Conflict Transformation: A Mutli-Dimensional Task

This paper aims to identify what is distinctive about conflict transformation theory and practice, as well as to identify its key dimensions. We need such a theory of conflict transformation if we are to have an adequate basis for the analysis of conflicts, as well as for devising appropriate responses to them and evaluating the effects of these responses. The paper argues that such theories need to be continually adjusted in response to the changing nature of conflicts, and that current theories must be adapted in order to take proper account of the globalisation of conflicts and conflict interventions. The first section of the article distinguishes conflict transformation theory from theories of conflict management and conflict resolution. It explores some of the principal conflict transformation approaches in more detail, and then asks whether they add up to a coherent body of theory. Following this, it suggests a shift from theories of conflict to theories of conflict-in-context, arguing that in the context of globalisation our analyses of conflict must give proper consideration to the social, regional and international context. We need to consider both the factors that promote peacebuilding and those that exacerbate conflict at these different levels over an extended time period from before the outbreak of violent conflict to well after its resolution. Within this broader setting, this section thus attempts to extend Galtung‘s and Azar‘s theories of conflict formation to theories of conflict transformation. It also proposes a framework of five types of conflict transformation, which should be useful as a basis for planning and assessing interventions in conflicts. The second section of the article discusses current developments in conflict transformation practice as they have occurred in the four principal kinds of practice – that of governmental and intergovernmental representatives, of development agencies, of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and of local parties and groups within the conflict setting. The issues involved in coordinating initiatives between these different groups are also discussed. The final section of the paper discusses conflict transformation as a potential seed for change, requiring change both in the peacebuilder as well as in the society in conflict.