It is TransConflict’s assertion that the successful transformation of conflict requires a multi-dimensional approach that engages with and aims at transforming the very interests, relationships, discourses and structures that underpin and fuel outbreaks of low- and high-intensity violence.
Conflict transformation is a long-term, gradual process, demanding sustained engagement and interaction. Accordingly, TransConflict seeks to contend with the particularities of conflict within specific geographical areas and target groups.
TransConflict focuses on five specific types of transformation (cf. Lederach, Vayrynen – Selected Quotes):
- Actor – modifying actors’ goals and their approach to pursuing these goals.
- Context – influencing the context in which conflict occurs so as to challenge the meaning and perceptions of conflict itself, particularly the respective attitudes and understandings of specific actors towards one another.
- Issue – redefining the issues that are central to the prevailing conflict, and reformulating the position of key actors on those very issues.
- Rule – changes in the norms and rules governing decision-making at all levels determine the extent to which conflicts are constructively resolved.
- Structural – conflict is underpinned by, and embedded in, the prevailing structure of relationships, power distributions and socio-economic conditions, changes to which impact the very fabric of interaction between previously incompatible actors, issues and goals.
TransConflict regards conflict not as an isolated event, but as an integral part of the transformation of the whole range of societal relationships. TransConflict therefore endeavours to respond to the changing social, regional and international context and their implications for the dynamics of conflict.
“Conflict transformation must actively envision, include, respect, and promote the human and cultural resources from within a given setting. This involves a new set of lenses through which we do not primarily ‘see’ the setting and the people in it as the ‘problem’ and the outsider as the ‘answer’. Rather, we understand the long-term goal of transformation as validating and building on people and resources within the setting.” –
– Lederach, J.P., 1995, ‘Preparing for Peace: Conflict Transformation Across Cultures’.
“The bulk of conflict theory regards the issues, actors and interests as given and on that basis makes efforts to find a solution to mitigate or eliminate contradictions between them. Yet the issues, actors and interests change over time as a consequence of the social, economic and political dynamics of societies”.
– Vayrynen, R. (ed.), 1991, ‘To Settle or to Transform? Perspectives on the Resolution of National and International Conflicts’, New Directions in Conflict Theory: Conflict Resolution and Conflict Transformation.
Conflict transformation recognises “that contemporary conflicts require more than the reframing of positions and the identification of win-win outcomes. The very structure of parties and relationships may be embedded in a pattern of conflictual relationships that extend beyond the particular site of conflict. Conflict transformation is therefore a process of engaging with and transforming the relationships, interests, discourses and, if necessary, the very constitution of society that supports the continuation of violent conflict”.
– Hugh Miall