This report provides an overview of the literature on preventive diplomacy and conflict prevention, with particular emphasis on regional approaches to preventive diplomacy. The last few years have seen a renewed interest in both preventive diplomacy and conflict prevention. Regional initiatives are playing an increasingly important role in preventive diplomacy and conflict prevention.
In terms of the relationship between preventive diplomacy and conflict prevention, some argue that preventive diplomacy is a component of broader conflict prevention, while others argue that the two concepts are autonomous. Moreover, the range of measures constituting preventive diplomacy differs significantly, depending on which definition is being used.
Due to cultural, geographical, and historical differences between regions, regional approaches to preventive diplomacy are diverse. Non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states is a cornerstone of most regional and sub-regional organisations, however it has not served as a constraint for preventive diplomacy in all cases.
Africa arguably leads in terms of regional preventive diplomacy initiatives, with formalised early warning and mediation mechanisms in place. African approaches to preventive diplomacy also draw heavily on traditional approaches to conflict prevention. In Latin America preventive diplomacy is highly formalised but not very effective. This is in part due to the highly presidentialised nature of conflict prevention on the continent. The Asia-Pacific region has been slow to adopt concrete mechanisms for preventive diplomacy. While the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum (ARF) is supposed to engage in preventive diplomacy, progress has been slow due to the region’s focus on non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states. However, informal preventive diplomacy does take place on the side-lines of ASEAN and ARF meetings, even if it is not always acknowledged as such.