Interest in conflict resolution as an established process has grown over the years. Conflict resolution courses, institutes and workshops deal with techniques for solving family disputes, community unrest, employee dissatisfaction, workplace tension, school disputes, minority participation in society and strife among nations. While there are many approaches, no single way has emerged as most effective in terms of avoiding destructive action, violence or the use of force. However, all approaches have some tactics in common: talking about the issues, focusing on areas of agreement in the initial stages of discussion, negotiating concessions on each side and arranging for continuing dialogue.

Of the many organizations involved in conflict resolution, the UN is one of the foremost. Ralph Bunche, as depicted in the film Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey, believed in and worked very successfully at resolving international conflicts. The film serves as a fine introduction to conflict resolution in general and to the efforts of many people and organizations to find effective ways to reduce tension and help people live together in peace and harmony.



Follow up the film Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey with a study of the theory and practice of conflict resolution around the world. Plan a two-week study that leads students to investigate organizations that are promoting conflict resolution to settle disputes among regions, nations, ethnic groups and within families.


1. After discussing the film and general principles of conflict resolution, give the class a research assignment that will involve: identifying organizations that are promoting conflict resolution, understanding their approaches, and collecting information on specific interventions. The emphasis should be on solving disputes among regions, nations, ethnic groups and within families.

2. Divide the class into several teams and explain that each team will use the Internet to identify organizations that are advocating the use of conflict resolution techniques to solve disputes. Ask each group to go to Columbia University's Conflict Resolution Journal website, and read some of the articles to gain a better understanding of how conflict resolution strategies are being used.

3. Hand out the following list adapted from the links section of the Conflict Resolution Journal's homepage or develop your own list. The Fund for Peace website has a vast array of potentially useful links and that site could be used as the take off point for this activity. Also the Carter Center website provides information on ongoing conflict resolution efforts.

The Fund for Peace, a nonprofit organization, promotes education and research on global problems that threaten human survival, and proposes practical solutions.

Peace Brigades International (PBI) is a unique grassroots organization that explores and implements nonviolent approaches to peacekeeping and human rights support.


The Conflict Research Consortium or Conflict Resolution Information Source is a program of research, education, and application on all four of the University of Colorado's campuses. The Consortium is currently focusing on four substantive areas: Environmental and public policy dispute resolution, international conflicts, evaluation of dispute resolution practices, and application of computers to conflict resolution. Their Web site provides a description of the services, links to other sites as well as research on conflict resolution.

The Conflict Management Group (CMG) is a Cambridge based organization Conflict Management Group (CMG) creates opportunities for peaceful change by helping people work together to manage their differences. The group seeks to expand the use of conflict resolution techniques train individual in their use in order to save lives, strengthen communities, promote human rights, support the growth of civil societies, and foster economic development.

The Program on Nonviolent Sanctions and Cultural Survival (PONSACS) studies situations of conflict in order to better understand their nature and the capabilities of nonviolent actions in support of human rights and civil liberties.

The Peace and Conflict Studies journal is designed to discuss various issues in peace research and conflict analysis. It publishes articles which deal with the environment, social change, grassroots movements, poverty and hunger, alternative economic development, human security, non-hierarchical world order, economic equity, nonviolence, disarmament, cultural studies, feminine views of peace, green politics, critical pedagogy and conflict resolution.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. SIPRI is an independent international institute for research into problems of peace and conflict, especially those of arms control and disarmament. It was established in 1966 to commemorate Sweden's 150 years of unbroken peace. The Institute is financed mainly by the Swedish Parliament. The staff, the Governing Board and the Advisory Committee are international.

American Friends Service Committee Peace Education Web site.

American University's Center for Global Peace Web site provides information on the university's Conflict Resolution program, transcripts of their lecture series and links to other conflict related sites.

International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO). PRIO is an independent, international institute in staff, audience and perspective. It was one of the first centers of peace research in the world, and is Norway's only peace research center. The site provides links to PIRO's research, resources and other conflict and peace related sites.

4. Assign sites to teams or let the teams choose one or two sites that they want to visit. Explain to students that they should fan out to other sites from the links sections of each organization.

5. Allow teams time to conduct their research and discuss their progress along the way.

6. Work with the teams as they develop their presentation.

7. Give each team a 5-10 minutes time slot in class to share their findings with others in the class. Develop a list of the different types of strategies employed by each group. Encourage the class to find commonalties among the various approaches.

8. Evaluate the effectiveness of the organizations' efforts to resolve disputes among regions, nations, ethnic groups, and within families.


While many people think of conflict resolution in relation to solving disputes among nations, the strategies that have grown up around the process over the years can also be used to solve family disputes and local problems in the school or community. This activity builds on the ideas used by Ralph Bunche to negotiate among disputing parties through fact finding, negotiating and evolving mutually acceptable resolution of hostilities. The activity focuses on identifying a human relations issue in the school or community and trying to bring about better understanding, if not a reconciliation, between the parties to the conflict.


1. After viewing the film Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey and discussing Bunche's philosophy of peaceful conflict resolution, ask students to identify an issue in the school or community that they would like to investigate and try to help resolve.

2. Define a procedure for fact finding, discussing the issues, negotiating between parties and reaching agreement. You may want to propose a step-by-step process and discuss it with the students. Or you may want to work with them to evolve a process after some investigation of possible approaches.

One step-by-step process is defined in Dudley Weeks' 1992 book The Eight Essential Steps to Conflict Resolution (Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., Los Angeles). The 8 steps in Weeks' approach are:

  • Create an Effective Atmosphere

  • Clarify Perceptions
  • Focus on Individual and Shared Needs
  • Build Shared Positive Power
  • Look to the Future, Then Learn from the Past
  • Generate Options
  • Develop "Doables": The Stepping-Stones to Action
  • Make Mutual-Benefit Agreements

If you prefer to have the class develop its own process, you could ask students to go the Conflict Resolution Information Source's website, and build on the suggestions offered in the "Conflict Checklist" section.

3. Once the process has been defined, help the students undertake their mission to solve the problem or, at least, improve communication among competing interests. Caution them to "Do no harm" and to be open with all sides. Develop a timeline for carrying out the process and keep a watchful eye on the execution of the plan.

4. After the process has been completed, debrief the students, evaluate the procedure and discuss using the strategies in daily activities.


Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey deals with the history of the Arab/Israeli conflict in the Middle East, the hostilities that arose with the establishment of the State of Israel and the successful mediation of armistice agreements between Israel and 4 Arab nations.. The problems in this area continue today as the Palestinians and Jews engage in violent acts against each other, on an almost daily basis. While the film gives some of the historical background of the discord, this activity leads students beyond the film. It will provide an opportunity for them to investigate the issues at the center of the conflict, gain an understanding of the points of contention on each side and attempt to find a peaceful settlement to this long-lasting problem. [You may want to choose another conflict, such as Kashmir (India/Pakistan), Cyprus (Greece/Turkey), North and South Korea, Cyprus, or the Congo (Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo), as the focus of this activity.]


1. Show the film and focus on Ralph Bunche as a mediator. Raise questions, such as:

Why were both sides in the Arab/Israeli conflict willing to discuss the issues with Ralph Bunche?

What personal qualities did Bunche exhibit that led competing sides to trust him?

2. Summarize the discussion of the questions and develop a list of some of the principles and personal qualities that make for effective mediation.

3. Show again the section of the film that depicts the Partition of Palestine, the formation of the State of Israel, the first Arab/Israeli War and the Suez Crisis. Identify the conflicting points of view on each side and how the conflict was diffused. Ask students to give their opinion on the problem and why they think it continues to be such a difficult situation.

4. Explain that the class is going to investigate the problem and see if they can find a way to resolve the impasse. Give an overview of the other parts of the activity:
  • one group of students will investigate the Arab/Palestinian view,
  • one group will investigate the Israeli view,
  • one student will play the role of Ralph Bunche as mediator
  • each group will present its position to the mediator, who will help the two sides identify compromises that will resolve the conflict
  • the students will write a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell to share the best compromise ideas they have come up with.
  • 5. Choose the student to play the role of mediator. Divide the rest of the class into two groups. Assign one group to research the Arab/Palestinian point of view and one group to research the Israeli point of view. Ask the mediator and each group to use periodicals, reference works and the Internet to find information about the issues -- the claims, points of contention and any previous attempts at mediating the conflict. The UN website provides good background information. Go to the site and click on text version. Choose the "Peace and Security" heading and then select the "Question of Palestine" section.

    6. Work with the mediator to help her or him gain a general understanding of the issues and with the groups to help them sort out the issues and prepare their arguments.

    7. Ask each side to present a summary statement of their position to the mediator as the other side listens.

    8. Begin negotiations between the sides with the student role playing Ralph Bunche identifying the sticking points and developing a list of compromises on the points of contention.

    9. Bring the negotiations to conclusion with the class arriving at four or five possible compromise solutions.

    10. Propose that the class write a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell outlining some of their ideas for resolving the conflict.


    The Honorable Colin L. Powell
    Secretary of State
    Main State Department Building
    2201 C Street, NW
    Washington, DC 20520

    My dear Mr. Secretary,

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