Education for Conflict Resolution:
Can We Learn to Live Together?
Essay - Reprinted from the 1994 Annual Report
fall of 1994, Mikhail S. Gorbachev, former president of the Soviet
Union, reflected on a decade of intensive involvement with political
leaders all over the world. One of his outstanding conclusions was
the large extent to which they see "brute force" as their
ultimate validation. His observation, based on abundant experience,
highlights a long-standing, historically deadly inclination of leaders
of many kinds from many places to interpret their mandate as being
strong, tough, aggressive, even violent. For all too many, this is
indeed the essence of leadership.
in control of a vast nuclear arsenal, not to speak of immense power
in conventional, chemical, and biological weapons, was wise enough
not to interpret his own leadership in terms of brute force. But
the world is full of leaders who do. More and more often, they will
have massive killing power at their disposal in the twenty-first
century. Look at the scale of slaughter in Rwanda with penny-ante
is time to take seriously the remark of Archibald MacLeish in the
aftermath of World War II: "Since wars begin in the minds of
men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be
constructed." He was writing about the mission of the emerging
international institutions that were vividly mindful of the carnage
of World War II and the Holocaust, but his words apply to the furious
small wars of today.
human species seems to have a virtuoso capacity for making harsh
distinctions between groups and for justifying violence on whatever
scale the technology of the time permits. Moreover, fanatical behavior
has a dangerous way of recurring across time and locations. Such
behavior is old, but what is historically new and very threatening
is the destructive power of our weaponry and its ongoing worldwide
spread. Also new is the technology that permits rapid, vivid, widely
broadcast justifications for violence. In such a world, human conflict
is a subject that deserves the most careful and searching inquiry.
It is a subject par excellence for public understanding. Yet today's
education has little to say on the subject. Worse still, education
almost everywhere has ethnocentric orientations.
we do better? Can we educate ourselves to avoid conflict or peacefully
resolve it? Is it possible for us to modify our attitudes and orientations
so that we practice greater tolerance and mutual aid at home and
in the world? Perhaps it is unlikely. But the stakes are so high
now that even a modest gain on this goal would be exceedingly valuable.
This essay explores a few, and only a very few, of the possibilities
brought to light by recent inquiry and innovation. The examples
are meant to be evocative - better ones may well be available. They
are meant to move this subject higher on the world's agenda.
into Intergroup Hostility
is immense. Both in field studies and experimental research by social
scientists, the evidence is very strong: We humans are remarkably
prone to form partisan distinctions between our own and other groups,
to develop a marked preference for our own group, to accept favorable
evaluations of the products and performances of the in-group, and
to make unfavorable evaluations of other groups that go far beyond
the objective evidence or the requirements of a situation. Indeed,
it seems difficult for us to avoid making invidious distinctions even
when we want to.
of ethnocentrism and prejudice are rooted in our ancient past and
were probably once adaptive. Over the millennia, our estimate of
personal worth if not our very survival has been built on the sense
of belonging to a valued group - a sense that seems to go hand in
glove with the impulse to assign negative value to those who are
not of our group. Both these tendencies historically have been reinforced
by parental and social education beginning in early childhood in
nearly every human society.
reinforcement occurs at home, in the schools, in the streets, and
in the mass media. The cumulative effect of widespread frustrating
conditions also exacerbates the development of prejudice and stereotyped
thinking. Political firebrands put gasoline on the embers. Worldwide,
the education received from multiple sources is still remarkably
ethnocentric. In some places ethnocentrism and prejudice are inflamed
by official propaganda, the cultivation of religious stereotypes,
and political demagoguery, leading to intergroup violence that is
justified in the name of some putatively high purpose.
global outburst of intergroup violence, with its explosive mixture
of ethnic, religious, and national strivings, is badly in need of
illumination. People everywhere need to understand why we behave
as we do, what dangerous legacy we carry with us, and how we can
convert fear to hope.
Children Grow up Hateful? A Developmental Perspective
via the family, schools, the media, and community organizations, must
be turned into a force for reducing intergroup conflict. It must serve
to enlarge our social identifications in light of common characteristics
and superordinate goals. It must seek a basis for fundamental human
identification across a diversity of cultures in the face of manifest
conflict. We are, in fact, a single, interdependent, meaningfully
attached, worldwide species.
question is whether human beings can learn more constructive orientations
toward those outside their group while maintaining the values of
group allegiance and identity. From an examination of a great deal
of laboratory and field research, it seems reasonable to believe
that, in spite of very bad habits from the past, we can indeed learn
new habits of mind.
is an extensive body of research on intergroup contact that bears
on this question. For example, experiments have demonstrated that
the extent of contact between groups that are negatively oriented
toward one another is not the most important factor in achieving
a more constructive orientation. Much depends on whether the contact
occurs under favorable conditions. If there is an aura of mutual
suspicion, if the parties are highly competitive or are not supported
by relevant authorities, or if contact occurs on the basis of very
unequal status, then it is not likely to be helpful, whatever the
amount of exposure. Contact under unfavorable conditions can stir
up old tensions and reinforce stereotypes.
the other hand, if there is friendly contact in the context of equal
status, especially if such contact is supported by relevant authorities,
and if the contact is embedded in cooperative activity and fostered
by a mutual aid ethic, then there is likely to be a strong positive
outcome. Under these conditions, the more contact the better. Such
contact is then associated with improved attitudes between previously
suspicious or hostile groups as well as with constructive changes
in patterns of interaction between them.
experiments demonstrate the power of shared, highly valued superordinate
goals that can only be achieved by cooperative effort. Such goals
can override the differences that people bring to the situation
and often have a powerful, unifying effect. Classic experiments
readily made strangers at a boys' camp into enemies by isolating
them from one another and heightening competition. But when powerful
superordinate goals were introduced, enemies were transformed into
experiments have been replicated in work with business executives
and other professionals with similar results. So the effect is certainly
not limited to children and youth. Indeed, the findings have pointed
to the beneficial effects of working cooperatively under conditions
that lead people to formulate a new, inclusive group, going beyond
the subgroups with which they entered the situation. Such effects
are particularly strong when there are tangibly successful outcomes
of cooperation - for example, clear rewards from cooperative learning.
They have important implications for child rearing and education.
Constructive Orientations in Childhood and Adolescence
the problem of intergroup relations rests upon finding better ways
to foster child and adolescent development. This fact should present
crucial new opportunities to educate young people in conflict resolution
and in mutual accommodation.
educational institutions such as the family, schools, community-based
organizations, and the media have the power to shape attitudes and
skills toward decent human relations or toward hatred and violence.
If they really wish to be constructive, such organizations need
to utilize the findings from research on intergroup relations and
conflict resolution. They can use this knowledge in fostering positive
reciprocity, cross-cutting relations, superordinate goals, and mutual
everywhere needs to convey an accurate concept of a single, highly
interdependent, worldwide species - a vast extended family sharing
fundamental human similarities and a fragile planet. The give-and-take
fostered within groups can be extended far beyond childhood to relations
between adults and to larger units of organization, even covering
research-based knowledge of human conflict, the diversity of our
species, and the paths to mutual accommodation constitutes grist
for the education mill. What follows is a sketch of some possibilities
for making use of many different educational vehicles for learning
to live together within nations and across national boundaries.
Prosocial Behavior in Early Life
context of secure attachment and valued adult models, provided by
either a cohesive family or a more extended social support network,
a child can learn certain social norms that are conducive to tolerance
and a mutual aid ethic. Children can learn to take turns, share with
others, cooperate (especially in learning and problem solving), and
help others in everyday life as well as in times of stress.
norms, though established on a simple basis in the first few years
of life, open the way toward constructive human relationships that
can have significance throughout the life span. Their practice earns
respect from others, provides gratification, and increases confidence
and competence. For this reason, both family care and early intervention
programs need to take account of the factors that influence the
development of attachment and prosocial behavior. This is important
in parent education, in child care centers, and in preschool education.
is research evidence, both from direct observation and experimental
studies, that settings that promote the requirements and expectations
of prosocial behavior do in fact strengthen such behavior. For example,
children who are responsible for tasks helpful to family maintenance,
as in caring for younger siblings, are generally found to be more
altruistic than children who do not have these prosocial experiences.
experimental studies, typically an adult (presumably much like a
parent) demonstrates a prosocial act like sharing toys, coins, or
candy that have been won in a game. The sharing is with someone
else who is said to be in need though not present in the experimental
situation. The adult plays the game and models the sharing before
leaving the child to play. The results are clear. Children exposed
to such modeling, when compared to similar children in control groups,
tend to show the behavior manifested by the models, whether it be
honesty, generosity, or altruism. Given the child's pervasive exposure
to parents and teachers, the potential for observational learning
in this sphere as in others is very great. Prosocial behavior is
particularly significant in adaptation because it is likely to open
up new opportunities for the growing child, strengthen human relationships,
and contribute to the building of self-esteem.
defined as a shared emotional response between observer and subject,
may be expressed as "putting oneself in the shoes of another
person." Empathy training has been tested with eight- to ten-year-olds
in elementary school classrooms. In one program, children were given
thirty hours of exercises in small groups of four to six. Activities
were designed to increase their skill in identifying emotional responses
and in taking the perspective of another. The intervention group was
compared with two kinds of control groups.
participants in empathy training showed more prosocial behavior,
less aggression, and more positive self-concept than did children
in either control group. This elementary school training model may
provide a guide for the enhancement of empathy in other contexts
- for example, in learning to take the perspective of other ethnic
or religious groups. In any event, responding empathically in potential
conflict situations helps to reduce hateful outcomes.
Framework for Conflict Resolution in the Schools
of what schools can accomplish is similar to what parents can do -
employ positive disciplinary practices, be democratic in procedure,
teach the capacity for responsible decision making, foster cooperative
learning procedures, and guide children in prosocial behavior in the
various spheres of their lives. They can convey in interesting ways
the truth of human diversity and the humanity we all share. They can
convey the fascination of other cultures, making understanding and
respect a core attribute of their outlook on the world - including
the capacity to interact effectively in the emerging global economy.
Morton Deutsch of Teachers College, Columbia University, a distinguished
scholar in conflict resolution, has delineated programs that schools
can use to promote attitudes, values, and knowledge that will help
children develop constructive relations throughout their lives.
Such programs include cooperative learning, conflict resolution
training, the constructive use of controversy in teaching, and the
creation of dispute resolution centers.
his view, constructive conflict resolution is characterized by cooperation,
good communication, perception of similarity in beliefs and values
among the parties, acceptance of the other's legitimacy, problem-centered
negotiations, mutual trust and confidence, and information sharing.
Destructive conflicts, in contrast, are characterized by harsh competition,
poor communication, coercive tactics, suspicion, perception of basic
differences in values, an orientation to increasing power differences,
challenges to the legitimacy of other parties, and personal insecurity.
to educate on these matters are most effective where there is a
substantial, in-depth curriculum with repeated opportunities to
learn and practice cooperative conflict resolution skills. Students
gain a realistic understanding of the amount of violence in society
and the deadly consequences of such violence. They learn that violence
begets violence, that there are healthy and unhealthy ways to express
anger, and that nonviolent alternatives to dealing with conflict
are available and will always be useful to them.
body of information during the past two decades has been generated
from research on cooperative learning. These efforts stem in part
from a desire to find alternatives to the usual lecture mode and to
involve students actively in the learning process. They are inspired,
moreover, by a mutual aid ethic and appreciation for student diversity.
In cooperative learning, the traditional classroom of one teacher
and many students is reorganized into heterogeneous groups of four
or five students who work together to learn a particular subject matter,
for instance, mathematics.
has demonstrated that student achievement is at least as high -
and often higher - in cooperative learning activities as it is in
traditional classroom activities. At the same time, cooperative
learning methods promote positive interpersonal relations, motivation
to learn, and self-esteem. These benefits are obtained in middle
grade schools and also high schools, for various subject areas and
for a wide range of tasks and activities.
my view, there are several overlapping yet distinctive concepts
of cooperative learning that offer a powerful set of skills and
assets for later life: learning to work together; learning that
everyone can contribute in some way; learning that everyone is good
at something; learning to appreciate diversity in various attributes;
learning complementarity of skills and a division of labor; learning
a mutual aid ethic. There is good reason why cooperative learning
has lately stimulated so much interest. It deserves more widespread
utilization along with continuing research to broaden its applicability.
Adolescence: Learning Life Skills
Council on Adolescent Development's Working Group on Life Skills Training,
chaired by Dr. Beatrix Hamburg, in 1990 provided the factual basis
and organizing principles on which such interventions can be based.
It also described a variety of exemplary programs.
category of life skills is being assertive. An example of assertiveness
is knowing how to take advantage of opportunities - for example,
how to use community resources such as health and social services
or job training. Another aspect is knowing how to resist pressure
or intimidation by peers and others to take drugs, carry weapons,
or make irresponsible decisions about sex - and how to do this without
spoiling relationships or isolating oneself. Yet another aspect
of assertiveness is knowing how to resolve conflict in ways that
make use of the full range of nonviolent opportunities that exist.
Such skills can be taught not only in schools but in community organizations.
community service in high schools, indeed even in middle grade schools,
can also be helpful in the shaping of responsible, sharing, altruistic
behavior. It is important to have serious reflection on such community
service experience, to analyze its implications, and to learn ways
to benefit from setbacks. How we help others is crucial. "Help"
must not imply superiority over others but rather convey a sense
of being full members of the community, sharing a common fate as
human beings together. This orientation can usefully be an important
part of parent education as well. As the development of parental
competence increasingly comes to be based on explicit courses of
education and preparation for parenthood, the elements of caring
for others, of reciprocity and of mutual understanding must be a
key part of the task.
Prevention in Adolescence
health perspective suggests that the prevention strategies that have
been successful in dealing with other behavior-related health problems,
such as smoking, may be applicable to the problem of adolescent violence.
Adolescent experimentation with behavior patterns and values offers
an opportunity to develop alternatives to violent responses. A pioneering
example is provided by the Boston Violence Prevention Program - a
multi-institutional initiative with the goal of reducing fights, assaults,
and intentional injuries among adolescents. It trains providers in
diverse community settings in a violence prevention curriculum, promotes
incorporation of this curriculum into service delivery, and creates
a community consensus supportive of violence prevention. The program
targets two poor Boston neighborhoods characterized by high violence
rates. Its four principal components are curriculum development, community-based
prevention education, clinical treatment services, and a media campaign.
curriculum was first developed in 1983 by Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith.
It acknowledged anger as a normal and potentially constructive emotion;
alerted students to their high risk of being a perpetrator or victim
of violence; helped students find alternatives to fighting by discussing
potential gains and losses; offered positive ways to deal with anger
and arguments; encouraged students to analyze the precursors of
fighting and to practice alternative conflict resolution by playing
different roles; and created a classroom climate that is nonviolent.
the initial stages of curriculum development, it became clear that
intervention in the schools alone was insufficient. In 1986 a community-based
component was initiated in which community educators provided violence
prevention training to youth-serving agencies. Additional materials
included informational flyers, a videotape, a rap song, cartoon
characters, church sermons, and Sunday school sessions.
project seeks to reach as many community settings as possible, including
multi-service centers, recreation programs, housing developments,
police stations and courts, religious institutions, neighborhood
health centers, and schools. There is a referral network for health,
education, and social services. The community campaign has produced
television and radio public service announcements, posters, and
T-shirts using the slogan, "Friends for life don't let friends
fight." It focuses on peer influences and the responsibility
that friends have for helping to defuse conflict situations. It
also includes a public television documentary.
prevention efforts of such a systematic and extensive sort are very
recent. It would be surprising if the first efforts were highly
successful, because of the great complexity and difficulty of the
tasks in terribly impaired neighborhoods. One clear finding is that
the adolescents - and especially disadvantaged males - are urgently
in need of dependable life skills and constructive social supports
that foster health, education, and decent human relationships.
and Prosocial Behavior
has established causal relationships between children's viewing
of either aggressive or prosocial behavior on television and their
subsequent behavior. Children as young as two years old are facile
at imitating televised behaviors. Television violence can affect
a child's behavior at an early age and the effects can extend into
adolescence. In general, the relationship between television violence
and subsequent viewer behavior holds in a variety of countries.
Cross-national studies show this in countries as diverse as Australia,
Finland, Israel, the Netherlands, Poland, and the United States.
is some research evidence that television need not be a school for
violence - that it can be used in a way that reduces intergroup
hostility. The relevant professions need to encourage the constructive
use of this powerful tool to promote compassionate understanding,
nonviolent problem solving, and decent intergroup relations.
can portray human diversity while highlighting shared human experiences.
It can teach skills that are important for the social development
of children and do so in a way that both entertains and educates.
So far we have had only glimpses of its potential for reducing intergroup
Gerald Lesser at Harvard University has summarized features of the
children's educational television program, "Sesame Street,"
that are of interest in this context. The program originated in
the United States in 1969 and appears today in 100 other countries.
Each program is fitted to the language, culture, and traditions
of a particular nation. The atmosphere of respect for differences
permeates all of the many versions of "Sesame Street."
from a variety of countries is encouraging. For example, the Canadian
version of "Sesame Street" shows many sympathetic instances
of English- and French-speaking children playing together. Children
who see these examples of cross-group friendships are more likely
to form such friendships on their own than are children who do not
see them. The same is true for Dutch, Moroccan, Turkish, and Surinamese
children who see "Sesame Street" in Holland. The findings
suggest that appealing and constructive examples of social tolerance
help young children to learn such behavior. These are tantalizing
results, making us wish for a wide range of similar programming
from All Kinds of Conflicts
of conflict resolution in any sphere should be examined for their
implications in other spheres. It may well be that understanding of
the processes of conflict resolution between groups within a nation
will concomitantly enhance our ability to reduce conflict between
nations - and vice versa.
there lessons to be learned from decent human relations in various
spheres of life? Abundant experience and study at the level of interpersonal
relations and small-group and community relations provide a way
of thinking about decent relations between large groups and even
nations. What are the major requirements?
party needs a basis for self-respect, a sense of belonging in
a valued group, and a distinctive identity.
party needs dependability of communication with the other.
party needs from the other a recognition of some shared interests
and the fact of interdependence.
needs civil discourse, including the ability to understand the
perspective of the other - even if they do not always agree. Disagreements
can also be considered in a civil way. And both parties need to
keep in mind their common humanity even - and especially - in
times of adversity.
party has the possibility of earning the respect of the other
- in a differentiated way, admiring some attributes but not others.
for competition and disagreement can be recognized, even if they
are sometimes dimly seen.
boundaries fundamentally have to do with violence, each party
can seriously consider and reconsider from time to time the balance
between interests of self and the interests of the other.
concepts of decent human relations have considerable operational
significance in daily living. On the whole, they serve the human
species well at various levels of social organization. Could we
learn to utilize them in relations between ethnic groups and even
adversarial powers? The experience of ending the Cold War suggests
that this may be possible.
of the International Community
threat of prejudicial ethnocentrism as a path to hatred, violence,
and mass killing has to emerge as one of the major educational challenges
of the next century, with international institutions playing an important
role. The international community can be a powerful force in broad
public education on the entire problem of intergroup violence. It
can help and reward conflict resolution leaders, build education systems
worldwide, and provide useful, sensitive, early intervention.
is of utmost importance for contending parties throughout the world
to be educated on the nature, scope, and consequences of ethnocentric
violence, particularly the action-reaction cycles in such violence,
with the buildup of revenge motives; the tendency to assume hatred
as an organizing principle for life and death; and the slippery
slope of proliferation, escalation, and addiction to hatred and
killing that emerges so readily in festering intergroup conflict.
need to grasp how violent extremists and fanatics tend to take increasing
control of the situation; they need to face up to the probable degradation
of life - even annihilation - that will occur for all concerned
in areas of intense fighting. The international community must make
these dangers clear and vivid in the minds of populations involved
in potential hot spots.
policy community in much of the world is not deeply familiar with
the principles and techniques of conflict resolution. It must become
so, with the United Nations and the Secretary General playing one
of the leading roles. The United Nations, respected widely throughout
the world, could do more than it has done historically to educate
publics to the need and possibilities for resolving conflicts without
violence. The Secretary General has a bully pulpit of formidable
other initiatives, the U.N. can sponsor world leadership seminars
in cooperation with qualified nongovernmental organizations such
as universities and research institutes. These leadership seminars
might well include new heads of state, new foreign ministers, and
new defense ministers.
leadership seminars could also clarify how the U.N. and other institutions
and organizations can help. Given the contemporary climate, it is
singularly important that such seminars deal objectively and in
a penetrating way with problems of nationalism, ethnocentrism, prejudice,
hatred, and violence. Through the leadership seminars and a wider
array of publications, the U.N. can make available the world's experience
bearing on conflicts in general and on particular conflicts; on
the responsible handling of weapons by governmental leaders and
policymakers; on the likely consequences of weapons build-up, especially
weapons of mass destruction; on the skills, knowledge base, and
prestige properly associated with successful conflict resolution;
on economic development, including the new uses of science and technology
for development; and on cooperative behavior in the world community,
including the handling of grievances.
Global Reach of Radio and Television
of media is a powerful one, for better and for worse. Books, films,
music, television, and radio all carry a variety of messages, both
cognitive and emotional. The power of the mass media, and particularly
television, has revised our concept of what constitutes reality.
directs attention to a subject beyond any previous medium's ability.
It has the power to focus on one situation and instantly raise the
world's awareness. Unfortunately, this power can be and often is
used to exacerbate conflict. Terrorists, for instance, have long
recognized the power of television to give a small, fanatical group
international exposure to their cause.
power is more and more associated with media coverage. The primacy
of television's linkage with political power was well demonstrated
in the recent revolutionary events in Eastern Europe and the former
Soviet republics, when control of television output was at the center
of the struggle.
has immense latent capacity as a force for global transformation.
The medium is deeply international, readily crossing boundaries.
Each side in a war may be able to watch the other's television broadcasts.
In divided Germany, most East Germans watched West German television,
which provided an effective antidote to Communist government propaganda.
With new digital technologies and more powerful satellites, it will
be increasingly difficult to isolate a country from the global media.
Cable News Network already has had a powerful effect through its
global news distribution and extensive use of live broadcasting
from sites on every continent. Although this was most vivid during
the Gulf war, it is a daily fact of life on a global basis.
has great potential for reducing tensions between countries. It
can be used to demystify the adversary and improve understanding.
A Cold War example was provided by U.S.-Soviet spacebridge programs
- live, unedited discussion between the two countries made possible
by satellites and simultaneous translation. Starting in 1983, U.S.-Soviet
spacebridges linked ordinary American and Soviet citizens in an
effort to overcome stereotypes. Beginning before the Gorbachev era,
they provided an opening to his policy of glasnost. Later, Internews'
"Capital to Capital" program, broadcast simultaneously
on ABC and on Soviet and Eastern European television, joined members
of Congress and the Supreme Soviet for uncensored debate on arms
control, human rights, and the future of Europe. These spacebridge
programs were seen by 200 million people at a time. Ted Koppel's
"Nightline" program on ABC was dynamic in settings of
this sort, especially between the U.S. and South Africa and between
the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The dramatic "Nightline"
town meeting between Palestinians and Israelis in 1988 showed how
television can foster reasonable dialogue on tender issues even
among old adversaries.
pluralistic media are vital for democracy. They are the main vehicles
for clarifying issues and for the public to understand candidates.
In the first post-Soviet Ukrainian election, President Leonid Kravchuk
had total control over television throughout the process, whereas
other candidates had hardly any access to it. Such elections cannot
be considered free and fair. International election monitors must
therefore observe access to the media as well as the voting itself.
is exceedingly important because it reaches virtually everyone everywhere
almost all the time. Hate radio has been all too effective in inciting
violence - remember its role in Rwanda and Bosnia. What about reconciliation
can the international community foster education via the mass media
with respect to prejudice, ethnocentrism, and conflict resolution?
Leaders like the extremists in the former Yugoslavia reap political
gain from stirring intense hatred among their people. The world
is full of ethnic entrepreneurs and skillful demagogues putting
acid on the scars, playing on ethnocentric sentiments for their
own political purposes, and utilizing electronic media to get their
messages across. By doing so they gain power, wealth, and high status.
Is it possible to go over the heads of such leaders to educate their
publics directly about paths to conflict resolution? After all,
it is the rank-and-file citizenry that absorbs the terrible beating
of these wars, not the leadership.
television and radio help in preventing or coping with deadly conflict
within nations? What would be involved in such education? First
and foremost, conveying the consequences of continuing on the path
of hatred and violence. Television and radio could illuminate slaughter
in various areas, both nearby and far away, where ethnocentric violence
has gone unchecked and where the consequences for all participants
have been far more dreadful than envisioned in the initial phase
when wishful thinking predominated. Let adversaries see the disastrous
course they are on now, one that others have followed, and how much
worse it can get the further it is pursued. Let them not be shielded
from the consequences of atrocities in the way most Germans were
in the events of the Holocaust.
areas need independent television and radio news channels broadcasting
throughout the region. Mass media communication, not only about
the consequences of ethnocentric violence, but also about the possibilities
for conflict resolution, and the willingness of the international
community to help, should become a vital component of the problem-solving
machinery in ethnic conflicts.
and radio can also be useful in conflict resolution by clarifying
how others have succeeded in achieving it: documentaries, for example,
on the experiences of Western Europe after World War II, or programs
on the transformation of Germany and Japan without revenge by the
United States. Let those in hot spots learn about the best of what
conflict resolution, civilized human relationships, and democratic
institutions have done in the twentieth century and could do for
them in the twenty-first.
principle, it should even be possible to establish a nongovernmental
International Educational Telecommunications System that would effectively
link organizations in many nations to sources of creative audiovisual
learning materials. There could be an active pool of material over
a wide range of content and format generated for a variety of purposes,
mainly on peace and democracy, in rich and poor countries alike.
might be provided to the new system through a mix of governmental
and private funds from many nations. The highest standards could
be ensured by an international commission of impeccable standing.
The system would both provide venture capital for creative programming
and carefully select the best available material from the world's
might present basic concepts, processes, and institutions on a level
perhaps comparable to that of National Public Radio in the United
States or the British Broadcasting Corporation in the United Kingdom.
This could be done in a variety of languages and adapted to many
cultures. In a relatively short time, it might be feasible to enhance
the level of understanding throughout the world of what is involved
in democracy and its potential benefits for all - especially in
providing reliable ways of coping with ubiquitous human conflicts
without resorting to mass violence.
close with a crucial question for the human future: Can human groups
achieve internal cohesion, self-respect, and adaptive effectiveness
without promoting hatred and violence? Altogether, we need to strengthen
research and education on child development, prejudice, ethnocentrism,
and conflict resolution to find out. We must generate new knowledge
and explore vigorously the application of such knowledge to urgent
problems in contemporary society.
should the responsibility for promoting social tolerance be taken
more seriously than among leaders of nations - not only in government
but in business and media and other powerful institutions. They
bear a heavy responsibility, all too often evaded, for utilizing
the vehicles of mass education for constructive purposes. They can
convey in words and actions an agenda for cooperation, caring, and
decent human relations.
is little in our very long history as a species to prepare us for
this world we have suddenly made. Perhaps we cannot cope with it
- witness Bosnia and Rwanda. Still, it is not too late for a paradigm
shift in our outlook toward human conflict. Perhaps it is something
like learning that the earth is not flat. Such a shift in child
development and education throughout the world might at long last
make it possible for human groups to learn to live together in peace
and mutual benefit.
NOTE: The president's annual essay is a personal statement representing
his own views. It does not necessarily reflect the foundation's
policies. This essay is based on a presentation made in June 1994
at a Nobel symposium in Sweden. This symposium will be published
in a book edited by Professor David Magnusson, Stockholm University,
titled Individual Development Over the Lifespan.