Conflict Management
The issue of conflict resolution and management has been a point of
argument among the scholars of conflict studies. To many scholars,
conflict management can only be achieved while its resolution is an
ideal phenomenon and unachievable; it is like healing a wound and
removing its scar. Maill et al (2001:21), state that, “Conflict resolution
is an expected situation where the deep-rooted sources of conflict are
addressed and resolved, and the behaviour is no longer violent, nor the
attitudes hostile any longer and the structure of the conflict has been
changed”. Mitchel and Banks (1996), said, “Conflict resolution is an
outcome in which the issues in an existing conflict are satisfactorily
dealt with, through a solution that is mutually acceptable to the parties,
and self sustaining in the long run and productive of a new positive
relationship between the parties that were previously hostile adversaries.
It is also a process or procedure by which such an outcome is achieved”.
But in the actual sense, conflict is an inevitable phenomenon that keeps
occurring in all human relationships. It has been a fundamental question
that is unanswered by the scholars of conflict resolution, because in
principle conflict resolution connotes a sense of finality. But reflecting
on the advocates of conflict resolution’s definitions, it is vividly
revealed that resolution is unachievable. No wonder Best (2004:95),
states that, “The term conflict management is perhaps an admission of
the reality that conflict is inevitable, more importantly conflict on values
can never be resolved. Therefore what the practitioners can do is to
manage and regulate them”.
What is conflict management? Conflict management is the transition
from a hostile nature, attitude, behaviour and character of the contenders
in a conflict to its termination, and the cessation of hostilities through
negotiation, conciliation, joint problem solving and third party
intervention. It is synonymous with conflict regulation and prevention
that covers the entire area of handling conflicts positively at different
stages. According to Best (2004:95), “Conflict management includes
those efforts made to prevent conflict by being proactive, which also
encompass conflict limitation, containment and litigation”. Conflict
management involves its transformation as to build longer standing
relationship through the process of change in the perceptions and
attitudes of the parties involved. According to Jeong (2000), “Conflict
transformation entails the coming into being of new situations involving
conflict issues, perceptions, relationships and communication patterns”.

Alternative for Dispute Management
This involves soft mechanisms and peaceful conflict management
systems that explore less painstaking and least expensive means of
managing conflict satisfactorily, as well as preserving the relationship of
the contenders. It may involve voluntary will and sometimes
involuntary will. Alternative for dispute resolution (ADR) provides for
other methods of dispute management that are preferable to the
conventional means, which is litigation (court approach). The ADR
approaches are proposed and developed in order to promote the use of
non-violent methods in conflict management. The ADR comprises
communication, collaboration, facilitation, negotiation and mediation,
while the involuntary will of ADR involves arbitration,
adjudication/litigation (autocratic-court’s approach) and peace
Community-Based Developmental Programmes: This system is the
initial preventive measure of ADR, which plays a significant role in
ensuring peaceful co-existence among community members.
Community based developmental programmes create social bonds that
are helpful in preventing dysfunctional conflict among community
members, by engaging them in different developmental programmes.
Good Governance: This is another preventive measure in ADR
mechanism, since the essence of good governance is to guarantee a
congenial environment where aspiration and lawful activities can be
carried out freely, to ensure stability and development
Communication: Communication has three components or features that
are benevolent, malevolent and ambivalent. It is benevolent, when the
information received is beneficial or positive in nature. Malevolent,
when it is not favourable, consists of evil and not beneficial.
Ambivalent, when it brings about confusion, mix-up and ambiguity.
Information management is a crucial weapon that can help in building
relationships. It removes doubt and suspicion. (Shedrack; 2004:103).
Most of the non-violent methods of conflict management, such as
collaboration, facilitation, negotiation, conciliation, arbitration and
adjudication are largely dependent on effective communication.
Collaboration: This is a process in which the contenders work together
to stem their conflict. Collaboration can be achieved through joint task
projects, among the contenders on identified common themes, goals,
values and issues. The assumption is that collaborating together in
doing a project will definitely build more friendship, mutual respect and
understanding among them. This is of varying degrees; it could be on
the inter-personal level, group, community, national, regional and
international levels. For instance communities could share a community
school, health centre, market or bridge. This could create a chain of
collaborative activities that end up supporting peace building.
Facilitation: It is a process of consultation and invitation of the parties
involved in a conflict to a dialogue. Albert (2001:36) says facilitated
dialogue occurs in a situation whereby a neutral third party tries to
restore communication between two warring parties, with a view to
helping them to (re) consider the areas of disagreement and do
something about them. It requires that both parties to the conflict are
helped to discuss and see the issue in the conflict, and work through
them with a view to promoting better working relationships. This
process helps in providing for a better environment, where the clarity of
purposes, stages, issues and expectations will be achieved.
Negotiation: Fisher et. al (2000:115) state that “… negotiation is a
structured process of dialogue between the conflicting parties about
issues in which their opinions differ”. Falkenberg, (1982:7) sees
negotiation as “a process whereby two or more parties, who are faced
with a problem or a conflict about some limited resources, attempt to
agree on how best to resolve their problems or resolve the conflict”. To
Miall et. al (1999:21), negotiation is a process whereby the parties
within the conflict seek to settle or resolve their conflict. Moley and
Stephenson (1997:26) say negotiation…is any form of verbal
communication, direct or indirect, whereby the parties to a conflict are
of interest to discuss, without resorting to arbitration or other judicial
processes, and the form of any joint actions in which they might take to
manage a dispute between them. According to Fisher and Ury (1981XI), negotiation is a basic means of getting what you want from others.
It is a back and forth communication designed to reach an agreement,
when you and the other side have some interests that are common, and
others that are opposed. To Kennedy et. al (1987:14), negotiation is a
process of resolving conflict, between two or more parties whereby both
or all modify their demands to achieve a mutually acceptable
compromise…, a process of adjusting both parties’ views of their ideal
outcome to an attainable outcome.
According to Albert (2005:2), the process of negotiation allows the
participants to establish contact with each other directly by written
words of symbols, or through an intermediary:
· create at least a minimally positive professional relationship
· identify topics to be addressed and determine how the discussion
will be conducted
· transmit both substantive information and messages about the
type and strength of feelings;
· communicate about their desires, positions or demands, possible
needs and interests;
· generate options and assess their viability;
· seek to influence each other to obtain advantage or satisfaction;
· create procedures and rituals for gaining final approval for
· and develop ways to implement, monitor and ensure compliance
with the understanding that has been reached.
Hitherto, negotiation, according to Moore (1996:8) is the commonest
way for reaching a mutually acceptable agreement when parties do not
have the opportunity of third party interventions. It is a voluntary
bargaining process in which contenders try to educate each other about
their needs and interests with a view to shifting away from their rigid
positions, which had hitherto made the differences between them
difficult to resolve through informal conversations. Therefore, in general
terms, there are three types of negotiations: positional, interest based and
principle negotiation, that comprise soft, hard and quassi-soft/hard
attributes as strategies. The soft attributes give room for concessions in
order to achieve quick mutual amicable agreement. The hard attributes
believe in a zero-sum game and always wish to use every conflict
opportunity to test their strength and capacity. They often press hard and
desperate to win the other party. Fisher and Ury (1981: XVII) say the
hard negotiation attributes “want to win”, yet they often end up
producing equally hard responses that exhaust resources and harm their
relationship with the other side” The third attribute is quassi-soft/hard,
which is neither soft nor hard in nature.
More importantly, from the definitions of negotiation offered above, it is
clear that communication is a crucial tool that cannot be overlooked or
underestimated, and when communication is threatened or stopped,
conflict will be escalated, which will make the negotiation process
become difficult.
Types of Negotiation
Positional Negotiation: This is a zero game negotiation, in which the
contenders are always working towards their own interests in the
negotiation process. It is distributive bargaining, an activity of dividing
limited resources, in a situation whereby one party wins what the other
party loses. Their communication or interactive process is usually drawn
towards a win-lose outcome. Such bargaining process occurs when the
perception of the two sides in relation to their issue does not coincide
and they are unwilling to abandon the issue or modify their perception
of it (Walton and Mc Kersie; 1965:11). Anstey (1991:126) said since
emphasis is on protecting the position of the parties rather than their
interests and needs, it often compounds the already bad situation. Once
the positional negotiation hammers on his/her hard position, the
opponent will definitely also adopt the same behaviour, which will
metamorphose to a difficult situation, in which they will not be able to
reach any concrete agreement. From the view of Fisher and Ury
(1981:4-5), when the negotiators bargain over positions, they tend to
lock themselves into those positions. The more you clarify your
positions and defend it against attacks, the more committed you become
to it. The more you try to convince the other side of the impossibility of
changing your opening position, the more difficult it becomes to do so.
Your ego becomes identified with your position. You therefore have a
new interest in “saving face” – in reconciling future actions with past
positions, making it less likely that any agreement will wisely reconcile
the parties’ original interests….
As more attention is paid to positions, less attention is devoted to
meeting the underlying concerns of the parties. Agreement becomes
less likely…. Any agreement reached may reflect a mechanical splitting
of the difference between final positions rather than a solution that is
carefully crafted to meet the legitimate interests of the parties. The result
is that they frequently end up with an agreement that is less satisfactory
to each side than it could have been (Albert; 2005:3). Positional
bargaining gives room for much time to be wasted and even denies the
effective agreement reached on certain issues, or in other words
overdrives issues that will not end up in resolving conflict. It commonly
resorts to anger and resentment that complicate issues. It is hard to
achieve sustainable peace in positional negotiation
Interest Based Negotiation: This is a negotiation process that gives
room for mutual respect and understanding between or among the
contenders who are really interested in preserving the existing good or
bad relationship between them. It encourages cooperation more than
positional negotiation, in the sense that it focuses on interest and needs
rather than position. It could also be called a joint problem solving
Principle Negotiation or Bargaining: This is a quasi-positional and
interest based negotiation. It is neither hard no soft in nature in terms of
the negotiation process, but comprises the combination of both attributes
of positional and interest-based negotiation. It was etymologically
developed from Harvard negotiation programmes. It is based on
meritorious bargaining; that is, a little bit to the right and a little bit to
the left. It is a situation whereby the contenders in a conflict situation
focus on how the conflict can be amicably resolved in terms of fairness.
Conciliation: This is a third party intervention in a conflict. It involves
an intermediary effort that aims at persuading the contenders to work out
a better option of resolving their conflict peacefully. It also involves the
facilitation process, whereby the contenders will be provided an avenue
or opportunity of negotiation and dialoging on how the resolution can be
achieved. The conciliators help in reducing the tension between or
among the conflicting parties, but hardly take part in the negotiation
process. The conciliators are sometimes called “shuttle diplomats”,
because often they use their personalities to influence and initiate a
peace process and peaceful resolution.
Mediation: It is a conflict negotiation that is commonly facilitated by
the third party. Miller (2002:23) says, “Mediation is the voluntary,
informal, non-binding process undertaken by an external party that
fosters the settlement of differences or demands between directly
affected parties”. It is noteworthy that a mediator remains a mediator,
when the conteders still trust and have confidence in him/her. But as
soon as they lose confidence and trust in him/her, he/she ceases to be a
mediator. Miall et. al (1999:22) acknowledge mediation as the
intervention of a third party, … a voluntary process that the parties
involved retain it, control its outcome (pure mediation), although it may
include positive and negative inducements (mediation with muscles).
The contenders must admit or acknowledge that there is a problem that
needs to be solved first and foremost, and they must be sincerely
committed to its management.
The mediator cannot enforce any solution on the parties of the conflict,
but serves as a control mechanism to the peace process and negotiation.
It is a voluntary service, which must be carefully done so that the
conflict issues will not snowball into a larger conflict. The mediation
process as a conflict management procedure occurs at all levels, be it
interpersonal, communities, states, and nations. The role of the mediator
is to provide an enabling environment, where the parties in a conflict
will be able to carry out their negotiation and dialogue sessions
peacefully, so as to manage the issues constructively. More importantly,
there should be a rule to follow, which will serve as a guide for the
Mediation should be objective, neutral, balanced, supportive and nonjudgmental
and the mediator must be able to drive the contenders toward
win-win outcomes rather than a win-lose situation.
Arbitration: This is a semi-officially done third party intervention,
which is a step higher than mediation in conflict management. The
contenders do not have ultimate right on their conflict issues any longer;
they lose control over their conflict situation to an arbitrator. Although
it is a non-violent method of conflict management, in this situation, the
arbitrator has supreme power over the contenders and their conflict.
According to Shedrack (2004:108), “Arbitration is the use of and the
assistance of neutral third party intervention in conflict situation who
hears the evidence from both parties, and thereafter renders a decision
that is usually called an award, which is expected to be binding on the
parties”. It is similar to mediation and close to adjudication or litigation,
but quite different in practice. Arbitration is different from mediation, in
the sense that the decisions of an arbitrator are binding, unlike
mediation. It is also different from litigation, in the sense that it is done
outside the courts, and its enforcement mechanisms differ from that of
litigation. Arbitration allows the contenders to choose their arbiter,
unlike litigation, though slightly costly. Arbitrators fulfill their role by
virtue of their position in society. Arbitration has several properties of
mediation and adjudication/litigation (Shedrack; 2004:109).
Adjudication/Litigation: This is a win-lose situation that is very
judgmental in nature, which depicts a zero-sum game of the winner
takes all. It involves the use of the courts and litigation paradigms. The
contenders that choose this method of conflict management have no
control of the conflict. The court’s verdict is final; it is legally binding
on the conflicting parties. The verdict will be further enforced by the law
enforcement agencies like the police force, where necessary. Litigation
consumes more time and is more expensive when compared to the other
systems of conflict management.
Peace Enforcement: The peace enforcement processes comprise
peacemaking and peace keeping operations, whereby the critical
decisions on the crisis have to be taken on time or else the situation
Adjudication/Litigation: This is a win-lose situation that is very
judgmental in nature, which depicts a zero-sum game of the winner
takes all. It involves the use of the courts and litigation paradigms. The
contenders that choose this method of conflict management have no
control of the conflict. The court’s verdict is final; it is legally binding
on the conflicting parties. The verdict will be further enforced by the law
enforcement agencies like the police force, where necessary. Litigation
consumes more time and is more expensive when compared to the other
systems of conflict management.
Peace Enforcement: The peace enforcement processes comprise
peacemaking and peace keeping operations, whereby the critical
decisions on the crisis have to be taken on time or else the situation
would be worse and eventually escalate to the point of violence. The
United Nations develops these two peace enforcement mechanisms, in
order to prevent serious human security threats and intense violence.
In the United Nations’ peace enforcement conflict management
framework, there are three different types of peace enforcement charters,
which are Charters VI, VII and VIII. These three United Nations peace
enforcement charters have their rules of engagement, in the military
peacekeeping mission operations that are situational in terms of their
periods of operations. More importantly, the consent of the contending
parties must be sought, before peace enforcement engagement. The
peace making agreement must be signed, which will serve as a means of
peace making. The first charter of the United Nations peace enforcement
or peace keeping mission operations engagement is Charter VI, which
allows for limited arms and ammunition with little or no force. There is
no room for heavy coercive apparatus against any of the parties, but it
mainly allows for military self-defence. The commandant of Charter VI
must be a soft-minded leader, and the military operation’s beret must be
blue; that symbolises their rules of engagement. A good example of this
military operation was in Liberia and Yugoslavia, during their protracted
Charter VII of the United Nations peace enforcement is the second
military peace keeping mission operations’ rules of engagement,
whereby the military peace keepers are allowed to use heavier military
weaponry than Charter VI, but also at a minimal rate in terms of
operation and in terms of the arms and ammunition required. The
commandant of Charter VII will be a bit tougher compared to that of
Charter VI. The soldiers should wear green berets; that symbolises its
rules of engagement. A good example of this was in Somalia, Bosnia
and Herzegovina. The Charter VIII of the United Nations’ peace
enforcement is the third and the toughest. It involves the full application
of force and it has the toughest commandant. The heaviest military
apparatus are used and the soldiers wear red berets. A good example of
this was in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Peace enforcement is only acceptable in situations in which there is
massive destruction of lives and property and where there is total
collapse of law and order. Peace enforcement involves the use of the
police force and the armed forces. The introduction of the police and
other law enforcement agencies may occur when there is need for the
use of extraordinary measures such as force to restore law and order. But
if it is not carefully done, it can end up in human rights violations of
various descriptions.

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