In international development, conflict is often used as shorthand for violent conflict, and avoiding conflict is considered a priority. But “it’s important to recognize that conflict is not always bad and cooperation is not always good,” says Ken Conca in this week’s episode of “Backdraft.”
New norms and ideas in international water law and governance, for example, like water as a human right and the importance of protecting the environment, have been spearheaded by activists, local communities, and networks of actors who were “outside of the system,” says Conca, professor of international relations at American University. Their ideas and priorities only became part of the conversation by confronting the powers that be.
“People who hadn’t been part of participatory political process were sort of pushing their way in, creating conflict in the process, but doing it in a way that was actually quite productive in terms of better policies,” he says. If you’re interested in improving gov