Background and values

Ms. Else Hammerich founded the Danish Centre for Conflict Resolution in 1994 as a non-profit organisation working for the promotion of peaceful conflict resolution.

To many people the early 1990s were characterised by optimism and hope. The Berlin Wall had fallen and the Cold War was over. Teamwork and dialogue could now replace military deterrence and warfare. At this time many centres like ours were established in different parts of the world with the intention to develop and disseminate competences in working with conflict. Everywhere the purpose was more or less the same: to promote peaceful conflict resolution as an alternative to violence and use of force.

Everyone from the kindergarten level to the university level could develop such a competence, which could then be used in the wider community to solve conflicts in personal lives, in workplaces, in organisations, in politics and in the international arena. Conflict resolution was seen as a living alternative to violence and the use of force and DCCR was established as a part of this global movement for the promotion of a peace culture.

Conflict resolution, democracy and peace

At the Danish Centre for Conflict Resolution the idea was – and still is – to develop and disseminate conflict work as a specific competence that can be learned by everybody – children as well as adults. We see this a competence as a natural part of a democratic culture.

DCCR exists in an historical and political reality, which is influencing us and which we want to influence. Conflict resolution is a conscious, active and peaceful effort to create conditions where the basic needs of everyone involved can be met. Thus, our work has the character of peace politics and remains  independent of party politics.

The aims of the Centre

  • To promote knowledge of, and to work for, peaceful conflict resolution in Denmark and internationally.
     
  • To provide education in conflict resolution for individuals and organisations.
     
  • To assist organisations and groups in solving collaborative difficulties.
     
  • To develop and disseminate theories and methods of conflict resolution.

Our view of conflicts

Conflicts are disagreements that lead to tensions within and between people. They are an integral part of life, they are inevitable and they are dynamic.
Conflict and change are inextricably linked, and conflicts thus possess a positive potential. They can lead to social  development and to more honesty and understanding, but they can also lead to hostility, stagnation and crippled relationships - depending on how they are handled and experienced.

Peaceful conflict resolution

The Danish Centre for Conflict Resolution exists to promote peaceful conflict resolution. This involves the dissemination of tools that can get people in difficult situations back on speaking terms, and the dissemination of techniques to enhance constructive communication.
The Centre is occupied with conflicts on many levels and exists in an historical and political reality that influences us, and which we want to influence. Conflict resolution is a conscious, active and peaceful effort to create conditions where
the basic needs of everyone involved can be met. Thus, our work may be characterised as peace politics and remains independent of party politics.

Non-violence

Conflict Resolution belongs to a school of thought based on the notion of non-violence and inspired by Mahatma Gandhi. It is underpinned by certain philosophical values, which we share:

  • All human beings have inviolable value and posses a potential for good. Consequently the central aspect in conflict resolution is the ability to see the human being in the adversary and to distinguish between person and issue.
     
  • End and means are one. ‘There is no way to peace, peace is the way’, Gandhi said. In conflict resolution the process is as important as the result.
     
  • Non-violence takes courage and is neither passivity nor cowardice. Conflict resolution is to dare to acknowledge a conflict and to act in response to it.
     
  • The purpose of non-violence is to seek the truth with an open mind, although no one has monopoly of the truth. Dialogue is an important tool in conflict resolution.

What is violence?

Conflict resolution is non-violent. Violence can be replaced by constructive actions. According to Johan Galtung, there are three levels of violence:

  • Direct violence: violence with the intention of hurting others: war, persecution, physical violence, bullying, verbal violence.
     
  • Structural violence: violence with no intent, but inherent in mechanisms of which we are a part: hunger and need caused by trade deficits,
     
  • consumerism, marginalisation of population groups in our community, forms of management, etc.
     
  • Cultural violence: The cultural norms that legitimise participation in direct and structural violence: ‘The good can punish the bad’, ‘we are a chosen/persecuted people, that is why we are entitled to...’, ‘boys do not cry’.

When we are working with serious conflicts we have to consider all three forms of violence. That is, we don’t only focus on the personal level, but also on organisational structures and societal relations.

Dialouge as a value and a method

Dialogue is a special conversational form, where the purpose is to investigate and explore rather than to defend a point of view. Through dialogue, understanding can be promoted. Through dialogue, we have the opportunity to put ourselves in each other’s place and through this we can identify the interests of the whole.

This is true on a personal as well as on a political level, because democracy is much more than a decision-making process. According to the Danish theologian Hal Koch, ‘the nature of democracy is not determined by the casting of votes, but by conversation, negotiation, mutual respect and understanding and thereof the growing idea of the interests of the whole’. The
necessity and value of dialogue is also expressed in the statement by the Danish philosopher K.E. Løgstrup that,
‘we are each other’s world and destiny’.

Basic needs

All people have basic needs, although they have been expressed and experienced in different ways from place to place and over time. DCCR identifies the following categories as central: survival, identity, freedom, recognition, security and trust, but we do not belong to a certain theoretical tradition or method.

In the Centre, we work with educational, as well as sociological and psychological approaches to conflict resolution. We work to uncover the basic needs of the parties involved in a conflict, since these will represent our point of departure for seeking stable solutions. When working with a conflict, we attempt to assist all parties by being unbiased, clear and understanding mediators. In the process, the central point is that the parties acknowledge their own and their adversary’s needs.

We do not participate in any conflict resolution exercise that will lead to a violation of the basic needs of any of the parties.
The parties in a conflict are not always equally strong; one can have more power than the other. We call this an asymmetrical conflict, and it can exist between persons as well as between larger groups.
When we are working with asymmetrical conflicts we seek to strengthen the party that has had her or his basic needs violated, in order to enable this party to seek new paths. The strong party will have his or her needs recognised but will not necessarily receive an acceptance of his or her interests. We can thus contribute to paving the way for an equally footed dialogue.

We find it valuable

  • To see each individual task as unique
  • To be qualified for the tasks we accept
  • To respect the integrity and boundaries of the individual participant
  • To educate ourselves continuously, to develop our didactic approach and to participate in collegial supervision
  • To relate to societal conflicts in an outreaching manner
  • To participate in international projects, where this involves coorporation on an equal footing with a local partner, and where we have the necessary knowledge of the local area and culture

Organisation and corporation 

The Danish Centre for Conflict Resolution is balanced on two pillars. We are both an organisation or a members-based NGO, and a non-profit corporation.
Both areas share the same purpose: to promote peaceful conflict resolution. As an organisation, the Centre is oriented towards society in a broad sense – from members to media, local community and politics. As an agent for peace, we want to use our knowledge of peaceful conflict resolution to engage in topical social matters. When the forces of violence are predominant, we will always provide knowledge-based alternatives, taking encouragement from the motto: the time is always right and we are the ones to act.

As a corporation the Centre earns an income on courses and specially designed tasks. Through this activity we are also spreading the knowledge of peaceful conflict resolution.
The organisation and corporation aspects are entwined, integral and interdependent entities. As an organisation, the Centre endeavours to influence society and the people around us in a peaceful way. As a corporation, we communicate the knowledge of peaceful conflict resolution and at the same time remain financially independent, which means that the Centre can function as an agent for peace.
The relationship between the Centre as organisation and a corporation must be one of clear and mutual dependence – not a dilemma. One part is not conceivable without the other. The shared purpose of the two must be the first priority of both.
 

 Passed by the board of the Danish Centre for Conflict Resolution, 20th of March 2003