Conflict Resolution and Peacemaking
PSY400 Social Psychology
Conflict Resolution and Peacemaking
Conflict is widespread in the world we live in today. It is so prevalent that there are research studies on ways to create peace out of divergence. The article chosen for the purpose of this paper sheds light on one of the most successful initiatives in conflict resolution—the United Nations peace building process in Sierra Leone. The peacemaking process has led to sustainable peace in a region where a 10-year civil war, the most atrocious in Africa’s history, resulted in over 70,000 dead, thousands permanently maimed by machete and bullets and many displaced.
Major factors in peacemaking include contact, cooperation, communication, and conciliation. Contact refers to individuals of all varying economic status, location, language, and diversity. Contact actually encourages a deeper relationship between those who are in disparity, and equal status contact tends to be “intellectually growth-promoting” and “fosters greater acceptance of difference,” (Myers, 2009, p. 504).
Cooperation relates to cooperating with others. This factor can be beneficial when opposing groups join together to attain a goal that will benefit both sides. In terms of Sierra Leone, the Ivory Coast’s Foreign Minister, Amara Essy, met with shadowy rebel leader of the Revolutionary United Front, in peace talks, during which he persuaded Sankoh to negotiate a peace agreement. Essy is quoted in an interview as saying “I told him that as long as he stayed isolated in the bush, he would be considered a butcher by the world. No one even knows why you are fighting. “Once you have explained yourself, you can put the war behind you.” (French, n.d.).
Communication is vital in building the peace process because it allows for negotiations,
mediations, and arbitration. One cannot come to a resolution with communication. When two
parties have limited to no communication, both parties may be persuaded by a slightly appeasing
gesture, (Myers, 2009). In the case of Sierra Leone, Essy served as a mediator to negotiate the peace treaty with Sankoh. As the tension evaporates, it is usually just enough for contact, cooperation, and communication to be possible.
Conciliatory strategies such as the Graduated and Reciprocated Initiatives in Tension Reduction labor toward alleviating or reducing international tensions enough so that true mediation and communication can begin, (Myers, 2009). Having knowledge of the underlying root of the discord is essential. It may even help prevent further conflict. Thus, defining the root of the conflict is the first step towards a resolution. It is also important to develop a thorough understanding of the possible consequences as a result of the conflict. In recent years, Sierra Leone has taken methodical steps towards its long-term challenges such as addressing the deep-seated causes of conflict.
According to Myers (2010), “Whenever two or more people, groups, or nations interact, their perceived needs and goals may conflict.” In building peace in Sierra Leone, it was important to display empathy for both the victims and the perpetrators. Perceptions are formed early in life and unless those perceptions are challenged, continue to coagulate. Over time, those perceptions can become reality. However, through conflict resolution and peacemaking, they can change. New perceptions can be formed and shared.
Social dilemmas are born out of a failure to empathize; they can be ignited by competition, alleged injustice, and misperceptions. This thought process gains strength through selfish motives and the belief that only one side is right and will be victorious. The more the group gains strength, so does the issue, (Myers, 2010).
The conflict in Sierra Leone was one of the most brutal in history. While the road to peace has been tortuous, it has resulted in sustainable peace. Sierra Leone has made significant strides on the road to securing peace after years of prolonged violent conflict, but it has yet to be completely consolidated. They are on the right path as long as they continue to resolve their conflicts in a peaceful environment.
French, H. (n.d.). Sierra Leone a Triumph of Peacemaking by Africans. The New York Times –
Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. Retrieved March 25, 2013, from http://partners.nytimes.com/library/world/africa/120296sierra-leone-peace.html
Myers, D. (2010). Social Psychology (10th ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.
Kumar, T. T. (2010). United Nations peace process as a peacemaking and human rights exercise.
Lessons from conflict resolution in Sierra Leone. Crime, Law & Social Change, 54(5), 303-323. doi:10.1007/s10611-010-9259-0