Summer School

Nansen Center For Peace and Dialogue

Using dialogue to create points of contact between groups in conflict.
Named in honour of Fridtjof Nansen, winner of the 1922 Nobel Peace Prize, the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue continues the mission of promoting human rights and facilitating dialogue as a way of resolving conflict
In 1994, the Norwegian town of Lillehammer hosted the XVII Winter Olympics.
At the same time, another former Winter Olympic host city was under siege: Sarajevo, in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

With support from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Norwegian Red Cross and Norwegian Church Aid, a group of Norwegian citizen decided to create a series of dialogue sessions bringing Bosnian locals to Lillehammer for seminars on dialogue and peaceful conflict resolution. With additional help from the Peace Research Institute Oslo, they welcomed the first group from the former Yugoslavia in September 1995.

Since then, the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue (NCPD)was formed to faciliate dialogue sessions in Lillehammer, the Balkans and in other post-conflict societies around the world. In addition to their ongoing work on the ground, they host weeklong dialogue sessions for facilitators and practitioners working in the field. This includes an annual summer school for young people looking to enhance their practitioning skills and learn from professionals.

In June 2018 I participated in their workshops. Here's what we learned.
Young people from Serbia, Colombia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, El Salvador, Croatia, Russia, Kosovo, Canada, Macedonia, Norway, Albania, the United States, Ukraine and Montenegro participated in the NCPD's 2018 summer school.
What the NCPD does:
Dialogue Seminars
The NCPD facilitates dialogue seminars and sessions for groups in conflict. Their team serves as facilitators in cases ranging from municipal disputes to restoring points of contact between groups recovering from war.
Facilitator Training
In addition to facilitating dialogue sessions themselves (either in Lillehammer or in nations affected by conflict), the NCDP offers training programs to empower local practitioners.

Many of these practitioners were themselves participants in prior dialogue processes.
Peacebuilding and Integration
More than just facilitating dialogue sessions, the NCPD offers ongoing support in particular regions (through branches of the Nansen Dialogue Network) to work towards ethnic integration and communication from schools to government offices.
What is Dialogue?
They tell us that dialogue can help solve conflicts ranging from the domestic to the social to the geopolitical.

But what is dialogue, how does it work, and what is it actually capable of?
Tools & Approaches to Dialogue:
Ten Years After The War
The documentary Reunion: Ten Years After The War explores the complex nature of dialogue between divided cultural groups, in this case Kosovar Serbs and Albanians.

The NCPD uses film screenings to promote dialogue and discussion. It was a central part of the summer school experience.
Asking The Right Questions
One of the most important skills in dialogue is knowing how to ask the right questions. Understandably, most of our time in Lillehammer was taken by an extended series of creating thoughtful questions for the other groups. We weren't always ready for what we heard.
The Need For Neutral Space
The creation of a safe and neutral space for dialogue to take place, often known as "good offices", is a central aspect of dialogue facilitation.

The NCPD uses what Lillehammer has to offer, from organizing meetings with local leaders to taking advantage of its distance from conflict zones, all in hopes of giving dialogue participants the freedom to explore complicated, sensitive topics.
Space Between Sessions
What happens between the dialogue sessions is just as important as what happens in them. Facilitators at the NCPD share with us how acts as simple as having or smoke with someone, or hosting an informal get-together, can change the atmosphere of tense discussions.
Letting Go Of The 'Right' Answers
There's a 'right' kind of question when it comes to dialogue. The same can't always be said about answers. What do unhelpful answers look like, and how can they negatively impact the dialogue process?
Dialogue and Peacebuilding
Dialogue doesn't end when a session does. Sustainable results often requite long-term committment to the process, sometimes taking years or even decades.
Steinar Bryn shares with us about the experience of the Nansen Dialogue Network in the Balkans.
Final Thoughts
Over a decade's experience distilled to a week's training. A week's training distilled into a few articles. It's a lot to take in.

Some reflections on putting it all together, when dialogue is most appropriate and where it fits in peace & conflict studies.
Related Reading
Josh Nadeau is a freelance writer and dialogue practictioner. He attended the NCPD summer school in June 2018.