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Watch Video from March 11 Event: Intractable Conflicts at Home and Abroad

Tackling Our Most Impossible Conflicts:

at Home and Abroad


Johnston Barkat, PhD
Assistant Secretary General,
Head of Ombudsman & Mediation Services
United Nations

Peter T. Coleman, PhD
Associate Professor of Psychology and Education
Director, International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution
Teachers College
The Earth Institute
Columbia University

      In this keynote presentation, Johnston Barkat, Assistant Secretary-General and Head of Ombudsman and Mediation Services for the United Nations and Professor Peter T. Coleman, a leading conflict resolution scholar and author of the new book, The Five Percent: Finding Solutions to (Seemingly) Impossible Conflicts, engaged in a lively theory-practice dialogue on addressing our most difficult conflicts. Together, they explored the five percent of disputes doomed to become intractable quagmires, offering cutting edge ideas and methods for solving them.

     One in every twenty difficult conflicts ends up grinding to a halt. That’s fully five percent of not just the diplomatic and political clashes we read about in the newspaper, but disputations and arguments from our everyday lives as well. Once we get pulled into these self-perpetuating conflicts it is near impossible to escape. The 5% rule us.

     So what can we do when we find ourselves ensnared? According to Dr. Peter T. Coleman, the solution is in seeing our conflict anew. Applying lessons from complexity theory to examples from both American domestic politics and international diplomacy—from abortion debates to the enmity between Israelis and Palestinians—Coleman provides innovative new strategies for dealing with intractable disputes.  A timely, paradigm-shifting look at conflict, The Five Percent is an invaluable guide to preventing even the most fractious negotiations from foundering.

     Dr. Barkat employed his considerable experience as UN Ombudsman to both illustrate and challenge the new ideas from the book, and to share his thinking on transforming the impossible into the possible.




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