What are we actually going to do about conflict
What are we actually going to do about conflict?
Much of the practitioner’s initial unease about conflict stems from fear. This is natural. If we view conflict as being violence, rather than violence being a response to conflict, then we are naturally going to be afraid. Are we asking people to put themselves in harm’s way? Are we asking people to directly separate people, stand between them and out themselves at risk?
One of the other fears is very natural: what if we (as a project) start working on conflict- could we drag up old conflicts and re-ignite them? If peace exists, then why talk about conflict and risk dragging up painful memories- that could result in a re-escalation?
While there are roles that can be taken that place trained professionals directly into conflict situations the role of local Traveller organisations is not to take that direct role (unless people have taken on specific training and are aware of risks and how to manage them), but to work on de-escalation, reducing tensions and also, should conflict escalate into violence or the threat of violence, the project can still play a crucial role in conflict mapping or leading a coordinating committee.
If we are looking at what Traveller organisations can do, then what are we going to do about conflict?
- We can become conflict aware – learn that conflict is not violence or feuding. Conflict is where communication breaks down and relationships suffer.
- We can learn and continue to learn about conflict – how it escalates, what the impacts of conflict within the community are and what some specific amplifiers for conflict are within the community.
- We can think about conflict and how it effects us emotionally – we learn about emotional responses and triggers by thinking about our own responses to conflict.
- We can create safe spaces for discussions within our organisations and our communities about conflict
- We can project what our role is to the community to generate buy-in for what we define as conflict work and what our role can be
- We can listen to people when they need to talk about the impacts of conflict
- We can offer a third side approach (with a range of roles) to families or individuals to help them to deescalate situations and support healthier communication
- We can offer to mediate between individuals or families in low-intensity disputes where we feel comfortable and have agreement
- We can look to bring in outside expertise to help reduce tensions, to mediate, to manage conflict or to enforce peace where necessary with the trust of the community that we will have the insight into conflict that can support any outside experts
- If conflict escalates, we can offer safe spaces for people to discuss the impact of conflict in a non-judgemental, no shame no blame setting
- If conflict escalates, we can monitor and map instances of conflict as objectively as possible in order to try and understand the specific root causes of conflict and offer advice on how to reduce tensions
- If people’s safety is threatened, we can coordinate a response committee to try and ensure that Statutory and non-Statutory agencies work with us to minimise emotional or physical violence or destruction of property.
Each of the sections in “Making Sense of Conflict” are designed to get people to think about the dynamics of conflict. Instances of conflict are naturally complex- they involve people’s feelings, emotional states, their desires, beliefs, agendas, identities, relationships, personalities, power (or sense of lack of power), external pressures- including relationships with State agencies (including the judicial system) and poor accommodation conditions.
We can look at broadly what causes conflict and use that as a base to try and improve our analysis of what specific instances of conflict we have faced in the past, that is developing or that has escalated.
So no two instances of conflict will be the same- what we need to learn and become aware of are what are the things that people do in conflict situations- what can make them more prone to respond or react, provoking further responses- and what we can aim to do is embed an organisational and community response to support people to recognise what can cause conflict, how individuals, organisations and communities can communicate better, reduce tensions and build healthier relationships.