A new article by our Policy Adviser on Programmes for Dialogue, Mark Barwick, on the role of Dialogue and the Prevention of Mass Atrocities

Before the Unspeakable Occurs: Dialogue and the Prevention of Mass Atrocities

In the aftermath of the attacks on 11th September 2001, Thich Nhat Hanh drew considerable ire from American patriots when he suggested that the first thing that he would do, if given the opportunity to meet Osama bin Laden, would be to listen. Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who is known internationally for his teachings and work for peace. Yet in speaking about listening to one’s adversary, he was not dismissing the gravity of what had occurred on that tragic day in US history. Instead, he was indicating the importance of genuine dialogue for addressing conflicts in today’s world.

Listening is at the heart of dialogue. Dialogue is often misunderstood by community workers, policy makers and even by peace advocates themselves. It is sometimes confused with negotiation or mediation. These are clearly helpful in many conflictual situations, but they are not the same as dialogue.

Dialogue, properly understood, is not primarily focused on finding solutions to a conflict, although this often occurs when good dialogue is taking place. Real dialogue is more dedicated to building relationship than to fixing problems which may exist within that relationship. It is an open and respectful exchange that seeks a deeper understanding of someone or a group that is unlike oneself. This is why careful listening is such an essential part of any dialogue process. Listening brings awareness and builds relationship. As we listen to one another, we understand more of another person or group’s values, ideas and experiences. A dialogue has begun to take place.

For this reason, dialogue is an essential part of a comprehensive approach to the prevention of violent conflict and mass atrocities. […]

Download the full article here: Mark Barwick – dialogue – 7 Jan 15

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