Contemporary Conflicts & Challenges


What is conflict?

1.) Disagreement between people

2.) People often have different interests, needs and points of view

3.) This can lead to disagreements (conflicts)

4.) Unless conflicts are resolved they can lead to tension, violence or war

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What are the causes of conflict?


1.) Identity is the set of characteristics that makes you who you are - they might include where you’re from, you’re language, your religion and your culture.

2.) If groups of people have different identities it can lead to conflict. A common reason for conflict is the level of power and independence each group has - conflicts are often about political power and independence.

3.) Identity conflicts can be caused by nationalism, regionalism and localism. Nationalism is having a strong identity and localism relates to a local identity. For example:

  • Nationalism - Scottish nationalists want Scotland to have greater political independence from the UK. In 1998, some powers were given to a newly-created Scottish parliament, but nationalists still want full independence. 
  • Regionalism - in France, the Mouvement Region Savoie campaigns for Savoie and Haute Savoie ( small administrative divisions) to come together as a larger political region within France. They used to make up the region of Savoy, and at present are part of the larger Rhone-Alpes administrative region.
  • Localism - in 2012, a holiday chalet was proposed close to Ullswater ( a lake in the LAke District, UK). this caused conflict locally with environmental groups who believed that the area should remain undeveloped.




1.) Ethnicity is a part of identity. It can include things you’re born with (e.g. nationality and race) as well as things that are passed down form one generation to the next (e.g. language, culture and religion).

2.) Your ethnicity doesn’t have to be the same as your nationality. For example, people born in the Uk have a British nationality they can belong to many different ethnic groups ( e.g. Indian, Chinese etc..). Some people with a mixed family background belong to more that one ethnic group.

3.) Ethnic conflict is conflict between ethnic groups. It can be the result of an ethnic group wanting more political power. Sometimes it can be the result of a belief that one ethnic group is superior to another.

For example, in Rwanda there’s a long history of conflict between the Tutsi and Hutu ethnic groups. In 1994 this led to a genocide ( mass killing to people belonging to a particular national, ethnic, racial or religious group). Around 800 000 people (mostly Tutsis) were killed (mostly by Hutus) within 100 days.




1.) Culture includes many things that relate to how you live your life, e.g. foods, customs, clothing, traditions, language, art, attitudes, belief and values.

2.) For example, culture can be linked to ethnicity (e.g. African culture), religion (e.g. Jewish culture), gender (e.g.male or female culture), age (e.g.youth culture) or where you live (e.g. urban or rural culture).

3.) Cultural differences can result in conflicts - especially when people from different cultures don’t fully understand or respect each other’s differences.

For example, whale meat is considered to be a traditional food delicacy in Japan. This causes conflict with people who are worried about whales becoming extinct because too many are being caught.




Conflicts can occur when people are competing for the same resources, such as:

1.) Territory - e.g. sovereignty (authority) over the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic Ocean has been disputed for a long time. in 1982 Argentina and the Uk fought over the islands in the Falklands War.

2.) Water - e.g. the Nile River is a source of water for 10 countries in North East Africa. There’s conflicts between the downstream counties (Egypt and Sudan) that use most of the water, and the upstream countries (including Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Tanzania) that want to use more water.

3.) Buildings - e.g. the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem was constructed by Muslims on the site of a Jewish Temple in the 7th Century. There’s been a long conflict over the Dome, as it is important to both religious groups. Non-Muslims currently have limited access to the Come and items such as Jewish prayer books are banned.

4.) Oil - e.g. there’re been a conflict between Russia and Norway over polar oil rights for over 40 years. Recently the countries made an agreement that divided the Arctic Ocean into zones where each country can extract oil. 




1.) An ideology is a set of ideas about how society should be. For example, an ideology might include ideas about the form of government, economic system, education system, social welfare system, health care system, justice system and environment. 

2.) Groups of people with different ideologies can have different ideas that can result in conflicts.

For example, the governments of North Korea and South Korea have different ideologies which have led to a long history of conflict. North Korea has an authoritarian government (all political power is held by a few people) and a communist economic system (property and production is controlled by the government). South Korea has a democratic government (there are several political parties and elections and capitalist economic system (property and production is privately controlled). 

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Expression of conflict

Non-violent conflict: Conflict that does not involve force or armed struggle. Conflict is displayed by word, sign, matching or silent protest. This has been successful in Ukraine which resulted in political changes.

Political activity: Political activity involves groups operating within a country who seek to aquire political power. The parties develop a political programme that defines their ideology and set out the agenda they would persue. It often involves debate between different parties and is undertaken in a political procedure.

Terrorism: This is a systematic fear among the public to force the authorities into political action for a political, ideological end. International terrorism has become increasingly widespread, in particular suicide bombings.

Insurrection: Insurrection is a revolt against civil authority, rebelling against the rules of that group or society. People involved in insurrection are known as insurgents, and they typically engage in regular combat against armed forces of the established regime, or conduct sabotage and harassment to undermine the governments position.

War: A state of open and declared armed hostile conflict between states or nations. The armed forces are the protagonists of the war.

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Conflict resolution

Conflict resolution: is the way in which a conflict is resolved at different scales. The expression of conflict- debate, political activity, war can lead to resolution. The type of conflict will mean resolution will vary.

Conflict over the use of a local resource: The expansion of several airports are as well as in Cambridge they tried to introduce a Tesco's to mill road in Cambridge which was met with opposition.

Resolving conflict: These conflicts are resolved by market processes, planning processes or a combination.

Market processes: the ability of the organisation undertaking the project to pay the going rate takes precedence over any local concerns or national concerns. Objectors may not have the funds to outbid the developer and development goes ahead with minimum consulation. During consulation the oppostion may voice objections, or purpose counter arguements, but do not have the right of an appeal.

Planing processes: are an attempt to provide a means by which local authority planners. They listen to the local authority, listen to the organisation responsible for a proposal, and have overall development control.

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