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RD300 Lecture #1 The Nature of Conflict 29 August 2001 What is CONFLICT? • A term used to mean a variety of things. • A struggle over values and claims to scarce status, power and resources in which the aims of the opponents are to neutralize, injure or eliminate their rivals. • The opposition between individuals or groups on the basis of competing interests, different identities, and /or differing attitudes. Every conflict is set in a context. You cannot resolve a conflict without understanding its context. Conflict resolution methods must be melded to the specific context. Resolving conflict is not a simple matter. Some conflicts last for generations (e.g. ethnic wars). Conflicts may involve: • Individuals • Groups • Institutions Categorizing Conflict 1 Conflicts in which the parties have failed to recognize a solution. These are amenable to traditional and alternative dispute resolution methods. 2 Intractable or deep-rooted conflicts. Very difficult to resolve. Typically involve deep feelings and values and often have extended histories (e.g. Northern Ireland). Perceived Conflict • “Conflict does not only come about when values or needs are actually, objectively incompatible, or when conflict is manifested in action; it exists when one of the parties perceives it to exist” (Tillett, 1991, p.8). The Value of Conflict • How one views conflict depends largely upon how conflict is valued. • Schelling (1980) distinguished between: “those that treat conflict as a pathological state and seek its causes and treatment, and those that take conflict for granted and study the behavior associated with it” (p.3). A society without conflict is a dead society (Coser, 1957). Agree or disagree? Is Conflict Bad? • • • • • • • Stimulates new thoughts. Promotes social change. Defines group relationships and boundaries. May prevent withdrawl of group members. Creates new associations and coalitions. Helps form our sense of personal identity. Many nation states were forged through bitter social conflict. What is the nurture versus nature debate regarding conflict? The Origins of Conflict • Three basic theory types: – Inherency - biological/genetic basis, cannot be prevented. – Contingency - external forces influence behavior. – Interactionist - behavior depends upon inherent and contingent factors. • Question: What is the most common institutional method employed in an effort to resolve conflicts and disputes? • Question: Why do we need additional methods for resolving conflicts? Three Traditions of Conflict Resolution • Organizational development and management science; • International relations; and • Alternative dispute resolution. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) • A set of procedures and processes designed to provide alternatives to adjudicated settlement of conflicts. • ADR - Popular approaches to resolving environmental disputes. Questions to Ask About a Specific Conflict • Is this a good conflict? • What are the sources of this conflict? • Do the skills and resources required for resolution exist? • Is there a desire to engage in resolution? Cultural Considerations • Western methods of conflict resolution may not be appropriate or effective in other cultures. BRAINSTORMING • A small group activity. • Produce as many ideas as quickly as possible. • Emphasis on quantity not quality. • No criticism of ideas when given. • Build on other people’s ideas. • Nominate a recorder of the group’s ideas. How many causes or sources of environmental conflicts can you identify? Work in your group for 10 minutes. Who is your recorder/reporter? Remember: No censuring of ideas!