Harvard Conference 2015 on “The Transformation of Intractable Conflicts II”

“The Transformation of Intractable Conflicts II: Challenges and Perspectives for Interactive Problem Solving and Conflict Resolution”: The second in a series of conferences was held at Harvard University from September 17-19, 2015.

The focus of this conference has been on the wide range of developments to interactive problem solving (IPS) over the past decades, and addressing the challenges facing the field. The sustainability of IPS and its continuing application to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other conflicts is of paramount importance. Discussions brought together around 35 high-ranking scholars and practitioners. The participants assessed the current state of IPS, and identified strategies for how to maintain and increase the practice, including the training of current and future practitioners.

The conference was organized by the “Herbert C. Kelman Institute for Interactive Conflict Transformation”, together with

  • the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University,
  • the Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation,
  • the Faculty of Law at the University of Graz and
  • the Center for Peace Research and Peace Education at the University of Klagenfurt.

Among the organizers was Ambassador Wolfgang Petritsch, former EU Chief Negotiator at the Kosovo peace talks and High Representative of the International Community for Bosnia and Herzegovina, president of the Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation and president of the Kelman Institute.

The 2015 conference focused on:

From the left: Husam Zomlot, Ambassador at Large, Palestine, Gudrun Kramer (Moderator) Kelman Institute, Hilik Bar, Secretary General of the Labour Party, Israel
Von links: Husam Zomlot, Ambassador at Large, Palestine, Gudrun Kramer (Moderator) Kelman Institute, Hilik Bar, Secretary General of the Labour Party, Israel

– new visions and strategies for an Israeli-Palestinian peace including new approaches for the two state solution and new strategies for negotiations and unilateral initiatives

new approaches to conflict transformation and dealing with the past in Europe, including Ukraine, Moldova-Transdniestria, Cyprus, South-Eastern Europe and the Alps-Adriatic Region.

On a theoretical and methodological level the conference discussed:

how to link Interactive Problem-Solving and other approaches to conflict resolution like complexity thinking, multi-track conflict transformation etc. in search for effective strategies and sustainable solutions for deep protracted conflicts.

The conference was co-organized and funded by the Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation.

Speaker notes and presentations:

The speaking notes from Dr. George Assousa for his input on Recognizing the New Two-State Paradigm for Israel & Palestine are available here.

The conference followed upon a first conference in March 2014, which had brought up lessons learned from projects on conflict resolution in the Middle East, in particular those directed by Herbert Kelman. Herbert Kelman, Professor of Social Ethics, Emeritus, at Harvard University had for many years been actively engaged in the region. The conference had also highlighted the development of his method – interactive problem-solving – over the past decades, as well as the challenges facing IPS workshops and related approaches. These challenges, which remain relevant to current research and work in IPS, include dealing with issues of the inherent complexity of deeply protracted conflicts, the challenges of follow-up and impact, as well as addressing conditions too polarized for traditional IPS to take place.