To fully understand the concept of conflict resolution, it is necessary to understand the concept of conflict management.
Conflict management is the practice of being able to identify and handle conflicts sensibly, fairly, and efficiently. It is also the process of limiting the negative aspects of conflict while increasing its positive aspects. The aim of conflict management is to enhance learning and group outcomes, including effectiveness or performance in an organizational setting. Properly managed conflict can improve group outcomes.
Conflict management could also be defined as a process of making decisions and acting on them, in order to produce the best possible outcome under conditions of uncertainty.
It can therefore be seen that the concepts of conflict management and conflict resolution are intrinsically linked.
Conflict resolution is a way for two or more parties to find a peaceful solution to a disagreement among them. The disagreement may be personal, financial, political, or emotional. Conflict resolution is therefore the process by which two or more parties reach a peaceful resolution to a dispute. Conflict resolution processes are many and varied and can be seen on a continuum ranging from collaborative, participatory, informal, non-binding processes (such as mediation, conciliation, third party negotiation) to adversarial, fact-oriented, legally binding and imposed decisions that arise from institutions such as the courts and tribunals (Boulle, 1996).
Peace education is often defined as the process of acquiring values, knowledge, attitudes, skills, and behaviors to live in harmony with oneself, others, and the natural environment. It is therefore the process of promoting the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values needed to bring about behaviour changes that will enable children, youth and adults to prevent conflict and violence, both overt and structural; to resolve conflict peacefully; and to create the conditions conducive to peace, whether at an intrapersonal, interpersonal, intergroup, national or international level.
How does this concept work in practice? Peace education students learn how to resolve disputes nonviolently. Peace educators address the sources of immediate conflicts and give their students knowledge about strategies they can use to stop the violence. In the long term they hope to build in students’ minds a commitment to nonviolence and provide knowledge about nonviolent alternatives, so that when faced with conflicts they will choose to behave peacefully. In this way peace education tries to build peace into the minds of its students. In addition to providing knowledge about how to achieve peace, peace educators promote a pedagogy based upon modeling peaceful democratic classroom practices. They share a hope that through education people can develop certain thoughts and dispositions that will lead to peaceful behavior.
In order to achieve these ideals, peace education programmes across the world address a wide range of themes. These include nonviolence, conflict resolution techniques, democracy, disarmament, gender equality, human rights, environmental responsibility, history, communication skills, coexistence, and international understanding and tolerance of diversity.
COVID-19 has further aggravated and impacted the educational environment of millions of students, thereby increasing stress, fragility and conflict. As a result, students and teachers do face enormous psychosocial challenges, that are rooted in social and technological isolation and learning disruption. Teachers are indeed faced with the difficult task of managing students’ mental health while seeking to restore effective study habits by focusing on students’ well-being and developing a positive climate for learning. This environment affected by COVID, in addition to stress, are obviously triggers for conflict, and even aggravating factors, which can lead to violence and injustice. It is therefore during this particular and unprecedented period that it is all the more necessary to act and continue to teach conflict resolution and peace education, which appears in this particular context even more necessary and fundamental for students, as well as for educators/teachers, to be able to evolve in a healthy school/work environment conducive to teaching and learning.
Peace education is taught through curricula that explore principles and values dedicated to achieving more peaceful, inclusive, sustainable and just societies. Peace education approaches are typically student-centred, participatory and collaborative in which knowledge, skills and capabilities for listening, empathy and compassion are developed. As a result of peace education, students gain a better understanding of the cause and effect of harmful social interactions, as well as the skills to intervene to break the cycle of conflict and violence such as bullying. Educators who are trained in peace education can create and sustain cooperative, tolerant and constructive classroom climates.
In many countries around the world, peace education and conflict resolution programmes have been introduced into the school curriculum. Most peace education and conflict resolution programmes embrace the virtues that underpin citizenship and tolerance. Programme objectives are proposed in the hope that they will help students learn alternatives to violence, and adults and students learn to create a peaceful school and home environment that is conducive to non-violent attitudes and behaviour. These programmes also aim to ensure that students learn skills such as identifying prejudice, problem solving, sharing and cooperation, shared decision making, analysis and critical thinking. Finally, these programmes are designed to help students understand the nature of violence, so that they can examine the causes of conflict, recognise the benefits of non-violence and how to manage conflict.
The need for peace education and its teaching has never been greater than today. Peace education often includes an appreciation of diversity in a broad context of conflict analysis and resolution. The teaching of peace education in schools is a multi-faceted and multi-disciplinary perspective that therefore includes the teaching of peace, non-violence, conflict resolution and social justice that human rights take into account to preserve the natural environment (Smith 2004). Emphasising peace education and conflict resolution in schools is necessary and its development is vital. It begins with an honest commitment to engage educators in the learning process, which is an essential and effective means of individual and collective change. Students must then be competent to form and maintain peace. The peace education system needs to be further developed, as it is fundamental in preparing students to resolve conflicts, act peacefully and find alternatives to the violent outcome of conflict.
Peace education has limitations and faces many challenges, such as conflicting collective narratives, historical memories, conflicting beliefs, severe inequalities, etc., that may transcend its content and methods. Schools are often sites of violence – including direct, cultural and structural violence – and it is not clear that schools provide an enabling environment in which the goals of peace education can take root. However, formal schools do help to shape social and cultural values, norms and attitudes. Thus, peace education can help children and young people build positive relationships and create safe learning environments where children thrive. There is therefore a need to advance the understanding and practice of peace education in formal schools, and to highlight the crucial role that schools can play in promoting peace objectives.
Fundamentally, peace education aims to counter a culture of war by promoting a culture of peace. It challenges the assumption that violence is innate to the human condition and seeks to equip students with the ability to resolve conflicts without violence. Peace education therefore aspires to enable students to become responsible citizens, open to differences, capable of empathy and solidarity, both within and across borders and social groups, and able to deconstruct the foundations of violence and act to advance the prospects for peace, hence the importance and necessity of its teaching. Furthermore, as we have seen, peace education includes a wide range of approaches and its content is adapted to the needs of the country and context in which it is taught. Some focus on promoting individual and interpersonal skills such as emotional awareness, anger management, empathy, co-operation and kindness, while others focus more on the social, cultural and political aspects of peace, including environmental education, human rights, development, intercultural studies and social justice. All these different forms of peace education have in common the teaching and learning of the roots of violence and strategies for peace.