can also be vertical when the destructiveness of violence increases within a given political unit without spilling over boundaries to other units. A critical difference between these two processes of escala-

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