Online Journal of Peace and Conflict Resolution 1.5
Preparing for Peace: Conflict Transformation Across Cultures, by John Paul Lederach.
1995. Syracuse University Press. 133 pp. with index.
John Paul Lederach had what may be a familiar experience for many of us when he was providing conflict resolution and mediation training in Guatemala. Although he had used approaches honed in other Spanish-speaking settings, after he invited two participants to role-play a situation in front of the group he asked for comments. Although he believed the participants had acted admirably and had learned quite a bit, one other participant said, "You two look like Gringos!" This comment led Lederach to question the assumptions of his cross-cultural approach.
To an extent, Preparing for Peace is the result of this questioning. Lederach examines North American conflict resolution and training systems, especially the dominant premise that conflict resolution approaches are basically universal and just need to have cultural elements grafted to them to function in other cultures.
Lederach believes this is a naive approach to a much more complex and subtle issue. Instead of following the dominant system, he proposes a different approach to conflict resolution training. Since everyone naturally learns within the context of what they already know, it is important to draw from the knowledge base of those who are being trained.
Although Lederach's basic argument can be spelled out simply, there is much more to this work. Preparing for Peace is a well researched and well written book which draws equally on existing literature and Lederach's personal experience. He is clear and concise and this book is important for anyone concerned with teaching others about the benefits and processes of conflict resolution.
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