In conflict situations, National Dialogues present a valid way to overcome internal rifts and to rebuild relations between the state, its institutions and different groups in a conflict-torn society, to ideally reach a new social contract between the various interest groups to the conflict. Over the past decade, National Dialogues have thus gained considerable importance as platforms for peaceful transformation. Germany and Switzerland have supported National Dialogues in a number of countries, including Yemen, Lebanon and Sudan.
An example for a successful National Dialogue is Tunisia, where the Arab revolutions began. The main civil society organizations behind this National Dialogue, the so-called Quartet, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015 for building the political basis for profound constitutional and institutional reform.
The Berghof Foundation has authored this National Dialogue Handbook in cooperation with swisspeace. It is the result of an in-depth study to which many stakeholders and scholars have contributed. The support of Germany and Switzerland in the development of this National Dialogue Handbook underlines the strong commitment of both countries to resolve violent conflict through peaceful dialogue processes. This joint effort also illustrates the close partnership and cooperation between our two countries in the field of peaceful conflict transformation. It further reflects the belief that conflict resolution processes must be as inclusive as possible, involving a broad range of political actors and extending beyond a limited set of political players to include society at large.
During political transitions, societal needs and interests have to be taken into consideration in order to achieve acceptance by the population. This rebuilds social bonds and allows progress towards national reconciliation. Like other conflict resolution mechanisms, National Dialogues carry the risk of being abused for short-term political gain. To prevent this from happening, we must seek to improve the structure of ongoing as well as future National Dialogues.