DEALING CONSTRUCTIVELY WITH CONFLICTS AT MICRO AND

MACRO LEVEL AND BASIC HUMAN NEEDS THEORY

Gunnel Ankarstrand-Lindström, School of Education, Malmo, Sweden



Since my interest as both teacher and researcher is focused on issues of peace and conflict in teaching, on the basis of broad concepts of peace, violence and conflict, principally according to the theory of needs (Galtung, Burton) at both micro and macro level, and since I am also interested in pupils´ attitudes and values concerning issues of global survival, such as the future, peace, war, violence, social justice, human rights, intercultural relations, and the environment (pollution), I began my workshop with a brief survey of the theoretical background. The almost three-hour-long workshop thus consisted of both a theoretical and a practical-methodological (active audience) part. The drama teacher Viveka Rasmusson from Malmö helped me with the role-play and forum-play parts.

The workshop consisted of the following elements:

1 Warming up by means of a walking game and mutual introductions to create a positive and relaxed atmosphere.

2 Brief survey of the theoretical background with the aid of overhead transparencies.
The aspiration for peace means, among other things, that one tries to prevent and eliminate violence at both micro and macro level. But what is violence? Here everyone in the group was allowed to say what they associate with the word violence and together create a web of associations of the words on a flipchart. The same was done with the words conflict and peace. It is important to clarify that violence is not the same as conflict, which many young people believe. Conflict is usually defined as "lack of agreement", "clash", "opposition". Violence is always destructive.

Conflicts, on the other hand, should be seen as normal and natural ingredients in our lives, which can even foster development if they are resolved in a fair and peaceful way. They should not be judged as inherently evil. They go with the problem of living together. It is the way in which conflicts are resolved that decides whether they are constructive, good, leading to an opening and a change for the better, perhaps to personal growth, or destructive, leading to violence. Competence and skills in conflict management are therefore important in all contexts.

The peace and conflict researcher Johan Galtung argues that not having basic human needs satisfied is violence. What are the basic needs? According to Galtung, they are the needs of survival, well-being, freedom, and identity, which he clarifies in a table consisting of four fields (see figure 1 below). Galtung usually adds a fifth need, namely, ecological balance. These are real basic needs, not hierarchically ordered (unlike Maslow's "elitist" theory with lots of "needs and desires" hierarchically ordered). Galtung divides violence into direct violence, for example, assault or war, and indirect or structural violence, that is, political, economic, social, or cultural repression and exploitation.

Racial discrimination, the fact that almost 50 million people are refugees, and that over 30,000 children die each day of deficiency diseases and starvation - these are examples of structural violence. It is only when these basic needs are satisfied that one can speak of real, sustainable peace. Peace theory is thus intimately associated not just with conflict theory but also with development theory (see Galtung, 1996). It is thus a broad definition of peace with the following content: no violence, no war or threat of war, security (internal and external), wellbeing, freedom, self-esteem, solidarity, social justice, and ecological balance (see figure 2). In other words, this can be simplified as human rights or issues of global survival.

As I see it, a broad definition of peace should also include a gender perspective "without equality there can be no peace and development" (Brock-Utne, 1995). Theorists of needs, such as Maslow (1954), Burton (19903, and the early Galtung (1980) generally neglected the aspect of gender, which is a shortcoming in the context of peace and conflict.

How did the webs of associations on the flipchart agree with the meaning of the words peace and violence as used at this workshop? Let us take a look.

In the teaching situation it is essential that the pupils should grasp how needs, peace, and violence are connected (as is clearly seen in figure 2) so that they can understand how important it is to prevent conflicts from becoming violent, both globally and in our everyday lives at home.


According to Galtung, peace is really a process, not a static condition. "Peace is what we have when creative conflict transformation can take place non-violently.... The test of the pudding is in the eating. The test of peace is in the ability to handle conflict."

Here is how we tested peace in our group:

3 Role-play in pairs (the group's own examples of simple everyday conflicts).

4 Video film (5 minutes) about the use of "put-downs" and "put-ups" to escalate or reduce conflict (Marshall Rosenberg's communication model "the wolf and the giraffe"). Discussion with examples of good communication "I-messages", e.g. expressing one's own feelings or stances, actively listening), bad communication ("You-messages", e.g. blaming or accusing others).

5 Forum-play with a brief introduction by Viveka about the Brazilian Augusto Boal's theatre of the oppressed. Forum means a square or market-place. By means of street theatre, Boal sought to expose repression and the abuse of power. The public in the street were given the opportunity to change the play by taking over the role of someone in a clearly inferior position and suggesting how that person's situation could be improved.

6 Three examples of conflict situations with the whole group active in forum-play. Viveka and I acted out the following scenes, with people in the group stepping in to take over our roles.

a) "The sweater" (conflict over an object). A friend has borrowed a sweater and refuses to give it back.
b) "The park bench" (conflict about sex discrimination). An unknown man makes a pass at a woman.
c) "The bouncer" (cultural conflict). A black woman is prevented from entering a night club. Many people stepped into the roles, so the scenes became lively and dramatic, with many suggestions for resolving the conflicts.

7 Analyses, comments, reflections, and discussion after each scene.
The group is allowed to look at an overhead transparency of "The reaction tree" (see figure 3), where the different ways of handling conflicts (above) are fitted in. They discuss whether the different suggestions are destructive or constructive. The ideal is to arrive at a "win-win" solution, in other words, that both sides win (or that no one loses). Different types or dimensions in the conflict emerge.
a) instrumental (non-hostile disagreement, e.g. in conversation or everyday disputes)
b) conflicts of interest (competition over something)
c) value conflicts (personal, political, cultural, religious)
d) deep-going conflicts (often concealed, deeper feelings or needs concerning identity, self-esteem, recognition).

Here it is important to make a distinction between "positions", that is, standpoints (what is said, often in the form of external demands, tactics in power relations) and underlying needs, which requires both a deeper analysis and understanding of the causes of conflicts and of the internal dynamics in the parties concerned. A conflict is often deemed to belong to one or more of dimensions a, b, and c above but proves on closer analysis to be a conflict about needs, d. This
may be relevant concerning conflicts on both micro and macro level, according to Burton:

"Human needs, needs such as person and group recognition and identity had proved to be stronger in many recent circumstances than military power.... Did we have here an explanation of why deterrence does not always deter? ... So concerned were we with power theories, with international institutions, with criticism of strategic theories that we had failed to ask questions about human behavior" 1996, pp. 20-21).

According to Burton, conflicts of type a and b above are negotiable, while conflicts of type c and d cannot be negotiated unless the structures are changed first (e.g. in class and gender conflicts or ethnic conflicts).

8 The workshop concluded with a discussion of following ten points concerning conflicthandling relevant to both micro and macro level ("A problem solving model" in Lantieri, Roderick, Ray 1990, pp 37-87, see below)

1) identify the problem (problem analysis)

2) search for underlying causes and needs

3) differ between interests, values, "positions" and needs

4) evaluate consequences of the conflict if it is not resolved

5) use active listening and "puts-ups", not "puts-downs" (see above)

6) use I-messages and not You-messages (see above)

7) try to see and understand different perspectives (the other party's viewpoint)

8) "brainstorm" alternatives and identify the consequences of the best solutions

9) search for a "win-win"-solution (see above)

10) a plan of action should be agreeable to both parties. A third person can help (mediation) but he/she does not take sides or impose a solution.

"Learning conflict resolution skills is only one way to address the epidemic of violence in our society. Violence has many sources...it is rooted in fear, rooted in injustice, and rooted in poverty, racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia - all of these are examples of violence because all of them deny the basic humanity of our brothers and sisters and the children in this village we call Earth. Conflict resolution can help, but it will be most effective as part of a larger strategy." (see Lantieri, 1995)

Some of the publications referred to in the text:

Ankarstrand-Lindström, Gunnel. "Equality-Development-Peace" - Starting from basic human needs (i.a.to Galtungs's theory of basic needs) in research and education on peace and dealing with conflicts at the micro and macro level in a gender perspective: Questions relating to UN's conference on women in China. Sartryck och smatryck (Malmo: School of Education), No. 855, 1996. (In Swedish)

Brock-Utne, Birgit. Linking micro with macro in peace and development studies. In Kurtz, L. & Turpin, J.(Eds.) The web of violence. Chicago: University of Illinois, 1995.

Burton, John W. (Ed.3 Conflict: Human needs theory. London: St. Martins, 1990.

Burton, John W. Civilization in crisis: From adversarial to problem solving process. International Journal of Peace Studies, 1996, 1 (1).

Galtung, Johan. The Basic Needs Approach. In: Lederer, K., Antal, D. & Galtung, J. (Eds.) Human needs: Contribution to the current debate. Cambridge, MA: Oelgeschlager, Gunn & Hain, 1980.

Galtung, Johan. Peace by peaceful means. Peace and conflict, development and civilization. PRIO, Oslo: International Peace Research Institute, 1996.

Lantieri, Linda. Waging peace in our schools: Beginning with the children. Peace Education Miniprints, No. 80. Malmo: School of Education, 1995.

Lantieri, Linda, Roderick, Tom, Ray, Peggy & Ankarstrand-Lindstrom, Gunnel. Kreativ konfliktlosning for hogstadiet. Pedagogiska hjälpmedel, Nr 49, 1994. (Malmö:Lararhogskolan). Lantieri, Roderick, Ray are the authors of the original American version (I-III): Resolving conflict creatively: A draft teaching guide for alternative high schools. New York: Educators for Social Resposibility Metropolitan Area, 1990. Ankarstrand-Lindstrom has translated and revised this material into a Swedish edition and has also added a new text (IV s 112-178) and a new list of references for the Swedish public.

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