On January 31st, the Center for Preventive Action held a workshop that gathered scholars and practitioners to examine the issue of early warning and conflict prevention. Important points that emerged from the discussion are the following:
- A workable system for Early Warning is indispensable to making conflict prevention a credible foreign policy option.
- The challenge of early warning does not reside in the lack of information but in its adequate processing, and the adequate link to policy-making and politics.
- A number of approaches were considered: the U.S. government uses a list process to flag potential crises, the U.N has created a "framework for coordination team" to encourage departmental interaction and monitor potentially troubled regions.
- Tools are being developed by governmental agencies and private contractors using new technologies to build models and software to help decision-makers anticipate, assess and address conflicts.
- Policy makers stress two principal functions for early warning: avoiding surprises and identifying possible policy options.
- Establishing a dialogue between relevant interlocutors in the intelligence and the policy-making community is of crucial importance.
- The difficulty of relating early warning to policy making results from policymakers' time constraint and their aversion to acting on indeterminate events; in addition, the intelligence community maintains an institutional aversion to suggesting policy-options.