CEIA’s Director, Matt Waldman, at Harvard University leads the Herbert C. Kelman Seminar on International Conflict Analysis and Resolution. Click on the sound bar below to hear the full lecture.


The event took place at Harvard University, Cambridge, on Monday, 13 November 2017, and was sponsored by the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism, the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy, the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, and Boston area members of the Alliance for Peacebuilding.

In his address, Waldman emphasizes the role of human beings in creating and resolving conflict. He considers the challenges of understanding the parties involved in conflict, especially given the prevalence of cognitive errors and biases, such as demonization and attribution error.

Waldman discusses how the failure to empathize can contribute to false assumptions that underpin and amplify war. Conversely, drawing on the cases of Afghanistan, Syria and Iran, Waldman argues that empathizing can help to throw light on warring parties – including their identity, psychology and motivations – which are too often overlooked. He argues that empathy can also help to build trust between adversaries and overcome obstacles to talks.

Waldman says empathy has limits: it is not a magic wand but an additional tool. In his lecture, he explores several factors that explain why empathy has been neglected in international conflict resolution. He then makes the case for empathising to be incorporated more effectively into in mediation, diplomacy and foreign policymaking.