Complexity

 

One characteristic of most intractable conflicts is that they are highly complex, with many parties, issues, interests, needs, and often many intervenors and conflict resolution processes going on at once. Effective transformation or resolution requires parties (both disputants and third party intervenors) understand what is going on, who is involved, and how their efforts fit into the conflict system as a whole.

Understanding Complexity

One of the keys to understanding complex systems is to do a thorough conflict assessment.

Carolyn Stephenson explains how one needs to look at many factors in a conflict to figure out how best to intervene.
Larry Susskind says that to deal with real-life complexities, conflict assessment processes should be simple, straightforward, and transparent.
According to Mari Fitzduff, different stages of conflict demand different types of intervention.
Peter Coleman describes people who are using systems theory to address the complexity of intractable conflicts in a practical way.

Working with Complexity

When working in complex systems, many people are doing many different things, all at the same time. An understanding of who is doing what, and what fits where is essential if conflict transformation is to be successful.

Leo Smyth explains that one useful job for a mediator may be to outline where an individual fits into the whole conflict system.
Mary Anderson describes the minimum requirements for successful conflict analysis, and also presents a matrix which helps to understand where in the peacebuilding system a particular intervention fits.
Jayne Docherty suggests that intervention into complex, multi-dimensional conflicts requires inter-field collaboration.
Paul Wehr talks about the importance of "multi-modal," culturally-appropriate interventions.
Silke Hansen describes how tending to the practical details in a complicated humanitarian situation helped to reduce tension.
Peter Coleman says that intervenors in complex intractable conflicts have no magic bullets. Instead, they need a great deal of humility.
Louis Kriesberg describes the complexity of conflicts, explaining that many people are interacting in many different ways and every individual CAN make a difference.
Guy Burgess, Co-Director of the University of Colorado Conflict Research Consortium and the Beyond Intractability Project, argues that the conflict resolution field needs to think bigger and individual practitioners would improve their work through greater coordination.
Guy Burgess, Co-Director of the University of Colorado Conflict Research Consortium and the Beyond Intractability Project, analogizes the need for a variety of conflict resolution expertise to the varied expertise needed to building an airplane.
Guy Burgess, Co-Director of the University of Colorado Conflict Research Consortium and the Beyond Intractability Project, describes a conference at West Point that brought home the complexity of bringing peace to Iraq.
Guy Burgess, Co-Director of the University of Colorado Conflict Research Consortium and the Beyond Intractability Project, sees the field increasingly exploring subjectivity and emotional aspects.
Ron Fisher reflects on the coordination of multiple intervention roles in complex intractable conflicts.
Ron Fisher, of American University, discusses how the field of conflict resolution relates to other peace processes in complex conflict situations.