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Anurag Gangal Director, Gandhian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (GCPCS), and Kuldeep Raj Sharma, Researcher, Department of Political Science, Faculty of Social Science, University of Jammu, Jammu-180006, Jammu and Kashmir, India.
Existing System: Major purpose of this piece or article is to point out merely various limitations of the modern conflict resolution machinery and established practices within the given ambit of prescribed space and policy. Existing system of conflict resolution appears to be too distant from deeper nuances of conflicts. These include such aspects as unique and peculiar area, locality and culture specific dimensions amongst the involved parties to a conflict. For example, in India – Pakistan conflict, short term and long term vested interests and human psyche of the people and political elites have seldom been taken into account in any conflict resolution venture. Even so-called confidence building measures (CBMs) are also somewhat superficially hyped about with all ice-creams, sweet-limes, rare wines and crowd-collecting cultural gatherings where only those are able to come who form an elite – and thus, they have generally remained away from the realities and pains of more recent and emerging as well as prolonged conflicts. Hundreds of Ways of Conflict Resolution: There are at least about 250 ways of conflict resolution. Quite a few recent editions / publications have enlisted these methods. For instance, among others, Gene Sharp and Joan V. Bondurant have written extensively in this matter.1 There is, among several others, also a very comprehensive conflict resolution portal – extremely informative and very dependable. Malaviya Centre for
Peace Research is yet another institution providing highly useful information and exercises in applied theory of conflict resolution – with special orientation towards AfroAsian and Latin American concerns of poorer countries. Conflict Resolution and Canada: In this surging ahead for conflict resolution, Canada is the only country fully devoted to conflict resolution and building bridges of understanding among different faiths, cultures and sovereign nations. Be it Sri Lankan Crisis, victims of landmines, political asylum to persons with danger to their life or cooperation with United Nations and University of Peace etcetera – Canada and its citizens are doing a lot for resolving conflicts -- showing the world the path to peace and prosperity. All other nations keep on indulging in different types of wars and conflicts alongside their efforts towards conflict resolution. But Canada does not appear to have such double standards. This is, indeed, a commonly known fact in international political circles.
Diversity: Conflicts, disputes, proxy wars, wars, guerrilla warfare, cyber warfare, terrorism, militancy, insurgency, drugs and armaments’ trade mafia and ecological degradation among nations pose greatest threats to prospects of conflict resolution today. Related to these is also the question of violation of human rights in different ways. This further leads to infliction of diverse injustices specially on weaker sections of this spaceship earth.
About 41 major and perpetual conflicts are on in the world today in the form of wars, terrorism, civil wars, insurgency, sporadic occasional violence etcetera. These
conflicts are there mainly in 33 countries of Asia, Africa, America and Europe – including North America, Latin America, West Europe, West Asia and Central Asia.2
If we look deeper into these countries and their conflicts (as mentioned above), it will be easy to find that most of the major racial, ethnic, language related and perennial religious conflicts have not found their way into the common categorization and listing of conflicts. Therefore, in reality, the world is facing at least estimated 300 different and sustained conflicts of serious nature. Every country is having at least – on an average – one and a half conflicts of different type.
Every conflict must, however, be treated as yet another opportunity for positive conflict resolution with the help of a few select techniques from among the available nearly 250 methods. One thing must be very clear. Waging war and finally winning it just cannot be regarded as a method of resolving a conflict. Crushing a revolt is also not a method of conflict resolution. Any method not in line with a “civil society” is not to be regarded as a way of resolving conflict. Conflict Resolution is primarily a nonviolent civilian way of solving a conflictual tangle. Otherwise, no conflict in the world can ever be solved.
There are quite a few common and established ways of resolving conflicts especially among nations on international plane. On the social and interpersonal levels, the law of the land and diverse pulls, pressures and communication options – formal and informal – constitute various methods of resolving conflicts. Governmental, nongovernmental and semi-governmental channels of nine tracks of diplomacy also comprise this list.
Set standards and roadmap to conflict resolution through negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and adjudication are not new to this world. These established methods and ways of conflict resolution do not suffice in view of present-day international, common global, regional and other local challenges and conflicts. See, for instance, conflicts in Africa, Asia and Latin-America. West-Asian, Central Asian, South-West Asian conflictual field is different from what can be seen in Latin-America and in Africa (minus South Africa). Moreover, conflicts in United States, Canada and European Countries (minus Turkey) are quite similar. Yet their range, intensity circumstances differ a lot. Conflicts in Turkey, South Africa and Italy are entirely different not only from one another but also from any other country of the world. There are also some conflicts that are very much built into the modern systems of efficiency and excellence! These conflicts emerge from prolonged personal and institutional tensions and depressions. Social, cultural, political and economic ethos is of great significance in understanding and resolving conflicts. Whither Conflict Resolution: Therefore, merely having and applying a ‘given and set’ system of conflict resolution will not be able to do much in the face of mundane and varied problems such as ‘Islamism’ and not Islam, Ethnicity, Racialism, Linguistic conflicts, Jews and Palestinian tangle, India-Pakistan conflicts, Terrorism, prolonged religion oriented cleavages, socio-political threats emerging from modern technology and ‘modernity’, environmental and ecological hazards, degeneration of values in society combined with other international conflicts relating to territorial disagreements etcetera. These conflicts and challenges alongwith questions of poverty, starvation, continued and extended population explosion, proliferation of armaments, widespread
pollution of air, water and soil, increasing unemployment, deep-rooted corruption, massive illiteracy, and armaments trade global and national nexus further require more thoughtful conflict resolution modus operandi or ever new modes of conflict resolution. Conflict Resolution and Globalization: A new thinking has to go into this – away from vested interests of current type. Real vested interest that must go into evolving this innovative global plan must be resolution of conflicts in a better and more sustained way. Otherwise, the ongoing process of globalization will also not succeed – for obvious reasons of prevailing conflicts in the world. Existing conflicts keep generating divisive impetus and forces among nations and people alike. This trend has to be stopped or at least creatively impeded through proportionate digression and productive regeneration towards global and federated unification. Application of conflict resolution methods needs wider people to people transnational active participation and continued interaction. It must not remain nearly an exclusive domain of academic experts, political negotiators, and diplomatic officers only. Otherwise, conflicts and their resolution will make possibilities of peace ever more conflictual through their methodological and technical expertise quite away form realities of conflicts. Methods and technical profundity is required absolutely. This knowledge must, however, percolate down to every common person. That is how things have to be planned for future. This, indeed, is a field of international and global policy making. Even the exercise of theory building in conflict resolution has to be more exhaustive, comprehensive and all inclusive democratically and voluntarily.
Establishment of democracy in every country has to be a real universal truth for conflict resolution to succeed.
Even the present-day process of globalization also necessacitates a primarily “border-less and conflict-free world” for the emergence of a global civil society. This is a pre-qualification of a globalized world. Prolonged conflicts hamper good governance, excellence and efficiency – so necessary for globalization through free flow of interactive information, goods, technology and efforts of people. The essence of globalization is seen in a nonviolent and largely peaceful world. Conflict resolution and globalization are mutually interdependent and closely linked to one another. These two are so much intertwined that they march forward together. Conflict “Provention”: In the seriously conflict ridden areas, meaningful activities relating to agriculture, food production, employment opportunities,
technological development etcetera become, as it were, “out of bounds” for the concerned population and inhabitants. Multiple regions of such anarchistic conflicts are not difficult to see especially in Africa, Southeast Asia, West Asia and Central Asia etcetera. Such regions of conflicts and pockets are living examples of “Hell on Earth!” Future “Hells” on Earth must, however, be discouraged and not pampered in any way what so ever. There are several ways. This is also possible through John Burton’s “provention” and proactive prevention of prospective conflicts.3 For Burton, provention (not merely prevention) includes better education from the time of early school days in understanding causes of conflicts. A well groomed culture of conflict resolution is, therefore, needed in the global civil society today. The global community of nations is, however, not giving serious and concerted thought to the need of a ‘well groomed international system of conflict resolution’. That is why the following type of dangerous though routine
happenings in several countries will keep growing towards further professionalisation of violence and terrorism in the near future:
Such explosive conflicts are a daily affair in Middle East, Africa and a number of Southeast Asian, Asian and Latin American Countries (Source: http://www.backtohome.com/images/terror.jpg)
It is only above photographed type of occurrences that have paved the way to terrorist attack on the New York Trade Centre. Events of 11 September 2001 are logical corollary of massive violence and weapons of mass destruction available to the institution of State and their apparent smuggling and clandestine trade through various channels. How to relate this challenge of conflict resolution to realities of conflict “provention” and long term streamlining? In this matter, on the governmental plane in particular, it is mainly the intelligence agencies’ input and filtered reports that generally form the basis for gathering information. On this basis, steps and policies are formulated for prevention of conflicts in future. This by itself is an incomplete exercise. Intelligence gathering is always
insufficient because it is done by professionals who are generally not integral actors and participants in the concerned conflict. Instead, they are involved, at best, merely as involuntary duty bound observers. “Clash of Civilizations”: Quite a few authors and noted experts like Samuel P. Huntington and others have also extended a thesis of clash of civilisations in the twentyfirst century. Huntington says: It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.4
Indeed, it is not always easy to agree with Huntington. Civilisations do not clash. Ideology, economy and culture are highly technical terms and they do not entirely constitute a civilisation. When modern nation-states and globalisation oriented international politics were not there, ‘civilisations’ still prevailed. The essence of a civilisation are in the particular ‘way of life’, societal values, ethical ethos, set and evolved standards of an individual’s character, popular ways and standards of social entertainment, and preservation, creation and evolution of knowledge (and not so much of ‘information’) in a given social and political regime. However, the political aspects are but off-shoots of the essence of civilisation. Therefore, civilisations can never clash. They are permanent and ever evolving. Yes, they maybe destroyed physically by an eventuality of the dropping of a nuclear bomb upon them as it nearly happened in the case of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 when about 80,000 living and pulsating human beings were killed and exhumed into thin air almost instantly. This example is merely an example of the possibility of annihilation of a civilisation in future especially in view of maddening 50,000 nuclear arsenals resting with the United States and Russia minus other nuclear powers today. “Every such warhead has nearly twenty times the destructive power of the atom bomb dropped at Hiroshima on 06 August 1945”.5 Conflict resolution will have to be “preventive” and futuristic as well. An international authority for conflict resolution on the basis of the principle of a world federation of nations may be created with in the United Nations system of independently. Exclusive task of such an authority must be only conflict resolution. Otherwise, civilizations will not clash but they will be completely destroyed and annihilated.
CR Challenges References
Sharp, Gene, The Methods of Nonviolent Action, Porter Sargent, Boston, 1973, pp. 60-70; see also Joan V. Bondurant, Conquest of Violence: The Gandhian Philosophy of Conflict, Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 1988, pp. 36-104. 2 Http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/index.html see also http://www.crinfo.org 3 Burton, John, Conflict: Resolution and Provention, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990; see also John Burton and Frank Dukes, Conflict: Practices in Management, Settlement & Resolution, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1990, specially Chapter 20. 4 Huntington, Samuel P., “The Clash of Civilisations?”, Foreign Affairs, 1993. See also http://history.club.fatih.edu.tr/103%20Huntington%20Clash%20of%20Civilizations%20full%20text.htm
Gangal, S.C., Gandhian Thought and Techniques in the Modern World, Criterion, New Delhi, 1988, pp.14-15.
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