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  • Nerine Kahn

New rotation in conflict resolution

Let’s face it, South Africa is a country of great opportunity. And we have made great strides over the course of our young democracy. That said, the last few years’ progress has been handicapped by the lack of clarity when it comes to new, well-formulated approaches to conflict resolution. And despite our growth as a nation, we appear to be trapped in the traditional mindset when it comes to this issue.


So, how do we move with the times when it comes to conflict resolution, you ask?


As mentioned in "Surviving the post-consensus society and redesigning conflict resolution" (the 2nd blog in this 3-blog series),


“We would be foolish to think that the current wage strikes and their methods are merely the position of political chancers and petulant youth who want something for nothing. South Africa is known to have one of the most progressive labor dispensations in the world, but have the entrenched negotiation and mediation methods used expired?”


In order for there to be better ways of mediating and negotiating, there has to be fitter understanding and preparation, reflection, and the introduction of new mindsets. On top of this, we need good governance to counter the lack of trust. This would span across accountability, transparency, responsiveness, and equitability.


The Triple R Solution to conflict


A mind shift is simply imperative. Without it, wrongly handled negotiations and mediations could again lead to the loss of lives #Marikana, destruction of property #FeesMustFall and economic unrest.


I’ve developed this Triple R lexicon for conflict resolution as a simple and manageable support tool for making mediations and negotiations more productive (with great results for all parties).


1. Reevaluate relations

It seems that stakeholder relationships need a review. Everyone needs to take a step back and review how they are conducting themselves in negotiations. How do shop stewards interact with their constituency? Is management a tightly knit, cohesive entity? Is management playing the correct management role? What about the board? And are you even relating effectively to the "opposing" side?


From what I have seen over the last few years, we’ll need to review and re-align these key components to get back on track and effectively influence how a negotiation unfolds.


2. Review Reconciliation and Resolution

Start with the end in mind. And you need to ask yourself if the end you’re focused on should always be reconciliation—at all costs. Negotiators need to review the win-win outcomes and evaluate what is key and what isn’t. This will determine where and if compromise is actually possible or necessary. It is about more than simply reaching an agreement at the height of emotion.


It is about delivering what our post-consensus environment needs on a macro level. Ultimately, taking this stance will allow us to acknowledge and accept that clarity, logic, and process may be better outcomes than winning a single battle.


3. Restore

Aye to world peace: Restoring the relative harmony is key to sustainable success post any conflict resolution scenario. Emotions need to be set aside and reform needs to be known.


This will only be achieved if we don’t let the post-engagement review and implementation process fall by the wayside.


Thanks to the intensity of recent events, it doesn’t take much to see that there is insufficient emphasis on the restoration of relationships and/or the rigorous implementation of the agreed future outcomes. Hence, raw wounds have festered and this post-consensus environment has been created. (For more on how we arrived at this post-consensus environment and its characteristics, check out my 1st blog in this 3-part series here). In order for there to be more desirable ways of mediating and negotiating, there has to be good governance. This includes accountability, transparency, responsiveness, equitability, and reflection.

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