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The value of organized conflict resolution processes
Natasha Msonza, Kubatana.net
December 01, 2008

Conflict transformation aims to achieve peace. It aims to end violence and change negative relationships between conflicting parties as well as change the political, social or economic structures that cause negative relationships. Conflict transformation is aimed at empowering people to become involved in non-violent change processes and to help build sustainable conditions for peace and justice.

Zimbabwean civil society, in their segregated efforts, has been waging peaceful protests because of the deteriorating socio-economic and political environment. However, their efforts have largely been ineffectual and a recent workshop on conflict resolution unpacked a useful tool called Force-field Analysis to try and understand why civil society is currently in the state it is in. A focus group discussion came to the conclusion that it is the lack of coordination by civil society organizations that is rendering their efforts largely ineffectual.

The focus group suggested the following as some of the reasons why civil society is not coordinated:

Individualism

This manifests in a kind of selfishness stemming from the desire to be seen as more outstanding in implementation as well as to garner donor appreciation and recognition.

Survival

Some civil society organizations are less committed to teamwork that has the potential to see real change occur because they thrive on the current chaos. Their existence is dependent on the continuation of the current situation and therefore they might not have a desire to see real change.

Fear

Risks associated with organizing larger scale protest processes could be a major deterrent from participating in coordinated efforts.

Poor communication

There is a lack of unity of purpose because civil society organizations do not communicate well with each other, and they do not try hard to positively foster greater collaboration.

Lack of leadership

No dedicated individuals willing to kick start the process of forming a more coordinated movement and managing it.

Other priorities

The crisis in Zimbabwe has become such that everyone has become more preoccupied with basic survival and staying afloat so activities like attending meetings to formulate a coordinated response becomes low priority.

The above list is not conclusive but it helps us to try and understand where we're at and how to move forward in achieving a more coordinated civil society. Using the Force-field Analysis also allowed the focus group to analyze the existent positives that can help propel civil society towards forming a more coordinated movement. Here are some examples:

Secretariat

The existence of NGO coalitions like NANGO and Crisis in Zimbabwe means that civil society has a starting point for organized and coordinated activities.

Funding

By coming together civil society organizations have the opportunity to pool their resources in order to make a more coordinated movement work.

Global support

The support of the international community not only has the potential to attract more donor funds, but it also gives participants greater confidence in the knowledge that they are undertaking a widely accepted form of action.

Human capacity

In order to effect change there has to be manpower prepared to engage in the processes. Zimbabwean civil society has demonstrated resilience in the face of a brutal regime, meaning that the more there are such individuals working together, the greater the chance of achieving more effective protest processes. There is also safety in larger numbers that civil society organizations could benefit from.

High stress levels

Civil society can harness as strength, the high stress levels affecting ordinary Zimbabweans. With the right leadership frustrated citizens would be prepared to join in coordinated protests that can effect real change.

This type of analysis is useful for civil society to understand each other's positions, to get around their differences and work towards more meaningful mobilizations in order to end the crises in Zimbabwe.

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