Conflict Management and Resolution: An Introduction by Ho-Won Jeong

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This book is basically trying to explain how to deal with a conflict which has an international dimension. In general, the book is consist of a framework based on theoretical approaches. However, it also refers some specific cases of international conflicts which effected the international system so far. The book is constitutively consist of three main parts. These three main parts have been divided into several subheadings.

In the first main chapter of the book, which named as “The Anatomy of Conflict Resolution and Management”, the writer primarily starts with the objectives of the book. Afterwards, various dimensions of conflict is being approached in this chapter. In addition to this, the differences between conflict settlement and resolution are examined in this chapter as well. There are structural approaches to conflict resolution and methods for dealing with a conflict which are another subjects examining in the first chapter. In this chapter, the phases of a conflict and the approaches to conflict prevention are explained. Also, some topics as conflict management strategies and theories on decision making are clarified. Last of all, conflict transformation is examined with many aspects in a very detailed way in the first main chapter of the book.

In the second main chapter of the book, which named as “Dimensions of Conflict Management”, there are three subheadings named as “Identity”, “Power” and “Structure”. Under the title of Identity, there are several topics like identity and conflict mobilization, properties and attributes of identity, group processes of identity formation, social categorization, cognitive representation of identity, bridging in-group and out-group differences, de-categorization and re-categorization, renegotiation of identities, management of identity differences: institutional arrangements. On the other hand, there are several topics as the context of a power relationship, power relations in conflict process and outcome, contingencies in the exercise of power, sources of power, quest for power and anarchy, power symmetry, ethnic rivalry, power transition, rank discrepancy, the impact of asymmetry on behavior and rebalancing power asymmetry, discussed under the title of “Power” in this chapter of the book. Plus, “Structure” as the last subheading of this chapter have the topics of structural conditions for conflict resolution, functionalist perspectives, political instability and conflict, violence structure in a failed state, extra- system environment, system and sub- systems, boundaries between states and ethnic identity, network analysis, field theory and conflict.

In the third and last main chapter of the book, which named as “Settlement and Resolution Procedures”, the writer mainly focuses on the methods of conflict resolution. Basically, these methods are being dealt under four subheadings in this chapter. One of the subheadings examines the context of “Negotiation” in a very detailed way together with many aspects within the chapter. The necessity of negotiation, the process of negotiation, effective negotiation and bargaining methods are some of the subjects which had been dealt in this part of the book. Then, another subheading examines the context of “Mediation” with six of smaller subheadings which explains different aspects and dimensions of mediation like attributes of mediation, roles and functions of intermediaries, diverse modes of mediation, phases and steps in mediation, types of mediators, and assessing mediations. The third subheading of the last chapter examines the context of “Facilitation” which is another method of conflict resolution. Under this title, there are subheadings named as features of facilitation and dialogue, facilitation and empowerment, diverse application of facilitation, multi-party decision making, dialogue forums and process, public peace process: the role of dialogue, and deeper communication: a problem-solving workshop. As the last method in this chapter, the context of “Reconciliation” examines the subjects like properties of reconciliation, steps toward overcoming past enmity, restorative practice, path to healing, empathy with the suffering of the other, and empowerment through cultural work.

Conflict Management and Resolution: An Introduction

The Anatomy of Conflict Resolution and Management Despite its application to a variety of situations, the definition of conflict has traditionally been relegated to competition for resources or other interests, value differences or dissatisfaction with basic needs. Incompatible economic and political interests develop an attempt to suppress other groups often with threats and actual use of force. Power struggle is inevitably involved when each group attempts to impose its own language, religious or social values on other groups which have their own unique traditions and histories. As communal conflict in Sri Lanka and Kashmir for the last several decades vividly demonstrates, minority groups have a strong desire for autonomy and self- control of their destiny. In establishing or maintaining a superior status, dominant groups may discriminate against minority ethnic culture or language. Then the newly created hierarchy is used to further control subordinate religious, racial, or linguistic groups.

Regardless of wide differences in the types of relationships, “incompatibility of goals” features general characteristics of conflict. The pursuit of different objectives leads to interference in each other’s activities to prevent an opponent from attaining what one group desires. These conditions of conflict can result in either a sustained conflict or compromise solutions unless a superior party overwhelms and subdues the other side rather quickly. A minority group may seek outright independence, but the state controlled by a majority ethnic group may oppose the aspiration and even suppress rights to ethnic language and religion.

In an unregulated competition, claims to scarce status, power, and resources may result in an attempt to injure or eliminate rivals. Incompatible preferences are a more acute source of tension and struggle especially when each party seeks distributive outcomes which satisfy one group’s interests at the expense of others. A competitive struggle often arises from a situation where each party’s aspirations cannot be fulfilled simultaneously. In the absence of a past history of cooperation, aggressive actions are more likely to be ignited in polarized communities where leaders develop antagonistic attitudes toward each other. A long period of conflict entrapment increases the likelihood of greater rigidity and polarization with the reinforcement of mistrust, enemy perceptions and feelings of victimization.

The stereotypes of an enemy and misunderstanding of their motives justify the denial of the legitimacy of opposing claims. The institutionalization of negative interactions is inherent in conflicts fueled by many years of accumulated hostilities. This is vividly represented by recurrent provocations and confrontations between the Sudanese government and southern provinces which seek independence. When an intense struggle permeates the social fabric with its effect on individuals and institutions, a vicious cycle of destructive struggles touches multi- faceted layers of adversarial relationships.

Dimensions of Conflict Management

The context of an ethnic conflict is provided by social and cultural rules and values embedded in the myths, memories, traditions, and symbols of heritages which exclusively define group characteristics. Language and other markers are invoked to establish group boundaries and determine status and social identity through inter- ethnic comparison. The basic function of shared communication is critical to the development of group consciousness. The transmission of ideas and symbols is involved in molding attitudes and behaviors separating people into antagonistic groupings.

Differentiated identities are not a lone source of violence, but can lead to a deadly conflict in combination with exclusionary acts of leaders and competition for status, position, or material wealth. In general, identities are regarded as the collective phenomena of expressing group sameness. The deep and foundational forms of collective selfhood can be manifested in the great variety of distinctive cultural creativity, ranging from art to drama to literature to philosophy. Culture is an inevitable element of group distinctiveness, as social existence is tied to a particular language or a religious community associated with given social practices. The distinct memories of different collectivities are represented by histories and genealogies defined by blood and custom. The themes of homeland, founding origins, and common descent in ethnic stories foster heroism and sacrifice.

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In a general context, power can be defined as “a capacity to realize goals by making particular things happen”. In conflict situations, power provides an actor with the capabilities to control the others’ preferences and opportunities in one’s own quest to achieve desired conditions. One party has a greater control over an outcome than the other party by enforcing change in the other party’s behavior. In producing the intended effects of power, one’s action gets the other to behave in the way one wants. In relational terms, power functions as a concept of measuring the psychological and behavioral effects of one’s action in another. Power can be exercised by using threat or actual coercion as well as control of reward and punishment.

Various dimensions of power, psychological, physical, and organizational, are linked to an attempt to control conflict processes and their effects in human behavior. Rough power parity is likely to engender more severe competition, hampering settlement, in that more or less equal power relations lead to continued deadlock or protracted struggle without external shocks or pressure. The fear of imbalanced military capabilities often leads to a competitive arms race, creating a prisoner’s dilemma in which aspiring for a superior destructive capability hurts each other’s welfare without guaranteeing more security. The efforts to change the status quo may involve an even further escalation of conflict. While there has been sufficient emphasis on research and practice on cultural and psychological issues, adequate attention has not been paid to questions of social justice and economic inequality as sources of conflict and problems to be resolved. In most analysis, structure has been considered as given rather than conditions to be rectified. The role of conflict management has been oriented toward how to maintain or restore order.

In the Hobbes’ tradition, human beings are assumed to be inherently aggressive, and thus behavioral control becomes a main concern of conflict management mechanisms. However, diverse structural concerns need to be understood in the examination of overall conditions of group behavior and social processes relevant to managing tensions and animosities. In fact, violent protests in Kenya, frequent social unrest in Nigeria, and Hindu–Muslim violence in India are in one way or another connected to ethnic rivalry and resistance against the hegemony established by state institutions. Social structures create mechanisms that help control or channel conflicts through normative regulation, but the degree of their institutionalization differs. In kinship and tribal societies, informal traditional social practice is used to handle group conflicts without dependence on modern legal systems. A sense of justice emerges from the intrinsic values of society. Often religious functions are combined with communal cultural practice which has a wider acceptance in societies. There exists a wide range of conflict management procedures and styles, reflecting socio-cultural variations.

Settlement and Resolution Procedures

Negotiation can be defined as a process to resolve differences in goals that arise from dissimilar interests and perspectives. In probing to unearth underlying concerns, negotiators share their views in order to establish the areas of common ground and agreement. Fair, efficient outcomes can emerge from the exchange of concessions in a search for creative solutions. Cooperation and conflict are built right into negotiating relationships. The Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) and Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties (START) between the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War represent an attempt to control the joint vulnerability of the spiraling arms race (creating high expenditures on weapons and heightened tensions) by negotiating limits to the build up of weapons or reductions in their stockpile. Negotiation is feasible because parties have not only divergent but also shared interests. In a bargaining relationship, one party has something desired by the other. Identifying competing interests is involved in discussion about the issues.

The purpose for negotiating is to achieve something by changing the status quo. “If both parties are satisfied with the way things are, there is nothing for them to negotiate about”. In bargaining, each party has an ability to satisfy at least part of the desires of their negotiating partner by controlling a new opportunity or creating a new relationship. If there is no immediate gain, parties should believe in potential future gains. In coming to an agreement, parties want to improve their own situation while avoiding the worst outcome. A bargaining structure depends on whether each side has viable choices. The other party is “tempted to give as little as possible”.

The merit of alternatives strengthens one’s bargaining position; multiple alternatives expand one’s choice to pursue a desirable deal. Therefore the erosion of one’s negotiating positions comes from having very limited options. In asymmetric bargaining situations, one party has no alternative but “to take what is offered.” There is not much room to bargain when other choices are worse than keeping the present arrangement intact. In such situations as taking less or paying more than originally expected, no deal could often be better than a bad deal that creates the worst- case scenarios. The fallback position can be to leave things as they are if negotiated settlement does not leave you any better off than the current situation and you do not lose anything.

Negotiation from opening to closure is comprised of many steps and moves at each phase. Initial planning and fact-finding can be accompanied by the development of negotiating positions and exchange of information. Successful informal pre- negotiation discussion leads to direct bargaining designed to settle differences along with the exploration of each party’s needs. Although there are many forms of mediation, in general, it is widely known for “neutral” third-party assistance in reaching settlement. Theoretically, an intermediary intervention in the negotiation process is not supposed to be authoritative in the sense that mediators do not make rulings or impose an agreement. Since they are making decisions, partisans may feel it is fairer with mediation than with arbitration which they cannot control. Thus, mediation can be characterized as “a form of assisted negotiation” or at least is seen as “a catalyst for negotiation”. Being motivated for settlement is essential to any successful mediation not only because consent to a mediation process is voluntary but also because the disputants make final decisions on the issue.

A facilitative process can also be utilized for communal problem solving as well as creating an opportunity for informal contact between members of antagonistic communities that might lead to official negotiations. A series of meetings among people representing communities of various warring parties in Tajikistan were engaged in the analysis of the causes of the conflict and joint exploration of solutions. The dialogue showed the possibility of negotiated settlement, prompting official negotiations to end the civil war in 1996. In post- apartheid South Africa, several series of facilitative meetings were organized to improve the policing service, and communal groups were invited to generate practical solutions.

Once conflict is resolved, relationship changes are necessary to remove negative emotional residues that can ignite future hostilities. In overcoming violence and building peaceful relations, fractured social bonds need to be reconstructed, resetting people’s expectations of themselves and others. However, the remnant of deep divisions among communities based on fear and anger creates serious challenges to putting a broken social fabric back together. A post-conflict process in such places as Cambodia, Sierra Leone, and Bosnia-Herzegovina is fraught with emotional injury and pain brought about by the death of family members, the shock of exposure to atrocious acts, as well as the loss of property. Difficulties in the suppression of grief and fear often result in a strong desire for justice and revenge.


According to Jeong, there are various causes behind a conflict which has an international dimension. Poverty and discrimination are some factors that cause a conflict between the states or within a state. He basically claims that a conflict arises from the failure to manage antagonistic relationships. According to the book, in order to establish functional relationships, the solution should be found through negotiated agreements rather than resorting to violent tactics. At that point, it gains importance to understand the characteristics and dimensions of a conflict, in order to find the most applicable solution to the problem.

However, he asserts that a conflict mainly have three main dimensions which are identity, power and structure. Identity can be used as a means to create a conflict in the international system. But it can also be invoked to call for unity and solidarity. When it comes to power, it is certainly one of the most significant characteristics of a conflict. It is an essential ingredient in understanding conflict relationships and behavior along with identity. Power is characterized by an ability to hurt each other economically, physically, and psychologically when actions and counter-actions are mutually opposed in direct confrontation. In asymmetric relationships, power can be used to impose and justify discrimination against another group. Power has not only physical effects but also effects in an individual actor’s perceptions. On the other hand, structure is another dimension of a conflict which should be emphasized adequately in order to understand a conflict as a whole. In most analysis, structure has been considered as given rather than conditions to be rectified. Basically, Jeong claims that the structure of a conflict should be precisely examined and understood to create the most applicable solution.

As a conclusion, the writer clarifies that there are four different ways of resolution procedures which are basically entitled as negotiation, mediation, facilitation and reconciliation. Jeong says that negotiation, as a game of influence, entails varied aspects of human interactions, the dynamics of which are affected by emotions, culture, and social environment. He also adds that mistrust and fear are an inevitable part of negotiation relationships between adversaries. On the other hand, negotiation is also part of managing international relations through treaty making between two countries or on a multilateral basis. When it comes to mediation, Jeong says that although there are many forms of mediation, in general, it is widely known for “neutral” third-party assistance in reaching settlement. Theoretically, an intermediary intervention in the negotiation process is not supposed to be authoritative in the sense that mediators do not make rulings or impose an agreement. Since they are making decisions, partisans may feel it is fairer with mediation than with arbitration which they cannot control. Thus, mediation can be characterized as “a form of assisted negotiation” or at least is seen as “a catalyst for negotiation”. Another method of dealing with a conflict is facilitation. According to the book, reaching consensus or some kind of agreement by facilitative methods is often essential to finding acceptable options for different parties. A facilitative process can also be utilized for communal problem solving as well as creating an opportunity for informal contact between members of antagonistic communities that might lead to official negotiations.

Last of all, Jeong refers about reconciliation which entails steps toward psychic, attitudinal, and behavioral changes beyond the settlement of issues which have immediate consequences such as cessation of war. The emotional and psychological residues of conflict – trauma, fear, and hurt – poison future relations, since they continue to fuel revenge motives. Jeong basically claims that fractured social bonds need to be reconstructed, resetting people’s expectations of themselves and others, in overcoming violence and building peaceful relations.

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