Seminar 9:  The Abuse and Use of Real and "Fake" Facts

This seminar relates to Conflict Frontiers Massively Parallel Peacebuilding (MPP) Challenge 7.

Many conflicts involve a dispute over facts--whether facts are "real" or "fake," whose facts are "the right facts," how much a particular "fact" matters, and what should be done about it.  This seminar explores these problems and suggests effective ways of dealing with them.

Essays in this Seminar:

  • Factual Disputes -- Many conflicts involve disagreements over facts. This essay discusses the nature of factual disputes and how to deal with them.
  • Distinguishing Facts from Values -- Facts and values are fundamentally different, but often confused. This essay examines the confusion clarify the two terms.
  • Technical Facts -- Many scientific and technical conflicts involve technical facts that are difficult, if not impossible, for the public or even political decision makers to understand. This essay discusses this problem and give examples of how decision makers can find useful facts.
  • Historical Facts -- The saying, "history is written by the victor," refers to the fact that historical facts are often biased or inaccurate. Yet long-running conflicts are often based on these controversial "facts." This essay explores the impact of history on current conflicts.
  • Fact-Finding -- If conflict is fueled by suspicion, assumptions and misunderstandings, then one of the simplest ways to defuse it is to find out the facts of the situation. Every conflict resolution process needs a solid base of facts to stand on, however it is often difficult to obtain accurate facts.
  • Uncertainty -- When a conflict involves complex elements and unknowns, it is often a significant reason why the conflict becomes intractable in the first place. This essay offers suggestions for dealing with diversity.
  • Obtaining Trustworthy Information -- When emotions are running high and everyone has an agenda, it can be very difficult to obtain credible information. This essay discusses the problem and how it can be addressed.
  • Neutral Fact-Finding -- Factual disputes are often a key component of larger conflicts. One way to deal with them is to get a neutral party to assess the opposing factual assertions for accuracy.
  • Joint Fact-Finding -- One way to resolve factual disagreements is joint fact-finding, which asks contending parties to work together to research the cause of their conflict.
  • Oversight / Review Committee -- One method for determining the trustworthiness of particular fact-finding efforts is an outside review. Here, an outside panel of experts checks a study for thoroughness, completeness, and objectivity.