Peace and conflict studies is a social science field that identifies and analyses violent and nonviolent behaviours as well as the structural mechanisms attending social conflicts with a view towards understanding those processes which lead to a more desirable human condition. A variation on this, peace studies (irenology), is an interdisciplinary effort aiming at the prevention, de-escalation, and solution of conflicts by peaceful means, thereby seeking 'victory' for all parties involved in the conflict.

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More About Peace/Conflict Studies

Peace and conflict studies is a social science field that identifies and analyses violent and nonviolent behaviours as well as the structural mechanisms attending social conflicts with a view towards understanding those processes which lead to a more desirable human condition. A variation on this, peace studies (irenology), is an interdisciplinary effort aiming at the prevention, de-escalation, and solution of conflicts by peaceful means, thereby seeking 'victory' for all parties involved in the conflict. This is in contrast to war studies (polemology) which has as its aim on the efficient attainment of victory in conflicts, big and large by violent means and to the satisfaction of one or more, but not all, parties involved. Disciplines involved may include political science, geography, economics, psychology, sociology, international relations, history, anthropology, religious studies, and gender studies, as well as a variety of others.

There is now a general consensus on the importance of peace and conflict studies amongst scholars from a range of disciplines in and around the social sciences, as well as from many influential policymakers around the world. Peace and conflict studies today is widely researched and taught in a large and growing number of institutions and locations. The number of universities offering peace and conflict studies courses is hard to estimate, mostly because courses may be taught out of different departments and have very different names.

A 1995 survey found 136 U.S. colleges with peace studies programs: "Forty-six percent of these are in church related schools, another 32% are in large public universities, 21% are in non-church related private colleges, and 1% are in community colleges. Fifty-five percent of the church related schools that have peace studies programs are Roman Catholic. Other denominations with more than one college or university with a peace studies program are the Quakers, Mennonites, Church of the Brethren, and United Church of Christ. One hundred fifteen of these programs are at the undergraduate level and 21 at the graduate level. Fifteen of these colleges and universities had both undergraduate and graduate programs."

Scholars working in the areas of peace and conflict studies have made significant contributions to the policies used by non-governmental organisations, development agencies, International Financial Institutions, and the UN system, in the specific areas of conflict resolution and citizen diplomacy, development, political, social, and economic reform, peacekeeping, mediation, early warning, prevention, peacebuilding, and statebuilding. This represented a shift in interest from conflict management approaches oriented towards a ‘negative peace’ to conflict resolution and peacebuilding approaches aimed at a positive peace. This emerged rapidly at the end of the Cold War.