Summary of "Process: The Dynamics and Progression of Conflict"

Summary of

Process: The Dynamics and Progression of Conflict

by John Paul Lederach

Summary written by: Tanya Glaser, Conflict Research Consortium

Citation: "Process: The Dynamics and Progression of Conflict," chap. in Building Peace, (Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace, 1997), pp. 63-72.

Lederach adopts mediator Adam Curle's matrix for describing the progress of conflicts in terms of the balance of power between the parties, and the degree to which the parties are aware of their conflicting needs and interests. Conflicts progress from situations of unbalanced power and low awareness, or latent conflict to situations of unbalanced power and increasing awareness, or overt conflict. Negotiations attempt to bring overt conflicts to a situation of balanced power and high awareness. When this situation is stable, Curle calls it peace. Conflicts do not always follow this progression in a linear fashion. Conflicts may regress, or may occasionally skip stages. The appropriate response to latent conflict is education to increase awareness of power imbalances and unequal relationships. Overt conflicts call for confrontation. Advocates work to bring the weaker party's needs to the attention of the stronger. Confrontation can range from violent to nonviolent. As awareness of the conflict and recognition of the parties increases the appropriate response becomes negotiation. Mediators or other facilitators seek to balance power between the parties. Successful negotiations produce structural changes in the parties' relationship.

The Peacebuilding Process

Excessive emphasis on the personality of the mediator misunderstands the Peace building process. Lederach describes Peace building as a process which involves a wide variety of roles and activities, the goal of which is to "create and sustain transformation and the movement toward restructured relationships."[p. 71] Peacemaking roles and activities include educator, advocate, conciliator, trainer, envisioner, mediator, guarantor, observer, enforcer, rehabilitator and developer. Peace building draws on many of these activities and applies them at various stages and levels of conflict.

Lederach emphasizes three basic points from this approach. Understanding both conflicts and Peace building as processes reminds us that peace is not achieved simply by reaching a cease-fire agreement. To better understand the overall Peace building process, Peace building activities should be mapped onto the model of conflict. Finally, matching Peace building activities to points within the general conflict model will help us to better understand how each of those activities contributes to the larger goal of peace.