The Third Side: A Provider's Checklist of Things to Think About

Provider Checklist of Things to Think About

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Step I: Determine What is Needed

Are human needs an issue in your conflict? Even if people aren't wanting for food or shelter, they often are wanting in one or more intangible needs, such as security, identity, or respect. Read the essay on human needs to understand more about these fundamental causes of conflict.

  • Are people fighting over tangible issues such as land, water, or jobs? These are distributional conflicts. When the stakes are high, these conflicts can get very intractable. Rich/poor conflicts are one example where providers can help a lot by helping the poor become more self-sufficient.
  • Is group identity an issue? It is if the conflict involves disputes about the status or power of one particular group over another or a group feels as if its identity is being challenged, this tends to lead to destructive conflicts.
  • Is security an issue? If one group feels insecure, it will often respond aggressively, making its opponent feel insecure as well.
  • Are human rights being violated? Human rights are the articulation of the need for justice, tolerance, mutual respect, and human dignity in all of our activities. Abuse of human rights often leads to conflict, and that conflict typically results in more human rights violations. Thus, human rights abuses are often at the center of wars and protection of human rights is central to conflict resolution.
  • Are people feeling humiliated? Feelings of humiliation often lead to antagonism, anger, and even rage. Victims often lash back at their attackers, further escalating the conflict. Here, respect is needed as an antidote to humiliation.
  • Does one side feel as if they are victims of injustice or unprovoked violence? Like humiliation, feelings of victimization, injustice, or unprovoked violence can fuel escalation.

Step II: Determine How You Can Help as a Provider

  • If tangible needs are lacking (food, shelter, medical care etc) are lacking, these can be provided. Better yet, however, is providing people with the means to attain these themselves through education, empowerment, and development assistance that makes people more self sufficient. As the old adage goes, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."
  • If the problem involves the just (or unjust) distribution of a resource, providers in some cases can initiate and sponsor a third-party process to help address the problem. This may not be possible if the people in power resist such a process, but they sometimes can be convinced to participate in the hopes of adding legitimacy and stability to their regime or leadership role. Read, for instance, about procedural justice, dispute systems design, grassroots system design, consensus building, land and property rights in the peace process.
  • If identity is an issue, people need to feel as if their identity is respected and valued. Providers can initiate programs that make threatened groups feel more respected and valued, this can go a long way toward reducing conflict. See the essays on tolerance, humanization, and co-existence.
  • Insecurity can be addressed in a number of ways. Trust-building and confidence building measures are important, as are security guarantees in any peace agreement. Peacebuilding can work toward increased tolerance

    and co-existence, and power-sharing measures can help make threatened groups feel more secure as well. None of these things can be bought, no matter how rich someone or some country is, but they can be "provided," often for free or at low cost, by the group in power in an effort to transform the conflict.

  • When human rights are being violated, providing a process that prevents further violations and addresses past violations is critical. On the prevention end, see the essays on human rights protection, protective accompanimentsafe havens, and preventive diplomacy and international violence prevention.
  • Regarding the past, trauma healing is important, as are various mechanisms for providing transitional justice. These include international war crimes tribunals and truth commissions.
  • Again, these are not things that can be bought in a store, but they can be advocated, and funded by providers who are either on the more powerful side in the conflict or by outside third parties who can apply pressure on and/or assistance to the parties in conflict.
  • When people feel humiliated, reversing that humiliation by providing respect is key. See the essays on peacebuilding, humanization, tolerance, and co-existence

    for discussions of ways respect can be restored. The essay on delegitimization also has a useful section on "reversing delegitimization."

  • Reversing feelings of injustice and victimhood is difficult. But providers can provide or advocate for fairer processes, [procedural justice] and fairer outcomes through social structural changereconstruction, and by providing compensation or reparations for past wrongs. Trauma healing, restorative justice processes, truth commissions and/or war crimes tribunals also help heal past wounds, and if successful, allow for apology, forgiveness, and ultimately reconciliation between groups.

* A common concern among those in power is that providing these things will lessen their power. This is not necessarily true, however. The more security one side feels, the less it tends to feel the need to threaten the other side in a conflict. Thus security is actually a "positive-sum" resource: the more I give you, the more I have for myself.

For More Information

Much of the material on this user guide is drawn from Thanks to William Ury and Joshua Weiss for giving us permission to republish their material here.