The Resource Conflict Triangle

This section is a discussion of the theoretical underpinnings of our work.

In the previous discussion of the RTC framework we have looked at how space, time and relation are tools for analysis.

Analysis is but one step in a conflict transformation process. Others are:
- Engaging people in non-violent Conflict Transformation
- Creative and trust-building processes
- Reconciliation, restorative justice and peace: the goal.

The three elements are equally relevant in these stages.

1. Engaging people in non-violent Conflict Transformation

The RCT Framework puts forward that transformation of a resource-based conflicts can only be possible if it follows a process that ensures building of ‘critical thinking’ among actors or parties of the conflict as well as ‘winning their hearts’ towards its peaceful resolution.

‘Critical thinking’ here means shaping an objective view of the conflict by facilitating a process that not only enables one party to effectively express own issues to the other but encourages understanding and interest of the other party with respect to own.

But, ‘critical thinking’ may also result to a non-ending assertion of one’s position and interest on the conflict, if the interests and needs as well as the ‘story’ of the other party is not also well understood by the other. A peaceful conflict resolution may not be possible if actors of conflict do not appreciate the value of a peaceful resolution and if they do not clearly see its possibility.

Hence, ‘winning the hearts’ of all conflict parties towards peaceful resolution may only be possible if all conflict actors are committed to the use of peaceful over violent means and if they realize their capacity to do so.

Oberg points out that in a reconciliation process, nothing is probably more important than to offer people practical opportunities to build confidence, work together and see that they can gain more from not fighting each other.

To effectively facilitate a conflict transformation process towards building the ‘critical thinking’ and ‘winning the hearts’ of all conflict actors to a peaceful resolution of the conflict, it is then important to identify facts from perceptions, changing fears to hopes, thinking from “I can’t” to ”We can” and ensure ownership of the process by the actors of conflict.

A conflict transformation process needs to create space for genuine responsibility, ownership and participation in Peace-building. Lederach suggests innovation in approaching the core nature of deep-rooted conflict in divided societies. To rebuild relationships, we must develop innovative ways of providing space within which the emotional and psychological aspects of the conflict can be addressed.

Providing a safe space for self-expression, debates, dialogues, and revelations for all conflicting parties is considered an important aspect in the RCT framework. It is a necessary step for negociation and reconciliation.

Reconciliation in the sense of Lederach (1997: 27) is “a place, the point of encounter where concerns about both the past and the future can meet” and as “an encounter which suggests that space for the acknowledging of the past and envisioning of the future is the necessary ingredient for reframing the present.”

For the RCT framework to work, it is imperative that enough time and resources are provided to support the correct and lengthy process with due consideration of the pace of the community as well as of the other factors beyond the facilitators’ control.

John Paul Lederach (1999) points out that “we need time, that reconciliation must be cautious about quick formulas of “forgiveness” and being “nice” to each other. Well-intentioned people may advise estranged parties to quickly forgive and forget. Yet those parties may need a long time and geographical separation for healing to occur”.

Lederach emphasizes as well that without adequate resources, explicit preparation, and commitment over time, peace will remain distant ideal rather than a practical goal. The primary goal with regard to resources is to find ways to support, implement, and sustain the building of an infrastructure for peace over the long term.

2. Creative and trust-building processes

The RCT framework also believes that relationship is the basis of both the conflict and its long-term solution.
We again refer to Lederach when he argues that in working for reconciliation, “we must engage with relational aspects as the central component of peace-building. But it should be noted that parties with a history of violent and intense conflict have many reasons to mistrust each other, and so developing working trust is a slow process built upon many mutually reassuring steps”. A fundamental question is how to create a catalyst for reconciliation and then sustain it in divided societies. Reconciliation is not pursued by seeking innovative ways to disengage or minimize the conflicting group’s affiliations, but instead is built on mechanisms that engage the sides of a conflict with each other as human-in-relationship.

Fisher, and Al. (2000:112) have clearly explains the need for trust building for conflict transformation to succeed: “Following a period of intense conflict, during which there may have been a lot of violence and suffering, it is difficult for members of opposing groups to trust each other. Negotiations may have brought about some kind of agreement, but the opposing sides will have learned to fear and distrust each other. They will, in fact, be more distrustful of each other than of strangers. It will be a very long time before each side can be convinced that the attitude of the other has changed: change in attitude can only be trusted if there is consistent pattern of changed behaviours”.

Working trust is also further defined by Mica Estrada-Hollenback (2001:69) “’To resolve’, of course, is to do more than stop the violence. To resolve is to leave the conflicted parties with institutions and attitudes that favour peaceful interactions. This sort of resolution also requires the establishment of working trust. Working trust refers to a level of trust that enables parties to participate (sometimes cautiously) in problem-solving activities such as negotiations or mediations." Kelman (1993a) describes it as “a trust sufficient to allow them [the parties] to proceed with the coalition work of joint analysis, interactive problem solving and planning implementation”.

A conflict transformation process therefore needs to be sensitive enough to sustain the confidence of the conflicting parties and the affected community to the process and to eventually gain their trust not only to the process and the facilitators but to one another as well. This needs to employ a variety of interrelated activities such as dialogues, rituals, problem-solving workshops, role plays, mediation, including shuttle mediation, among others.

Rupensinghe (1998:128) emphasizes that facilitators of conflict transformation should be carried out by those people who can guide and drive a communication or negotiation process forward. “Facilitators should have a thorough knowledge of the conflict and strong analytical and mediation skills”.

Lederach suggests that the nature of contemporary conflict requires the development of theories and praxis of the “middle range”. He proposed that middle-range actors within the population are uniquely situated to have the greatest potential for constructing and infrastructure for peace. They have the capacity to impact processes and people at both the top and the grassroots levels. If mobilized strategically for peace-building, middle-range leaders could lay the foundation for long-term, sustainable conflict transformation.

The RCT framework suggests the composition of the third party team to be a middle level-grassroots tri-partite body composed of representatives from the government, civil society and of the direct stakeholders: the conflicting parties and affected communities.

The involvement of the local government officials would be needed to give legitimacy to the process and to easily mobilize required resources and technical support from the government. And with resource conflict having its root cause traceable to structural violence, its instrumentalities then needs to be mobilized to initiate the necessary change.

Civil Society Organizations serve as the objective facilitator/s in the RCT framework.
Facilitation of the conflict transformation process by a third party is a crucial component of the RCT Framework. It necessitates responsible, capable, committed, creative and empowering facilitators that could provide safe Space, could allocate enough Time and resources and able to facilitate a trust-building and creative process of a resource conflict transformation.

The third party should be guided in its facilitation by the following principles:

— It only facilitates and catalyze the resolution of the conflict;
— It should not impose settlements and decide for the resolution of the conflict;
— It is not necessary for the resolution of the conflict to identify parties as victims or perpetrators;
— It is its responsibility to help make the disputing parties understand that the resolution of the conflict are in their hands - they should be the ones to identify the problem, shape the course of the interaction, collectively create a settlement, and decide for its final resolution.

Fisher, and Al. (2000:129) argue that the participation and empowerment of local groups, parties and associations in a peace process is fundamental. Those who have lived through a conflict must be the architects, owners and long-term stakeholders in any agreements that are reached. The people are the real stakeholders in the peace process and it is they who need to feel that they have been consulted and have some measure of control over negotiations which will affect them most closely.

Hence, the RCT framework stresses that the conflicting parties and affected community should feel ownership of the conflict transformation process. That they should not just be merely consulted, but the ones who analyzed, not just informed but having power in decision-making as to the direction and processes of the conflict transformation. Their representation then to the “Third Party” facilitating group is of importance.

3. Reconciliation, restorative justice and peace: the goal

Clarifying the goals of the conflict resolution process with the major stakeholders are important to level-off at the start. This could serve as an inspiration, a direction, like a ‘light house’ of the conflict transformation process.

The RCT framework adopts the Restorative Justice approach in dealing with violence in resource-based conflict. As defined by Abu-Nimer (2001: 74) "Restorative justice requires parties not only to have trust in the process but also encourages parties to increase trust in each other. There would be restorative justice when people live in right relationships to each other – materially, socially, spiritually they experience peace." Justice means here repairing relationship. The framework therefore aims for achieving Reconciliation between and among parties to conflict.

The greatest resource for sustaining peace in the long term is always rooted in the local people and their culture. An important task in the development of a framework for sustaining reconciliation is to build a peace constituency within the setting. People must be seen as resources, not recipients. In other words, citizen-based peacemaking must be seen as instrumental and integral, not peripheral, to sustaining change.

With the involvement of government instrumentalities in the process, initiatives for resource conflict transformation using this framework could also contribute in initiating policy and structural change. Experience and information could then serve as basis for advocacy and ‘transformed’ government representatives are then expected to be able to effect change at their level of influence.

By resolving the resource conflict and the building of a peace constituency who are learning from experience and developing greater cooperation, foundation for the social and economic development of the community and the wider public is then expected as an impact of this conflict resolution.

As to SPACE, TIME and RELATIONS elements, the RCT framework works on the achievement of:

— Generating respect from all parties on the agreements over resource ownership and use conflict issues;

— Restoring relationship, stronger bond and cooperation of community for sustaining peace;

— Stakeholders learning from the experience and generating their commitment to build a peaceful future for all.