Conflict Resolution/Transformation and Non-violence

Conflict Resolution/Transformation

Partera specialises in the skills and tools of conflict resolution and transformation. The management, resolution and transformation of the energies of conflict are not the same, each with a particular goal in mind. Partera uses the language of Conflict Transformation, a less well-known term that reflects an enhanced understanding of the nature of conflict.

While Conflict Resolution (CR) implies that conflict is bad and should be eliminated, a short-term phenomenon that can be ‘resolved’, and Conflict Management (CM) assumes the need for a long-term solution but calls for remedies that objectify human beings and is disinterested in root causes, Conflict Transformation (CT) is based on an understanding that (a) conflict is normal and that (b) conflict transforms events, people and relationships – in a dialectic, both in its creation and its response. CT also prescribes a form of intervention that modifies the relationships, structures and self-images in positive ways. The naturally occurring energies of conflict are transformed as a tool for good. CT also suggests that conflict can be expressed in ways that are non-violent and conciliatory, if provocative and, at the point of consciousness-raising, awareness-building. Conflict – whether personal, in the form of oppression, bitterness or resentment, or social, in the form of injustice and inequity – that remains unnamed and unaddressed resolves nothing; it does not go away but re-emerges in other manifestations.

Training in Conflict Transformation addresses the personal, assisting individuals and groups in their self-awareness/other-awareness, enhancing our understanding of our own motivations, interests and needs, examining the dynamics of power, surfacing unnamed sources of conflict and working together towards the transformation of those energies into a force for healthy working relationship.

CT addresses the systemic through the identification of the nature of oppression, oppressive practices and the normalisation of oppression with a goal to its elimination, equitable distribution of resources and the non-violent resolution of conflict between groups of people.

The two transformational processes are mutually re-inforcing: transformed personal relationships facilitate the transformation of social systems and systemic changes facilitate personal transformation.

  • Conflict resolution, conflict management, conflict de-escalation and conflict transformation and knowing the difference
  • Learning how to talk: deconstructing language and building non-violent conversation
  • Compassionate listening/deep listening
  • Mediation

Third-Party Non-violent Intervention (TPNI)

The goal of third-party non-violent intervention is conflict transformation – the transmuting of the energies of conflict into transformed relationships and transformed societies. The methods, like those used in conflict transformation, are popular, elicitive, experiential and anti-oppressive. TPNI can include a variety of activities – from accompaniment, monitoring/observing to inter-positioning.

Preparation for TPNI involves the assessment and interrogation of the social/ cultural/ economic/ civic/ historical environment, identifies the actors, their interests and motivations and develops the tactics (whether psychological, physical, social, economic or political) appropriate to the situation and designs the plan. Implementation can be either partisan or non-partisan, depending on the situation.

Partera’s history in TPNI draws upon partnerships and mutual learning with organisations such as Training for Change (Philadelphia), Servicio Internacional por la paz (Chiapas, Mexico), the Women’s Peacemaking Programme of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (The Netherlands), Christian Peacemaker Teams and the Muslim Peace Fellowship (Nyack, New York), as well as a long list of mentors and s/heroes.

Typically, Partera’s work in these areas has been carried out in conflict zones in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia. However, conflict is not peculiar to some parts of the world and not others; it is part of the human condition: wherever there are human beings in relationship, conflict happens. Interventions, trainings and workshops have been held as well in Canada, the United States, Mexico, Colombia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Holland, Greece, Great Britain, India and Thailand.

Non-violent Direct Action

Non-violent direct action is any action that directly confronts, disrupts, actively opposes injustice or unjust structures. NVDA is grounded in the modern era in the work of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King – as well as Badshah Khan, Paolo Freire, Aung San Suu Kyi, Mildred Fahrni, J.S. Woodsworth, Wangari Maathai, Mairead Corrigan MacGuire, Rigoberta Menchú Tum and countless nameless others, activists and teachers.

Non-violent direct action requires great courage and self-control, a commitment to change that may entail either injury or death. NVDA refuses to be drawn into violence, denying moral legitimacy to those who make use of violence in response to non-violent opposition. The denial of moral legitimacy to the aggressor creates opportunities and credibility not at the disposal of those who meet violence with violence – opportunities for communicating a story that lays bare the methods and immorality of the opponent.

Training in NVDA lays a foundation of critical consciousness, analysis, story-telling, locates the struggle/issue along the stages of successful social change, role plays out scenarios, selects tactics, designs actions. There are hundreds of forms of non-violent resistance that can be divided roughly into three categories: non-violent protest and persuasion, non-co-operation and non-violent intervention. Whatever the issue, struggle or campaign, NVDA systematises and organises the analysis and response of groups and lays the action on a foundation of non-violence.

Economic Literacy/Political Economy/Critical Consciousness

The most effective non-violent direct action requires a careful analysis of the environment – politics, economics, culture, history. All too often, conflict is dismissed as ‘a family feud’ (President Salinas de Gotari’s assessment of the causes of violence in Chiapas between Protestants and Catholics, for example), tribal (in the largest sense of that word), religious, geographic, cultural (including gender) or political. Though those elements, particularly religion, are ripe for co-option into the service of the conflict, the roots are almost always to be located in economics and an inequitable distribution of resources – and the power/powerlessness that comes with that inequity. The violence in Sudan, for example, has often been carelessly identified as tribal, racial, Arab vs ‘African’, north vs south, Muslims vs Christians. The same can be said of Rwanda, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Mindanao, the Balkan states, Nagaland, Myanmar/Burma, Colombia and the inner cities and reserves of Europe, Canada and the United States. Yet a closer look reveals the true roots of violence in economics, inequity, competition for scarce natural resources or the collection of resources by various means into the hands of a few, impoverishing the many or cultural norms that favour one class or one gender or one tribe.

Economic literacy training empowers participants to name their situation as part of a national and global story with trends and ideas that can be tracked, named and changed. It exposes the contours of economic power, follows the money, reframes the problem and provides the tools to ground action and make change.

  • Education for Democracy: Making democracy real through education and civic engagement; laying the groundwork for non-violent direct action, advocacy. Do citizens in Canada (and elsewhere) know what they’re voting for? Do we have the knowledge and tools to make choices that are good for us, good for the environment, good for our cities and our countryside, good for the generations to come? How do we hold our elected officials to account between elections? Modelled on the Nordic model of education for democracy and study circles, Education for Democracy is neighbourhood-based and uses popular methods of education.

Paedagogy of the Privileged (PoP)

This workshop is designed as (i) an opportunity to enhance the effectiveness of adult educators who work with privileged learners on a daily basis in anti-racism and diversity training, human rights development and leadership training and (ii) a space for mainstream participants to discern the contours of privilege – cultural, economic and social – and to discover and implement ways of dismantling power and unearned privilege. The workshop draws on Paolo Freire’s pivotal work on Paedagogy of the Oppressed as well as Paedagogy of the Heart¸ Ann Curry Stevens work on PoP and Peggy McIntosh’s iconic essay, ‘Unpacking the invisible knapsack of white privilege’.

Gender and Violence

Training on gender and violence, including work on alternative masculinities, looks at all of the structures and norms in a society that drive gender-based violence and the rules that regulate gender-based derogation. Women and men together look at the costs to both genders and to their common society and the need for dissent in an area that, without change, will ensure truncated development and the persistence of a warrior culture.


Whether in families or war-torn societies, mediation is preceded by a lot of work in the ‘preparation of the table’, without which, mediation is ineffective. Mediation necessarily requires the creation of safe space where both parties can feel sufficient security to expose their vulnerability and thus their capacity to learn and understand both their own interests/motivations and those on the other side of the table. Following the preparation of the table, mediation, whether between family members, colleagues or belligerent groups, follows five steps that bring participants through a series of conversations and exercises designed to bring about restoration or reconciliation or peace.

Human Rights Monitoring/Reporting

The monitoring of human rights violations is carried out in partnership with trusted local organisations looking for international exposure of a specific situation of oppression and violence. Like accompaniment, HR monitoring/reporting is an aspect of third-party non-violent intervention, involving the documentation of the stories of individuals and groups, turning those stories into reports for multi-lateral organisations such as the United Nations or the Inter-American Court for Human Rights, governments, media and international organisations. Accompaniment is a form of monitoring that provides an international presence to individuals and organisations that are working for peace and justice locally, returning to their land or carrying out non-violent direct action for change.

Media Literacy

Media literacy defines a need in an era in which rapid change in the means – the internet, television, instant messaging, mobile devices, music videos, Facebook, twitter et al – is changing our very notions as to what constitutes ‘communications’. Language – and, by extension, images – define the limits, and the possibilities, of human imagination and thought. What have we got ourselves into in this hyper-mediated world? How do we sift and sort through the deluge of information and messaging as aware consumers? If Marshal McLuhan’s aphorism remains true, what is the medium saying?

This workshop is shaped to explore an area of your interest, providing tools for media literacy, political discernment and alternative expressions of healthy, society-building entertainment and communication. This is an interactive workshop that uses film and discussion and various tools of popular education to explore difficult themes and equip participants for a more literate engagement with their social, cultural and political environment.

The ubiquity of images means that our children very early on swim in a sea whose waters they are ill-equipped to see and analyse – and their parents and teachers are in need of resources that enable literate choices. In this workshop, we ask questions: What are the impacts of the commercialisation of childhood (Consuming Kids), the hypersexualisation of music videos (Dreamworlds), the simulated killing of video games and movies (Game Over, The Killing Screens), the princessification of little girls and the subtle, yet widespread effects of sexism and misogyny (Reviving Ophelia, Killing Us Softly), the glorification of violent masculinity (Tough Guise) and war (War Made Easy, Jarhead, Blood and Oil), inequitable racial presentations (Reel Bad Arabs; Racism, White Denial and the Costs of Inequality) and the relentless buy-me culture of advertising.

And what about politics, how do the new media and the new uses of older media shape political opinion? Does it matter that the media are increasingly consolidated into a small number of mega-corporations with an eye on the bottom line (Rich Media, Poor Democracy)? How are the public relations and media shaping how we vote, what we support with our franchise and our dollars, what we go along with (Hijacking Catastrophe, Inside Job, Toxic Sludge is Good for You)?

The Schoolyard Bully Project

Barbara Coloroso’s book provides a key motif for this project – The Bully, the bullied and the bystander – one that illustrates effectively the continuum on which violence, whether the schoolyard or the battlefield, live and moves.  This training intentionally links the violence of governments and armies to the violence that plays out amongst children in families, classrooms, parks, streets and playgrounds – and workplaces of all sorts.  Children and their teachers, guardians and parents learn about the influences that facilitate, the signs that indicate and the tools that de-escalate bullying and bystanding.  On issues that connect social space, language, media and parenting, teaching and mentoring skills, even the youngest participants brainstorm, role play and construct alternative views, methods and relationships.  The results for schools, classrooms and workplaces are remarkable and life-changing.

Interfaith Conflict Transformation

Interfaith CT focusses the method on dismantling religion as a root of violence.  Participants are invited to bring fully into the room all the passion of their faith and then to examine together their respective 'ABCs', practices and manifestations and contribution to conflict reduction/peacemaking.  

Design Your Own Workshop/Training

Do you have an interest in a workshop or training that combines several items of the menu above in a way that matches the needs and interests of your organisation?  A 'menu' approach can also be used to give participants a sample of many types of training, enabling them to choose on which topics they would like to focus in greater depth.