"It is so damn complex. If you ever think you have a solution to this, you're wrong, and you're dangerous. You have to keep listening and thinking and being critical and self-critical."
- Col. H. R. McMaster
Managing radically different points of view
1. It is necessary to start where people are, and not where we want them to be.
2. Recognition of peoples’ experiences of war and how it affects their thinking will be essential.
3. Many people may not be able to elevate their thinking to strategic rational calculations without recognising the traumas of the conflict.
4. It cannot be assumed that trust-building will be possible between groups that have done each other a great deal of harm.
5. More likely they will continue to mistrust one another.
6. Careful work is needed to address issues of vital self-interest, core values and identity before identifying areas of potential strategic agreement.
7. The beginnings of effective mediation are less about the unrealistic search for common ground and more about the establishment of potential areas of mutual self-interest.
Even to begin to prepare belligerents for the challenges of conflict avoidance or more formal peace negotiations requires specialist skill. It is therefore necessary to start the process where people are, and not where we want them to be. This can be problematic or impossible for governments with national interests, complex constituencies and strategic inhibitions at play. Governments operate in a world of crisis management with multiple demands and pressures, which mitigate against the careful approach work required to prepare parties involved in conflict for official negotiations. This is why the methodology of the Oxford Process is so important.
As part of the preparatory process, the Oxford Process team will carry out a strategic analysis and create a complex mapping system of all the parties involved in the conflict. We will look to establish the pressure points for engagement that could make a difference in the escalation of the conflict. As appropriate, we will engage with partners also working in the field to maximize our impact.