Dynamite under the Inter-Communal Bridge: How Can Aid Agencies Help Defuse It?

Journal article

Bock, Joseph G. & Mary B. Anderson (1999) Dynamite under the Inter-Communal Bridge: How Can Aid Agencies Help Defuse It?, Journal of Peace Research 36 (3): 325–338.

Drawing on evidence from two case-study projects, this article identifies two types of conflict transformation approaches used by aid agencies in developing countries: promotive and pre-emptive. Recognizing that activities designed to promote linkage between groups often are ineffective in preventing conflict, the article explores how the second 'pre-emptive' approach seems to address shortcomings in the 'promotive' approach. Together, the two are seen to be analogous to early investment in production capacity undertaken in the business sphere even before demand for a product justifies such investment. The article explores the impact of 'flash-points' that shift the usual non-war:war asymmetry in the direction of violence that overwhelms peace. Flash-points are events that heighten and unleash emotions of fear, insecurity, frustration, and anger so that they overwhelm more normal emotions and actions conducive to and supportive of peace. The article concludes that this problem may be overcome by strategies to support the effective exercise of leadership that invokes inclusiveness, and measures to foster disciplined information processing to prevent self-reinforcing intergroup stereotyping. Finally, policy questions are suggested to guide aid agencies in making effective early 'investments' in peace.

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