Conflict Resolution as Pathway to Development

In September 2002, the 55th United Nations General Assembly decided, by its resolution in 55/282, to designate September 21 as the International Day of Peace. It is devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples, and thus urges member states to ensure its observance. Nigeria is joining other countries to mark the day.

This year’s theme is Action for Peace: Our Ambition for the #GlobalGoals, which is a call to action that our individual and collective efforts to foster peace should be accelerated to realise global goals, including the Sustainable Development Goals. It is also a push for us to recognise how our individual and collective actions can affect and foster global peace.

But while we are celebrating peace and reminding ourselves of the need to promote peace in places where conflict and violence are common, it is important to underscore the fact that there is no way there will not be conflict or dispute in our world. Putting it succinctly, conflict must exist in our everyday lives. Brad Pitt aptly describes it as, “happiness is overrated. There has to be conflict in life.” We live in the world of conflict. We must experience conflict or disagreement individually and collectively. Within our system (body, soul and spirit), there are times we feel conflict personally. Collectively, there are conflicts over beliefs, views and positions.

Thus, conflict is bound to happen. It is a common saying that conflict is natural. Without conflict, there will be no development. That is what the father of peace studies, Johan Galtung, describes as “positive conflict.” Positive conflict is constructive in nature such as restoration of relationships and the creation of social systems that serve the need of the whole population. It produces ideas, solves problems, provides an opportunity for people to expand their knowledge, skills and fosters creativity. It is when opposing ideas are explored that a breakthrough in thinking can occur. There is no story without some conflict. Thomas Paine says, “The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. The Chinese see conflict as an opportunity.

So as we celebrate the IDP, it is necessary to always remember Ronald Reagan’s saying that “peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” Since conflict will occur, we should handle or resolve it peacefully. We should avoid being physical or violent. That is, we should never let the conflict lead us to killings, destruction, displacement, violation of people’s rights, and so on.