What happens when two warring sides come together and resolve the conflict at hand? Is it as easy as it sounds?
Resolving a conflict means that two antagonistic parties have agreed to end an outstanding stalemate. As already covered elsewhere on this blog, conflict resolution is realized when interests of both parties are satisfied, in a mutually acceptable manner.
It is important to remember that each conflict has a multitude of parties involved, even though, regrettably, only a few sides end up on the negotiation table. As a result, parties that are secondary end up with unmet needs, and this sets up the possibility of conflict recurrence.
For example, assume two rebel leaders, after months of ethnically-inspired violence that leaves scores dead and property destroyed, agree to end the conflict through a power sharing formula negotiated by the international community. While the respective followers may put their weapons down, this should by no means be assumed to mean that the conflict has been resolved. At best, this is a power sharing arrangement. Power is a limited resource, and as such one of the leading causes of conflict. However, by sharing power, this does not mean that the conflict has been resolved.
While pundits will most laud the peace deal, this does not mean that the roots of the conflict have been uprooted, and as such eliminating any chance of recurrence. Conflict transformation is premised on the idea of tackling a conflict from the root causes.
Conflict transformation is a post-conflict opportunity that is premised on reconciling, rebuilding, and reconstructing, rehabilitation, and reculturation of a society that has experienced conflict.
Rehabilitation is tied to trauma healing, which can be achieved, for example, by counselling.
Rebuilding entails the (re)creation of pre-conflict environment. It may entail building collapsed bridges connecting two towns or repairing broken water lines.
Restructuration entails the elimination of all factors that undermine peace, and creation of new environment that brings about peace. This can entail calling for a fresh election that give to the winner unrivalled mandate.
Reculturation involves the transformation of the culture, from one of violence to one peace and cohesion. This can be attained by teaching incorporating conflict resolution classes in the syllabus. Finally
Reconciliation creation of new partnerships and healing old wounds.
In conclusion, whereas conflict resolution helps parties get to the negotiation table, and most likely bandage a bleeding conflict, conflict transformation helps prevent recurrence of a conflict.