Peace processes fail for many reasons, but one of the critical factors is the state of mind of the participants around the peace table. Often the atmosphere is one of mistrust and suspicion: the traumatic effects of the conflict and the degree of suffering makes the parties likely to be more interested in retribution than accommodation. This state of mind keeps conflict parties rigidly and emotionally attached to their positions and often psychologically blocked from being able to engage productively in a peace process and achieve outcomes that meet their best interests.
This article proposes that to make conflict resolution efforts more effective, conflict parties need help to become psychologically ready to enter a peace process. It argues that any commitment to a psychological process must be understood in the context of geopolitical realities, and it recognizes that power dynamics are a critical piece of any assessment of what will bring about an end to conflict. It makes a plea to understand how and why individuals and parties are behaving as they are around the peace table, in terms of power dynamics and human motivations, and how they can be better prepared.
A methodology is needed that can transform the intense emotions of war into strategic calculations and in doing so to help get to the end of conflict. This article advocates the creation of a safe space, where conflict parties can explore their feelings, internal narratives, and personal motives and understand that these intense emotions may not be serving their best interest. The aim is to work with the parties to help them abandon their rigid emotional attachments to their positions, modify their expectations, and achieve an improved state of “psychological readiness” that allows them to be in a better state of mind to participate around the peace table.
Rifkind, Gabrielle and Yawanarajah, Nita
"Preparing the Psychological Space for Peacemaking,"
New England Journal of Public Policy: Vol. 31:
1, Article 7.
Available at: https://scholarworks.umb.edu/nejpp/vol31/iss1/7