Chapter 2 Conflict Resolution: Foundations, Constructions and Reconstructions




НазваниеChapter 2 Conflict Resolution: Foundations, Constructions and Reconstructions
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4.1 Peace-building from below


One of the origins of the term 'peace-building' was in the peace research and conflict resolution literature. We have defined it in chapter 1 as the attempt to overcome the structural, relational and cultural contradictions which lie at the root of conflict in order to underpin the processes of peace-making and peace-keeping. In the 1990s there has been a significant shift of emphasis away from the idea of 'top-down' peace-building in which powerful outsiders act as experts, importing their own conceptions and ignoring local cultures and capacities, and in favour of a cluster of practices and principles referred to collectively as 'peace-building from below'. The conflict resolution and development fields have come together in this shared enterprise. John Paul Lederach, working as a scholar-practitioner within a Mennonite tradition which shares many of the values and ideas of the Quakers, and with practical experience in Central America, is one of the chief exponents of this approach:


The principle of indigenous empowerment suggests that conflict

transformation must actively envision, include, respect, and promote the

human and cultural resources from within a given setting. This involves a

new set of lenses through which we do not primarily ‘see’ the setting and

the people in it as the ‘problem’ and the outsider as the ‘answer’. Rather,

we understand the long-term goal of transformation as validating and

building on people and resources within the setting (Lederach, 1995).


In Box 11 in chapter 1 we have illustrated Lederach's idea of the 'pyramid' of levels of leadership in societies in conflict. While recognising the significance of initiatives at all three levels for peace-making and peace-building, his particular stress is on 'bottom-up' processes:


One could argue that virtually all of the recent transitions toward peace - such as those in El Salvador and Ethiopia, as well as the earlier one in the Philippines - were driven largely by the pressure for change that was bubbling up from the grassroots. (1997, 52)


More will be said about this in chapter 7.


4.2 Power, participation and transformation


A second area of constructive criticism is found at the interface between traditional conflict resolution approaches and critical social theory. We will take Vivienne Jabri's Discourses on Violence (1996) as exemplary here. As both a sociologist and conflict resolution specialist, she can be taken as representative of a younger generation of critical conflict resolution theorists, which includes Mark Hoffman, Betts Fetherston and Caroline Nordstrom. Critical of the empirical and comparative tradition in conflict studies with its emphasis on purposive agents and utility-maximising decision-makers, Jabri views violent conflict as a social product and militarism as 'a deeply embedded continuity reinforced through dominant discursive and institutional frameworks' (150). Neither the 'objectivist', nor the 'subjectivist' schools described in chapter 1 are seen to do justice to this, since both are in their different ways individualistic. Nor is what we have earlier in this chapter called the European 'structuralist' approach adequate, since it fails to account for the way social contradiction transmutes into violent conflict. Instead, Jabri looks to structurationist theory (Giddens, 1979; Bhaskar, 1989), with its recognition of the mutual dependency of agency and structure, to bridge the ontological gap between the individualist and structuralist approaches. Violent conflict is seen to 'generate a hegemonic discourse which seeks to subsume subjectivity and its multiple forms of representation into a singular entity involved in a confrontational interaction with another assumed/constructed monolithic entity'. The problem with traditional conflict resolution approaches for Jabri is that these monolithic entities may also be reproduced 'through the representation of observers, conflict researchers and third parties attempting mediation' especially when and if such third parties interpret the conflict through the definitions of its leading actors, in which case conflict resolution may merely 'reproduce the exclusionist, violent discourses and practices which perpetuate it' (180-181).


Behind this lies Robert Cox's distinction (1981) between problem-solving theory and critical theory. In Betts Fetherston's words:


Problem-solving theory focuses on existing frameworks of institutions, social relations and social meaning which are often taken for granted, with the goal of sustaining this order to make it work efficiently. Critical theory starts by problematizing this given framework or social order with the aim of considering its origins and how it might be changed, clarifying possible alternatives, and providing insights into ways of transforming it (1998, 2).


The danger of failing to incorporate a critical-theoretical approach for Fetherston is that attempts at conflict resolution will once again simply reinforce the unchallenged order which generated the conflict in the first place. The result will be that we are 'continually re-solving conflicts' instead of developing a 'solution that will not reappear again in another time or place to demand solutions or re-solutions that did not work the first time' (Nordstrom, 1995, 106).


The implications of this for conflict resolution are extensive, leading to a radical questioning of much of the United Nations' approach to peace-building, to be considered in chapter 7, including the suitability of military peace-keepers, on the grounds that it reinforces existing patterns of exclusion and domination. Similar criticisms are made of the impact of much international aid and development work. In more positive vein, in chapter 7 we will also note some of the ways in which, in Fetherston's terminology, conceptions of power and dominance taken from Foucault, Gramsci and Habermas suggest respectively anti-hegemonic, counter-hegemonic and post-hegemonic peace-building projects. Jabri similarly emphasises the importance of transformative counter-discourses in challenging the dominance of public space by exclusionist hegemonic discourses which legitimate violence and war. She locates a 'discourse of peace' in an emancipatory politics, which celebrates dominance-free participation and difference (individuality, non-conformity, dissent), as defined through Habermas' conception of communicative action. This idea of the creative possibilities for the production of new meaning inherent in the encounter between the ‘self’ and the ‘other’ is remininiscent of the writing of Martin Buber. It also echoes what Benjamin Broome, in the tradition of Hans Gadamer (1975), calls relational empathy in 'managing differences in conflict resolution' (1993) - the move away from individual-centred resolution to the creation of a 'third culture' which is not just the result of fusion, but the generation of a new possibility-space for the flourishing of difference:


This third culture can only develop through interaction in which participants are willing to open themselves to new meanings, to engage in genuine dialogue, and to constantly respond to the new demands emanating from the situation. The emergence of this third culture is the essence of relational empathy and is essential for successful conflict resolution. (104)


At this point we will side-step a terminological dispute in which some theorists prefer the term conflict transformation for what we are calling the longer-term and deeper structural, relational and cultural dimensions of conflict resolution (Rupesinghe, 1995). Like all termonological issues, this is a matter of preference. as suggested in chapter 1, we will go with the majority in seeing transformation as the ultimate goal of the conflict resolution enterprise.xxi


4.3 A gendered critique of conflict resolution


We noted in chapter 1 that conflict resolution has meanings in three dimensions: (a) as a specialist academic and practical field; (b) as an objective and activity which is universal and practiced by people throughout the world who may or may not be aware of the term; and (c) prescriptively as a description of a successful outcome to peace-making and peace-building processes. All three are relevant to a gendered critique.


We have seen in this chapter how conflict resolution as an academic project was created and institutionalised in a small number of centres, most of them set up by men, who consequently constitute a majority among our exemplars. This fact of male dominance, however, did not go unnoticed, as shown in Elise Boulding's 1976 book, The Underside of History: A View of Women Through Time. The significance of early theorists like Mary Parker Follett has been recognised, and today the gender proportions may well be more equal (the 100% male authorship of this book notwithstanding).


Number-counting is of far less significance, however, than the fact that, under the second aspect, women are pre-eminently the silenced victims of violent conflict throughout the world, and also often the main creators of new modes of survival and conflict resolution, usually at local level and nearly always unrecorded. This is for obvious reasons much more difficult to chronicle - as also in the case of male victims and unsung peace-makers. Attempts have been made to compare the effectiveness of men and women as mediators with mixed results (Maxwell and Maxwell, 1989; Dewhurst, 1991; Stamato, 1992). Some see Track I conflict resolution approaches based on diplomacy and military power as male-dominated, and Track II citizen peace-making as associated more with women (Stiehm, 1995). A number of social anthropological studies of peace-making practices in different parts of the world have emphasised the key role played by women (Duffey, 1998).


Third, there is the most difficult and contested conceptual question: whether the discourses and institutions that reproduce militarism and violence are themselves gendered so that successful long-term conflict resolution requires a radical transformation here as well (Taylor and Miller, 1994). Duffey (1998) has pointed out that the involvement of women in formal peace processes and negotiations has been very limited, and that they are largely excluded from high-level negotiations despite their active participation in local peace movements and peace-making initiatives. The exclusion of women from the discourse about new political structures defined in peace agreements, and the political process of negotiations determined at international level, may well be factors which perpetuate the exclusionist and violent discourses and institutions which contribute to the conflict in the first place. Byrne has noted that, despite the many local organizations which represented women's interests in former Yugoslavia, there were no women representatives involved in the Dayton peace talks in 1995 (Byrne, 1996). Similarly, Duffey has demonstrated that the exclusion of women from the UN sponsored peace conferences in Somalia served to increase the legitimacy and power of the warlords, who were frequently unaccountable to the local community. When women are excluded from contributing to peace negotiations, the realities of a conflict in terms of its impact on communities may not be fully comprehended. For this reason, Berhane-Selassie (1994) argues that the international community should consult and involve women in order to understand more about the root causes of conflict, to understand how obstacles to peace processes can be removed, and to gain insight about how traditional practices can offer alternative ways of ending conflicts.


4.4 The culture question


Finally, there is the question whether the conflict resolution field constitutes a truly global enterprise, as its founders assumed, or whether it is based upon hidden cultural specifics which are not universal. If it turns out that the latter is irrevocably the case, then many of the hopes of those who have devoted their lives to the project will have been proved vain.


We noted earlier in this chapter the seminal influence of Gandhian and Buddhist approaches to peace-making on the nascent conflict resolution scene. The same continues to be the case, as also with other cultural traditions, both Christian and non-Christian. Nevertheless, the unexpected expansion in peace-making, peace-keeping and peace-building work in areas of conflict in the 1990s, through the United Nations, regional organisations, or a multiplicity of INGOs and NGOs, has propelled the 'culture question' in conflict resolution to the top of the agenda. The presence of thousands of military and civilian personnel from numerous countries in conflict zones in all parts of the world, attempting to achieve common conflict resolution goals, has shown up glaring cultural discontinuities as indicated later in this book. There is no doubt about the depth of ignorance and misunderstanding, or the inappropriateness of attempted conflict resolution approaches, in many cases. But the important question is: can this be corrected? In other words, can conflict resolution as a specialist field be made more culturally sensitive, enriched by hitherto neglected insights and traditions from all over the world, while retaining its defining principles? Or does the entire enterprise amount to no more than a specific localised cultural moment, unrecognised in other reaches of an irreducible global multiplicity?


In fact, these questions have long been anticipated within the conflict resolution community, beginning with the influx of anthropological studies of diverse conflict and conflict resolution practice in the 1960s (LeVine, 1966*; Gulliver, 1979; Ross, 1993). They then erupted into a major controversy in the 1980s in the form of an explicit critique of Burton’s universalist human needs theory, and the argument that culturally diverse ethnoconflict theories (derived from locally constructed common sense views of conflict) and ethnopraxis (techniques and customs for dealing with conflict derived from these understandings) need to be developed and incorporated into the construction of general conflict resolution approaches (Avruch, Black, Scimecca, 1991). In similar vein, Lederach and Wehr, reflecting on their work in Central America, found that the ‘western’ model of outsider neutral mediators was not understood or trusted in many Central American settings where the idea of insider partial peacemaking was the norm (Lederach and Wehr, 1991). In Southeast Asia some westerners have been critical of the conflict management approach of ASEAN, seeing it as an arrangement between governments to 'brush problems under the carpet' and crush internal dissent, against the western conflict resolution assumption that latent conflict must be brought out into the open if it is to be resolved. ASEAN members have responded by rejecting such western conflict resolution assumptions and contrasting them with the 'Asian way' of handling conflict (Askandar, 1997). Raymond Cohen gives examples of the way in which 'cross-cultural dissonances' (different interpretations of roles, motivations and behaviours which are culturally constructed) can significantly inhibit conflict resolution - or enhance it if appropriate adjustments are made, as when US President Carter's personal intervention to secure agreement between President Sadat of Egypt and Presdient Begin of Israel (the Camp David Accords) mirrored a traditional practice of Egyptian village conflict resolution (the mulakah, or getting together) designed to avoid personal embarrasment or public retreat (Cohen 1996, 125). At an even more fundamental level Paul Salem questions some of the 'hidden assumptions in the Western approach to conflict resolution' from an Arab Muslim perspective (1993; 1997*). Whereas in the western imperialist tradition, according to Salem, the ideology of peace and order has precedence over the ideology of struggle and conflict, this is not the case in the nationalist, Marxist and Islamic fundamentalist ideologies that have shaped the modern Arab world (1997, 14). Similarly, the 'focus of Western conflict resolution theorists on the suffering generated by conflict rather than on the justice or morality of the cause may not strike resonant philosophical cords in other cultures' (15). In fact, we have noted earlier how some of these themes are also found in western critiques of early conflict resolution assumptions about 'symmetric' conflicts. Salem's conclusion would probably be echoed by most conflict resolution specialists:


The conclusion to be drawn from this is not that the Arab world, for example, is more conflict-prone or less conflict resolution-oriented than the West but that in transporting western conflict resolution theories and techniques to the Arab world or elsewhere, they must undergo considerable cultural adaptation. (23)


In our view, this task has only just begun and is the most important single challenge facing the conflict resolution field today.

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