What Makes or Breaks National Dialogues?




Paffenholz, Tania
Zachariassen, Anne
Helfer, Cindy

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Inclusive Peace & Transition Initiative, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies


The international mediation and peacebuilding community continues to struggle to fully comprehend the functioning, relevance, and effectiveness of national dialogues for managing political transitions and building sustainable peace. The objective of this report is to contribute to a better understanding of the common features and characteristics of National Dialogues. It further explores the various political and procedural factors as well as conditions that have enabled or constrained such initiatives to reach agreements and sustain their implementation in the long term. Based on a comparative analysis of 17 cases of National Dialogues held between 1990 and 2014, this study is an output of the National Dialogue research project (2015–2017) of the Inclusive Peace & Transition Initiative (IPTI) at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. Some of the key findings are that National Dialogues have been used as an instrument to resolve political crises and pave the way for political transitions and sustainable peace; they have often been used by national elites as a tool to gain or reclaim political legitimacy, which has limited their potential for transformative change; and procedures for preparing, conducting, and implementing National Dialogues, in particular selection and decision-making rules, play a decisive role in whether processes are perceived as representative and legitimate. While most National Dialogues reached an agreement, only half of these agreements were implemented and when National Dialogues resulted in sustainable transitions, there was generally a favorable consensus among elites, in addition to international support and public buy-in.



Dialogue, Mediation