“If Arafat and Netanyahu had participated in the Dialogue Groups it would not have been a conflict in the Middle East anymore.” (Israeli participant, 1997)
What are the Dialogue Groups?
The Dialogue Groups is a meeting place for students from different sides of conflicts. The students are given the opportunity to better understand their counterpart’s point of view, through such means as conversations and workshops. They are arranged in connection with the festival.
Why are the Dialogue Groups important?
In a conflict situation communication and interaction across religious/ethnic/cultural lines is limited or even non-existent. The Dialogue Groups lay the grounds for young people who live in conflict areas to meet on neutral ground. Through the seminar the participants get to know each other as individuals and fellow human beings, rather than as opponents or representatives of the enemy. Trust, mutual respect and the ability to listen to the other participants must be established before someone can have constructive dialogues on difficult and emotional topics.
How do the Dialogue Groups really work?
In total 24 participants – four representatives from each side of three different conflict areas – will spend the week before ISFiT at a cabin outside of Trondheim. The following week the participants will take part in the festival in Trondheim and continue the seminar as one of the festival’s workshops.
Through different communications exercises, role-play and social activities, the participants and the facilitators will explore the consequences of the conflict and the opportunities for the future. Dialogue, leadership and project development will be important topics throughout the seminar.
The Dialogue Leaders and facilitators are Norwegian students who have theoretical and practical training in using dialogue as a tool for constructive communication and conflict resolution. External experts and professional mediators will also be used in parts of the seminar.
What happens when the Dialogue Groups participants return to their home countries?
The Dialogue Groups emphasize and encourage participants to continue to work together and start up projects in their home communities. It is our experience that friendships and organizational partnerships will be formed. The Dialogue Groups strongly promote and support projects and seminars initiated by former participants.