Mediation Based on Johan Galtung’s Theory

The critical idea in peace theory given by Johan Galtung, who is regarded as the founder of peace studies, is that relationships—between two or more parties—are what makes for peace. The parties may be pulling in separate directions inside an individual, a state, a country, a region, or a civilization. Peace is a relational quality, not the exclusive possession of one person among the parties. That is not meant to minimize the importance of the party's desire and ability to forge amicable ties.

A dispute always starts with a contradiction, an incompatibility, or a conflict of interests, which quickly manifests itself in a class of parties and violent action. Negative attitudes may enter at any point during this process; as a result, attitudes, behaviour, and contradictions feed into one another in a vicious cycle. Parties and actors involved in those processes are now traumatized, and their physical, mental, and emotional scars are festering. That brings us to the two crucial duties in pursuing, at the very least, negative peace.

Theory of Conflict Transformation by Galtung

Conflicts are created by social system discrepancies and can have life-affirming and life-destroying features. After that, they start to show up in attitudes and actions. Conflict, according to Galtung, may be seen as a triangle with three vertices: attitude (A), behaviour (B), and contradiction (C).

Contradiction is the term used to describe the fundamental nature of a dispute, which includes the real or imagined "incompatibility of aims" between the disputing parties. In a symmetrical dispute, the parties, their interests, and their conflicting interests form a contradiction. The parties, their connection, and the underlying conflict of interests in that relationship serve as the defining characteristics of an asymmetric conflict. The parties' attitudes, which can be either favourable or unfavourable, include their impressions and misperceptions of each other and themselves.

However, parties to violent disputes frequently form insulting caricatures of one another, and feelings like fear, rage, bitterness and hatred frequently shape views. Three components make up attitude: emotional (feeling), cognitive (belief), and conative (will). The behaviour might involve conciliation, coercion, or hostile or conciliatory gestures. Threats, coercion, and destructive attacks are traits of violent conflict behaviour. A dispute must have all three elements present at once.

Structure, attitudes, and behaviours continually change and affect one another in the dynamic process of conflict. A conflict is formed when a dispute arises because of competing interests between the parties or an oppressive connection between them. Then, parties organize themselves around this framework to pursue their goals, cultivate antagonistic attitudes, and engage in combative behaviour. This causes the conflict to intensify and expand, pulling in other parties and producing secondary conflicts amongst the primary parties or between outsiders who are drawn in. This makes resolving the first fundamental disagreement more difficult.

The final step in resolving a conflict is to implement a collection of dynamic adjustments, including de-escalation of aggressive behaviour, a shift in mindset, and a transformation of the relationships or competing interests that comprise the dispute's structural foundation. Conscientization or de-conscientization, complexification or simplification, polarisation or depolarization, escalation or de-escalation, articulation or disarticulation, conscientization or de-conscientization, and so forth are some of the transformational processes. By overcoming the contradiction, reaching a compromise, enlarging or narrowing the conflict structure, and associating or dissociating the players, it is possible to resolve the incompatibility that develops between the parties. The idea of cultural aggression was another idea that Galtung originated.

Mediation Based on Johan Galtung’s Theory

Mediation refers to addressing incompatibility, and Conciliation refers to bringing closure by healing the traumas and eliminating them from the parties' relationship. If some resolution is achieved without conflict resolution, pacification—a non-starter—should be used instead of conciliation. Opening a blank sheet while turning the page in their relationship's history is a helpful metaphor. If the page is left blank, nothing has been accomplished—positive or negative—other than apathy. Possibly preferable to injury and hatred, yet a non-relation may still exist.

Positive Peace and Negative Peace

Johan Galtung developed the two categories of positive and negative peace. Galtung defined negative peace as the absence of conflict. Insofar as something undesirable has stopped happening, it is negative. A false peace will come about when warring sides sign a cease-fire agreement. When warring parties adhere to the cease-fire agreement, all hostilities will end, albeit tensions will remain high. He made a connection between structural violence and positive peace in 1969. As a result, violence has two dimensions: personal and structural. As the framework of violence has increased, so too has the definition of peace

In this context, he argues that positive violence cannot exist without personal violence and expresses the need for structural violence to be absent to address the issue of positive violence. On the other side, there is much positivity in positive peace. This is true because it mends relationships, develops social institutions that meet the entire community's requirements, and helps find peaceful solutions. He emphasized how stability or equilibrium are synonyms for the idea of peace. This idea also emphasizes a person's internal state, where they must be at peace with themselves. He defined negative peace as the absence of organized collective violence between the main human groupings, particularly between states or classes and racial and ethnic groups.

Mediation for Peace

There are four conventional, ineffective methods for resolving disputes between two parties

  • A wins, B loses;

  • B wins, A loses;

  • The solution is postponed because neither A nor B feels ready to end the conflict;

  • A confused compromise is reached, which neither A nor B is happy with.

Galtung strives to establish a "fifth way," where both A and B feel that they win, to break from these four unsatisfactory methods of addressing a disagreement. The approach also demands respect for fundamental human needs like survival, physical well-being, liberty, and identity. This involves mediation/negotiation between the two parties. Mediation involves a third party directing the process, not the negotiation's subject matter or result. In mediation, issues are identified, underlying interests and concerns are revealed, an agenda is formed, topics are packaged, sequenced, and prioritized, proposals are interpreted and shaped, and suggestions for a potential settlement are made.

The presence of a mediator can be beneficial for the following reasons: The mediator can encourage and serve as an example of active listening to identify interests, lessen the level of hostility between the parties, and maintain the negotiation's focus without allowing the parties' other agendas or inexperience with negotiation to divert it. A mediator can also encourage early agreements on straightforward matters to boost momentum, assist parties in maintaining face when making concessions, and advance an idea that would be rejected if presented by the other party.

In order to prevent physical violence and discourage the use of force in conflict situations, Mediation advises the employment of non-violent measures, complete disarmament, and social and economic interdependence. A wide range of international institutions and agreements promoting stable relations between nations are also needed in a negative peace strategy to prevent war. Numerous international accords and the United Nations collective security mechanisms also take the principle of enhancing peace into consideration. Negative peace strategies may concentrate on the present, the near future, or the short term.


It is clear that Galtung, credited with founding the field of peace studies, approaches the ideas of violence, peace, and conflict from the outset to achieve enduring peace with a different reading. He focuses on the typology of violence, the negative-positive peace distinction, the conflict cycle, and conflict transformation, which is demonstrated by how he integrates his studies with other social science subjects and serves as an example for other academics. Additionally, all this research on practical concerns is influenced by theoretical viewpoints on what constitutes a conflict, what can be regarded as a conflict, and how disputes should be resolved.

Updated on: 15-Feb-2023

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