Updated May 30, 2021
This seminar relates to Conflict Frontiers Massively Parallel Peacebuilding (MPP) Challenge 4.
Many intractable conflicts are characterized by grievous structural and gruesome physical violence that cannot be fixed--hence the term "unrightable wrongs." But in order for reconciliation, transformation or resolution to occur, somehow these wrongs must be addressed in ways that heal both the perpetrators and the victims (who are often one and the same). This unit looks at the nature of the problem and alternative ways of approaching reconciliation.
Posts in this Seminar Include:
A set of videos from Heidi Burgess's Carter School (George Mason University)'s course on Reconcilition:
- Complexity-Oriented, Massively Parallel Reconciliation — Simple solutions won't work in complex conflicts; one needs a complex solution to match the complexity of the conflict. Complexity-oriented reconciliation is designed to do that.
- Reconciliation as a Noun and a Verb (Outcome and Process) — Reconciliation can be visualized as a balance beam, where everyone needs to maintain their balance to keep reconciliation from failing.
- Reconciliation Ingredients — Using the metaphor of baking, reconciliation can be made with a variety of ingredients, in different amounts, and added in different orders.
- Prospective Reconciliation — It is important to understand what you mean by "reconciliation,” before you design processes or make structural changes to obtain it. And, if you want reconciliation to “stick,” you need to design it in collaboration with all affected parties, designing a place everyone would want to live, not just your side.
- Retrospective Reconciliation: Looking Back to Right Past Wrongs – Part I and Part 2 —This video explores the processes of reconciliation that look backward towards wrongs done in the past, seeking truth and justice and sometimes mercy. The first video uses John Paul Lederach's "Meeting Place' metaphor, to consider how "truth and mercy have met together; peace and justice have kissed." The second video shows how these ideas have actually been made to work in real life.
- Unit Four had five videos, including:
- Small Scale Reconciliation – Part 1: De-escalate Destructive Us-versus-Them Confrontations — Reframing us-vesus them, conciliatory gestures, and using the optimal power strategy mix are several approaches that can further reconciliation.
- Small Scale Reconciliation – Part 2: Promote Effective Communication — By first listening, and second speaking in respectful and surprisingly "reasonable" ways, people can de-escalate conflicts and begin to work on reconciliation.
- Small Scale Reconciliation – Part 3: Develop a Unifying Vision for The Future — Small groups can use the tools of large groups to develop consensus visions of their future relationship--often with even more success.
- Small Scale Reconciliation – Part 4: Leveling the Playing Field — Equalizing power actually helps both the powerful and the powerless, as it makes negotiation and mutually-beneficial outcomes possible for all.
- Small Scale Reconciliation – Part 5: Take Advantage of Opportunities for Mutually-Beneficial Joint Actions — Even when conflicts are stalemated, some common ground is likely to give disputants a toe-hold onto transformation.
- Large-Scale Reconciliation - Part 1 — This is the first of two videos explaining why large scale reconciliation processes need to be different from small scale processes. Here we explore the limits of dialogue and the promise of interactive problem solving.
- Large-Scale Reconciliation - Part 2 — This video discusses truth commissions, war crime tribunals, peacebuilding and media efforts. The success of all of these is mixed at best, but when combined in a massively-parallel (or added-up) manner, progress is more likely.
Beyond Intractability Essays and Videos relating to Reconciliation:
- Reconciliation Part 1: What Is Reconciliation? - and Reconciliation - Part 2: Making Reconciliation Happen —This is a completely rewritten set of two essays by Chip Hauss, who wrote our original essay on reconciliation in 2003. These essays, just completed in May of 2021, reflect on what has stayed the same in the intervening years, and what has changed. Hauss observes that much of the theory behind the concept remains the same, but in practice, the way we pursue reconciliation, has come a long way.
- Reconciliation - Update and Current Implications - This is the update that Heidi Burgess wrote in response to Hauss's original Reconciliation essay, which was published before Chip wrote his revisions. (When we asked for his comments on this, he responded that he thought it was time to rewrite the original essay.) However, there are still enough different ideas in this article, that we think it is worth continuing to include this one here too.
- Lederach's Meeting Place - This video, "borrowed" from the Conflict Frontiers Seminar explains Lederach's notion of reconciliation, first presented in Hauss's and Burgess's Reconciliation essays more completely.
- Historical Facts -- The saying, "history is written by the victor," refers to the fact that historical facts are often biased or inaccurate. Yet long-running conflicts are often based on these controversial "facts." This essay explores the impact of history on current conflicts.
- Ethos of Conflict -- A community's ethos is its shared beliefs, goals and identity. Communities in an intractable conflict expand that ethos to explain their approach to the conflict. A community's ethos strongly affects how destructive the conflict becomes
- Principles of Justice and Fairness -- It's common sense that justice is central to any well-functioning society. However, the question of what justice is and how to achieve it are more difficult matters. This essay begins to explore the conundrum.
- Types of Justice -- Different spheres of society approach justice differently. This essay breaks justice down into four types: distributive, procedural, retributive, and restorative and explains the meaning of each.
- Retributive Justice -- Retributive justice promises punishment or "retribution" for wrongdoing.
- Restorative Justice -- Restorative justice is justice that is not designed to punish the wrong-doer, but rather to restore the victim and the relationship to the way they were before the offense. Thus, restorative justice requires an apology from the offender, restitution for the victim, and forgiveness of the offender by the victim.
- Distributive Justice -- -- When people believe that their situation is not equal to that of other people like them, they feel a sense of injustice. Distributive justice is the attempt to create a fair and equal division of society's wealth and status.
- Apology and Forgiveness -- These are two sides of the mutli-faceted "diamond" of reconciliation. Both are necessary for true reconciliation to take place.
- Apology and Forgiveness in Reconciliation: How Words Can Mend and Begin to Heal a Transgressional Divide —- This paper shows the importance of active apology and forgiveness in the process of addressing past wrongs and reaching reconciliation."Good" apologies can lead to forgiveness and reconciliation; bad ones, however will not.
- Humanization -- Viewing one's opponent as evil, perverted, or criminal justifies violence and make acts that were previously unthinkable seem perfectly acceptable. The opposite of this is humanization, where opponents recognize their common humanity and feel empathy for for each other. Artists, journalists and teachers have traditionally played key roles in humanization.
- Engaging Extremists in Reconciliation Processes: Limitations and Opportunities - The understanding of extremism as a social phenomenon should guide efforts to reconcile with former and current extremists.
- Truth Commissions -- Truths commissions are official groups endowed with the authority to extensively investigate the human rights abuses and war crimes committed in a specific country or region during a specified time period.
- Amnesty -- Many argue that amnesty can allow societies to wipe the slate clean after war crimes or other human rights abuses, to put the past behind them in favor of the future. Others argue, that this condones the perpetrators' actions and encourages such behavior.
- International War Crimes Tribunals -- These are tribunals designed to prosecute war crimes such as genocide, torture, and rape. Such tribunals are becoming increasingly common and are used instead of or in conjunction with truth commissions to try to move beyond the violence of many ethnic conflicts and allow the society to build peace.
Case Studies relating to Reconciliation:
- Rules and Rhythms of Reconciliation - This paper explores what happens when there is a disconnect between legal interpretations of "justice," and cultural definitions focusing, particularly on the Aboriginies in Australia.
- Reconciliation through Restorative Justice: Analyzing South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Process
- Reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina - a case study of reconciliation failure (at least in the eyes of this author, a former resident of Sarajevo)
- Finding Peace with America’s Great “Other”: Reconciliation in the age of Mass Incarceration - The prison system fails all that fall into it. Restorative alternatives—implemented before, during, or after prison can bring benefits to victims, families, and offenders alike.
- East Versus West: Reconciliation in Post-War Jerusalem - This paper was written by a Palestinian in 2018, before the 2021 explosion of violence. Still, it gives a very interesting view into what might be possible to accomplish—perhaps even now.
- Exploring the Role of Collective Memory for Reconciliation: A Comparative Case of Guatemala and Cambodia - This paper explores how collective memories can be used post-trauma for healing and reconciliation instead of driving further divisions.
Other Materials of Note:
United Nations Security Council Brief on Reconciliation by Alpaslan Özerdem, Dean of the Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution, George Mason Unversity. - This talk was given on November 19, 2019. In it, Özerdem focused on the role of reconciliation in maintaining international peace and security, maintaining that pursuing reconciliation should be a primary UN goal.
Mapping on Approaches to Reconciliation by Simon Keyes. March 2019. - A review of the many different theoretical concepts and practical approaches that are called "reconciliation."