• conflict theory;
  • systemic models;
  • critical systems thinking;
  • complexity

Since the end of the Cold War, we have been witnessing the emergence of new types of conflicts. These are progressively more complex, but are, still too often, conceptualised and approached simplistically, using a linear type of reasoning. Complexity is disregarded, and the need for systemic thinking is underestimated, not rarely leading to disastrous results. Feedbacks are most often ignored, and the complex dynamics which make a conflict to change over time, following often unpredictable paths, are rarely taken into account. A shift from a precomplexity mindset to a mindset founded in an understanding of complexity is necessary. In the paper, using concrete examples, we will try to show how a systems thinking approach is essential to analyse today's conflict, to prevent them, and to act so as to make them develop along non violent constructive paths rather than along violent destructive ones. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.