Dialogue workshop welcomes second cohort of peacemakers

Mar 5, 2016

Collaborative Leadership and Dialogue Workshop participants pose together on the last day.

Love. Honesty. Equality. Dignity. All amongst dozens of values shared by community and government stakeholders on the first morning of the Collaborative Leadership and Dialogue Workshop jointly held by the South Sudan Peace and Reconciliation Commission and UNDP this week in Juba.

The four-day residential workshop welcomed the second cohort in the program designed for participants to reflect on their motivation to work for peace and improve on their effectiveness to spark dialogue in their own influence spheres.

The workshop attendees drafted and agreed on a theme to drive their focus for the dialogue: “a new beginning towards a united and prosperous South Sudan that embraces our diversity as one people, one nation.”

“We chose this theme because of our current situation. We find ourselves in a conflict which we cannot get out, and which is preventing us from progress and development,” said one workshop participant from a civil society organization. “We need a new beginning, we need to enhance our unity in diversity and stop dividing ourselves.”

On the final day, the new workshop participants were joined for inspiring reflection and input from the first cohort of participants, who took in a similar workshop in August 2015. One of the participants from the first cohort shared an instance where he’d applied what he learned in his workplace.

“I used the [dialogue skills] I learned here at the workshop to understand where my colleague was coming from and how to solve issues we were having by being willing to listen to him,” he said. “I found out information I did not know before and now my relationship with my colleague is no longer the same as it was.”

As with the first cohort, participants in this week’s workshop spanned across government institutions, faith based institutions, civil society groups/organizations, women groups and youth groups.

“I appreciate UNDP’s support in expanding this programme. Seeing and hearing this new group makes it clearer how to use what we learned in August to make change,” said a woman leader at the afternoon session on Thursday.

From morning until late evenings, the group interacted with in-depth circle discussions, hands-on activities, videos, presentations, informal talks, and leisure time designed to build relationships.

An exercise that stuck out in the mind of one participant from the Ministry of Defence was a cartoon video depicting chameleons fighting over food in a tree. Their conflict hurts a family of birds also residing in the tree.

“If you personalize that video, you can notice that your actions can, somehow, at some point, affect people negatively. We can start thinking about our personal actions. Fighting for survival or food might have a negative impact, directly or indirectly, on others who are struggling for food and fighting to survive just like you,” said the attendee. “Even indirectly, the current conflict has many consequences.”

Following lunch on the last day, a spontaneous dance session brought laughter and smiles.

“First, let this experience change you,” added a woman leader from the first cohort, “then you can change others.”

The session’s facilitator noted a powerful shift in the atmosphere compared to last August.

“Last time we met there was tension in the air with the peace agreement. It’s a different environment now, a different situation. People have a real sense of urgency,” said Chris Spies. “This group didn’t wait to learn about dialogue, they started dialoguing from the very first day.”

The new workshop group felt collectively that South Sudan must go beyond the official peace agreement and aim to achieve comprehensive peace, with the involvement of community leaders trained in the dialogue principles they learned this week.

“We are now a family,” said a participant. “This is the time for us to join hands and bring people together. Let us be peacemakers.”

The Collaborative Leadership and Dialogue Workshop was conducted under UNDP’s Community Security and Arms Control (CSAC) project, funded by the DFID, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland. 


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