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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1999, Vol. 2 No. 1 .

Conflict Resolution
Susan Stewart

(Winchester, UK: Winchester Press, 1998)

The book begins by defining conflict in the context of social theory. Causes, including latent ones, types of conflict, and management techniques complete the introduction. Next, the range of dispute resolution strategies, from litigation to interpersonal conflict prevention techniques, are explored. Also, an overview of the research design and results are provided. Chapters Four through Eleven describe particularly mediation in a broad range settings, including family, neighborhood, justice, schools, cross-cultural, multi-faith, environmental, power-imbalanced, and work contexts. Then, a framework for evaluating the variety of training programs, whether prescriptive or elicitive (or both) in approach and outcome is provided. The increasing emphasis on assessment, accreditation and professionalism, balanced by the need for "...openness to diversity and respect for participants as sources of knowledge and experience.." is judiciously addressed in Chapter Twelve. (p. 155). Academic opportunities for study and research on conflict resolution are offered. The last chapter summarizes current and future issues and trends in the field, including its interdependent/interdisciplinary nature, the diversity of conflict management strategies, 'one-stop' dispute resolution clearing houses, volunteer and professional services, funding sources, and both the transformative and professional agendas of practitioners.

Overall, this book is an excellent fundamental resource for consumers of conflict resolution services, training, and academic opportunities, and for current and future practitioners in the field. As Ms. Stewart herself so aptly states: "The chapters of this book reveal a diversity and richness of conflict resolution which is invigorating and encouraging." (p. 166). Her work makes an important contribution to the field of ethnic conflict, specifically, by providing insight into available resources, current approaches and issues in conflict resolution, and perhaps most important, giving exposure to alternatives to traditions of violence, inequity, and struggle. Generally, her work makes the same contribution to the field of dispute resolution: furthering the research and discourse on alternative constructive conflict management.

A few minor issues/constructive criticisms include: the need for additional data on the effectiveness and cost efficiency of alternative dispute resolution strategies; also, the book is clearly aimed at citizens of and services provided in the United Kingdom, making some of the detail less useful to 'outsiders'; the lack of adequate funding, training and supervision for some school peer mediation programs can be problematic; and finally, the term Alternative Dispute Resolution implies a strong connection to the legal/adversarial approach to disputes, while conflict resolution, generally, implies a collaborative model, clearer discussion of this dichotomy would have been useful.

Despite the complexity and dynamism of the field, Conflict Resolution: A Foundation Guide presents a clear, detailed and comprehensive look at a growing field.

R. Averell Manes, Western Connecticut State University

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