In this issue, we have arranged five articles in two pairs around one in the middle, which is on meaningful concepts and possible realities. In ACCORD’s experience of dealing with conflict, we have from the start been aware of the importance of concepts in the minds of both conflict causers and conflict resolvers. For high school students and teachers, we compiled a manual entitled ‘Conflict – something to talk about’, in which we emphasised the need to understand concepts as ‘injustice’ and ‘discrimination’ as they appeared in the context of a particular conflict and in the purpose which motivated that conflict, and the subsequent need to start talking about such issues and keep on talking until the problems concerned have been talked out and the solutions have been implemented.
Through the years, our experience, in one case of conflict after the other, has confirmed the important role played by concepts – both in pursuing and in resolving conflict. There are the concepts that may appear, bluntly or subtly, in the slogans of parties, and there are those that may be listed, modestly and tactfully, in the suggestions of mediators. What we should realise, however, is that such concepts are not only written on banners or in note books, but that they can function as roadmaps to realities. And this is, in our opinion, the point where the articles in this issue can make an important contribution. They can focus our attention on the link between a concept and a possible reality. We have to remember, especially in the field of dealing with conflict, that there are no guaranteed realities, but only possible, or at best, probable ones.
Nevertheless, the concept-reality link is one constantly deserving consideration and research. Concepts, after all, are more than pointers to routes; they are drivers to destinations. We therefore trust that our readers will find new insight and inspiration in this issue. In the first two articles, we find meaningful case studies – one on the environmental care link between pollution problems and sound health, and one on the consociational link between ethno-political hostility and coexistence. The article in the middle focuses on the confession-forgiveness link between mere partial truth and proclaimed reconciliation on the one hand, and the actual experiencing of truth and reconciliation on the other. The fourth article investigates the linkage between own-groupish politics and violence and the political-will link between conflict waging and peacebuilding.
In the last article we read how principles of non-interference, sovereignty and bias can lead to impunity and injustice, and how, on the other hand, non-indifference and responsibility to protect can contribute to retributive and restorative justice.
Finally, the review is of a book in which the connection between religious plus other grievances and intergroup enmity is analysed, and also that between socio-economic cooperation and intergroup amity.
We are therefore sending out this issue with a dual message about concepts as the forerunners of realities. We should be aware of concepts that may lead to unwanted realities, and take pre-emptive measures if possible. And we should promote and propagate concepts that may pave the way to surprising and amazing realities. We should also remember that ‘concept’ can serve as an umbrella term for a range of conceived starting points. The computer thesaurus gives eleven synonyms for ‘concept’: idea, notion, thought, perception, impression, conception, theory, model, hypothesis, view and belief. So many possible beginnings on the ways to remarkable realities!