Centre for the Study of Conflict
School of History, Philosophy and Politics,
Faculty of Humanities, University of Ulster
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Comparative Approaches to Community Relations
Edited by John Darby and A. M. Gallagher
Out of Print
Comparative Approaches to Community Relations
Edited by John Darby and A. M. Gallagher
Centre for the Study of Conflict
The study of violent conflict is now an international subject since conflict itself is, increasingly, an international phenomenon. The end of the Cold War may have reduced the danger of large-scale global conflict but a great many ethnic conflicts, in Eastern Europe and elsewhere, have emerged - or re-emerged - as if to compensate and ensure that the total mass remains at least constant.
The Centre for the Study of Conflict is particularly interested in ethnic conflict and has, over the last decade, completed a wide-ranging set of studies of the Irish conflict. The need to understand the extent to which this local conflict is distinctive. and the extent to which extrapolation to other conflicts is possible, have always been important additional dimensions to the Centre's work.
The aim of this series of Occasional Papers, issued by the Centre for the Study of Conflict, is to address this central issue of comparability and transferability. It builds on the body of research carried out on the Northern Ireland conflict but is not a research series.
Our main hope is that the series will broaden the context in which Irish conflict is considered, and will encourage comparative and innovative approaches to ethnic conflict in general.
Seamus Dunn, Director
by John Darby, Ethnic Studies Network.
The apparent revival of ethnic diversity and ethnic conflict throughout the world makes it increasingly difficult to regard ethnicity as a disease which contaminates a small number of unfortunate societies. Ten years ago the literature on ethnic conflict looked for its examples mainly to the western world -Canada, Belgium, the Basque areas, the consociational arrangements in Middle Europe and, of course, Northern Ireland. In 1991 the term is more likely to conjure up images of Eastern Europe, South East Asia, Africa and South America, as well as the resurgence of racism In Europe. Ethnic conflict is increasingly seen as a problem to be tackled rather than as a disease to be lamented.
These changes are already reflected in the academic world. There is an increased willingness to approach conflict analysis and conflict resolution on a broader, comparative basis. So far, however, there has been little interest in comparative approaches to day-to-day management of conflict at policy level.
It has been the Centre for the Study of Conflict's policy for some time to expand from an academic research base into policy concerns, and to encourage the study of these concerns on an international and comparative basis. The Ethnic Studies Network was launched in 1991 for this purpose. It was also the reason for the Centre initiating this series of Occasional Papers, and it is no coincidence that the first two published were respectively on the themes of comparative approaches to conflict analysis and on the relationship between research and policy.
The papers in this collection were presented at a conference on comparative approaches to community relations held in the University of Ulster in 1990. Its main function was to explore the range of possibilities in the comparative approach to conflict studies and to community relations policy. The conference set out to encourage discussion between academics and officials involved in public policy. Attendance was confined to an invited audience of 50 people. We are grateful to the Central Community Relations Unit in Northern Ireland for both funding and participating in the conference.
It is our belief that societies which are ethnically divided, and this includes most societies, have much to learn from each other in the management of diversity. For that reason the Centre has decided to publish the conference papers so that they may become available to as wide a readership as possible from both the academic world and the world of public affairs.
A.J.R. Groom, University of Kent at Canterbury
1. The organisers of this meeting are to be congratulated on having the courage to bring together a group of academics with an audience of practitioners. I can speak only as an academic with very limited practical experience but I welcome the challenge implicit in this meeting, namely, for the academics to demonstrate to the practitioners that academics have some relevance for the problems of practitioners. For ultimately, if academics have no relevance for the real world we have simply no relevance at all. On the other hand, I would stoutly maintain that there is nothing as relevant as a good theory. Our problem as Social Scientists is that we have few findings that would constitute themselves into what might reasonably be put forward as a ‘good theory’.
I am reminded of the academic who was called to Washington at the time of President Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’ and who remarked, when packing his bags, that he was going to talk ‘truth’ to ‘power’. In truth however, we have no ‘truth’, not, at least, in the common sense meaning of that term. However we do have insights and we may be able to offer a useful context so that practitioners can better understand what it is that they are doing and the process within which they find themselves. But if social science does not yet, if it ever can, have the standing of ‘truth’, nor do practitioners have ‘power’. I am often struck by the frequency with which practitioners find that events have got out of control after they have instigated something without any clear knowledge of its likely effects and ramifications through a system of relationships. It is shocking how much practitioners are entrapped by their own standard operating procedures. We all, it seems, have an idealised view of the others.
The practitioner thinks of the academic In his or her ivory tower reading books, writing articles, distilling his or her knowledge so that he or she could present talks such as this. In actual fact we are marking essays (perhaps the worst part of our job), attending committee meetings, struggling to stay ahead of our students in the lectures and almost invariably falling behind on our deadlines for publishers. This is the more so since in recent years our part of the education industry has been in effect nationalised by the government with an attendant, rampant, bureaucratisation which produces inefficiency in the name of efficiency. University teachers are, in short, intellectual bureaucrats and our reality is far from the scholar in the ivory tower. On the other hand we have a tendency to believe that those in office have their hands on the lever of power. We believe that if only we could have our hand on such a lever, we would be able to move things along for the better. But the reality of the practitioner is again far from the image. Indeed, we only have to consult our own academic literature on decision making to see the importance of standard operating procedures, bureaucratic politics, ‘satisficing’ and the like to realise that the levers of power are for the most part, like the ivory tower, a figment of the imagination of those far from the day to day business of either government or academic life. We have little truth to offer, and the locus of power is uncertain.
Again I am reminded of a story about President Franklin Roosevelt. Even in those halcyon days of the New Deal, with a head of steam to get things done, when the President would ask for something to be done his aides were overwhelmed with work and so they would do nothing. If he asked whether it had been done, they would be ‘economical with the truth’ in saying that the matter was in hand and the President would never remember to ask a third time. Academics and practitioners are therefore not quite in the same boat but the way their respective ships work is not all that different. It certainly behoves us as academics to look at the fragile standing of whatever aspiration we have for ‘truth’ as well as the tenuous nature of 'power’.
2. Once upon a time ‘a gentleman and a scholar’, and it was invariably males, was supposed to fit the image of a Renaissance Man. He should be skilled in dancing, singing, drawing, a swordsman and an engineer, a philosopher, a poet and a scientist. There was, of course, only one Leonardo Da Vinci but, nevertheless, the model was based on the premise that knowledge was a whole. More recently Adam Smith, one of the founding fathers of Economics was the Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Glasgow, but by then a trend had already developed for the compartmentalisatlon of knowledge and it increased in the 19th century. The different branches of knowledge went their own way. This was a route and branch separation: first of all between natural science and social science and then later within social science. Economics developed a separate persona under the impetus of the likes of Smith, Ricardo and Marshall, Sociology under Weber and Durkhelm, Psychology under the influence of Freud and Jung and, in 1919, the division between international Relations and Political Science was consecrated in the establishment at Aberystwyth, then London and Oxford, of three chairs in International Relations.
In my own field of International Relations the reason for this separate development can be found in the peculiar circumstances of the Great War in the aftermath of which there was an imperative need to understand the causes of war and the conditions for peace in order to avoid another cataclysmic European civil war. But there were other reasons too, some of which were bureaucratic such as the ambition to establish chairs, departments, to hire secretaries, to have students, to found professional journals and associations, to acquire budgets and library allocations. However there was also a conceptual rationale for the establishment of International Relations as a discipline. Whereas politics within society took place in a context in which there was supposed to be a high degree of shared values and a monopoly of organised violence, at the level of international society, there was a far greater degree of dissensus on values and the relationship between states was characterised by self help. In short, International Relations was seen as the study of anarchical society. To be sure it was deemed that there was such a thing as an international society, but its relationships were considered essentially to be conflictual and the purpose of the subject as it emerged after the First World War was to examine whether this need necessarily be so and to find ways to bring about peaceful change. International Relations then was yet another specialism in a situation in which no-one anymore saw things as a whole.
3. After the Second World War, the pendulum began to swing back. There was a growing realisation that it was inadequate to study, out of context, one particular aspect of the social sciences; for example, the realisation grew that there was no such thing as a purely economic question. Take for example John Maynard Keynes, one of the greatest economists of this century and an academic who made a fortune on the stock market. Surely he was someone who combined the academic and the practical! Yet Keynes’ ability to play the market depended not only on his skills as an economist but also on his brilliance as the psychologist, political scientist and sociologist. Hybrid subjects therefore began to develop: Indeed I started my own academic career in the Department of Political Economy at University College London. Many other hybrids developed whether it was political anthropology, social psychology, historical sociology or whatever. The watch word became Interdisciplinary Research but that itself proved to be a chimera because, in more senses than one, interdisciplinary meant lack of discipline. An economist, a political scientist, a sociologist, an anthropologist, a lawyer, an International Relations expert might be assembled as a team, but they did not make a team. Each approached a particular phenomenon from the point of view of his or her own discipline with all the intellectual baggage and methodology, not to speak of epistemology that was thereby implied. Interdisciplinary Research all too often did not add up to a coherent whole. The economist talked past the lawyer, the anthropologist past the political scientist and so forth. Where then are we now?
4. The literature in social science reveals a wide range of units of analysis from the individual, to the state, to the International system, to global capitalism and beyond. Moreover, we still have specialists at particular levels of analysis. International Relations tend to concentrate on the international level and, indeed, their restrictive version of that, the inter-state level, while political scientists examine the national or societal level and psychologists give particular credence to the individual level. Indeed, in his excellent early book, Man the State and War, Kenneth Waltz grouped theories of the causes of war around those three levels; those who saw it as being due to the nature of man: those who saw it as being due to the nature of political societies - democracies it was assumed were peace loving; and those who saw it being due to the nature of the international system which was essentially anarchic. But even when considering a question like war, it became evident that it was necessary to think in terms of transnational linkages as well, for example arms manufacturers, and intermestic disputes have abounded as international society has become more of a global society. A case in point is the question of Apartheid. Is Apartheid a matter of domestic concern covered by Article 2.7 of the United Nations Charter which protects the domestic jurisdiction of States, as South Africa claimed for so long, or, as many other governments asserted so vehemently in the United Nations, is Apartheid a fundamental question of human rights and therefore of concern to everybody as enshrined in the very same Charter and also the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? If we take a phenomenon such as the Iran-Iraq War, which was both ruinous and murderous, then we cannot explain it simply at the level of the international system. To be sure it was a classic war, but it involved age old historic relations between Arabs and Persians. It involved the relationship between Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims in both Iran and Iraq where the Shi’ites, although the largest group, do not form the government of the country and in which many of their holy places are to be found. It involves the ‘big sisters’, that is the major oil companies, and the spot market for crude oil in Rotter-dam because it was with the profits from the sale of oil that the arms were purchased. It involves the needs of the arms manufacturers to sell their weapons so that the unit costs would fall and thereby the manufacturing countries would not have to call on their tax payers for so much money for those weapons which were to be purchased for their own armed forces, it involved the will, the vanity, the beliefs of men such as the Ayatollah Khomeini and President Saddam Hussein. What in this context is the appropriate unit of analysis? We must surely explore the range of levels and units of analysis and the range of disciplines. They are all interactive. Does this therefore suggest that anything and everything goes?
5. I think that there is, or at least that there can be, an element of coherence in all this in such a way that we will be able to broach the theme of today’s meeting, namely that of comparing conflicts, and I hope to demonstrate this by dipping into the conflict researchers’ toolbag. The coherence comes if, instead of starting from a particular level of analysis or with a particular unit of analysis or indeed from the standpoint of a particular discipline, we start from a particular question, a particular issue, a particular problem or a particular conflict. It is the issue, the question, the problem or the conflict which determines what is the appropriate level or levels of analysis, unit or units of analysis and which discipline is most appropriate. In other words, we reverse the traditional process, the question at the heart of the issue determines the framework for its analysis. We should not impose the rigours of a particular level, or a particular unit or a particular discipline upon the question. To be sure we academics can continue to explore the general context of particular discipines, particular levels of analysis or the usefulness of particular units of analysis, but we should, I suggest, also direct our research from a starting point of a particular question in a defined issue area. Such issue areas or themes in world society do exist.
6. I have in mind a set of themes which seem to reflect basic needs in contemporary world society. Here I wish to differentiate between a need and a want. A need is something that we are all required to have if we are to continue to function as human beings in a societal setting, although the amount that is needed and its form may vary considerably from culture to culture. A want is something that we could do without, but would like to have. Many of these needs are socio-blological or more purely social. A socio-blological need is that we require a minimum calorific intake, but whether or not that takes the form of pie and chips or the best offerings of a three-star restaurant is a matter more of wants to be determined by culture, income or whatever, More generally, what I have in mind are needs for a sense of participation, for development or self actualisation, for security, for a sense of identity. Moreover, if we are denied these in a very real way then we end up with another theme of contemporary world society, namely conflict.
I do not wish to suggest that conflict is necessarily dysfunctional. Indeed, conflict is part of life for unless we get the negative feedback that comes from conflict, we cannot learn. An individual or a society without conflict is dead. The point is to eliminate dysfunctional conflict but to relish conflict as a learning process from which we can learn to live more effectively and thus maximise felt needs to participate adequately, to be more fully developed, to feel secure and to have a sense of our own identity. I think, as I hinted a few moments ago, that these major themes are frequently inter-related and although they manifest themselves at many different levels, they do have a coherence. For example, participation can be manifested in terms of children in
the family, of students in a university, of workers in the factory, of females the world over, of the Third World in regard to the global world political and economic system, of Turkish Cypriots, of Kurds, and of many others. Likewise, conflict can be seen in terms of individuals, in terms of neighbourhood conflict, industrial conflict, marital conflict, intercommunal conflict as well as international conflict. While clearly there is a difference between a marital conflict and a conflict between the Super Powers in that very few husbands or wives can call upon nuclear weapons as a means of coercion, nevertheless I would suggest that there is a commonality in the sense of processes such as escalation spirals, stereotyping and the like. Thus, it makes sense, sometimes, if not always, to consider the whole of the theme. I want therefore to dip into my particular tool bag and ask you whether you have experienced like phenomena.
My own concern has been with theoretical and practical research concerning international and intercommunal conflict. With a group of colleagues, I have been involved in a facilitatory role in a number of actual conflicts. We have brought the parties together in a seminar format, attempting to examine the processes of conflict and our hypotheses about it and, also, to enable them, in a non-judgemental non-directive and supportive manner, to explore their own goals and those of the other parties to the conflict. We have also tried to explicate the issues behind the issues, particularly in terms of basic values, such as the needs to participate, to develop, to be secure and to have a sense of identity. Specifically, either I or my immediate colleagues have been concerned with the conflicts in Cyprus, South Africa, the Lebanon, the Falklands, confrontation between Indonesia and Singapore and Malaysia, and one of my colleagues, who many of you may have met in the 1 970s, John Burton, was also active in a similar role in this province. What, then, were our experiences which you might find comparable with your experiences?
7. The United Nations Charter lists the means of peaceful settlement of disputes as negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration and judicial settlement. We now have forty-five years’ of experience in which the members and organs of the United Nations have attempted to grapple with some extraordinarily deep-rooted and protracted conflicts. This experience suggests that face to face negotiation in a serious conflict is not usually a means towards the resolution of that conflict. On the contrary, the parties frequently get stuck immovably in a rut and, at best, there is a dialogue of the deaf. They stick to their bargaining positions, fearful of any degree of flexibility because it might be taken advantage of by the implacable adversary. Our experience, then, is that while face to face negotiation is very important, it is only likely to be productive if there is a third party present. Perhaps it is the same in other sorts of conflict. I can imagine a situation in which a husband and wife, on the point of divorce, are asked to make a final effort at reconciliation, on their own, without any support. I would imagine they would treat this as the last opportunity to state their dissatisfaction, to vent their hurt and to give as good as ever they have got. Every insult, every slight, every betrayal comes rushing out at this, the last opportunity to present them, buttressed by every self-justification. Or, am I imagining things and, in different contexts does this phenomenon not occur? It certainly does in the international context.
Again, the United Nations Charter suggests resort to arbitration and judicial settlement, but we have found that this is not favoured in serious conflict either, mainly because it is non-participatory, because it is judgmental and because, in effect, it supports the status quo. Law tends to reflect the values and power hierarchies of the past. In serious conflict it is, therefore, a weapon of propaganda rather than a means for the resolution of conflict. Moreover, although the parties to an arbitration or a judicial settlement can state their case, ultimately it is not they who are the judges. Thus, the parties to a serious dispute, and it is of that that I am talking, wish to retain control of the decision-making process in its entirety, including the outcome and not to cede the most important part of it to a judge or an arbitrator. Is this your experience, too? It seems to me that frequently in our societies we are moving away from judicial settlement and towards other methods that are also mentioned in the UN Charter. such as mediation and conciliation. Equally, it seems to me clear that the reason for this is that they are of a more highly participatory nature and are less judgmental in their outcomes. Indeed, this is the way forward, since the parties seem only to trust themselves, but they do need help and the sort of help that they need is with processes and with information about the nature of conflict and about the perceptions of parties to a conflict, including their own. Nobody, in effect, can tell the parties what the outcome should be. Only the parties themselves can decide that.
Only they are the potential heroes, but they are unlikely, at least in a serious conflict, to get there on their own and therefore they need a supportive framework to enable them to examine their relationship.
We are not here talking about a settlement of a conflict, which is imposed upon the parties to a conflict by a stronger third party or, indeed, by a victor. Rather, we are talking about the resolution of the conflict, which must in the long run be able to sustain itself without coercive means, either from a third party or from a victor. Settlements which are imposed by some form of coercion may give a breathing space, but in my experience that breathing space is rarely put to good use. It does not often act as a stepping stone towards the resolution of a conflict, but rather as a pause in which preparations can be made for the next round of the conflict. Is that your experience, too? It certainly seems to me to be the case in the negotiations between the Association of University Teachers and our paymasters, but then on this issue I am as prejudiced as anybody else.
8. I wonder if you have found, as we have found, that history plays an important part in conflicts. If you act as a facilitator, you will be regaled by the parties to a conflict with a litany of acts of bad faith, of atrocities, of moral turpitude, by the other side. Indeed, all parties in serious conflicts can quote such phenomena in plenitude. But if we dwell upon the past, then we allow the past to decide the future and the purpose of any resolution technique is, in fact, to detach the past so that it does not determine the future. Of course, we cannot efface the past for the parties. Indeed, to do so might be to remove an important element of their identity. But we can, as I suggested a moment ago, seek to decouple it. It seems to me and, perhaps this is your experience, too, that there is a need for the acknowledgement of hurt by others. Each party to a dispute seems to want to have its sense of hurt to be acknowledged before it can decouple it. This acknowledgement comes from other parties to the dispute and it can also come from any third party in a dispute. This does not mean that the aggrieved party requires that other parties or a third party agree with its interpretation of the hurt that was done to it, but at least it requires an acknowledgement that the party in question does feel that it has suffered a real grievance and that the others are prepared to acknowledge this sense of hurt whether they believe it to be justified or not. Only then, perhaps, can some of the more binding ties of history be loosened, sufficient to enable the parties to the dispute to contemplate a different future.
At this point the parties may be willing to concede that the problems, the concerns, the fears, the hopes, the dreams of others are, in fact, their own concern, because only when the fears of others are allayed and their hopes realised will they cease to be a problem. For example, the fears and hopes of the Palestinians are a problem for the Israelies as long as they are not resolved, because the Palestinians will, until that time, continue their struggle no matter what the odds. Indeed, the less they have to lose, the more extreme they can afford to become. As we have found (and have you?) that we must acknowledge history and the hurt that it brought, that parties must acknowledge the hopes and fears of others as well as their own, and that we must go further than that and ask not who the parties are, but what the problem is and the problem itself will define the parties. It is for them, then, to attempt to resolve the conflict by creating a mutually acceptable self-sustaining future relationship. In short, we have found that we need a mechanism to put the past behind us, that we need to concentrate on the nature of the problem rather than who the parties are and that we need to look to a future relationship. What about you?
9. I should imagine that one thing on which we can all agree is that stereotypes are an important phenomenon in conflict at whatever level that conflict manifests itself. In my field, one of the most dramatic examples of this was the Nazi’s portrayal of the Jews as vermin with the exhortation to eliminate the vermin. Thus, the Jews were dehumanised and what would otherwise have been a vile act against humanity becomes a social duty to cleanse society. You are not killing human beings, the Nazis sought to proclaim, but simply exterminating vermin. One of the purposes of any conflict facilitator is to help the parties to test their stereotypes against reality. Frequently, they do not like this, since the world of stereotypes is a convenient one with which to live. Everything is clear - by definition. It is far harder to live with a situation of many shades of grey than one of black and white. The parties therefore require a good deal of help in order to bring the nuances to their stereotypes. When they do, we have often found, they begin to see that behaviour as they formerly typecast as ‘typical’ and derogatory is, in fact a response to an environment by the party concerned as they see it and they have reacted, not out of some manifestly evil intent, but in a manner in which many other parties would have reacted if they had been faced with a similar situation. In other words, their response is a very human one.
When I was a child in the war I used to receive comics from my cousins in the United States, in which the Japanese were drawn as evil looking and in an inhuman green colour. Yet, if we consider the predicament faced by the Japanese in the 1930s, we may better be able to understand their behaviour and, also, incidentally, to consider whether others would have reacted in a similar way when faced with such a situation. To put it crudely, Japan, which like Britain, is an exporting country, lost roughly half its export markets in a very short period of time, due to the closing of those markets by countries such as Britain, Holland, France and the United States. In such dramatic circumstances so-called deviant behaviour was to be expected. If we lost half our export markets in the next couple of years, how would we behave? Not, I suggest, as a particularly good neighbour.
A particular form of stereotype is what is sometimes called tunnel vision. Tunnel vision occurs when an actor concentrates on one particular goal, to the virtual exclusion of all others, it is like looking through a tunnel when you can see only what is at the end of the tunnel and not a little to the left, or the right, or above, or below. Such an obsession with one goal is often at the cost of many other self-delineated goals. We have all said at some point or other, "I will do it, even if it kills me." But fortunately, we often allow our bluff to be called. This, however, is not always the case of parties in a dispute. Perhaps, therefore, they need help which will enable them to assess the relative importance of the full range of their goals. After all, no social actor and no individual wants only one thing and the moment we take into consideration opportunity cost, then there are grounds for exploration of a range of possible outcomes. What does tunnel vision look like in your neck of the conflict woods?
10. We have often come across, and I expect you have, too, the phenomenon of worst case analysis. This is a situation when the parties concentrate on the worst that might happen and not on what is most likely to happen. As such, they prepare for the worst case and therefore make something that was relatively unlikely more likely, since other parties observing the worst case preparations themselves think the worst and operate on a similar basis. Thus, we have a self-fulfilling situation. It is also self-defeating. Let me give you an example of the latter. After the Turkish military intervention in Cyprus, the Greek Cypriots imposed an embargo on the northern part of the island, which was now controlled by the Turkish Cypriots with help from Turkey. The purpose of this embargo was to try to force the Turkish army to leave the island, but in fact it forced the Turkish Cypriots into the arms of Turkey, since now they could only travel via Turkey, they could only trade via Turkey and the net result was that the bonds between the Turkish Cypriots and Turkey were strengthened and the Turkish army was perceived by the Turkish Cypriots as being an evermore important guarantor of their well-being - political, economic, social and cultural. It is a classic case of a self-defeating policy. We have found (have you, too?) that parties need help in identifying and rectifying policies that are both self-fulfilling and self-defeating. They need help in getting themselves off the hook.
11. Frequently, in a conflict, one can observe the difference between action policy and declaratory policy, that is, between what, in fact, you intend and are doing and what you say is your position. Of course, declaratory policy is important since it is often linked to history, to grand issues of principle which are rarely put into operation and it is part of your image to the outside world. Indeed, it may form part of a self-created stereotype. Nevertheless, parties would frequently be extremely embarrassed if they were forced to live up to their declaratory policy, because their action policy is very different. Yet when they come to perceive the other parties, it is to the declaratory policy that they look and not to the action policy. Thus, you have a form of cross-vision: self images are in terms of action policy, images of others are in terms of their declaratory policy. One of the purposes of a facilitator is to enable the parties to explore the differences between action policy and declaratory policy and to compare like with like, that is action policy with action policy. Take, for example, the law of return in Israel in which every Jew who goes to Israel has the right to reside there and to acquire Israeli nationality. Naturally, the Palestinians are very concerned about this, since they look at the number of Jews in the world and quickly deduce that this immigration will be at their expense. On the other hand, the Israelies, given the horrors vented upon the Jewish communities in living memory, feel a strong commitment to offer in principle every Jew a safe haven in Israel. Yet no Israeli Prime Minister could contemplate with any degree of equanimity the immigration of twelve million Jews from the Diaspora either within six months or six years. For the Palestinians, it is an action policy which is a threat to their very identity. Perhaps we can say the same about the Palestine National Charter which represents an aspiration and a declaration of having been and continuing to be hurt, but not in detail an action policy. Have you, too, found a difference between action policy and declaratory policy and have you, too, found an unwillingness to compare like with like?
12. Roger Fisher is credited with the coining of an ugly but useful word, that word is ‘yessabillty’. What is meant by this is that it is a useful link always to enable the parties to agree on something, no matter how trivial. This may mean elements of the conflict are broken down into very small parts, some of which, at least, are non-controversial. By getting parties to the conflict to agree on some things, there is a momentum started which leads to the breaking down of stereotypes and a greater willingness to consider action policy as well as declaratory policy, but it is important, we feel and perhaps you do, too, that these small agreements do not bind the parties until everything is agreed. In other words, nothing is agreed until the total package is agreed.
13. We often encourage the parties to a dispute to look for superordinate goals. I am sorry but I feel that any proper talk must have at least one term of mystifying jargon! What we mean by superordinate goals are those goals which parties in the conflict wish to achieve individually, but which they can only achieve by some degree of co-operation with each other. For example, both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots wish to develop tourism in their island, but if they pursue their conflict at a level of overt violence, few people are likely to fill the hotels that they have so assiduously built over the last decade and a half. After all, who in this room would accept a free weekend in Beirut? Again in Cyprus, one of the few areas where both Cypriot communities co-operate fully is in the implementation of a plan for Nicosla and in particular the creation of a new sewage system for the city. This was because the European Community and others refused to provide the funds unless an integrated plan was arrived at by the two sides. In my darker moments I sometimes think that the only thing that Cypriots can do together is to shovel ........... !
14. We have often tried to encourage parties in a dispute to look at decision-making processes. We find, and perhaps you have too, that when one party looks at another it tends to see it as a rational actor in which everything is logically worked out and undertaken for a purpose, usually a highly malevolent purpose. Yet those self-same parties know that things are not like that at home. There is no control, no effective plan, much short-term fixing and many unintended consequences. SNAFUs rule the roost (situation normal all fouled up). Again we must try, don’t you think too, to persuade the parties to compare like with like, that the situation that they know so well in their own decision-making processes, might also pertain in that of others: not against their stereotype of others, but against their own experience in similar situations.
15. There is a political leader, well-known to us all, who prides herself on making no U-turns, and in many ways we punish politicians who do make U-turns. We expect them always to be right and always to be consistent, and if they discover that perchance they have made the wrong choice we punish them for acknowledging the error of their ways. Surely it would be more logical to praise them for discovering their error and for taking appropriate remedies. Thus in situations of conflict it is very hard for leaders to change policy. After all, they may have made, and asked their communities to make, enormous sacrifices for the cause. Yet to announce that the cause may have changed in some important way is unthinkable. There is thus a process of entrapment and there is no way that they can get out of it. Thus parties in conflicts suffer in situations whereby they know they cannot win, they probably feel that they cannot lose, they do not know how to change or to get out of it, but they are ever more, indeed cruelly, aware of the cost. Sometimes the only way that a leader can escape from his own entrapment policy is when he (or she!) is overthrown. But the choice need not be between entrapment and scuttle and it is here that the third party can play a facilitating role, and help participants to escape from unproductive and costly policies. We have all been in that personal situation of waiting for the bus that does not come on schedule. We wait for the next one that does not come and only after a long wait do we realise that perhaps there is a strike and no buses and we get a taxi. We wonder, however, in the meantime, whether to cut our losses and usually continue standing forlornly, often with others, at the bus stop, wasting more and more time. Have you come across the entrapment factor in your experience?
16. Leaders in a conflict situation have usually come into their leadership position because they are good at waging conflict. They often realise, at least subconsciously, that should the conflict end they will be unemployed, or to put it more charitably, underemployed. Role defence by conflict leaders is not an insignificant factor in protracted conflict. We need to think about ways of creating a vested interest not for the conflict to continue but for it to be resolved. For example, why should Mr Denktash give up his position as President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, where he is able to command the attention of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and major world political leaders, to be Vice-President of the Republic of Cyprus. It might help matters therefore if we could find something better for him to do. I wonder whether that is the sort of problem with which you are familiar nearer at home!
17. It has been frequently observed that one of the effects of being engaged in the conflict is to create bonds within the different parties to the dispute. Conflict is not a comfortable place for fence-sitters. It has been noted that if the conflict were to go away then new conflicts within the parties might come to the surface. In other words the continuation of one conflict acts as a prophylactic against the upsurge of another. If, for example, there were no Israeli-Palestinian conflict, would Israel not be subject to severe social strain between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews, between Sabras and immigrants, between religious and secular Jews? Equally, if there were no Arab-Israeli conflict would not that conflict between the conservatives and the radicals in Arab states come to the surface more virulently than it is now? We have frequently come across a chain of conflicts or something like the Russian doll or a Chinese box where you remove one part and you find another inside it and another inside that and so on. This suggests that ostensible conflicts mask other conflicts and we cannot get a true resolution of one without another. However, there is no thought here that we can abolish conflict. Indeed, as I suggested earlier, that would be a disaster, for then we would lose a major source of knowledge and learning. We can however aspire to resolve a particular conflict and all conflicts are in principle resolvable, but not perhaps by us here and now. Have you come across this phenomenon of a conflict chain, and if so, how do you deal with it? One way is to consider that conflict outside the context of the other parts of the chain, it is often the case that resolution of the particular conflict is thereby made easier, but ultimately we cannot resolve a conflict in a vacuum. Its resolution has to be self-sustaining in the context of its long-run environment. How to do this is a problem that we ourselves find taxing, perhaps you do too.
18. Unilateralism is a political term that has been hijacked by the unilateral nuclear disarmers. However, I think it is a useful part of the conflict researchers’ lexicon as well. By a unilateral act I mean an act of generosity which is not to be expected in terms of the given conflictual relations between parties. Given the proclivity of parties to look any gifthorse in the mouth, it has to be an act of very considerable generosity. The purpose of this act is to cause other parties to rethink their stereotypes and their positions. How can someone whose behaviour has been so malevolent towards us act now in such a generous manner towards us? We have all seen this process in work in recent months in the relationships between East and West and particularly in the United States and the Soviet Union. Such a unilateral gesture may therefore be appropriate when the time is ripe, to move forward to a happier relationship when day-to-day negotiations have got bogged down and are constrained by old ways of thinking. Such a policy is, of course, dangerous, as President Sadat found out when he went to Jerusalem. That very act was an abandonment of many fiercely held positions, and it was done for many reasons, among which was a firm belief that Mr Begin might see the light and respond in a like manner. In fact Mr Begin pocketed the concessions and in the end President Sadat paid the supreme price. On the other hand the imaginative gesture of Robert Schuman, the Foreign Minister of France. in offering to establish the European Coal and Steel Community in 1950 when France was dominant and Germany was still occupied was a unilateral gesture for which we have all good reason to be grateful. Have you too seen the perils and prospects of unilateralism?
19. Perhaps I can end this dip into the conflict researchers’ toolbag by one of the oldest tricks of the trade, which surely is not confined to us. This is to get the parties to agree to a joint account of their conflict as it exists or to persuade one side to give an analysis of the motivation and position of the other side in such a manner that the other side says that they have got it exactly right. We find that this process is a tremendous aid for the understanding of mutual and self-perception. Do you too?
20. The theme of this meeting is comparing conflicts. What I have tried to do is to suggest that we can compare conflicts because the study of conflict at all levels is a conceptual whole. Furthermore, I have tried to argue that this holistic view of conflict is one in accord with the way in which the Social Sciences generally are developing. This is in no way to deny that which is unique. It is simply to say that perhaps we can learn from that which we have in common too. Does our experience strike a chord with you?
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