Conflict analysis and resolution is application of theoretical methods to the understanding of conflict with the aim of resolving conflict. In principle this can mean any situation between two or more parties and examples of this are: a married couple, competing goals in the workplace, political competition, groups within a society, nations, and alliances. A conflict does not need to be violent and can in fact be a part of everyday life although it is when a conflict becomes violent that it becomes a problem for all involved. CARIS is specifically concerned with armed conflict, such as the First and Second World Wars, the Arab-Israeli Wars, the Chinese Civil War and the Syrian and Iraqi Civil Wars, the conflict in the Basque Country and the ‘Terror Wars’ ongoing today.
In practice, there is much debate as to whether a given conflict is actually resolved or if it is transformed. An end to armed conflict can be understood as resolution as it marks the end of organised violence between the parties to the conflict. Yet, the underlying conflict between the parties will still remain but is contested through non-violent means, such as party politics. In effect, the conflict has been transformed from one of violence to non-violence but will still be bitterly contested.
At the most basic level CAR can be seen as having two stages. The first is conflict analysis whereby a conflict is analysed using theory in order to understand its characteristics, in particular, its origins, causes and the nature of the dispute between the parties involved. The second is conflict resolution whereby the information found during analysis is used to de-escalate the conflict and lead the parties involved towards non-violence in the pursuit of their competing goals.