Understanding Conflict: A Note From 20th School of Peace and Conflict Transformation

Logo International Institute of Peace and Development Studies (IIPDS).

Amanasia.org – From February 22nd to March 5th, 13 international students, activists, scholars and practitioners from 4 countries (Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, and the Philippines) gathered at the International Institute of Peace and Development Studies (IIPDS) to attend the 20th edition of the School on Peace Studies and Conflict Transformation.

During two intensive weeks, the participants deepened their knowledge on conflict and peace, their understanding of the regional context and exchanged valuables stories in their areas of expertise. The agenda allowed the participants to get to know, both at the local and regional levels, initiatives that aim at undermining the conflict, at promoting peace and enhancing resilience in the communities affected by conflict.

The context of this 20th edition was a bit particular as 15 other applicants were not able to travel because of COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Section I

The course opened on February 22nd with the presentation of the Asian Resource Foundation (ARF), the Asian Muslim Action Network (AMAN) and the International Institute of Peace and Development Studies (IIPDS). The Convener of IIPDS, Mohammad Abdus Sabur, the facilitator of the program, Ana-Lina Thoueille, and the one responsible for the IIPDS campus, Nattaphon Manyasi, welcomed the participants, introduced themselves and discussed the expectations leading towards agreeing to a set of collective learning objectives. The final agenda and the Mutual Agreement Code were also presented.

The first activity was organized by Ekraj Sabur, representative of UNODC, and aimed at making participants understand the nature of conflict, its dynamic, levels and ways and means in dealing with conflict.

Participants were asked to share the elements and feelings that they perceived upon hearing the word “conflict”.

The elements spelled out included war, destruction, argument, tension, injustice, absence of peace, violence, discrimination, killing, refugee, displacement and many others. These elements indicate participant’s common understanding of conflict is negative and destructive. After debate, most of the participants agreed that conflict can also be positive and that media and the way conflict is often manifested in front of us turn it into something negative.

Since conflict can’t be avoided, the question is not how to get rid of conflict but how to deal with it in the appropriate ways. In conflict transformation, the key element is identifying the needs of every party involved. Once needs are identified, cooperation can be promoted to work together towards the materialization of these needs which would also improve relationship which is the most crucial aspect in peacebuilding work.

Conflicts are of different kinds:

  • Non-violent conflict: addressed through dialogue to promote better understanding and cooperation.
  • Violent conflict: occurs when dialogue and negotiations fail, mistrust grows stronger and parties in conflict adopt violence means which leads to armed conflict, resulted in a loss of life and properties.
  • Conflict can be intra personal, inter personal, intra or inter group.

Conflict and its relation with power were also analysed through two dynamics.
First, participants had to divide into two groups and to form pairs, one person from each. One of the pairs had to sit on the floor while one had to keep standing and they had to look into each other’s eyes. After that experience, each one of the participants had to describe their feelings towards this dominant/dominated situation.

Afterward, the participants were asked to describe one of their conflict experiences to another participant, identifying the nature of the conflict, who was involved, how they felt at the moment, the outcome of the conflict and the power dynamic that was involved.

On February 23nd, Nicolas Ferriman, from the Mahidol University and Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, gave a talk on Political Economy, Geopolitics and Global Peace Movement. The discussion was focused on the way geography influences hegemonic powers. According to him, the geographical situation highly influences the exterior policy of a country.

Nicolas Ferriman then talked about his experience in the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign in Thailand and described the situation of Palestine, which has been colonized progressively by Israel since the Balfour Declaration.