In the field of Conflict Resolution there are two distinct approaches: conflict settlement and conflict transformation. Each employs a differing approach to resolving conflicts, based largely upon the root cause of the conflict.
Conflict Resolution begins with the identification of the cause of the conflict. According to Fetherston, the cause of conflicts is often seen as the deprivation of needs rather than a struggle of interests. Understanding the conflict requires understanding the three components: behaviors, attitudes, and context (Fetherston, 2000). The effectively âresolveâ a conflict, the approaches must take into account how the three intersect, and employ effective approaches to changing each.
Conflict settlement seeks to bring the conflict to stop the current struggle. In this approach, a third party seeks to find the common ground upon which parties can agree, identifying what would create a âwin-winâ for all involved. Conflict settlement can be effective in the short-term, and help to bring to an end the bloodshed and human rights violations that come with prolonged conflict, but it may not fully end the problem. Conflict settlement can be highlighted by the efforts of NATO to bring the Balkan Conflict to an end in the 1990s. The military intervention was enough to stop the violence associated with the Yugoslavian civil war, and provide enough time to create political systems in the former republics.
While this could be viewed as a success, it does not remove the distrust, animosity, and prejudices the various ethnic groups of the Balkans have for each other. In fact, it then adds another enemy into the mix, that being the NATO Allies. I was recently in Serbia for work and the animosities towards the U.S. intervention are still evident. What is needed in these ethnic clashes is Conflict Transformation.
While a peace can be brokered temporarily, the scars left from the conflict can be deep and create issues further down the line. While a ceasefire can be negotiated, the psychosocial effects of the violence, systematic rapes, destruction of homes and livelihoods, collapse of government and social structures, and other impacts of the conflict can fester if not treated and explode later on in a perpetual cycle of violence. This is the challenge faced by UN Peacekeeping Missions. Without a multi-dimensional approach to transform the underlying causes of conflicts, UN Peacekeeping Missions are often trapped in a perpetual cycle of intercommunal violence. An example of this would the Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration programs in which militants, especially child soldiers, are encouraged to disarm and demobilize themselves from armed combat and learn skills to assist them readjust to peaceful societal norms.
The two distinct theoretical strands, within Conflict Resolution (CR) scholarship, of âconflict settlementâ and âconflict transformationâ are really two steps with the chain or cycle of events behind a majority of the second half of the twentieth centuryâs majority of conflicts. The Cold War between the Soviet Union, United States, and their various aligned nations was characterized by ânuclear brinkmanship eventually yielded to a more business-like relationship with regular summits between their leaders and negotiations on arms control, troop deployments, and other kinds of confident measures directed at reducing tensions and the risks of escalation in crisis situations (Babbit and Hampson, 47).â The influences these two nations, the Soviet Union and the United States, held over a bipolar international system meant the primary sources of conflict were internal civil and regional conflicts, propelled by both superpowers, where âparties turned to negotiated approaches to resolve their differences after prolonged fighting (Babbit and Hampson, 47).
The distinctions of conflict settlement and conflict transformation are only somewhat relevant when assessed by CR scholars as steps within the process of resolving late twentieth and early twenty-first century civil and regional conflicts. Key aspects leading to conflict settlement include âsome evidence that long civil wars are disproportionately likely to be ended with negotiated settlements rather than military victory (Babbit and Hampson, 47).â The settlement phase transitions into transformation due to the transition time required to allow for affected populations to pursue a stage re-establishing a sense of community and normalization following long periods of conflict in order to establish some trust between various actors who could not discuss issues without the pursuit of armed conflict. This period is important as transformation, to some degree, addresses CR concerns âto both latent and active conflicts and to the increasingly difficult challenge of rebuilding so-called failed or failing states ((Babbit and Hampson, 50).â
Both of these steps in CR studies and the gradual applications to nation-states diplomatic corps and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are important as the international order to a large degree seeks international economic and trade integration at the regional and global levels of the international relations system. International negotiations and diplomacy with some notable exceptions have generally been the preferred means of dispute settlement at the global level since World War II ((Babbit and Hampson, 47). CR scholars identifying and codifying conflict settlement and transformation aspects for the next generation of IR academics and policy makers could be important for preventing or shortening future conflicts. The importance of transformation is the âprogression of conflict and the sustainability of its transformation by linking roles, functions, and activities in an integrated manner (Popovska, 131)â to bring closure to a majority of civil and regional conflicts.
I think your comment of “lead to consumption of a lot of time hence making the whole process to be lengthy ” gets to the heart of why Conflict settlement tends to be seen more then transformation. I would argue that this is primarily because of the short political and international attention span coupled with the costs associated with long term peace/conflict operations. You see it in the US all the time where an issue or conflict get brought to light by NGO’s, IO’s, or the US media and the Hill receives so much pressure they want to act. I would venture to say more often then not there is the desire to do something rather then nothing and if that something stops the violence and creates a settlement the pressure will be taken off. But just ending the violence through a settlement can just put off further hostilities till a later date because no one is working to get to the heart of the issue that caused the conflict in the first place.
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