Electronic Resource Centre for Human Rights Education:
Opening the Door to Nonviolence.


What Is Conflict

Conflict is a natural life fact. It is a result of different needs, interests and perspectives of the individuals and groups. Most people think that the conflict is unusual situation and that it is always destructive. When one mentions the word confIict most people associate it with negative thoughts or uncomfortable situations. However, conflict is both - a danger and an opportunity.

The word conflict comes from the Latin word confIigere (= to strike two things together, e.g., to strike flint and iron to get a fire). The Chinese word for conflict or crises is a an amazing example: it consists of 2 symbols - one means danger and the other opportunity.


Modern social sciences have developed deep conflict analysis and successful methods and techniques of conflict resolution. We can prepare children to face the conflict and not to experience it as a personal tragedy or a fate but rather as a challenge to a personal growth and development. Conflict can strengthen our self-esteem and our connectedness to one another. Starting to work on conflict issues with pupils we shall analyse both the roots and fruits of conflict.

Conflict is a part of our everyday experience. The most usual patterns we learn in the family, in the school and community as well as experiences in the work place teach us certain rules of behaviour and ways to deal with conflict. These ways are different and extreme: in some cultures it is recommended to avoid the conflict, in others it is viewed as cowardice. The various ways mem-bers of the same family or the same group deal with conflict are also quite different. There is a great difference between these ways and the way the con-flicts are treated and "officially" resolved in the court. What is generally taken as an unwritten ground rule is that every conflict is resolved in a way that one side wins and the other loses. In the beginning it is hard to imagine co-operative conflict resolution, where there are no winners and losers but where all sides win.

We teach young people from the very first moment of their birth that conflicts are mostly resolved by authorities: parents, teachers, leaders of the street gang. Or by a judge, policeman, boss, director, president. If there is none to intervene the "stronger" will win and the "weaker" will loose. Young people should be encouraged to seek a conflict resolution by themselves. They can learn how powerful is the type known as "win/ win". For mutual gain great courage is needed. To achieve a "win/win" solution one needs to apply all the unique talents/skills at a person's disposal: imagination, consciousness, good will, empa-thy. That is an effect of mutual leadership: we learn from each others, we influence one another and then we both/all gain.

Different Levels of Conflict

It is important to notice the close relationship between different levels of conflict. Internal (intrapersonal) conflict influences the conflict among individuals (interpersonal) and vice versa. Both can influence or are influenced by conflicts in organisations or conflicts among ethnic groups (group conflicts) who influence or are influenced by national or international (political, social, etc.) conflicts. In each conflict situation we have to identify the sources of conflict on different levels before we choose particular skills and approaches to the process.

Exercises in non-violent conflict resolution with school children are most useful when examples of conflicts come from the direct child's experience. The teacher will try to remind them about simple everyday situations, those close to their life situations (e.g. examples of conflict that can come up in the classroom, among classes, in the whole school or between school and parents or local community).

Part 4:
[Workshop 13] [Workshop 14] [Workshop 15] [Workshop 16] [Workshop 17] [Workshop 18]

[Table of Contents] [Foreword] [Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5] [Bibliography]

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Electronic Resource Centre for Human Rights Education:
Opening the Door to Nonviolence.