Peace Scholar Post: Visiting The Nansen Dialogue Network

This is part of a series of blog posts written by the 2012 Peace Scholars as they complete their summer program in Oslo, Norway. This post was written by Peter Larsen from Augsburg College.

As referenced in an earlier post by Jordan, the Peace Scholar group spent our first week in Lillehammer at the Nansen Academy. While there, we were fortunate enough to able to work with and learn from Nobel Peace Prize nominee Steinar Bryn about the work of the Nansen Dialogue Network and about how to dialogue.

The Nansen Dialogue Network came out of the realization in 1994 that what was being taught at the Nansen Academy in Lillehammer could be translated globally to other contexts and aid in the development of peaceful discourse in areas of conflict. As a result of that realization almost 20 years ago, there are now established Nansen Dialogue Centers in Mostar and Sarajevo in Bosnia & Herzegovina, in Osijek, Croatia, in Skopje, Macedonia, and in Kosovo, Montenegro, and Serbia. And that’s just the beginning of the Nansen Dialogue Network!

The Network strives to fulfill the following objectives (among others):

  • To support inclusive and integrated education (both formal and informal) in multiethnic and multicultural societies;
  • To work with opinion and decision makers to improve the efficiency of institutional systems in post conflict environments;
  • To contribute to processes of reconciliation and sustainable return of refugees and displaced people through dialogue;
  • To network with key social and political actors within the field of peacebuilding.

Steinar Bryn, NPPF Scholars, and Balkan Young Friends Group

The Network achieves these goals through the use of dialogue (as opposed to discussion, debate or even argument). While in Lillehammer, Bryn taught us about the differences between dialogue and other forms of communication. While in other forms of communication, the objective is to be heard, in dialogue the objective is to listen. Where in debate changing your stance on a issue is a sign of weakness, in dialogue changing your opinions are seen as a sign of maturity. Through laying out some ground rules and gently helping dialogues to remain dialogues, Steinar is able to effectively facilitate communication and understanding where before was only distrust and violence. Steinar and the Nansen Academy are truly inspiring, having led to lasting peace in various areas of the world and the lessons we learned from them continue to serve us well as we carry on with our work in the field of peace and reconciliation.

For more information about the Nansen Academy in Lillehammer, you can find their English language homepage here.

And for more information about the Nansen Dialogue Network, their English language homepage can be found here.

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