Culture, Power Asymmetries and Gender in Conflict Transformation

To try and address these three issues in one chapter is quite a challenge. It also makes sense, since they are intimately related. I shall argue that the overarching culture of domination, which has prevailed for thousands of years, provides the framework and cultural sanction for oppression and exploitation, and is characterized by oppressive male/female relationships. I shall relate the need to challenge this culture – and its manifestation in asymmetrical gender constructions and relationships – to the need to address another global power asymmetry created by the last five hundred years of colonization, the asymmetry between ‚the West and the rest‘. This history and the resulting structural relationships have made respectful and honest dialogue about culture-related issues extremely difficult. It also explains the suspicion with which conflict transformation is regarded outside the West. Unless it gives due emphasis to questions of power, to the need for justice in global relationships and to the right to equality of women and other marginalized groups, it will not be taken seriously by most of the world‘s people, or enriched by their experiences and insights. It will also fail to address the question of domination, and arguably help to perpetuate it, acting as a tool for pacification, rather than for the achievement of genuinely peaceful (i.e., just) relationships.

In the first part, I shall discuss the relationship between culture, attitudes to power and power asymmetry, constructions of gender and gender relations and the impact of all three (and of their mutual influence) on conflict and its conduct. In the second part, I shall examine the implications of this for conflict transformation, some of the tensions between the values and ideals it embodies and the realities of the situations it seeks to transform. In the third part of the chapter, I shall consider how the needs of equality, cultural sensitivity and constructive approaches to power can be incorporated into organizations that seek to contribute to conflict transformation, and suggest some elements of good practice in conflict intervention itself. I shall conclude by reflecting on the immensity of the challenges that face us, suggesting that we need to add to rigour and analysis a more fluid and tentative approach.

Peace Work by Civil Actors in Post Communist Societies

The following paper addresses the whole gamut of peace tasks and roles confronting civil actors in the post-communist societies of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. We work on the assumption that the current ethnopolitical movements and conflicts are an expression of a massive change in the pace of development and of a drastic redistribution of opportunities and chances to participate. For this process of ‘civilization’ to take place, many different actors and forces-political and social, party and non-party, domestic and external – must be involved. Given the meagre resources usually available, ‘the more the better’ is not good counsel here. A preferable course is to identify strategic priorities and alliances for peace work in societies undergoing transformation.