Why it is so difficult to resolve peacefully intractable conflicts

One of the major questions raised regarding many protracted and violent intergroup conflicts is why the adversaries do not succeed in reaching a settlement that seems obvious and easily attainable to outsiders. This question is of special importance because despite great losses, destruction, and personal suffering, many members of societies engulfed in these conflicts remain entrenched in their conflict supporting narratives that prevent peace making process and cannot go easily through a societal change that is required in order to achieve peaceful settlement of the conflict. These conflict-supporting narratives are propagated over many years by various channels of communication and various institutions in each involved society, including the educational system. They become pillars of culture of conflict and leaders with the help of the societal institutions make all the efforts to maintain them. Various societal mechanisms are employed to prevent transmission and dissemination of alternative information that contradict conflict supporting narratives that offer a new view on the conflict and the rival. As a minimal necessary condition, only a view that the conflict can be resolved peacefully by compromises as well as that the rival is a partner being legitimized and humanized, can open a way for the meaningful peace making process.

Daniel Bar-Tal's research interest is in political and social psychology studying socio-psychological foundations of intractable conflicts and peace building, as well as development of political understanding among children and peace education. In this lecture he will explore the question of why it is difficult to resolve protracted and violent intergroup conflicts.

This lecture will be introduced and chaired by distinguished Professor John Braithwaite chief investigator of 'Peacebuilding Compared' at the Regulatory Institutions Network at ANU.

Presented by the Freilich Foundation and the Research School of Psychology.