On Dialogue in the Social Integration Process

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Division for Social Policy and Development

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Final Report of the Expert Group Meeting


Dialogue in the Social Integration Process:

Building peaceful social relations—by, for and with people

21 – 23 November 2005

New York


I. Recommendations 6

II. Background 14

A.Introduction 14

B.Context 14

C.Objectives and expected outcomes 15

III. Organization of work 15

A.Attendance 16

B.Documentation 16

IV. Summary of sessions 16

A.Opening session 16

B.Working definitions 17

C.Social integration in a changing world 18

1.Presentations: What is happening 18

2.Discussion: What is missing 20

D.A Model Framework to Examine and Strengthen Social Relations 22

1.Presentation: Six stages of social relations: Fragmentation, Exclusion, Polarization, and Co-existence, Collaboration, Cohesion 22

2.Discussion 25

E.Role of civil society in multi-stakeholder dialogues 26

1.Presentation: Challenges and opportunities of multi-stakeholder dialogues 26

2.Discussion 30

F.Situation analysis through the social integration lens 31

1.Presentations: Necessary elements for facilitating social integration (What types of interventions are most effective, and when (at what stage of social relations) is the best for such interventions; Who are the stakeholders included, and who are not included but should be included?; Role of facilitators and its composition. 31

2.Discussion 35

3.Presentation 35

4.Discussion 38

G.Tool Box of Approaches to Dialogue 40

1.Indigenous dialogue procedures – North America 40

2.Traditional practices for dialogue procedures and Indigenous women 41

3.Public Conversations Project 41

4.Generative dialogue 42

5.Training and learning as dialogue methodologies 43

6.Discussion 43

V. Annexes 45

1.Aide-memoire 45

2.Agenda 49


3.List of participants 53

4. List of documentation 57

5.Opening Statement 58

Executive Summary

Dialogue in the Social Integration Process:

Building peaceful social relations—by, for and with people

The World Summit for Social Development, held in Copenhagen in 1995, forged agreement on social challenges and responses to them. It chose social integration as one of three themes, together with poverty eradication and employment creation. The Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development and the Programme of Action established a new consensus to place people at the centre of concerns for sustainable development.

Member States made commitments to promote social integration to create “a society for all”, through fostering inclusive societies that are stable, safe and just and that are based on the promotion and protection of all human rights, as well as on non-discrimination, tolerance, respect for diversity, equality of opportunity, solidarity, security, and participation of all people, including disadvantaged and vulnerable groups and persons.

In its five-year review of the Social Summit, the 24th Special Session of the General Assembly pointed to the relevance of the process of “social integration” for building and changing social relations, overcoming various social challenges as well as for conflict transformation and peace-building. The General Assembly resolved to strengthen the effectiveness of organizations and mechanisms working for the prevention and peaceful resolution of conflicts, and to increase the capability of relevant United Nations bodies to promote social integration in post conflict situations.

Against this background, the Division for Social Policy and Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA) is exploring the role of multi-stakeholder dialogue in the process of building more integrated and peaceful social relations. In this connection, it is organizing an Expert Group Meeting on “Dialogue in the Social Integration Process: Building peaceful social relations – by, for and with People” at the United Nations Headquarters, New York, from 21 – 23 November 2005.

The meeting aimed to discuss and demonstrate the analytical and operational relevance of the concept of “Social Integration” for peace-building and conflict transformation and, further, to explore, through case studies and a strategic framework, how participatory dialogue could facilitate the social integration processes.

Dialogue and multi-stakeholder processes

There is a growing recognition that dialogue is an important tool to facilitate change in social relations, which is a key to social integration/transformation, as well as to conflict prevention and peace-building. Dialogue is defined as an interaction or a learning process that seeks to arrive at mutual or shared meaning/understanding. One of the comparative advantages of “dialogue” is that it works directly on building social capacities/capital, which is the foundation for reconciliation and rehabilitation. It is relationship-focused and people-centered, which, in ideal scenarios, allows for deep participation by all parts of society, ultimately leading to healing and harmonious integration. As such, even societies that achieve a certain degree of cohesiveness can benefit as well as those in fragmentation.

However, one needs to be aware that dialogue is not a panacea, but one of many tools within or without the multi-stakeholder processes, and works best under specific conditions. Multi-stakeholder processes (MSPs) and multi-stakeholder dialogues are differentiated by purpose and by nature of communication. Dialogue represents one of the strategies within Multi-stakeholder processes. In addition to other strategies, such as inclusive social policy, mainstreaming social dimension into all policies, capacity building, developing or strengthening national and local institutions to facilitate social integration process, Multi-stakeholder dialogue is considered to be a critical process. MSPs are a new phenomenon in current debates at local, national and international levels and are gaining increasing interest.

Multi-stakeholder processes can be defined as processes of decision-finding (and possibly decision-making) that aim to: 1) bring together all major stakeholders in equitable representation; 2) achieve equity and accountability in communication between stakeholders; and 3) are based on the democratic principles of transparency and participation. MSPs are essentially about creating a space where dialogue can take place, ‘a neutral, free, and ordered space, where violence is replaced by verbal debate, shouting by listening, and chaos by calm’. MSPs ideally develop a culture of ‘dialogue’, i.e. a manner of open, honest communication that facilitates joint learning, and hence potentially leads to changes in individuals’ opinions and the group’s approach and actions.

The principle benefits of multi-stakeholder processes include transparency, quality, credibility, likelihood of implementation, and outreach. Quality of decisions is increased due to more diverse information made available to decision-makers. Credibility of outcome is enhanced because a decision, plan, or standard that has been developed by all relevant stakeholder groups is more likely to be supported by all groups. Openness and transparency of dialogue processes increases the credibility of the results and the process of dialogue, and increases the likelihood of implementation, as more and more stakeholders are involved. Multi-stakeholder dialogue contains the critical elements (networks, improved relationships, shared understandings) of implementation of its outcomes, creating an ownership of the results and the process.

Imperative of participation

In order to contribute to social integration, a genuine multi-stakeholder dialogue requires to reach out and to involve every concerned social group. That is, a commitment to participation requires the searching out of all potential stakeholders, especially those with less power, little or no voice, and huge distances from the mainstream, whether geographically or in their ideas and allegiances. A policy and practice of inclusion requires institutions to make every effort to hear the voice of the voiceless. Inclusion has three results: 1) the needs of the voiceless are heard; 2) the voiceless learn that they can speak and be heard and acknowledged and respected in a peaceful way; and 3) institutions make more common the inclusion of the voiceless. In people-driven/bottom up approaches, the voiceless can express their needs and concerns, as well as engage in building their future at local and community level.
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