Preparing for Peace: Conflict Transformation Across Cultures
by John Paul Lederach
Summary written by: Conflict Research Consortium Staff
Citation: Syracuse University Press, 1995.
Peace and justice are both very abstract terms that mean different things to different people. Some people think justice is primary and peace is secondary. This is the view embodied in the frequently-heard phrase "if you want peace, fight for justice." Others think that peace (read "conflict resolution") will bring justice. This is the view held by many mediators who believe that consensus-based conflict resolution processes not only end conflicts (i.e., bring peace), but in so doing, render justice that is often more just than that delivered through adversarial, political, or legal systems.
This debate is reiterated in the oft-heard debate between activists and advocates on the one hand, and mediators on the other. Both see themselves as pursuing "justice," but advocates charge that mediators sacrifice justice for peace by down-playing social structural or justice issues, while mediators charge that advocates sacrifice peace for justice by intentionally escalating conflicts to win converts to their own cause.
This dichotomy is a false one, John Paul Lederach asserts. Drawing from diagram in Making Peace by Adam Curle, Lederach suggests that advocacy and activism is the approach of choice in situations where power is unbalanced and the awareness of the conflict is relatively low. Advocacy helps to raise awareness (on both sides) and to balance power. Once this is done, then mediators can take over to enable the parties to negotiate successfully to obtain both peace and justice simultaneously. (See Lederach, 1989)
Peace, Justice, Truth, and Mercy
Just as justice and peace are often seen as being in opposition to each other, so are justice and mercy. Justice, according to Lederach, involves "the pursuit of restoration, of rectifying wrongs, of creating right relationships based on equity and fairness. Pusuing justice involves advoacy for those harmed, for open acknowledgement of the wrongs committed, and for makiing things right. Mercy, on the other hand, involves compassion, forgiveness, and a new start. Mercy is oriented toward supporting persons who have committed injustices, encouraging them to change and move on." (Lederach 1995, p. 20).
Often it is assumed one does on or the other, but not both. Justice, it is often assumed, requires determining the truth and punishing the guilty party. Mercy, on the other hand, implies forgiveness. Thus, if one prosecutes and punishes the guilty, mercy at best can involve leniency in the sentence. Punishment, however, seldom results in either reconciliation or restitution. Thus, the resulting justice is illusory. The challenge, according to Lederach is "to pursue justice in ways that respect people, and [at the same time] to achieve restoration of relationships based on recognizing and amending injustices." (Ledearch, 1995, p. 20.) Thus, Lederach argues that reconciliation involves the identification and acknowledgment of what happened (i.e. truth), an effort to right the wrongs that occurred (i.e., justice) and forgiveness for the perpetrators (mercy). The end result is not only reconciliation, but peace.
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A Comparison of Lederach's "Conflict Transformation" with Bush and Folgers' Transformative Mediation
These two approaches to conflict resolution were developed independently for use in different contexts. Bush and Folger's transformative mediation was developed, at least initially, for interpersonal (often two-person) conflicts such as family conflicts or community conflicts. Most of Lederach's work has been at the intergroup and international level. He has spent his life trying to moderate and mediate highly intractable conflicts between warring ethnic groups. The relationships between these two approaches, however, is striking.
Lederach calls for the acknowledgment of harm (parallel to Bush and Folger's recognition) and for the empowerment of the disputants to make things right. Ledearch defines empowerment as "overcoming the obstacles and making possible the movement from 'I cannot' to 'I can.'" This is very similar to Bush and Folger's conception of empowerment, as is Lederach's definition of transformation: "Transformative peacemaking, then, empowers individuals and nurtures mutuality and community." (Mutuality and community can be seen as parallel to mutual recognition.)
Another similarity is the primacy of process over outcome. Again quoting Lederach, "process matters more than outcome. . . .At times of heated conflict too little attention is paid to how the issues are to be approached, discussed, and decided. There is a push toward solution and outcome that skips the discipline of creating an adequate and clear process for achieving an acceptble result. Process, it is argued, is the key to the Kingdom." (Ledearch, 1995, p. 22) This view very much parallels the notion of transformative mediation that problem-solving mediation is too focused on the outcome (i.e., settlement) and that a better approach focuses more on the process of dialogue itself (which transformative mediation does).