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Training as Interactive Conflict Resolution: Characteristics and Challenges

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The face of international conflict continues to shift toward a predominance of internal conflicts between or among contending communal groups within divided societies. New conceptual tools and expanded methods of conflict resolution are required to address this destructive phenomenon. The problem-solving workshop, which can serve useful prenegotiaton functions, is now joined with a variety of innovative interventions in dialogue, reconciliation and conflict resolution training. A broad definition of interactive conflict resolution goes beyond problem-solving workshops to include all forms of facilitated, face-to-face activities in communication, training, education or consultation that promote collaborative conflict analysis and peacebuilding among influential members of groups in protracted conflict. The history and rationale of training in conflict resolution is to be found largely in the development and expression of human relations training and more recently in the growth of training in negotiation and mediation skills. Conflict resolution training in divided societies can be seen as having a unique intergroup focus, and as embodying both generic and focused objectives, the former relating to enhanced capacities of participants to manage conflict effectively, and the latter involving increased understanding of the other group and the creation of mutual ideas for peacebuilding. Thus, training as interactive conflict resolution often involves generic activities to impart concepts and skills as well as focused experiences to induce intergroup understanding and cooperation. While directed toward laudable goals, this powerful form of training raises some important pragmatic and ethical issues that need to be managed carefully.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, Canada, S7N 5A5


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