Our group has been learning a number of things about the dialogue process this week
at the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue
(NCPD). Through it all, there's been a focus on creating space for groups to encounter each other even when they're divided by radically different narratives or ideologies.
But can dialogue make a wider impact on the community after
people leave the table? What obstacles do participants face when they go back home? And what can facilitators and organizations do to support long-term, sustainable reconciliation in communities divided by conflict or war?
These were the questions facing our facilitator, Steinar Bryn, and his colleagues as they formed the Nansen Dialogue Network in the Balkans. They started developing the Nansen Dialogue Method in the period between the collapse of the former Yugoslavia and the start of the Kosovo War. It was a moment when hatred, division and misunderstanding led to ethnic cleansing and even genocide. What can dialogue do against all that?
What's more, the Nansen Dialogue Method is not a straightforward process – it requires patience, readiness, openness and trust. All of which were damaged in the war. While the dialogue participants themselves were greatly impacted by what they encountered around the table, the question remained: could their experience contribute to rebuilding civil institutions and the social fabric at large?