Glossary of Terms: Rotary Action Group for Peace

This glossary was compiled by the War Prevention Initiative, the Conflict Research Consortium at the University of Colorado and through a variety of classical and contemporary print sources in the realm conflict resolution.

As Rotary International President Sakuji Tanaka so aptly put it, “Peace has different meanings for different people. No definition is right, and no definition is wrong. However we use the word, this is what peace means for us.”

This idea may stand true for you when you read our glossary. You may find a term that suggests something totally different to you, based on your own experiences, emotional reactions and associations with the word or what it refers to.

Glossary Terms

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Activism – Activism need not be a profession in itself. It can be writing a letter to the editor or to your congressperson; it can be in taking part in one local action or a national one or, for that matter, a worldwide one; it can be attending a rally or marching in a parade; it can be in any form, freely expressing your grievance or your hope (Studs Terkel, 2003).


BATNA – “Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement” – Any negotiator should determine his or her BATNA before agreeing to any negotiated settlement. If the settlement is as good as or better than one’s BATNA, the agreement should be accepted. If the alternative is better, it should be pursued instead of the negotiated settlement. When one party’s BATNA is good (or even if they just think it is good), they are unlikely to be willing to enter into negotiations, preferring instead to pursue their alternative option.


Co-existence – Living together peacefully in the same geographical area.

Conflict Management – The long-term management of intractable conflicts and the people involved in them so that they do not escalate out of control and become violent. Conflict Resolution usually refers to the process of resolving a dispute or a conflict permanently, by meeting each sides’ needs, and adequately addressing their interests so that they are satisfied with the outcome.

Conflict Transformation – A change (usually an improvement) in the nature of a conflict. The concept of conflict transformation reflects the notion that conflicts go on for long periods of time, changing the nature of the relationships between the people involved, and themselves changing as people’s response to the situation develops over time.


De-escalation – The ratcheting down of the intensity of a conflict which occurs as parties tire out, or begin to realize that the conflict is doing them more harm than good. They then may begin to make concessions, or reduce the intensity of their attacks, moving slowly toward an eventual negotiated resolution.

Dehumanization – A psychological process whereby opponents view each other as less than human and thus not deserving of moral consideration. We typically think that all people have some basic human rights that should not be violated. However, for individuals viewed as outside the scope of morality and justice, “the concepts of deserving basic needs and fair treatment do not apply and can seem irrelevant.” We typically dehumanize those whom we perceive as a threat to our well-being or values. Psychologically, it is necessary to categorize one’s enemy as sub-human in order to legitimize increased violence or justify the violation of basic human rights.

Dialogue – A process for sharing and learning about another group’s beliefs, feelings, interests and/or needs in a non-adversarial, open way, usually with the help of a third party facilitator. Unlike mediation, in which the goal is usually reaching a resolution or settlement of a dispute, the goal of dialogue is usually simply improving interpersonal understanding and trust.


Escalation – An increase in intensity of a conflict. According to Pruitt and Rubin (1986), as a conflict escalates, the disputants change from relatively gentle opposition to heavier, more confrontational tactics. The number of parties tends to increase, as do the number of issues, and the breadth of the issues (that is, issues change from ones which are very specific to more global concerns). Lastly disputants change from not only wanting to win themselves, but also wanting to hurt the opponent. While conflicts escalate quickly and easily, de-escalation, a diminishing of intensity, is often much harder to achieve.


Face Saving – Face is the communicator’s claim to be seen as a certain kind of person. When face is threatened, saving face may supplant substantive issues for one or both parties (Folger, Poole, Stutman, 2009). By allowing all disputants to save face, a negotiated settlement is much more likely to be reached.


Human Needs – Necessary universal aspects for humans beyond the physical needs. Conflict theorists identify security, participation, autonomy, recognition, and identity as human needs (Burton, 1990). If those are not met, it is argued, then people engage in conflict. Another proposition suggests that sustainable peace is only possible when the human needs for security, identity, well-being and self-determination are met (Christie, 1997).


Identity conflicts – Conflicts that develop when a person or group feels that their own sense of self, as in who one is, is threatened or denied legitimacy or respect. Religious, ethnic, and racial conflicts are examples of identity conflicts.


Military-Industrial-Complex – The relationship between legislators, national armed forces, and the industries that support them includes both monetary and policy angles such as political contributions, political approval for military spending, lobbying to support military bureaucracies and the oversight of the industry. In modern times the military industrial linkages have emerged as major concentrations of power (Pilisuk, 2008).

Multi-Track Diplomacy – A diplomatic strategy that reflects the idea that peace-building efforts can take many forms, going beyond official negotiations between government leaders or diplomats. Examples of multi-track diplomacy include official and unofficial conflict resolution efforts, citizen and scientific exchanges, international business negotiations, international cultural and athletic activities and other international contacts and cooperative efforts.


Negative Peace – Characterized by the absence of personal violence. In positive peace structural violence is also eliminated.

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) – International organizations that are not associated with any government. Examples include many religious organizations that cross borders, international humanitarian aid organizations such as Mercy Corps or the International Red Cross, sporting organizations such as the International Olympic Committee, and many scientific, business, educational and other professional organizations.

Nonviolence – In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people around the world who have taken part in nonviolent political action. It is clear, however, that there is considerable debate about the precise meaning of nonviolence. For some, nonviolent action is an expedient technique for dealing with conflict or bringing about social change; for others, nonviolence is a moral imperative or even a way of life. Overall, it can be viewed as the tradition of seeking to positively transform a situation by exerting social, moral and material pressures. It consists of acts of protest and persuasion, noncooperation and nonviolent intervention designed to undermine the sources of power of the opponent in order to bring about change.


Parties – The people who are involved in the dispute, also known as disputants. Other parties, often called “third parties,” are parties that intervene in the dispute to try to help the disputants resolve it. Mediators and judges, for example, are third parties.

Peacebuilding – The process of restoring normal relations between people. It requires the reconciliation of differences, apology and forgiveness of past harm, and the establishment of a cooperative relationship between groups, replacing the adversarial or competitive relationship that used to exist.

Peacekeeping – The prevention or ending of violence within or between nation-states through the intervention of an outside third party that keeps the warring parties apart. Unlike peacemaking, which involves negotiating a resolution to the issues in conflict, the goal of peacekeeping is simply preventing further violence.

Peacemaking – The term used to refer to negotiating the resolution of a conflict between people, groups or nations. It goes beyond peacekeeping to actually deal with the issues in dispute, but falls short of peacebuilding, which aims toward reconciliation and normalization of relations between ordinary people, not just the formal resolution which is written on paper.

Power – The ability to influence or control events. One view on power is that it depends on the resources parties can employ to influence others and attain their goals. As such, power is viewed as zero-sum, which strengthens some people at the expense of others (Folger, Poole, Stutman, 2009). Another view is that power can be mutually expanding and capacity building. It builds the capacities of all involved, and is is creative, generating new strengths and new possibilities (Moore Lappé, 2005).


Reconciliation – A process of transforming the relationship between former enemies partly based in the public acknowledgment of past hurts. It is the normalization of relationships between people or groups. According to John Paul Lederach, it involves four simultaneous processes: the search for truth, justice, peace and mercy.


Social context – The term “social context” refers to the social relationships that exist in a community at a given point in time. A thorough analysis of the social context, for example, is crucial to identify existing power relationships in a conflict situation.

Social movements – Heterogeneous collectives of people with common goals and mindsets who interact directly and indirectly with civil society, the parties in support and those in opposition. Members of social movements are engaged in a dynamic process of self-identification and transformation influenced by their collective belonging. Social movements are described most simply as collective attempts to promote or resist change in a society or group (Benford, Gongaware and Valadez 2000).

Stereotyping – The process of assuming a person or group has one or more characteristics because most members of that group have (or are thought to have) the same characteristics. It is a simplification and generalization process that helps people categorize and understand their world, but at the same time it often leads to errors.

Structural violence – The ongoing and institutionalized deprivation of needs of survival, well-being, identity and freedom (Galtung, 1969). Structural violence is embedded into the structures of social order and the institutional arrangements of power on a constant basis (Barak, 2003).


Third Party – A “third party” is someone who is not involved in the conflict who gets involved to try to help the disputants work out a solution (or at least improve the situation by communicating better or increasing mutual understanding.) Examples of third parties are mediators, arbitrators, conciliators and facilitators.

Triggering Events – A triggering event is an event that initiates a conflict. It can be minor–a simple statement that is misinterpreted, a manufactured event or a careless mistake.


Worldview – A worldview is the powerful framework within which people think (reason), interpret (hermeneutics), and know (epistemology) and it is central to human identity (Naugle, 2002). An individual’s worldview includes their knowledge, point-of-view, values, emotions, and ethics. Worldviews must not be seen as fixed but rather as a dynamic rather than a static process.