Conflict Resolution Is Not Providing Instant Solutions

31 October 2022

When dealing with conflicts over land and natural resources, CRU is often faced with an assumption that we, who come as the organizers of conflict resolution initiatives, are also providers of solutions that can solve problems for the conflicting parties. Our fellow mediators who work with us in the field are also often faced by these expectations. Apparently there is a misunderstanding about the term conflict resolution that we use when the term is interpreted by some as providing solutions to conflicts over land and natural resources.

As a consequence of this misunderstanding, there are parties who are disappointed and there are even those who question the role of the CRU because it came without offering any solution. “Why come and talk to the conflicting parties if you dont have a solution to be offered”, was one of the critiques cited.

That the parties hoped for a solution could actually be understood as the conflict faced by the parties has been going on for a long time. Therefore, without realizing it, the attention of each party is only focused at and working on their respective solutions (according to their own perspectives) without realizing that these options are only considering their own interests and may be conflicting with the other parties’ interests. Therefore, when the CRU and/or its mediator arrives, there is an expectation to obtain a solution that can be implemented immediately and solve all problems in a short time.

Therefore, in this edition of Layang Damai we want to explain once again our role, both as a conflict handling organization and as a mediator. We are a convener or organizer whose role is to bring together the parties, so that they can have a dialogue to be able to identify their common ground and find a meeting point between their interests in order to find a solution that satisfies the parties.

It is important to understand, a mediator and also the institution that supports it is a neutral party with no interest in the subject matter of the conflict, or often we call it content neutral. That is, the mediator does not solve the problem, but he/she helps the parties to see the conflict they face as a common problem. The mediator also does not propose a particular solution nor does he/she have an opinion about the merits of a solution proposed by the parties, but he/she helps the parties to develop ideas in the form of solution options and helps the parties assess and resolve the developing options through critical questions.

This attitude is consistently adhered to, starting from the assessment process to the preparation of the parties an throughout to the end of the mediation process. Meanwhile, the choice of the way out or solution emerges from an agreement between the parties which was developed through dialogues and deliberation facilitated by the mediator.

In short, the role of the conflict handling organization (convener) is to create a space that allows dialogue, helps the parties to focus on the problem, and facilitates the dialogue process to find mutually agreed solutions. In short, the CRU takes care of the process so that the conflict parties can focus their attention on the substance of the problem.

However, building a good conflict handling process remain take time. A conflict resolution process that systematically follows the assessment stages, builds relationships between the parties and develops the parties willingness and commitment to cooperate in negotiations, builds mutual understanding and insight on the subject matter, assists in the formation and preparation of a negotiating team from each party and finally facilitate the negotiation and planning process that transforms conflict into mutually beneficial cooperation between the parties, need sufficient time.

We believe that only through a good process good results will be achieved, even though the process seems to take ages which may trigger the impatience of the parties and other stakeholders. In our young journey, we have seen too many attempts to resolve conflicts that have failed which was carried out in a short and hasty process without proper preparations.

Furthermore, the best solution is one that has been thoroughly studied and considered by the parties to the conflict, because they are the ones who really know their interests, they are the ones who must implement the agreed-upon solution in the future, and they must also live with the consequences and effects of the agreement. And only with a process that actually involves them, the solution formulated really belongs to the parties.

Briefly stated, we once again would reiterate that the best conflict resolution options are those that emerge from the parties themselves, while the mediator’s or the mediation service provider agency’s role is to prepare the proses and create a climate that is conducive to a fruitful negotiation among the parties.

Credit photo by Ivan Santoso.