International Online Training Program On Intractable
Conflict Research Consortium,
University of Colorado, USA
(courtesy of http://www.colorado.edu/conflict/peace/glossary.htm
Note: The terms that appear in blue are linked to
longer write-ups of these concepts.
- Active listening is a way of listening that focuses entirely on what the
other person is saying and confirms understanding of both the content of the
message and the emotions and feelings underlying the message to ensure that
understanding is accurate.
- Adversarial Approach
- The adversarial approach to a conflict sees the other party or parties as
an enemy to be defeated. It can be compared to the problem-solving approach
which views the other party or parties as people who have a common problem
that needs to be jointly solved. The adversarial approach typically leads to
competitive confrontation strategies, while the problem-solving approach
leads to cooperative or integrative strategies for approaching the conflict
- Adversaries are people who oppose each other in a conflict. They are also
called opponents, parties, or disputants.
- Advocacy is the process of taking and working for a particular side=s
interests in a conflict. Lawyers engage in advocacy when they represent a
client in a legal proceeding. Disputants can also engage in advocacy
themselves--arguing for their own position in negotiation, mediation, or a
political debate. Any attempt to persuade another side to agree to your
demands is advocacy.
- The granting of a pardon for past offenses--especially political offenses--including,
for example, human rights violations and war crimes.
- This is an approach to deep-rooted or intractable conflicts that brings
disputants together to analyze the underlying human needs that cause their
conflict, and then helping them work together to develop ways to provide the
necessary needs to resolve the problem.
- Arbitration is a method of resolving a dispute in which the disputants
present their case to an impartial third party, who then makes a decision
for them which resolves the conflict. This decision is usually binding.
Arbitration differs from mediation in which third party simply helps the
disputants develop a solution on their own.
- An arms race occurs whenever two adversaries race each other to make sure
that each has at least as many armaments as the other. This typically leads
to an escalation spiral with each side building and/or acquiring more and
more weapons in an effort to stay ahead of the enemy.
- This is a variation of Fisher and Ury's concept of BATNA--which stands for
best alternative to a negotiated agreement. We use "ATNA" to
refer to any alternative to a negotiated agreement, not just the best one.
- Backlash is a negative response to an action. When someone or a group is
forced to do something against their will they will often resist or try to
get back at the person or group who forced them in the first place. This can
result in a reversal of an apparently resolved situation, and may even
escalate the conflict further.
- BATNA is a term invented by Roger Fisher and William Ury which stands for
"best alternative to a negotiated agreement." Any negotiator
should determine his or her BATNA before agreeing to any negotiated
settlement. If the settlement is as good as or better than one's BATNA, the
agreement should be accepted. If the alternative is better, it should be
pursued instead of the negotiated settlement. When one party's BATNA is good
(or even if they just think it is good), they are unlikely to be willing to
enter into negotiations, preferring instead to pursue their alternative
- Citizen diplomacy (sometimes called "track two diplomacy")
refers to unofficial contacts between people of different nations, as
differentiated from official contacts between governmental representatives.
Citizen diplomacy includes exchanges of people (such as student exchanges),
international religious, scientific and cultural activities, as well as
unofficial dialogues, discussions, or negotiations between citizens of
Co-existence means living together peacefully
in the same geographical area.
- Common ground or commonalties refers to the things two people or groups
share, or hold in common. These may include living in the same place, having
similar values, interests, or needs, or even similar experiences or fears.
Although disputants often assume they have nothing in common with their
opponents, they almost always have some common ground--even if it is only a
common desire to live in peace and security without having to fear the
- Communication channels are the means available to communicate with another
person or group. They may include direct face-to-face communication,
telecommunications (telephone, e-mail, written communications), or indirect
communication--through third parties or the media, for example.
- Community Organizing
Community organizing is a process through which an expert helps a
group of individuals engage in collective action to address a social
problem. Community organizers help people work together to get what they
want or need: they may help people work together to get more jobs in a
community; they may help people fight an unfair government law or ruling; or
they may help people work together to force a polluter to clean up their
industrial process so it no longer pollutes the environment as badly.
- See adversarial approach
- Conflict complicating factors are dynamics such as communication
problems or escalation which, while common, are usually extraneous parts
of the conflict which confuse the core issues in the conflict and make
them more difficult to understand and deal with.
- A solution to a mutual problem that meets some, but not all, of each of
the parties' interests.
- Concessions are things one side gives up to try to de-escalate or
resolve a conflict. They may simply be points in an argument, a reduction
in demands, or a softening of one side's position.
- Conciliation involves efforts by a third party to improve the relationship
between two or more disputants. It may be done as a part of mediation, or
independently. Generally, the third party will work with the disputants to
correct misunderstandings, reduce fear and distrust, and generally improve
communication between the parties in conflict. Sometimes this alone will
result in dispute settlement; at other times, it paves the way for a later
- Conflict Management
- This term refers to the long-term management of intractable
conflicts and the people involved in them so that they do not escalate out
of control and become violent.
- Conflict Resolution
- This term (along with dispute resolution) usually refers to the process of
resolving a dispute or a conflict permanently, by providing each sides'
needs, and adequately addressing their interests so that they are satisfied
with the outcome.
This term is being used more and more to refer to
a change (usually an improvement) in the nature of a conflict--a
de-escalation or a reconciliation between people or groups. Unlike conflict
resolution, which denies the long-term nature of conflict, or conflict
management, which assumes that people and relationships can be managed as
though they were physical objects, the concept of conflict transformation
reflects the notion that conflicts go on for long periods of time, changing
the nature of the relationships between the people involved, and themselves
changing as people's response to the situation develops over time.
- Conflicts of Interest
- This term refers to the situation in which a person has a vested
interest in the outcome of a decision, but tries to influence the decision
making process as if they did not. In other words, they stand to benefit
from a decision if it goes a particular way, but they participate in the
decision making process as if they were neutral. An example would be an
expert from the tobacco industry testifying that tobacco is safe and does
not cause cancer. If he argued this on the basis of scientific merits,
rather than his connection to the tobacco industry, he could be charged
with having a conflict of interest which altered his position on tobacco
Consensus decision making requires that everyone
agrees with a decision; not just a majority as occurs in majority-rule
processes. In consensus-based processes, people must work together to
develop an agreement that is good enough (though not necessarily perfect)
that all of the people at the table are willing to agree to it.
- Constituents or one's constituency refers to the people a decision maker
represents. The constituents of a governmental leader are the citizens he
or she represents in Parliament or other legislative body. The
constituents of a negotiator are the people he or she is negotiating for;
members of a union, perhaps, or of an interest group or business.
- We use the term "constructive" to refer to a conflict which has
more benefits than costs--one that pulls people together, strengthens and/or
improves their relationship (by redefining it in a more appropriate or
useful way) and one that leads to positive change in all of the parties
involved. It is contrasted with destructive conflict which has largely
negative results--pushing people apart, destroying relationships, and
leading to negative changes including an escalation of violence, fear, and
- Cooperation/Cooperative Approach
- In cooperation, disputants work together to solve a mutual problem.
According to Morton Deutsch, (Resolution of Conflict, 1973) a cooperative
situation is one in which the goals of the participants are so linked that
any participant can attain his goal if, and only if, the others with whom he
is linked can attain their goals. It is contrasted with a competitive
approach in which it is assumed that it is impossible to win, unless the
other side loses.
- We distinguish between core issues in a conflict, which are the
fundamental interests, values, and needs which are in conflict with each
other, and complicating factors, which are dynamics such as communication
problems or escalation which, while common, are usually extraneous parts of
the conflict which confuse the core issues and make them more difficult to
understand and deal with.
- Costing is the process of assessing the costs and benefits of a particular
action; not only in monetary terms, but in terms of time, resources,
emotional energy, and other intangible effects on people's lives.
Credibility refers to whether or not a person or a
statement is believed or trusted. Sometimes leaders or expert witnesses are
not considered by the public to be credible because they have a personal
interest in the outcome of a situation or a conflict which would likely
influence their views and/or statements about that situation or conflict.
Decision making process
- The decision making process is the process that is used to
make a decision. It can be an expert process, where the decision is made by
one or more "experts" who look at the
"facts" and make the decision based on those facts; it can be a
political process through which a political representative or body makes the
decision based on political considerations, or it might be a judicial
process where a judge or a jury makes a decision based on an examination of
legal evidence and the law.
- De-escalation is the opposite of escalation. It is the ratcheting down of
the intensity of a conflict which occurs as parties tire out, or begin to
realize that the conflict is doing them more harm than good. They then may
begin to make concessions, or reduce the intensity of their attacks, moving
slowly toward an eventual negotiated resolution.
This is the psychological process of demonizing the enemy, making
them seem less than human and hence not worthy of humane treatment.
Destructive conflict and confrontation has
largely negative results--it pushes people apart, destroys relationships,
and leads to a host of negative personal and social changes including an
escalation of violence, fear, and distrust. It is contrasted with
constructive conflict and confrontation which has more benefits than
costs--one that pulls people together, strengthens and/or improves their
relationship (by redefining it in a more appropriate or useful way) and one
that leads to positive change in all of the parties involved.
- Destructive Conflict/Confrontation
- Dialogue is a process for sharing and learning about another group's
beliefs, feelings, interests, and/or needs in a non-adversarial, open way,
usually with the help of a third party facilitator. Unlike mediation, in
which the goal is usually reaching a resolution or settlement of a dispute,
the goal of dialogue is usually simply improving interpersonal understanding
- Dictatorial Process *
This term refers to authoritarian decision making processes in which
one person (or a small group of people) make arbitrary decisions, supposedly
on behalf of their people, but without any meaningful input from the people,
nor any institutionalized process for reversing the decision if it is
disliked by a majority of the people it affects. It is the opposite of
democratic decision making processes, in which duly elected or appointed
representatives or decision makers make decisions based on public input on
behalf of their constituencies.
Generally, diplomacy refers to the interaction between two or more
nation-states. Traditionally carried out by government officials, who
negotiate treaties, trade policies, and other international agreements, the
term has been extended to include unofficial exchanges of private citizens
(such as cultural, scientific, and religious exchanges) as well as
unofficial (sometimes called "citizen" or "track-two")
diplomacy in which private citizens actually try to develop solutions to
international diplomatic problems.
Disarming strategies are actions that are designed to break down or
challenge negative stereotypes. If one person or group is seen by another as
extremely threatening and hostile, a gesture of friendship and goodwill is a
disarming move, which will alter perceptions of the other and can
significantly de-escalate the conflict.
Disputants are the people, groups, or organizations who are in
conflict with each other. They are often also called "parties."
(Third parties, however, are not disputants, but rather people who intercede
to try to help the disputants resolve the dispute.)
See Conflict Resolution
- Dispute Resolution
- These are conflicts over placement in the social hierarchy-who has more
status and power in a society, and who has less.
- This is a variation of Fisher and Ury's concept of BATNA--which stands for
best alternative to a negotiated agreement. We use "EATNA"
to refer to one's estimated alternative to a negotiated
agreement,--meaning what you think you can get, which may be different from
what you really can get if you use a power strategy other than negotiation
to pursue your goals.
psychological feelings that people have that usually result from--and
contribute to--a conflict. Examples are anger, shame, fear, distrust, and a
sense of powerlessness. If emotions are effectively managed, they can become
a resource for effective conflict resolution. If they are not effectively
managed, however, they can intensify a conflict, heightening tensions and
making the situation more difficult to resolve.
Empowerment means giving a person or group more
power. This may be done by the party alone, through education, coalition
building, community organizing, resource development, or advocacy
assistance. It can also be done by a mediator, who can work with the lower
power person or group to help them represent themselves more effectively.
Although this approach causes ethical dilemmas (since helping one side more
than another compromises a mediator's
impartiality), it is quite commonly done in the problem-solving or "settlement-
oriented" approach to mediation, since this approach works best when
the two parties are relatively equal in power. Baruch Bush and Joe Folger,
however, advocate the empowerment of both parties simultaneously through
transformative mediation, which seeks to restore disputants' "sense of
their own value and strength and their own capacity to handle life's
problems." This approach avoids the ethical dilemmas of one-sided
empowerment, though it sacrifices emphasis on achieving a settlement as
Escalation is an increase in intensity of a
conflict. According to Dean Pruitt and Jeffery Rubin (1986, 7-8), as a
conflict escalates, the disputants change from relatively gentle opposition
to heavier, more confrontational tactics. The number of parties tends to
increase, as do the number of issues, and the breadth of the issues (that
is, issues change from ones which are very specific to more global
concerns). Lastly disputants change from not only wanting to win themselves,
but also wanting to hurt the opponent. While conflicts escalate quickly and
easily, de-escalation, a diminishing of intensity, is often much harder to
- Extremists are people who take extreme views--those
which are much stronger, and often more fixed than other people's views of
the same situation. In escalated conflicts, extremists may advocate violent
responses, while more moderate disputants will advocate less extreme
"Face" refers to one's image, both
to oneself and to others. A face-saving approach is an approach that
does not damage one's own or the other side's image--it does not make
oneself or the other side appear weak, inept, or otherwise as a failure, but
makes them look like they are wise and victorious,
even when they are not. By
allowing all disputants to save face, a negotiated settlement is much more
likely to be reached.
Facilitation is done by a third party who
assists in running consensus-building meetings. The facilitator typically
helps the parties set ground rules and agendas, enforces both, and helps the
participants keep on track and working toward their mutual goals. While
similar to a mediator, a facilitator usually plays a less active role in the
deliberations, and often does not see "resolution" as a goal of
his or her work, as mediators usually do.
- Fact-based disputes are disputes about what has occurred
or is occurring. Such disputes can be generated from misunderstandings or
inaccurate rumors (when someone is accused of doing something they did not
actually do). Facts-based disputes can also be generated by differing
perceptions or judgements about what has occurred or is now occurring. For
example, a dispute over the level of threat caused by the ozone hole or
the greenhouse effect is a "facts-based
dispute," even though all the scientific facts are not readily
discernable or agreed to.
We use the term "force" to refer to any situation when one
disputant is made to do something against their will through threat. In
Kenneth Boulding's terms, force is used when people are told to "do
something that I want, or else I will do something that you don't
want." Force does not need to be violent. It can simply be a coercive
statement that says that if you do not comply with my demand, I will fire
you from your job, or I will stage a hunger strike, or I will organize a
work slow-down nor do anything else that is likely to harm the opponent in
some significant way.
Forcing Power Shortcuts are ways to measure relative power without
having a protracted (and destructive) power struggle. For example, polls can
measure public opinion without having to have a full vote on an issue.
Shortened alternative dispute resolution procedures such as arbitration or
mini-trials can be used to replace costly litigation. Even wars can be
avoided by measuring relative military strength and then making an
assessment of which side would be likely to win. If both sides agree (at
least approximately) on the likely outcome, then a negotiated solution can
be worked out which is consistent with that outcome, avoiding the high costs
of the protracted struggle.
- Frames are ways of defining a problem. Some people may define a problem
in terms of rights, while others may define it in terms of interests or
relative power. These different positions are sometimes referred to as
Framing is the process of defining what a problem
is about. Just as a frame can be placed around a photograph, including some
portions of the picture, but cropping other portions out, people can define
some aspects of a problem as important, while they ignore (or are unaware
of) other issues that do not concern them.
(Gradual Reduction in Tension)
This is a term invented by Charles Osgood to refer to a gradual
de-escalation process, in which one side makes a unilateral, minor
concession in the hopes that the other side will then be encouraged to do
the same. This is then followed by a second concession, which hopefully is
matched, and a de-escalation process then continues with matched concessions
and disarming moves.
This is a term used to refer to adversarial, competitive bargaining
that assumes that the opponent is an enemy to be defeated, rather than a
partner to be worked with cooperatively. Fisher and Ury contrast hard
bargaining with soft bargaining (which is highly conciliatory to the point
of giving in on important points). They contrast both these approaches with
a third approach, principled negotiation, which is neither hard, nor soft,
but rather integrative in its approach.
- Hard bargaining
Human needs are things that all humans need for normal growth and
development. First identified by psychologist Abraham Maslow, human needs go
beyond the obvious physical needs of food and shelter to include
psychological needs such as security, love, a sense of identity,
self-esteem, and the ability to achieve one=s
goals. Some conflict theorists--referred to as "human
needs theorists" argue that the most difficult and intense conflicts,
such as racial and ethnic conflicts, are caused by the denial of one or both
groups' fundamental human needs: the need for identity,
security, and/or recognition. In order to resolve such conflicts, ways must
be found to provide these needs for all individuals and groups without
compromise--as human needs "are not for trading."
Identity refers to the way people see themselves--the groups they
feel a part of, the significant aspects of themselves that they use to
describe themselves to others. Some theorists distinguish between collective
identity, social identity, and personal identity. However, all related in
one way or another to a description of who one is, and how one fits into his
social groups and society over all.
Identity conflicts are conflicts that develop when a person or group
feels that their sense of self--who one is--is threatened or denied
legitimacy or respect. Religious, ethnic, and racial conflicts are examples
of identity conflicts.
This refers to the attitude of the third party. An impartial third
party will not prefer one side or one side's position to another side's
position, but will approach them both as equally valid. In principle, this
objective can be hard to achieve, although a third party can make an active
effort to treat each side the same, even if he or she tends to prefer one
party or one party's argument over the other.
- Incompatible interests
- Incompatible interests are things that people want that cannot be
simultaneously achieved. If a community has a limited budget to spend on
public services, for example, and each of four agencies (the police, the
schools, the hospital, and the roads department, for instance) all need a
budget increase to even maintain current services, these departments have
incompatible interests--not all of their funding requests can be met
Power and the Integrative System
Integrative power is the power of social ties and the power of
identity--the power of the integrative system (the system of social bonds
that hold people together in groups.) Although seldom considered a source of
power, Kenneth Boulding argued that integrative power is the strongest form
of power because all others depend on the integrative system in order to
Interest-based problem solving defines problems in terms of
interests (not positions--see immediately below) and works to reconcile the
interests to obtain a mutually-satisfactory solution.
- Interest-Based Problem Solving
Interest groups are advocacy groups--groups of people who join
together to work for a common cause. Environmental groups, groups defending
human rights, and groups working for social causes are all interest groups.
- Interest groups
Interests are the
underlying desires and concerns that motivate people to take a position.
While their position is what they say they want, such as "I want to
build my house here!", their interests are the reasons why they take
that position (because I want a quiet lot with a good view of the city).
Often parties' interests are compatible, and hence negotiable, even when
their positions seem to be in complete opposition.
- Intolerance is the unwillingness to
accept the legitimacy of another person, group, or idea that differs from
one's own. It may result in an effort to get rid of the
"objectionable" person or idea, or it may simply result in
treating them in a subservient way, as occurs when people of certain racial
or ethnic groups are discriminated against by the dominant group in a
We use this term to refer to conflicts that go on for a long time,
resisting most (if not all) attempts to resolve them. Typically they involve
fundamental value disagreements, high stakes distributional questions,
domination issues, and/or denied human needs--all of which are
non-negotiable problems. They often involve unavoidable win-lose situations
statements" state the way someone feels about a situation, while "you
statements" are accusations that another person did something wrong. By
statement problems in terms of one's own feelings (using I statements) instead
of accusing the other person of causing the problem (as occurs with
you-statements) defensiveness and hostility can be minimized and the chances of
Joint fact finding is a process in which two or
more disputants work together to clarify disputed facts in a conflict--for
example, they might cooperate on a scientific study of environmental impacts of
a proposed project, or on an inquiry into the extent of human rights abuses
during or after a war.
Legitimacy refers to the perceived fairness of a
dispute resolution process. For example, fair elections or litigation based on
socially-accepted laws are generally considered legitimate, as are the decisions
that result from such processes. On the other hand, elections where voters are
harassed or forced to vote a particular way are usually considered illegitimate,
as are court decisions handed down by biased courts. Legitimacy of decision
making procedures is important, because illegitimate procedures almost always
escalate conflicts, making their ultimate resolution more difficult.
Game theory makes a distinction between
positive-sum situations (often called "games,") which everyone can
win (also referred to as "win-win"), negative sum games in which all
sides lose (also referred to as "lose-lose") and zero-sum games in
which one side wins only if another side loses.
Mediation is a method of conflict resolution
that is carried out by an intermediary who works with the disputing parties to
help them improve their communication and their analysis of the conflict
situation, so that the parties can themselves identify and choose an option
for resolving the conflict that meets the interests or needs of all of the
disputants. Unlike arbitration, where the intermediary listens to the
arguments of both sides and makes a decision for the disputants, a mediator
will help the disputants design a solution themselves.
This term has been developed recently to reflect the idea
that international exchanges can take many forms beyond official negotiations
between diplomats. Examples of multi-track diplomacy include official
and unofficial conflict resolution efforts, citizen and scientific exchanges,
international business negotiations, international cultural and athletic
activities and other international contacts and cooperative efforts.
Psychologist Abraham Maslow suggested that all people
are driven to attain certain biological and psychological requirements, which
he called fundamental human "needs." Several conflict
theorists, for instance John Burton and Herbert Kelman, have applied this idea
to conflict theory, suggesting that the needs for security, identity, and
recognition underlie most deep-rooted and protracted conflicts. Most ethnic
and racial conflicts, they argue, for instance, are not interest-based
conflicts (and hence cannot be negotiated), but are driven by the subordinate
group's need for these fundamental needs. Only by restructuring the society so
that all groups' fundamental needs are met can needs
conflicts be resolved.
- Negative-Sum Situations or Games
Game theory makes a distinction between positive-sum
situations (often called "games,") which everyone can win (also
referred to as "win-win"), negative sum games in which all sides
lose (also referred to as "lose-lose") and zero-sum games in which
one side wins only if another side loses.
Negotiation is bargaining--it is the process of discussion and
give-and-take between two or more disputants who seek to find a solution to a
common problem. Negotiation occurs between people all the time--between
parents and children, between husbands and wives, between workers and
employers, between nations. It can be relatively cooperative, as it is when
both sides seek a solution that is mutually beneficial (commonly called
win-win or cooperative bargaining), or it can be confrontational (commonly
called win-lose or adversarial) bargaining, when each side seeks to prevail
over the other.
This term refers to the return to negotiation
after rights-based and power-based processes are used to clarify respective
rights and relative levels of power. These tests of rights and power determine
the parties best alternatives to a negotiated agreement (their "BATNA"s).
Once these are known, the parties can "loopback" to negotiation to
avoid a protracted and costly struggle, while usually obtaining the same
- This term means that a third party is not connected to or had a prior
relationship with any of the disputants.
- Non-governmental Organizations
- The term "non-governmental organizations" (NGOs) refers to
international organizations that are not associated with any government.
Examples include many religions that cross borders, international humanitarian
aid organizations such as CARE or the International Red Cross, sporting
organizations such as the International Olympic Committee, and many
scientific, business, educational, and other professional organizations.
direct action/nonviolent struggle
- Nonviolent direct action is action, usually undertaken by a group of people,
to persuade someone else to change their behavior. Examples include strikes,
boycotts, marches, and demonstrations--social, economic, or political acts
that are intended to persuade an opponent to change its policies. While not
violent initially, nonviolent direct action can provoke a violent response.
Thus, forcing someone to do something at gunpoint would not be nonviolent
direct action, but if demonstrators are forced to retreat by police using or
threatening to use weapons, the initial action is still considered to be
- Overlay Problems
- In past writing, we have used the term "overlay problems" the same
way we use "complicating problems" in this material. Both terms
refer to dynamics
such as communication problems or escalation which, while common, are usually
extraneous parts of the conflict which confuse the core issues and make them
more difficult to understand and deal with.
- The parties are the people who are involved in the dispute. Most parties are
disputants--the people who are in conflict with each other. Other
parties--often called "third parties,"--are parties that intervene
in the dispute to try to help the disputants resolve it. Mediators and
judges, for example, are third parties.
- Peace building is the process of restoring normal relations between people.
It requires the reconciliation of differences, apology and forgiveness of past
harm, and the establishment of a cooperative relationship between groups,
replacing the adversarial or competitive relationship that used to exist.
- Peacekeeping is the prevention or ending of violence within or between
nation-states through the intervention of an outside third party that keeps
the warring parties apart. Unlike peacemaking, which involves negotiating a
resolution to the issues in conflict, the goal of peacekeeping is simply
preventing further violence.
- Peacemaking is the term often used to refer to negotiating the resolution of
a conflict between people, groups, or nations. It goes beyond peacekeeping to
actually deal with the issues in dispute, but falls short of peace building,
which aims toward reconciliation and normalization of relations between
ordinary people, not just the formal resolution which is written on paper.
- Persuasion involves convincing another party to change their attitude and/or
their behavior. Although this can be done through coercion, we generally use
the term "persuasion" in a more positive sense--to refer to
emotional or rational appeals based on common values and understandings.
- Polarization of a conflict occurs as a conflict rises in
intensity (that is, escalates). Often as escalation occurs, more and more
people get involved, and take strong positions either on one side or the
other. "Polarization" refers to this process in which people move
toward extreme positions ("poles"), leaving fewer and fewer people "in
- Political context
Is the outcome of the conflict affected by the political system or
decision making structure of the community or nation in which the conflict
occurs? Who holds the power in the community or society? Are decisions made
democratically, or by an authoritarian system?
- Positions are what people say they want--the superficial demands they make
of their opponent. According to Fisher and Ury, who first distinguished
between interests and positions, positions are what people have decided upon,
while interests are what caused them to decide. Often one side's position will
be the opposite of their opponents', although their interests may actually be
- Positive-Sum Situations (Positive-Sum Games)
Game theory makes a distinction between positive-sum situations (often
called "games,") which everyone can win (also referred to as
"win-win"), negative sum games (also referred to as
"lose-lose") and zero-sum games in which one side wins only if
another side loses.
- Power is the ability to get what you want, or as conflict theorist Kenneth
Boulding put it, to "change the future." This can occur through
force (sometimes referred to as "power-over"), through cooperation
(referred to as "power-with" or exchange power) or through the power
of the integrative system--the system of identity and relationships that holds
people together in groups.
- This term refers to the mix of force, exchange, and integrative power that
is used by a disputant in an effort to prevail in any conflict situation.
- Practitioners are people who engage in conflict resolution as a
profession--mediators, arbitrators, facilitators, and diplomats, for example.
- This approach to negotiation was developed by Fisher and Ury and first
presented in their best-selling book, Getting to Yes, in
1981. Basically an integrative negotiation strategy calls for
"separating the people from the problem," negotiating on the basis
of interests rather than positions, identifying options for mutual gain, and
using objective criteria to judge fairness of any proposed settlement.
- Problem Solving
This term is sometimes used to refer to analytical problem solving
workshops that seek to analyze and resolve conflicts based on identifying and
providing the underlying human needs. In other situations, it refers to an
approach to mediation that focuses primarily on resolving the conflict (as
opposed to transforming the relationships of the people involved).
The problem solving approach to conflict involves working
cooperatively with the other disputants to solve a common problem. It can be
contrasted with the adversarial approach which views the other disputants as
opponents or enemies to be defeated, not cooperated with.
- Problem Solving Approach
- Procedural problems are problems with decision making procedures. Examples
are decisions that are made without considering relevant and important facts,
decisions that are made arbitrarily without considering the interests or needs
of the affected people, or decisions that are made without following the
established and accepted process. Often, procedural problems can intensify and
complicate disputes which could be resolved relatively easily if proper
procedures were followed.
- Reconciliation is the normalization of relationships between people or
groups. According to John Paul Lederach, it involves four simultaneous
processes--the search for truth, justice, peace, and mercy. When all four of
these factors are brought together, reconciliation, Lederach says, is
- Reframing is the process of redefining a situation--seeing a conflict in a
new way, based on input from other people who define the situation differently
than you do.
- Relationship Problems
Relationship problems are problems between two or
more people that involve, most importantly, the relationship between those two
people. For example, conflicts can be caused because two people don't trust
each other, or because they are in constant, hostile competition with each
See Conflict Resolution
- Resolution-Resistant Conflict
- We use this term to refer to conflicts that are highly difficult, but not
impossible, to resolve. The term "intractable conflict" means
the same thing, but often we use "resolution-resistant" instead
because some people interpret "intractable" to mean
Restitution involves paying a person or group back
for harm that was done to them. Although lost lives can never be replaced,
making a symbolic repayment of money, social or economic assistance, or
otherwise alleviating damage or harm that was done as much as possible can go
a long way toward resolving a conflict and moving toward reconciliation.
- Restorative justice is justice that is not designed to punish the
wrong-doer, but rather to restore the victim and the relationship to the way
they were before the offence. Thus, restorative justice requires an apology
from the offender, restitution for the offense, and forgiveness from the
victim. Often this is accomplished through victim-offender reconciliation
programs which may operate at either the interpersonal or intergroup level.
- Retribution is retaliation--getting back at someone for something they did
to hurt you.
- A conflict is said to be "ripe" for settlement or
negotiation when it has reached a stalemate, or when all of the parties have
determined that their alternatives to negotiation will not get them what they
want or need. In this case, they are likely to be ready to negotiate a
settlement which will attain at least part of their interests--more
than they are getting otherwise or stand to get if they pursue their
force-based options further.
Most negotiations and other conflict resolution processes occur among
a small group of people. In intergroup, inter-organizational, and
international conflicts, these negotiators represent a large number of other
people, not just themselves. Getting those people--the constituents--to agree
to the settlement developed by the negotiators is often a problem, as they
have not gone through the same trust-building and understanding-improving
process that the negotiators have experienced. We refer to this as the
"scale-up problem," as the small group understandings and trust must
be "scaled up" to the larger population if peace building is to be
- Scoping is the process of determining who else is involved in a conflict and
what their interests, needs, and positions are. It also involves the
determination of external constraints that affect the situation and any other
factors that define the conflict situation beyond one's own view of the
- Social context
- The term "social context"
refers to the social relationships the exist in a community at the time
the conflict occurs. For instance, is one group socially and/or economically
dominant, while other groups are less successful or discriminated against?
- Soft Bargaining
- This is a term used to refer to very cooperative, conciliatory bargaining
that focuses primarily on reaching an agreement and not making the other side
upset. Fisher and Ury contrast it with adversarial, competitive bargaining
that assumes that the opponent is an enemy to be defeated, rather than a
partner to be worked with cooperatively. They contrast both these approaches
with a third approach, principled negotiation, which is neither hard nor soft,
but rather integrative in its approach.
- Stable peace is the situation in which two countries do not even consider
war to be an acceptable or possible option for dispute resolution between
them. It is contrasted with unstable peace (in which countries are at peace
but think that war is possible at a future time).
- Stakeholders are people who will be affected by a conflict or the resolution
of that conflict. It includes current disputants, and also people who are not
currently involved in the conflict but might become involved because they are
likely to be affected by the conflict or its outcome sometime in the future.
A stalemate is a standoff; a
situation in which neither side can prevail in a conflict, no matter how hard
they try. Often parties must reach a stalemate before they are willing to
negotiate an end to their conflict.
- See stereotyping
Stereotyping is the process of assuming a person
or group has one or more characteristics because most members of that group
have (or are thought to have) the same characteristics. It is a simplification
and generalization process that helps people categorize and understand their
world, but at the same time it often leads to errors. Examples of stereotypes
that are often wrong are that women are weak and submissive, while men are
powerful and domineering. This may be true for some women and some men, but it
is not true for all. When stereotypes are inaccurate and negative (as they
often are between groups in conflict) they lead to misunderstandings which
make resolving the conflict more difficult.
This is intentional escalation, when one (or
multiple) parties escalate a conflict on purpose to try to mobilize support
for their own side.
This refers to all forms of electronic
communications--telephone, television, and computers, for example.
A "third party" is someone who is not
involved in the conflict who gets involved to try to help the disputants work
out a solution (or at least improve the situation by communicating better or
increasing mutual understanding.) Examples of third parties are mediators,
arbitrators, conciliators, and facilitators.
The term "third party" usually refers to a
person who gets involved in a dispute in an effort to help the disputing
parties resolve the problem. This third party can be a neutral outsider, or he
or she may be a person already involved in the conflict (an insider) who takes
on the role of a mediator to help work out a mutually-acceptable resolution.
- A threat is any statement that takes the form "you do something I
want, or I will do something you do not want." According to Kenneth
Boulding's theory of power, threat is one of three forms of power, the other
two being exchange and what he calls "love," (which we refer to as
the "integrative system").
- Track two diplomacy involves unofficial dialogue,
discussions, or even negotiations between ordinary citizens about topics
that are usually reserved for diplomats--for instance about arms
control agreements, or negotiations to end to long-standing international
conflict. It is differentiated from Track One diplomacy which involves
formal discussions between official diplomats.
- Triggering Events
A triggering event is an event that initiates a conflict. It can be
minor--a simple statement that is misinterpreted, or a careless mistake. Or
it can be major--for instance, the assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand was
supposedly the "triggering event" that started World War I.
Value differences are differences in people's fundamental beliefs
about what is good and bad, right and wrong. When people=s
values differ significantly, the resulting conflict is often very hard to
resolve, as people are not willing to change or compromise their fundamental
values and beliefs.
- Values are the ideas we have about what is good and what is bad, and how
things should be. We have values about family relationships (regarding, for
instance, the role of the husband with respect to the wife), about work
relationships (regarding, for instance, how employers should treat
employees) and about other personal and relationships issues (regarding, for
example, how children should behave towards adults, or how people should
follow particular religious beliefs).
- Win-Lose (Adversarial) Approach
- This is the approach to conflict taken by people who view the opponent as
an adversary to be defeated. It assumes that in order to win, the opponent
must lose. This is opposite to the win-win approach to conflict that assumes
that if the disputants cooperate, a solution which provides a victory for
all sides can be found.
- Win-Win (Cooperative or Problem Solving) Approach
This is the approach to conflict taken by people who want to find a
solution that satisfies all the disputants. In "win-win"
bargaining, the disputing parties try to cooperate to solve a joint problem
in a way that allows both parties to "win." This is contrasted
with the "win-lose" (adversarial) approach to conflicts that
assumes that all opponents are enemies and that in order to win a dispute,
the opponent must lose.
- Win-Win Situations
Game theory makes a distinction between positive-sum situations
(often called "games") which everyone can win (also referred to as
"win-win"), negative sum games (also referred to as
"lose-lose"), and zero-sum games in which one side wins only if
another side loses.
- World view
- A world view is a person's fundamental image of the
world--one=s set of core
beliefs about how their social environment is put together. It involves one's
fundamental values about what is good and bad; it involves beliefs about who
does what and why; it involves assumptions about what causes events and what
those events might later cause. World views are closely linked with a person=s
sense of identity. People see themselves as part of some groups and not part
of others, of having a particular role to play in society, and particular
relationships with others. One's image of who
one is results from one's fundamental image of the world and one's image of
how one relates to other people in it.
- Zero-Sum Games or Situations
Zero-sum games or situations are situations in
which the only way one side can get ahead (or get more of something) is if
the other side gets less. This occurs when there is a finite amount of a
resource to be distributed, and the together the parties want more than is
available. In this situation, no side can get what they want unless the
other side gets less than they want. This is also referred to as win-lose
- Voice of Women's Glossary at http://www.peace.ca/vowglossary.htm
- Glossary of terms for International
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