Essay On Conflict And Justice

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Conflict Research Consortium BOOK SUMMARY

Conflict, Cooperation, and Justice


Barbara Benedict Bunker, Jeffery Rubin, and associates


Conflict, Cooperation, and Justice, Barbara Benedict Bunker, Jeffery Rubin, and associates, (San Francisco: Jossey-Bas Publishers, 1995), 441 pp

This book summary written by: Tanya Glaser, Conflict Research Consortium.

Conflict, Cooperation, and Justice will be of interest to those who are interested in cooperation, conflict and justice, particularly as described in the work of Morton Deutsch. The body of this work is divided into twelve essays, grouped under three topics: conflict, cooperation and justice. The text includes a foreword and introduction, a biographic sketch of Morton Deutsch, and a brief introduction to each of the contributors.

Part One addresses conflict. Jeffrey Rubin and George Levinger discuss the analysis of conflict at different levels. They ask, for example, to what extent the principles which underlie interpersonal conflict apply to international conflict. Guy Olivier Faure explores ways of formulating conflict which avoid the pitfalls of culture-bound views. He shows how conflict, aggression, peace, and negotiation are defined differently in different cultures. Dean Pruitt and Paul Olczak discuss approaches to seemingly intractable conflicts. They offer a diagnostic model for differentiating between escalated and moderate conflict. Since mediation or negotiation are not generally effective in escalated conflict, they propose seven types of intervention which may be more effective. Ellen Raider describes how to translate conflict resolution training and theory into applied skills for effective practice. Finally, Morton Deutsch himself discusses the constructive management of conflict, both in terms of developing knowledge and acquiring practical skills, commenting on the essays in this section.

Under the general topic of cooperation, Roy Lewicki and Barbara Benedict Bunker offer a model of the development and decline of trust in relationships. Virginia Vanderslice discusses cooperation within a competitive context, focusing on the experiences of worker cooperatives. She looks for the presence of pathological modes of cooperation: over-conformity, nepotism, and vested interest. David Johnson and Roger Johnson turn their attention to the application of cooperation theory to education. They examine the practice of cooperative learning in education, and explore its failures and successes. The section concludes with a commentary by Deutsch, discussing the frailty of cooperation.

The essays in Part Three focus on justice. Robert Folger, Blair Sheppard and Robert Buttram discuss three forms of social justice, based on either equity, equality, or need, and explore situations where one form seems to dominate. Tom Tyler and Maura Belliveau discuss definitions of fairness. They compare ideals of equity and equality, and contrast notions distributive justice with procedural justice. Michelle Fine and L. Mun Wong address the issue of perceived injustice by discussing the psychology of victimization. They also explore the ways in which institutions act to silence critique. Susan Opotow explores social categorization, moral exclusion and the scope of justice. She discusses how and why people differentiate between justice as it applies to themselves, and as it applies to others. Genocide is discussed. In his concluding commentary, Deutsch calls for a new moral philosophy, which could further help us identify and respond to injustice.

The text ends with a review of the essays and summary of conclusions by Rubin and Bunker.

Conflict, Cooperation, and Justice offers a series of insightful and thought-provoking essays which build on the work of Morton Deutsch.

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If ending a conflict means offering aggressors positions in the resulting political settlement and impunity for their crimes, is the compromise acceptable? Or should full accountability and criminal procedures for aggressors be non-negotiable – even if it means that the violence and killing are prolonged? Such questions have served to create tensions between peacemakers and justice practitioners.

One thing is clear: separating peacebuilding from the promotion of justice undermines both. As Louise Arbour, former president and CEO of International Crisis Group, has pointed out, peace and justice are interdependent. The real challenge is how to reconcile the inevitable tensions between them.

Young people call on UN to recognise their role as peace-builders

The 16th sustainable development goal refers to “peaceful and inclusive societies”, “access to justice for all” and “effective, accountable and inclusive institutions”. This is welcome, but innovation will be needed to advance peace and justice as complementary objectives.

The scale and complexity of the challenges facing societies affected by conflict means narrow approaches that prioritise one over the other will miss the mark. We need to find creative ways of integrating efforts to prevent conflict withthe promotion of human rights, justice and the rule of law.

Too often, justice is taken to mean improving and implementing laws. As a result, actions tend to focus on increasing the capacity of law institutions, such as the police and courts, to improve access to justice.

Access to a system that helps to manage disputes between people is important – but it is only part of what’s needed for peace. “Access” is no guarantee of the quality or fairness of a justice system, while equal access to the law is very different from equality before it.

But while the fairness of justice systems, formal or informal, should remain a common preoccupation, we also need to tackle the much larger question of how to build more just societies. Justice is not something that is merely dispensed through courts and the police. Instead, it is experienced either positively or negatively through the quality of opportunities, relationships, transactions and behaviours right across society.

To improve people’s experiences of justice, a much wider selection of actors – not just those within the criminal justice chain – must be involved. We know that poverty, insecurity and injustice are man-made consequences of unfair policies and practices. We know that states can fail because, among other things, their policies exclude people from decision-making and access to resources – and this often fuels insecurity and violence.

We also know that poorly conceived economic investment can contribute to patterns of horizontal inequality, environmental degradation and bad governance – all of which make conflict more likely. So this reality needs to be changed. The fundamental question centres on power, and ensuring it is “not used cynically or to dominate, but responsibly, knowing that generosity and beneficence builds trust,” as the economist Jeffrey Sachs has written.

What causes conflict and how can it be resolved? – podcast

In some contexts, justice institutions actively uphold laws, power structures and norms that entrench inequality and threaten peace. We need to think of justice as the outcome of a contest over resources and power. These contests occur everywhere – within and beyond the justice sector – and their outcomes can be fair and conducive to peace, or they can just as easily be the opposite.

Contests around unequal access to services, jobs, land and resources, or around tax evasion or environmental degradation, can be critical justice issues, the outcomes of which have a significant bearing on peace and development. It is the task of both peacebuilders and justice experts to facilitate contests that are peaceful, without diminishing the fairness of the outcomes.

To highlight these issues, Saferworld, in partnership with the Knowledge Platform on Security & Rule of Law, is launching a series of articles to discuss the role of diverse actors in crafting complementary approaches to advancing peace and justice. How can we maximise the potential that the rule of law has to offer? How can fairer environmental, social, economic, or housing policies address injustices and contribute to peace and development? How can architecture and the use of space promote or reduce violent behaviours? How do gender roles reinforce injustices that contribute to violence? And why is injustice such a powerful motivator of violent behaviour?

Inadequately addressing people’s everyday experiences of injustice is morally wrong as well as a driver of underdevelopment and violence. People do not live single-issue lives where justice is confined to the legal field. By pooling creative ideas on how to work more broadly on justice, we aim to catalyse action and learning on how to advance the collective interest and make progress towards a more just peace.

  • Will Bennett and Thomas Wheeler are conflict and security advisers at Saferworld

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