A conflict arises when two or more parties have incompatible goals about something. A simple conflict may exist between two parties who may have different perceptions, goals and ideas about how to achieve their goals or pursue their interests. This incompatibility of goals also defines more complex conflicts which may be organizational, communal or international. Conflict is considered as an endemic feature of society which implies that the phenomenon of conflict in one form or another is an inevitable and ever-present feature of society and social interaction. This means as long as there are human beings in the world there will be conflict. Conflict impacts on society differently as it may dislocate valued relationships and cause stress to the structure on which relationships are based.
Conflict resolution implies that conflict is bad hence it is something that should be ended and it also assumes that conflict is a short term phenomenon that can be resolved permanently through mediation or other intervention processes. Conflict management correctly assumes that conflicts are long term processes that often cannot be quickly resolved, but the notion of "management" suggests that people can be directed or controlled as though they were physical objects. In addition, the notion of management suggests that the goal is the reduction or control of volatility more than dealing with the real source of the problem.
According to Lederach (1995), conflict transformation does not suggest that we simply eliminate or control conflict, but rather recognize and work with its nature which means that social conflict is naturally created by humans who are involved in relationships, yet once it occurs, it changes (i.e., transforms) those events, people, and relationships that created the initial conflict. Thus, conflict transformation is a term that describes a natural occurrence. Conflicts change relationships in predictable ways, altering communication patters and patterns of social organization, altering images of the self and of the other. Miall (2002) views conflict transformation as a significant step beyond resolution thus it denotes a deeper level of the resolution process.
The consequences of conflict can be modified or transformed so that self-images, relationships, and social structures improve as a result of conflict instead of being harmed by it. Usually this involves transforming perceptions of issues, actions, and other people or groups. Since conflict usually transforms perceptions by accentuating the differences between people and positions, effective conflict transformation can work to improve mutual understanding. Even when people's interests, values, and needs are different, even non- reconcilable, progress has been made if each group gains a relatively accurate understanding of the other. Transformation also involves transforming the way conflict is expressed. It may be expressed competitively, aggressively, or violently, or it may be expressed through nonviolent advocacy, conciliation, or attempted cooperation. Lederach sees advocacy and mediation as being different stages of the conflict transformation process.
Culture is defined as generally a system of both implicit and explicit meanings, beliefs, values and behaviours shared by a community or group, through which their experiences are interpreted and carried out. Culture therefore influences the behaviour and orientation of a group and influences their thinking and actions. In the event of conflict, a group or party brings its culture along as it provides the framework and context for the conflict.
The European Commission defines Intercultural dialogue as an open and respectful exchange of views between individuals and groups belonging to different cultures that leads to a deeper understanding of the other's global perception. Cultural diversity is an essential condition of human society, brought about by cross-border migration, the claim of national and other minorities to a distinct cultural identity, the cultural effects of globalization, the growing interdependence between all world regions and the advances of information and communication media. More and more individuals are living in a 'multicultural' normality and have to manage their own multiple cultural affiliations. Cultural diversity is also an economic, social and political plus, which needs to be developed and adequately managed. On the other hand, increasing cultural diversity brings about new social and political challenges. Cultural diversity often triggers fear and rejection. Stereotyping, racism, xenophobia, intolerance, discrimination and violence can threaten peace and the very essence of local and national communities. Dialogue between cultures, the oldest and most fundamental mode of democratic conversation, is an antidote to rejection and violence. Its objective is to enable us to live together peacefully and constructively in a multicultural world and to develop a sense of community and belonging.
Dialogue between cultures is an important step in the search for peace and justice in the world.
Lederach J P (1995), Preparing for Peace: Conflict Transformation across Cultures, Syracuse University Press, Syracuse.
Miall H et al (2002), Contemporary Conflict Resolution, Polity Press, Cambridge
Ledarach J P, Conflict Transformation, http://www.colorado.edu/conflict/transform/jplall.htm retrieved 10 February 2014
The concept of intercultural dialogue, Council of Europe, http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/intercultural/concept_EN.asp retrieved 10 February 2014
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