Home Contact Us
Search :

South Asia - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#1531, 20 October 2004
Theories of Conflict Resolution : An Analysis
Meha Dixit
Intern, IPCS

Conflict resolution as a discipline has developed theoretical insights into the nature and sources of conflict and how conflicts can be resolved through peaceful methods to effectuate durable settlements.

Morton Deutsch: Cooperative Model

One of the first to develop insight into the beneficial consequences of cooperation as an academic enquiry was Morton Deutsch. In his view, a number of factors like the nature of the dispute and the goals each party aims at are pivotal in determining the kind of orientation a party would bring to the negotiating table in its attempt to solve the conflict. Two basic orientations exist. These are competitive and cooperative. Deutsch further predicts the type of interactions which would occur between negotiating parties as a result of their disputing style. Cooperative disposition of the party would evoke an atmosphere of trust and eventually lead to mutually beneficial options for settlement. On the other hand, competitive approach leads to win-lose outcomes. This approach is inclined to intensifying animosity and distrust between parties and is generally considered destructive.

Some critics of this approach argue, both cooperation and competition are essential to some extent to effectuate resolution of conflict since negotiating a desirable agreement always includes common and diverse goals. Thus finding a balance between these two approaches is the key to successful negotiation.

Roger Fisher and William Ury: Principled Negotiation

Other theorists who advocated cooperative conflict behavior include Roger Fisher and William Ury. They put forward four principles for effective negotiation. These four principles are:

  • Separate people from their problem.
    What Fisher and Ury argue is that this principle helps parties to get a clearer picture of the substantive problem.

  • Focus on interest rather than position.

  • Generate a variety of options before settling on an agreement.

  • Insist that the agreement be based on objective criteria.

At each stage of the negotiation process, the above principles should be observed. Developing a method for reaching good agreements is central to this model.

This model asserts that "separate people from their problem". However, this could make matters worse if human needs of the people are the problem. Moreover, conflicts between ethnic groups are mostly needs based conflicts since one group feels that its basic needs of identity, security, recognition or equal participation are being neglected. Here human needs model can be more useful than interest based model.

John Burton: Human Needs Model

John Burton's work is of immense significance in the field of human needs model. He argues when an individual or group is denied its fundamental need for identity, security, recognition or equal participation within the society, protracted conflict is inevitable. To resolve such conflict, it is essential that needs that are threatened be identified and subsequently restructuring of relationships or the social system take place in a way that needs of all individuals and groups are accommodated. For instance, this model can be useful in the case of Maldives where there are restraints on freedom and participation of its citizens in political life.

Bush, Folger And Lederach : Conflict Transformation

Theorists of conflict transformation, while referring to the interest-based and the human needs models argue, solution that satisfies each country's interests and needs could be reached through these models. However, if negative attitudes developed in each country during the conflict are not addressed, these could serve to generate further conflicts some time later. Whereas conflict transformation aims at a fundamental change in attitude and/or behavior of individuals and/or the relationship between two or more disputing parties.

This approach is very well exemplified in Bush and Folger's theory of transformative mediation and Lederach's model of conflict transformation. Lederach uses the term conflict resolution to refer to peacebuilding. For building peace destructive or negative communication patterns need to be transformed or replaced by constructive or positive interaction patterns. Like Bush and Folger, Lederach stresses the need to transform the disputing parties by empowering them to understand their own situation and needs, as well as encouraging them to recognize the situation and needs of their opponents.

Conflict Transmutation

Those theorists, who practice conflict transmutation argue that conflict transformation may transform relationships, however it does not go far enough in addressing the underlying sources of conflict behavior. Conflict transmutation is centered on the principles found in alchemy as a set of contemplative practices that transform deeply encrusted feeling and thoughts that fuel destructive conflict behavior.


As we take a closer view of world events as well as mundane day to day reality of life, it becomes apparent that conflict is an indisputable fact of our physical and mental existence.

Conflict infact permeates each and every strand of human existence and often takes shape of diabolic cyclical violence unless dealt with creatively and constructively. Though each conflict resolution theory has its own limitations yet conflict resolution as a discipline can be of immense significance in this respect and as we ruminate the current world politics where the powerful does not have qualms about resorting to force at any given opportunity, conflict resolution theories are emblematic of how military force is not always the right approach for dealing with conflict effectively.

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Making a Case for Change
Connecting Sri Lanka: Train to Jaffna
Stronger Democratic Values for a Better Tomorrow
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Burying the Past: A New Beginning for Pakistan and Afghanistan
India-Pakistan: Working Boundaries and Lines of Uncontrolled Fire
Of Inquilab and the Inquilabis
Dateline Kabul
Mariam Safi
Af-Pak: A Fresh Start
Can Afghanistan Become a "Perfect Place?"
Afghanistan: Political Crises After the Presidential Run-off
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Bangladesh: Diplomatic Manoeuvres at the UNGA
Abe’s Successful Visit to Dhaka: Two Political Challenges

Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism’s Sake?
Changing Global Balance of Power: Obama’s Response
East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
Abe-Xinping Summit Meet: A Thaw in China-Japan Relations?
South Korea's Foreign Policy: More Rhetoric, Less Content?
India in East Asia: Modi’s Three Summit Meets

Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
The Future of SAARC is Now
China in Nepal: Increasing Connectivity Via Railways
India-Nepal Hydroelectricity Deal: Making it Count
Prof Shankari Sundararaman
Modi in Myanmar: From ‘Look East’ to ‘Act East’
The ASEAN's Centrality in the Indo-Pacific Region
Myanmar's Political Transition: Challenges of the 2015 Election

Sushant Sareen
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir
Pakistan: Why is Army against Nawaz Sharif?
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
India and Maritime Security: Do More
Indian Ocean and the IORA: Search and Rescue Operations
Maritime Terrorism: Karachi as a Staging Point

Middle Kingdom
Srikanth Kondapalli
China and Japan: Will the Twain Never Meet?
Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping: Building a Closer Developmental Partnership
Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age

Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Naxal Violence: Challenges to Jharkhand Polls
Naxalites and the Might of a Fragile Revolution
Six Thousand Plus Killed: The Naxal Ideology of Violence
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security
Obama’s New Strategy towards the Islamic State: Implications for India

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Islamic State: The Efficacy of Counter-strategies
War against the Islamic State: Political and Military Responses from the Region
The Islamic State: No Country for the Old World Order
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile
Uranium and Nuclear Power: Three Indian Stories

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Of Lawrence, Sykes-Picot and al-Baghdadi
Strategic Estrangement: An Odd Bedfellow to Economic Engagement
The Islamic State Caliphate: A Mirage of Resurrection
Voice from America
Amit Gupta
China's Global Ambition: Need to Emulate Germany
Mid-Term Elections: So What If the US Swings Hard Right?
Modi’s US Visit: So Much Promise, Such Little Outcome

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
18th SAARC Summit: An Economic Agenda
Regional Economic Architecture: Is India Ready?
Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
India-China: Securitising Water

OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


Browse by Publications

Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Naxalite Violence 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
Maoist Insurgency in Nepal

Y! MyWeb
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2014
 January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December
 2013  2012  2011  2010  2009  2008  2007  2006
 2005  2004  2003  2002  2001  2000  1999  1998

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map | IPCS Email
B 7/3 Lower Ground Floor, Safdarjung Enclave, New Delhi 110029, INDIA.
Tel: 91-11-4100 1900, 4165 2556, 4165 2557, 4165 2558, 4165 2559 Fax: (91-11) 41652560
© Copyright 2014, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.
        Web Design by http://www.indiainternets.com