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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2005, Vol. 5 No. 1 .

Transforming Ethnopolitical Conflict, The Berghof Handbook
Austin, Alex, Fischer, Martina, Ropers, Norbert (eds)

Wiesbaden: VS Verlag fuer Sozialwissenschaften, 2004
473pp PB ?39.90 ISBN 3-8100-3940-3

The first edition of the Berghof Handbook offers both practitioners and scholars a systematic overview of the state-of-the-art of conflict transformation. In response to the contemporary challenges of violent conflict and to recent developments in the field of conflict transformation, the Berghof Handbook summarises and promotes dialogue about the "state of the art" in theory and practice of crisis prevention and non-violence, peace consolidation and the civil management of inter-group conflicts. The Berghof Handbook is designed primarily for practitioners seeking ideas and information for their own work and wishing to draw on the wealth of experience amassed by their colleagues in a range of regions and contexts. It is also intended for experts in politics, research and journalism.

The Berghof Handbook gives an excellent overview of core issues in the field of conflict transformation. The book is outlined clearly and starts off with a conceptualization of cross-cutting challenges in conflict transformation and provides an outline of core dimensions for intervention in conflict. This is followed by a review of tools to analyse and predict conflict, which is then followed by a discussion on the impact assessment of conflict intervention.

The next part of the book is about the enhancement of capacity-building to deal with conflicts on a personal level. The book then turns to the need of structural reforms and institution-building and ends with an outlook on conflict transformation as a challenge for reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation, towards a just peace.

The authors of the Berghof Handbook are clear and precise in their approach, as the concept of conflict transformation in all its complexity moves like a thread through the volume.

The book weaves together a thoroughly developed theoretical framework that provides investigative explanations for the ?hows? and ?whys? of conflict transformation in protracted ethnic conflicts. In this light, the authors step beyond contemporary literature with regard to a comprehensive, holistic approach to transforming ethno-political conflict.

There is no concluding chapter; there is, however, a concluding paragraph by Clements (p. 460), which summarises the main idea of conflict transformation in terms of ?our? vision of a desirable future, the visions of parties to conflict and where these visions intersect. The reader is left to contemplate pertinent questions. How sensitive are we to visions that we have difficulty accepting but which might be very salient for others? How do ?we? let go of our own visions so that ?we? might enable the realisations of others and in that process discover some deeper meaning for ourselves?

The book is an invaluable contribution to ethnic conflict and peace studies literature. For the next edition, however, it is recommended to add an index.

Helga Pieper, INCORE Associate, PhD student with the School of International Affairs, Faculty of Arts, University of Ulster.

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