that day, and admonished whoever had found the belt to return
it, but no one did. The village leader then told everyone to wrap
ashes in a package of banana leaves and bring them to his house
the following night, to enable the one who had the belt to return
it without being detected. The next day, the girl who had lost the
belt came to the house of the woman who had taken it, to borrow a
ladder, and they talked about the lost silver belt. That night, people
brought their wrapped ash bundles and put them in an empty room
in the village leader’s house. After a respected elder opened eighteen bundles of ashes, the nineteenth bundle contained the silver
belt. The young girl and all those there exclaimed their happiness,
and shared their joy, relief and solidarity, reaffirmed by the restoration of the silver belt to its rightful owner, and even more by the
honor re-established for the relationships and mutual respect of
those in the community.
Stobbe identifies and explains the key tenets of Lao conflict resolution (grouped by her RESOLUTION acronym) as:
Relationship building: using op lom discussions,
respected elder family and community mediators and
soukhouan and soumma conflict resolution rituals to
restore and build relationships that are considered the
essential lifeblood of families and communities.
Explainability/accountability: the primary responsibility of the parties in conflict resolution to adhere to its
principles, together with the primary responsibility of
the mediators to act appropriately in helping the parties
reach a resolution in which the parties take responsibility
for their actions and choices, and their consequences.
Settlement/reparation: the rebuilding and restoration of
“face and eyes” by repairing the status of the conflicting
parties and restoring them to a healthy relationship in
the family and community, often through the
soukhouan or soumma reparation ceremonies.
Opportunity/accessibility: the inclusive access of those
involved in and affected by the conflict to the mediators,
the process, the opportunities for resolution and the
implementation of a resolution.
Litheness/flexibility: the flexibility and adaptability of
the mediators and the process to different people, cultural values, conflict issues and contexts, relationships
among those involved and affected, and approaches to
and elements of agreement for resolution.
Understanding/familiarity: the respect and understanding that derive from and accompany family and
community relationships, shared values and cultural
traditions, and the opportunity for mutually respectful
inclusive participation in the process and resolution.
Transparency/inclusivity: the inclusion of those involved
in and affected by the conflict in a transparent, truth-
seeking process of developing and sharing mutual
understanding and respect, guided by mediators, that
honors and restores the status of those involved.
Originality/creativity: finding ways not yet seen or
considered by the parties in conflict to see, understand
and make choices that respect and honor the status
and relationships of those involved, the importance
of their balance and stability to and in the family and
community, and the ability to connect those creative perspectives and approaches with established,
respected cultural values.
Networks/support networks): the invitation to and inclusion of families, community members and different levels
of mediators in the conflict resolution process to enable
the understanding, support and sometimes the compensation and reparations needed for appropriate resolution.
She also describes the applicability and value of these principles
to conflict resolution outside of Laos and on a broader scale, including in conflict resolution system design.
Stobbe suggests that Lao grassroots conflict resolution tenets
could be useful in places like Lebanon, where political and religious
struggles, assassinations, and other violence have continued
for decades, even after the civil war officially ended in 1990. The
transformative power of the indigenous Lebanese sulha ritual that
enables respected community leaders to investigate and develop
understandings of conflicts and responsibilities, to conduct a pardon ritual to honor the injured party, and to establish a formal,
public reconciliation between the parties, could help develop more
Most strikingly, Stobbe develops and shares these valuable tools
and insights with a tone and spirit that are at once humble, respectful, constructive, hopeful, and compassionate. She believes that
the best and most valuable of traditional grassroots Lao conflict
resolution has served and will serve not only the survival, resilience
and growth of Laos’ diverse peoples, but also the ultimate goal
of building sustainable peace. The learning and insights Professor Stobbe has developed and shares are well worth the time and
understanding of virtually anyone interested in conflict resolution
and peacebuilding. In Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding in Laos
she has given us a work that is both exceptionally scholarly and
personal, and embodies the hope and belief we all share that the
goal and outcome of conflict resolution at its best are, as she writes,
that “peace persists.”
Stobbe develops and shares these valuable
tools and insights with a tone and spirit
that are at once humble, respectful,
constructive, hopeful, and compassionate.