Dialogue Forums: Highlighting Community Success

There is a question we often reflect upon, in our work in areas affected by violent conflict: 

How do we build up from community dialogues—and amplify community voices—to support social change for lasting peace?

The Protecting Our Communities Initiative, in Nigeria, has held more than 1,000 dialogues in the past three years. A collaborative project that we co-lead with our Nigeria-based partner, Neem Foundation, the initiative has been lifting the insights from these dialogues up—and spreading them far.  

In July, we held statewide dialogue forums in Kaduna, Benue, and Zamfara states (Nigeria) that brought community dialogue facilitators together with a range of leaders and decision-makers. These forums were a focal point for discussing statewide peacebuilding strategies:

 

  • sharing success stories and challenges from community dialogues—especially about farmer-herder conflicts, which have been worsening with climate change stresses
  • engaging traditional rulers, government officials, and civil society organizations in discussions of how to expand and sustain the dialogues across Nigeria, even after this project ends
  • discussing practical ideas for addressing conflict between herders and farmers more broadly—such as creating a state-level early warning-early response system modeled after the project, and engaging more traditional leaders in restoring traditional peacekeeping systems

(1) Dialogue Forum in Zamfara; (2) Community Dialogue Facilitator participant in Kaduna

The forums revealed a remarkable level of collaboration and understanding, built over the project’s past three years. For example:

  • Farmer and herder association leaders now speak jointly, supporting each others’ concerns.
  • The Emir of Gusau, a traditional ruler in Zamfara, applauded the project’s support of women’s leadership.
  • A state security ministry official noted that the project’s grassroots systems, if expanded, would hopefully leave security forces with little to do.
  • And a state chairman of a vigilante organization said that if this project had been running 10-20 years ago, today’s reality of conflict and insecurity could have been avoided.

A next step is to hold an inter-state dialogue forum, bringing participants together regionally, and then—building on last year’s inaugural National Conference on the Management of Farmer-Herder Relations—the project team will convene a National Policy Forum in Abuja, Nigeria.

 

 

We’ve seen how they’ve succeeded in all of the methods they use, in resolving conflicts and bringing peace and tranquility to communities. I want to suggest we take what they’ve done already — they have a template — and we enshrine it in our policies of governance in our country and our state.

Pastor Fred Abah, of the Christian Association of Nigeria, at the Dialogue Forum in Zamfara state

We’re excited about these new opportunities to lift up the experiences and insights of people directly affected by conflict—and to support new relationships between communities, government, security forces, civil society networks, and traditional leaders, based in the common goal of building sustainable peace.

Dialogue Forums: (1) police representatives in Benue; (2) participants in Zamfara; HRH Titus Dauda Agom Of Kufana, speaking in Kaduna; (4) participants in Kaduna.

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