As a relatively new entrant into the field of peace building through my selection into the Dialogue Fiji committee, I have always wondered why dialogue was not a popular choice for peace building efforts in the past.
The more I read of its successful applications in other contexts and situations, the more I wonder why and how this obviously successful, capacity building, solution-based approach is not widely used as the “go-to” tool for problem solving.
From where I sit, not just as someone who works in the civil society sector but as a youth, it almost seems like there is already so much knowledge on “what not to do” rather than “what to do”. Why isn’t dialogue on the top of the list of ‘Needs to Be Done to Fix This’ for communities and groups who find themselves in conflict and crisis situations?
When I think about youths and how we can effectively hear from them, I cant help but ask whether methodologies of Dialogue can be adapted, to make it more hip and in with the “crowd” while keeping to its core purpose.
The world witnessed a wave of powerful youth uprisings across the globe in 2011. While their issues were different, the feelings were similar. They were disappointed and frustrated.
They might not have been considered important before within their own countries but I'm sure, that perception has changed now. I think if the decision makers in those countries genuinely valued youths (and they should, Time magazine has said the central, underlying feature of the Middle East's crisis is a massive youth bulge), they would have realised that youths participation is critical to the ongoing prosperity and stability of their countries.
Youths are not looking for anything complicated, just the opportunity to air their fears, concerns, hear from their leaders and be able to contribute their strengths for solutions and build a future that they can look forward to.
For me, that starting point is dialogue. Furthermore, making sure the current dialogue process is youth friendly, inclusive and participatory.
Perhaps as we are exploring these, we can also consider incorporating into the process activities that allow us to tap into the creativity, optimism, passion and excitement of young people. I believe the Dialogue Fiji secretariat has its work cut-out for them for the year; these suggestions are at best recommendations towards 2013.
In summary, how do we use dialogue to contribute to the building of our nation as we move towards mid 2012? And how do we ensure that this time around (as compared to 1987 and 2000),
· youths are included,
· are capacity built and encouraged to contribute effectively,
· and most importantly begin leading Fiji into the future using a culture of dialogue and understanding.