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War, intervention and development

All development management interventions must deal with complexity. This module examines the complexity of civil wars, exploring ways in which interventions can be developed that at worst ‘do no harm’, at best make for a just and lasting peace. A fundamental premise is that the first step is to understand the roots of the war and the goals of the various actors. Another is the need for a vision of what is a desirable society. On this basis, the module sets out the theory and illustrates the practice of the diverse skills that contribute to the making of a good intervention.


Start End Fee
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No current presentation - see Future availability

This module is expected to start for the last time in November 2014.

What you will study

There have been more than 200 wars in the past half-century. Nearly all have been civil wars – wars within a single country. Although there have been many generalisations about civil wars, only one seems to hold true – each war is different. There are no 'best practice' handbooks; experience from one war is rarely applicable to another. Furthermore, many of the glib generalisations about civil wars, usually characterised by words and phrases like 'greed', 'tribe', 'ancient hatreds' or 'mindless violence', on investigation, turn out to be unsatisfactory explanations and thus poor guides for intervention.

Outside interveners have provoked wars and made many much worse. But outsiders are often an essential part of a peace process. They help to bring people together and to broker the social and economic changes that are needed to bring about a lasting peace. In some cases, military intervention has been essential to create the right conditions for building peace.

This module aims to give you tools that you can use to make your interventions positive rather than negative. A central premise of this module is each war is different, so the first step to improving intervention is to understand the root causes of the war and the roles and goals of the participants. You will study a variety of ways in which the causes of war can be analysed. You will also learn various mapping techniques, which will make it easier to visualise the history of the war and its actors. During the module we will explicitly challenge some of the assumptions made by the media, and many interveners, about the causes of war. There will be four case studies presenting detailed analyses of several wars.

Another central premise is that peace-building, to be successful, must be done in context; there is no handbook to tell you how to do it. In part, context is about history, politics and economics. For this module, a key context is ‘development’. Development is increasingly seen as being the projects and other activities that development agencies carry out. But we argue that development is much more – it is a vision of what a desirable society should be, an historical change process, and deliberate efforts at improvement and reaching for that vision.

Civil war can result if change processes benefit one group and disadvantage another, or if one group feels its vision of a better society is being blocked by another group. Alternatively, a just and stable peace requires a developmental vision. Peace-building requires the management of historical change processes. It also requires many explicit interventions to resolve the root causes of civil war and to build the peace.

On this module, we insist that the goal of the intervener is to contribute to an equitable and lasting peace. But in such a complex environment, the priority of any outside actors must be to ensure that their actions do not make matters worse. This module will provide you with some of the special analytic tools needed to work in a wartime or postwar environment. These tools will help you look below the surface and understand the root causes of the war, and be better able to judge the possible impacts of your interventions.

Vocational relevance

This module will be relevant if you have already been an intervener in civil war or in postwar peace support operations, or expect to be in this role in the future. You may also be linked to a humanitarian or development organisation, an international institution, a government or a military body.


This module can be taken on its own or counted towards a qualification. If you are taking it as part of a postgraduate qualification, you must have adequate preparation for study at this level, usually demonstrated by a bachelors degree (or the equivalent) from a UK university. If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

You do need to have a reasonable standard of spoken and written English to study successfully with us. Poor language skills will make study more difficult, and it will take longer. The normal requirements for English language skills are explained on our website.

If you have any doubts about whether your level of English is good enough for you to study this module you may find it helpful to look at our Skills for OU Study site.


TU875 is a compulsory module in our:

TU875 is an optional module in our:

This module can also count towards F09 and F44, which are no longer available to new students.

Some postgraduate qualifications allow study to be chosen from other subject areas. These qualifications allow most postgraduate modules to count towards them. We advise you to refer to the relevant qualification descriptions for information on the circumstances in which this module can count towards these qualifications because from time to time the structure and requirements may change.

Excluded combinations

Sometimes you will not be able to count a module towards a qualification if you have already taken another module with similar content.  To check any excluded combinations relating to this module, visit our excluded combination finder or check with our Student Registration & Enquiry Service before registering.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

If you have a disability

The study materials are available in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader. 

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.

Study materials

What's included

Study guide, module textbook, audio CD/DVD, video CD/DVD, and mapping toolkit CD.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as it includes online activities, which you can access using a web browser.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer since 2008 you should have no problems completing the online activities.
  • If you’ve got a netbook, tablet or other mobile device check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you use an Apple Mac you will need OS X 10.7 or later.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information (including details of the support we provide).

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will be responsible for monitoring your progress on the module, marking and commenting on your written work and whom you can contact for advice and guidance. Your tutor will mediate an online forum for your tutor group in which participation is optional. A programme of face-to-face tutorials will be arranged at one or two UK locations and students will also have the opportunity to engage in real-time online tutorials. There is also a separate online forum for all students on this module.

Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in November 2014 when it will be available for the last time. A new module – Conflict and development (T879) – is available from May 2015.

How to register

We regret that we are currently unable to accept registrations for this course. Where the course is to be presented again in the future, relevant registration information will be displayed on this page as soon as it becomes available.

Distance learning

The Open University is the world's leading provider of flexible, high quality distance learning. Unlike other universities we are not campus based. You will study in a flexible way that works for you whether you're at home, at work or on the move. As an OU student you'll be supported throughout your studies - your tutor or study adviser will guide and advise you, offer detailed feedback on your assignments, and help with any study issues. Tuition might be in face-to-face groups, via online tutorials, or by phone.

For more information about distance learning at the OU read Study explained.

Course facts
About this course:
Course code TU875
Credits 30
OU Level Postgraduate
SCQF level 11
FHEQ level 7
Course work includes:
3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No residential school

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