On the 28th of November 2019, we organized the third edition of the State of Conflict Conference. The conference was chaired by prof. dr. Alexander Rinnooy Kan and provided a diverse group of practitioners, professionals and academics to reflect on Dutch society and institutions through the lens of conflict. The two key note speakers were dr Maarten Hajer (Professor of Urban Futures at Utrecht University) and Marianella Sclavi (Conflict resolution expert and founder of the active listening consultancy firm: Ascolto Attivo srl).

The central theme of the State of Conflict Conference 2019 was the relationship between conflict and democratic renewal. We have reflected on questions about representation and public participation, about protest and civic space, about community and diversity, and problem solving and policy implementation. In each instance we tried to understand how conflict might contribute to renewal and how it might help us ‘rebuild the ship as we sail it’ (Neurath, 1932). We have looked at the insights conflicts provide into what citizens want, what roles they see as appropriate, and how they experience the practices through which we currently address problems and implement policy. We have asked ourselves what opportunities for action these insights provide that might strengthen civic relationships and enhance the legitimacy of governmental practices. We have contemplated where and how civic space is under stress, how this stress shaped groups’ ability to provide critique and propose new topics for public discussion, and where innovation and the reaffirmation of commitments are contributing to renewal. We have asked what role conflicts play within communities and how this might contribute to addressing polarization and renewing relationship. We have examined new themes like knowledge intensive conflicts and new developments in law and policy and whether they are opening, or foreclosing, opportunities for democratic renewal.

As in prior years, we have attempted to build on the core insight that conflict can provide a useful perspective from which to view the challenges that citizens and public officials face in a diverse society committed to democratic principles. We have done this through the case studies from work of practitioners in government and civil society in the six thematic breakout session divided over the morning and afternoon. These case studies provided the starting point for reflection and discussions in each of these sessions. This document provides brief summaries of these sessions.  As these discussions explored the incidence and role of conflict, they also served to emphasize and explore the changing and dynamic relationship between conflict and democratic renewal.

The report of the State of Conflict Conference 2019 will be published here soon. This video made by Gilles Cohen gives you an impression of the conference.