In his taxonomy of conflict types, Bernard Mayer lists six “faces”, or appearances of conflict to include low impact conflicts, latent conflicts, transient conflicts, representational conflicts. Others include stubborn and enduring conflicts. John Paul et al of The Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace studies presented four dimensions of conflict to include: Personal, Relational Structural and Cultural.
In whatever form we want to categorize conflict, our understanding of conflict as peace messengers is that of a relationship between two or more interdependent parties in which at least one of the parties perceives the relationship as negative or detects and pursues opposing interest and needs.
A narrower definition of the term “conflict” would refer to a situation where there is a potential for violence to occur between groups or where violence has already occurred. These are the conflicts with which development cooperation is increasingly preoccupied.
People have different perspectives on life and its problems. We each have our unique history and character; our values which guide our thinking and our behavior and motivate us to take certain actions and to reject others. Perceptions shape people, particularly young people’s beliefs, attitudes and their behaviors in a conflict.
Even though I was way too young to understand the Liberian conflict and the ensuing crisis, my parents instilled in me the need and ability to assimilate the devastating effects of conflict that consumed the resources of this country over a long period of time.
Conflict is a crisis that forces us to recognize explicitly that we live with multiple realities and must negotiate a common reality. Issues in a conflict are interdependent with each other. Some issues create multiple other issues in a conflict
David W. Augusburger argues that though conflict is inevitable in human life, it can be quite constructive. Conflicts, others argue is an essential ingredient of social change. What is important to the peace messengers is that conflicts should be solved in a peaceful and constructive manner.
Differences in perspective may impede an agreement. However, “we can reach the point of enjoying differences once we learn how to understand the culture, psychological and social background from which these emerge”
A conflict that does not move positively moves negatively. One effect of sustained conflict is to narrow our vision of what is possible. According to Nelson Mandela, “Time and again, conflicts are resolved through shifts that were unimaginable at the start”. Not talking and not listening is a symptom of being stuck.
Understanding “what makes someone tick” or what drives them to take up arms and engage in violence is, in part a psychological question.
In our understanding of conflict, special vulnerability in post conflict situations such as Liberia still exists. These are increased poverty that places women and children in precarious situations, loss of social services, limited investment in human security, unequal power relationships that can be exploited, loss of access to rights; fear of reporting and retaliation and higher risk of incidences of abuse and communicable diseases to mention a few.
Next week, we will be dealing with managing conflicts and how peacebuilding to some extent requires “perception management and changing perception requires first understanding the formation of current perceptions and triggers to conflicts, until then, Peace, above all, Peace first-Let Peace Prevail.