The paper considers the concept of ‘conflict transformation’ in relation to earlier ideas concerning the ‘resolution’ of conflict and seeks to differentiate between the two approaches. Writers and writings from the conflict transformation ‘school’ are surveyed and an effort is made to delineate the core characteristics of the approach, viewed either as a process or an end state. Questions are raised about transformation on a personal, group or conflict system level, all of which seem to be encompassed by various adherents of the transformation school, and the unifying concept that emerges is that of the relationship between adversaries being transformed by a variety of techniques. However, it is finally argued that the very idea of ‘relationship’ is itself ambiguous so that a real intellectual effort needs to be made to clarify its nature and characteristics, and the various ways in which relationships can be changed.

Author Bio(s)

Christopher Mitchell holds the Drucie French Cumbie Chair of Conflict Resolution and International Relations at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University, Virginia. He is the author of The Structure of International Conflict (1981), Peacemaking and the Consultant's Role (1981), A Handbook of Conflict Resolution (with Michael Banks, 1996) and most recently Gestures of Conciliation (2000). He was one of the original members of John Burton’s Centre for the Analysis of Conflict at University College, London.


conflict resolution, conflict transformation, empowerment, ethnic conflicts, Johan Galtung, relationships

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