Violent or nonviolent conflict is an inevitable aspect of human interaction when two or more individuals or groups pursue mutually incompatible goals. Conflict is the symptom, not the problem. Conflict arises out of ignorance, intolerance, and misunderstanding. Conflict usually begins with perception of a real or imagined threat to a system’s stability or survival. Peace arises out of wisdom, tolerance, and understanding.
Are there big-budget nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as think tanks or university peace studies centers that actively attempt to remedy the root causes of conflict? No—they provide analysis only. Responders such as Oxfam? No—it provides food and infrastructure aid only. International Red Cross? No—its mandate is for disaster aid, assistance, and relief, not conflict prevention. Government organizations such as the United Nations, European Union, United States, African Union, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have ‘conflict prevention’ offices that spend/observe/study much, but seem to achieve little.
Conflict prevention refers to measures taken to prevent disputes from escalating into violence, or to limit violence if it does occur. Advanced conflict prevention could begin with a look at human personality development. Tyrants and criminals grasp for power and control by any means necessary, and a genetic component or anomaly may be involved. In contrast, self-actualizing people generally have no need for power, control, or attention—they ‘self-transcend’ to an ‘other’ orientation.
Conflict management uses negotiation, mediation, conciliation, or arbitration, and may also involve international peacekeeping forces. Conflict transformation attempts to strengthen democratic institutions to create a culture of nonviolent approaches. Conflict resolution attempts to address the root causes of a conflict by emphasizing common interests and goals.
Researchers at the Universities of Michigan and Texas found that older people are better at resolving conflict. They bring wise thinking, acknowledgment of others’ points of view, and appreciation of contexts broader than the issue at hand. They bring sensitivity to the possibility of change in social relations, acknowledgment of the likelihood of multiple outcomes of a social conflict, concern with conflict resolution, and a preference for compromise.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated that humankind must evolve a method of conflict resolution which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, he advocated nonviolence as the way to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence.
In all disputes, we must seek and find areas of commonality, and eliminate violence.