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Conflict transformation is the process by which conflicts, such as ethnic conflict, are transformed into peaceful outcomes. It differs from conflict resolution and conflict management approaches in that it recognises "that contemporary conflicts require more than the reframing of positions and the identification of win-win outcomes. The very structure of parties and relationships may be embedded in a pattern of conflictual relationships that extend beyond the particular site of conflict. Conflict transformation is therefore a process of engaging with and transforming the relationships, interests, discourses and, if necessary, the very constitution of society that supports the continuation of violent conflict".[1]

Conflict transformation approaches differ from those of conflict management or conflict resolution. Whereas conflict transformation involves transforming the relationships that support violence, conflict management approaches seek to merely manage and contain conflict, and conflict resolution approaches seek to move conflict parties away from zero-sum positions towards positive outcomes, often with the help of external actors.[1]

According to Search for Common Ground, one of the oldest organizations devoted to implementing conflict transformation programs, conflict transformation initiatives are often characterized by long time horizons and interventions at multiple levels, aimed at changing perceptions and improving communications skills addressing the roots of conflict, including inequality and social injustice.[2]

According to Berghof Foundation for Conflict Studies, conflict transformation means:

A generic, comprehensive term referring to actions and processes seeking to alter the various characteristics and manifestations of violent conflict by addressing the root causes of a particular conflict over the long term. It aims to transform negative destructive conflict into positive constructive conflict and deals with structural, behavioural and attitudinal aspects of conflict. The term refers to both the process and the completion of the process. As such, it incorporates the activities of processes such as conflict prevention and conflict resolution and goes farther than conflict settlement or conflict management.[3]

The Principles of Conflict Transformation, as developed by TransConfict [4], go further in helping define conflict transformation:

"1. Conflict should not be regarded as an isolated event that can be resolved or managed, but as an integral part of society’s on-going evolution and development;"
"2. Conflict should not be understood solely as an inherently negative and destructive occurrence, but rather as a potentially positive and productive force for change if harnessed constructively;"
"3. Conflict transformation goes beyond merely seeking to contain and manage conflict, instead seeking to transform the root causes of a particular conflict;"
"4. Conflict transformation is a long-term, gradual and complex process, requiring sustained engagement and interaction;"
"5. Conflict transformation is not just an approach and set of techniques, but a way of thinking about and understanding conflict itself;"
"6. Conflict transformation is particularly intended for intractable conflicts, where deep-rooted issues fuel protracted violence;"

Conflict transformation theory is often associated with the academics and practitioners Johan Galtung and John Paul Lederach.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Hugh Miall (2004) Conflict Transformation: A Multi-Dimensional Task, Berghof Handbook for Conflict Transformation, p. 4
  2. SFCG (no date) Commonly Used Terms, Search for Common Ground
  3. The Glossary > Conflict-Transformation on Berghof Foundation's web
  4. Principles of Conflict Transformation, TransConflict

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