The CEWS Conflict Database includes 20 cases of recently resolved and unresolved inter-group conflicts. The cases were selected by procedures detailed in the second chapter of Journeys through Conflict: Narratives and Lessons , hereafter abbreviated as Journeys. In its current state as a prototype it serves as an illustration for how a diverse body information can be integrated into a common framework. If fully developed, this kind of database could be continuously updated and expanded by a network of conflict prevention experts.
In this illustration we demonstrate an integration of event data, chronologies and narratives into a unified framework of conflict phase sequences. This framework is computationally embodied in an empirically grounded set of procedures in the CEWS Explorer for exploring alternative conflict trajectories. These journeys through conflict can take the user, motivated by a search for less violent practices, into counterfactual histories and alternative futures.
In this database special emphasis is placed on annotating the graphic representation by using layers. We use layers to highlight escalating (red) and de-escalating (blue) phase sequences. This practice is easily generalized. Other possible uses of layers can include the suggestion of appropriate conflict management techniques, additional descriptions, variables or indicators that are linked to relevant features of the graph.
The CEWS Database consists of three elements:
4. Coding Notes
The first element of the CEWS Database is the narrative or chronology which forms the basis for its graphic representation. The guidelines for preparing CEWS case narratives are summarized in Chapter 2 of Journeys through Conflict: Narratives and Lessons. The narrative and/or chronology can be downloaded in two file formats: MS Word for Windows or PDF.
The second element of the CEWS Database is the graphic representation of each case. Conflicts are represented as particular conflict phase sequences that are structured episodically. Episodes are distinctive phase sequences that are embedded in larger conflicts. Operationally, their narrative descriptions reflect their thematic coherence in having beginnings (Phases 1-4) and endings (Phase 5-6). This representation is the result of systematically applying coding procedures to the narratives or chronologies provided by CEWS experts. For the purpose of making this application more transparent we will provide detailed notes on case/specific coding decisions.
In the CEWS project we developed the notion of a conflict life-cycle typically consisting of six conflict phases. These phase categories represent a synthesis of existing literature, analytical contributions of CEWS experts and our analysis. The six conflict phases are:
Phase 1: Dispute Phase
Each conflict phase
sequence is divided into phase triples. These phase triples are overlapping
and represent escalation or de-escalation sequences. For
instance, one observes in the case of Guatemala a 1-2-5-2-3 phase sequence
which can be decomposed into the following overlapping phase triples:
the corresponding graph these sequences are highligted with red (escalation)
or blue (de-escalation) boxes that appear when the mouse is pointed at
the beginning of the sequence. By
clicking (several times) on such a phase triple, the third element
of the CEWS Database is activated, namely a grammar/table of phase transitions
enumerating identical, observed phase triples in the database.
In the above example, the phase transition 5-2=>3 can be further distinguished in terms of phase types. A phase type is a more specific and illuminating situational description used for suggesting alternative phase trajectories. Phase types are derived from a comparative analysis of all 20 cases; their definition and application are further described in Journeys through Conflict.
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