Conflict transformation

Conflict transformation is a concept designed to reframe the way in which peacebuilding initiatives are discussed and pursued, particularly in contexts of ethnic conflict. Traditionally the emphasis has been on conflict resolution and conflict management methods, which focus on reducing or defusing outbreaks of hostility. Conflict transformation, in contrast, places a greater weight on addressing the underlying conditions which give rise to that conflict, preferably well in advance of any hostility, but also to ensure a sustainable peace. In other terms, it attempts to make explicit and then reshape the social structures and dynamics behind the conflict, often employing analytical tools borrowed from systems thinking. "The very structure of parties and relationships may be embedded in a pattern of conflictual relationships that extend beyond the particular site of conflict. Conflict transformation is therefore a process of engaging with and transforming the relationships, interests, discourses and, if necessary, the very constitution of society that supports the continuation of violent conflict".[1]

Approaches, definitions

Conflict transformation approaches differ from those of conflict management or conflict resolution.[2] Whereas conflict transformation involves transforming the relationships that support violence, conflict management approaches seek to merely manage and contain conflict, and conflict resolution approaches seek to move conflict parties away from zero-sum positions towards positive outcomes, often with the help of external actors.[1]

Conflict transformation theory and practice are often associated with the academics and practitioners Johan Galtung and John Paul Lederach. According to Johan Galtung's Transcend Method conflict transformation theory and practice, and process/es, comprise:[3]

  1. Mapping the conflict formation: all parties, all goals, and all issues;
  2. Bringing in forgotten parties with important stakes in the conflict;
  3. Having highly empathic dialogues with all parties singly;
  4. Each conflict worker may specialize on one conflict party;
  5. In these dialogues identifying acceptable goals in all parties;
  6. Bringing in forgotten goals that may open new perspectives;
  7. Arriving at overarching goals acceptable to all parties;
  8. Arriving at short, evocative, goal-formulations;
  9. Helping define the tasks for all parties with that goal in mind;
    disembedding the conflict from where it was,
    embedding it elsewhere,
    bringing in forgotten parties, goals;
  10. Verifying how realizing that goal would realize parties' goals;
  11. Helping parties meet at the table for self-sustaining process;
  12. Withdrawing from the conflict, go on to the next, being on call.

and are based upon basic premises inspired by main world religions:[3]

  1. following Hindu thought...
    Conflict the Destroyer and Conflict the Creator; conflict as a source of violence and conflict as a source of development. The conflict [i.e. conflict transformation] worker has the third role as Preserver, transforming the conflict by avoiding violence, promoting development.
  2. following Buddhist thought...
    Codependent origination, everything grows together in mutual causation. Conflicts have no beginning and no end, we all share the responsibility; no single actor (like statesmen) carries all the responsibility (monopoly) and no single actor carries all the guilt.
  3. following Christian thought...
    Ultimately, the responsibility for conflict transformation lies with individuals and their individual responsibility and decisions to act so as to promote peace rather than violence, and the principle of hope.
  4. following Daoist thought...
    Everything is yin and yang, good and bad, there is the high likelihood that the action chosen also has negative consequences and that action not chosen may have positive consequences; hence the need for reversibility, only doing what can be undone.
  5. following Islamic thought...
    The strength deriving from submitting together to a common goal, including the concrete responsibility for the well-being of all.
  6. following Judaic thought...
    The truth lies less in a verbal formula than in the dialogue to arrive at the formula, and that dialogue has no beginning and no end.

According to Berghof Foundation, conflict transformation means:

A generic, comprehensive term referring to actions and processes seeking to alter the various characteristics and manifestations of violent conflict by addressing the root causes of a particular conflict over the long term. It aims to transform negative destructive conflict into positive constructive conflict and deals with structural, behavioural and attitudinal aspects of conflict. The term refers to both the process and the completion of the process. As such, it incorporates the activities of processes such as conflict prevention and conflict resolution and goes farther than conflict settlement or conflict management.[4]

According to Institute for Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding (ICP), conflict transformation means:

Conflict transformation, in contrast to conflict resolution, does not only seek to resolve the contradiction in a conflict setting. It also aims at addressing structural and social root causes by challenging injustices and restoring human relations and it deals with ethnical and value-based dimensions. Conflict transformation is not only an approach or a tool but primarily a mindset. Conflict transformation, according to our 3 Cs approach, needs to be comprehensive, compassionate and creative.[5]

According to Search for Common Ground conflict transformation initiatives are often characterized by longtime horizons and interventions at multiple levels, aimed at changing perceptions and improving communications skills addressing the roots of conflict, including inequality and social injustice.[6]

The Principles of Conflict Transformation, by TransConflict, specify further in order to help with defining conflict transformation:

  • Conflict should not be regarded as an isolated event that can be resolved or managed, but as an integral part of society’s on-going evolution and development;
  • Conflict should not be understood solely as an inherently negative and destructive occurrence, but rather as a potentially positive and productive force for change if harnessed constructively;
  • Conflict transformation goes beyond merely seeking to contain and manage conflict, instead seeking to transform the root causes of a particular conflict;
  • Conflict transformation is a long-term, gradual and complex process, requiring sustained engagement and interaction;
  • Conflict transformation is not just an approach and set of techniques, but a way of thinking about and understanding conflict itself;
  • Conflict transformation is particularly intended for intractable conflicts, where deep-rooted issues fuel protracted violence;
    ...continued by some ten more...

See also


  1. ^ a b Hugh Miall (2004) Conflict Transformation: A Multi-Dimensional Task, Berghof Handbook for Conflict Transformation, p. 4
  2. ^ Berghof Glossary, Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution on Berghof Foundation's web
  3. ^ a b Johan Galtung: The Transcend Method at a glance: a one-page version (page 5) in: Conflict Transformation by Peaceful Means (the Transcend Method) – Participants'/Trainers' Manual, United Nations 2000 (at
  4. ^ The Berghof Handbook Glossary > expanded into the Berghof Glossary, Conflict Transformation on Berghof Foundation's web
  5. ^ ICP: About Conflict Transformation & Peacebuilding Archived 2015-02-09 at at ICP web
  6. ^ SFCG (no date) Commonly Used Terms Archived 2009-08-29 at the Wayback Machine, Search for Common Ground
  7. ^ Principles of Conflict Transformation, TransConflict

External links

Alternatives to Violence Project

The Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) is a volunteer-run conflict transformation program. Teams of trained AVP facilitators conduct experiential workshops to develop participants' abilities to resolve conflicts without resorting to manipulation, coercion, or violence. Typically, each workshop lasts 18–20 hours over a two or three-day period. The workshop events place a strong emphasis on the experiences of the participants, building confidence that everyone contributes something of value to violence prevention. AVP groups and facilitators are active in communities and prisons across the United States and in many other countries.

Center for Justice and Peacebuilding

Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP) is an accredited graduate-level program founded in 1994. It also offers non-credit training. The program specializes in conflict transformation, restorative justice, trauma healing, equitable development, and addressing organizational conflict. CJP is housed at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) in Harrisonburg, Virginia, which describes itself as "a leader among faith-based universities" in emphasizing "peacebuilding, creation care, experiential learning, and cross-cultural engagement." One of the three 2011 Nobel Peace Laureates, Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, earned a master's degree in conflict transformation from CJP in 2007.

Coady International Institute

The Coady International Institute is located on the campus of St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Established in 1959, Coady Institute is named for Rev. Dr. Moses M. Coady, a founder of the Antigonish Movement - a people's movement for economic and social justice that began in Nova Scotia during the 1920s.

The Coady Institute offers certificate programs in the following areas: Advocacy and Citizen Engagement,Building on Local and Indigenous Knowledge for Community-Driven Development, Communication and Social Media, Community Development Leadership by Women, Community-Based Conflict Transformation & Peacebuilding, Community-Based Microfinance, Community-Based Microfinance (offering in Ethiopia), Community-Based Natural Resource Management, Community-Driven Health Impact Assessment

Facilitation and Training Approaches for Community Change, Good Governance and Social Accountability Tools, Learning Organizations and Change, Livelihoods and Markets, Livelihoods & Markets (offering in Ethiopia), Mobilizing Assets for Community-Driven Development, Partnerships in a Multi-Stakeholder Environment, Skills for Social Change, Indigenous Women in Community Leadership, Global Change Leaders.

Conflict resolution

Conflict resolution is conceptualized as the methods and processes involved in facilitating the peaceful ending of conflict and retribution. Committed group members attempt to resolve group conflicts by actively communicating information about their conflicting motives or ideologies to the rest of the group (e.g., intentions; reasons for holding certain beliefs) and by engaging in collective negotiation. Dimensions of resolution typically parallel the dimensions of conflict in the way the conflict is processed. Cognitive resolution is the way disputants understand and view the conflict, with beliefs, perspectives, understandings and attitudes. Emotional resolution is in the way disputants feel about a conflict, the emotional energy. Behavioral resolution is reflective of how the disputants act, their behavior. Ultimately a wide range of methods and procedures for addressing conflict exist, including negotiation, mediation, mediation-arbitration, diplomacy, and creative peacebuilding.

The term conflict resolution may also be used interchangeably with dispute resolution, where arbitration and litigation processes are critically involved. The concept of conflict resolution can be thought to encompass the use of nonviolent resistance measures by conflicted parties in an attempt to promote effective resolution.

Diana Francis (peace activist)

Diana Francis (born 1944) is a British peace activist and scholar. She is a consultant working on conflict transformation with local activists in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

She is a former President of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation and Chair of the Committee for Conflict Transformation Support.

Eastern Mennonite University

Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) is a private Mennonite liberal arts university in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The university also operates a satellite campus in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which primarily caters to working adults. EMU's bachelor-degree holders traditionally engage in service-oriented work such as health care, education, social work, and the ministry.

Herbert Kelman

Herbert C. Kelman (born March 18, 1927) is the Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics, Emeritus at Harvard University. He is known for his work in the Middle East including a 1989 off-the-record meeting between members of the P.L.O. and Israeli politicians and academics in an effort to bring the two sides closer on important issues. Kelman was born in Vienna, Austria.On August 1, 2003, the Program on International Conflict Analysis and Resolution, under leadership of Kelman was closed. The Vienna-based Herbert C. Kelman Institute for Interactive Conflict Transformation was renamed in his honor in December 2010.Kelman is also on the advisory board of FFIPP-USA (Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace-USA), a network of Palestinian, Israeli, and International faculty, and students, working in for an end of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and just peace.In 1971, Kelman helped circulate a petition calling on faculty members at Harvard to refuse to pay their federal telephone excise tax in protest against the U.S. war against Vietnam.

Innsbruck School of Peace Studies

Since 2002, the Innsbruck School of Peace and Conflict Studies has been developed by Wolfgang Dietrich and his team at the UNESCO Chair for Peace Studies at the University of Innsbruck, Austria. On January 1, 2017 a Unit for Peace and Conflict Studies was established at the University of Innsbruck's Faculty for Social and Political Sciences, which has a mandate for conducting Peace and Conflict Studies Research and is home to the Unit for Peace and Conflict Studies, with its UNESCO Chair for Peace Studies and its MA Program in Peace, Development, Security and International Conflict Transformation.

Institute for Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding

The Institute for Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding (ICP) is a Swiss non-governmental organization specialized in the promotion of non-violent conflict transformation. Created by Pascal Gemperli and Uri Ziegele in 2007, the organization focuses on promoting conflict transformation and peacebuilding through peace mediation courses and trainings. Its comprehensive approach is based on interdisciplinary practice and research in the areas of international peace and conflict research, critical systems theory, culture and communication studies, political psychology, group psychotherapy and other related fields. The ICP has offices in both Bern and Morges (Switzerland). It is accredited ECOSOC and certified EDUQUA. It is active in the following countries: Switzerland, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Morocco, Azerbaijan and Armenia.

John Paul Lederach

John Paul Lederach is an American Professor of International Peacebuilding at the University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana, and concurrently Distinguished Scholar at Eastern Mennonite University. He has written widely on conflict resolution and mediation. He holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Colorado. In 1994 he became the founding director for the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University where he was a professor.

Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso

Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso (OBC) is a think tank and online media based in Rovereto, Italy, and specialised on South East Europe.

It reports on social, cultural and political developments across 6 EU member states, 7 candidate and potential candidate countries, and 5 countries of the Eastern Partnership (as well as de facto states) through a network of 50 correspondents from abroad, including journalists, researchers, and activists, publishing news, analysis and multimedia on a daily basis. Its archives hosts more than 10,000 items, and its website drawn 130,000 unique visitors monthly on average.

It also produces and circulates research papers, scientific books and educational toolkits, and makes use of crowd-sourcing, social media and online debates as a bottom-up strategy. All its contents are available on Creative Commons licenses.Launched in the year 2000 (then "Osservatorio sui Balcani") as a forum of dialogue among civil society organizations, it aims to support transnational relations to promote the European integration of South East Europe, the development of democracy at EU level, and the easing of the East/West divide within Europe.OBC is a cross-medial, multilingual and transnational news hub, targeting CSOs, journalists, students and researchers, policy-makers, business, migrants, and the general public. Its activities combine online journalism, research, training, knowledge dissemination and policy advice.Its themes of interest include conflict transformation, memory politics, active citizenship, the European public sphere, media freedom, EU enlargement, the European Neighbourhood Policy, international cooperation, local development, human rights, minority rights, migration and asylum, gender and welfare; all seen from a bottom-up, transnational perspective.As an autonomous project within the Peace Bell Foundation (Fondazione Opera Campana dei Caduti) based in Rovereto, OBC is supported by the Trentino Forum for Peace and Human Rights, and financed by the Department for International Cooperation of the Autonomous Province of Trento and the Municipality of Rovereto, in Italy. OBC also signed a long-term partnership agreement with the European Parliament, and it has won grants and projects from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the European Union, private foundations, state and private organisations.The Economist journalist Tim Judah defined OBC as "Italy's top website for, as its name suggests, Balkan and Caucasus affairs". Several of the articles, reportages and video documentaries on OBC website won national and international prizes OBC also won the "Antonio Russo" Journalism Prize on War Reporting in 2010, Internet section.

OBC is partner of the Leipzig-based European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, for whom has developed and run the Online Resource Centre on Media Freedom.In September 2013, OBC was subject to a hacking attack aimed at an article about corruption in the oil sector in Azerbaijan.

Peace and conflict studies

Peace and conflict studies is a social science field that identifies and analyzes violent and nonviolent behaviours as well as the structural mechanisms attending conflicts (including social conflicts), with a view towards understanding those processes which lead to a more desirable human condition. A variation on this, peace studies (irenology), is an interdisciplinary effort aiming at the prevention, de-escalation, and solution of conflicts by peaceful means, thereby seeking "victory" for all parties involved in the conflict. This is in contrast to military studies, which has as its aim on the efficient attainment of victory in conflicts, primarily by violent means to the satisfaction of one or more, but not all, parties involved. Disciplines involved may include philosophy, political science, geography, economics, psychology, sociology, international relations, history, anthropology, religious studies, and gender studies, as well as a variety of others. Relevant sub-disciplines of such fields, such as peace economics, may be regarded as belonging to peace and conflict studies also.

Peace education

Peace education is the process of acquiring the values, the knowledge and developing the attitudes, skills, and behaviors to live in harmony with oneself, with others, and with the natural environment.

There are numerous United Nations declarations on the importance of peace Information Age Publishing. ISBN 978-1-59311-889-1. Chapter details; and Page, James S. (2008) 'Chapter 9: The United Nations and Peace Education'. In: Monisha Bajaj (ed.)Encyclopedia of Peace Education. (75-83). Charlotte: Information Age Publishing. ISBN 978-1-59311-898-3. Further information Ban Ki Moon, U.N. Secretary General, has dedicated the International Day of Peace 2013 to peace education in an effort to refocus minds and financing on the preeminence of peace education as the means to bring about a culture of peace. Koichiro Matsuura, the immediate past Director-General of UNESCO, has written of peace education as being of "fundamental importance to the mission of UNESCO and the United Nations". Peace education as a right is something which is now increasingly emphasized by peace researchers such as Betty Reardon and Douglas Roche. There has also been a recent meshing of peace education and human rights education.

Peace makers

Peacemakers are individuals and organizations involved in peacemaking, often in countries affected by war, violent conflict, and political instability. They engage in processes such as negotiation, mediation, conciliation, and arbitration – drawing on international law and norms. The objective is to move a violent conflict into non-violent dialogue, where differences are settled through conflict transformation processes or through the work of representative political institutions.

Peacemaking can occur at different levels, sometimes referred to as 'tracks'. "High level" (governmental and international) peacemaking, involving direct talks between the leaders of conflicting parties, is sometimes thus referred to as Track 1. Tracks 2 and 3 are said to involve dialogue at 'lower' levels—often unofficially between groups, parties, and stakeholders to a violent conflict—as well as efforts to avoid violence by addressing its causes and deleterious results. Peacemakers may be active in all three tracks, or in what is sometimes called multi-track diplomacy.


Peacemaking is practical conflict transformation focused upon establishing equitable power relationships robust enough to forestall future conflict, often including the establishment of means of agreeing on ethical decisions within a community, or among parties, that had previously engaged in inappropriate (i.e. violent) responses to conflict. Peacemaking seeks to achieve full reconciliation among adversaries and new mutual understanding among parties and stakeholders. When applied in criminal justice matters, peacemaking is usually called restorative justice, but sometimes also transformative justice, a term coined by the late Canadian justice theorist and activist Ruth Morris. One popular example of peacemaking is the several types of mediation, usually between two parties and involving a third, a facilitator or mediator.

Raïs Neza Boneza

Rais Neza Boneza is a Congolese writer and poet (1979).

He was born in the Katanga province in Democratic Republic of Congo (former Zaïre). He is the author of fiction, poetry, articles and academic materials. He is also a peace activist and practitioner. For his contribution to peace and conflict transformation, he was awarded an honorary doctorate degree (honoris causa) from the Institute of Management Sciences (ISGM) and the Universite du CEPROMEC in Burundi 2008.

He is co-convener for Africa of the Transcend Global Network, a peace development environment network. His debut novel, White Eldorado, Black Fever (2013), is the only work which has been translated from his native French. He attempts to create awareness about the conflict and the direct effects to communities in the Great Lakes region of Africa.

Sarah Maddison

Sarah Maddison is an Australian author, Director of GetUp! and Associate Professor of Politics in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne.

She has a PhD in the Discipline of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney. She was awarded the 2005 Jean Martin Award by The Australian Sociological Association for her PhD thesis, Collective identity and Australian Feminist Activism: conceptualising a third wave, which examined the role of young women in contemporary Australian women's movements. In 2009 she was joint winner of the Australian Political Science Association Henry Mayer Award for her book Black Politics: Inside the complexity of Aboriginal political culture. In 2009 she was also part of the Sydney Leadership Program ran by Social Leadership Australia at The Benevolent Society.Sarah’s research interests include reconciliation and conflict transformation, agonistic democracy, dialogue, and Australian social movements, including research on the Indigenous rights movement and the women’s movement. Sarah has also co-authored two editions of a textbook for students of Australian public policy. Sarah received a 2009 Churchill Fellowship to study models of Indigenous representation in the United States and Canada in 2010. She has been an ARC Discovery Project grant recipient for two completed projects, one considering new possibilities for Indigenous representation (DP0877157) and one considering the evolution of social movements through a study of the Australian women’s movement (DP0878688 with Professor Marian Sawer, ANU), which produced the edited collection The Women's Movement in Protest, Institutions and the Internet: Australia in transnational perspective.

In 2010 Sarah Maddison was awarded an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (FT100100253) to undertake a four-year, four-country comparative study of reconciliation and conflict transformation in Australia, South Africa, Northern Ireland and Guatemala. A book analysing the results from this research will be published by Routledge in 2015. She also has a new research project funded in 2014, with colleagues in Melbourne and Canada (DP140102143), that is exploring non-Indigenous pathways to reconciliation.

Sociology of peace, war, and social conflict

The sociological study of peace, war, and social conflict entails the use of sociological theory and methods to analyze group conflicts, especially collective violence and alternative constructive nonviolent forms of conflict transformation.

The by-laws of the Section on Peace, War and Social Conflict of the American Sociological Association specify:

The purpose of the Section on Peace, War, and Social Conflict is to foster the development and application of sociological theories and methods for the understanding and study of dynamics of collective conflict and its prevention, conduct, and resolution. Included is the study of military institutions and conflict between collectivities such as countries, ethnic groups, political movements, and religious groups. Also included are the roles of military organizations, other governmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, and social movements.


swisspeace is a practice-oriented peace research institute located in Bern and Basel, Switzerland. It aims to contribute to the improvement of conflict prevention and conflict transformation by supporting Swiss and international actors in their peacebuilding activities.

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