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Tips for Communicating Inside Conflicts

While developing a handout for my conflict resolution/mediation class I came across a number of communication tips that I thought worth sharing. They are good for communication in general… although I will note I find them easier to say than do!

  • Focus on behaviour not the person
  • Base feedback on direct observations rather than inferences
  • Use concrete behavioural descriptions not judgements to describe both positives and negatives.
  • Avoid words of negation: ‘no’, ‘but’, ‘however’—they invoke a defensive response
  • Use gradations — not “all”, “none”, “never”
  • Watch body language: boredom, aggressive eyes, leaning forward—instead sit in relaxed way, leaning back as if on a sofa for a chat.
  • Concentrate on what someone is feeling.
  • Do not get defensive if they attack—think about why they are angry and what their needs are. Show understanding and empathy.
  • Task is to elicit, suggest, propose don’t impose.
  • Sentences end with question-mark not exclamation mark
  • Respond rather than react
  • Share ideas rather than giving advice
  • Give feedback that is useful to the receiver and about things they can change, rather than getting everything off your own chest
  • Give the amount of information that can be used not the amount that can be given [ie avoid information overload]

Empathy killers

  • threatening – do it or else
  • ordering – because i said so
  • criticising – you
  • name calling – stupid idiot!
  • should/ought – you ought to…
  • withholding relevant info
  • interrogating
  • praising to manipulate
  • diagnosing motives – you are always…
  • untimely advice – if you…
  • changing the topic
  • persuading with logic
  • topping – when I…
  • refusing to address the issue – I can’t see a problem
  • reassuring – ‘you’ll be fine’


  • open body language, warm vocal tone
  • encourage further elaboration and clarification
  • display interest in what others communicate
  • affirming statements
  • support self-knowledge
  • uncover complex needs and improve relationships
  • use appropriate assertiveness
  • make ‘I’ statements
  • give appropriate feedback
  • reduce blaming language
  • share responsibility and decision making
  • communicate your willingness to resolve
  • giving appropriate acknowledgement and feedback
  • recognise it is valuable to explore my part of the problem

Understand your emotions

  • anger – shows need to change/communicate
  • resentment – is immobilised anger – need to take responsibility for how you feel and change the situation
  • hurt – tells us our needs are not being met, or self-esteem wounded
  • fear – warns us to proceed with caution, seek help and separate fantasy from reality
  • guilt – need to make amends/do things differently next time
  • regret – of unfulfilled potential – need to accept it without denial

Manage emotions

  1. Acknowledge
  2. Breath
  3. Centre
  4. Decide (appropriate ways to express emotions)
  5. Engage

Designing options

  • brainstorming
  • range of creative alternatives
  • see perspectives as part of a bigger picture
  • analysis or mapping
  • want what is fair for everyone
  • define issues
  • express needs and concerns
  • ask questions
  • reframe responses

Many tips to consider… and slowly incorporate into the way we communicate, in time…


Quadan, A & Dan, K (2011) Community Mediation: Theory and PracticeCourse Manual. Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney

Galtung, J & Tschudi, F (2001) “Crafting Peace: On the Psychology of the TRANSCEND Approach” in Christie, D.J. Sagner, R.V & Winter D.D. (eds) Peace, Conflict and Violence Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Galtung, J (2007) “Peace by Peaceful Conflict Transformaiton – the TRANSCEND approach” Galtung, J & Webel C (eds) Handbook of Peace and Conflict Studies, New York: Routledge

Horowitz D & Laksin J Conflict Resolution Skills Workshop

Conflict Resolution Techniques

Today I’m teaching my class some conflict resolution techniques & tips… so I thought I’d share with you.

The aim of Galtung’s method is to transcend, to go beyond, the original conflicting interests, to achieve more than each party’s stated goals. Not either/or, but BOTH/AND…

Mediation is usually done with both parties present. For deep conflicts, the Transcend method recommends the mediator meet with one party at a time. Conducted in a conversation style setting – the hope is to join both parties together in a creative search for a new reality.

There are two psychological processes that this involves: (1) cognitive expansion and reframing; (2) an emotive shift in cathexis.

Conflict Iceberg from Quadan (2011).

We are aiming to identify the hidden motivations, needs and fears… these can then be divided into interests, values and needs… Burton’s Human Needs Theory (below) helps us to consider the differences and how to deal with what we identify:

Quadan’s Golden Rule of Mediation:  The mediator owns the process and the parties own the content. The mediator doesn’t determine the outcome, parties do.

The point of departure is usually dualistic discourse reflecting a polarized conflict formation: the Other and his/her position are viewed negatively, and the Self and own position glorified. [Note that the following steps and communication tips are a culmination of the sources referenced at the bottom of this page.]

First round:

1. DIAGNOSIS: One of the parties, usually the one who initiated the mediation, is asked to briefly state his/her negative goals (fears/concerns) and his/her positive goals (hopes/expected outcomes). When did this go wrong and what could /should have been done at the time? The past is less threatening than what is unfolding before one’s eyes.

2. PROGNOSIS: Mediator reads back the parties’ stories as told by the parties. In no way try to dissuade the party from their goals, but probe more deeply into the nature of the goals. The broader the vision, the more likely new perspectives can be developed. And how do you think this is going to develop further? – all now anchored in what happened and what could have been done.

3. DEEPER DIAGNOSIS: Need to come to the party’s own diagnosis of the ‘situation’ and what he thinks the other parties’ diagnoses look like. What is underlying all of this?’ Take your time, be sure each theme has more or less been exhausted before moving on to the next.

4. NEW COGNITIVE SPACE: Party and conflict worker together construct a new cognitive space, framing the old goals as suboptimal, simplistic, and formulating broader goals. Don’t be so modest, go in for something better than what you used to demand! Explore whether all parties embrace the same points in the new cognitive space

5. THERAPY: What can be done about it? Then we come to the creative element: how can the needs of both parties be transcended?

E.g. for thinking outside the square: sexual infidelity looks different when four other ways of being unfaithful are considered: of the mind (secret love), of the spirit (no concern for partner’s life project), socially (no social support), and economically (secret account)

Question of what each party thinks is going to happen, and what he thinks the other parties are expecting.

Imagine things turns out the way you think they will: you win. How will the others react? Recognising the possibility of endless revenge cycles may spell disaster to Self. ie What would happen if we proceed along the following lines? How would life be for your children, grand children?

Second round:

6. Hand back to the parties, probe for sustainability together with the parties. What could make outcomes of these types stick? What are the vulnerabilities, the weak points?

7. Identify concrete steps for all parties.

If both parties reach conclusion that transcendence is preferable to other possibilities (continued struggle, withdrawal, compromise) then that is good, but even better if the transcendence withers away the other outcomes.

Ideally the solution comes from an inner conviction or inner acceptance. Often realists limit themselves to two forms of power: punishment and reward. Power from within individuals is far more effective than power over them. A good agreement is reversible. Only do what you can undo.


Quadan, A & Dan, K (2011) Community Mediation: Theory and PracticeCourse Manual. Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney

Galtung, J & Tschudi, F (2001) “Crafting Peace: On the Psychology of the TRANSCEND Approach” in Christie, D.J. Sagner, R.V & Winter D.D. (eds) Peace, Conflict and Violence Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Galtung, J (2007) “Peace by Peaceful Conflict Transformaiton – the TRANSCEND approach” Galtung, J & Webel C (eds) Handbook of Peace and Conflict Studies, New York: Routledge

Horowitz D & Laksin J Conflict Resolution Skills Workshop

Positive Conflict (In Transit)

Daisy chains and love hearts are great and all, but most of us love a little conflict. Our books, movies, politics, religions, and even our conversations, are based on conflict. The stories we live and tell are based on the contradictions, the tensions, the heroes and villains, the differences of opinion, stories about the good times and the bad. How can we reconcile a love of conflict, with a desire for peace?

A student of Peace and Conflict Studies, preparing to present at a conference to theologians, philosophers and scientists in Krakow, I was going to need to be clear about my definitions.

And so, on the train from Stockholm to Copenhagen, I recapped some old notes and defined what is, in my mind, a clear vision of peace: Positive Conflict.

“Positive Conflict” is not an official term in Peace and Conflict Studies. I made it up. Scholars infer it, but no one has stated it as a vision. And I think it’s a useful one.

Positive Conflict is conflict that leads to constructive and creative consequences and is resolved in non-violent ways. Well that’s my working definition anyway.

For me, “Positive Conflict” is a more appealing objective than “Positive Peace” (see definitions below). Maybe because the word “peace” carries an image of what Whitehead calls its ‘bastard substitute, Anesthesia.’[1] Or maybe simply because I love challenges, and enjoy the mental, emotional and physical stimulation that comes from conflicted spaces.

I don’t like violence – but conflict, positive conflict, can be a lot of fun.

‘Peace is the understanding of tragedy, and at the same time its preservation,’[2] another Whitehead quote.

This Taoist “dipolar” way of thinking of peace is a challenge when one encounters acts of horrific violence, as I would soon discover on a visit to Auschwitz… but I’ll leave that story for another day.

Definitions: [3]

Negative peace = the absence of war. It is the peace of the Pax Romana – often maintained through repression.

Positive peace = presence of desirable states of mind and society including ecological harmony & social justice. This kind of peace minimises/eliminates exploitation and “structural violence”. It is the peace of the realpolitik, advanced by Johan Galtung, the founder of Peace and Conflict Studies.

The aim of peace is to avoid/resolve:

Direct violence = observable eg war, physical harm

Structural violence = hidden, caused by unjust social structures, eg hunger, suffering, environmental harm, deprivation of self-determination

Cultural violence = often makes direct/structural violence feel right, or at least not wrong, eg racism, sexism, other forms of discrimination


[1] Alfred North Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas (London: Cambridge University Press, 1964). p. 283.

[2] Ibid. p. 284.

[3] Barash and Webel, Peace and Conflict Studies, SAGE Publications: London 2009


You are what you read (and watch and hear)

“You are what you eat” – yes, this is true. But also “you are what you read” (and what you watch and hear)…

My mentor once told me that what you are reading now, and who you are talking to, is the biggest indicator of where you will be in five years time.

Connected to this month’s project of revisiting what I learned in Peace and Conflict Studies pre-blog, it was interesting for me to read this piece of writing written three years ago in October 2007, which is pre-uni (before I’d even heard of “Peace and Conflict Studies”).

Diary from October 2007

More and more movies are being released that inform audiences of issues faced by developing countries. I just saw one called Bordertown, with Jennifer Lopez and Antonio Banderas in Mexico, on subject of workshops and a horrible murderer & rapist whom was actually a white man abusing his power.

The other, Blood Diamond, taught me about the horrible things that occur in Africa, with civil war where rebels are killing thousands of innocent people, in any areas that diamonds or other valuable products such as oil, have been found.

People’s purpose of life is to protect their family and to survive to see the next day. If they think about a god, they think he must be dead, for why would a god allow such things to happen to his people. Individual lives are held with no value.

I am so unaware of the lives that these people live, the pain they experience, and the how these are connected to things like us buying diamond rings.

It’s so sad to think that on one planet I am here living in a large house, with my mum owning her own large house, my dad owning his, where I have a car, can go where I like, when I like, I am free to do whatever I want with my life, I can travel, learn, use my computer, I can go to parties, I can go to the beach, I can shop and spend money on clothes, food, luxuries… I live a life so good, so blessed, completely free.

And at the same time as I live like this, the number of people that die every second is so large. People are being killed like insects while I live here in a fools paradise, completely oblivious to the pain that the majority of the world’s population faces.

It’s interesting to think about the fact that this happens. It also made me think about how the world has found itself in this state. Considering it is now the year 2007 with a world population of 6 billion people, when only 2000 years the population was 300 million, how did this inequity come about? How is it fair? How did I get so lucky?

Now I start to understand more the reasons that scientists have come up with the evolution theory, and why buddists and hindu believe in reincarnation. Both these theories seem much more realistic than the idea of a God who ‘cares’ about his people, and yet allows things to be so unfair.

The pain and horror that Africans face every day of their lives, why? Why? Why? I just don’t understand.

Reflecting in October 2010

My writing style (I think/hope) has come a long way – it’s nice to see some development. It’s also refreshing to be reminded of my naive innocence, and of some of the roots of my “search for truth”.

What I think is most interesting about this piece of writing is to see how seeds can be planted, be it with something you read, watch or hear, and how within a few years these seeds can quickly grow into seedlings and plants.

What are books are you reading today? What music are you listening to? What movies are you watching? Who are you spending your time with? … Is this reflective of where you want to be in 5 years time?


I took in Bowral on my sister’s weekend wedding back in July.

More Chess and Sex – talking Peace with Army boys

This is a story within a story – an episode among Friday night’s random route home. A conversation between a peace lover and army dudes – about war and love and perceptions, and chess and sex.

“What do you do?” A visiting American army boy, one of my friend’s friends, asked me that inescapable ubiquitous question.

“Um…” I which box shall I put myself in this time? “I’m a student.” I replied.

“What are you studying?”

“Peace and Conflict.”


“Peace,” I repeated, “You know..” I made a peace sign with my fingers.

“Yeah? You do know we’re in the army don’t you?” He laughed. The conversation progressed along interesting lines, as it tends to do when Peace meets War. “The word Peace carries a lot of baggage – you have to be careful how you use it.”

“I know, I smiled – it had been something on my mind lately. “That’s why Peace and Conflict Studies isn’t more simply named Peace Studies,” I told him. “It was only when the word ‘Conflict‘ was added to the title, the University of Sydney agreed to support the emerging discipline.”

I understand the reasoning behind this, at least in part. The word Peace can concur images of a state of nothingness – like when you meditate and have inner peace: you are one with everything and so you feel completely full, but at the same time you feel completely empty. This can be nice temporarily, but it doesn’t really do much for progression and change – which is kinda essential to an evolving universe. As I’ve mentioned before, conflict is good – it’s violence that would be nice to avoid.

It was a good conversation. It helped me reclarify the difference between Iraq war and Afhanistan war. I should know which is which, but they keep mixing up in my head.

“So Iraq was Sadaam and the ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ – subtext: oil;

and Afghanistan was Osama bin Laden, the “War on Terror” – subtext: opium?” I clarified.

“More or less,” he laughed. “And what do you think you are going to do about it?”

“I’m not quite sure,” I answered. “Right now I’m just learning about it.”

“How does studying books about peace help the situation? You know, it is frustrating when these professors preach this and that, or peace activists call for the end of war,” he said.

“Or worse when idiots like Bob Brown want to cut our salaries in half.” One of the Aussies added.

These professors and greenies don’t know what’s it’s like over there: what’s it like to wipe your butt with your left hand and clean it with drinking water. That’s what life is like for these people and that’s what we have to endure when we are there.”

Gulp. It is true. Here I am so insulated – I have no idea what life is really like in these places. How can I, a student of Peace and Conflict Studies, know anything about what’s really going on when I haven’t been there?

“I do see a need for defense.” I agreed. “I see a need for securing resources and protecting ourselves from potential harm, even if I don’t at all agree with the methods. I totally appreciate you guys going out there, risking your lives to secure our way of life.” I told him. I know defense has it’s place.”But I think in addition to defense, you need peace research – people who analyse the context of the conflicts – people who search for long-term solutions.”

War these days seems inseparable from capitalism, values, lifestyle choices, ideologies and religions. There seems to be an incredibly vast web of issues that are interconnected and paradoxical. Unless these issues are analysed from various perspectives imagining long-term solutions, how can issues humanity faces ever be addressed?

Trillions of dollars go into defense – into protecting ourselves from the outside world. That money could be spent on education and new systems and infrastructures –  addressing the causes of the fear rather than building more of it.

That’s why I study peace and conflict: I’m trying to deepen my understanding of the roots of these global issues – trying to identify why we need to change, and how this change is possible. Will this analysis help on a practical level? I don’t know. But it’s better than nothing – right?

I find it hard, especially when I know I’m already pre-programmed for the defect system we are in. My customer dollar, investment dollars, and citizen vote speaks louder than any form of activism or campaign, yet I follow my almost innate nature to purchase goods that are the best value (cheapest price & highest quality), invest my money where will give me the highest return, and vote for the party who is going to do the most for my personal situations.

My monetary and civilian votes (albeit inadvertently) desire cheap oil, and that’s what I get – thanks to our country (and America’s) defense force.

Our systemic structures are pretty much designed for us to forget that all these things are intrinsically connected: war, poverty, lifestyle, money.

And because we forget the connections, it seems that NO ONE IS RESPONSIBLE – all responsibility is obliterated in the structural lines: management have one purpose: to generate profit for shareholders. Shareholders invest for one reason: to make as much money in their investment as possible (for doing nothing). Customers want the cheapest goods and workers want the highest wages. Someone has to pay – and that, today, is the “3rd world” whose resources (human and nature) we continue to plunder from afar. Not much has changed since the Spanish Conquest and Colonialism – only we don’t have to look at it. These benefits are free, and the consequences on people and the planet are not given real thought.

It’s all in the systems, the roles, and our definitions – so we have to look at this, and figure out where and how it can change to make things better.

From where I stand there are few options:

a)     play ignorant – block out the things I don’t want to hear and go on living my relatively meaningless short life. This temporal denial helps no one – the rich get more fat and depressed while the poor waste away and pop out more babies. In fifty years I’ll be dead or dumb so what will I care if the earth and people on it suffer?

b)    focus on defense without peace – support the defense of our lifestyles, invest more and more into it, knowing full well that stronger civilizations have fallen in the past: eventually the west will collapse and another hegemonic power will rise. Or we all/most of us die off with a big nuclear bomb or other wars in the process.

c)     focus on peace without defense – be “do-gooders” and help the poor, leaving ourselves open for other countries who have not-so-good morals to take everything from us. Helping the developing countries develop without changing the structure of the system is largely destined for self destruction. Without defense other countries probably take over and continue in our destructive footsteps.

d)    search out deeper longer-term win-win solutions – imagine what world without war and hunger would look like, work together to identify the systemic lines that stand in the way, and then re-define the system based on a defined set of shared humanistic and ecological values.

Defense is driven by fear, while Peace is driven by love. The goal, I think, is to learn to face our fears, embrace and breed creativity out of conflict, and see how love of self, of others and of our planet can better our lives for today, and for generations to follow.

Oops – I’m off track… continuing Friday night’s conversation:

“You boys are playing the wrong game,” I told the small group of American and Australian army men who had joined in the debate. Words I have previously blogged about on the subject were dying to come out of my mouth.

“Oh yeah?” one smirked.

“You guys are chess pieces on a global chess board,” I shrugged. They nodded, I guess that part’s pretty obvious. “And while chess can be fun, I think sex is better.”

Gulp. “Huh?”

“Sex.” I repeated.


“Yes sex”

“That’s what I thought you said.”

“Chess is black and white. In chess you have one winner and one loser, or a stalemate,” I began.

“But sex is a different game altogether. In sex, both parties win. And the more one party wins, the more the other wins.”

I smiled as I said these words, watching their jaws drop.

I guess while it’s one thing to write about this kind of stuff, it’s kinda another thing to say it, and to army guys in a nightclub may sound a touch risky. But these guys were cool, I couldn’t resist having a fun with words. While they weren’t complaining about the topic of conversation (as you can imagine), I’m not so sure they “got” the depth of my analogy.

As I see it (and you may have read this in past posts), Love is the gift that keeps on giving. The more you give, the more everyone gets.

BUT Fear if let rule is a horrible abyss, like a debt that constantly compounds. The more you fight to protect, the more you stand to lose.

I think the army/security theorists deserve respect from peace researchers/workers/activists, just as I think peace researchers/workers/activists deserve respect in return. I think that both share the same underlying goals – they just envisage achieving them via different means.

Both have powerful roles – collaborative roles – both are necessary until a new system can be put in place.

Then, maybe (hopefully) all peace and war workers will be out of a job – with lots of time for new endeavors (and lots of sex.) 😀

Artwork credit:

Talented artist and good friend Sawan Yawnghwe – his Dormice series:

Levels of Morality

What motivates our decisions? Pleasure/pain; authority; social contracts; or some kind of internal judgement mechanism? Kohlberg identified the development of moral maturity as having six stages within three levels.

The pre-conventional level involves punishment and pleasure-seeking orientation enforced by authority and observed mostly in early childhood.

At the conventional level is where most of society resides with a good girl/boy and authority orientation stages, behaviour is guided by a desire to please others, obey the law and gain approval of higher authorities.

The post-conventional level involves social-contract orientation and morality of individual principles, whereby decisions are controlled internally going beyond self-interest and law to be based on rational thought, justice, dignity, and equality.[1]

From my research i found that the behaviour of religious fundamentalists commonly resides at the pre-conventional and conventional level – they are often deeply motivated by the desire to avoid the punishment of hell and be rewarded with glories in heaven – as well a default nature to obey and believe what those with authority say.

Often an externalization of morals creates a battle in one’s mind: of good versus evil and obedience versus temptation – which often abstracts and distorts the actual dilemmas and issue being faced.

I wonder if this is what causes moral abominations, like the reverends who rape young boys in the Catholic church? What effect does this have on society that does  not murder “because the Bible tells them not to” rather than because it’s a horrible thing to do to another human being? I think externalisation of morals would cause much fear and confusion for many individuals who do not really know why they value and do the things they do.

In order to move toward a state of peace with justice, I think humanity must rise beyond self-interest and move toward post-conventional levels of morality based on rational thought and dignity.

How exactly we can collectively evolve toward this morality, I’m not quite sure…

Picture credit:

Simon Howden on free Digital Photos – Simon’s portfolio is available here –

I’m so taking my camera out this weekend 😛

[1] Ibid., pp. 146-7. Lawrence Kohlberg was a Harvard University professor authored landmark work on moral development.

Mastering Conflict: Journal on Peace & War

19 April 2008 (Journal entry #5 – final part of this assignment for “Key Issues in Peace and Conflict Studies”)

“If you want peace, prepare for war”

The last few weeks have focused on the concept of Security, and at the Iraq Never Again conference last week, these concepts tied neatly together.

It’s interesting to think about security developments over the last 500 years. What a massive change our society has been through in this time! I recently saw two movies that were set in the 15th and 16th Century: ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ – about King Henry the Eighth and his second wife Anne; and ‘Elizabeth: The Golden Age’ – about the reign of Queen Elizabeth the First, King Henry and Anne’s daughter. These came at the right time, as they have helped me imagine the concepts in action. Territory/borders, military/armaments, to defend/expand, threats/fear. Power. Images of horses, battles, Spanish boats, explorers – float in an out of my head.

In these times of sovereignty, war was thought to be natural, inevitable, normal and good. This realist perspective, shared by Hobbes and Kant, is still reflected foreign policy to this day.

Is war inevitable or not? How likely is it to stop it? Attempts throughout history… what limited them from success? Can you have states without arms? How do we relate this to positive and negative peace? – Some of the questions posed in class.

Westphalia Treaty was signed in 1648. It’s incredible, simply incredible, how much the world has changed dramatically in the last 350 years. Today more than ever, we live in a world connected on so many different levels, and in my opinion, our Security agreements are struggling to keep up.

“Collective security”, “Comprehensive security”, “Common security” and the one I like the most “Cooperative security” – all powerful concepts that I would like to talk more about, however my word count is way over already, so I’m going to skip that and go straight to the very important concept “Peace with Justice.”

Peace with Justice – is it possible? How can it be achieved? In particular, how can we achieve a Positive Peace with Justice, in a non-violent way?

I do think a Positive Peace with Justice is possible, and I have combined what I have learned from readings, last week’s class, and the Iraq conference, into the following steps:

1 Awareness

It’s important to develop a non-judgmental yet critical awareness of ourselves, of others and of the world, and developing a literacy of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Rees)

“The awareness that the “enemy” has needs and perceives injustice or unfairness in meeting those needs can help build productive relationships between groups in conflict. It can also create motivation for working together to solve the problem of shared unmet needs rather than the win-lose orientation.” (Schirch)

2 Understanding

With in-depth analysis, we must strive to understand all aspects of the problem from all perspectives. What are the core motives? Desire for ‘happiness’? Fear? What stands between the issue and the motive? Another’s desire for power? Indoctrination? Propaganda? All aspects must be understood.

‘Relations between States are essentially no different from relations between groups and persons. Conflict and violence are no less a problem at these levels and have the same fundamental sources.’ (Rees)

3 Collaboration

Developing a vision of what the world could be, and brainstorming ideas on how to get there. Exercising Power Creatively (Rees), using our imagination, developing liberation, and possessing knowledge; and coordinating an interdependence between actors on horizontal and vertical levels (Lederach)

As Joseph Camilleri said at the conference, “it starts with conversation at the kitchen table.”

4 Action

Setting up ‘institutionalised coordination networks’ and means of providing ‘restorative justice’ (Schirch) Empowering the people through education and resources. Practicing non-violence (Rees), leading by example, and basically, “making it happen.“

Helping people recognise that ‘happiness which contributes to a sense of peace derives not from personal gain, but from quality of life experiences.’ (Rees)

5 Evaluating and starting the process again

I think it’s useful to look at conflicts as processes (Lederach), moving away from a ‘myopic focus on agreements and events’, toward a ‘commitment of embracing the permanency of relationship building’. Lederach’s river metaphor created a clear picture in my mind of how to view the ‘conflict transformation’ (as opposed to ‘conflict resolution’) process: looking at problems from standing with water to your knees so you see, feel and hear the dynamic flow of water, force & power, change; and from standing high on a mountain, so that you see the shape and form that the water has carved in the land.

Like self-development: the process of learning and experience never stops. Paradoxically the only thing permanent – is change.

I think we should aim for a Holistic Peace, because this encompasses both Ethical Peace and Justpeace, focusing on inner peace and working outward. Maybe this is the Pilates teacher in me – wanting to strengthen the core, and working outward to tone the rest of the body from there…

While at the conference, Iraqi Samer Khamisy was twice asked “What do you think a vision of peace would look like in Iraq? He replied that he just couldn’t imagine it – the situation was hopeless. Without a vision of what you want, how can you get it?

I think we need to imagine how we want the world to be, and truly believe it is possible. In my personal experience, it is figuring out what you want that is the difficult bit –  once you have this clear in your mind, getting it just comes, in it’s own time and in it’s own way – but it happens.

In the article by Mead, M. (1940/2000) the idea is presented that war is an invention. In order to move forward we need to recognise the defects of the old invention, and invent a new one. “First requirement is to believe that an invention is possible.”

As Stuart Rees says, in Passion for Peace: Exercising Power Creatively, “It starts with ourselves.”


Kind of war-like… Maybe I need to take my camera out some more – or at least bother to connect with my hard drive… I’m exhausting the files I can randomly find on this laptop.

Photographer: Anatole Papafilippou

Taken in Tokyo a long time ago.

Mastering Conflict: A Journal on the Business World

9 April 2008 (Journal entry #4 – part of an assignment for “Key Issues in Peace and Conflict Studies”)

Something dawned on me this week while learning about security threats. My undergrad degree is actually relevant! When we learned about the inter-disciplinary nature of Peace and Conflict Studies, I categorised this as combining History, Philosophy, Politics, Psychology, Religion – Arts and Humanities subjects. Given the pro-Capitalist, money-hungry, selfish nature of Business, I didn’t think that my Bachelor of Business was very relevant to creating Peace.

It was while reading Rodgers’ “Losing Control – The New Security Paradigm”, that the thought struck me. Rodgers’ speaks about “Three successive ‘drivers’ of international wealth divisions, all inextricably linked to the liberal market: trade problems, the debt crisis and labour rights.” Rodgers quotes Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere (1971), “In 1963, we needed to product 5 tons of sisal to buy a tractor. In 1970 we had to product 10 tons of sisal to buy that same tractor”. These are Business and Economic problems requiring Business and Economic solutions.

Rodgers’ talks about the Sub-Saharan Africa who in 1997 owed $234 billion and had already paid $170 billion in debt servicing, with costing around four times the health and education budgets each year. If I’m interpreting this correctly, ‘debt servicing’ refers to interests payments. I didn’t realize that all the aid money Western countries provided the Third World countries, for development projects, was a loan to which they are charging interest! I thought it was a big gift – ‘aid’ means ‘help’ doesn’t it?

I have a friend who grew up in a hippy family, without what she calls ‘nice’ things. She has a job earning a regular income, and a credit card which she ongoingly max’s out, as she spends money on luxuries that she didn’t have growing up. “I deserve it” she tells herself. Her credit card company, finding her a ‘good customer’, responds by increasing her limit. She keeps spending and they keep extending, I don’t see this being helpful. I definitely wouldn’t call it ‘aid’. Her interest payments keep increasing, and every month a huge chunk of her salary goes to just to pay off the interest, which continues to accumulate.

It’s a trap.

I can’t believe that Western countries would do that to Third World countries. And then label it ‘aid’. Can’t our countries forget poor country’s debts? But then, what would the consequences of this be to our country’s government budgets?

How would this impact my life? The money has to come from somewhere, right? I don’t know.

I don’t know what is going to happen to the millions of people in financial crisis, with massive loans and massive interest payments. When you can’t pay, what can you do? Declare yourself bankrupt?

Why can’t poor countries declare themselves bankrupt and start again fresh? How do they allow us to operate with this double standard? I suppose we don’t give them a choice. But why is it us who gets to set the rules?

The economics of prices of goods and services, primary commodity prices in relation to prices of manufactured goods, wage levels, etc – all come from a formula of SUPPLY and DEMAND. This is a major contributor to levels of poverty in smaller countries. I only did two Economic subjects, and only know the basics. I suppose these trade problems are being discussed by Economics experts, by people who understand the rules but have a an objective of Peace rather than Profit?

I hope so… Are they having any luck? Have they identified areas that we, the public, or activists, can help? Looking at the big economic picture would help people like me and my sister, direct efforts to in the most effective way.

My sister witnessed poverty in India and Cambodia and now she plans to start a Fair Trade fashion company. That’s fantastic but before I dedicate my time to this I want to know the difference that setting up an initiative will make. Obviously it helps the families and community that she would provide a fair wage to, which is wonderful in itself. It also has positive impacts in increasing awareness about poorer countries, and sets a good example for other businesses to follow.

I wonder though, is this the best way to help? Maybe it is, but are there ways that the economics can be influenced on a larger scale?

I think all companies should turn to fair trade – I don’t really know how managers of companies can live with themselves underpaying people to the extent that they can’t even afford to live, making them work in substandard conditions, or employing child labour. It’s criminal. It’s inhumane. I guess it is hidden in the corporation identity – no single person can be held responsible. Each is doing their own job, judged by bottom number, ultimately reported to shareholders – which may even be you or I.

Bandura’s Model of Moral Disengagement (1988) gives a sense of how it can happen.

a) one’s perception of the reprehensible conduct – that they are only ‘doing their job’

b) one’s sense of the detrimental effects of that conduct – the poor people want to work

c) one’s sense of responsibility –the company owners and CEOs are responsible

d) one’s view of the victim – looking at the workers as numbers & dollars, not real people

Is this any different from the Bureaucratization in Germany which facilitated the Holocaust? Staub, E. (1989) “The Origins of Genocide and Mass Killing: Core Concepts” discussed the Holocaust, how functions and responsibilities were divided, each person do their job without seeing the whole. For example, one person’s job may be scheduling trains used to transport Jews to extermination camps without relationship to genocide being considered.

It’s quite easy to see how large amounts of violence can occur in this way. We need business-minded people to understand the dynamics of large business, to consult professionally with CEOs in large corporations, and discover alternatives that shareholders will be happy with. Research and resources will play a big part in helping all people look at their investments from a new perspective. One where their money is invested not only for pure profit, but as invested in people and development of products that contribute to the health of our planet and lives of ‘world citizens’. Evidently, these problems are not going to be solved by setting up a fair trade fashion label. Large problems need large solutions. Or at least a large awareness, and lots of fair trade companies. Still, my sister is on the right track. You have to start somewhere…


Clothes designed and styled by Rain Laurent

Photography by Wendell Teodoro

Nice Guys Finish First

Can nice guys they finish first? Or is it always the bad boys who win the game? While you probably thinking I’m referring to my choice in men, I ask this question in a more general evolutionary context – inspired by a BBC documentary by Richard Dawkins. While one might expect Dawkins to say nice guys finish last, given his book The Selfish Gene, this documentary tells another story…

Dawkins refers to Game Theory and the Prisoner’s Dilemma, exploring it in a human social experience, and in the natural world.

Game Theory ‘attempts to mathematically capture behavior in strategic situations, or games, in which an individual’s success in making choices depends on the choices of others. While initially developed to analyze competitions in which one individual does better at another’s expense (zero sum games), it has been expanded to treat a wide class of interactions.’

Consider the different options in a game of chess:

1.     White wins, black loses

2.     Black wins, white loses

3.     Stalemate

Do you notice there is no option for Black AND White to win?

The Prisoner’s Dilemma is ‘a fundamental problem in game theory that demonstrates why two people might not cooperate even if it is in both their best interests to do so.’

Prisoner B Stays Silent Prisoner B Betrays
Prisoner A Stays Silent Each serves 6 months Prisoner A: 10 yearsPrisoner B: goes free
Prisoner A Betrays Prisoner A: goes freePrisoner B: 10 years Each serves 5 years

While if both prisoners stayed silent they would only serve 6  months, the most likely outcome is for both to betray and both serve 5 years. It seems that while we could collaborate, our selfish gene means we don’t – or won’t.

In the documentary Dawkins shows how in the seemingly harsh dog-eat-dog world of nature, it is not the strongest who survive – it’s about being the fittest, and often this involves cooperation.

He describes a process of “reciprocal altruism“, for example when animals and birds groom each other. Dawkins describes a species of birds who must cooperate to suck the parasites off each other. He describes “cheats” who allow “suckers” to suck off their parasites, but refuse to repay the favour. If the world consisted of only cheats and suckers, suckers would go extinct. However, if there are also “grudgers” who suck but when they meet a cheat, they learn from the past and don’t suck the parasites off the cheater in the future. In a world with grudgers, the suckers and cheaters would go extinct and the grudgers would survive.

Returning to the Prisoner’s Dilemma, the experiment explores the games with lesser stakes, a few pounds, played over and over again:

Player B chooses A Player B chooses B
Player A chooses A Both get $2 Player A gets 0Player B gets $1
Player A chooses B Player A gets $1Player B gets nothing Both get $.20

Over time a cooperative strategy can be reached. If Player A tries an A he may lose one game but it will signal to Player B an intention to cooperate. Player B might not respond at first, but if Player A repeats his intention, Player B might start to also play As. If both players act on this cooperative signal, both players will come out on top.

It becomes a game of “tit for tat” – where one only reciprocates if the other one does. Dawkins give the example of bats, who provide reciprocal blood sharing – but only to other bats who are tit for tat players.

If Prisoner’s Dilemma was to be applied to our ecological crisis, what would the options be?

Maybe something like this:

You change You don’t change
I change Habitable planet for future generations. If I (and the majority) change, you get a free ride.
I don’t change If you (and the majority) guys change, I get a free ride. Global warming, pollution, soil degradation, water dries up…  inhabitable planet & extinction.

If we figure out how to change, I’m willing to give co-operation a shot. Are you?

Check out the full doco, it’s well worth a peak – even if just to check out Richard Dawkins who is actually kinda cute in his youth…


Wikipedia (I was lazy) and Google Video.


My surfer friends on a road trip – sometimes the “bad boys” are “nice guys” too.