This document emphasises the vital role the media can play in Conflict Resolution and Peace Making globally, nationally and locally. It aims to support journalists in new and rewarding career paths, where their unique contribution to problem-solving is recognised and embraced.
Journalists benefit from having a conflict-resolving approach to their work. This approach enhances the consumer’s interest in media reporting and analysis. Cynicism and disenchantment about the media can be overcome with a conflict-resolving approach.
There is little doubt of the need for Conflict Resolution in the media. The rapidity of profound political, social and environmental change leaves societies in massive and unresolved conflict, while at hand is the under-utilised resource of the media, whose help is too seldom sought.
Media may need to go beyond the fact-deliverers and find the conflict-resolving “talent”. Sometimes, with Conflict Resolution prompting, conflict participants can be transformed into conflict-resolving partners. Give it a go!
There are four key moves that media as mediators can make.
The facts, the players, the positions, the issues.
2. Explore options:
Developed by all the players and from the journalists themselves as they unfold the whole picture.
3. Move to the positive:
Ask questions like:
“What would it take to solve this problem?”
“What is it that you do want?”
“What would make it better?”
“What would make you willing?”
4. Go back to legitimate needs and concerns:
Ask: “What do you need?” “Why is that important to you?”
or “Tell me why that seems the best option to you?”
“What would having it do for you?”
“Are you meaning here that you need…..?” (use this question to test your assumption)
“Are there alternatives that would also satisfy you?”
In 1978, The Conflict Resolution Network, then a Peace Program of the United Nations Association of Australia, initiated Media Peace Awards, given annually in print, radio and television to those media persons and teams whose work during the preceding year made the greatest contribution to the Resolution of Conflict.
Among award winners have been some of the most high-powered and esteemed journalists, demonstrating that Conflict Resolution can be the province of success and recognition.
Past recipients have included Robyn Williams, John Pilger, Bob Hawke, Caroline Jones and David Marr.
For information and/or nomination forms contact UNAA (VIC), GPO Box 45 Melbourne VIC 3001, Australia, phone +61 3 9607 1364
Click this link for more information on the UN Day Media Awards and Recent winners.
This guide is structured to develop and strengthen skills in comfortable and achievable steps. Because two great scarcities in media are time and space, decide your Conflict Resolution priorities early. Below are tools, not rules. Choose which of the tools will be the most relevant for your story.
Where to start?
Start from where you stand right now, in your own area of professional expertise and interest. We are not telling you: “It’s a breeze”. We know it might be tough.
Work through the guide and let us have your comments. The media person, by their very inquiry, clarifies and influences. They become a player, a member of the cast, not just the audience. They need the Conflict Resolution toolkit. With it they can often be an agent for positive change.
Ask yourself “Can I turn these opponents into partners?”
The Creative Response
“What would it look like if this problem were fixed?” can set protagonists thinking in fruitful directions.
Labelling, stereotyping or prejudice may need to be addressed.
Let your story be hard on the problems and respectful towards the people. Your method of enquiry can take them towards the preferred approach of problem-solving.
“Tell me why you see that as fair?” helps fairness.
Don’t let power be the yardstick by which a solution is chosen. Without denying the problems, the genuine struggle towards answers is the stuff of any good novel. Happy endings sell well too.
Anger is the person’s fire for change. Ask what they want changed? How do they need it to be?
Willingness to Resolve
Stand shoulder-to-shoulder while you design a way forward.
Mapping the Conflict
2.fears and concerns
5.limitations (personal, financial, situational)
Preferably let each side be exposed to the other’s map, as well as helping you draw out their own. Then look for and encourage the parties to look for:
The Development of Options
“Are there some alternatives that work for you and would also give the other person more of what they need?” “What would it take to solve this problem?”
Always point out the wins for both sides, even where small. Your search for these wins may unfold some useful concessions valuable to receive and easy to give.
The Third Party Mediator
Media structure does not always make Conflict Resolution easy, nor does it make it impossible.
There is a growing realisation in media ownership, management and staff that a new genre is arising where freedom of the media means freedom to be part of the resolution of conflict.
The magazine that helps its readers develop more options will increase its circulation. The radio station that provides an opportunity for its listeners to participate in collaborative decision-making will be listened to. The television channels that broaden perspectives will hold its viewers.
Long recognised is the role of the media in bringing us opposing points of view; now added to it is the role of the media in bringing us conflict-resolving points of view.
“Conflict is exciting. It is the very stuff of change. It is never to be ignored or swept under the carpet. It has always commanded an audience for media. Wherever media not only presents conflict but points to its resolution, you get compelling stuff.”
Dr Stella Cornelius, Conflict Resolution Network.
Blame, shame and judgement are each a “tone of voice”. This is a style frequently used by the most compassionate people. Conflict Resolution is another style often more creative and effective.
Media can exacerbate conflict. It is quick and easy to do, and will draw a following; it can also be irresponsible.
Media can educate. Indeed, there is much evidence that it is the fastest educator in contemporary society. Once upon a time we thought that the three Rs would do us; now we all need to “read, write, reckon and resolve”. No-one can help us better than our media.
Media can facilitate. It has the power to bring together sectors of our society previously out of touch with each other.
Media can mediate. Mediation is a neutral, objective process which helps conflicting parties to design their own solutions. It is a just and compassionate practice and does not demand that the mediator be value-free.
It addresses problems of power-inequality and aims at “levelling the playing field”.
It gives voice to the inarticulate and provides audience for the unheard.
It is as much an attitude as a function and can be integrated into all aspects of the journalist’s professional and personal life.
Building the conflict-resolving community is our greatest task. The media can be our most powerful ally.
We highly recommend a unit of study, devoted to Conflict Resolving Media, which is available at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPACS), University of Sydney, with full credits.