When and How a Traveller Group can Get Involved – and when not to be involved – and why
If we accept that conflict is inevitable and a natural part of being human, but that how we deal with conflict can either be healthy or unhealthy, then there are many ways of dealing with or managing conflict. Once we understand these pathways, best understood as a continuum of approaches, we can see where Traveller organisations can and should intervene and when other agencies need to take a lead
Understanding these different roles or approaches will give us as Traveller organisations the confidence to know what we can or can’t do. It will allow us to engage with the community so that they are comfortable with this role (and what these roles mean)
Conflict and community
- Conflict is inevitable and natural.
- How we deal with it is what makes it healthy and constructive or destructive
- Developing conflict capability will have a positive knock-on impact on many relationships and activities in a community
- Conflict management is connected to issues of social control and social change
There are many approaches for managing conflict
Approaches to conflict can be how individuals manage their own conflict or how communities or society chose to manage different forms of conflict. Some approaches are informal, in that there is no agreed structure between parties or societal contract in dealing with conflict. Other approaches, such as the role of the Gardai, Judicial System and the Prison Service, are highly formal.
Approaches to conflict can be seen as non-adversarial or adversarial. Non-adversarial approaches tend to be adopted by the actors themselves. Moving from non-adversarial approaches we find 3rd Party roles, which involve other parties, but are structures and frameworks agreed by the participants in the conflict. Once 3rd Party roles are imposed onto a conflict, it becomes more adversarial: again, the role of An Garda Siochana, in instances of violence, is not something that is agreed by parties involved in conflict: this relates to broader societal roles and agreements.
Types of conflict strategies:
- Avoidance/ prevention
- Suppression/ containments
- Informal methods
- Formal negotiation – bargaining
- Mediation – facilitated negotiation of settlement
- Learning – inquiry/ dialogue
- Skills/ capability building
- Courts – legal action/ Arbitration/ adjudication
Ways used to resolve a conflict
- Power contests- most powerful wins by use of force, strategy or resource
- Rights contests- the source of authority, rights or rulebook is used to decide (for example, taking an action to court)
- Interest Negotiation – interdependent parties reach agreement by bargaining (mediation, for example)
- Collaborative Problem-Solving: whereby participants are supported by a Third Party to look at what is at stake for them and how both sides can work together against the problem
How do we define the role of the Local Traveller Organisations?
Projects themselves will define their role on whether they can respond to conflict, in what way and with what resources, depending on the conflict situation. As mentioned in the how to use section no two conflicts will be the same.
It is worth recognising that Traveller groups will have different levels of resourcing and expertise in relation to conflict. So we cannot have one approach that will suit all Traveller groups, large and small.
However, it is worth noting that the ITM website is to be used to understand, map and frame conflict, it does not create the expectation that Traveller organisations need to directly place their workers or volunteers in harm’s way.
One of the main aims of this website is to move away from conflict solely being viewed as violence. Violence is a way that some people respond to conflict, by using physical force/coercion to try and achieve what they want in a dispute (or respond to an earlier act of violence), but it is not conflict. However, we need to recognise that conflict can and does often result in violence and this begs a question of what a group is expected to do.
Each Traveller group should engage the community in discussions on how it will respond to physical & psychological violence (or the threat of physical or psychological violence) and incorporate the Community Charter into its work.
This clarity will also define the role of workers or volunteers in its approach to conflict, but will also remind staff & volunteers about their responsibilities in relation to conflict and an adherence to non-violence in their work.
By looking at the section on Escalation, we can clearly see that if we look at the role of a Traveller organisation in relation to conflict, we cannot expect staff to play a role in peace enforcement. It will be worth exploring through the Community Engagement docs the role of courts, Gardai and Prisons, and how the community views these formal adversarial ways of managing conflict- and how Traveller groups can link in with these State services in times where conflict has escalated sharply (and this role has also been communicated to State services)
If we look at Glasl’s work on conflict escalation, there is a point whereby people involved in conflict need outside support. The further the conflict escalates the less the role of Traveller organisations. We cannot expect local groups to take on the role of the courts or An Garda Siochana. We need to be clear that Traveller groups are not expected to intervene once individuals or groups start to get involved in destructive behaviour. Groups may still play a role but at that stage we have moved into a space where a trained mediator will be needed and litigation or more formal coercive roles are taken by other agencies.
Our roles should be to look to intervene earlier before violence becomes part of the conflict and de-escalate where possible. Each groups can develop their own responses and as part of their own community outreach have a clear message to the community as well as a strategy for engaging agencies should the conflict escalate.