Occasional Paper Number 4. The Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy: Washington, D.C., November 1994.
Summary by Mariya Yevsyukova.
Copyright ©1997 by the Conflict Research Consortium
Peace is not a static phenomenon. "The discovery of peace" is a continuous process of developing structures and relationships which fulfill our needs and correspond to our perception of well-being. To discover peace, a system encouraging conflict should be transformed. Conflict transformation is different from conflict resolution and management. It involves changing parties' beliefs and behaviors, releasing the energy limited by determined patterns of thought and action, to move toward creating new relationships. "To transform conflict is to discover peace" (p. 3). This paper presents a map of the journey of discovering peace and hence, transforming conflict. It consists of five parts outlined below.
Peace is an ideal. We cannot fully achieve it, but we can "touch" it during times of meditation, listening to music, or enjoying art and the beauty of the natural world. Those moments motivate us to search for peace. Pain is another motivation to seek peace. Pain helps us to realize that there is another way of dealing with difficulties; thus it helps us to "touch" peace. The author places motivation at the center of her circular map, since those who seek peace can always come to this stage to gain strength to continue their journey. Focusing on the ideal helps us move beyond problem solving to consider all possible ways of achieving peace. Centering is an important practical skill at this stage. It is achieved through breathing, martial arts movements, self-reflection, quiet listening, and meditation.
In order to proceed in the journey we need to know where we are going. We need to have a vision of the relationships we seek to achieve. Often this vision is confused with concrete positions (preferred options). Thinking of the vision as a general direction or a process which can clarify the desired goal might assist in avoiding a positional approach. To transform the vision into reality we have to have a commitment to our goals. Commitment generates a force of will that can support us on the way. Practical skills involved are "of individual and collective visioning, of discerning yes from no and maybe, and of making choices and articulating a clear purpose, goal, or objective" (p. 8).
Conflict often is accompanied by pain, blame, and fear. Those consequences of conflict are introduced to all layers of our existence: social institutions, media, community, and individual thinking and behavior. If we try to examine the consequences of conflict, we will find that suffering is most often caused by violated human needs, such as security, respect, etc. Understanding which of the human needs was violated reveals the causes of the conflict, which then clarifies the direction of our actions and unites us with others, since we all have similar needs. Human needs are usually met through cooperation, as opposed to positions which operate in a win/lose mode. Analytical skills and communication skills (active listening, inquiry, dialogue, storytelling, and straight talk) are essential at this stage to provide the parties with knowledge of each others' needs and concerns.
The perception of the parties as being victims, and blaming each other for everything that went wrong limits the possibility of conflict transformation. In order to break this cycle, the parties have to take responsibility for their own actions. Taking responsibility involves self- examination. Realizing their own faults and weaknesses releases the parties from negative feelings that keep them away from peaceful resolution. Letting go can take the form of asking or offering forgiveness, and engaging in the mourning process. It gives a place for new actions and signifies an important moment in the transformation process. The established patterns of conflict behavior die and open a way for healing and reconciliation. Practical skills necessary at this stage are self-examination, mourning, and remorse.
After we release our anger toward our enemies, our perception about them changes. They are not representatives of evil anymore, but human beings as we are, with human interests and needs. At this point we begin reframing the conflict to find ways to accommodate mutual needs. The actions taken at this stage aim at establishing trust and bridging differences in order to establish new relationships. At this stage skills needed include problem solving, mediation, negotiation, and decision-making, which help to generate new options and take actions.
Throughout this journey there will be many moments when people feel stuck and want to withdraw. Reuniting with their motivation will always be the driving force of the movement toward peace. Conflict transformation is a revolutionary process aimed at humanizing people's relationships and improving them without resorting to violence.