Academic journal article The American Journal of Economics and Sociology

Conflict Resolution Approaches: Western and Middle Eastern Lessons and Possibilities

Academic journal article The American Journal of Economics and Sociology

Conflict Resolution Approaches: Western and Middle Eastern Lessons and Possibilities

Article excerpt

I

Introduction

Western governmental and nongovernmental organizations have intensified their efforts to expose and train Middle Eastern academicians, professionals, and politicians in various democratic approaches since the end of the cold war, and even more so since the 1990 Gulf war. American trainers travel to Middle Eastern and Eastern European countries to introduce western intervention models and strategies to promote democratic participation and non violence. An important part of this training is focused on effective strategies to deal with community and organizational conflicts.

Intervenors can propose more effective strategies if they are aware of the local communities' prior processes for dealing with conflict. This article delineates various basic approaches in dispute resolution in a Middle Eastern context. These culturally appropriate methods of handling disputes can be informative for Middle Eastern and Western intervenors who usually rely on models shaped by the Western culture.

The article's main emphasis is on identification and comparison of the underlying assumptions and procedures of dispute resolution processes involving the analysis of two cases of community conflict; one that took place in a Palestinian Arab village in northern Israel, and the other that occurred in an American city, namely-Cleveland, Ohio. The data on the Palestinian case was gathered by the author through in-depth interviews, informal conversation, and personal observation of the events. The data on the American case was extracted from a report published by the Community Problem Solving Project-an organization based in Washington D.C., which monitors community dispute resolution in various American cities.

As in any other comparison of specific cases, hypothesis and conclusions in this paper are confined properly to the two case studies and cannot be applicable to all Western and Middle Eastern conflict resolution approaches.

To compare the two dispute processes, several themes are explored: concepts of conflict resolution in both contexts; basic assumptions, philosophies, and practices that underlie both Middle Eastern and Western conflict resolution procedures; and points of overlap between Western and Middle Eastern approaches.

II

Western Conflict Resolution Intervention Models and Processes

Conflict resolution has been developing as a field since the 1950s. Its emergence as an interdisciplinary field can be traced to the human relations and intergroup relations movements which followed the Second World War. The creation of conflict resolution as an academic discipline and field of practice grew out of five movements: 1) the industrial and labor management based on the work of Shepard and Mouton (1964) which emerged from the organizational relations in the 1960s; 2) the problem-solving workshops and mediation which was introduced in international relations by Burton (1969), Kelman (1976), Doob (1971), and Mitchell (1981); 3) religious figures redirected their work in peace-related endeavors to an emphasis on "peace-making" (Scimecca, 1987); 4) lawyers and the court system were criticized by the general public which resulted in what is known today as alternative dispute resolution (ADR); and 5) the interpersonal and family disputes practices emerged as another level of conflict resolution derived from human relations practices, as led by Walton (1971), Hynes (1981), and Coogler (1978).(1)

Out of these movements, several intervention approaches are being developed and applied to different levels of conflict. However, the main processes of conflict resolution are: conciliation, facilitation, negotiation, mediation, and arbitration. While conflict resolution scholars disagree on the boundaries of this field, some scholars include arbitration as a conflict resolution intervention process, and exclude conciliation processes. For the purpose of this paper, Western conflict resolution will include all five intervention processes. …

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