“Dialogue is not about forgiving, forgetting or excusing the other. Dialogue is about listening and learning why and how it was done”. This was the key message by Alfredo Zamudio during his recent visit to Albania, as a guest to Diplohack Tirana 2018.
Tirana is the capital of Albania, a beautiful and small country facing the Mediterranean ocean, just north of Greece, on the Western Balkan Peninsula. It has taken Albania many years to overcome the legacy of a five decades of dictatorship. The country recovered democracy in 1991, but is still is facing challenges with corruption and unemployment, despite the many positive changes the country has achieved in the years after 1991. It has been difficult to transform Albania into democracy and at times it has been turbulent.
The Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue was invited to co-facilitate and serve as an expert consultant for the arrangement Diplohack Tirana 2018, with corruption as the main topic, organized jointly by the Dutch Embassy in cooperation with OTTOnomy and the Albanian Institute of Sciences. In addition, meetings were arranged with students at the National Theater, with the Mayor of Tirana, Erion Veliaj, and with a multi-party delegation of women members of the parliament.
A critical and urgent situation
-The meeting with the students had an impact, says Lori E. Amy, the Academic Director and Human Rights Coordinator in OTTOnomy, the organizer of that event.
-We simply could never have foreseen that a combination of the timing of Alfredos visit, the powerful impact he had on people here, and the urgent need for dialogue and reconciliation work, would turn his first visit to Albania into an immediate planning for dialogue training, she continues.
The Diplohack Tirana 2018 coincided with student demonstrations, where students were protesting against exam fees and against what students claim are corrupted politics in the education system.
-Alfredo´s visit was useful because it managed to transmit a message of hope, says Lori Amy.
-The students are consistently carrying the message he gave them: dialogue, peace, hope and restore the social fabric. His visit was tremendously important, it is helping the students to bring a message of peace and dialogue into a critical and urgent situation, Lori continues.
The uncomfortable conversations
The organization she is working for, OTTOnomy, is providing space for people to develop relationships and friendships, to embrace difference and handle conflicts peacefully.
-I´m glad we managed to bring forward the message of dialogue and peace, even in times of turbulence, says Alfredo Zamudio, director of the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue.
He put emphasis on repeating that part of the dialogue is to have those uncomfortable conversations, such as dealing with the past in Albania.
Another of his messages was that the dividend of peace is finding out how you can change those things that are at your level within reach, and then identify examples of what is working, and multiply those examples.
-This is a positive deviance that we need to find. It is not useful only to focus on all the things that are going wrong. In the midst of nightmares, someone is doing the right thing. Support them, encourage them and walk with them, finalizes Alfredo.
-In the situation in Albania today we need help to channel energy towards such productive messages for positive social transformation, Lori is emphasizing.
About Diplohack Tirana 2018:
-The aim of a diplohack is to connect new networks and explore new ideas through co-creative collaboration between diplomacy and civil society.
-Engaging, creative thinking and learning are main keywords.
-The main topic was corruption.
About the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue:
-Is an international hub for dialogue work focused on interethnic dialogue, conflict transformation, reconciliation, inclusive communities and democracy.
-Provides trainings, seminars and workshop on dialogue facilitation.
-Is based in Lillehammer, Norway
-Has more than 20 years of experience developing methodologies and implementing dialogue projects in the Balkans and countries like Afghanistan, Kenya, Iraq, Ukraine and Norway.