Conflict Resolution in a Network Society

in International Negotiation
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Abstract

This article explores the import of the network society for conflict resolution, broadly defined. Defining networks as social structures which connect people to each other, the article highlights the dual potential impacts of networks on participation in conflict resolution processes. Network society discourse creates a discourse of inclusion while also offering opportunities for exclusion. Conflict resolution theory has embraced the inclusive potential of network dynamics both implicitly and explicitly. Peacebuilders use networks, with their potential for participation and connecting conflict resolution processes, levels, and sectors, in efforts to do their peacebuilding work better. However, not all networks support conflict resolution. Networks can also reinforce conflicts, institutionalize exploitation, exacerbate inequalities, and strengthen violent conflict movements. Networks can be distinguished as inclusive or exclusive. Inclusive networks are more suitable for supporting meaningful participation in conflict resolution processes, while exclusive networks entrench conflict. Vibrant networks incorporate more inclusive and more exclusive dynamics in network vitality that allows both flexibly incorporating diversity and developing clarity of focus that inevitably delineates areas (or people or activities) outside the area of focus. Meaningful inclusion and participation in conflict resolution negotiations is broadly possible through inclusive networks, but forms of exclusion from conflict resolution negotiations are equally possible outgrowths of exclusive networks.

International Negotiation

A Journal of Theory and Practice

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