What is Conflict Transformation?
Towards the end of the 20th Century, a new approach to conflict and peacebuilding was developed by scholars/practitioners like Johan Galtung and John Paul Lederach.
Conflict Transformation sees conflict as an inherent dynamic in our lives, and as such it does not regard conflict as something negative in its essence. Galtung refers to conflict as having both “life-affirming” and “life-destroying” characteristics. If dealt with it properly, conflict can be a source of growth and development. The problem resides with the use of violence, in any of its types, as a means to impose the goals of the parties to the conflict.
By investing effort in understanding the root sources of the conflict and addressing them, we can design “both-and” formulas that will allow all individuals/groups to reach a better reality. At best, this formula will end the conflict in a sustainable way. And, when such ideal formula cannot be reached, as the levels of violence are minimized the parties’ suffering from the conflict will be reduced.
Approaches to Conflict
It focuses mostly on power relations and the interests of the parties. This “realist” approach sees conflict as a natural and constant feature of human relations. Contradictions between interests arise much faster than the possibility of finding sustainable solutions. Assuming that no side to the conflict is powerful enough to impose all its goals in a full and comprehensive manner, then the preferred dynamic is to manage the intensity of the conflict to a level that is most beneficial to “our” side over the other one.
This approach sees conflict as a negative phenomenon that mostly causes suffering to all those touched by it. For this reason, the focus of this approach is to end the conflict as quickly as possible – even by accepting difficult and painful compromises. For proponents of Conflict Resolution, the costs of such a compromise outweigh the potential gain of keeping the conflict alive.