Master Interconnected Conflicts

The importance of conflict system mapping cannot be understated.

A conflict ends with a deal, right? Not so fast. We are used to picturing a conflict—between a government and a rebel group, for example—as one problem set that can be solved with one agreement. However, when a conflict is embedded in a conflict system, it is interconnected with other conflicts. To be effective, negotiated solutions must be interconnected as well. Take the agreement that the U.S. and the Afghan Taliban signed last month. Whether this "deal" brings peace or goes down in history as meaningless depends on how the agreement will be connected to other negotiations. These include negotiations between the insurgents and the Afghan government, between competing political factions in Kabul and within the insurgency, and regional talks among influential neighbors. To prepare for complex negotiations, the advanced negotiator moves from interest mapping to conflict system mapping to surface the hidden ties between interconnected conflicts.

Lecturer on Government, Harvard University

Arvid Bell is a scholar and entrepreneur who specializes in negotiation strategy, crisis leadership, and international security.