Preventing Violence


Wallace Warfield

Former CRS Mediator, New York and Washington, D.C. Offices; Associate Professor at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University

[Full Interview]


How did you decide when it was appropriate for the parties to get together and when not?


I think it would depend upon the conflict. For example, in a particularly violent conflict, where there's a riot first things first. And again, even this is somewhat controversial from a social theory standpoint -- there's the notion that conflict intervention is designed to simply maintain the status quo and cool people out. So riot prevention cools people out, and removes the justification of anger that can really give grit to the complaints that people have.

On the other hand, people are dying. So, the people who are espousing that belief are not the mothers, locked cell-like in their apartments, who can't go out at night to get milk for their babies because people will be shooting machine guns in the area. You're not responsible for that, but somebody has to be. You're not always pulling people together; you're simply doing a very hands-on conciliation approach to violence prevention. Then, before it gets to the point where people can fairly quickly become reconciled to the fact that we've stopped the violence, and then it's back to business as usual, we say, "Now that we've got your attention, and we have some moments of respite here, are you willing to sit down and talk? And then that's the time to begin the process of pulling people together.