This paper is based on the Soul of Europe’s experience working in Bosnia since 2000 and more especially our participation in the project to create a memorial for those murdered at the Omarska mine in 1992.
We discovered 3 approaches to analysing conflict (or disagreement to use a less emotive word).
The first is the partisan approach, blaming and adversarial: ‘them and us’.
The second is reflective, inward – where the ‘parties’ consider their own position.
The third is an integrated approach, where the parties consider their own positions, but also recognize the need to understand the views of others.
For disagreements to be solved, a step taken away from the adversarial is necessary.
In practice these 3 approaches are not so clear cut. The closer the parties are to an integrated approach, the better the prognosis.
The analysis encourages the parties to see the disagreement through a new lens, to consider the deep-rooted causes of the problems. It is not so much about learning something new, but about understanding the situation in deeper and wider ways.
There is a standard check list of elements that would have to be included as part of any solution.
The Participants: who are they? Are there spoilers? Are there single issues? Which are the outside interests and groups, etc?
What are the underlying factions – what drives the participants? What do they fear?
What have been the previous attempts at finding a solution? Why did they fail?
What is the nature and extent of the balance of power and influence between the various parties?
What is the state of the relationships between the parties? What are the mutual images each has of the other?
Perhaps this analysis has already happened. If not, how can this analysing of conflict be put in place (and who will do it?).
There needs to be a moving away from the resolution of a profound disagreement to a more pragmatic interest in managing disagreement.
Disagreement can be positive as well as negative. Managing disagreement is the constructive handling of difference and divergence.
What could this idea of managing disagreement in the Anglican Communion look like in institutional terms?
Designing a Process for Positive Outcomes
The process by which the parties reach a solution or solutions impacts on the quality of the outcome.
Intervention by ‘outside’ agencies or individuals is now commonplace.
Provided there is agreement among all the parties on the acceptability, neutrality and competence of a ‘third party’ intervention then it is possible to identify 3 types of interventions:
1. CONCILIATION. Here the conciliation provides a channel between the various parties identifying the main issues of contention, trying to move the parties to closer interaction. There is no requirement for the parties to meet.
2. FACILITATION. The facilitator brings representatives of the parties together. He/she chairs meetings to examine mutual perceptions and encourages communication in a safe way.
3. PURE MEDIATION. The mediator’s role is to facilitate direct dialogue on the issues with the aim of producing a solution, the mediator uses process skills to urge the parties towards a solution they themselves design and implement.
The mediators have no ‘power’, but they can ‘withdraw’.
These brief remarks belie the amount of work required in designing a process where at different times and in different places conciliation, facilitation and pure mediation are appropriate. Considerations such as timelines, media policy, funding, and equity of all participants – these are some of the matters to be addressed.