BUDAPEST, HUNGARY – On May 30, 2014, AIPR Director of African Programs Dr. Ashad Sentongo participated in “Difficult Dialogues: Prevention of Mass Atrocities in Practice,” a colloquium exploring ways to facilitate dialogue processes in at-risk situations to prevent mass atrocities. Sentongo’s presentation, “Challenges Faced by Dialogue Practitioners,” drew from his experiences working with States and civil society in vulnerable regions across Africa.
While some misuse dialogue processes to negotiate for positions and resources, Sentongo said dialogue should focus on building the relationships necessary to transform conditions that lead to violence and mass atrocities. “Conflicts manifest in relationships, and dialogue processes prevent escalation of hostilities, violence, genocide and mass atrocities by repairing broken relationships,” said Sentongo. “But this only occurs,” he added, “when individuals, communities or states develop the trust,â€‚respect and empathy necessary to generate andâ€‚exchangeâ€‚ideas to transform conditions that lead to conflict.”
According to Sentongo, the role of dialogue should expand beyond the traditional focus on communities. “The will to institutionalize dialogue remains narrow or invisible within the United Nations, particularly the Security Council, but also within most governments of UN Member States,” he said. For Sentongo:
Effective use of dialogue to prevent genocide and mass atrocities requires strong partnerships and coordination of international, regional, national and grassroots efforts to get stakeholders to invest time, resources, and their capital dialogue to transform communal, state and inter-state conflicts. Priority should also be given to implement capacity building programs to strengthen national and communal structures in knowledge and facilitation skills. Projects on genocide and mass atrocity prevention can also benefit from institutional linkages that promote and share information about best practices, and create awareness about dialogue as a change process.
The Budapest Centre for the International Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities and the School for Public Policy – Central European University organized the colloquium in partnership with the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue, and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES). Participants included representatives from UN Office of The Special Adviser on The Prevention of Genocide, United Nations Development Programme, Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, plus a variety of civil society organizations from across Europe.