But we prefer the language and practice of ‘Conflict Transformation’ or CT. ‘Resolution’ carries with it a sense of foreclosure – arriving with a mandate to resolve, often short-circuiting discussion about other, larger and pertinent issues. The language assumes that there is a ‘resolution’ – as that word is generally understood – and that conflict is not good and should be avoided. The temptation of CR is to solve presenting problems without getting at the necessary social change that will reduce the likelihood of the return of the same problem.
Conflict Transformation, on the other hand, sees conflict as part of the normal dynamic at play within human relationships of all sorts. Not only is conflict normal, it provides opportunities for growth and self-understanding, both individually and corporately. The eruption of conflict in relationships – where else would they happen? – provides an opportunity to pause, assess, take notice. Conflict flows from life and creates life. It is through conflict that we learn to respond well, to innovate and change. Conflict and the transformation of its energy into a positive drive for change are rooted in relationships; peace is rooted in the quality of our relationships, between and amongst persons within families, neighbourhoods, and societies. CT examines the presenting issues and the content of an episode of conflict and then invites us to look at underlying causes and patterns as well as the social, political structures within which the conflict takes place. In other words, justice.
While CR is all about ending something that is negative, CT reaches beyond the end of the negative towards the building of the positive. While CR is crisis-driven, CT pursues a crisis-responsive approach.
Our influencers are numerous and diverse but the work of John-Paul Lederach remains at the heart of our work. His concise definition says it all:
Conflict Transformation is the Capacity to Envision & Willingness to Respond to the Ebb and Flow of Social Conflict as Life-giving Opportunities for Creating Constructive Change Processes that Reduce Violence and Advance Justice in Direct Interaction with People and Social Structures, and that Respond to Real-life Problems within Human Relationships.