“Peaceful Coexistence? ‘Traditional’ and ‘Non-traditional’ Conflict Resolution Mechanisms”


The final comparative research report on the coexistence of traditional and non-traditional conflict resolution mechanisms is now online. It was drafted in the framework of a project  funded by the German Foundation for Peace Research which analyzed the forms of coexistence between traditional (indigenous, local, community-based, etc.) approaches to conflict resolution and non-traditional (imported, liberal, state-based, Western, etc.) approaches to conflict resolution. It looked specifically at how the traditional mechanisms exist and interact with the various non-traditional (or state-based) mechanisms that are present in the country or region and analyzed the impact that forms of coexistence have on the conflict resolution processes of individuals and communities. The three case study countries for the project were Liberia (Monrovia and Bong County), Northeast India (Meghalaya) and Colombia (La Guajira) and three case study reports were published within the framework of the project on these cases.

The report elaborates on the different forms of coexistence (for instance institutionalization, selective integration, mutually requested intervention, etc.) that exist between traditional and non-traditional forms of conflict resolution and discusses the specific factors that lead to these different forms. The report concludes from all three cases that the coexistence of conflict resolution mechanisms can trigger tension and competition between mechanisms, thereby hindering conflict settlement processes and outcomes and even exacerbating or creating new conflicts. This can happen if competencies and responsibilities are unclear or if individuals enter into power struggles with one another. However, the coexistence of conflict resolution mechanisms can also under certain circumstances have positive effects on conflict settlement processes and outcomes, such as improving access to justice for citizens, offering more options for conflict resolution, and holding the mechanisms more accountable, if the principles and regulations for coexistence are well understood and if there is little jurisdictional overlap. Concrete recommendations are given in the report for supporting and improving constructive coexistence between mechanisms, such as promoting the “conflict resolution literacy” of all citizens, clarifying questions of jurisdiction, and strengthening the norms and practices that regulate interaction between mechanisms and actors.

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