Peacebuilding Manual/Managing Conflict

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Peacebuilding Manual

Managing Conflicts

Some key ways in which conflict is managed includes:

Confidence Building Following a period on intense conflict, during which there may have been a lot of violence and suffering, it is difficult for members of opposing groups to trust each other. Negotiations may have brought hostilities to a close and brought about some kind of agreement, but the opposing sides might have learned to fear and mistrust each other. Change in attitude can only be trusted if there is a consistent pattern of changed behaviour. Confidence will need to be built amongst conflicting individuals/communities before any step could be taken towards peacebuilding.

Entering into Dialogue In the process of handling conflicts, it is important to be on the lookout for ways of expanding possibilities for dialogue amongst the parties involved. Dialogue is often abandoned too early as emotions rise, and forceful strategies begin to be employed. But eventually the parties will return to dialogue as they try to work out an agreement to end the conflict. Facilitating dialogue enables people to share their own views and listen to differing views about a political or social concern, thus gradually moving towards a deeper understanding of their situation. Agreement is not primary aim of dialogue, but understanding is.

Negotiating Negotiation is referred to as a structured process of dialogue between conflicting parties about issues on which their opinions differ. In most cases negotiation takes place without the involvement of a third party. The purpose is to clarify the issues or problems and try to come to an agreement on how to settle differences. Principally, negotiation takes place between parties either in the early stages of the conflict, when lines of communication are not yet broken or when conflicting parties are attempting to reach agreement on the terms and details of a settlement. In situations in which the level of confrontation and violence makes it difficult for parties to agree to meet up to engage in direct negotiation, a third party may intervene to act as a facilitator in assisting indirect communication, which can prepare the ground for later direct negotiations. Negotiation processes are influenced by culture and vary from one place to another. As a process, negotiation includes preparing, interacting and closing/agreeing on the best option. Guidelines for effective negotiation include listening and communication, relationship building, problem solving, successful outcomes, like agreements within timeframes.

Mediating When two individuals have a disagreement and a third person such as a family member or friend intervenes to help them clarify the problem and talk about it rather that fighting over it, it is mediation. The third party may be a volunteer in the process, or a person approached by both parties to take up the role. In some circumstances, laws or systems, may impose mediators. The main principle, however, is that the mediator has to be recognized and accepted by all sides.

Arbitrating Arbitrators listen to all sides of an argument and then decide what the solution should be. Sometimes arbitrators fulfil this role by virtue of their position of authority in the community. For example: in many cultures there are traditional leaders or elders who have the authority to intervene in a conflict, listening to witnesses from both sides and then deciding who is right or wrong and what they should do.