The National Dialogue Conferences are a continuation of conferences held in Helsinki, Finland since April 2014 onwards enjoying wide participation while deepening the understanding of dialogue processes among attendees. The Conference enables both a broad range of stakeholders from multiple countries and practitioners in the field internationally to take these collaborative lessons forward. These gatherings, familiarly known as NDCs, provide a space for joint reflection and in-depth discussion between practitioners, stakeholders and experts working with dialogue processes in different contexts.
The Conference is organised by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland in cooperation with a consortium of NGOs consisting of Crisis Management Initiative, Felm, Finn Church Aid and Common Space Initiative.
Over the past three decades, national dialogues have become increasingly common worldwide as a mechanism for conflict resolution and peacebuilding. These dialogues have come in all kinds of different shapes and sizes, with varying aims and intentions – to expand political participation, generate new approaches and solutions or manage change at delicate times. This inherent diversity notwithstanding, broad interest has emerged in the potential of national dialogues as a powerful approach in prevention, resolution and transformation of conflicts.
Due to this potential there is a growing effort to capture the conceptual importance, and richness of practitioner experience surrounding national dialogues. The conceptual debate can be contentious. There are multiple intersecting definitions for what constitutes national dialogue, and the debate is likely to remain vibrant. On one hand, national dialogues can be viewed as a form of mediation that is subject to political interests like other similar processes. Alternatively, national dialogues can be seen to represent a wider process of change – even transformation – for societies, thus being a much wider effort with far reaching impact. Understandably, whether one adopts a narrower or more expansive definition has considerable ramifications for what constitutes “best practice” for the conduct and support of such dialogue.
Contributing to and imbibing from this wider discussion, the series of National Dialogue Conferences have successively focused on different vital aspects and elements of these processes.