PON Fellows Show “The Third Side in Action”

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On October 9th at Harvard Law School, Dr.William Ury, Director of PON’s Global Negotiation Project, and five past PON Graduate Research Fellows presented a symposium on The Third Side, an idea proposed by Dr. Ury in his book of that name (Penguin, 2000). The Third Side is a systematic and self-organizing dispute resolution mechanism for preventing, managing, and transforming destructive conflict. Ury’s theory suggests that it is not only disputing parties and professional conflict resolvers who must address destructive problems, but also the surrounding community. According to the theory, community members — “Third Siders” — can be active “peace-agents” in any dispute situation by collectively transforming destructive conflicts into constructive resolutions through negotiation.

The symposium, titled When Spider Webs Unite: Five Case Studies of the Third Side In Action drew a crowd that filled Pound 102 with interested faculty and students intrigued by the notion. Following an introduction by Dr. Ury, the meeting consisted of presentations and lively commentary invited from the audience. The title of the meeting refers to an African proverb “When spider webs unite, they can stop even a lion.”

The meeting was PON’s third symposium on the Third Side. The first analyzed the critical question of the roots and nature of human violence. The second meeting focused on practical application, describing two cases in which Third Side mechanisms have operated to reduce violent encounters.

The October 9th symposium built on the first two by analyzing five additional cases from very disparate realms. Presenters demonstrated the applicability of the Third Side across widely varying contexts, revealing the strengths and limits of the approach.

The conflicts occurred in the interpersonal, communal, organizational, and international realms of conflict. Brian Blancke (2000-2001 Fellow) and Bianca Wulff discussed the Third Side and Native American land claims in New York State. Mark Young (1999-2000 Fellow) analyzed the role of Third Siders in an organizational case in Germany. Joshua N. Weiss (2000-2001 Fellow) investigated how Third Side action helped the people of Tuzla to resist the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina and preserve its ethnic diversity and harmony. Rebecca Wolfe (1999-2000 Fellow) examines the effort of one NGO to end the plight of a small community in Peru, which had Third Side implications for places around the world. Finally, Chang In Shin (2000-2001 Fellow) illustrated the lack of a Third Side effort during the 1994 nuclear crisis between the US and North Korea and analyzed how such an effort could aid future negotiations on international arms control.

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