In his article, Herbert C. Kelman (2005) analyzes trust as a psychological dimension of international conflict resolution and peacemaking. Trust is the direct pathway towards developing mutual responsiveness in all types and at all levels of intrapersonal and group relations. Regardless whether trust serves direct or indirect driver for the development of peacemaking solutions, trust remains the central element of conflict resolution between the two enemies.
Conflict resolution and peacemaking have already turned into an extremely broad psychological domain that is effectively applied at all levels of personal, intrapersonal, political, and diplomatic relations. Psychology of conflict resolution was traditionally viewed through the prism of personal (family) and organizational relations; however, conflict resolution and peacemaking principles play essential role in resolving international conflicts. In his article, Herbert C. Kelman (2005) analyzes trust as a psychological dimension of international conflict resolution and peacemaking.
“Trust is the central requirement for the peaceful and effective management of all relationships – between individuals, between groups, and between individuals or groups and the organizations and societies to which they belong” (Kelman, 2004). Trust is the direct pathway towards developing mutual responsiveness in all types and at all levels of intrapersonal and group relations. Why is trust so critical for conflict resolution and peacemaking? Kelman (2005) suggests that trust is fundamental for the development of effective exchange relationships; furthermore, trust is the integral element of conflict resolution between the enemies.
The development of peace and cooperation between the enemies is viewed by Kelman (2005) as the most problematic and the most ambiguous issue in the area of conflict resolution and peacemaking psychology. The problem is in that the conditions for developing trust among enemies are extremely elusive: both parties frequently believe that the other party frustrates their needs and undermines their stability (Kelman, 2005). As a result, parties cannot enter the conflict resolution process without building the trust, but the trust cannot be built unless the parties enter into a peace process.
In Kelman’s article, trust serves the basic element of conflict resolution at the international level. Kelman (2005) expands the traditional psychological notion of trust to the peacemaking processes in diplomatic and political domains. Although Davidson, McElwee & Hannan (2004) do not support Kelman’s view, and look at trust as of indirect importance to conflict resolution, they confirm the fact that “the effect of trust is accounted for by greater use of integrating strategies”. Kelman (2005) develops his “trust theory” as the set of separate conflict resolution and peacemaking elements that create an effective psychological ladder of any conflict resolution process.
These elements include the development of commitment, reassurance, the participation of the third party, and ultimately the formation of stable trust relations between former enemies. As far as “each party’s behavior in conflict resolution is the outcome of choices based on judgments about the conflict resolution situation” (Garling et al, 2000), trust helps both parties objectively evaluate their choices, methods, attitudes, and benefits of peacemaking. That is why Kelman (2005) is confident that psychology of conflict resolution requires a closer look at how trust and peacemaking interact.
Kelman (2005) is very detailed in his analysis of reasons and implications, why the two opposing parties refuse to move to negotiation and peacemaking even when they realize the need and importance of negotiation process. This peacemaking reluctance is explained by the fact that “the parties are afraid that negotiations may lead to a series of ever more costly concessions that will ultimately jeopardize their security, their national identity, and their very existence” (Kelman, 2005).
In this difficult psychological context not reassurance, but mutual reassurance turns into the crucial factor for building trust and favorable peacemaking links between the enemies. Mutual reassurance in conflict resolution promotes confidence-building and joint thinking that are relevant at any (personal or diplomatic) level.
Mutual reassurance provides parties in conflict with sufficient opportunities for developing a new non-threatening language and shared vision of the desirable future, and addressing the fears each party has towards the conflict resolution outcomes. As we strive towards better cohesiveness of conflict resolution groups, and adhere to the need to maximize conflict resolution changes, trust and mutual reassurance create the required basis for bringing the anticipated peacemaking outcomes and developing productive interaction between the parties.
Mutual reassurance turns into the indispensable element of building trust between the enemies and inducing them to come to the table for negotiation. “Given the depth of the initial distrust, the need for reassurance persists throughout the peace process. Each part needs continuing evidence of the other’s trustworthiness as it faces new risks and finds new reasons for suspicion” (Kelman, 2005).
That is why the author turns to trust as the effective instrument of eliminating mutual suspicion and fears, and creating efficient conflict resolution frameworks. Regardless whether trust serves direct or indirect driver for the development of peacemaking solutions, trust remains the central element of conflict resolution between the two enemies.
The process of peacemaking and conflict resolution is long and problematic. In psychology, peacemaking and conflict resolution imply the need to develop a set of successive approximations. In Kelman’s (2005) opinion, trust and mutual reassurance are the two most essential approximations that promote responsiveness and reciprocity of peacemaking process, and turn them into mutually beneficial conflict resolution framework that leads to reconciliation and partnership.
Davidson, J.A. & McElwee, G. & Hannan, G. (2004). Trust and power as determinants of
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Garling, T., Kristensen, H., Backenroth-Ohsako, G., Ekehammar, B. & Wessels, M. (2000).
Diplomacy and psychology: psychological contributions to international negotiations, conflict prevention, and world peace. International Journal of Psychology, 35 (2): 81-86.
Kelman, H.C. (2005). Building trust among enemies: the central challenge for international
conflict resolution. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 29 (2005): 639-650.