Essays on the Nature of Conflict

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In order to intervene effectively, peacebuilders must understand the situation they are getting into. Intractable conflicts tend to be very complex: they involve many actors, many issues, a lot of history, and strong emotions. The following essays provide background information on the nature of intractable conflict, which peacebuilders may find useful when trying to understand the particular conflict they are working in.

  • What Are Intractable Conflicts? This is an introductory essay that discusses why some conflicts are more difficult to resolve than others. It explores the characteristics, causes, and consequences of intractability, and explains what the Beyond Intractability website is all about.
  • Stable Peace - Stable peace is the ultimate goal of peacebuilding. This essay explains the concept and shows how it differs from unstable peace, dispute settlement, and other "temporary" resolutions.
  • Conflicts and Disputes - Often thought to be the same, this essay explains the difference. Disputes are generally easier to resolve than conflicts. The latter, more deep-rooted problems are generally the domain of peacebuilders.
  • Conflict Stages - Most conflicts go through stages from emergence to escalation, stalemate, de-escalation, settlement, and resolution (often with a few loops thrown in). Some people believe that peacebuilding only happens after some sort of ceasefire or settlement is achieved, stopping the violence (see "Peacebuilding Stage.") Others see peacebuilding as happening throughout these stages of conflict.
  • Underlying Causes of Intractable Conflict and Factors Shaping the Course of Intractable Conflictsare two essays that look at the underlying causes of intractability. Peacebuilders should understand these causes, as they are the things that need to be "fixed," if destructive conflicts are to be transformed into more constructive struggles and eventually resolved.
  • Identity Issues - Threats to personal or group identity (racial, ethnic, national, and cultural) are extremely common causes of intractable conflicts today. Even if a conflict does not seem to involve identity issues, it often does. Peacebuilders should understand the nature of identity, why it is so important, and what can be done when identity is at the core of the conflict.
  • Fundamental Value Conflicts - Another common cause of intractability is fundamental value conflicts. Unlike interests, which can be traded, values change little, if at all. When a person's fundamental values are threatened, the conflict is likely to be particularly intractable.
  • Complexity and Complex Adaptive Systems - Intractable conflicts are typically very complex, involving many parties and issues, a long history, and strong emotions. An understanding of the implications of complexity, how "complexity" differs from simply "complicated" situations, and how complex systems can actually be "adaptive" is very useful for designing an effective intervention.

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This page contains a single entry by writch published on March 20, 2009 10:13 AM.

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