This blog post was written by Alex Azarov.
«The success of a dialogue depends, firstly, on the ability not to speak but to listen. And its outcome is the understanding of your dialogue partner and the formation of trust towards him or her» (a quote from the Mykolayiv dialogue initiative)
The Dialogue Support Platform in Ukraine supports various Ukrainian dialogue initiatives all across the country. The dialogues vary in terms of their participants: some involve stationed soldiers and local residents, others involve local women who come to discuss their role in the conflict and in peacebuilding. They all support a process of exchange and understanding.
Dialogues in the platform are often run at a local community or grassroots level, yet many initiatives also aim to work with local authorities, policy-makers and other officials. Community level dialogues are crucial because they promote the development of an active civil society that takes responsibility for its future and develops mechanisms to influence change.
The aim of the Dialogue Support Platform is to promote the horizontal links amongst dialogue initiatives but also to foster the vertical links of cooperation amongst all levels of the Ukrainian society, from local communities to the central government. Thus the platform can give a voice to small, local dialogue initiatives by connecting them to broader processes like the OSCE National Dialogue project.
One such local initiative has been running in Mykolaiv, a southern Ukrainian city near the Black Sea. You can read a detailed description of the development of the dialogue platform – «A conciliatory step» here. At the end is an appeal of the participants of the dialogue to the residents of Mykolaiv, representing a tangible result of the cooperation achieved in that dialogue project.
For a map of dialogue initiatives in Ukraine, you can visit dialoguesupport.org/map
Meetings at the Mykolaiv initiative are held regularly once a month, and in each dialogue there are, on average, about 25 participants, coming from various groups: «Maidan», «Anti-maidan», «Right sector», political parties «Russian bloc», «Russian unity». Participants have included people who had destroyed the Lenin monument in Mykolaiv and those who had defended it. But also, very importantly, the organiser invites average Mykolaiv families to show the others the broader effect of the conflict and to give the less active citizens a voice too.
People come from all levels of society: politicians, businesspeople, students, doctors, journalists, builders, lawyers etc. The topics discussed vary and focus on relevant issues for stabilising the situation in Mykolaiv: exploring beliefs, the information war, civil society, inter-ethnic tolerance, decommunisation laws, renaming streets etc.
As the appeal of the Mykolayiv dialogue participants shows, the initiative is attempting to build both horizontal and vertical links in their society, to give people with different views a platform to communicate constructively and to motivate them to take an active role in their future. The work in Mykolaiv is one example of the ongoing efforts to build understanding and find solutions to the current in Ukraine; we at the Dialogue Support Platform are excited to be supporting local Ukrainian dialogue initiatives such as this one.