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)

KEY FINDINGS

  • National Dialogues have been used as an instrument to resolve political crises and pave the way for political transitions and sustainable peace
  • While most National Dialogues reached an agreement, only half of these agreements were implemented
  • When National Dialogues resulted in sustainable transitions, there was generally a favorable consensus among power-holders, in addition to international support and public buy-in
  • However, National Dialogues have often been instrumentalized by power-holders to gain or reclaim political legitimacy, which has severely limited their potential for transformative change
  • Procedures for preparing, conducting, and implementing National Dialogues, in particular selection and decision-making rules, play a decisive role in whether processes are perceived as representative and legitimate

Case studies analyzed as part of the National Dialogues research project