Interactive Conflict Resolution: A View for Policy Makers on Making and Building Peace
with contributions by
Louise Diamond, Herbert C.Kelman, John Marks, Joseph V.Montville, and Vamik Volkan
Editors’ Note: Chapters 7 and 8 address a particular approach to conflict resolution, most often called interactive conflict resolution, from the distinct viewpoints of a practitioner (Chapter 7) and a scholar (Chapter 8). In Chapter 7, Harold Saunders and his collaborators provide an informative introduction that will be valuable to those unfamiliar with the approach and a set of conclusions based on his many years of experience with international conflict resolution. In Chapter 8, Nadim Rouhana examines international conflict resolution from an analytical standpoint, discussing what would be necessary for a systematic and scientific evaluation of its effectiveness. There is a difference in the perspectives of the two chapters: practitioners want handy judgments about the probable usefulness of international conflict resolution, while scholars are more patient about waiting for the evidence. From the perspective of this volume, case material and practitioners’ judgments, such as are presented in Chapter 7, are important inputs to the kind of social scientific analysis described in Chapter 8. Social scientific methods can be used profitably to evaluate the effects of interventions and to better inform practitioners about the conditions favorable for their success.
Policy making today must start from the recognition that relation ships between countries and groups are a political process of con tinuous interaction between whole bodies politic—not just what governments and leaders do to each other. Many of the deep-rooted human conflicts that seize our attention today demonstrate that signifii-
cant dimensions of these conflicts are beyond the reach of governments. The list of examples is long, well known, and compelling. Many deep-rooted human conflicts are partly beyond the reach of governments because they are not ready for diplomacy, formal mediation, or negotiation. People do not negotiate about their identities, historic grievances, dignity, hopes, or fears.
We will not have an adequate conceptual framework for making or evaluating policy or operations either by government or by citizens outside government until we recognize that peace is not made by governments alone. Important as government is, ultimately peaceful relationships are built by people.
There will continue to be some things that only officials can do—such as negotiate, ratify, fund, and enforce binding agreements—but there are some things that only citizens can do—such as change human relationships and reconnect the severed sinews necessary to bridge divides in a functional society. We all know that peace accords—milestones that they are—do not by themselves make peace; only whole human beings in whole bodies politic can build peaceful relationships.
Consider what happens in a community, country, or region torn by conflict. A functioning society includes a range of interactions that span the natural differences that characterize any developed society. When conflict breaks out, people break those ties as they retreat within the safety of their combatant group. A mediator comes and helps reach an agreement to end violence. Then, too often, the mediator leaves, giving little attention that the agreement may not be sustainable until the severed sinews of a healthy society are restored. Or if a government does recognize the need to help with “reconstruction,” that task is too often left for aid offices; those at the top of government who gave high-level political support for the mediator go on to other things, leaving those who are rebuilding torn societies to the mercies of those who initiated the conflict in the first place.1
It is time to recognize at the highest levels that citizens outside government now have a well-developed systematic approach to peace making—their counterpart to the mediation, negotiation, and diplomacy of governments. Policy for ending deep-rooted human conflict will not be realistic unless policy makers think in terms of a multilevel peace process that embraces both official and public peace-making efforts. A comprehensive peace process will work in the civil societies where citizens form the associations they need to build the practices and institutions of peace as well as in official negotiating rooms. It is time for citizens inside and outside government to work together to bring to peace making all that each has to offer. Policy at the highest levels must embrace all levels in the multilevel peace process—not just focus on
negotiation and leave reconnecting the torn ligaments of society to functional agencies.
For three decades now a modest but increasing number of citizens outside government have been developing processes of nonofficial dialogue, analysis, and more recently common citizen action that enable citizens to act systematically to change conflictual relationships. In this paper that process is called “interactive conflict resolution.” In the context of a comprehensive multilevel peace process, defining and naming this process give it at last a dignity, seriousness, and systematic character as the citizens’ peace process. It deserves attention comparable to the study and recognition given over more than three centuries to the traditional instruments of statecraft. This methodology provides citizens with the capacity to conduct the public as contrasted to the official tracks of the peace process.
Although the impact of these unofficial efforts is sometimes difficult to assess precisely, policy makers ignore the potential of this complementary resource at the risk of failing to engage with a significant force for peaceful change. If governments and citizens could learn to work in complementary ways, the resources available for building peaceful societies would be infinitely increased. The purpose of this paper is to give policy makers a first-hand look at how interactive conflict resolution works.
THE MULTILEVEL PEACE PROCESS
As we flew on Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s shuttle aircraft around the Arab-Israeli arena after the October 1973 war, we began calling what we were doing the “negotiating process.” It seemed a good name for what we were doing at the beginning. Kissinger openly stated that the strategy was to mediate one partial agreement after another with the expectation that a series of interim disengagement agreements could establish momentum and credibility. As people saw agreements carefully negotiated and implemented, they might support their governments in going further. That cumulative experience could gradually change the patterns of interaction, the perceptions, and the limits in relationships between Israel and its neighbors and eventually the relationships themselves.
After the first disengagement agreement between Egypt and Israel in January 1974, the prospect of a follow-on effort to achieve a comparable agreement between Israel and Syria created a political environment in which Saudi Arabia felt able to lift the oil embargo that had been imposed during the war. President Richard Nixon’s visit to the Middle East after the Israel-Syria disengagement agreement in May generated a further sense of the possibility of movement toward peace. In recognition of the
interaction between our mediation and the larger political environment, we began using the phrase “the peace process.”
That process continued through a second Egyptian-Israeli interim agreement in 1975, the Camp David accords in 1978, the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty in 1979, and the beginning of negotiations on the Israeli-Palestinian relationship. A high point in that process was Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat’s visit to Israel in November 1977. His purpose was not to advance the negotiations as such, but recognizing the deep distrust of the Israeli people for their Arab neighbors, he went to Israel to demonstrate that peace with a major Arab country was possible. His act changed the perceptions of the Israeli people and created a political environment in which they gave their government permission to try peace.
After I left government in 1981, I described that official peace process as “a series of mediated and negotiated agreements embedded in a larger political process.” It was in that larger process that relationships changed— albeit glacially. I also remember thinking and later writing that, “until political leaders acted to change the political environment, the mediators and negotiators did not have a chance.” As I have since learned, that political environment is populated by citizens who alone have the capacity to change human relationships.
During the 1970s we in the government paid only minimal attention to a slowly burgeoning series of workshops between Arabs and Israelis outside government—and between American and Soviet citizens on the subject of the Soviet-U.S. relationship as it affected and was influenced by the Arab-Israeli peace process. We focused on the official peace process. But as the official process led the way, this unofficial process—which I now call the “public peace process”—was building its foundations, methods, and experience. Launched by a small number of scholar-practitioners, those meetings were never ends in themselves. They always served as laboratories for refining a methodology for probing systematically and learning how to change those conflictual relationships. Alongside this growing number of systematic dialogues, countless interactions took place among Israelis and Palestinians in many walks of life.
In the 1980s the seminars, workshops, symposia, and dialogues proliferated. Although I have no proof, I would hypothesize that these countless interactions over two decades deserved a significant share of the credit when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasser Arafat shook hands on the White House lawn in 1993. I would further observe in another arena that many of the speeches and articles that cumulatively came to be called the “new political thinking” in Moscow during the Gorbachev period were produced by participants in the Dartmouth Conference—the longest con-
tinuous bilateral dialogue between American and Soviet citizens—and a handful of other such dialogues.2
In the Israeli-Palestinian context some would point to the credit earned by the nonofficial group that met in Oslo with Norwegian moderators and eventually negotiated an Israeli-Palestinian agreement on principles that were adopted by Israeli and Palestinian authorities. Nothing should be said to take any credit away from that small group or their Norwegian sponsors and mediators. But in a sense they were unique—a quasi-official process in which political authorities, in the end, endorsed and adopted their work.
One could point to a variety of roles played by citizens outside government in other peace processes—Franco-German rapprochement after World War II, Soviet-U.S., Sino-U.S., Guatemalan, Salvadoran, intra-Estonian, Armenian-Azerbaijani, Tajikistani, Indian-Pakistani-Kashmiri, Northern Irish, South African. My purpose here is not to detail these other examples. My purpose is to state forcefully that the concept of the peace process will not be complete until the potential contribution of citizens outside government is recognized and included. It will not be brought into play with full power unless it is seen at the highest levels as operating at both the official and the unofficial or public levels.
Having stated my thesis, I move now to describe how the unofficial or public peace process works. If official policy makers are to take into account the capacities of the public peace process to complement what governments do, officials need to understand that process in practical terms—what it is and is not, how it works, what it can and cannot do, and how in a complementary relationship with government it can contribute to progress in ways that governments often cannot.
INTERACTIVE CONFLICT RESOLUTION: WHAT IS IT?
Interactive conflict resolution is a well-defined and systematic approach used in small unofficial meetings of persons in tension or violent conflict to stimulate their talk together about the problems that divide the groups they identify with and the relationships that underlie those problems. Increasingly, practitioners see this approach at its best when it is a continuing process sustained over time, although one-time meetings can be fruitful in appropriate circumstances.
The approach is distinguished most clearly by its differences from formal mediation and negotiation. The talk is different. It is wider ranging. Participants speak only for themselves—not under instruction from government or other political authority. They are free to explore a broad range of ideas that they come to believe—as a result of listening to each
other—are important. Often these are ideas that underlie or reach beyond present relationships. As participants exchange ideas, the talk is increasingly characterized by its interactive quality—that is, they gradually learn to talk, think, and work together on problems and relationships of importance to all in the group rather than only exchanging formal positions on agreed agenda items.
This is not to say that negotiators never engage in such talk. One of the major advantages of the setting at Camp David was the opportunity for walks and talks on the trails as well as informal exchanges over meals. But while good negotiation is often characterized by its thoughtful problem-solving approach, at the end of the day representatives must be just that—delegates whose talk is limited by the positions and agendas of the authority that sent them to the table. They must go back to the task of writing an agreement that can stand up under the legal and political tests of ratification in their bodies politic. Officials have the authority and duty to negotiate binding agreements; citizens outside government have the opportunity and responsibility to change perspectives and conflictual relationships.
The approach is different. Rather than focusing primarily on agenda issues and the need to write an agreement, participants explore their overall relationship. They examine their own human needs in relation to the needs of the other group. While participants in unofficial dialogue reflect the experience, feelings, and views of their own communities, their purpose in dialogue is to absorb the other party’s perspective—not to force their own. Participants put themselves, to the extent possible, in the minds of the adversary to understand what he or she needs in order to change the relationship. Rather than defending their own interests alone, they may gain respect for the others’ experience, feelings, and needs. They may experience change in themselves that can seem to bring them closer to the adversary. In a negotiation each side must claim to have defended its group’s interests even where compromise has been necessary.
The product is different. Rather than aiming to produce a written agreement, the purpose is to generate insight, refocus perspective, redefine problems. Rather than seeking solutions, the hope is to shape new frameworks within which to tackle problems, change attitudes, alter relationships. When government policies hit a deadend, officials reach out for “ideas in the air” put there by groups with the freedom to think together outside established bounds.
Confusion about interactive conflict resolution arises because of the different functions it serves in different circumstances or because of the different styles of moderators. Different activities are placed under this umbrella—some properly and some perhaps not. Which deserve to be
called “interactive conflict resolution”? For instance, participants are sometimes close to government and address an agenda close to the governmental agenda. They often talk like the governmental experts they are close to or were before retirement, and they think of their goal mainly as influencing government. Sometimes such groups are referred to as working on “track two”3 alongside a first governmental track.
At the other end of the spectrum are groups that explicitly focus on changing the underlying dynamics of the relationships that cause conflict or on creating new networks of relationships. They give much more weight to understanding the psychology of the interaction than to finding technical solutions to technically defined problems. They seek changes in attitudes and relationships rather than policies. Some observers would reserve the term “interactive conflict resolution” for these latter groups.
My own inclination is not to be too precious in drawing lines. The main line is between official and unofficial. When we are dealing with whole human beings from whole bodies politic in conflict, there will normally be two items on the agenda simultaneously in unofficial dialogue. Of course, participants will talk about the concrete issues and actions that, at least on the surface, put them and their authorities at odds with each other. But their talk will quickly reveal the deep-rooted human causes of the conflict—blame for hurt, grievance over injustice, anger from humiliation.
My feeling is that the practice of interactive conflict resolution must reflect the approach defined in detail below. It is a well-defined systematic approach. But its practice is an art, not a science. The art—and like creative politics or diplomacy, it is an art—is revealed in the capacity to draw out human ability to talk about what is on their minds in a way that induces mutual comprehension and opens the door to talking, thinking, and working together differently to solve problems out of mutual need and interest. If a group can move that far, participants will learn within themselves what is involved in changing conflictual relationships. The guiding principles laid out below represent the parameters and the inspiration for this work.
One point of similarity between formal mediation and negotiation and interactive conflict resolution leads to understanding the value of their differences. Both work in a larger political context—often in the same political context. Both will reflect and be affected by developments in that larger context. But that larger context will also determine what instrument is most appropriate at a particular moment in a particular situation. For instance, experience in the Israeli-Palestinian context and in the early civil war period in Tajikistan demonstrates that interactive conflict resolution was the only instrument that those involved found they could use to pave the way for formal negotiation. At a certain point, negotiation was essential. During negotiation those practicing interactive
conflict resolution were often able to introduce perspectives to break impasses, and they alone had the energy to look beyond the negotiation to the changes in relationships that are critical in turning a peace agreement into genuine peace.
On a spectrum from official negotiation through the various forms that interactive conflict resolution takes, it may be accurate to say that the latter becomes increasingly useful when the subject is taboo on official agendas, when the real subject is the relationship or when formal contacts are politically impossible. It seems to happen that, as official capacity diminishes, interactive conflict resolution becomes more effective.
One other definitional issue needs to be dealt with—the role of a third party in the process. One of the leading academic definitions of interactive conflict resolution reads “small group, problem-solving discussions between unofficial representatives of identity groups or states engaged in destructive conflict that are facilitated by an impartial third party of social scientist-practitioners [emphasis added].”4 As often happens, the definition depends partly on the experience and needs of the definer. That is understandable.
A scholar striving out of conviction to build legitimacy in an academic setting for study and practice of interactive conflict resolution has to define in rigorous social science terms both the field and the questions for research. He or she will also need to evaluate by social science standards the effectiveness and ethical behavior where the lives and resources of others are at stake. In this case one can understand the felt need to define the work in terms of expert third-party control.
For two reasons I find pinning the definition of this work partially on a third-party role too limiting. First, three leading examples have never depended on a third party. The Dartmouth Conference—the longest continuous bilateral dialogue between American and Soviet/Russian citizens, which began in 1960—and the Sino-U.S. dialogue begun in 1986 by the American Studies Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the Kettering Foundation as well as a dialogue begun by the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations have always been cochaired by senior participants from each group. Second, in my view the future of this work as a broadly used instrument in a changing bodies politic lies in the proliferation of such groups, whether between groups in Bosnia or in black-white or interethnic dialogue in American cities. That proliferation cannot be limited by a requirement that trained social scientists conduct the sessions.
This paper urges policy makers to join forces on appropriate occasions with those engaged in interactive conflict resolution. That encouragement is based on my conviction that this work can be placed in the hands of responsible and wise citizens, properly prepared. When citizens start talk-
ing, communities must have the flexibility to organize as their needs require while still taking advantage of the insights that have emerged from ongoing work by scholar-practitioners in interactive conflict resolution. Governments—not just academic departments—can judge their work on its merits within an overall peace process. This would inevitably sacrifice some professional expertise, but my experience suggests that such compromise is necessary and acceptable if interactive conflict resolution is to move beyond a small group of scholar-practitioners into wider public usage.
Perhaps another colleague has offered a useful way of thinking about this definitional point when he suggested, in writing about mediation, that we think of mediation as a process of many functions rather than in terms of a person.5 When asked who performed the third-party role at the Dartmouth Conference, I responded that institutions on both sides were the conveners, sometimes other institutions were additional funders, and the comoderators of each group (highly educated and experienced but neither acting as a social scientist) were the stewards of the process in collaboration with participants—setting the agenda, enforcing ground rules, crystallizing insights from dialogue, reporting to governments as appropriate.
I repeat, however, that interactive conflict resolution is a well-defined systematic approach. Those who deserve to be called practitioners of this art must take seriously the body of literature and the experience that define this approach. To lay that out is the purpose of the next section.
INTERACTIVE CONFLICT RESOLUTION: PRINCIPLES AND PROCESS
No two unofficial processes are exactly alike. They differ in emphasis, approach, and specific goals. They use approaches ranging from academic seminar-style talk on over to a psychoanalytically driven process. But most of them have a number of important characteristics in common. First, all start with ground rules describing a mode of talk— genuine dialogue and analysis—that differs from the usual confrontational debates and arguments of the political arena or the adversarial proceedings of the courts, as well as from many of the exchanges around the negotiating table:
Participants will interact civilly, listen actively to each other with attention and respect, not interrupt, and allow each to present her/his views fully.
Speakers will observe time limits to allow genuine and balanced dialogue.
Participants will speak from their hearts as well as their minds. Because they need to speak about the feelings and relationships behind specific problems, feelings will be expressed and heard with mutual respect.
Participants will respond as directly and as fully as possible to points made and questions asked. Each will make a real effort to put her/ himself in others’ shoes and learn to speak with sensitivity for their views and feelings.
Participants will try to learn from these expressions of others’ views and feelings to increase the complexity of their thinking about the other side and the relationship.
Second, as suggested above, the focus and purpose are quite different from those in formal negotiation where adversaries work from precisely defined interests and positions toward a written agreement on specified material problems.
A purpose in interactive conflict resolution is to probe the relationships that underlie a conflict and work on changing them. As noted above, there will always be two items in the agenda—not just the concrete problems that negotiators deal with but also the underlying feelings and interactions that cause those problems and must be changed if they are to be resolved.
Unlike credentialed negotiators, dialogue participants do not formally represent organizations or groups. No one has the authority to negotiate.
When such groups relate to negotiations, they often focus on obstacles that underlie negotiations, or they think beyond negotiations to political processes that will be necessary to implement and sustain the decisions that emerge from agreements. Unofficial dialogues can pave the way for negotiations, address the problems that block progress, and work in the larger society where peace will actually be made. Sometimes they make a direct contribution.
The group itself becomes a microcosm of the conflict. Participants confront issues, experience change in their own relationships, and begin to understand how such change could be projected into the larger body politic.
Because relationships change slowly, it is best if participants and conveners can commit themselves to meet regularly over a period of months. Most workshops involving international groups last three to five days at intervals of several months. Communities in the United States are beginning to experiment with monthly meetings of at least four to five hours in each meeting. The duration of the series should be open ended.
Third, dialogue groups normally preserve the confidentiality of their exchanges until they reach a point where they are ready to take their ideas into the public arena. They usually agree that nobody in the dialogue will be quoted outside the meeting room and that no one will speak publicly about the substantive discussion in the dialogue unless all agree. While the meetings are not secret, the approach is a quiet one.
Fourth, each group is chaired by a moderator, comoderators, or a panel of moderators—often by third-party moderators but sometimes by individuals from each side who accept responsibility to work together to protect the character of the dialogue and to advance the agenda and the relationship. The unique character of each group will suggest particular qualities in the moderator(s), but the qualities that seem essential underscore the focus of the process on the human dimension of the conflict:
sensitivity to the human dimension of problems—what participants as human beings really need, why people hurt and feel victimized, why people may be understandably angry and intransigent—and the ability to relate to participants on that level rather than treating them as trainees to be instructed;
commitment to the overall purpose of reconciliation between groups that have real grievances against each other;
sensitivity to the cultural uniqueness of the groups involved;
the ability to convey genuine caring and commitment at a person-to-person level and ability to gain respect from participants as a caring person and as a professional;
realistic expectations for the pace at which people can change;
some depth of experience with related problems and the ability to conceptualize that experience so as to draw on it in a particular group;
the ability to help people see common elements in their experiences and views;
a sense of political process—the ability to see the whole picture, keep a destination in sight, and not take sides; and
the ability to help participants organize their thoughts.
A word of perspective on this process. The person(s) chosen as moderator(s) may have played roles in other settings, but the following must be noted:
This is not like moderating a community policy discussion. This process is sustained over a longer period of time. Participants focus not just on problems but—even more importantly—also on the relationship issues that cause them. In focusing on changing relationships, the mod-
erator will need to welcome expressions of emotion within reason and try to help the group learn from them. The moderator will share the experience of the dialogue, not be neutrally detached.
This is not mediation. While many of a mediator’s abilities may be helpful in this process, a mediator is usually asked to help participants reach a substantive agreement about one defined problem or complex of problems. Interactive conflict resolution involves the full range of problems that affect the relationships involved. Its purpose is to change relationships so that participants can deal with whatever problems arise.
This is not negotiation. People in deep-rooted human conflict believe they have little to negotiate—at least initially. Their purpose is different, although their analysis and experience together may help pave the way for negotiation.
The moderator does not act as a teacher or trainer. This is neither an academic conference or a skills-building exercise, although participants may learn a lot from how a moderator conducts her/himself, poses questions, draws on broader experiences or analytical concepts, expresses concern, and demonstrates respect and sincerity. At most the moderator should share experiences as an equal.
Whatever the exact approach, these experiences in dialogue and analysis tend to evolve through a progression of stages. This statement is a conceptualization of many experiences—not just my own and not as a theoretical proposition. Some other practitioners concur that it reflects their experience in broad terms. All would emphasize that the stages are not rigid but that they are a useful way of analyzing the progress of a group, the work it is capable of doing, and what its next tasks are.
First, there is a period when potential participants decide whether to reach out to the adversary. It is a period of overcoming genuine fear and disgust of meeting and talking with the enemy. For a third party this involves decisions on shaping a group and recruiting worthy participants.
Second, when a group sits down together, participants inevitably spend a lot of time presenting their case or “downloading” their picture of the relationship, their grievances with the other party, and their fears and positions. They are “mapping” the relevant relationships by pouring out the issues of concern to them and their sense of who is responsible for problems and for wrongs committed. Often, the two parties are unable to look each other in the eye but speak mainly to the third party. Anger is often expressed. As talk proceeds, it is essential that the group gradually move into an analytical mode together to establish a base for working on problems together.
Third, at the end of the period of “mapping” in which a list of
issues may be generated, the participants will decide implicitly or explicitly that one or two problems deserve their in-depth priority attention. They begin to dig more deeply into one problem, using it as the vehicle for probing the underlying dynamics of their relationship. Each side will try to understand the other’s needs. After they have worked for some time in this mode, they will begin to think analytically about where their relationship is going in this area if nothing is done to change it. As they think about those prospects, they often come to a sense that they must consider how the situation might be changed.
Fourth is a stage when the participants talk about the obstacles to moving in the direction they have chosen, steps that could be taken to overcome those obstacles, who might take those steps, and how those steps might be arranged in a practical process of political interaction that would have the possibility of changing the political environment and their relationships.
Fifth, participants must ask what they might do outside the dialogue room. They do not often decide to work together as a group. They often decide to take what they have learned individually into their own walks of life. Sometimes they have ideas they would like to pursue to the point of action.
I do not argue that every dialogue follows exactly this pattern or that this is the only way of identifying the stages in the progression. My point, which I believe is broadly accepted, is that our understanding of interactive conflict resolution becomes more systematic if we can analyze its progression. Understanding the function of each stage also facilitates seeing its contribution to the open-ended political process that it attempts to influence. Conceptualizing it as a political process itself enables us to apply the process in very different situations.
Finally, one must recognize that any process of interactive conflict resolution takes place in an evolving social and political context. It reflects and can affect the unfolding dynamics of a conflict. One of the points quickly learned by those who think in terms of stages of a process is the importance of the time between meetings. An ongoing group will process together developments between meetings and will often state in some form their thoughts on the direction of those developments and on changing that direction. Just as participants interact with each other, the process interacts with the world around it.
EVALUATING INTERACTIVE CONFLICT RESOLUTION
A degree of skepticism about the significance of interactive conflict resolution continues to characterize the response of some policy makers
to this work. In its most benign form: “It really doesn’t do any harm and may even do some good, but the bottom line is that it doesn’t make much difference.” Thoughtfully: “People outside government don’t have the authority to negotiate or the knowledge of the issues under negotiation; they can mislead parties in a negotiation.” More directly: “Give me some proof of what they can accomplish.” More caustically: “Do-gooders without knowledge of policy issues and stakes can do serious damage by meddling in work that belongs to professionals.”
There is some wisdom in those concerns, but there is also wisdom in asking what the real obstacles to peace are. Are they only issues in formal negotiation or also relationships that block political approval or full implementation of negotiated agreements? Skeptics can find reason for their views, and practitioners of interactive conflict resolution can judge with justification that professional negotiators have not always demonstrated the capacity to make peace by their own efforts alone. This gives all of us serious interest in the question: How does one evaluate this work?
My starting point, as I have said, is that neither governments nor practitioners in interactive conflict resolution will have an adequate base for evaluation until they enlarge their framework for peace making and peace building. Governments need to fully embrace citizens who change conflictual relationships and build the practices and institutions of peaceful society. Citizens outside government need to add to their theories of conflict prevention and resolution thinking now evolving about the politics of building peaceful societies.
As with the definition of interactive conflict resolution, how one evaluates work such as this depends very much on the needs of the evaluator. Academicians and some funders, including government offices, have come to rely heavily on evaluation techniques designed by social scientists. Unfortunately, many of those evaluations do not tell policy makers what they need to know, and they often speak in a language not meaningful to policy makers. Governments and some academics tend to think of success as negotiating agreement. One must respect that different groups legitimately need responses to different questions and may find different frameworks consistent with the contexts within which they work.
In “Interactive Conflict Resolution: Theoretical and Methodological Issues in Conducting Research and Evaluation” (Chapter 8), Nadim Rouhana provides a social scientist’s approach to evaluation. He helps break down this work into its components so that we can think more precisely about our methods, objectives, and achievements. His purpose is frankly stated: “To increase confidence in this approach to practice, establish its relevance for policy makers, and enhance its legitimacy as an academic field of study and research, interactive conflict resolution should be held to the same standards of scrutiny as other established fields….
Theory-building efforts and research activity can also be channels for mutual enrichment among scholars from international relations, political science, social psychology, sociology, and other disciplines.”
Although his first concern is primarily academic, Rouhana poses questions of concern to anyone using this approach: Does learning take place within a group? Is that learning retained by participants outside the group? Do they use it in political discourse and behavior? Perhaps most importantly, what impact does using new learning have on the dynamics of the conflict? Obviously, anything that social science researchers can say on these and the other important questions Rouhana raises will be useful to all.
We need to remember, however, that the policy maker’s first concern is different from the academic’s interest in establishing the legitimacy of an academic field: Will this add to our overall practical capacity in making and building peace? At the end of the day, both social scientists and policy makers are interested in whether an approach is effective in producing desired results.
The policy maker, however, starts from a point that differs in three significant ways from the scholar’s starting point. First, a policy maker, as a consequence of developing a course of action, has a more exact idea of what a desirable practical result is and of what the steps toward that result are. Second, her or his main interest is in changing a situation, not evaluating the usefulness of one tool or another. Third, direct engagement in carrying out a strategy gives a policy maker a personal feel for whether a particular activity is supportive or destructive, which the scholar necessarily lacks.
In the idea of a multilevel peace process, the policy maker has a framework that is appropriate both to policy making and judging the contribution of any effort to deal with conflict. Its primary focus is changing a situation. Change can be seen, although the exact degree of credit for change may be as murky for the policy maker as for the scholar. The difference in the two points of focus is captured in a remark often attributed to Bernard Baruch: “We know it works in practice; I wonder whether it will work in theory.”
Policy makers, like scholars, have a choice in establishing a framework for making and judging policy. For instance, they can focus on the official peace process—that is, on mediating an agreement to end violence. Or they can decide to work within a larger framework for peace making and peace building in which negotiating one agreement is just a stepping stone to work in societal change.
The multilevel peace process proposed in this paper provides a large framework that embraces both official and unofficial resources. A comprehensive policy-making process in such a framework will reflect think-
ing about three questions that encompass the whole political context in which the conflict must be dealt with:
First, what is the problem? This is a period of diagnosis. Policy makers work within an analytical framework to probe (1) the causes of conflict, (2) the relationships underlying it, (3) its dynamics, (4) the main actors, and (5) the cultural and societal contexts. Policy makers have a choice between basing their analysis only on government intelligence and diplomatic reporting and reaching out to the analyses of groups outside government with intimate direct experience in the conflict that may not be available to government in certain circumstances. The criterion for evaluation is simply whether a particular source adds a perspective in defining the problem or adds to knowledge.
Second, why do I really care and, given my interests, what must I try to do? How and how much one’s own interests are hurt will determine the large strategic or operational framework within which policy makers decide how in broad terms they will tackle a conflict. Policy makers will have a choice between working toward an official agreement to end a specific conflict and broadening their strategy to include unofficial efforts to create conditions for changes in relationships and building the institutions of peace. The realism of a strategy will depend on knowing what others’ interests are and how intensely they are felt. What can others add to my depth of understanding about where the real obstacles to change are? What can others contribute to building the relationships of a peaceful society?
Third, what do I have to work with and what can I realistically try to do? In designing a tactical framework—a possible course of action— policy makers will identify targets and points of intervention, a method, purpose, and the way in which an action would contribute to overall movement toward peace. Policy makers have a choice between using only government resources and including nongovernmental resources in their action plan as well. They can judge what reaching beyond would add. As they enter the less well-charted terrain of building the practices and institutions that sustain peace they can ask unofficial groups to experiment with different approaches to produce models for replication.
If policy makers choose to include nongovernmental actors in their strategy and tactics, they will have their own criteria for judging what and how well a particular group can contribute. The simple criterion will be more widely defined than the scholar’s: Can this group and its way of working enlarge overall capacity in ways that will help achieve what we need to achieve? Policy makers’ achievements will ultimately be submitted to public judgment.
One other point needs to be made: it may be that the maturing of the field of interactive conflict resolution shifts the research questions. In the early days of interactive conflict resolution, it was appropriate to ask whether learning took place in single meetings or whether one could demonstrate that participants learned to talk differently or to work together. Today, a series of meetings is more common, and when, for instance, a group in Tajikistan (see below) produces and publishes 10 joint memoranda in 20 meetings, the answers to those questions are obvious. The tougher question is what the contribution to the overall peace process is; because it is difficult in any complex situation to assign a percentage of responsibility for an outcome, perhaps the policy maker’s question—does this add to overall capacity?—is good enough.
SNAPSHOTS OF INTERACTIVE CONFLICT RESOLUTION
Since the purpose of this paper is to illustrate clearly how these dialogue groups work, I asked five colleagues each to respond to the following requests: (1) provide a first-person brief background on your work in this area, (2) describe an illustratively important moment or moments in that work that make(s) vivid what can happen in these dialogue rooms and workshops, and (3) reflect on how what has come out of those rooms has interacted with larger peace processes. The disadvantage of this approach is that it does not always provide a sense of how a group works through successive stages over time; the advantage is that it shows concretely what can happen and what the product may be.
The difference among these experiences makes an important point: in a multilevel peace process, rarely is one actor likely to make the decisive move; change will result from the cumulative interaction of many actors, sometimes at quite different levels. The issue is not whether a group “made peace”; even peace treaties do not “make peace” without the work of people changing and building new institutions and relationships. The issue is whether a group addresses an important problem, what insights it contributes, or what relationships it strengthens.
The differences also exemplify the variety of potential uses of this approach and take us back to the question: What is interactive conflict resolution and what does not “qualify”? Six experiences are described below:
A small group of Israelis and Palestinians in the early 1980s gained insight into what gives legitimacy to negotiating partners in each body politic: “There’s no one to talk to and, if there is, he or she is probably marginal.” It would take the accumulation of many such experiences
and other events over a decade to change conventional wisdom on this point, but it changed.
A group of political leaders from opposing parties in Northern Ireland took advantage of meeting in a rare safe setting at a fruitful moment to crystallize together a bill of rights for Northern Ireland. It was as much the development of one more vehicle for broadening common ground both in negotiations and for a just society as it was a contribution to negotiation. But this group had the opportunity to take its document into the negotiations.
An ambitious effort planned to last 15 years or more is establishing and proliferating dialogue groups across lines rarely crossed in the Middle East, creating sinews for new relationships in a deeply divided region.
More than 20 meetings over six years from the midst of civil war in Tajikistan into the postpeace agreement phase have created “a mind at work in the middle of a country making itself.” Absorbing and responding to the unfolding problems of their new country between meetings, participants defined their framework as a multilevel peace process. They took insights from the dialogue into their work, which has ranged from participation in negotiation and the quasi-official National Reconciliation Commission to founding both the Tajikistan Center for Citizenship Education promoting citizens’ dialogue across regional barriers and a new Public Committee for Democratic Development to work on four tracks to embed practices of dialogue in Tajikistan civil society.
A series of “psychopolitical dialogues” in newly independent Estonia brought together native Estonians and Russian speakers who thought they were targeted for expulsion after the Soviet collapse. Dialogue among influential citizens in both groups brought to the surface psychological obstacles blocking development of a peaceful working relationship. The work ultimately enabled small groups in three communities to design their own projects to demonstrate for wider replication practical ways in which the two national groups could work together locally, reducing tensions and improving the chances of living peacefully together.
In Greek and Turkish Cyprus a program of training workshops in the skills of conflict resolution—first in each community and then together—rather than dialogue has gradually built a foundation for a growing network of relationships and dialogues across the line between the two communities. As in other places, training in conflict resolution skills has provided the occasion for bringing people together, but once they are together dialogue begins.
These cases illustrate the technical problem of defining interactive conflict resolution. In each case the exact approach varies with the mod-
erator, the objective, and the situation. Even the vehicle varied. The last case in which training is used to bring adversaries together may not qualify for inclusion by precise definition, but starting by explicitly teaching a different way of relating has led in demonstrable ways to problem-solving interaction. Even in those cases in which government policy was a principal target, one could trace the impact in other parts of the political spectrum. Each is part of an ongoing and cumulative political process.
Each story below is told in the practitioner’s own words for the sake of authenticity. The Tajik story is mine. I have signaled return to my own voice as this paper’s author with the word “Comment.” I will in those comments try to put the program described in larger context and reflect on the question of evaluation.
For some 25 years, writes Herbert C.Kelman, professor of social ethics at Harvard University, my colleagues and I have been bringing together politically influential Israelis and Palestinians in an unofficial, private, confidential setting for direct noncommittal communication. These meetings—which we call problem-solving workshops—are designed to enable the parties to explore each other’s perspective and, through a joint process of creative problem solving, to generate new ideas for mutually satisfactory solutions to their conflict. The ultimate goal of the enterprise is to transfer the insights and ideas gained from these interactions into the political debate and the decision-making processes in the two societies.
Until 1990 the workshops were all self-contained events. In 1990, Nadim Rouhana and I organized our first continuing workshop, in which the same group of highly influential Israelis and Palestinians met periodically over a three-year period. Since 1994, we have convened a Joint Working Group on Israeli-Palestinian Relations as an ongoing effort to explore options and reframe issues for negotiations on the final status of the Palestinian territories and the Israeli-Palestinian relationship. Our work has contributed to the peace process primarily through the development of the individuals, the ideas, and the political atmosphere required for productive negotiation.
One of the central issues on which discussions have focused from the beginning has been the availability of a credible negotiating partner on the other side—a question that reflected the dominant view in both societies that there was no one to talk to on the other side and nothing to talk about. Despite the Oslo accord of 1993, in which the Israeli government for the first time accepted the PLO as its negotiating partner and which fostered the growth of working trust between the two sides, the question of the existence of a negotiating partner reemerged with the election of
Benjamin Netanyahu. It arises whenever there is a setback in the peace process occasioned by rhetorical statements, unilateral actions, or acts of violence on one or both sides. By now, however, significant segments of the two political communities are persuaded that they have counterparts in the mainstream of the other side who, like themselves, are committed to a negotiated settlement of the conflict. Problem-solving workshops and similar Israeli-Palestinian encounters—within the context, of course, of evolving political and strategic realities—contributed to this change and thus helped pave the way for the Oslo accord.
In the 1970s and 1980s, workshop participants—even though they came with an interest in exploring the possibilities of a negotiated solution—were generally skeptical about finding serious negotiating partners on the other side. Much of the time was spent on testing the sincerity of the participants on the other side—their genuine commitment to peace. Once participants were persuaded of the sincerity of their counterparts, a new question arose: Whom do these people represent? Do they speak for a sizable, influential element on their side, or are they marginal within their own community? To be convinced of the availability of a credible negotiating partner, each side had to learn not only that there were people on the other side who were genuinely interested in finding a peaceful solution, but also that these people represented a significant, influential part of the mainstream of their own society.
At one workshop in the early 1980s this learning process was particularly prominent. After a day or so of mutual testing, the participants on the two sides seemed to be convinced that their counterparts were not posturing—that they were serious and sincere in their search for a negotiated solution. On the second day, during a discussion of the fundamental needs of each side that would have to be met if a solution was to be acceptable, the Palestinians stated that the PLO had to be accepted as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. After the two sets of needs had been described, the third party presented a summary of what it understood to be the basic needs expressed by each party. In summarizing the Palestinian needs, we formulated the Palestinians’ remarks about the PLO in more general terms, reflecting what we thought was the underlying need that they were expressing: the need to be able to choose their own leadership and have its legitimacy accepted. The Palestinians, however, pointed out that our summary did not fully capture their needs because it made no explicit mention of the PLO. In insisting on this point, they were signaling to the Israelis both the central role of the PLO and their own identification with it.
The next day in a discussion of possible ways to overcome the constraints against negotiations, the Palestinians remarked that there would be no problem in getting to the table and reaching agreement if they were
dealing with non-Zionist Israelis like the ones in the room. At that point the Israeli participants said that the Palestinians had misunderstood them. They insisted that they were loyal Zionists, enumerated their Zionist credentials, and linked their search for a peaceful solution to their commitment to Zionism. Thus, the Israelis clearly identified themselves with the political mainstream of their own society, as the Palestinians had done the day before.
What the two sides learned from these exchanges was that the members of the other party, whose sincerity they had tested and come to trust over the course of the workshop, were part of the mainstream in their community who fully identified with its national movement and ideology. These exchanges, in the context of the workshop as a whole, allowed them to draw a lesson with major implications for a potential peace process: negotiations between mainstream members of the conflicting communities—between Israeli Zionists and Palestinian nationalists identified with the PLO—are not only necessary if peace is to be achieved, but also possible because significant segments of each community had concluded that peace was in their own best interest.
Through the cumulative effect of direct interactions between politically involved and often influential Israelis and Palestinians in our workshops and other contacts, this understanding gradually entered significant strata of the political cultures of both societies. Meaningful negotiations would be impossible without the belief that there are credible negotiating partners on the other side who are sincere in the search for a peaceful outcome and able to mobilize the support of their constituencies. This belief—though not universally accepted and subject to fluctuation with every setback in the peace process—has now become part of conventional wisdom, but it took many years of mutual learning before it achieved that status.
This workshop was one of some two dozen over two decades that generated an “alumni/alumnae” body of 300 to 400, many of whom later assumed significant positions. Even that impressive group is only part of a numberless series of dialogues and other such interactions. One could study the roles of those who participated. Or one could trace the evolution of ideas in both bodies politic about the basic issues in the relationship; that is a different level of investigation than any proposed that I know of.
On a more practical point, I have judged the cumulative value of such dialogues as so significant that in beginning the Inter-Tajik Dialogue in 1993 I explicitly stated a strategy of trying to proliferate dialogues as a
vehicle for offering citizens an experience in a way of relating that is consistent with the practices of peace and democracy. While one often cannot demonstrate exactly how ideas emerge from the shadows of dialogue to currency in a body politic, experience suggests that it is fair to say that repeated experiences of this kind can generate “ideas in the air” that change perspectives, both in government and outside. It can also model a different way of acting in society.
In December 1991, writes Joseph V.Montville, director of the Preventive Diplomacy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., there was an unprecedented, if limited, breakthrough in the negotiation history of the Catholic and Protestant constitutional political parties of Northern Ireland. In a two and one-half-day unofficial track-two diplomacy problem-solving workshop organized by Harvard’s Center for Psychology and Social Change and cosponsored by the Iowa Peace Institute, senior representatives of the Protestant Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) agreed with counterparts from the Catholic Social Democratic and Labor Party (SDLP) on the desirability of a bill of rights for Northern Ireland. Representatives of the nonsectarian Alliance Party and the Workers’ Party also joined the consensus.
In an example of track-two success being directly ratified in a track-one process, three of the participants returned to the official constitutional talks in Belfast, joined a subcommittee on the bill of rights issue and reported out an agreement on the desirability of a bill of rights for Northern Ireland. Since British policy on Northern Ireland was to accept whatever political arrangements a majority agreed to, Sir Patrick Mayhew, secretary of state for Northern Ireland, announced in 1992 the UK government’s agreement in principle to such a bill of rights.
As one of the principal leaders of the UUP wrote to the track-two organizers, “You will be pleased to know that we achieved agreement on the first phase of a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland…. I was personally involved on the Sub-Committee which dealt with the Bill of Rights as was [X] of the SDLP and [Y] of the DUP, and we were able to use our ‘Iowa experience’ to good effect.” The assumption was that the agreement would be folded into the final constitutional arrangements. Nevertheless, the bill of rights agreement, in principle literally for a major change in the unwritten British constitution, but in one region of the country, was a distinct achievement.
From my own personal perspective, acknowledging many other influences, this accomplishment was partly the fruit of more than 10 years
of work on Northern Ireland. Years of seminars at the U.S. State Department and Foreign Service Institute, a conference on Northern Ireland at Airlie House in Virginia, collaborative work with Cooperation North in the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland, and ultimately the founding of the Irish Peace Institute codirected by Limerick University in the republic and Ulster University in Northern Ireland formed the basis for success in Des Moines in 1991. This earlier activity was essential to help clarify issues and identify partners for a track-two strategy.
One of the most important of those early experiences was hearing Professor Paul Arthur lecture at an Irish Peace Institute meeting at Magee College of the Londonderry campus of Ulster University. He was brilliant and insightful on the dynamics of the Northern Ireland conflict, and he came to be the linchpin to the success of my track-two work. A Catholic from Londonderry, Arthur had gradually won the trust of senior Protestant party leaders in Northern Ireland. He arranged the introductions and attended the individual meetings with politicians in which the Des Moines invitations were explained, issued, and accepted. And he continued to be the source of tough-minded counsel up to, during, and after the Des Moines meeting. The knowledge, credibility, wisdom, and collaboration of such a person are incomparable assets to a track-two effort.
The official and public purpose of the Des Moines seminar was to provide an opportunity for the politicians to hear constitutional experts from other Commonwealth countries talk about their experiences with bill of rights provisions. Through ensuing discussions about the possible elements of a bill of rights for Northern Ireland, the politicians would discuss basic human rights for the majority and minority to ensure equality under the law. But careful facilitation opened the technical discussions over a draft bill of rights into more profound consideration of underlying psychological issues related to human needs and human rights.
While the process began in the workshop, it flowered during the “corridor time” that is so important to learning and trust building in track-two diplomacy. In Des Moines the corridor was actually a hospitality suite in the hotel where the Protestant and Catholic politicians stayed up talking into the early hours of the morning. The effect of this informal interaction became apparent in the comments of several politicians at the end of the meeting that the process was useful both educationally and as an opportunity for extended contacts among political persons.
A Catholic said it was a “sad commentary” on politics at home that “the most constructive work I have been able to do in politics has been at Airlie House, Grenoble, and Des Moines. I have had many more hours of meetings at Stormont (Government House Belfast) but far fewer hours of personal contact with my political colleagues. Track two is very helpful in working toward ultimate track-one success.” A Protestant said, “the
only chance I have to see [my Catholic colleague] is at track-two events. On no occasion at home can I find out what the other fellow needs—how to develop confidence builders for his, and my, constituencies. Because of the difficulties in Northern Ireland, I have always valued track two. It is now all the more useful as a precursor to a formal talks process.”
Track-two work is vulnerable to many exigencies. In Northern Ireland schedules for official negotiations complicated planning for track-two meetings. Upcoming election campaigns are especially big obstacles. Nevertheless, insights gained in track two can become permanent investments in reconciliation processes. For example, one of the Protestant politicians most transformed by track-two trust building with his Catholic opposite numbers was promoted in March 1997 to a senior cultural/ political office in his community.
This is a clear example of a literal track-two exercise providing space for those involved in official negotiations and politics to step away from those official responsibilities to consolidate ideas that seem ready to jell. Participants came together with a specific possibility in mind, and they did what was hoped for. But that achievement was deeply rooted in relationships and processes from prior experiences.
It is also an example of how limited official conversation can be in a tense political atmosphere where hard-line colleagues make wide-ranging conversation impossible and how space provided by a meeting like this frees individuals to speak more freely. It illustrates how a practical issue—in this case a bill of rights—will naturally lead to discussing deeper issues and experiencing potential relationships. Finally, it reveals how each path on which a practitioner works represents a cumulative complex of interactions whose implications one can never fully know.
In early 1991 before the official Middle East peace process was regenerated in Madrid, writes John Marks, president of Search for Common Ground in Washington, D.C., we at Search established the Initiative for Peace and Cooperation in the Middle East. The goal was to set up an unofficial multitrack process that could complement, supplement, and, on occasion, anticipate official negotiations.
The original organizing metaphor for the Initiative was the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE, now the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe). We used the CSCE model both to conceptualize what we planned to do and to convince others the
project was workable. As CSCE had done in Europe, largely through official channels, we wanted to create a whole web of unofficial relationships across the Middle East, connecting the region by bringing together a wide variety of groups—retired generals, human rights activists, business executives, editors, conflict resolution specialists. Not only did we want the groups to engage in dialogue, we also planned for them to take on joint action projects. We even planned to encourage regional cooperation by publishing a quarterly newsletter to chronicle it, including examples organized by us, as well as by others across the region. We were not thinking of only organizing one or two conferences. We knew that CSCE had existed for about 15 years before East-West relations turned around. We anticipated our process would probably take at least as long.
After initial funding was secured,6 the next step was to convene a meeting of what we called the Core Working Group—a gathering of innovative thinkers and doers. These Arabs, Israelis, Turks, and Iranians were to be at the heart of the process. We scheduled the first meeting for three days in Rome in September 1991.
We wanted to establish a forum in which the Middle Easterners would meet, not as adversaries but as colleagues who would work together on shared problems. We realized that the structure and the process of the meeting were likely to be as important as the substance of what was discussed, and we knew that we wanted to avoid, as much as possible, the win-lose polemical approach so common to the Middle East. Indeed, we were convinced that for the region to move toward peace it had to move toward nonadversarial, win-win ways of resolving its problems and that our meetings needed to approximate that model. In other words—to paraphrase Marshall McLuhan—the medium would become the message.
In the abstract it seemed like a wonderful idea. What we did not know at the beginning was: Would the initiative actually work? Would high-level unofficial Middle Easterners actually get involved—and stay involved?
We knew the meetings had to be exciting and productive. To achieve the desired results, we believed, expert assistance was needed—not only substantively but in running meetings and designing process. Members of our organization had experience with professional facilitation, particularly as it applied to organizational development and personal growth. We knew how corporations, on occasion, use facilitators to manage difficult meetings and strategic planning sessions. We also understood that professional facilitation, as distinct from having a senior person act as chair, is not a usual component of international gatherings. However, we thought that the singular quality of our vision for the initiative called for a new approach. We decided to bring in a culturally sensitive facilitator
both to chair the proceedings and to consult on how to structure the overall process. We enlisted Marc Sarkady, a corporate consultant in the organizational development field who volunteered to work with us.
At the Rome meeting, participants were initially mystified about the role of the facilitator, but they quickly caught on. They came to see him as the guardian of a level playing field, particularly among Arabs and Israelis. When there was a breakdown in a meeting or when something was not understood or even when someone’s body language indicated unhappiness, the facilitator spent considerable time setting things right. He explained concepts such as active listening, and participants started paying attention. At the end of the meeting, several attendees noted that they had never been at a meeting at which so much was accomplished, and they requested that future sessions include training in facilitation—which was subsequently done.
There were two unique aspects to the meetings. First, we included right-wing Israelis. Most other meetings of Arabs and Israelis had included dovish Israelis who reflected a limited perspective. One of the more memorable moments came when a hard-line Israeli reserve general was involved in a heated exchange, and a Lebanese participant walked over and put his arm around his new Israeli friend. Second, Jordanians and Arabs from the Gulf sat together with Israelis (and talked amiably in the corridors and over meals). While this has since become commonplace, it was revolutionary at the time.
The meetings were intense. Unlike most Middle Eastern meetings that participants had attended, people arrived on time, paid attention, and asked for longer sessions. There was remarkable frankness, a willingness to work through obstacles, a determination to try new ideas, and a commitment to results. Participants achieved sufficient bonding that they became a working group with shared aims. In the end they endorsed the overall concept of the initiative and agreed on a number of specific things, ranging from adopting a set of operating principles to forming a series of working groups.
There were wonderful moments. For example, the Israelis and Gulf Arabs discovered together that they shared some common ground: how to make sure that the U.S. government kept its promises. There was another instance after participants broke down into working groups and then returned to plenary. The civil society group recommended that the group, which included Arabs and Israelis, launch a campaign on certain basic human rights issues, preventing torture and protecting human rights activists. Arab and Israeli members of the civil society group agreed on common language and a common program of public action. However, the core group had earlier agreed to operate by consensus, so civil society participants needed agreement from the plenary group before moving
forward. When they reported back, there were two initial dissenters— one retired Egyptian general and one Israeli general. Both used the same reasoning. They wanted everyone to understand that they opposed human rights abuses, but they thought that if the initiative got involved in human rights the region’s governments would oppose all of its activities. Then a Kuwaiti who had recently been tortured by Iraqi captors declared with quiet passion that, if the initiative could not even take a stand against torture, he was not interested in being involved. He was supported by others, including an Israeli human rights activist. In the end the generals relented. They did not want to jeopardize the initiative as a whole and particularly its security working group. Other participants later noted that this was the first time they had seen Israelis and Arabs arguing on both sides of an issue—a breakthrough on its own terms.
Now, almost six years later, we are still building on the groundwork laid at that first meeting. The Lebanese who put his arm around the Israeli general has become one of Yasser Arafat’s key advisers on the peace process. One of the right-wing Israelis played a similar role for Benjamin Netanyahu. Good personal friends because of the initiative and steeped in the common ground approach, these two men are in almost constant touch. Several years ago that same Israeli collaborated with a retired Jordanian general who also was an initiative regular to set up the first meeting between Netanyahu and the Jordanian ruling family.
There have been scores of meetings, workshops, trainings, and other gatherings since the first meeting in Rome, and the initiative continues to produce a range of achievements. Among others, it has sponsored unofficial talks between Israelis and Syrians on the Golan Heights for 18 months, which laid out a basis for an eventual settlement if and when that time should come; facilitated Swedish government sponsorship of unofficial final status talks held by key Palestinians and Israelis; sponsored jointly authored Israeli-Jordanian, Israeli-Palestinian, and Israeli-Lebanese papers on security issues that reached unofficial agreements, well before official talks reached fruition; sponsored the Middle East’s only meetings and joint action projects for Arab, Israeli, Iranian, and Turkish human rights activists; established conflict resolution programs in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Egypt, and Jordan to teach mediation, negotiation, and problem solving; and regularly convened the Middle East’s top editors and television executives to encourage support of the peace process and development of joint projects.
Like the peace process, this project is itself an open-ended political process. Obviously, careful attention has been given to establishing the
practice of interactive thinking, talking, and working, but that work in the meetings themselves has been complemented on occasion by establishment of training programs in conflict resolution for broader audiences. Above all this broad effort to introduce a culture of interactive conflict resolution in a number of arenas is an example of how an open-ended process can begin on a highly professional level without the managers being able to honestly say exactly what their objectives are because those objectives are most realistically shaped by the participants.
The Inter-Tajik Dialogue was formed in 1993 by a team of three Americans, including myself, and three Russians who had been working together since 1981 in the Dartmouth Conference Regional Conflicts Task Force. I have cochaired that task force since the beginning, first with a Soviet (Yevgeny Primakov) and now a Russian colleague (Gennady Chufrin). The “Inter-Tajik Dialogue Within the Framework of the Dartmouth Conference,” as participants came to call themselves, has operated within the conceptual framework of the five-stage process described above.7 As of July 2000, it had met 28 times.
The strategy explicitly stated in the first grant proposals was to see whether we could create a group from within the civil war that would develop the capacity to design a peace process for their country. We would create the space and help set the tone and the course of dialogue. They would define, pursue, and adjust the agenda. The question was what capacities for peace making and peace building such a group could develop and put into play. Our assumption was that such a group could play a significant role in developing a peace process where there was none, but at the outset we could be no more specific about our objectives. By definition the specific objectives would have to grow out of the dialogue.
The dialogue’s experience in its first year reflected the role that unofficial dialogue can have in an environment where no official peace process has yet begun. (This could also be said of the Israeli-Palestinian meetings in the 1970s and 1980s.) In effect, governments stand back to see whether it is possible for two conflicting groups to work together. When the dialogue began, Tajikistan had been in the grips of a vicious civil war since the second year of its post-Soviet independence. Between 25,000 and 200,000 are said to have died, and one out of every seven Tajikistanis had fled from the towns and villages where they lived.
Toward the end of the dialogue’s third meeting (August 1993), one participant said, “What we really have to work on is how to start negotiations between the government and the opposition on creating conditions
for return of the refugees to their homes.” Having identified this as a problem they needed to probe, they could not at that moment bring themselves to talk about assurances that each side would have to offer the other to make negotiation possible—government assurances for the safety of opposition leaders and opposition assurances that they would not use the negotiations to embarrass or undermine the government.
In the period between that third meeting and the next, participants reflected deeply on this problem and came to the fourth meeting in November 1993—just after Russian president Yeltsin’s shelling of the White House—for a highly substantive discussion of the problem. One of the main obstacles to negotiation, participants said, was that the opposition was geographically dispersed and ideologically diffuse. “Who would come to the table?” asked progovernment participants. “How could we find you if we wanted to invite you? How would we deal with those who have blood on their hands?” While solutions were offered in the meeting, the real response to this problem came a month later when opposition leaders met in Tehran, adopted a common platform, and established an opposition coordinating center in Moscow. Two participants in the dialogue were signatories of the document, and four became members of the center’s steering group. Did the dialogue produce that outcome? Presumably not by itself, but individuals informed in the dialogue participated.
At the fifth meeting in January 1994 those who had been in Tehran presented and explained the opposition’s platform. Progovernment participants quizzed them mercilessly for two days. The opposition participants handled themselves tactfully and substantively. At the end of the meeting the progovernment participants said, “We will report this to our government. We think the basis for a negotiation exists.”
Meanwhile, a United Nations (UN) emissary had been attempting to begin negotiations and won the agreement of the government three weeks after that meeting. Before negotiations began in April, participants of their sixth meeting wrote their first joint paper, “Memorandum on a Negotiating Process in Tajikistan.”
Did the dialogue produce the negotiations? We cannot make that claim because we know that in any public decision many inputs are involved. Did participants in the dialogue play a role? Yes. Was it a significant role? The man who was foreign minister when the government decided to begin negotiations says the fact that the two adversaries could work together in the dialogue group through five meetings helped persuade skeptics that negotiation was possible.
Three years later in June 1997 a capstone peace agreement emerged from the UN-mediated negotiations. During those three years three dialogue participants were delegates in the official negotiations—one con-
tinuously. The peace agreement included a number of ideas that participants had developed in seven additional joint memoranda, all of which were circulated to the negotiating teams, the UN mediator, UN headquarters, and the U.S. government. Again, it is impossible to know exactly what role those memoranda played except to say that they put ideas “into the air.” It is probably accurate to say that those memoranda contain the most coherent cumulative statement of the philosophy behind the multilevel peace process in Tajikistan. To mark the twentieth meeting of the dialogue, participants published their first 10 joint memoranda in December 1997 in Tajiki, Russian, and English.8
With the beginning of negotiations in April 1994, the dialogue turned its attention to thinking through a political process of national reconciliation for Tajikistan. On several occasions the mechanisms considered proved useful in breaking impasses in the negotiations. One was reflected in the peace accord’s establishment of a Commission on National Reconciliation to oversee implementation of the peace accord through four subcommissions. One dialogue member became chair of one sub-commission and another became vice-chair of a second; two other participants became members of the commission. Another idea was acceptance of establishing a transitional period in which changes in political relationships would take place.
Perhaps more significant, the attention of dialogue participants to a political process of national reconciliation brought them to focus on steps for bridging the dividing lines in the society opened up by the civil war. They wrote one joint memo on the multilevel peace process and the need for involving Tajikistani society at all levels. Two participants started their own nongovernmental organizations. With the signing of the peace accords, they identified their new goal as “identifying the obstacles to democracy and civil society and ways of overcoming them.” A first step has been an effort to engage Tajikistani citizens across deeply divisive regional lines in dialogues on the new political rules being shaped by the National Reconciliation Commission. That has been the work of the Tajikistan Center for Citizenship Education, formed by one dialogue participant, and the Public Committee for Democratic Development.
Since the third year of the dialogue, university-based participants asked the managing team to help them develop courses in conflict resolution and building civil society at five universities. Two workshops have been held for some three dozen university professors and administrators, a collection of readings mostly from U.S. literature was translated into Russian, articles have been written in Tajikistan, and courses are being taught. This is perhaps the best opportunity to embed the philosophy reflected in the work of the dialogue in the structure of Tajikistani education.
First, as with the Middle East initiative described above, the strategy behind the Inter-Tajik Dialogue was to see whether a group could be created from within a conflict to produce constructive results—in this case, developing the capacity to design a peace process for the country. That is quite different from an outside group going to a troubled area to mediate a peace agreement. It has been very much an open-ended process, with participants redefining their focus as the process of national construction unfolded.
Second, in terms of the five-stage process, we have learned that a well-established group will fall into a pattern of returning regularly to the second or third stage of the five-stage process to define or redefine the problem they need to work on in light of changing circumstances. They work through their deliberations, regularly producing a joint memo from each meeting.
The approach of Vamik Volkan, founding director of the Center for the Study of Mind and Human Interaction (CSMHI) of the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine, is unique in using a psychoanalytic lens to examine the deeper human dimensions of conflict. With colleagues at CSMHI, he writes, a methodology has been developed that aims to reduce ethnic tensions through unofficial psychopolitical processes as well as community and democracy-building activities.
We have come to call our approach the “Tree Model,” for visual presentation and growth symbolism. The methodology begins with a psychopolitical diagnosis of the tree’s “roots.” Psychopolitical diagnosis does not replace a political assessment but rather adds to it through in-depth, psychoanalytically informed interviews that detect shared and often hidden perceptions, expectations, and fears. The interviewers seek to understand how psychological factors may interfere with making and carrying out rational decisions. Well beyond insights on an individual level, the ultimate goal of a psychopolitical diagnosis is to identify societal processes between groups that were initiated by trauma and conflict. It, too, conceives of itself as working through stages.
During the diagnostic period, key individuals from each side of the conflict are selected to participate in a series of psychopolitical dialogues that form the tree’s “trunk.” Again, these gatherings are called psychopolitical since they deal with both realistic political issues and emotional poisons. For example, in most conflicts the memory of a past trauma (“chosen trauma”) becomes reactivated, and the expectations and feelings
about the enemy of the past become condensed and focused on the enemy of the present; in a sense a time collapse occurs. One of the aims of the psychopolitical dialogue series is to create a time expansion that decontaminates past influences from current issues, allowing for realistic discussions.
Psychopolitical dialogue is a process. Once decontaminated of past influences, the participants themselves are able to make appropriate and helpful suggestions as to how to proceed, and more rational adaptive solutions begin to emerge. The point is to encourage absorption of insights learned in the dialogue series into actual political processes. A subgroup of the dialogue participants then evolves into a contact group (part of the tree’s trunk) that becomes CSMHI’s local partner in carrying out the dissemination of dialogue insights, community-building activities, and democratization initiatives. These actions and initiatives may be models of coexistence between communal groups in conflict, political work on actual peace processes, or the preventive “inoculation” against prejudices among children. These actions are the tree’s “branches” that symbolize and promote positive growth.
Since April 1994, CSMHI has assembled an interdisciplinary team— two years in collaboration with the Carter Presidential Center—to conduct psychopolitical dialogues aimed at reducing ethnic tension in Estonia.
Through centuries of domination by other powers, most recently the brief but devastating Nazi occupation and the half-century incorporation into the Soviet Union after a short two decades of independence between the two world wars, the Estonians have maintained their identity remarkably well. Having regained their independence at the end of the Soviet period, they faced the challenge of consolidating their identity while a quarter of their population consisted of Russians mostly left behind by the Soviet withdrawal.
Those Russians had come to Estonia in waves over four centuries. They included the “old believers” who were escaping division in the Russian Church, those who fled the Communist Revolution, and a sequence of groups that came with the Soviet occupiers and stayed or were born of Soviet parents serving in Estonia. Their lives turned upside down with the end of Soviet rule. First, they faced the humiliation of falling from a position of political and cultural domination where they had forced Estonians to adopt the Russian language and had only rarely learned Estonian themselves. Next they faced understandably deep resentment from Estonians who had suffered the Soviet occupation, and they feared that the Estonians were determined to drive them out into a Russia that could not house or support them. To gain any chance of status, they would have to meet a stiff and sometimes erratically administered requirement to learn the Estonian language. When the dialogues began,
tension was high between the two groups and Russia was threatening the use of its troops, which had not fully withdrawn, to protect Russians in Estonia.
The center’s strategy was to use the dialogues to bring together prominent individuals from the two communities as well as from Russia into a space where they could begin to know each other and where the American team could help them examine the dynamics of their relationships. The objective was to gradually reduce the poisonous emotions between the groups and to spread new insights from the dialogue into the body politic. Through several of its participants, the dialogue was in close communication with the Estonian President’s Round Table on Ethnic Minorities. Through the efforts of other participants who were community leaders and members of parliament, other international groups and countless Estonians, tensions were gradually diminished.
In each of the dialogues the participants were encouraged to share experiences that revealed their feelings about each other. Although subjects of discussion ranged from political to human, the most insightful moments came when exchanges enabled participants to bring to the surface their deepest emotions and mental constructs of their own identities as well as those of the other side. These discussions were supplemented by visits together to various “hot spots”—places such as cemeteries and former Soviet bases that evoked high emotion.
One Estonian told the following story:
Let me tell you what is “integration” [the integration of Estonians and Russian speakers in Estonia]. When I was four years old, my family and some Soviet officers were “integrated.” In our apartment we were forced to live in one room so that the Soviet officers could live in all of the other rooms. Furthermore, the new inhabitants of our home did not even bother to learn Estonian to communicate with us but wanted us to learn Russian and adopt the Russian culture. They brought their wives and children also, but they would not learn Estonian either.
Against that background, the dialogue work groups discussed the possible integration or assimilation of Russians in Estonia. Assimilation would mean an influx of more “enemy blood” that could weaken Estonian identity. “If more Russian blood mixes with our own, we would not stay as Estonian as we are now. We will be contaminated.” Integration could also corrupt Estonian identity because Estonians perceived Russians as more “aggressive”—they would alter the Estonian way of life and make it more Russian. In a discussion of integrating Russian and Estonian children in kindergarten, Estonians recounted that they had heard of situations in which the “aggressiveness” of even a few Russian children in an Estonian class would result in all the children behaving in
a “Russian” way and in Estonian children learning Russian on the playground instead of Russian children learning Estonian.
During a tour of Paldiski, a former Soviet naval base now mostly shut down with only a few Soviet soldiers guarding a nuclear reactor, we took aboard our bus an Estonian history teacher as a “guide.” The once proud base looked like a huge garbage dump. When two Russian military officers in civilian clothes offered to come on the bus to give a briefing on the base, the Estonians said they were not welcome, since Estonia was independent and the base was now Estonian.
As we toured the base the Estonian historian listed one after another the historical grievances of Estonia, while the Russian dialogue participants on the bus listed “facts” supporting their “superiority” and previous “protection” of the “ungrateful” Estonians. I could sense an underlying feeling of humiliation and rage among the Russians, and I increasingly perceived the messy physical condition of Paldiski as a concrete symbol of relations between the antagonists. While on the surface the issue of Paldiski centered around who should be responsible for cleaning up the base, I saw a “hidden transcript” among the Russians present that I could translate as: “Since we Russians, the sons and daughters of a large and powerful country, are forced to dismantle our military might and retreat from Paldiski, we will leave behind our waste and hope that you ungrateful Estonians drown in it. At least we will force you to clean up our mess.”
Meanwhile, I also heard in the Estonians’ remarks a subtext beneath their position of being in no hurry to clean up the mess themselves, though they similarly claimed that they presently lacked the funds to do so. Comments from the Estonians reflected both their wish to elicit sympathy from the American group for their victimization under Soviet rule and their unconscious resistance to change their identity as victims. As long as Paldiski remained a dump, the Estonians had a concrete symbol of the suffering and injustice they felt they were subjected to by the USSR.
In 1996 the dialogues spun off three projects in communities where both groups lived in about equal numbers. These projects were designed to help citizens form their own joint nongovernmental organizations to improve relationships. One was built around a group of elementary school teachers who were organizing classes in Estonian for Russian children. Another was formed in a vandalized former Soviet army base where the remaining residents were almost without hope. They have organized community work projects, built a community center, and staged festivities aimed at improving self-esteem. The third focused on a fishing and agricultural community around the country’s largest lake that had lost its Russian market. They began with small projects with the
objective of gradually developing the recreational and touristic potential of the region.
More than any of the other examples, this one embodies the combined insights of psychoanalysts, historians, diplomats, and others practiced in work with citizens. With insights piled one on another and discussed among the Estonians and Russians, some of the tensions became more manageable. It is not that officials made policy to deal with these perceptions and misperceptions or the dynamics of relationships. The hope is that encouraging the creation of public spaces where systematic interaction brings them to the surface can provide opportunities for citizens to change relationships. These are opportunities that citizens outside government are much more likely to develop and work with than are citizens in government. Beyond this broader objective the three concrete projects are already being studied by other communities for replication.
Our work in Cyprus since 1991, writes Louise Diamond, president of the Institute of Multi-Track Diplomacy (IMTD) in Washington, D.C., has been a training-based systems approach to interactive conflict resolution. As such it has attempted to strengthen local capacity among Greek and Turkish Cypriots for facilitating their own intergroup dialogue, rapprochement, and cooperative action. It has also sought to enhance the culture and quality of discourse on the island as its inhabitants seek peaceful ways to manage their relationships, locally and regionally.
Although by 1991 there were several problem-solving workshops and other efforts at bicommunal dialogue,9 contact in Cyprus between Turkish and Greek Cypriots was sporadic and uncommon, involving a small number of individuals and entailing significant personal and political risk. Our work was designed to grow organically, with separate meetings on each side of the UN buffer zone for nearly two years, in order to build trust with us as a third party and with the concepts and skills of the conflict resolution approach.
These meetings began as “getting to know each other” discussions with interested individuals and moved gradually to public presentations and then to short conflict resolution workshops as local partners expressed interest in learning more. The training was offered in response to a direct request to “put the tools of conflict resolution in our hands, so we can solve our own problems within and between the two communities.”10
By 1993 the two sides expressed a strong interest in moving to bicommunal training activity, and the first major program of that nature was held in Oxford, England, in August, sponsored by the IMTD and the National Training Laboratory’s Institute for Applied Behavioral Science. By 1994 the Fulbright Commission on Cyprus with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development had adopted conflict resolution programs as a major initiative, and IMTD joined with the Conflict Management Group to form the Cyprus Consortium, which has since run nearly two dozen such workshops and related programs under Fulbright and other auspices. Several points are worth noting.
First, the initiative has achieved as much as it has partly because of an unusual degree of synergy among various players. The Fulbright Commission, backed consistently by the U.S. Embassy in Cyprus, brought in a series of full-time residential Fulbright scholars, who have provided the day-to-day, on-the-ground support and expansion of the program over the years. Other international players have been able to build on the increasing acceptability of such bicommunal programs to sponsor their own workshops in conflict resolution and other topics. The result of these overlapping initiatives has been a strong multifaceted bicommunal movement strongly supported by the international community with a committed core group and ever-growing numbers of local participants.
A second critical factor relates to the multitrack nature of the consortium’s program and of the larger movement. The training events have been both generally and specifically targeted. People from many professions and walks of life have been included, and specific programs were offered to public policy leaders from political parties, the news media, and business; educators; journalists; students; and grass-roots groups. Thus, the skills, concepts, and new ideas coming out of these programs have been made available to a broad cross-section of the fabric of society on both sides in Cyprus.
The third significant element of the consortium’s program has been the development of a strong and sustainable internal capacity for furthering the work. Three programs for training trainers have provided advanced training, mentoring, and supervised professional development to over 50 local trainers. These people are creating and managing their own bicommunal groups and projects, which now number close to 30, involving over 2,000 individuals on something of a regular basis.
The training workshops themselves, although each unique in form and content, combine skill-building and dialogue processes. In many cases these programs are the first time ever (or in decades) that the participants have had the opportunity to meet someone from the other community. Our basic format for the programs follows a five-stage conceptual framework that is generally consistent with the process that Saunders describes as his five stages of a public peace process.
We begin with source, exploring motivation and purpose for participating. This is the testing or trust-building phase.
We move to quest, where we explore individual and collective hopes and vision.
What Saunders refers to as “mapping the relationship” we address in a section about the test. Here the participants probe deeply into the interests, experiences, needs, and issues behind their positions, speaking freely about their concerns and feelings and hearing the same from the other side.
This almost inevitably leads to what we call the shift, where participants, as they gain new information and new perspectives about themselves, the “other,” and the overall situation in Cyprus, find themselves experiencing a change of heart and mind about the relationship.
Finally, we address the renewal stage in which there is some examination of the opportunities and obstacles to moving forward and consideration of possible action, individually and collectively.
We have found that progressing through these general stages structures the program so as to allow for safe and progressive exploration of the authenticity of the experience of all parties and of the nature of the relationship among and between them. Since these explorations are coupled with skill building, the means for advancing the inquiry both inside and beyond the training room become conscious and available to all. The training workshops also include most of the elements associated by Saunders with an interactive conflict resolution process. They operate on a basis of collectively generated ground rules much like those described earlier in this paper.
Since it is difficult to determine the effect of any one of these workshops on the official policy-making process, we can report on the overall impact, as we can best understand it. There is both a cumulative and an expansive aspect to this—cumulative in that many participants move through several programs, advancing their skills and commitment, and expansive in that participants return home and share what they have learned with family, friends, organizations, and the public (through television, radio, seminars, workshops, lectures). Some specific outcomes that we can notice are as follows:
Concepts and ideas from the training programs, including previously unmentionable or “taboo” topics, now appear in daily public discourse and even political campaigns.
Bicommunal interaction has become normative, now involving thousands of people.
Significant numbers of people in official and influential positions
in both communities have participated in this training, thus spreading its effects into the top leadership strata and also providing a base of contact and trust between counterparts from each side.
Many of the methodologies introduced in the workshops are being used in each community in various political and institutional settings.
Communication between the different factions in each community has improved as new friendships and trust relationships have evolved across party lines.
Bicommunal activities have mushroomed in quantity and scope.
The people involved in these activities refer to themselves as a social movement.
This movement is generating opposition, which suggests that those elements attached to the status quo or to a rigid view that allows for little exploration of creative ideas are feeling a significant threat to their entrenched positions.
Specialized groups are exploring current and “day after” cooperative activities (e.g., lawyers, women, university students, psychologists, academics, private citizens, educators, business leaders).
There has been significant development of conflict resolution as a human resource at home and abroad, with a number of participants going on to M.A. and Ph.D. programs in the field and with many participants being invited to share their expertise at international conferences and events involving other deeply rooted conflicts.
If one example could be used to demonstrate the effect of this work, it would be the events of August-October 1996. In August demonstrations by Greek Cypriot motorcyclists and responses by the Turkish side led to the well-publicized killing of two Greek Cypriot citizens in clashes in the UN buffer zone. In the aftermath of these events the political tension in Cyprus heightened dramatically. Talk of war was heard on the streets. All bicommunal contact was stopped.
In that climate the key actors in the peace-building movement were emotionally devastated and deeply discouraged. They were concerned that everything they had worked for was going down the drain and wondered how they should respond. They had been planning a special bicommunal fair for late September but assumed they would have to cancel it. However, the bicommunal Trainers’ Group, with the assistance of then Fulbright scholar Benjamin Broome, undertook to turn things around. With patient person-to-person contact and invitations issued by the international community and diplomatic missions, the group managed to convene 300 people for a bicommunal reception in late September.
Coming less that two months after such a highly emotional and tragic
reminder of the ongoing hostilities and potential for violence, this event proved a major rallying point for the forces of rapprochement, especially in the international community. The UN had decided to cancel its annual celebration day in October but was spurred to proceed by the success of the September meeting. In a new level of partnership and cooperation the Trainers’ Group agreed to work with the UN to find the people for that event. Using its own citizens’ network and building on the pool of trust, goodwill, and credibility generated by its work over the years, the group managed to convene 2,500 people—the largest such bicommunal event ever despite the August events. Following its achievement, other countries besides the United States and the European Union (EU) recognized the importance of such a movement, and the number of programs and sponsors swelled.
From that time until December 1997 the bicommunal movement entered a new phase. Cross visits became common, with people returning to visit their previous homes on the other side of the so-called Green Line that divides the Greek and Turkish areas, thus advancing the process of mourning and healing beyond the hardened formal political positions on both sides. Bicommunal groups continued to multiply in number and sectoral diversity. A new Fulbright Commission building was erected in the UN buffer zone to handle the increased demand for space for meetings. More specialized Fulbright scholars were hired. A new group of trainers was developed to manage the growing requests for groups. Contacts between Greek and Turkish Cypriot peace builders and their counterparts in other conflict situations (e.g., Northern Ireland, Israel-Palestine, South Africa) increased dramatically.
Then in December 1997 bicommunal activity was cut off following the Luxembourg decision by the EU regarding the accession of Cyprus to the EU and the relegation of Turkey to the third-tier “waiting room” for EU membership. Although subject to the changing political winds in Cyprus and the region, the momentum and presence of this movement are now, the consortium believes, so integrated into the Cyprus landscape after more than seven years as to be irreversible. The very existence of bicommunal programs and contact has itself become one of the political issues in each community and between the two sides and the various international and third-party actors who support this work as a matter of policy. A growing human infrastructure exists, providing momentum for peace building from the bottom up and offering an informal individual, group, and institutional capacity for sustaining a viable peace process should there be a nonviolent political settlement. In short, the training-based interactive conflict resolution program has grown into a significant social and political factor whose ultimate role in the peace process of Cyprus is still unfolding.
By the strict definition cited earlier, this training-based program might well not technically qualify as interactive conflict resolution. (That would probably also be true of some of the joint activities generated by Search for Common Ground’s Middle East Initiative.) On the other hand, a number of organizations in the international community on Cyprus have recognized its achievement. And it does teach, if not formally conduct, a systematic process of bringing people together in dialogue. I have included this experience here to suggest the need for flexibility in policy making and in academic recognition that this kind of work may be defined more by the nature and quality of interaction than by the format of the meetings.
WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED? THE CHALLENGES OF CUMULATIVE EXPERIENCE
First, the experience of 30 years has produced a significant track record for interactive conflict resolution. A growing body of literature on theory, practice, and case studies11 justifies saying that interactive conflict resolution is a systematic, well-thought-through approach. The experiences described above and others like them demonstrate that it is widely tested and available for use in a variety of conflict situations. Such experiences cannot be dismissed out of hand.
Second, interactive conflict resolution is by definition directed at the work citizens outside government can do within the multilevel peace process. While I would not exclude its usefulness in any arena, it is increasingly fruitful as one moves across the political spectrum from those quasi-official situations—those in which the primary task is to develop analysis of conflict not available to government, provide a channel of communication where none exists, or find a particular solution to a problem in negotiation—on over toward those situations where the main task is to analyze the dynamics of relationships and design ways to work in the body politic to change them.
Third, the contribution of interactive conflict resolution increases as the capacities of government diminish. In other words, interactive conflict resolution can help fill a serious gap in the multilevel peace process— the gap left by state-centered thinking about peace processes. This gap, which is only beginning to be recognized, is the space where citizens outside government can work to change the relationships that must be changed if peace is to be sustained. Government desperately needs this addition to peace making and peace building.
Fourth, the experiences described above demonstrate that projects
that “work” create a well-designed opportunity for individuals within conflict to develop the capacity to take responsibility for setting their own courses and for applying what they learn in their own ways. As their capacities increase, their incentive increases, because their sense of possibility increases. These are not just nice social gatherings or educational experiences—useful as they might be. Participants can define tasks and know when they have accomplished those tasks.
Fifth, the people whose lives are at stake will be the most authentic judges of the value of the approach to them. They will demonstrate that value by investing themselves in it, using it, and developing it. That must be regarded as significant evidence of its usefulness. Policy makers will judge what they do for its contribution to the multilevel peace process. In the larger political context the question for research is how what they do contributes to the unfolding of peace—to how societies change.
Sixth, policy makers are likely to have a more precise sense of specific objectives within the multilevel peace process than practitioners of interactive conflict resolution. If they have designed specific courses of action for a multilevel peace process, they will have concrete views about what needs to be done. They can see whether what needs to be done is being done. Practitioners of interactive conflict resolution can only know that secondhand unless they develop their own designs for the multilevel peace process.
Seventh, one of the reasons both officials and practitioners outside government have been imprecise about the specific relationship between actions and their contribution to peace is that both have worked in too narrow a framework. As I said earlier, most thinking about conflict resolution inside government and outside has focused on the official peace process; most conflict resolution theory has not focused on what needs to happen in civil society to make, build, and sustain peace. There will not be an adequate theory of conflict prevention, management, and resolution until it includes ways in which citizens change conflictual relationships and build the practices and institutions of living together peacefully. When the framework is larger, as in the framework of the multilevel peace process, evaluation will be less frustrating.
Eighth, in reaching judgments about how such work contributes to peace making and peace building, we must probably reach beyond the methods of present social science. We must accept the fact that in complex political situations exact cause and effect or the precise contribution of ideas may be unknowable in any measurable terms. How ideas emerge from the shadows to center stage and the role they play in changing the course of events may belong more to the history of ideas than to social science research methods. How citizens become engaged may be better understood by citizen activists.
Ninth, policy makers could extend the reach of peace making and peace building by consciously seeking complementary ways of bringing both governmental and unofficial work under the same conceptual umbrella at the highest levels. They would accept a framework such as the multilevel peace process as theirs.
One vehicle for doing this was tried in the Tajikistani context. The Kettering Foundation brought together in Washington on three occasions representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working in Tajikistan to develop a rolling draft of an experimental paper titled “Framework for an NGO Strategy for Tajikistan.” The proposition was that, if each organization added capacity to make its project partly a vehicle for helping local people expand their confidence and capacity to manage their own organizations, the NGOs could—in addition to their primary humanitarian work—contribute to building the postconflict structures of peace on a local level. The results of the effort were passed on to the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Tajikistan, which coordinated NGO activities, but UNHCR’s mission ended shortly thereafter. But there are numerous ways that citizens inside and outside government could coordinate their approaches.
My point is that this work needs to be included in the policy framework at the highest levels—not be consigned to the bureaucratic level in functional agencies, though that is where it must eventually be managed. High-level policy makers must demonstrate that this work is important to them.
Tenth, one of the greatest challenges today is no longer how to conduct productive dialogues—an obvious challenge in the first years of the work—but how to move ideas from the dialogue room into practice over a wider field. This challenge will not be fully met only by closer collaboration between those who conduct the official and public peace processes; an even greater challenge is building an active citizenry and engaging it. The particular question is how to spread the experience of interactive conflict resolution that teaches people a different way of thinking, talking, and working together. One approach is to try to proliferate dialogue groups in conflicted bodies politic, much as happened over 20 years in the Israeli-Palestinian arena. An even more ambitious approach is to make this mode of interaction a regular part of the educational experience in school and college.
Underlying each of these challenges is the task of learning how to take fullest advantage of both the official and the public peace processes and the opportunities in their working together. It is to generate groups in conflicted communities that can become “minds at work” in the middle of communities making and building peace. Such groups can play leading roles in changing communities, able to absorb problems and events
and respond to them on a continuing basis. Such is the task of making and building peace.