Dialogue and mediation can be explained as voluntary processes where multiple stakeholders to a conflict aim at reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement with the assistance of an outside facilitator or mediator.
A solution found through such a generative process of common learning has the potential to increase the sustainability and legitimacy of the process because the parties own the solution. They create non-violent conflict-resolution mechanisms for the future, which may lead to changes in attitudes towards “the other” and improved relations between the parties.
The goal therefore, should not be limited to the prevention of violent incidents only. Creating resilient societies capable of handling future conflict and channelling them in peaceful procedures should be the ultimate aim.
The definitions and perception of the concepts of dialogue and mediation may vary within different contexts, and therefore it can be useful to distinguish some characteristics instead of trying to narrow it down to exact definitions.
Dialogue is an open-ended inclusive process with the purpose to bring about sustainable change, where people develop a sense of joint ownership of the process and become stakeholders in identifying new approaches to address common challenges.
Dialogue entails listening and learning, and not just talking. The whole process is about changing the way people talk, think and communicate with one another and therefore requires self-reflection, spirit of inquiry and personal change to be present. Dialogue requires us to have an open mind, open heart and open will, as a basis for change of action.
The process is different from other forms of conversation. In dialogue there are no winners. Whereas the purpose of negotiation is to reach a concrete settlement, the aim of dialogue is to bridge communities, share perspectives and discover new ideas.
Dialogue is a means for societal change at the individual, relationship, institutional, and cultural levels. (UNDP and Nansen Academy, Norway)
Mediation generally refers to a more formalized and structured process, when an outside third party formally facilitates and conducts communication between parties in conflict by providing a framework for discussions, with the purpose to find solutions to problems that the parties cannot solve by themselves.
Due to the more formalized structure of mediation, it is often used to settle tensions when conflicts have further escalated and positions are more entrenched.
Sometimes, mediation is used to cover a broad field of peaceful measures to prevent violent conflict.
This course is intended for actors engaged in transformation of societal conflicts which may lead to violence and war, and the purpose is to contribute to the development of capacities and resilience of key people, institutions and societies to transform conflict by peaceful means.
Facilitation is an approach that can be used in various settings, from multi-stakeholder dialogues at grass root level, to mid-level problem-solving-workshops and top-level political mediation.
Participants are supposed to develop skills and knowledge on the entire process of a dialogue or mediation effort.
This is done by engaging the participants in practical role-play exercises dealing with real situations. The curriculum is built on the phases of Process design, Getting to the table, the Dialogue and Mediation Event, Getting and Implementing an Agreement and Reviewing the Process.
As a contribution to a stronger focus and development of practice on this subject, the Conflict Prevention in Practice Programme of FBA has developed the course "Facilitation of Dialog Processes and Mediation Efforts".