Conflict resolution is an expanding field of concern as the number and seriousness of various types of conflict increases, but it also refers to a domain of awareness and practices that encompasses both the personal and subjective values and outlooks of individuals and their relationships and to areas of collective activity and relationships. Conflict resolution is an area that invokes both a great deal of empirical evidence and practical skill and ideological commitment to practices of non-violence, listening, self-reflection, critical dialogue and mutuality.
It seems fairly obvious that conflict resolution skills encompass a great many insights and skills that are useful to communities. At the same time, intentional communities may also wish to consider how they could provide safe spaces and time to actively explore and share a wide range of conflict resolution skills with the larger community. Think, for example, how the Oslo accords attempted to bring together two parties that seem stuck in an intractable conflict by providing a context for their exchanges that might be conducive to reaching a better understanding and settling on workable agreements.
The nature of intentional communities and the insights, skills and ideological commitments that characterise them, coupled with the need to evolve new ways of surviving, for example by providing skills and services that are unavailable elsewhere, might also allow such communities to evolve into 'centers of expertise' on peacemaking, conflict resolution and experimentation with new ideas. Indeed, some intentional communities have already begun providing such services to the wider community. A few years ago I participated in an adobe building workshop in Spain. The workshop was given at a venue belonging to a community that provided both the area and equipment for experimental building and an excellent hostel and mess hall for meetings and presentations.
The idea that 'serious' conflict resolution can or should only involve a political or military elite has been exposed as patently ineffective. Especially so when the method of conflict resolution practiced does not require those involved to step outside the public persona and to engage in critical and introspective inquiry. Conflict resolution is therefore not merely a practice for 'specialists' but, owing to its ideological commitments and its theoretical sources requires the active involvement of entire populations. It is in other words, not merely a process guided by a desire to halt hostilities but one that ought, in my opinion, to lead to long-term efforts to understand the reasons for conflict and to identify the conditions and structures that lead to conflict.
An outstanding example of the ways activism and conflict resolution lead to extraordinary new possibilities is offered by the protests against DAPL at Standing Rock, where numerous Native American tribes came together with the activist community and even a number of US army Vets. This powerful confrontation with police and corporations unfolded on multiple fronts, in Courts, in prisons, on the ground at standing rock and all the while, protesters were actively engaging in talks and training on non-violence. This led to some extraordinary development, for instance, a 'forgiveness ceremony' in which US army Vets asked for forgiveness for the crimes committed by the US army against Native Americans over the past 500 years.
This example demonstrates the highly dynamic processes implicit in conflict resolution and how they aim to address not only the immediate conditions but also reach back into the experienced past and forward into possible futures.
I sincerely hope that we can welcome experts on this subject to come and share with us at CBHP.
—Daniel Waterman, Mar. 2018.