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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2001, Vol. 4 No. 2 .

Working With Conflict: Skills and Strategies for Action
Simon Fisher, Dekha Ibrahim Abdi, Jawed Ludin, Richard Smith, Steve Williams, Sue Williams

London: Zed Books, 2000
208pp. Biblio. Index. Pb.: 14.95; ISBN 1-85649-837-9.

The organisation Responding to Conflict, based in Birmingham, which produced this excellent resource guide, recently had its tenth anniversary celebration. This book is based on what all the people coming to their courses over the years have learned. As described by Simon Fisher, founder and director of Responding to Conflict, the aim of the organisation and of this book is to help people solve their own problems, and in that it succeeds very well.

It is mainly oriented toward people working in 'middle-level' organisations - people in such work as human rights, development, education and health. Thinking in terms of a 'peacemaking pyramid', they reach the middle level, but aim to make links with the tip of the pyramid (government policy-makers) as well as the broad base of grassroots peacemakers. Growing as it does out of the actual experiences of people working in these kinds of organisations in 70 countries around the world, it grounds conflict transformation theory in actual practice. Case studies illustrate how to use the analytical tools and activities presented in the book, and other sections give overviews of such topics as 'intervening directly in conflict'; 'influencing policy; post-war reconstruction' and 'working on the social fabric.'

The term 'conflict transformation' reflects the shift in thinking about 'conflict resolution' in recent years. There is now a heightened sense that conflict must be 'transformed' rather than 'resolved' - transformed by addressing fundamental underlying issues of social, political, and economic justice, rather than 'resolved' by outsiders imposing a particular model on societies in conflict. This book comes from that orientation of 'conflict transformation' and because much of it is drawn from experiences of people from the South, can be of great value not only to practitioners, but also to Peace Studies faculty and students who are looking to deepen their understanding of peacemaking as it is being practiced today.

Carol Rank
International Centre for Reconciliation

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