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Reconciliation Research: a Rationale

Are there issues in these early years of the twenty-first century requiring scientific research more critical than the process of reconciling with its outcome -- reconciliation? Perhaps. Events being reported daily through media outlets would cause one to stop, however, and ask what priorities might be more pressing or essential in the world of today.

Approaches to conflict resolution reach the news from perspectives that are international, national, community, corporate, domestic and personal. Virtually every sector of human life and societal interaction face conflicts that must be addressed politically, economically, psychologically, philosophically spiritually, academically, environmentally, etc. Conflict can be positive and productive – moving organizations and individuals to new and greater levels of association and achievement. Without conflict, complacency, lethargy and decline may result.

The conflicts that find their way to the printed and broadcast media, although sometimes productive, are far more often counterproductive, coercive, divisive and destructive, even to the desired goals or outcomes being pursued. In conflict situations, from the intra-personal issues of an individual personality, to the domestic struggles of couples and families, one needs only to cite statistics on mental and emotional breakdowns or the statistic that over 50% of first time marriages end in separation and divorce.

Individual and domestic conflict, as tragic as it may be, often takes a back seat to examples of divisive behaviors in the business and corporate domain. As is often known from former experiences, many of these conflicts emerge from practices that are illegal, amoral if not immoral and illustrative of practices known to be coercive and unproductive. Even these tragic examples of conflict seem minimal in the media reports to the destructive implications of national, international and global conflict.

Whether one is observing human versus nature’s conflicts within earth’s ecological or environmental balance or watching the political/economic conflicts that impact the health of a national or world economy, the importance of conflict resolution is undeniable. The process of resolution that reaches beyond simple return to or maintenance of the status quo, to a reconciling process in which relationships in product and personnel are developed, restored or renewed describes a status to be achieved in reconciliation. (See Reconciliation Research and Technology)

Starting from reconciling the individual or family, the business or corporation, the community or the nation (all important settings for debilitating conflict to find reconciliation), let us now go a step further and consider the international and global scene. This justification for reconciliation research is being written on December 7, 2006. I cannot forget the words of my father that Sunday morning sixty-five years ago when he spoke with disbelief: “Pearl Harbor has been bombed, and we are probably at war.” I asked the location of Pearl Harbor, having no idea where it was. I did not need to ask about war; that conflict was fearfully vivid, even to a ten year old.

Six decades later our “enemies” have become our friends; our friends in many instances, our “enemies.” Historians argue about whether there has ever been a time in human history that destructive conflicts, usually entitled “wars,” have not been prevalent in several places at all times. As we enter the year 2007 the names of countries such as Darfur, Sudan, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Iraq, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Congo, Haiti, Indonesia all bring images of varying types of debilitating conflict – ethnic “cleansing,” civil war, political unrest and upheaval, sectarian violence, economic suppression, graft and greed, displaced persons and refugees, terrorism, and human or car bombs. Where is the process of reconciling being successful? Where does one find reconciliation? Several paragraphs in the report received this week by the President of the United States from a ten person bipartisan panel, which studied the Iraq conflict in “the war on terrorism,” used the terms reconciling and reconciliation in its recommendations.

The initial task in preparing for reconciliation research is a comprehensive definition of the reconciling process and status of reconciliation to be achieved. (See Reconciliation as Process and Product [Definitions].) The second task is to design a survey instrument that can be proven statistically valid in the process of identifying factors (components, elements or stages) in the reconciling process and the status of reconciliation.

Research in coming to understand the process of reconciling and the status of reconciliation must be empirical, not ideological. Theoretical aspects in this research hypothesize the existence of factors (components, elements or stages) that go into the process of reconciling if reconciliation is to be achieved. Also, it is to be shown that achieving reconciliation has factors that identify components in its status as an outcome. Reconciliation research must survey random populations, stratified to include valid samples by career, education, gender, age, nationality, political affiliation, religious affiliation, geographical upbringing, etc.; the research must identify first the factors used by persons to achieve reconciliation, followed by a factor analysis showing any statistical significance existing demographically among the various populations or configurations of populations.

Early findings in this empirical research will enable networking with existing research and study programs and associations and institutions involved in related subjects as it seeks ways to apply the research findings to existing conflict situations. Among these applications will be the utilization of capabilities within existing and developing technologies. (See Reconciliation PROBE: (Probability Research for Outcome Based Evaluation.) Another of these applications will be in areas of the academic community. (See Reconciliation: Emerging Academic Discipline?)

       Reconciliation Research Center - Post Office Box 2524 Blue Ridge, Georgia 30513 
       © 2006 -- Harold C. Doster, Ph.D.