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Analysis II
Last Updated: 03/23/2007
From Conflict to Coexistence - An Intervention Model
Ashad Ssentongo and Judith van Raalten

Ssentongo and Raalten propose a Conflict Intervention Model to diagram conflict in its general sense. While the model is based on the idea that structural and psycho-cultural approaches are foundational to resolution, it simplifies the process by utilizing John Paul Lederach's pyramid on leadership.

The Conflict Intervention Model is based upon Lederach’s pyramid, where the Conflict Intervention Model takes Lederach’s pyramid a step further and attempts to visualize the components of a successful transformation of a community in conflict. Lederach designed a three-level pyramid of actors and approaches to peacebuilding (see figure 1).1 The top of the pyramid contains key military, political, and religious leaders who embody the top of leadership. The middle range leadership is found in the middle, where leaders from NGO’s, academia, intellectuals, ethnic and religious leaders. Then the bottom, and largest part of the pyramid is reserved for grassroots leadership. The Conflict Intervention Model does not focus on only leadership. Therefore, the third level embodies, besides the grassroots organizations, the rest of the citizens who are one way or another involved in the conflict. Level 1 to 3 totals the entire population effected and taking part in the peace processes.

With help of the Intervention Model tool, a practitioner can picture the synergies of different key figures at different levels of society. This model helps to shape the development and implementation of successful interventions under the condition of an existing (or developing) long-term vision.

Figure 2

The intervention process is visualized by the up-side-down pyramid (see above figure 2, 4) that is fueled by external factors (see figure 2, 4.0) that influence the process. Main actors who have the power to intercede are members of the international community, and other outside parties that have a stake in the peace process. In the case of the Korean peninsula, Russia, China, Japan, and the United States have limited weight in the discussion related to a successful change toward a peaceful coexistence.

The insurgency by the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) rebel groups in Somalia is now effecting a large area in the horn of Africa effecting millions of people. International players in Somalia that play a role in the intervention process toward a halt of violence and a just solution, are Kenya, who provide refugee camps, the African Union, who function as peacekeepers, and the Arab League, who provided the unfortunately fruitless negotiation sessions.

The Conflict Intervention Model provides a framework that cuts through the different layers within a society in conflict. Whereas Lederach sees high-level negotiations and decisions on cease-fires on the top level, problem-solving workshops and training in conflict resolution on the second, the Conflict Intervention Model shows that the combination of these efforts form, as a whole, the intervention process. The peace process within the Conflict Intervention Model gets shaped by ideologies and theories carried by the elite and middle rangers and after agreeing on the principles put forth, the followers in the grassroots level, a large amount of the ordinary people, will implement the changes proposed. The development of the peace process through documents, meetings, conferences, workshops, consultations, agreements, and contracts is carried on the shoulders of all in the population, and not limited to leadership. The followers, volunteers, and employees get a more prominent place to cultivate the peace process.

A meaningful process on peace issues matures through the levels of track 1 and track 2 (see figure 2, 4.1 and 4.2), that is, between key figures, top leaders, intellectuals, and academia. The interaction on the grassroots level and their hand reaching the population (see figure 2, 3 and 4.3) is instrumental, and carries efficacious ideas over to the ordinary people to create more will and commitment to actualize the peace process. The presence of the larger group, the rest of the population effected by conflict, can form a strong leverage in enforcing and realizing the actual plans put forth during the intervention process. With their involvement, the principles can be translated in actual mechanisms and tools that can carry out the execution and will commit the mainstream within a population to the measurements prescribed by the government bodies on the above levels.

The intervention process can generate agreements signed at the level of influential leaders and the elites, however often the contact, communication, and understanding of such measurements are not played through at the level of the ordinary citizens.2 The Conflict Intervention Model shows that a working process needs to involve representatives from different levels with access to different networks. By involving people taken from strategic points in a society, throughout level 1 to 3, a working agreement and implementation, thereof, can become a successful happening.3 By involving representatives from all levels of society, women groups, business sector, academia, grassroots representatives, human rights defenders, politicians, policy-makers and others could be involved in the process of coming to an agreement and the enforcement thereof.

In contemporary communities developing appropriate frameworks for sustainable peaceful coexistence should provide approaches to conflict which demonstrate the interdependence of psycho-cultural and structural aspects. The Conflict Intervention Model suggests to focus on both psycho-cultural and structural issues in order to create a constructive coexistence to explore possible zones of agreement to generate accommodative and constructive changes. In all levels, groups should start to focus on making structural changes, and use attitudinal and behavioral measurements to reduce conflict toward a just and stable approach viable. Psycho-cultural elements and structural elements do not easily go hand-in-hand. While trying to agree on the major facets of the conflict, one party can see the necessity of structural changes (in particular parties without a lot of power in the existing situation during the negotiations such as Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, Catholics in Northern Ireland, Basques in Northern Spain, Palestinians in the Middle East), while other parties have other priorities and wish to articulate the reduction of fears, and miscommunication. It is of vital importance to construct a framework in which both human behavior as well as the make up of the society are considered as a key elements in coming to a closure. In Northern Ireland, relationship-building included dialogue on difficult structural problems, and those involved in structural work began to avail the skills of those who could provide the productive context within which such dialogues could take place. In the case of Iraq, a structural approach was adopted by the government of the United States to change the government bodies established through an electoral process, disband the whole Iraqi national army and train a new one. Unfortunately, psycho-cultural constructions within the country, which could have assisted the development of structural processes, seem to have been neglected, that to this date has rendered a bloodbath in Iraq. The Shia and Sunni groups harbor tremendous psycho-cultural grievances that are not addressed in the current intervention approach. Thus both the structural and psycho-cultural approaches function as interdependent catalysts for peaceful coexistence, as opposed to being mutually exclusive.


A conflict intervention can carry a lot of weight when many representatives were part of the development and implementation process. A larger window of opportunity will open toward a long-lasting peace process that could end in the broader sense of coexistence, where others can respect one another, develop trustful relationships, and have understanding and respect for the diversity of the other.


Fitzduff, Mari. “Beyond Violence, Conflict Resolution Process in Northern Ireland”. Tokyo, Japan: The United Nations University Press, 2002, Chapter 11, Lessons Learned,

Fitzduff, Mari “The Challenge to History: Justice, Coexistence, and Reconciliation Work in Northern Ireland” in Abu-Nimer, M. (ed.) “Reconciliation, Justice, and Coexistence, Theory and Practice”. Maryland. US: Lexington Books, 2001

Kaldor, M. “New & Old Wars, organized violence in a global era”. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001

Kriesberg, Louis. “Changing Forms of Coexistence” in Abu-Nimer, Mohammed (ed) Reconciliation, Justice, and Coexistence. Oxford, UK: Lexington Books, 2001, chapter 3, pages 47-64

Lederach, J.P. “Building Peace. Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies”. Washington D.C., US: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2004, 6th edition.

McCarthy, C. “International Review of Public Policies Towards Improving Inter-Community Relations. Incore, UK

Stedman, J.S. “International Implementation of Peace Agreements in Civil Wars In: Turbulent Peace. Washington D.C. US: US Institute of Peace, 2001

Figure 1: Lederach’s pyramid on leadership

1Lederach, J.P. “Building Peace. Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies”. Washington D.C., US: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2004, 6th edition.
2McCarthy, Clem. “International Review of Public Policies Towards Improving Inter-Community Relations. Incore, UK.
3Stedman, J.S. “International Implementation of Peace Agreements in Civil Wars In: Turbulent Peace. Washington D.C. US: US Institute of Peace, 2001.

Ashad Ssentongo is a teacher, peace activist, and community builder in his native Uganda. He has spent the last six years as a partner with Community Development Consultancy Co. Ltd.

Judith van Raalten is a researcher and teacher at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. She is also a photographer with a exhibition, Bosnia’s Aftermath, currently on tour.