E-dialogue Summary
Agenda (tentative)

Summary of E-dialogue on  Peace Dialogue in the Social Integration Process:

Building peaceful social relationship by, for and with people  

1 – 24 June 2005


The Division for Social Policy and Development of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) organized a multi-stakeholder web-based dialogue on “Peace Dialogue in the Social Integration Process: building peaceful social relationship by, for and with people” from 31 May to 24 June 2005, with the participation of various stakeholders with diverse backgrounds from different regions. The following is a summary of the three weeks and a synthesis of views on how to build a safe, stable and just society for all through facilitating a participatory dialogue in the social integration process.


The World Summit for Social Development was held at Copenhagen in 1995 to forge 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 our 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.

Objectives of the E-Dialogue  

  1. Address the importance of social integration as a means to create a peaceful society:

  2. Explore the potential of participatory dialogue to achieve this goal:

  3. Clarify the inter-linkage between the process of social integration and intention of building peaceful society;

  4. Get feedback from a wide range of participants with diverse backgrounds;

  5. Learn from concrete examples, case studies, traditional practices, and good practices at local, national and international levels.

  6. Create a network of researchers, practitioners, and local communities and NGO’s to work together to build a safe, stable and just society for all, through facilitating participatory dialogue in the social integration process.  

Profile of Participants

There were a total of 69 participants, of which 4 affiliated with Government, 13 - academia/research institutes, 27 - NGOs, 20 - United Nations, 3 - consultants, and 2 – other.

The regions and countries they are based are:

Europe: Cyprus, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, UK

Africa: Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and South Africa

Middle East: Lebanon

N. America: USA, Canada,

S. America: Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay

Asia: Philippines, Nepal


Summary of the E-Dialogue


During the E-dialogue, stakeholders discussed the following major themes: how s ocial Integration process contributes to building a peaceful society; how dialogue can be used as a means to transform social relations; and how to sustain dialogue process through challenges. Under these themes, inter-linkage between social integration and peace-building and conflict transformation were explored, a range of dialogue procedures and practice – as well as advantages and challenges -- were discussed, and illustrative examples were given. Stakeholder roles were discussed and proposals were made for national action/policies to facilitate participatory dialogue. Some themes were identified for further discussion.  

Synthesis of the views expressed by participants  

1. Social Integration as a process of building peaceful social relations.  

Social Integration

Social integration is a dynamic process of fostering unity among diverse members of society, including various identity-based or/and geographically-based groups. People participate in the socio-economic, political, institutional, and cultural systems through actively engaging in the decision-making process, based on recognition and mutual accommodation of different views or opinions. The process creates space and opportunity for capacity and institution building within an enabling environment.

Socially integrated societies create values and ethics that accommodate diversity, and enhance values of freedom, security and democracy. In these societies, violence is less likely to develop when disagreements arise. While recognizing that complete social integration of diverse groups is unlikely to happen, social integration is an essential ongoing task.

In Africa, social integration is viewed as more than accommodation and recognition of individual's cultural, religious, political or economic identity, but viewed as a spiritual process that aims at strengthening values that promote peaceful and just social relations.

Peaceful and Just Social Relations

Participants broke down this question into its two basic qualifiers:

Peace and justice. Peaceful social relations are relationships between and among people and groups of people that are non-violent. Non-violent is defined in a broader context, as not merely the absence of visible violence, but as the presence of harmony and cooperation. Just social relations are relationships between and among people and groups of people that are equitable, non-discriminatory and fair. Social justice is the bedrock of peaceful social relations.

While social justice is well served by universally agreed human rights instruments, peace remains vague. T oo often, peace is defined not only by the absence of violence, but also the absence of change. Many peace nitiatives focus on “conflict”, its prevention, management, or resolution. or transformation. If peace is to be built, it will need more attention than what is now devoted to conflict.

Peaceful and just social relations presume a level of social integration that allows, or encourages active participation by all members of a society to create dynamic and innovative options for the future of their own citizens regardless of their social affiliations, through communications/ dialogues/debates, and in which the rights of individuals and groups are ensured. Inter-linkage of the social integration process with building more peaceful and just social relations.

The processes of social integration allows members of the society to recognize and accommodate different values and identities of various social groups, which will create social values and ethics that act as a guide and monitor the culture of governance that promotes peaceful and just social relations.  

However, this linkage does not come automatically. In order to “coexist” without polarizing views and growing disparities, members of the society must have the will and the way to deal with social complexity and social transformations Therefore, the linkage must extend beyond "equal and democratic participation", and the social integration processes must include social transformation.  

Intention is the driving force behind building peaceful social relations. Intention requires that all stakeholders have the means and capacity to fully participate in reflective dialogue for consensus decision-making. Clear vision, intention, means and capacity were thus seen as the critical link between social integration and peace-building. Society that has capacity to foster social integration can build consensus around a set of core purposes and values, and have a strong foundation for managing and/or transforming the inevitable disagreements that arise over key issues and challenges.

Facilitating Factors of Resilience

Some societies are more resilient, while others are more vulnerable to social tension/disintegration. Participants identified facilitating factors of resiliency as follows:

  • A strong social fabric that accommodates diversity

  • Full integration of various groups and members of a society

  • Social justice – not just policy but practice

  • Institutional, traditional and legal systems that allow fair and just recourse in disputes

  • Good leadership

  • Generative outside influence and contribution

  • Culture of peace

  • “Will and the way” to coexist, collaborate and cohere in peaceful/just social relations.

  • Capacity for self-reflection on a social level

  • Dialogue to help build a pluralistic society, and also eliminate or suspend suspicion and fear responsible for social tensions

  • Spirituality of the people and peace symbols that have been used to unite and reconcile various cultural and religious groups

2. Dialogue as a means to transform social relations  

Dialogue method I use (Some salient points captured)

"The Tree Model" and "Psycho-political Dialogues " addressing large group identity in post-conflict societies: It brings the psychological roots of the conflict to reveal how their shared and conflicted history impact on the present impasses in the group's relationships with one another. The impacts of present conflicts and trans-generationally transmitted conflicts create dehumanization of the other and massive projections.

Indigenous/ traditional methods of reconciliation : working with elders of various different ethnic groups through assisting them to reclaim and retain indigenous values that promote peace (i.e., bringing traditional cultures or symbols that were/are used in peace making or reconciliation). These aspects of indigenous cultures that could help in building a peaceful community are often ignored in a modern society.

Traditional dialogue had been the most commonly used methods of dialogue in African societies. Influential figures, such as Heads of families, communities, religious heads, secret society heads, serve as facilitators in resolving conflicts through various dialogue methods.

Open Space Technology : was developed based on the realization that people are raising issues relevant to them in the time and place of their choice. Contrary to its perception for its apparent lack of structure and welcoming of surprises, it is actually very structured -- but so perfectly structured to fit to the people and the work, that it goes unnoticed in its proper role of supporting (not blocking) best work.

Conflict-Free Conflict-Resolution (CFCR): The positions/worldviews signify four modes of relating/being: survival mode, authoritarian, competitive, and collaborative mode. Each mode has its own reason/origin but may also have become a socially disintegrating habit/social custom. Through guided facilitation, parties explore common ground and collaboration in order to envision and act out a new way of relating/being, while not overlooking conflict-prone attitudes and their reasons.

How the dialogue method(s) contribute to building more peaceful and just social relations?

Dialogue contributes in building more peaceful and just social relations through:

  • Connecting people with diverse backgrounds <mutual accommodation>

  • Facilitating mutual understanding of their respective cultural, religious backgrounds

  • Assisting stakeholders to elicit experiences of the community <opportunity for healing and reconciliation>, and aspirations for the future <blue print for a community/society to be built>

  • Strengthening and sustaining traditional communication media that is best known and accessible to the community

  • Articulating and clarifying concepts on issues of debate/dispute.

Advantages and challenges of dialogue

Advantages identified were:

  • Flexible to local needs/locally owned: dialogue methods can be developed in a way that fits in the local culture and therefore more sustainable. Stakeholders actively take lead, as they feel they own the outcomes

  • Empowerment: dialogue builds confidence and harmony among stakeholders, as final agreements are reached through consensus and collective action.

  • Wider reach: dialogue can be used in isolated areas where the state machineries are out of reach

  • Higher level of commitment: dialogue allows stakeholders to feel that they are voluntarily making choices, due to the level of one’s own willingness and desire to be involved and change.

  • Creative: the process of dialogue inspires individuals or communities/social groups, due to a certain sense of freedom, which can create extraordinary results with regularity.

  • Voices heard: voices of all the participants, particularly those tend not to be heard, will be heard

  • Network: a support network will be created to sustain outcomes

 Challenges identified were:

  • Possible conflict with Governments’ responsibility/authority

  • Prone to political interference (possible influence by politicians on the direction of the dialogue)

  • Time and expenses to be spent: time consuming and expensive as it goes through various stages.

  • Need for initial support: it requires new skills and supporting institution that could provide safe space and capacity building

Case Study

The case studies in Kenya and Estonia highlighted the significant impact of the past history on the current social relations. Psychological traumas rooted in the past conflict, such as hatred, suspicion, feeling of betrayal and unhealed wounds, have been transmitted from one generation to another and still haunt in the present. Without healing these psychological traumas, true reconciliation cannot be achieved. Dialogue between influential members from both conflicting parties/groups can provide an opportunity and space for going through healing/forgiving process, which will ultimately lead to reconciliation. Traditional ritual/ceremony could have important role in the process.

The case study of the Mano River Basin emphasized the importance of dialogue at the national level. The Mano River Women Peace Network (MARWOPNET), a NGO comprising of women from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, succeeded in preventing the outbreak of hostilities between the three countries through its advocacy and lobbying. This contributed in bring the three heads of states back to the negotiating table.

The case study of Timor-Leste highlighted the importance of dialogue to create a permanent space that is transitory and interchangeable, a space that inspire individuals to work together and feel free to share their visions and aims in creating a better communities/country. As a result, they are more equipped in constructively solving conflicts when they face challenges.

The case study of South Africa (Regional Peace Committee) illustrated an example of the successful application of participatory dialogue to identify the underlying issue which caused internal conflict, and collaboratively find a creative solution to respond to local level crises. As a result, unity was restored within the Regional Committee that consisted of former enemies, and it could make a united collaborative response to local crises.

The case study of Canada (family workshops) found that the intention/motivation is a critical element when attempting to build peaceful social relations. As a result of reflective dialogue, participants acquired skills to focus how they can relate in more constructive manner, thus, reported less conflict and reduction of tension within family members.

3. Role of stakeholders in creating an enabling environment for people to participate in decision-making that affect their lives.  

Key strategies and role of stakeholders in the dialogue process

Stakeholders in the dialogue process can include community/traditional leaders, indigenous peace makers, elders, youths, religious leaders, faith based organizations, oral artists, community members, local NGOs/CSOs, national and local government . The participation of stakeholders in the dialogue process is “instrumental in guarantying the ownership of the process.”

Through dialogue process, stakeholders become more self aware in terms of their own reaction to trauma and/or their grievances, and to enhance their own performance as leaders and caretakers in society. In addition, they build working relationships among themselves and across ethnic and religious divides.

UNDP has played various roles in the stakeholder process, including situation analysis, opportunity assessment, and support in dialogue design, resource mobilization (important element for sustainability), logistical and technical assistance, and capacity building for national stakeholders.  

How stakeholders sustain dialogue through challenges

In order to sustain dialogue through challenges , stakeholders must be aware of their capacities, intentions and commitments to the goals . In addition, there is an emotional component among stakeholders that drives and sustains the process. The process of engaging with true feelings/emotions helps create a more genuine and realistic discussions on underlying issues, and develop strategies for reducing tensions and promotes levels of a shared peaceful co-existence.

Another challenge in sustaining dialogue is how the dialogue process can be flexible. The dialogue process should be designed to adapt the changes stakeholders make during the dialogue process.

Selection of facilitators plays a critical role in sustaining dialogue. Facilitators need to be selected from national actors/members of society who are influential, respected, trusted, and “ideally are able to serve as conduits to the larger society during and after their participation in the dialogues”. An example from Africa suggested that involving elders is one way to sustain the process, due to their high level of responsibility.  

National actions/policies essential to facilitate participatory dialogue

The following actions/policies have been identified to be essential to facilitate participatory dialogue:

Provide the enabling environment by:

  • Recognize the need and explore the potential of the participatory dialogue as one of the opportunities to build peace.

  • Incorporate participatory dialogue within national peace-building and development strategies.

  • Make explicit its ongoing commitment to sustain the dialogue process, both at the crisis and in the absence of crisis

  • Build capacity among all stakeholders, both at national and local level.

  • Support institutions that are promoting/facilitating dialogue with the purpose of conflict prevention, resolution and peace-building.

  • Strengthen innovative partnerships among Government, UN, CSOs, including indigenous peoples’ organizations.

 Examples from Canada and Kenyaare show how successful interventions of national or local governments have helped to create an enabling government. The example from Canada illustrates the role of the national government and local community to support financially in creating a free and on-going family intervention workshop to prevent the disconnection in family relationships. The case study from Kenyashows how a government created assemblies of elders for communal security and peace.  

Other themes emerged from the discussion included: how social integration processes facilitated through participatory dialogue can be a preventative measure that transform conflict and accommodate diversity among fragmented communities/ societies; how to build capacity among stakeholders and create policies that will strengthen the opportunity to build sustainable peace; and recognizing factors of resiliency and consciousness/awareness of emotional complexities play a large role in creating/reducing tensions and promoting levels of a peaceful co-existence.  

Suggested themes to be explored in the future:  

  1. What basic procedures or initiatives can local and national stakeholders launch at the beginning phases of post-conflict societies?

  1. What are the limitations of social integration concept? For example, how to include high power stakeholders or spoilers who are unwilling to participate in dialogue? What aspects of social integration help to work past this and other limitations?

  1. How the concept of “dialogue in the social integration process” can be used to integrate ex-refugees and IDPs after emergency operations complete?

  1. Can the concept of social integration help to respond to human security challenges in the short/long term?

  1. How can “dialogue in the social integration process” complement various on-going activities in the field of peace-building and conflict prevention?

  1. What value is added from integrating the social integration concept in the work of DPKO’s and DPA’s needs assessment missions?

  1. What mechanisms need to be in place in order for social integration to be integrated into the design of national and local policies?

Next steps:  

The Division for Social Policy and Development (DSPD) will organize a three-day expert group meeting in New York in November 2005, to explore further both the analytical and operational relevance of the concept of “Social Integration”, adopted at the World Summit for Social Development (Copenhagen, 1995), for peace building and conflict transformation. The meeting will explore insights into the social dynamics of conflict and peace, as well as explore the possibility of using a participatory framework for dialogue among key stakeholders as a mean to facilitate social integration processes.

The outcomes of the E-dialogue will be used as one of the background materials. The contributions to the E-dialogue will be incorporated in a draft concept paper entitled, “Peace dialogue in the Social Integration Process: Building peaceful social relations – by, for and with people”, which will be made available as a background document of the Expert Group meeting. Based on the recommendations of the Expert Group meeting, the concept framework will be prepared for publication. As a basis for continuing exploration, field testing in at least three countries to test and review the conceptual framework will be conducted.

An internal review on design and modality of this E-dialogue will be conducted to provide “Lessons Learned” for conducting a future E-dialogues. The best way to sustain and expand the network created by this e-dialogue will be explored to strengthen DSPD’s work.


To stimulate and orient participants’ views towards “Peace Dialogue in the Social Integration Process”, the following definitions and a model framework were provided at the outset and additional questions were added during the E-dialogue. Working Definitions

Social Integration can be seen as a dynamic and principled process where all members participate in dialogue to achieve and maintain peaceful social relations. Social integration does not mean coerced assimilation or forced integration.

The Social Summit focused on the need to move toward a safe, stable and just society by forming and mending conditions of social disintegration - social fragmentation, exclusion and polarization; and by expanding and strengthening conditions of social integration - including towards peaceful social relations of coexistence, collaboration and cohesion.

Dialogue is defined as the intention to seek mutual understanding and mutual accommodation on an issue or situation through inquiry and learning leading that can lead to consensus in decision-making.

Participatory dialogue is defined as a process that provides people with safe space and opportunity to engage in communication and action based on rights and responsibilities.

Reflective Participatory Dialogue is defined as thinking in complete ways th at leads to tolerance and understanding of diverse worldviews and interests.  


A model Framework: “Peace Dialogue in the Social Integration Process”

Peace Dialogue in the Social integration Process uses reflective and participatory dialogue to support mutual accommodation towards more peaceful and just social relations.

Progress towards more peaceful and just social relations is mediated by dialogue procedures suited to different needs. Different needs arise within stages of social relations i.e. within fragmentation, exclusion and polarization -- as well as coexistence, collaboration and cohesion. The stages comprise a model framework.

Cycle Diagram

  Stages of social relations:  

  • Fragmentation arises in situations of abuse, armed conflict, and social breakdown i.e. social relations disintegrate (most profoundly at the psychological level) giving rise to healing;  

  • Exclusion arises where there is neglect or oppression i.e. social relations are asymmetric giving rise to inclusion strategies that build self-help and livelihood;  

  • Polarization arises when groups can mobilize i.e. social relations are hostile, combative (most profoundly at the level of religious/ethnic identity) giving rise to mediation/reconciliation;

The transition from polarization to coexistence is pivotal. It is when the focus shifts from healing and mending social relations to investing in strengthening relationships.

  • Coexistence arises with tolerance of difference i.e. social relations revolve on civic dialogue;  

  • Collaboration arises with a widening sense of socio-economic justice i.e. social relations lead to participatory development planning, and  

  • Cohesion arises with peace-culture i.e. social relations support discovery/creation of shared meaning and value.