Thursday, March 31, 2011

Week Twelve: How does understanding conflict as a progression allow for a use of a wide variety of approaches in addressing conflict?

            Though I had not been formally introduced to the concept, throughout this semester I think I have naturally been thinking about the concept of conflict as a progression. Lederach explores this concept in depth in his chapter “An Integrated Framework for Peacebuilding” (73). Central to this integrated framework is the ability to “[view] conflict as a progression,” which in turn “provides a set of lenses for rethinking time” (Lederach 78). Essentially, what Lederach means by “rethinking time” is that in peacebuilding, the concept of time is not neatly separated into categories such as past, present, and future; rather, peacebuilding requires an understanding of time that transcends these categories. Lederach argues that understanding conflict as a progression enables us to see that “quick fixes in protracted conflict rarely lead to sustainable processes or solutions” (78). As a result, these short-term solutions must be done in a larger context that includes “the painstaking tasks of relationship and confidence building, and…the design of and preparation for social change, which ultimately provide a basis for sustaining conflict transformation” (78). Lederach’s concept of conflict as a progression is best understood in relation to the concept of peacebuilding as a process; just as conflict goes through many stages and takes many years to progress and develop, peacebuilding must also be understood in a parallel sense. Lederach describes the design of a successful peacebuilding process as “the unfolding of an ‘architecture’ that moves through stages,” recognizing that peace must develop in stages just as conflict did.
            Within this framework, and within these stages of progression, Lederach lays out a vision of appropriate and timely tasks for peacebuilding. For example, in the early stages of peacebuilding, it is important to manage crisis on the personal and relational level and address the root causes of the conflict on the systemic level (Lederach 80). However, addressing the long-term stages of peacebuilding (20+ years down the road) requires attention to the vision for social change as well as prevention of further crises (Lederach 77, 80). Thus, understanding conflict and peacebuilding in terms of progression provides a framework for identifying “the strategic what” as well as “the strategic when” of peacebuilding (Schirch 64, 75). Overall, this concept of conflict and peacebuilding as a progression has helped me think more strategically about what types of peacebuilding initiatives are appropriate in each stage of conflict or peacebuilding. While we have been learning all semester that conflict transformation demands long-term commitment, this chapter was a helpful resource for mapping out what that long-term commitment will look like in each stage of conflict and peace. As peace evolves, so must peacebuilders and peacebuilding initiatives, “[maintaining] form over time yet [having] no rigidity of structure” (Lederach 84). Commitment+flexibility=sustainability.

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