authority to intervene in intrastate disputes where violence and
human rights are involve, and (iii) to initiate a comprehensive “
conflict resolution systems design” process for the U.N. as a whole
that would examine multiple avenues for strengthening its conflict
All conflicts can be seen as taking place at the borders that separate us: as individuals, families, cultures, organizations and nations.
Every conflict can therefore be regarded as a line of demarcation,
splitting us into opposing sides, competitive positions, unfamiliar
cultures, foreign experiences and hostile camps, and isolating and
alienating us from one another.
Yet these same borders are also places of connection, of unifying possibilities, of spaces where we can come together. Conflict
resolution can then be regarded as the consensual crossing of
borders, whether interpersonal or international. Non-consensual
border crossings are experienced as boundary violations and vigorously resisted, but consensual crossings are experienced as acts
of empathy and friendship, indicators of kindness and affection,
and precursors to collaboration, problem solving, forgiveness and
reconciliation, even when the parties are nation states.
To significantly expand our global mediation capacity and
move beyond “us versus them” conflicts, we need to recognize
that there is no “them” anymore, there is only “us.” The “them”
we create is only the flip side of our own fear, poor communications, primitive conflict resolution skills, failures of collaboration,
accumulated pain and disappointment flowing from our reliance
on militaristic power- and legalistic rights-based interactions,
leading to a loss of capacity for empathy and compassion, and
a lack of commitment to strengthen interest-based conflict
resolution capacity with our opponents.
I believe the next great leap in human history will be to
develop collaborative, interest-based solutions for chronic
social, economic and political conflicts, and find ways of crossing the man-made, insecure, anachronistic borders that foster
fear, prejudice, hatred and war, by supporting international collaboration, democracy, human rights and conflict resolution.
Strengthening conflict resolution capacity in the U.N. can
teach people globally how to disagree without killing each
other; how to initiate open, honest, dialogue and collaborative negotiation over difficult and dangerous issues; how to
discuss gender, religion, culture and politics with an eye to
empathy and learning; and how to build the skills and integrated conflict resolution capacity our human family requires.
Applying them will require even higher levels of skill in conflict resolution, much deeper transformations, and a “conflict
revolution” in which we systemically shift from power- and
rights- to interest-based methods of living together and
solving common problems on our one fair, finite and fragile
planet. Finally, we need to recognize, with Pablo Casals, that
“The love of one’s country is a splendid thing. But why should
love stop at the border?”
The next great leap in human history will
be to develop collaborative, interest-based
solutions for chronic social, economic and
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