The Third Side: The Witness

Paying Attention to Conflict Escalation

A Witness' Guide to the Beyond Intractability Website

  • Are you always on the lookout for trouble?
  • When you see it, do you take action or call the appropriate people?
  • In your neighborhood or community, do you keep a close watch on what is going on?

If you answered "yes" to one or more of the above questions, then you may be a witness.

Who are Witnesses?

Witnesses are those members of the community who are particularly attentive to conflict dynamics and stand ready to alert others if things begin to turn violent. Destructive conflict does not just break out but escalates through different stages, from tension to overt conflict to violence. By watching carefully, the witness can detect warning signals, which, if acted on, can prevent escalation of conflict and even save lives. A witness can also speak up to persuade the parties to cease fighting and sound the alarm to call the attention of other third side actors who can intervene as mediatorspeacekeepers, or other witnesses.

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.