Conflict transformation – a long-term, gradual and complex process?
TransConflict is pleased to present contributions to the fourth Peacebuilders’ Panel, which is designed to stimulate debate about peacebuilding and conflict transformation.
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The fourth debate focuses on the principle that:
“4. Conflict transformation is a long-term, gradual and complex process, requiring sustained engagement and interaction.”
Professor Brian Walker, MBE, Winchester Centre of Religions for Reconciliation and Peace, University of Winchester
Freetown, January 2002: The Krio billboards cry out “De War Dun Dun!”; people sing and dance under the Cotton Tree; Freetown is free once more; free from a decade of Rebel War. Soon, people are enjoying democratic elections, and aid pours in as these delightful people of the world’s least developed country begin to rebuild their lives. Conflict is transformed – or is it?
The Muslim led government appoints a Christian, Bishop Humper, to chair their Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which explores in depth the root causes; what went wrong; what needs to change, and how. The Commission makes wide-ranging recommendations, laying foundations of reconciliation for all.
National reconciliation dawns with a cessation of armed conflict, a return to peace. To prevent renewed conflict, improvements in socioeconomic conditions commence; good governance is launched; strong, functional oversight institutions are instigated; and a reparations programme is initiated.
Community reconciliation starts with fostering understanding and sharing experiences; creating conditions for community acceptance of particular wrongs.
Individual reconciliation opens with victims and perpetrators meeting; not necessarily for forgiveness or remorse, but to rehumanise and recognise.
A decade on, Sierra Leone has climbed seven places up the UN Human Development Index, and peace remains throughout this month’s democratic General Election. However, life expectancy at birth remains less than 48 years; mean years at school are just 2.9; and average income per person is only US$2 per day.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission found the root cause of war was endemic greed, corruption and nepotism, with suppression of political expression and dissent a factor. Moreover, 45% of Sierra Leone’s population were 18 to 35 year old youths, who constituted the only viable opposition to government, and were the major perpetrators and victims of violence. Much of their conflict remains as a potential source of future violence.
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Kirthi Jayakumar – a lawyer, specialized in public international law and human rights
Rebuilding Afghanistan has now taken the international community by storm, as state after state devotes its international focus towards revamping the devastated state. With the US scheduling the transfer of control of security to Afghan forces by 2014, the process of reconstructing the now ravaged Afghanistan requires further attention.
Afghanistan is as fractured in its social setting as its geography. It is a mesh of geographical conundrums, with impassable mountains making it impossible for inhabitants of one village to travel to the next. Its social structure comprises a diverse populace that speaks as many as 30 different languages, and comprises a society of different ethnic affiliations and religious segmentations, including Sunnis, Shias, along with a tiny but tangible fragment of Hindus and Sikhs, with just one known Jewish remainder. And then there are warring tribes, with daggers drawn towards one another.
At this juncture in Afghanistan, there is one vital point to be noted. The transformation from decades of war to peace cannot be made overnight. A country that has been torn apart by three decades of relentless war needs time to turn around. Withdrawing the military and pumping in money is only one part of the solution. What is necessary is constant civilian engagement, informed decision-making, and a coming to the negotiating table of every existing faction with influence over decision-making. Reconstructing Afghanistan requires not just a long-term commitment, but an investment of time, money and effort, driven by an inexhaustible supply of patience.
Ask the Afghans themselves. A foreign hand with help is any day preferred to a foreign hand with guns.
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What are the principles of conflict transformation?
Conflict transformation (into what? Peace) is an interesting term which essentially does not bear any transparent and substantial meaning! We either have a conflict (no matter how we transform it or modify it – it remains a conflict) or a conflict resolved (by war or by peace negotiation, though the former is more efficient).
We may just take a look at Palestinian – Israeli conflict. It is being transformed for 8 decades…and still is a conflict…
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