Theory, Practice, Success, and Failure: A Journey of Learning in Cyprus
By James Notter
This Article Summary written by: Mariya Yevsyukova, Conflict Research Consortium
Citation: Notter, James. "Theory, Practice, Success, and Failure: A Journey of Learning in Cyprus." ICAR Newsletter. Fall 1994. V. 6, No. 2. Pp. 6-7.
Greek and Turkish Cypriots have been in conflict with each other for a long period of time. Eventually the island was divided; peacekeeping forces have been standing between the two communities since 1964. For 30 years there have been negotiations occurring on official (UN) as well as unofficial levels (with help from John Burton and Leonard Doob), but not much has been accomplished. Recent negotiations between the leaders of the two communities did not bring any change. These attempts at conflict resolution were widely perceived as "failures." The author argues against the use of this term.
He participated for several years in training provided by Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy (IMTD) and its executive director, Dr. Louise Diamond. The 1992 training was based on the human needs theory that was adopted to fit the intergroup conflict. Such group level needs as identity, security, and vitality ("the group's need for growth, change, and development"(p. 6)) were discussed. In 1993 James Notter participated in another Cyprus training program designed by Dr. Diamond and based on the idea of conflict transformation which included "elements of needs-based conflict analysis, reconciliation and forgiveness, and a personal transformation and renewal, all centered around a vision of the ideal, a vision of peace" (p. 6). Those who participated in this workshop were able to transform their views about the conflict and the other party and maintain their new perceptions, in spite of often negative societal pressures. This group, which included both Greek and Turkish Cypriots, started organizing intergroup activities on its own. For the next training program, which took place in 1994, IMTD cooperated with CMG, Conflict Management Group, an affiliate organization of the Harvard Negotiation Project. Differences in methodological approaches among the trainers did not create competition or disagreements, but the possibility of learning from different models of third party intervention.
As a result of this experience, James Notter began to give more preference to the term "conflict transformation". He also looked differently at the term "intervention", which implies one time interference in the conflict and is not applicable in the case of multiple, long-term efforts of conflict transformation in Cyprus. James Notter believes that we should not talk about the success or failure of a single intervention, but about whether those multiple efforts were effective in conflict transformation toward reconciliation and human needs satisfaction. He leaves this judgement to the Cypriots.