(Washington) – The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) releases “Facilitating Dialogue: USIP’s Work in Conflict Zones,” edited by David R. Smock and Daniel Serwer, a new volume that showcases USIP’s efforts to apply the tools of facilitated dialogue to international conflicts.
Through a collection of eight illuminating case studies in which USIP has facilitated dialogue to promote peace, the authors look at conflicts in Colombia, Iraq, Israel-Palestine, Kosovo, Nigeria and Nepal. By analyzing each case in detail and then drawing comparative conclusions, the book provides insight into the planning, execution, and evaluation of facilitated dialogue programs that can solve societal problems, help groups work incrementally toward common goals, and build sustainable relationships that can lead to lasting peace.
Facilitators must be more than neutral traffic cops: they need to be experts on the conflict, skilled in problem solving, and actively engaged in directing discussions and helping the participants reach consensus.
By looking at different approaches to facilitated dialogue in widely different contexts between 1998 and 2010, the book both informs the scholarly study of peacebuilding and serves as a source of guidance and experience for practitioners working today to resolve ethnic, religious, political and other disputes. “Each case illustrates the value of facilitating joint problem solving and planning at various levels when key stakeholders can be brought together around a limited set of common objectives,” said Smock and Serwer.
The book also analyzes the unique role that facilitated dialogue can play in the zone between official “Track 1” government-to-government diplomacy and unofficial “Track 2” person-to-person diplomacy, and dialogue’s important role in resolving disputes at subnational levels.
Insider accounts by USIP conflict resolution experts intimately involved with the cases illustrate how to be an effective facilitator and how to confront the difficulties of working in conflict zones. They demonstrate how to identify and collaborate with local partners, earn the trust of conflict parties, help communities recognize and overcome past suffering and address spoilers who have vested interests in continuing a conflict.
Cases include a 2007 interclan negotiation in Iraq a coordination of reconstruction efforts (2008–2010) for refugees in Iraq; dialogues between Kosovar Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo (1998–2002); dialogue among Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders from Israel and the Palestinian territories beginning in 2002; collaboration between Catholic and Protestant women in Colombia; a series of dialogue meetings between Colombian civil society groups, American non-governmental organizations and U.S. government officials organized to promote peace in Colombia; interethnic and intergovernmental negotiations in the Niger Delta region; and trust-building initiatives between the civilian police and local communities in Nepal.
“Lessons drawn from these cases have been instructive to USIP in its current and future peacebuilding activities,” the editors noted. “It is hoped that they will also be helpful to other individuals and organizations pursuing the same goals.”
The United States Institute of Peace is the independent, nonpartisan conflict management center created by Congress to prevent and mitigate international conflict through non-violent means. USIP works to save lives, increase the government’s ability to deal with conflicts before they escalate, reduce government costs, and enhance national security.