How Does International Law Condition Responses to Conflict and Negotiation?

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This article explores the role law plays in defining conflict and its consequences. Two elements of law's categorisations are critical; first law's cataloguing of activities fixing actions into particular classifications and second law's choosing of temporal points from which to analyse conflict, looking both forward and backward at events. The article uses two case studies to demonstrate these two features; Rwanda and Ukraine. Both examples, one historical the other contemporary, are replete with examples of law's categorisations of events and temporal points while demonstrating the tremendous impact that these choices have upon our understanding of how negotiations ought to proceed. This article does not call for a withdrawal of law from these situations but rather cognisance that heavy reliance on law can serve to mask both events and actors critical to successful negotiation and parties must bare this in mind when dealing with conflict.

Policy Implications

  • The consequences of law's expansion into all areas of conflict and negotiation ought to be reconsidered.
  • Reliance on law's account of events may not necessarily serve the end of achieving a negotiated end to conflict.
  • Decision-makers should seek to question what law's narrative omits through its classifications.
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