The forward and backward processes of conflict analysis

Joyce M. Alexander
Immaculata College
United States
Thomas Saaty
Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business
University of Pittsburgh
United States

Publication date: Jan, 1977

Journal: Behavioral Science
Vol.: 22- Issue: 2- Pages: 87-98

Abstract: In this study, the forward process of planning is applied to conflict resolution, by structuring a conflict according to the levels of a conceptual hierarchy. The parties to the conflict form the first level, their objectives are at the second level, and possible solutions are at the third and final level. The elements at each level are weighted according to their relative importance by using the principal eigenvectors of a series of pairwise comparison matrices, and a weighting of the possible solutions is obtained. This forward process answers the question: given the present actors and their objectives, capabilities and policies, which outcome is the most likely to emerge? This technique is applied to a societal system, analyzing conflict in Northern Ireland. It is shown that the outcome which would in greatest measure satisfy the needs of all parties is one which gives legislative independence to Northern Ireland. This method of conflict resolution does not require long or involved calculations, and a means of further shortening the calculations is given. Unimportant branches of the hierarchy may be truncated. The use of hierarchies and the eigenvector method provides an efficient method for the evaluation of possible solutions of a conflict and provides valuable insights into the objectives of the parties and the way in which possible political structures might satisfy these objectives. This is a powerful technique to be added to the methods for conflict resolution.

Keywords: Forward process, Backward process, Conflict resolution, Eigenvector