Apart from obvious issues such as language and those associated with being present in an unfamiliar territory, a conflict resolution practitioner must be sensitive to cultural issues relating to the ‘way of doing things around here’ and the extent to which the conflict is embedded in cultural ways of knowing.
A conflict resolution practitioner needs to be ‘culturally aware’ of, and ‘culturally sensitive’ to, the issues involved in the conflict including transportability and applicability of culturally distinct models of conflict resolution to a culturally constructed conflict. An awareness of, and sensitivity to, cultural issues would make the conflict resolution practitioner culturally competent, but the conflict resolution practitioner must also be culturally fluent.
Cultural fluency extends beyond both cultural sensitivity and awareness. It requires an awareness of one’s own cultural biases, assumptions, prejudices and stereotypes, and how those might impact on the conflict resolution process. Practitioners intervening in conflict situations must be aware of how their motives, actions, and expectations are culturally engendered and affect the conflict resolution process and the outcome.
Intervention must also include consideration of the ways in which culture becomes embedded in conflict and is politicised. The ability of the conflict resolution practitioner to use various techniques of intervention and to be creative is crucial to the resolution of cross-cultural conflicts. Intervening in cross-cultural conflict situations could be challenging because of the diversity and complexity of issues, but it is clear that intervention requires that conflict resolution practitioners be flexible, creative and fluent.
“Construcción del puente sobre el río Almonte” By Yeza (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
You are welcome to share your experience as a third party in a conflict/dispute involving cultural issues including approach, skills and lessons learned.