The Art of Conflict Transformation Through Dialogue

Introduction

The field of conflict transformation and peacebuilding has significantly developed over the past few decades. The first part of this article offers a critical evaluation of the field’s development and the deficits which can be observed, referring in particular to the research of Jean Paul Lederach (1995, 2000) and his rediscovery of Paulo Freire’s work for a critical approach of conflict transformation based on dialogue.

The second part gives an overview of the Transcend Approach and the integrative approach for conflict transformation and peace-building which we are using in our own mediation project for supporting the peace process in Sri Lanka. We have been working for several years with an influential dialogue group in the Sinhala dominated South (the “Austria group”), in the same time also with political leaders of the “Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam”, and on the grassroot level mainly with the Buddhist social organization Sarvodaya. We are also using this approach in our workshops and trainings for conflict transformation and peacebuilding in Central Asia, the South Caucasus, the Middle East, Southeastern Europe and the African Great Lakes Region.

The Transcend Approach is based on the critical and constructivist peace research and peace work of Johan Galtung (2004, 2000, 1996) and in the framework of this article, we are focusing on the basic contribution of Galtung. However, in our own approach of “Integrative Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding”, we are aiming to integrate the Transcend Approach and several others, ranging from neomarxist to poststructuralist, postmodernist or transpersonal, and in particular the theories of Edgar Morin (1999), Cornelius Castoriadis (1982) and Frederic Jameson (2002), as well as the praxeologies of Paulo Freire (1992), Claudio Naranjo (1993), Jacob Levy Moreno (1953) and Vamik Volkan (1999). The “Integrative Conflict Transformation Approach” which we are using is a work in progress, and is constantly being refined and developed for use in training, research, counseling and mediation. Comments and dialogues are highly appreciated.

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