What is Conflict
ITM has gone beyond viewing conflict simply as violence. In order to look at conflict management and how this web resource can be used, we need to be clear on what conflict is and the different levels of conflict:
- Conflict is a breakdown in communication and relationships
- It can be a heated encounter between opposite forces- it could be individual people, families or between communities (Travellers & settled people) or between the State and Travellers
- It can be a destructive interaction between people
- It can be an internal response to events possibly leading to a disagreement or dispute between people
While conflict can be negative with serious impacts, conflict can also be something that is positive in that it brings about change
- Conflict can be an opportunity for growth & development
- Conflict may be necessary to create change within a system that is not working (for example, challenging institutional racism)
- Conflict can occur due to change as an organisation or community grows or develops
Once we begin to change how we view conflict from simply being about violence or feuding we can now being to look at the importance of developing strategies around conflict management which will lead to increased communication and building better relationships. If we change how we view conflict, it also increases the potential to intervene earlier and reduce levels of violence one we have developed our analysis of what conflict is, how it begins, what we can do and how it can escalate.
Becoming conflict aware
If we broaden our view of conflict from just being about violence, we can see that conflict is inevitable and a natural part of being human, from disagreements between people right up to collectives challenging States to bring about change. How we deal with it determines whether conflict is seen as destructive or constructive.
By beginning to look at conflict and removing the fear about discussing it, Traveller organisations can develop conflict capability which will have a positive knock-on impact in many ways which will have appositive impact on relationships within the community and with State agencies.
Conflict management is connected to issues of social control and social change and therefore the mind-set and values are not just useful in looking at disputes between individuals or families, but also can be used in working between communities or in developing strategies for change at representational spaces
Becoming conflict aware means that you are not just looking at who is in conflict with whom– you also want to know what issues/ideals are in conflict with each other. This approach means that you need to understand root causes of why conflict has occurred rather than looking solely at the “incident” or event that triggered what has become conflict.
Conflict work is not about you/one person/family or organisation “getting your own way” but by solving problems together with someone you are in conflict with- or bringing people to together to find a resolution and also build better relationships. Throughout this resource you will see that conflict management tries to move us away from winners & losers to a situation whereby both parties achieve what they want to achieve: a “win-win” situation.
Conflict work is not just about stopping violence but the values that underpin being anti-violence, it is about safety, protection, equality.
This approach tries to get Traveller projects to see what can generate conflict and through this resource we will look at all aspects that can contribute to a loss of communication and lead to conflict: power and relationships, context of relationships, perceptions, roles, triggers as well as levels of conflict, approaches to deal with conflict. (see “what are we actually going to about conflict” for more details).
Caveats about conflict management approach
There are a number of key things to bear in mind when looking at developing a conflict management approach locally and nationally. We want to see the website used but with realistic expectations.
- Conflict is always complex. It involves people, with histories, backgrounds, who have been impacted by institutional decisions that involve multiple actors (see creating a conflict map). If we accept this, we need to accept that there are no “quick fixes”. This isn’t to say that we cannot do anything, but if we accept that some issues result for intergenerational unemployment or access to poor accommodation, we need to be realistic in that we cannot undo that overnight
- Conflict scenarios are never the same- so having used one approach in one situation does not mean it will directly apply to another. There is no “one size fits all” approach. Of course, dealing with conflict and using this website will expand our range of knowledge and skills and principles will be transferable.
- Conflict management challenges some basic assumptions that we have as community development workers. We need to be prepared to be open-minded
- Conflict is huge- there are no easy answers. But we need to be brave enough to explore how to find answers as ignoring conflict in the long-run will be hugely damaging to the community and to Traveller organisations that chose not to engage in the issue