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What this guide is about

Wouldn't it be great if we could manage natural resources effectively and get the right balance between development and conservation? If we knew more of how to help people dealing with conflicts to avoid the undermining or disruption of natural resource management, lack of development or even outbreak of violence? And if we could assist in creating opportunities and strengthening people's ability to solve problems that arise in natural resource management, while helping to build positive relationships among people?

This guide looks at how negotiation and consensus building can be used to manage conflict and build collaboration. The guide provides practical, step-by-step advice on working with many different stakeholders to reach mutually satisfactory agreements in collaborative natural resources management. As such, it is concerned with people's livelihoods - their means of living, and the influences that affect the ways in which they live and work. It is also concerned with sustainability - balancing conservation and development to meet the needs of women and men, now and in the future.

But first, what do the terms "negotiations" and "consensus" mean?

When people talk with one another in an effort to resolve their opposing interests, they negotiate. Those who are involved in a negotiation are called parties. Some negotiations are simple and some are complex. Sometimes a negotiation involves two parties (e.g. local men and local women negotiating the use of land, control over woodland, devices used for fishing, etc.) negotiating for themselves or representing others. Sometimes it involves multiple parties: local men and women, government agencies, domestic and multinational businesses, politicians, international development agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). It is important to remember that no-one can be forced into a negotiation. Negotiating is a voluntary activity.

In some negotiations, the parties in dispute have become so entangled in their differences that they are no longer able to find any constructive solution by themselves. In such cases, a so-called "third party" - a facilitator or mediator[1] - might be able to help. The role of the facilitator/mediator is to assist individuals and groups to negotiate and reach agreement successfully.

The other key word in the guide is consensus. Consensus does not mean that everyone gets what they want. It does not mean that there is a unanimous decision about an agreement, nor does it imply voting to obtain a majority. Consensus means that everyone feels that their interests have been addressed and that they can live with the agreement - they may have wanted a bit more here or a bit less there, but they can agree to live with the outcomes of a negotiation.

The purpose of consensual negotiations is to achieve the best possible outcomes for the most people, or at least an outcome that everyone can accept. Consensus building is a critical characteristic of collaborative natural resource management, where many different stakeholders, such as the State, communities, NGOs and the private sector, have to negotiate how best to share the management, entitlements and responsibilities arising from particular natural resources, such as a forest, a river, the sea coast or grazing land.

As such, consensual negotiations are more than an approach to conflict management. They have an important part to play in helping people to develop and improve the skills, knowledge and social networks that are important in their lives.

How can this work? Different people see the world in different ways, and have different needs, strengths and goals. Consensual negotiations can help people to understand these differences, come to terms with them and take advantage of them in ways that are positive for both themselves and the community. Relationships can be strengthened and trust can be built. Awareness of, knowledge about and skills to identify and overcome barriers to development can be increased. Consensual negotiations can strengthen arrangements that regulate access to and use of natural resources. They can also help to increase income and benefits through improved management of natural resources.

Many successful collaboration arrangements have developed from new responses to long-standing conflicts over natural resources. This shows that conflict can be a creative and helpful element in a society. However, greater stakeholder involvement in decision-making may also increase the potential for conflict. This is mainly for the following two reasons:

The differences on which a conflict can be based are an outcome of competition among individuals and groups over material goods, economic benefits, property and power. When parties feel that their needs cannot be met, or perceive threats to their values, needs or interests, it may become necessary to intervene; some form of conflict management may be needed in order to avoid escalation into destructive and violent conflict.

Anticipating and managing conflict are therefore critical ingredients of collaborative natural resources management. The challenge is to manage conflicts so that the advantages they bring can be maintained (e.g. opportunities to understand other people's views, expand livelihood options or create change and development) while the disadvantages are reduced or mitigated (e.g. extreme disruption, lack of development, or even violence).

The aims of conflict management are to:

These approaches do not stand alone. It is helpful if they are fully integrated into a broad framework of collaborative management, building on processes that lead to mutual benefits and achievements.

Who the guide is for

The guide is intended for practitioners working on participatory/collaborative natural resource management and rural livelihoods projects. It will be useful for extension workers, advisers of government organizations and NGOs, development agencies and private companies who want to learn how to assist people in the process of consensual negotiations.

Trainers may use these materials as background for preparing courses in natural resource conflict management, while trainees may use them for background reading during their training and afterwards, when putting their learning into practice to manage conflict.

The guide assumes that the reader already knows about and is experienced in collaborative approaches to natural resource management through involvement in community forestry, small-scale artisanal fisheries, integrated watershed management, etc.

Objectives of the guide

This guide offers practical guidance on how to establish and manage a process of consensual negotiations involving multiple stakeholders in collaborative natural resource management and other livelihood projects.

In particular, it focuses on conflict situations where a third party (mediator) is asked to assist in order that consensual negotiations can take place and work effectively.

Choosing an appropriate strategy through which to address a particular conflict is an important issue. Sometimes, the best strategic choice can be to "do nothing". No single approach is effective in all cases because the people and issues in each conflict are different. The guide therefore introduces and discusses some of the advantages and disadvantages of a range of conflict management approaches (e.g. customary, legal, alternative) to help practitioners assess which approach(es) may best suit a particular conflict situation.

The guide seeks to provide ideas on how to decide whether consensual negotiation is the most relevant strategy to address a particular conflict. The reader will find suggestions and recommendations for:

In summary, the objectives of this guide are to:

Effectiveness of consensual negotiations

Consensual negotiations are more effective in addressing some types of conflicts than others. For example, conflicts arising from differing interests concerning resource use are negotiable, whereas basic needs, such as identity, security, recognition or equal participation within the society, are usually non-negotiable. Negotiation techniques are therefore less useful in resolving underlying structural tensions and identity conflicts than they are in resolving disputes over declining resource availability.

Because underlying structural tensions often operate at the regional or national level (competing or overlapping legal orders, real or perceived inequalities inherent in the wider socio-economic or political system, etc), managing them tends to involve measures such as policy reform, structural adjustments, democratization and/or international conventions or protocol.

The successful use of consensual negotiation is limited by two additional factors:

What is in the guide?

The guide, divided into eight sections, provides the fundamental ideas and thoughts about (or the conceptual foundations for) consensual negotiations. The three annexes provide background material for further reading, to deepen understanding of specific issues of interest.

Section 1:

An introduction to natural resource conflicts, collaborative management and sustainable livelihoods

This section explains what natural resource conflicts are and how they may influence sustainable livelihoods. It examines the role of natural resource conflict management as part of collaborative natural resource management, and suggests where consensual negotiations can usefully be employed.

Section 2:

Managing conflict

This section describes in greater detail the complex nature of conflict and explores different strategies and approaches in conflict management. It outlines the principles of consensual negotiations and discusses the strengths and limitations of this approach.

Section 3:

Process map for consensual negotiations

This section presents a ten-step process map describing how to establish and manage a negotiation/mediation process, and explains the role of the mediator in this process. The process map is explored further in later sections.

Section 4:


This section explains how mediators might enter a conflict setting and reflects on the specific role and responsibilities that a mediator will assume in the early stages of conflict management.

Section 5:

Analysing conflict

This section outlines why conflict analysis is essential, where and how it is conducted in the process map, and what tools and instruments may be employed (see also Annex 2).

Section 6:

Broadening stakeholder engagement

This section explains how mediators can engage stakeholders in the conflict management process and help them to reflect about the causes of conflict and the options to address it, as well as helping them to prepare themselves for negotiations with other parties.

Section 7:

Negotiations and building agreements

This section discusses how a mediator prepares and facilitates negotiations. Different steps in the negotiation process are outlined and good practices in mediation are suggested.

Section 8:


This section emphasizes the importance of monitoring an agreement, and discusses strategies for mediators who are gradually reducing their involvement as the parties gain skills, trust and confidence.

Annex 1:

Collaborative natural resource management

This annex provides a basic introduction to the principles and instruments of collaborative natural resource management for those who are less familiar with the concept.

Annex 2:

Field guide to conflict analysis

This annex provides a user-friendly description of basic tools in conflict analysis for practitioners who want to apply them in the field.

Annex 3:

Case studies

This annex documents two cases of successfully facilitated consensual negotiations in Ghana. The case studies explain the background of the conflicts and describe the process of conflict management, along with the instruments applied, the difficulties encountered and the lessons learned. The case studies can be used in training.

How to use the guide

The guide explains how to establish and manage a process of negotiations. The suggested process map is subdivided into ten steps and is not a rigid blueprint. The actual process is not linear, but moves forwards and backwards as needs and capacities change. This requires flexible handling of the steps according to how the process develops.

Conflict management is a shared learning process. Users of this guide are encouraged to adopt a learning approach. This means learning from experiences and applying, testing and adapting the different techniques and strategies provided here. Managing conflict is a process of analysis, planning, action and - above all - reflection.


Active listening

Active listening is a way of listening that focuses entirely on what the other person is saying, and confirms understanding of both the content of the message and the emotions and feelings underlying the message in order to ensure that understanding is accurate (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).

Adversarial approach

The adversarial approach to a conflict sees the other party or parties as the enemy to be defeated. The approach can be contrasted with the problem solving approach, which views the other party or parties as people with a common problem that needs to be jointly solved. The adversarial approach typically leads to competitive confrontation strategies, while the problem solving approach leads to cooperative or integrative strategies for approaching the conflict situation (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).


Adversaries are people who oppose each other in a conflict. They see other parties as enemies to be defeated. Adversaries are also referred to as opponents, parties or disputants. Taking an adversarial approach typically leads to competitive confrontation strategies (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).


Advocacy is the process of taking and working for a particular side or particular interests in a conflict. Lawyers engage in advocacy when they represent clients in legal proceedings. Disputants can also engage in advocacy themselves - by arguing for their own position in negotiation, mediation or political debate. Any attempt to persuade another side to agree to one's demands is advocacy (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).


Arbitration is a method of resolving a dispute in which the disputants present their cases to an impartial third party, who then makes a decision for them in order to resolve the conflict. This decision is usually binding. Arbitration differs from mediation, in which a third party simply helps the disputants to develop a solution on their own (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).


Attitudes are actions or behaviour that show how a person thinks or feels. Attitudes can often be observed in the way in which a person responds to other people, ideas and experiences (e.g. with or without respect, trust, caring, sensitivity, willingness to listen, etc.).


BATNA is a term invented by Roger Fisher and William Ury; it stands for "best alternative to a negotiated agreement". Each negotiator should determine his/her BATNA before agreeing to any negotiated settlement. If the settlement is as good as or better than the BATNA, the agreement should be accepted. If the alternative is better, it should be pursued instead of the negotiated settlement. A party with a good BATNA (or with a BATNA that it perceives as good) is unlikely to be willing to enter into negotiations, preferring instead to pursue that best alternative option (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).


Coexistence means living together peacefully in the same geographical area (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).

Common ground/commonalties

Common ground or commonalties are the things that two people or groups share or hold in common. These may include living in the same place, or having similar values, interests, needs or even experiences or fears. Although disputants often assume that they have nothing in common with their opponents, they almost always have some common ground - even if it is only a common desire to live in peace and security without having to fear the other disputants (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).

Competition/competitive approach

See Adversarial approach

Contributing factors

Conflict contributing factors are such dynamics as communication problems or escalation that - although common - are usually extraneous to the conflict, but that confuse the core issues in the conflict, making them more difficult to understand and deal with.


A compromise is a solution to a mutual problem that meets some, but not all, of each party's interests (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).


Collaboration involves people with diverse interests working together to achieve mutually satisfying outcomes. Collaboration is known by many names, including problem solving, consensus building, interest-based negotiations, win-win, mutual gains, and principled negotiations. The goal of collaboration is to manage the dispute so that the outcome is more constructive than destructive. A destructive outcome results in harm and involves exploitation and coercion. A constructive outcome fosters communication, problem solving and improved relationships.

Collaborative natural resource management

"... a partnership by which various stakeholders agree on sharing among themselves the management functions, rights and responsibilities for a territory or a set of resources" (Borrini-Feyerabend, 1996).


"Conflict is present when two or more parties perceive that their interests are incompatible, express hostile attitudes, or... pursue their interests through actions that damage the other parties. Interests can differ over: i) access to and distribution of resources (e.g. territory, money, energy sources, food); ii) control of power and participation in political decision-making; iii) identity (cultural, social and political communities); iv) status, particularly those embodied in systems of government, religion, or ideology" (Schmid, 1998).

Conflict analysis

Conflict analysis is the identification and comparison of the positions, values, aims, issues, interests and needs of conflict parties (International Alert, 1996, III: 16).

Conflict management

Conflict management is the practice of identifying and handling conflicts in a sensible, fair and efficient manner that prevents them from escalating out of control and becoming violent.

Conflict resolution

Conflict resolution deals with process-oriented activities that aim to address and resolve the deep-rooted and underlying causes of a conflict.

Conflict settlement

Conflict settlement deals with all the strategies that are oriented towards producing an outcome in the form of an agreement among the conflict parties that might enable them to end an armed conflict, without necessarily addressing the underlying conflict causes.

Conflict transformation

Conflict transformation focuses on long-term efforts oriented towards producing outcomes, processes and structural changes. It aims to overcome revealed forms of direct, cultural and structural violence by transforming unjust social relationships and promoting conditions that can help to create cooperative relationships.


Consensus decision-making requires that everyone agrees to a decision, and not just a majority, as occurs in majority-rule processes. In consensus-based processes, people work together to develop an agreement that is good enough (but not necessarily perfect) for everyone at the table to be willing to accept (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).


Constituents or constituency refer to the people who are represented by a decision-maker. The constituents of a government leader are the citizens he/she represents in parliament or some other legislative body. The constituents of a negotiator are the people he/she is negotiating for; for example, they could be members of a union, interest group or business (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).

Constructive conflict/confrontation

The term "constructive" refers to a conflict that has more benefits than costs - one that pulls people together, strengthens and/or improves their relationship (by redefining it in a more appropriate or useful way) and leads to positive change for all of the parties involved. It can be contrasted with destructive conflict, which has mainly negative results - pushing people apart, destroying relationships and leading to negative changes, including the escalation of violence, fear and distrust (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).


Credibility refers to the extent to which a person or statement is believed or trusted. Some leaders or expert witnesses are not considered credible because they have personal interests in the outcome of a situation or conflict that are likely to influence their views and/or statements about that situation or conflict (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).

Destructive conflict/confrontation

Destructive conflict or confrontation has largely negative results - it pushes people apart, destroys relationships and leads to a host of negative personal and social changes, including the escalation of violence, fear and distrust. It can be contrasted with constructive conflict and confrontation, which has more benefits than costs in pulling people together, strengthening and/or improving their relationships and leading to positive change for all the parties involved.

Development context

Development context refers to the social, economic and political aspects of the conflict. The social aspects are the relationships that exist in a community at the time the conflict occurs. For instance, one group may be socially and/or economically dominant, while others are less successful or are discriminated against. The political aspects are the political system or decision-making structure of the community or nation in which the conflict occurs. Who holds power in the community or society? Are decisions made democratically or by an authoritarian system?


Dialogue is a process for sharing and learning about another party's beliefs, feelings, interests and/or needs in a non-adversarial, open way, usually with the help of a third party facilitator. Unlike mediation, in which the goal is usually to reach a resolution or settlement to a dispute, the goal of dialogue is usually simply to improve interpersonal understanding and trust (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).


Disputants are the people, groups or organizations that are in conflict with each other. They are often also called the parties.

Dispute resolution

See Conflict resolution


Emotions are the psychological feelings that result from, and contribute to, a conflict. Examples are anger, shame, fear, distrust, and sense of powerlessness. When emotions are effectively managed, they can become a resource for effective conflict resolution. When they are not effectively managed, however, they can intensify a conflict by heightening tensions and making the situation more difficult to resolve (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).


Empowerment means giving a person or group more power. It can be achieved by the party itself, through education, coalition building, community organization, resource development or advocacy assistance. It can also be achieved by a mediator, who works with the less powerful person or group to help them to represent themselves more effectively. Although this latter method causes ethical dilemmas (as helping one side more than another compromises the mediator's impartiality), it is quite common in the problem solving or settlement-oriented approaches to mediation, which work best when the two parties are relatively equal in power. Baruch Bush and Joe Folger advocate the empowerment of both parties simultaneously through transformative mediation, which seeks to restore disputants' "sense of their own value and strength and their own capacity to handle life's problems". This approach avoids the ethical dilemmas of one-sided empowerment, but sacrifices the primary focus on achieving a settlement (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).


Escalation is increased intensity of conflict. According to Pruitt and Rubin (1986, 7-8), as a conflict escalates, the disputants change from relatively gentle opposition to heavier, more confrontational tactics. The number of parties tends to increase, as do the number of issues and the breadth of those issues (i.e. they expand from the very specific to more global concerns). Disputants also change, and move from wanting to win themselves to wanting to hurt the opponent. While conflicts escalate quickly and easily, de-escalation - the diminution of intensity - is often much harder to achieve (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).


Extremists are people whose views are much stronger, and often more fixed, than other people's views of the same situation. In escalated conflicts, extremists may advocate violent responses, while more moderate disputants advocate less extreme measures (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).

Face saving

"Face" refers to a person's image, both to him/herself and to others. A face-saving approach is an approach that does not damage either side's image by making anybody appear weak, inept or otherwise a failure. Instead it makes each party appear wise and victorious, even when it is not. By allowing all disputants to save face, a negotiated settlement is much more likely to be accepted (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).


Facilitation is a "means of helping the conflict parties reach a mutually satisfying agreement. It may be communication between the parties which the third party facilitates, and/or an analysis of the conflict situation and possible outcomes." (International Alert, 1996, III: 67). Facilitation indicates a lesser degree of involvement than mediation. Facilitators may be invited to provide their technical skills for one particular meeting, but they seldom become an integral part of the whole process, as mediators do.


Force refers to any situation in which one disputant is made to do something against his/her will through threat. In Kenneth Boulding's terms, force is used when people are told to "do something that I want, or else I will do something that you don't want". Force does not need to be violent. It can simply be a coercive statement that says, for example, "If you do not comply with my demand, I will fire you from your job, or I will stage a hunger strike, or I will organize a work slowdown" (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).


Frames are ways of defining problems. Some people may define a problem in terms of rights, while others may define it in terms of interests or relative power. These different positions are sometimes referred to as "different frames".


Framing is the way in which people construct and represent a conflict. Just as a frame can be placed around a photograph to include some portions of the picture while cropping others out, so can people define some aspects of a problem as important while ignoring or being unaware of others.

Hard bargaining

This term refers to adversarial, competitive bargaining that views the opponent as an enemy to be defeated, rather than a partner to be worked with cooperatively. Fisher and Ury contrast hard bargaining with soft bargaining (which is highly conciliatory to the point of giving in on important points) and with a third approach - principled negotiation - which is neither hard nor soft, but rather integrative in its approach (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).

Human needs

Human needs are the things that all humans need for normal growth and development. First identified by psychologist Abraham Maslow, human needs go beyond the obvious physical needs of food and shelter, to include psychological needs such as security, love, a sense of identity, self-esteem and the ability to achieve one's goals. Some conflict theorists (referred to as "human needs theorists") argue that the most difficult and intense conflicts, such as racial and ethnic conflicts, are caused by the denial of one or both groups' fundamental human needs: the need for identity, security and/or recognition. In order to resolve such conflicts, ways must be found to provide these needs for all individuals and groups without compromise: human needs "are not for trading" (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).


Identity refers to the way in which people see themselves - the groups that they feel part of, and the significant aspects of themselves that they use to describe themselves to others. Some theorists distinguish among collective identity, social identity and personal identity. However, all of these are related to a description of who one is and how one fits into social groups and society as a whole (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).

Identity conflicts

Identity conflicts develop when a person or group feels that its sense of self - who one is - is being threatened or denied legitimacy or respect. Religious, ethnic and racial conflicts are examples of identity conflicts (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).


Impartiality refers to the attitude of the third party. An impartial third party will not prefer one side's position to another's, but will approach both as being equally valid. Impartiality can be hard to achieve, and the third party may have to make an active effort to treat both sides the same if he/she tends to prefer one party or its argument over the other (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).

Incompatible interests

Incompatible interests are things that people want and that cannot be achieved simultaneously. For example, if a community has a limited budget for public services and four public agencies (the police, the school, the hospital, and the roads department) all need increased budgets to maintain their current services, the agencies have incompatible interests - not all of their funding requests can be met simultaneously (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).


Indicators are predictors, precursor events and other telling signals used in forecasting. The following is one set of indicators (Schmid, 1997: 50): i) systemic causes: general, underlying, structural, deep-rooted, background preconditions; ii) proximate causes: specific situational circumstances; and iii) immediate catalysts: idiosyncratic contingent triggers.


Interests are what a party in a dispute cares about or wants. They are the underlying desires and concerns that motivate people to take a position. While people's positions are what they say they want (such as "I want to build my house here"), their interests are the reasons why they take a particular position ("because I want a house close to my family"). Parties' interests are often compatible, and hence negotiable, even when their positions seem to be in complete opposition.


Intolerance is the unwillingness to accept the legitimacy of another person, group or idea that differs from one's own. It may result in an effort to get rid of the "objectionable" person or idea, or it may result in treating that person or idea as subservient, as occurs when people of certain racial or ethnic groups are discriminated against by the dominant group in a society (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).

Intractable conflicts

These are conflict situations that have gone on for a long time, resisting most (or all) attempts to resolve them. Typically they involve fundamental value disagreements, high-stakes distributional questions, domination issues and/or denied human needs - all of which are non-negotiable problems. They often also involve unavoidable win-lose situations (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).


Legitimacy refers to the perceived fairness of a dispute resolution process. For example, fair elections or litigation based on socially accepted laws are generally considered legitimate, as are the decisions that result from such processes. On the other hand, elections in which voters are harassed or forced to vote a particular way are usually considered illegitimate, as are court decisions handed down by biased courts. Legitimacy of decision-making procedures is important, because illegitimate procedures almost always escalate conflicts, making their ultimate resolution more difficult (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).


A livelihood is a combination of the resources used and the activities undertaken in order to live. The resources might consist of individual skills and abilities (human capital), land, savings and equipment (natural, financial and physical capital, respectively) and formal support groups or informal networks that assist in the activities being undertaken (social capital) (DFID, 1999).

Livelihood assets

A key component in the sustainable livelihoods (SL) framework, livelihood assets are the assets on which livelihoods are built. They can be divided into five core categories (or types of capital): human capital, natural capital, financial capital, social capital and physical capital. People's choice of livelihood strategies, as well as the degree of influence they have on policy, institutions and processes, depend partly on the nature and mix of assets that are available to them. People require a combination of assets that makes it possible for them to achieve positive livelihood outcomes - i.e. to improve their quality of life significantly on a sustainable basis (DFID 1999).

Livelihood components

Livelihood components are the different elements of the SL framework.

Livelihood goals

Livelihood goals are the objectives pursued by people through their livelihood strategies. They are closely related to livelihood outcomes (DFID 1999).

Livelihood outcomes

Livelihood outcomes are the achievements, or results, of livelihood strategies. Outcomes can be examined in relation to the following categories: more income; increased well-being; reduced vulnerability; improved food security; more sustainable use of the natural resource base; and social relations and status (DFID 1999).


Mediation is an extension or elaboration of the negotiation process that involves a third party. This third party works with the disputing parties to help them improve their communication and their analysis of the conflict situation, so that they can themselves identify and choose an option for resolving the conflict that meets the interests or needs of all of the disputants. Unlike arbitration, in which the intermediary listens to the arguments of both sides and makes a decision for the disputants, a mediator helps the disputants to design their own solution.


Psychologist Abraham Maslow suggested that all people are driven to attain certain biological and psychological requirements, which he called fundamental human needs. Several conflict theorists (e.g. John Burton and Herbert Kelman) have applied this idea to conflict theory, suggesting that the needs for security, identity and recognition underlie most deep-rooted and protracted conflicts. Most ethnic and racial conflicts, they argue, are not interest-based (and hence cannot be negotiated), but are driven by the subordinate group's claiming of fundamental needs. The only way of resolving needs conflicts is to restructure the society so that the fundamental needs of all groups are met (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).


"Negotiations is a form of decision-making by which two or more parties talk with one another in an effort to resolve their opposing interests" (D.G. Pruitt). Negotiation can be relatively cooperative, as when both sides seek a solution that is mutually beneficial (commonly called principled or interest-based), or it can be confrontational (commonly called win-lose or adversarial) bargaining, when each side seeks to prevail over the other.


Neutrality means that a third party is not connected to, and has not had a prior relationship with, any of the disputants.


The parties are the people who are involved in the dispute. Most parties are disputants - they are the people who are in conflict with each other. Other parties - the third parties - intervene in the dispute to try to help the disputants to resolve it. Mediators and judges, for example, are third parties.


Persuasion involves convincing another party to change its attitude and/or behaviour. Although this can be done through coercion, the term "persuasion" generally has a more positive sense and refers to emotional or rational appeals based on common values and understandings (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).


Polarization of a conflict occurs when the conflict rises in intensity (i.e. escalates). When escalation occurs, often more and more people become involved in the conflict and take strong positions on one side or the other. Polarization refers to this process, in which people move towards extreme positions ("poles"), leaving fewer and fewer people "in the middle" (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).


Positions are what people say they want - the superficial demands they make of their opponents. According to Fisher and Ury, who first distinguished between interests and positions, positions are what people have decided, while interests are what caused them to make that decision. One side's position will often be the opposite of its opponent's, but their interests may actually be compatible.


Power is the ability to get what one wants, or as conflict theorist Kenneth Boulding put it, to "change the future". This can occur through force (sometimes referred to as "power over"), cooperation (referred to as "power with" or exchange power) or the integrative system - the system of identity and relationships that holds people together in groups.

Protracted social conflicts

These are conflicts that last for years or even generations, and that are characterized by: "... enduring features such as economic and technological underdevelopment, an unintegrated social and political system producing insecurity and distributive injustice; ... the inability or unwillingness to fulfil those societal requirements for individual and social development: security, identity, recognition and participation; [a] denial of human needs, and the [creation of] fears, anxieties and insecurities [that] produce social cleavages ... often form[ed] around the issue of social identity, of which ethnicity has become the most prominent manifestation; ... exist[ing] within and across State boundaries, making distinctions between domestic and international politics artificial" (Azar, 1986; 1990; cited in Schmid, 1998).


Reconciliation is the normalization of relationships among people or groups. According to John Paul Lederach, it involves four simultaneous processes: the search for truth, justice, peace, and mercy. When all four of these factors are brought together, reconciliation is achieved (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).


Reframing is the process of redefining a situation - seeing a conflict in a new way - based on input from other people who define the situation differently from oneself.

Relationship problems

These are problems between two or more people that involve the relationship between those people. For example, conflicts can be caused because two people do not trust each other, or because they are in constant, hostile competition with each other (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).


See Conflict resolution


A conflict is said to be "ready" for settlement or negotiation when it has reached stalemate, or when all of the parties have determined that their alternatives to negotiation will not get them what they want or need. When this occurs, the parties are likely to be ready to negotiate a settlement that will attain at least part of their interests - more than they are getting or stand to get if they pursue their force-based options further.

Root causes

There is a distinction between the root causes of a conflict, which are the fundamental interests, values and needs that are in conflict with each other, and the contributing factors, which are dynamics such as communication problems or escalation that, while common, are usually extraneous to the conflict, although they confuse the core issues and make them more difficult to understand and deal with.

Soft bargaining

This term refers to very cooperative, conciliatory bargaining that focuses primarily on reaching an agreement and not upsetting the other side. Fisher and Ury contrast it with adversarial, competitive bargaining, which assumes that the opponent is an enemy to be defeated, rather than a partner to be worked with cooperatively. They contrast both these approaches with a third - principled negotiation - which is neither hard nor soft, but rather integrative in its approach (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).


Stakeholders are the people who will be affected by a conflict or the resolution of that conflict. They include the current disputants, and also people who are not currently involved in the conflict but who might become involved, because they are likely to be affected by the conflict or its outcome sometime in the future.


A stalemate is a stand-off - a situation in which neither side in a conflict can prevail, no matter how hard it tries. Parties often have to reach stalemate before they are willing to negotiate an end to their conflict.


See Stereotyping


Stereotyping is the assumption that a person or group has one or more characteristics because most members of that group have (or are thought to have) those characteristics. It is a simplification and generalization process that helps people to categorize and understand their world, but it often leads to errors. An example of a stereotype that is often wrong is the belief that women are weak and submissive, while men are powerful and domineering. This may be true for some women and some men, but it is not true for all. When stereotypes are inaccurate and negative (as they often are between groups in conflict), they lead to misunderstandings which make resolving the conflict more difficult (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).

Third party

A third party is someone who is not directly involved in the conflict but who becomes involved in an effort to help the disputants work out a solution (or at least improve the situation by communicating better or increasing mutual understanding). Examples of third parties are mediators, arbitrators, conciliators and facilitators.


A threat is any statement that takes the form "you do something that I want, or I will do something that you do not want". According to Kenneth Boulding's theory of power, threat is one of three forms of power, the other two being exchange and what he calls "love", which is referred to as the "integrative system" in this manual (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).

Triggering events

A triggering event is an event that initiates ("ignites") a conflict. It can be minor - a simple statement that is misinterpreted or a careless mistake - or it can be major - the assassination of a leader, election fraud or a political scandal (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).


Values are the ideas that people have about what is good, what is bad and how things should be. People have values about family relationships (e.g. regarding the role of the husband with respect to the wife), work relationships (e.g. regarding how employers should treat employees) and other personal and relationships issues (e.g. regarding how children should behave towards adults, or how people should follow particular religious beliefs) (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).

Win-lose (adversarial) approach

This is the approach to conflict taken by people who view the opponent as an adversary to be defeated. It assumes that in order for one party to win, the other must lose. This contrasts with the win-win approach to conflict, which assumes that if the disputants cooperate, a solution that provides victory for all sides can be found (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).

Win-win (cooperative or problem solving) approach

This is the approach to conflict taken by people who want to find a solution that satisfies all the disputants. In win-win bargaining, the disputing parties try to cooperate to solve a joint problem in a way that allows both parties to "win". This contrasts with the win-lose (adversarial) approach to conflicts, which assumes that all opponents are enemies and that in order for one party to win a dispute, the other must lose (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).

[1] For definitions of the terms "facilitator" and "mediator" see section 3.1.

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