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Reconciling conflicting interests

A far-reaching understanding of human behaviour is necessary to get to grips with conflicts in society and to encourage parties to meet each other halfway. Psychologists, anthropologists and political scientists from Leiden are making invaluable contributions to that understanding. You can find out more about their work in the dossier ‘Reconciling conflicting interests’.

Individual interests and decisions

The dossier ‘Reconciling conflicting interests’ takes a closer look at research on conflicts at three different levels: at individual, group level and state level. Psychologists from Leiden are observing how individuals placed in laboratory situations deal with each other and the greater good. They combine this with physiological studies on connections between reactions in the brain and the decisions made by people. Through this focus, psychologist Eric van Dijk discovered that people are less willing to relinquish one of their interests during negations, than in situations when they can give them up out of their own free will. Knowledge of these kinds of processes can be used by policy makers to encourage desirable behaviour in people.

The Agta, natives of the Philippines

The rights of indigenous people

Anthropologists are traveling into the deep jungles and are recording what happens when the lifestyles of indigenous peoples are threatened by mining, or when their knowledge is stolen by western companies. For decades, Leiden anthropologist Gerard Persoon has been one of the people studying and publishing about this kind of injustice. Today, the rights of indigenous peoples are more adequately protected, for instance through the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the United Nations (2007). Persoon is now studying the practical effects of such legal declarations and is using his expertise to advise the Dutch government on the purchase of sustainable wood.. 

Human rights and states

Political scientists study the discussion on peoples’ rights between authoritarian states, international organisations and NGOs: in what ways are parties standing up for their interests? They are speaking to all the involved parties and are discovering that totalitarian regimes are becoming increasingly adept at gaining influence over international organisations. Political scientist Daniel Thomas studied, for instance, the effects of human rights treaties in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union during the 1970s. Thomas saw that human rights treaties – even those signed purely to placate international movements – did make the regimes in question more vulnerable. Diplomats and NGOs are using Thomas’s discoveries in ongoing negotiations to promote human rights.

Coming from a different disciplines, researchers at Leiden University make important contributions to a safe, healthy, sustainable, prosperous and just world. You can read more about their work in our research dossiers, of which the ‘ Reconciling Conflicting Interests’ dossier is just one of many.

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