Methodological Approach up to 2002


As a generic term, “conflict” encompasses clashes of interest (differences of position) concerning national values (independence, self-determination, borders, and territory). These clashes are of a certain duration and scope, involving at least two parties (states, groups of states or organizations of states, organized groups), of which at least one party is the acknowledged representation of the state. The parties involved have to be determined on resolving the issue in their favor.

Conflict Intensity

The Conflict Barometer distinguishes (as does the conflict database, COSIMO) between violent and non-violent conflicts. Due to the fact that – unlike other lists of conflicts – we also mention non-violent conflicts, we gain two important advantages:

1. All violent conflicts evolve from non-violent conflicts. Further, violent conflicts are not terminated through “sudden peace”. Instead, tensions are reduced gradually and and this process will have its ups and downs. The Conflict Barometer also monitors a conflict if it is no longer conducted with the use of violence, and checks whether the end of a violent dispute actually means the end of a conflict. The same applies to COSIMO.

2. Restricting oneself to researching violent conflicts alone means losing sight of conflicts solved peacefully. Noting and analyzing cases in which crisis management succeeded in preventing outbreaks of violence, however, provides for a comprehensive and intelligent view of the world and its conflicts.

Therefore, we distinguish the intensity of conflicts as follows:

  • Intensity 1: latent conflict (totally non-violent)
  • Intensity 2: crisis (predominantly non-violent)
  • Intensity 3: severe crisis (sporadic, irregular use of violence)
  • Intensity 4: war (systematic and collective use of violence and regular fighting troops)

Conflicts of the intensity levels 1 and 2 are of a predominantly non-violent character; conflicts of the intensity levels 3 and 4 are generally conducted violently or martially.