IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

a bit more from the chapter I’m writing…

“One prominent approach to peace-building in post-conflict societies is reconciliation.  Reconciliation is explicitly spiritual and value oriented, and is close to human needs analysis in giving priority to security, identity and social bonding in both the theory and practice of peace building. By stressing healing relationships and re-humanizing antagonists, reconciliation offers the possibility of ending the conflict cycle in many societies where it is deeply rooted. Furthermore, its creators are scholar-practitioners; their views are grounded in extensive field experience in conflict resolution. They can testify that reconciliation, understood as replacing negative attitudes and relationships with something more positive, works, and one should not underestimate the implications of this fact for mainstream thinking in international relations and political science. If reconciliation is possible, then we have further grounds to reject the “pessimistic inevitability” thinking characteristic of political realism and not be resigned to the presence of recurring widespread violent conflict. In that sense, reconciliation may indeed represent something of a paradigm shift in thinking about conflict.

Reconciliation starts from the premise that conflict is a subjective interactive process, driven as much by needs and anxieties as by rational calculation of power and interests.   While there are objective states that give rise to conflict, the dynamics of escalation result from such misperception, rising distrust and an increasingly profound sense of injustice.  Contemporary conflicts are identified as  primarily intra rather than inter-state and occur between factionalized identity groups who live in close proximity to each other. These factors combine to produce the intensely negative relationship dynamics characteristic of “intractable” conflicts.  The importance of dealing with these relational dynamics is further underlined by an appreciation of how the individual and collective trauma left behind by large scale violence is passed from one generation to the next, perpetuating cycles of violence as mentioned above.  War and violence come to shape a people’s world view and how they behave.  This further highlights that the challenge of conflict (ie before it turns violent) can be deal with positively or negatively.  The crucial point here is that violent attitudes, and their consequences, need not be perpetuated if the right peace building strategies can be implemented but they will persist if nothing is done to counter their influence.  Such insights have grown out of a deep dissatisfaction with traditional power and interest approaches to conflict which have not dealt effectively with the new realities of the Post-Cold War era.  Various studies have shown that mainstream approaches have not had much impact on cycles of violence in places like Bosnia or Rwanda.   Reconciliation, and other approaches that highlight the relational and spiritual, can be seen as more “realistic” than realpolitik because the latter omits the subjective dimension of experience. “

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July 12, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | ,

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