In trying to sustainably resolve intractable conflicts, the international community faces a challenge on two levels. One is related to the peaceful resolution of the conflict, which though often accomplished by leaders and elites through negotiation, mediation and arbitration still requires the support of the masses. The other level involves postconflict reconciliation, which requires completely changing the societal repertoires of at least the great majority of society members and elites that feed the conflict on both sides, in order to evolve a new repertoire that can serve as a foundation for stable and lasting peace. This latter challenge, which lies at the heart of the peace-building process, is of great importance, because it lays the foundations for successful conflict resolution and at the same time prepares the society members to live in a state of peace, which can be defined as mutual recognition and acceptance after the reconciliation process, as well as the jointly accepted goal of maintaining peaceful relations characterized by full normalization and cooperation in all possible domains of collective life.
While many policymakers understandably approach peace-building as a structural process, it is even more a psychological process. So the goal of policy should be to advance the psychological processes that lead to reconciliation. To understand why, and before further developing such an approach toward building peace, it is worth examining the nature of intractable conflict as a point of departure.
The Culture of Conflict