Inclusive Peace & Transition Initiative
National Dialogues

National Dialogues

National Dialogues are inclusive, multi-party negotiations in which large segments of society are represented, such as elites, political parties, organized civil society, women, youth, business, religious or traditional actors, and other relevant groups. They have received great attention from international and national actors as a promising avenue for mastering political crises and transitions. Despite the increasing popularity of National Dialogues, there is as yet no common understanding of the features that distinguish National Dialogues from other multi-stakeholder negotiation formats and comparative evidence on the factors that enables or constrains the prospects of reaching and sustaining agreements remains scarce.

Building on the original data from the “Broadening Participation in Political Negotiations and Implementation” project, IPTI has in 2015 begun a new research project on National Dialogues. The comparative analysis of 20 National Dialogues in 16 countries investigates empirical characteristics of National Dialogues (e.g. size, duration etc.) and analyses the factors that have enabled or constrained the effectiveness of the negotiation process, the reaching of agreements, and their implementation.

The comparative assessment revealed that National Dialogues

  • are formally mandated Track 1 multi-stakeholder negotiations, and always accompanied by broader societal consultations;
  • revolve around issues of fundamental national concern and have peace-making, political reform, or constitution-making mandates;
  • include government actors, main opposition parties, and directly or indirectly relevant societal actors, such as civil society including women’s groups, religious and traditional leaders, and business actors. 

The research will also inform the UN Department of Political Affair’s (DPA) Mediation Support Unit’s (MSU) writing of the forthcoming UN Guidance for Mediators on National Dialogues.

Ⓒ Photo: Fardin Waezi / UNAMA (Afghanistan)

Preliminary findings (report forthcoming)

  • Most National Dialogues reach an agreement yet many fail in their implementation
  • The resistance or support of national power-holders is the single most important factor influencing the success or failure of National Dialogues to reach and implement agreements
  • The political support by the public and by key regional and international actors also enables for successful outcomes
  • National Dialogues typically occur in historical periods when civilian or armed resistance challenge the legitimacy of a country’s regime
  • National Dialogues have been set up by both governments in power and by opposition groups. External initiation of National Dialogues has only occurred in a few cases
  • In all case studies examined, both pro-change and anti-change forces agreed on National Dialogues as a means to achieve their goals, i.e. to stay in power / achieve a change in power
  • Process design can enable or constrain the success or failure of National Dialogues' outcomes

LIST OF 16 COUNTRIES

  • Afghanistan (2002 and 2003-2004)
  • Benin (1990)
  • Burundi (1996-2000)
  • Democratic Republic of Congo (1999-2003)
  • Egypt (2011)
  • Mali (1991)
  • Nepal (2008-2012)
  • Northern Ireland (1998 and 2006)
  • Mexico (1995-1996)
  • Papua New Guinea (1997-2005)
  • Somalia (2000 and 2002-2004)
  • Somaliland (1993)
  • South Africa (1991-1992 and 1993)
  • Togo (1991 and 2006)
  • Yemen (2013)