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dialogue and conflict transformation

Finding common ground

NAC’s dialogue and conflict transformation approach has been a mainstay of our activities for many years. In order to address the potential for conflict inherent in a country lacking a strong rule of law and affected by decades of conflict, war, and poverty, NAC and the Nansen Centre for Peace and Dialogue in Lillehammer developed a method of community mobilization, dialogue, and peaceful conflict transformation, promoting solidarity and «peace from below» within and between families and communities. 

Prior to 2022, our dialogue and conflict transformation activities comprised a separate component, but it is now used as a crosscutting element across our interventions, often used as a tool alongside community mobilization to reduce the potential occurrence of conflicts related to our interventions 

Dialogue in a humanitarian crisis 

In the past two years NAC’s humanitarian efforts have increased significantly, and the integration of dialogue and conflict transformation activities has helped to reduce potential conflicts over these issues. Additionally, they play a key role in our interventions related to land and water management, enabling stakeholders in the various natural resource management (NRM) and disaster risk reduction (DRR) committees to better manage forests, pastures, water, and other communal resources, and to better prepare for and respond to natural disasters. 

The main defining feature of the Nansen dialogue approach is its focus on local communities and households. At the community level, this entails understanding and transforming conflicts within and between villages, which often includes conflicts between community members from different ethnic groups. At the household level, the dialogue approach is useful in preventing violence through fostering better communication between spouses, between parents and children, and within extended families. 

Safe spaces 

The dialogue method mainly involves getting people to talk – facilitating conversations that make people feel safe enough to share what’s on their minds. Another key component of the training is conducting a conflict analysis to map what the conflict is actually about, who are the parties to the conflict, and how do they stand in relation to each other. 

In the early stages of the dialogue process, the method involves exercises to explore the diversity of identities among the participants. Afghans tend to perceive themselves and others primarily as part of a collective or group that can be defined by factors such as ethnicity, tribe or family. This is in stark contrast with the Western way of thinking, where we primarily define ourselves as individuals. 

In order to explore the individual aspects of identity, participants are invited to reflect on their own interests and preferences and share their thoughts in group sessions. A particular emphasis is placed on enhancing the ability to listen to others’ histories, feelings and needs. In this way, participants discover entirely new sides to themselves and others, and in this way, trust is built. 

Listening to «the other» 

In conflict situations, people tend to lead their lives segregated and without access to the thoughts and perspectives of «the other side.» Conflicts between the traditional and the modern are particularly salient, as youth are expected to respect their elders. The Nansen dialogue approach brings people together across ethnicity, gender, and age. 

This approach builds and expands on the Afghan tradition of shuras and jirgas, councils where male elders sit together to make decisions regarding their local communities. Through dialogue, these groups are widened to include women and youth with a facilitator who ensures that everybody gets their voices heard in a safe space. 

In 2022, NAC continued its dialogue and conflict transformation trainings, integrating them into other activities such as our work with self-help groups for women (SHGs), farmer training programs, institutes of health sciences (IHSs), child- and youth-led school organizations, and NRM and DRR committee trainings.

NAC remains committed to ensuring that our interventions adequately address conflict resolution through this method and will continue to develop and refine our methods to ensure they remain an effective part of our activities.