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Dialogue and conflict transformation

Our approach

Decades of war, poverty, and natural disasters has caused or strengthened a lack of trust, and subsequent conflict, in many Afghan local communities. In collaboration with the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue in Lillehammer, Norway, we have developed a method for mobilisation of local communities for dialogue and peaceful conflict transformation. The method promotes solidarity and ‘peace from below’ in families and local communties. 

The method

Conflicts in agricultural societies – which most of Afghanistan consists of – are often centre around disagreements on control of land, water, and other natural resources. Extensive poverty, lack of arable land, drought, and limited access to irrigation has led to long conflicts amongst many families, tribes, and local communities. These deep-seated disagreements at the local level – which have been exacerbated by forty years of instability – have a destructive effect on the safety, security, food security, and relationships of the members of these local communities.

The local elders have the overall responsibility to solve the conflicts, despite lacking skills in conflict resolution. Their decisions rarely address the original causes of the conflicts, which ensures that the conflicts remain simmering, and later re-ignites over and over again.

The essence of our approach to dialogue is to give everyone the right and opportunity to share their perspectives. We achieve this through creating safe spaces and situations where all the participants are equally committed to listen to each other. This is especially useful for youth and women, who are often excluded from decision-making both in their families, and in their local communities.

Through trainings and specially adapted dialogue, NAC gives the participants they need to analyse and manage conflict in their families, at school, in their place of work, or in the local community. We give in-depth training to a group consisting of women and men, both young and old. These then train others in their local communities in the methods.

Inclusive Decision-Making and Community Building

Our dialogue approach provides everyone the right to share their perspectives, which is particularly beneficial for women and youth, who are often excluded from decision-making at both the household and community levels. Through trainings and dialogue facilitation, NAC provides participants with the tools to analyze and manage conflicts within their families, schools, workplaces, and communities.

NAC provides more extensive trainings to connectors, a diverse group of female and male community members, both young and old, who work within their own communities to further train and support their families, relatives, friends, and neighbours in dialogue and conflict transformation.

Young women and men are often ideal candidates for connectors, since they are not old enough to have been directly involved in longstanding community conflicts, so they are often seen as neutral. Additionally, even though they are young and likely excluded from leadership and decision-making roles, they represent the future of their communities.

NAC has facilitated various trainings in dialogue, facilitation, and conflict transformation for connectors and community members since 2019.

Pictured: Norunn Grande from the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue in Faizabad, conducting training in dialogue facilitation in 2018. 

Significant results and decrease in conflict

In late 2021, NAC’s Midline (II) Survey of the ERA program highlighted various achievements of the dialogue and conflict transformation activities. First and foremost, close to 90% of the respondents reported decreased levels of conflict in their families and communities and more than 95% reported using the skills developed through the activities to reduce conflicts and improve dialogue within their families and communities.

The findings showed continuous and significant progress over the three-year implementation period. Respondents reported a reduction of violence within their households; learning new and improved ways to communicate with each other, increased dialogue with family and community members, and improved relationships with family members.

In addition to the dialogue and conflict transformation trainings, NAC supported vulnerable households with income and livelihood opportunities and awareness raising on citizenship education and responsible parenting. We believe that all these complementary efforts have contributed to the reduction of conflict within households in NAC-supported communities.