A Third Side Analogy

William Ury

Director of the Global Negotiation Project, Program on Negotiation, Harvard Law School

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

The third side, in another sort of analogy, is a little bit like the immune system; it's a social immune system. Just like all of us carry viruses at any one point, but the viruses don't manifest because we have a strong immune system. Violence is a little bit like a virus; once it starts, it spreads very rapidly, and the question is what's the social immune system that holds the virus of violence (which is always potential in this situation) in check? That's a healthy third side and it takes various forms. But I noticed it very strongly in South Africa, where you had the churches and the women's groups and the businesses and the trade unions, all of civil society, engaged in an internal third side which was critical - supported by an external third side around the world of all the people who were concerned about it, basically saying, "Let's stand for a peaceful transformation of this conflict." That's what the third side says. The third side says "no" to violence, and "yes" to peaceful ways of dealing with conflict.