Table 5. Strengths and limitations of different conflict management mechanisms.


Conflict management systems Strengths Limitations
Social capital mechanisms Encourages participation by community members and respect of local values and customs
Provides familiarity of past experience
Can be more accessible because of low cost, use of local language, flexibility in scheduling
Decision-making is often based on collaboration, with consensus emerging from wide-ranging discussions, often fostering local reconciliation
Contributes to a process of community self reliance and empowerment
Not all people have equal access to customary conflict management practices owning to gender, class, caste, ethnic or other discrimination
Courts and administrative law have supplanted authorities that lack legal recognition
Communities are becoming more mixed, resulting in weakened authority and social relationships
Often cannot accommodate conflicts among different communities, or between communities and government structures, or external organizations
Legal and administrative systems

Officially established with supposedly well-defined procedures
Takes national interests, concerns and issues into consideration
Decisions are legally binding.
Often inaccessible to the poor, women, marginalized groups and remote communities because of the cost, distance, language barriers, illiteracy and political discrimination
Judicial and technical specialists often lack expertise, skills or interest in participatory natural resource management
Alternative conflict management systems

(Synergy approach)
Promotes conflict management and resolution by building on shared interests and finding points of agreement
Processes resemble those already existing in many conflict management systems
Low cost and flexible
Fosters a sense of ownership in the solution and its process of implementation
Emphasizes building capacity within communities so local people become more effective facilitators and handlers of conflict.
May encounter difficulties in getting all stakeholders to the bargaining table
May not be able to overcome power differences among stakeholders in that some groups remain marginalized
Decisions may not always be legally binding
Some practitioners may try to use methods developed in other countries without adapting them to the local contexts

Source: Adapted from Means et al (2003)