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Involving outsiders

Sometimes parties involved in a conflict themselves see the need to do something about it, to meet and discuss. They negotiate to find a solution

1998 Available in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese

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From: Coping with conflict – Footsteps 36

Ideas for helping to resolve conflict within and between communities

Sometimes parties involved in a conflict themselves see the need to do something about it, to meet and discuss. They negotiate to find a solution.

This is when the people or groups who are in conflict meet face to face to find a solution which they can both accept.

However, often a ‘third party’, who may sometimes be an outsider (or team of outsiders), is needed – perhaps to start and to remain throughout the process or perhaps to help in particular stages.

There are many ways in which an outsider can help. Some of the possible roles of an outsider are given below. In any language the words used to describe these roles can be confusing, and sometimes even more so when they are translated into other languages. Finding the exact word is not important – what is important is that everyone involved has a clear and agreed understanding of what the outsider can do. It is quite possible for an outsider to change roles during the process, but only with the understanding and agreement of all concerned.

Outsider roles

Someone not directly involved, who gathers information from all sides and prepares a list of the key issues.

Someone not directly involved who helps the two sides to meet together for discussion but has no power to make a decision.

Someone not involved in the dispute who talks separately with the people in conflict, with the aim of reducing the strong feelings that have made the conflict so difficult. They help them agree on a way to carry on talking, so that an agreement can be reached.

Someone who, though not directly involved in the dispute, has views on some of the issues and wants the outcome to fit in with those views.

Someone not directly involved, who listens to the evidence of each side and then makes a decision that all sides must accept.

Police Officer
Someone not directly involved who reminds each side of the law and warns them if they consider breaking the law. If necessary they will force people to obey the law.

A judge is outside the dispute and hears the evidence from both sides, supervises the proceedings of a court and makes a judgement according to the law.

NB Sadly, in many situations both judges and police may be biased or open to corruption.

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