You are on page 1of 11

1.

3 Conflict management, settlement, resolution and transformation


Many terms are frequently, and almost interchangeably, used in the field of conflict resolution to describe the activities and processes that bring conflict to an end. However, some of these terminological approaches have distinct implications for the outcome of a conflict situation. Here we will briefly examine the four most significant approaches. Conflict management, like the associated term 'conflict regulation', is often confusingly used as a generic term to cover the whole gamut of positive conflict handling, including settlement and resolution. However, it is used here to refer to the limitation, mitigation and containment of conflict rather than the durable elimination of the causes of conflict. Conflict management approaches tend to focus more on mitigating or controlling the destructive consequences that emanate from a given conflict than on finding solutions to the underlying issues causing it. Typical conflict management strategies are the use of military force for deterrence or peace-keeping: separating the conflict parties from each other so that they do not keep inflicting harm on each other. Conflict settlement refers to an approach emphasising the reaching of agreement between the parties through negotiation and bargaining. A settlement, in this definition, means an agreement about the conflict issues that often involves a compromise or some concessions from both sides. Using this approach, neither side may achieve all of their goals, but the disappointment may be offset by the mutuality of the compromise. Third party mediators in settlement-type process often use pressure, inducements and/ or threats in order to compel the conflict parties to agree to a compromise solution. A settlement is often the quickest solution to a difficult or violent situation. Critics charge, however, that its efficacy is temporary because the underlying relationships and structures that have caused the conflict remain unaddressed. In practice, conflicts that have reached settlements are often re-opened later. The Versailles peace treaty that ended World War I is one example of a settlement which failed to resolve the causes of the conflict. It did bring an end to the open hostilities of the war, but in imposing harsh conditions on a defeated Germany, it laid the seeds of future conflict. Conflict resolution is a more comprehensive approach based on mutual problem-sharing between the conflict parties. Resolution of a conflict implies that the deep-rooted sources of conflict are addressed, changing behaviour so it is no longer violent, attitudes so they are no longer hostile, and structures so they are no longer exploitative. The term is used to refer both to the process (or the intention) to bring about these changes, and to the completion of the process, so it is difficult to avoid ambiguity about its precise meaning. The process of conflict resolution includes becoming aware of a conflict, diagnosing its nature and applying appropriate methods in order to: Diffuse the negative emotional energy involved. Enable the disputing parties to understand and resolve their differences. Resolve the differences so as to achieve solutions that are not imposed, which have been agreed by all the key parties, and which address the root causes of the conflict.

A resolution process is based on the needs of the primary parties to a particular conflict, rather than on the interests or assumptions of the 'resolvers'. This approach is seen to be in

clear opposition to traditional notions of power politics. The main objective of this approach is that any conflict should not be viewed as a contest to be won but as a problem to be solved. Box 5 summarises the main differences between the settlement and resolution approaches to conflict.
Box 5: Approaches to conflict

Settlement (compromise) Focus: objective issues, short-term

Resolution (cooperation) Focus: subjective perceptions, long-term Aim: remove causes of conflict

Aim: remove conflict

Third party: imposes solutution, uses power/coercion, underlying needs not important

Third party: improves communication, elicits win-win solutions, does not use coercion

Source: Bradford University Website Conflict Transformation refers to the longer-term and deeper structural dimensions of conflict resolution. Some analysts contend that 'resolution' carries the connotation of bringing conflict to permanent conclusion, negating the possible social value of positively channelled conflict. Generally in this course, we will use conflict resolution as the comprehensive term to encompass various approaches and methods used to handle conflict non-violently at all levels in society, while conflict transformation indicates the deepest level of change in the conflict resolution process. Transformation is usually used to refer to a specific approach to ameliorating violent conflict which concentrates on the changes needed at many different levels of society in order for peace to take hold in the long term. It would aim to transform a conflict from violence and destruction into a constructive force which produces social change, progressively removing or at least reducing the conditions from which the conflict and violence have arisen. The peace which develops will then be deeply rooted and sustainable. 'Transformation'-type interventions promote non-violent mechanisms that reduce and ultimately eliminate violence, foster structures that meet basic human needs and maximise participation of people in decisions that affect them. Transformation is linked to the idea of peacebuilding discussed below. Typical for a Conflict Transformation approach is:

Process Oriented

Conflict transformation is process oriented, not just focused on short term settlement. Conflict transformation is an ongoing, continuous process by which destructive relationships are developed into relationships in which conflicts are durably settled by non-violent means. So rather than run out and away from the treaty-table, conflict transformation associated with a commitment to more long term processes of reconciliation, satisfaction of basic needs and often also democratisation. Good conflict resolution includes addressing basic needs, removing underlying structures that cause conflict. (In the security analysis next week we will focus on this in more depth) Conflict transformation also recognises the need to build peace at different levels. This includes the political level, through agreements and economic means, as well as the societal level, where relationships have to be rebuilt, changed and transformed Conflict transformation recognises that peace is built not only by governments but that many sub-state and suprastate actors play a role. (In week 3 we will focus on MultiTrack Diplomacy).

Addressing root causes

Multilevel

Multi-Track

Coexistence means learning to live together, to accept diversity and implies a positive relationship to each other. Coexistence evolves from a minimum condition of recognising difference and accepting diversity and the mutual recognition of the other to a transformative relationship where communities over time may find appropriate mechanisms and institutions to coalesce and a higher level of meaning.

While conflict management, settlement and resolution are reactive, meaning that they come into motion once conflict has surfaced, conflict prevention tries to anticipate the destructive aspects of the conflict before they arise and attempts to take positive measures to prevent them from occurring. Conflict prevention is concerned with the proliferation of internal conflicts and civil wars within states and wars between people within a state. Conflict transformation is not aimed at eliminating all conflicts that are endemic to human coexistence (and therefore necessary in the course of human evolution), but at the reduction of violence in any point in the conflict cycle.

Development Interventions and Conflict


By Olympio Barbanti, Jr. August 2004 There are three levels of development interventions. The first is at the structural level, which includes broad programs of societal change. The second level deals with the government. The third level is at the grassroots, the community base. All these dimensions intertwine. Thus, interventions at the structural level must take into account meso and micro issues. The same applies to those working at the micro level. Without a clear picture of the opportunities and constraints existing at higher levels, one cannot accomplish a successful intervention at the lower levels.

Macro-Level Development
Interventions at the structural level are meant to provide broad societal change. They are typically applied to post-conflict situations, however, such interventions can also be applied to countries that have not suffered through violent conflict. This is the case for failed states, those that lack a political and social basis for national reconstruction. However, macro initiatives may be, and in fact frequently are, applied in developing countries that have not faced violent conflicts recently and are not failed states. Macro-level interventions range from building infrastructure to the establishment of the foundations of democracy. Here, the field of development studies is very similar to conflict theory, especially the theory of peacebuilding. However, while peacebuilding focuses on preventing the conditions that foster violent conflict, development focuses on the structural conditions that prevent growth and equity (and hence lead to conflict). Only recently, the field of development studies started to consider the effects of violence when designing, implementing and evaluating development objectives. This link was clearly stated in a 1998 report from the Carnegie Corporation: Most wealthy nations do not yet perceive distant civil wars and the occasional complex humanitarian emergencies they cause as a serious threat to their own security, but these wars have become a moral concern, a political distraction, and a rising financial burden. Among developing countries and the newly independent states of the former Soviet bloc, these political disasters are causing enormous human hardship locally and are generating millions of refugees and various other social, economic, and political disruptions. These tear at the foundations of regional and international order. They also cause the destruction of billions of dollars worth of investments by the World Bank and other development agencies, and large amounts of scarce foreign assistance now must go for relief and reconstruction, rather than for more productive purposes. [1] A recent study not yet published by the Center for Development Studies, at the University of Oxford, investigated the political economy of war. Countries studied included Mozambique, Sudan, Liberia, Sri Lanka and Nicaragua. "A major finding of the research," says the report, "is that much of the suffering during conflict is due to indirect effects of conflict on the economy and society, rather than to the actual fighting." So, here is a reverse association, from conflict to the economy, which then leads to further conflict.

International Influences
One way in which wealthy nations can cause conflicts in other countries is through unbalanced international trade relations that can be framed as rich/poor conflicts. Another way is the influence of international finance mechanisms such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The internationalization of capital markets made developing economies vulnerable. Speculators invest large sums of money on the interest rates paid by Third World countries in order to attract the foreign currency needed for investments. Without knowing local realities, financial brokers transfer millions of dollars out of developing countries at the first indication of financial risk. Even if these indicators are quite imprecise, they are the only tool international investors can rely on to make decisions. However, as money flows away, developing countries need to increase their interest rates in order to get the money back. By doing this, developing economies are getting more and more indebted and, consequently, have less money to spend on local needs. These problems are exacerbated by the IMF's structural adjustment program rules. The Fund demands that developing countries achieve a certain level of surplus in the public sector, which is measured by simply deducting total public expenditures from total revenue. The IMF does not differentiate between different kinds of expenditures. Military expenditure is treated equally to primary education or basic health expenditures. Because of that, countries receiving IMF funds tend to cut money from social areas and invest only in areas that are considered to be "productive" investments--those that can generate quick economic returns. These are typically not social investments which take time to produce benefits. By failing to allow countries to make social investments (areas that are more prone to conflict), this economic orthodoxy can undermine both the capacity and the legitimacy of the state and the success of development efforts over the long run. [3] The links between capitalism, development and conflict have been largely overlooked by those working in the field of conflict studies. This has been noted by Richard Rubenstein who argues that there is a longstanding taboo that prevents the correct understanding of how and to what extent "ethnic, racial, and religious conflicts are generated or exacerbated by dysfunctions of the free market system." [4] Settlement of such conflicts, Rubenstein argues, requires an implicit trade-off between political and socioeconomic demands. The author goes on to conclude that if there is no aspect of conflict linked to structural conditions, only mild reforms would lead to settlement. Otherwise, one may speculate, only major changes to such structures would allow for conflict resolution. Rubenstein's view is certainly crucial, but could be extended to include some other important links beyond ethnic, racial and religious conflicts. There is a great deal of cynicism in the development discourse about free-market "convictions." In reality, free-market dysfunctions are the underlying cause of a broad range of conflicts. For many, the 1980s and 1990s were decades of increasing wealth. The world economy was growing, as was international trade. However, at the same time, the gap between the rich and the poor was growing wider and the number of people living in poverty world wide was increasing. While maintaining the discourse of free-market and free-trade, industrialized nations kept their more sensitive domestic markets -- such as agriculture -- under state protection. At the same time, they demand an overall liberalization of the economic, financial and commodity sectors from developing countries. Good evidence is now available that market-led reforms have diminished both economic outputs and standards of living in developing countries. Whether this is just a short-term downturn in a general trend of sustained economic growth, as neoclassical economists argue, remains to be seen. But consensus is now growing that "sustained economic growth can only be strengthened by poverty abatement, greater equity, more robust institutional arrangements, and a deepening of substantive democracy" [5] The way to these reforms, however, may be blocked by local and foreign interests that receive political and economic advantages from poverty, inequality, lack of strong institutions and fragile governments.

This is not to say that developing countries should not be responsible for their own poor economic performance. However, current structural economic measures prevent those countries, which are trying to achieve economic growth and social welfare, from succeeding. By acting like this, international institutions such as the IMF are fueling conflicts in developing countries. The final result of this, as pointed out by the Carnegie Corporation, will be that local and national conflicts will escalate to the point that they harm the entire world system, not just their local area.

Yet these countries have been pushed into global markets, even if those social, political and institutional preconditions-conditions for sustained economic growth were not present. So what seems to be present in today's globalized capitalism is a sort of Catch-22, in which developing countries are required to adopt free-market economics in a market that is not free for them. This situation undermines sustained growth and reduces Third World countries' revenues, which forces cuts in a state's expenditures and prevents state efficiency, undermining that society's institutions. It also allows space for corruption, free-riding and the undermining of property-rights, which are essential to the effective functioning of free-markets. This forms a vicious circle. As Bardhan (2001: 284) notes: ...the institutional arrangements of a society are often the outcome of strategic distributive conflicts among different social groups, and inequality in the distribution of power and resources can sometimes block the rearrangement of these institutions in ways that would have been conducive to overall development. Here we have again similar conditions to the Catch-22 in world economics. The peculiarity lies in the lack of strong institutions, which leads to conflict, which then creates institutional arrangements that perpetuate conflict and the whole situation prevents development. What then could correct such a situation to allow for both economic development with a minimal spill-over of conflict? The answer, it is argued, should include actions in a number of settings that are mutually reinforcing: institutional, economic, social, cultural and political changes all need to be implemented if effective conflict settlement, transformation or resolution is to occur.

Meso-Level Development
At this level, development interventions aim at shaping developing countries' operational capacity, which includes both technical and political aspects. A recent study from the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research found evidence that countries which experienced the largest economic decay after 1975 were those which were highly divided (measured by proxies such as income inequality and ethnic fragmentation) and had weak institutions for dealing with conflict (measured by the existence of democratic rights, law enforcement capacity, social safety nets, and good governmental bodies). [6] Clearly, a major source of development failure is the lack of working democratic institutions.

Institutions may be defined as norms and values of a society, together with those organizations that are capable of changing and promulgating those norms and values. The state, the market, and the civil society are major players in shaping and reshaping society's institutions, thus they are critical players in successful development. The institutional setting further includes economic market conditions, the legal framework, public policies, respect for human rights and various other dimensions. Central to building strong institutions is the stability of a country's democracy. Without democratic institutions that can guarantee minimum standards of transparency from the government, the level of trust in any given society is generally low. One additional way of measuring institutional fragility is the "Corruption Perception Index," measured by Transparency International. Though this index is not precise, it does provide a standard that reveals how the local society views itself. Although, corruption may also occur in countries with strong institutions, it is more frequent in countries with fragile institutional frameworks. While the institutional economics approach to corruption recommends fostering state capacity, neoliberal-liberal economics (often adopted by the radical right in politics) suggests the opposite. For some authors, such as Joseph La Palombara, the state is not only inefficient, but also essentially corrupt. He argues that the larger the participation of the state in the GDP, the larger the expectation that corruption will take place. [7] However, this perspective ignores corrupt behavior that takes place in the private sector. This debate reflects a major theme in meso-level development, which is the role of the government in development. Neoclassical-classical economists defend a minimum state. Institutionalists support a state that has the necessary size to be efficient and is able to exert its mandate with (good) governance. Governance can be understood as a way of doing democratic and good (rational) public administration, in a way that respects people's preferences, taking into account the will of vulnerable groups that cannot make themselves represented or heard. Good governance is paramount for achieving legitimate public participation, and therefore fostering dialogue. Participation, however, is more than public consultation. For the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), it entails three other overlapping dimensions: dissemination of information, gathering of information, and empowerment. Strong institutions are also fundamental for conflict transformation. It is not possible to effectively bridge different groups in society, such as the elite and grassroots, without stable and mutually accepted norms and values. In other words, institutions are the basis through which the rule of the law can be exercised. Without legitimate law, justice cannot be effective. Without minimum standards of social equality, which depends on governments' social expenditure, it is difficult, or impossible, to guarantee principles of justice and fairness. Meso-level development, however, also implies conditions of governability. This differs from governance in the sense that governability refers not to (good) government, but rather to systemic conditions of public administration. Governability is close to what is called in Britain "value for money," that is, the standards of efficacy, efficiency and effectiveness that should guide public administration. Efficacy refers to the parameters of decision making. A government has efficacy if it is able to reconcile technical, bureaucratic and political dimensions in the decision-making process, so the best alternative has a better chance to emerge. Efficiency refers to the allocation of adequate conditions to implement the decision, what should be accomplished in due time. Effectiveness refers to the final accomplishment of the goal intended. Of course, a decision that is based on efficacy and efficiency may not reach its goals because of unrelated intervening factors.

If all conditions are in place, then a public administration has the basis for governability. But it is the democratic and transparent exercise of governability that brings about (good) governance. Unfortunately, third world governments are facing enormous operational difficulties due to reduced budgets and lack of trained personnel. In many countries, it is the worst period ever. State governability and governance is tremendously reduced, and therefore its capacity to deal with conflicts is likewise diminished. In addition, the lack of financial resources and personnel leads to "state capture." This situation is defined by the World Bank: Formal institutions are crossed and controlled by a network of people who interchange favors and use the government for their own interest. In order to control or distort public policies, these networks maintain public management at a very low level. Money flows are especially difficult to control, and mis-allocated resources tend to end up in secret bank accounts. In this context, democratic representation is seriously distorted. The poorest, especially those living in developing countries, are not represented by the public institutions, because they cannot afford to buy decisions. These institutions, which theoretically represent the interest of every citizen are captured by elites that have direct access to their decision-making processes. [8] There are, of course, different levels of capture. But even when the state is not captured, it may face enormous constraints due to lack of financial resources and trained personnel. The fragility of the state is so serious in many third world countries that many international aid agencies have started to finance their interventions alongside normal public procedures. With the consent of public administration, international agencies create "projects" that work according to the administrative procedures of international agencies -- not the host government. This creates a clash between public servants and consultants who are hired for such projects on a permanent basis. Working side-by-side and eventually doing the same tasks, they receive very different salaries. This generates distrust between public bodies and international agencies. Above all, by doing this, international agencies encourage and allow consultants to negotiate public policies, which causes problems for the policies' legitimacy. In addition, there is a clash between the public servants' and consultants' priorities and methods of intervention. This is further complicated by the fact that there are no clear division lines between interventions aiming at development, reconstruction, relief, reintegration, and reconciliation.

Micro-level Development
It is probably at the micro-level that development interventions may face more difficulties and conflicts that are fully intractable. This is because conflicts somehow trickle-down and interact. Also, there is typically less expertise and resources to deal with the conflictive situation at the local level. Though it is often assumed that wars (macro-level conflicts) are the more difficult to resolve than local disputes, local people in developing countries face such high crime rates that the effects resemble a war, or even worse. Despite this, the development field has paid little attention to these conflicts, or to those being created by development interventions. At the local level, development aid is mostly directed at poverty alleviation and environmental protection. Even so, "chronic poverty and violent conflict have, in the main, been treated as separate spheres of academic inquiry and policy... Development policy needs to be better attuned to the links between the two, in order to respond to the challenges of growing conflict and chronic poverty." [9] Trying to reach the poor, development aid has by-passed the state. Governments are seen as ineffective, corrupted and/or captured. So international donors prefer to work with international and local NGOs. With the state power reduced and its intervention capacity undermined, civil society has often inherited the responsibility to provide what are usually state services, especially in areas of social policy that are not profitable. [10] While education in developing countries has been market-privatized, the welfare system has been "NGO-privatized."

NGOs have grown so much that, sometimes, they are more important than government in development work. During the 1990s in Mozambique, the total budget controlled by international NGOs working in the country was greater than the national budget. In many developing countries, NGOs control more resources than local administrations. Since structural adjustment programs (SAP) began, NGOs have assumed duties that may go well beyond their legitimacy and their intervention capacity. In many instances, duties have also been transferred to the private sector and the Global Compact, a UN-organized initiative to promote the social responsibility of private companies.

Distinguishing Resolution Terms


Explaining the meaning of resolution, in the arena of conflict research, demands a discussion of several terms that refer to different ways of dealing with conflict. Conflict scholars draw distinctions between certain terms that others often use interchangeably. For example, disputes and conflicts are often considered to be different phenomena, based on their nature and duration (see conflicts and disputes). Scholars also draw distinctions between dispute settlement, conflict management, conflict resolution, and conflict transformation. The first three terms are commonly used and have fairly straightforward meanings, while conflict transformation represents a departure from the other approaches.

Dispute Settlement
Disputes are generally considered to be disagreements that involve negotiable interests. Such issues can be settled through negotiation, mediation, or adjudication. They are generally short-term and, given the right process, lend themselves to the development of mutually satisfactory solutions. Dispute settlement therefore refers to the working out of a mutually satisfactory agreement between the parties involved. Dispute settlement is primarily concerned with upholding established social norms (of right and wrong) and is aimed at bringing the dispute to an end, without necessarily dealing with its fundamental causes.[1] Thus, although the particular dispute might be settled permanently, another similar or related dispute may arise again later if the underlying causes are still there.[2]

Conflict Resolution
Incompatible interests are not the only things at issue in more severe conflicts. Conflicts last longer and are more deeply rooted than disputes. They tend to arise over non-negotiable issues such as fundamental human needs, intolerable moral differences, or high-stakes distributional issues regarding essential resources, such as money, water, or land. To truly resolve a conflict, the solution must go beyond just satisfying the parties' interests as in dispute settlement. To end or resolve a long-term conflict, a relatively stable solution that identifies and deals with the underlying sources of the conflict must be found. This is a more difficult task than simple dispute settlement, because resolution means going beyond negotiating interests to meet all sides' basic needs, while simultaneously finding a way to respect their underlying values and identities. However, some of the same intervention processes used in dispute settlement (i.e., mediation) are also used to achieve resolution. True conflict resolution requires a more analytical, problem-solving approach than dispute settlement. The main difference is that resolution requires identifying the causal factors behind the conflict, and finding ways to deal with them. On the other hand, settlement is simply aimed at ending a dispute as quickly and amicably as possible. This means that it is possible to settle a dispute that exists within the context of a larger conflict, without resolving the overall conflict. This occurs when a dispute is settled, but the underlying causes of the conflict are not addressed There are many reasons why underlying causes of conflict may not be addressed. Often, the underlying causes of conflict are embedded in the institutional structure of society. Achieving complete resolution of a conflict can require making significant socioeconomic or political changes that restructure society in a more just or inclusive way. Changing societal structures, such as the distribution of wealth in society, is a difficult thing to do and can take decades to accomplish.[3] Thus, fully resolving conflict can be a long, laborious process. As a result there are other conceptions of ways to deal with, but not necessarily "resolve," conflicts.

Conflict Management
Conflict management involves the control, but not resolution, of a long-term or deep-rooted conflict. This is the approach taken when complete resolution seems to be impossible, yet something needs to be done. In cases of resolution-resistant or even intractable conflict, it is possible to manage the situation in ways that make it more constructive and less destructive.[4] The goal of conflict management is to intervene in ways that make the ongoing conflict more beneficial and less damaging to all sides. For example, sending peacekeeping forces into a region enmeshed in strife may help calm the situation and limit casualties. However, peacekeeping missions will not resolve the conflict. In some cases, where non-negotiable human needs are at stake, management is the most feasible step.

A Critique and Alternative: Conflict Transformation


A number of conflict theorists and practitioners, including John Paul Lederach, advocate the pursuit of conflict transformation, as opposed to "conflict resolution" or "conflict management." Conflict transformation is different from the other two, Lederach asserts, because it reflects a better understanding of the nature of conflict itself. "Conflict resolution" implies that conflict is bad, and is therefore something that should be ended. It also assumes that conflict is a short-term phenomenon that can be "resolved" permanently through mediation or other intervention processes. "Conflict management" correctly assumes that conflicts are long-term processes that often cannot be quickly resolved. The problem with the notion of "management," however, is that it suggests that people can be directed or controlled as if they were physical objects. In addition, "management" suggests that the goal is the reduction or control of volatility, rather than dealing with the real source of the problem.[5]

Conflict transformation, as described by Lederach, does not suggest that we simply eliminate or control conflict, but rather that we recognize and work with its "dialectic nature." First, Lederach argues that social conflict is a natural occurrence between humans who are involved in relationships. Once conflict occurs, it changes or transforms those events, people, and relationships that created the initial conflict. Thus, the cause-and-effect relationship goes both ways -- from the people and the relationships to the conflict and back to the people and relationships. In this sense, "conflict transformation" is a term that describes the natural process of conflict. Conflicts change relationships in predictable ways, altering communication patterns and patterns of social organization, altering images of the self and of the other.[6] Conflict transformation is also a prescriptive concept. It suggests that the destructive consequences of a conflict can be modified or transformed so that self-images, relationships, and social structures improve as a result of conflict instead of being harmed by it. Usually, this involves transforming perceptions of issues, actions, and other people or groups. Conflict usually transforms perceptions by accentuating the differences between people and positions. Lederach believes that effective conflict transformation can utilize this highlighting of differences in a constructive way, and can improve mutual understanding. From the perspective of conflict transformation, intervention has been successful if each group gains a relatively accurate understanding of the other. In the end, improving understanding is the objective of conflict transformation, in spite of parties differing or even irreconcilable interests, values, and needs (for a more in-depth discussion, see the essay on conflict transformation).[7]