Conflict -fueler? Rather problem -solver

the Executive Director of the Nordic center for conflict transformation Naoufal Abboud

The question of whether a human being can create conflict. The answer is obviously yes. Conflits are inevitable and are part of people’s daily lives. In fact, the theories of conflict prevention are in fact theories of violence prevention and how to use differences constructively, such as knowing more the other party and learn how to negotiate and offer an agreeable, a “yes-able” proposition, within a spirit of win-win solution. I would say that we need to further work in creating a culture where conflicts are not approached with fear and that violence is preventable through an everyday and ongoing peace initiatives without waiting for violence to occur.

People influence their contexts and environment and are influenced by them. It’s a ‘sine qua non’ relationship between people and their contexts. The dynamics of this relationship can produce either peaceful interactions or eventually violence. People’s engagement in making their communities sustainably peaceful is a healthy one and an everyday matter. In fact, civic engagement is measured by the degree of the interaction between people and their environment. The opposite will produce a dangerous disconnection between people and their communities. This is the case for example of the “lone wolves” in violent extremism and who act in disconnection from and against their own communities.

Conflict transformation is chiefly based on a culture of dialogue, not only dialogue during the crisis where the stakes become much higher. We negotiate everyday, even at home. The field of conflict transformation becomes limited when we consider dialogue only during the “crisis”. In fact this limitation impoverishes the field of peacebuilding and conflict transformation because it limits the involvement of key part of the population such as the communities and the media, and tend to favour the role of technical “experts”. Dialogue becomes a field of technocrats rather and a societal interactions. Sustaining peace suffers from the fact that we ask those who didn’t participate in the decision making process of a given dialogue to ensure the sustainability of its decisions over time. This is for example why, among other factors, most of ceasefire agreements and many peace agreements were broken. Engaging communities and media, for example, in a peace dialogue empowers them in becoming key components of sustainable peace and not by proxy.

When we speak about dialogue, most of what people understand is what one should say. There are several books on how to negotiate and what to say to “win” a dialogue and a negotiation…. but what is much needed in a constructive dialogue for a peace process is much less of a louder voice and much more of willing ear. Every party in a dialogue needs to conscientiously try to understand the other party in the conflict: their needs, interests and discourses. They need to separate the positions in the conflicts from the persons. It’s only when the parties deeply understand these elements that one can overcome  misinterpretations and misunderstandings. The media is becoming more and more an invisible party in the negotiation table. The media can either be the “pressure releaser” or the “conflict fueler”. They can create stereotypes and be party in the problem, or streotypes deconstructor et be a part of the solution. The narratives, discourses and information shared by the media are in fact food for thoughts and actions among the parties in conflict. More focus should be on how we can use our humanity to bring the world together, instead to letting fear divide us.l, and the media has much to offer in this sense.

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