Are national dialogues the appropriate tool for both conflict resolution and political transformation? What can be the consequences for processes pursuing both objectives simultaneously?
In a new publication, The promise and perils of national dialogue,released today by the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD), author Katia Papagianni points out that peacemakers need to have realistic expectations about the extent to which national dialogues can contribute to ending conflicts and to launching political transitions. Dr Papagianni argues that, while national dialogues constitute practical tools to strengthen and legitimise deals which have already been struck, they may be less suitable for developing elite-level trust and a commitment to dialogue when neither of these have been established. She concludes that a failure to clarify whether a national dialogue is intended to resolve concrete disputes or promote political transformation can lead to overly ambitious agendas, inefficient decision-making mechanisms, and a lack of flexibility in the process, all of which can prevent national dialogues from being successful.
The promise and perils of national dialogues was originally written as a Background Paper to guide and inform discussions at the 2017 Oslo Forum. Co-hosted by the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Oslo Forum consists of a series of retreats which draw together senior conflict mediators, high-level decision-makers and key peace process actors in a discreet and informal setting, with a view to exchanging experiences and lessons learnt, identifying challenges, reflecting on their own and others’ practice and, in turn, improving the practice of conflict mediation. TheOslo Forum is widely acknowledged as the leading international retreat in the field of mediation and negotiations.
Dr Papagianni is the Director of Mediation Support and Policy at HD. She specialises in the design of peace processes with a particular focus on national dialogues and constitution-making processes. While at HD, Dr Papagianni has supported peace processes in several countries, including in Myanmar, Liberia, Libya, the Philippines, Syria and Ukraine. She was seconded by HD to the United Nations in Yemen as an expert on national dialogue processes and, in that capacity, shared comparative insights on the preparation and structure of national dialogue efforts.