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Gina Romero

Thoughts about my experience with dialogue in Latin America

By Gina Romero

The dialogues I will be presenting over the coming months are related to activities led by the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Democracy (Redlad.org), that has dialogue as an action line and as a supporting value. As Redlad’s founder and current Executive Director, I have led diverse dialogue activities and processes herefore, the notes included are personal opinions on the institutional experience.

Based on my own experiences, there are multiple objectives that are worth starting a dialogue: i) creat consensus as a starting point for shared actions, ii) build relationships and creat bridges between different social, political and economic actors holders of diverse knowledge to advance inclusion processes and broaden the democratic base, iii) resolve conflicts. All of these are related citizen diplomacy, as I will be explaining posts.

But let me start the generalities by sharing one of my favourite quote about dialogue:

“Dialogue seeks the truth through words. The parties in a dialogue do not seek to defeat the other, but to enlighten the other. It is not a conflict, but a shared inquiry (…) the dialogue allows both parties to come out enriched from their discussion”. (Wagner, 2014. P 20).

The first key to dialogue is precisely the one mentioned above: dialogue should not be used as a weapon of power it does not have winners or losers that is the main difference between dialogue and debate (Wagner, 2014. P.19). If you want to convince the other side that your positions are the most appropriate, or to defeat a person's ideas, you should organise a debate but if you want to understand another person, dialogue is the best option. Debates are not negative, they are often vital for decision-making (for example, arliaments or ongresses use as a bas formula for interaction) dialogue allows connection with the humanity of the person in front of you beyond their ideas or arguments.

So, the second key to dialogue is the recognition of the humanity of the other person/s. Only when the person in front of you as an equal, is possible to enter into a dialogue. In this sense, the creation of a safe space for dialogue is essential, and a critical element for such a space is listening, listening with all senses, which would be the third key to dialogue. If such a safe space can be created, the first enemy of dialogue is defeated: distrust.

"Dialogue is a process of genuine interaction through which people change thanks to the learning acquired by deep willingness to listen. Each of them strives to include the concerns of others in own perspective, even when disagreement persists. None of the participants renounces their identity, but each one sufficiently recognies the validity of the human claims of the others and consequently acts differently towards the others(Saunders, in Pruitt, 2008, P. 38). 

To enter into a real dialogue, it is necessary to shed certainties and have the ability to open up to the truth, to reality, to the experience of the other person, even if seem completely alien to ours. Therefore, the fourth key to dialogue is a genuine interest and curiosity in the other person/s, their stories, their experiences, their humanity. Any times that we see and hear as we are and not as reality is dialogue tries to make us see and hear what the other person is like, and then . This can only be done with mindfulness, with active listening and with a generous heart, let yourself be touched by the stories of others. It is important to mention that identity is not lost when entering into dialogue, when listening to the other person dialogue does not require lose ourselves in their reality and assume it as our own. Nor does it imply that the other person is lost in ours. This is why there is no power play in dialogue.

Another key to dialogue, especially global or regional dialogues in which you interact with people other cultures, is to recognise cultural differences. I am Colombian, and as a Latina (quasi Caribbean) I am at ease with physical contact. Physically approaching a Latino person in the middle of an exercise is normal and accepted in most cases but people from other backgrounds have a different conception of personal space, so it could be perceived as rude, and even aggressive, to attempt even light physical contact (touch the other person’s shoulder, let alon to hug them). In the same way, entering into dialogue with others implies that we recognise beforehand which gestures, expressions or even words it would be better to avoid in order to guarantee respectful interaction.

As with many other things in life, you only learn to hold a dialogue by participating in. Dialogue, despite being an exercise based on rhetoric and discourse, is an action. And in entries I will presenting different cases of dialogue in citizen diplomacy experiences.

More information on the topic: www.redlad.org

About Gina Romero

Gina is the director of the Latin American and Caribbean Network for democracy and part of the founding groups regarding different civil society organisations of every level (Ocasa (Colombia), Redlad (Americas), the World Youth Movement for Democracy, the Global Youth network for Democracy (global)). She has therefore much experience and knwo-how in topics such as public diplomacy, integrity and networking and many more.

Further Articles

The Social Impact Travels of the Global Diplomacy Lab
GDL Member Imran Simmins explores how the GDL encompasses the message and essence of a book entitled “Crossing Boundaries: A Traveler’s Guide to World Peace”.
Dialogue with ‘opposite’ Actors: Business Sector
In the last posts and the ones to come, Gina addresses dialogue between civil society and stakeholders from other sectors. Today, Ginas describes her experience of the dialogue between the business sector and civil society in Latin America.
Water Diplomacy 4.0 - Hope is on the Horizon
GDL Members Kathryn Bryk Friedman and Elsa Marie D'Silva, joined by water expert Prof Irena Creed presented their vision on Water Diplomacy 4.0 - Process Matters at the Transatlantic Climate Bridge Conference hosted by adelphi.
Dialogues among different kinds of Actors: Religious Actors
In previous posts Gina has talked about processes of dialogue between civil society organisations (CSOs) and societal stakeholders, in the next few posts she will address dialogue between civil society and stakeholders from other sectors. Today, Ginas describes how to open up dialogue with the religious sector.
"Time to Deliver"
The W7 group calls on G7 leaders to follow the principles of gender equality, peace and environmental integrity. GDL-member ElsaMarie D´Silva is part of the W7 and here is what they asked for in their new communiqué.
Guinea-Bissau - Paradise with Side Effects
Malaria is still a deadly disease - on islands in Guinea Bissau, scientists are researching remedies against it, but the fragile governance and corruption of the West African country do not only burden the health system, reports GDL member Julia Jaroschewski.
gina-romero5

Gina Romero

Gina Romero is a social activist, social entrepreneur and expert in civic education, youth empowerment, integrity and anticorruption as well as democracy strengthening.

She has wide experience in public diplomacy, networking, formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of social projects for development. She is an international consultant on anticorruption and youth issues and is currently the Director of the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Democracy.

Gina is a professional in the field of government and international relations, and has a Master in the Analysis of Political, Economic and International Contemporary Problems from the Universidad Externado de Colombia, among other courses and degrees. 

Gina has received recognition on several occasions for her work in Latin America and the Caribbean: Global Changemaker (2011), Drapers Hill Fellow (Stanford, 2012) and Historical and Accountability Fellow (Columbia, 2017).

She has been part of the founding groups of different civil society organisations at national, regional and global level such as Ocasa (Colombia), Redlad (Americas), the World Youth Movement for Democracy and the Global Youth network for Democracy (global).

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Follow Gina's experiences with dialogue in Latin America in this article and the next part in this blog post.

gina-romero5

Gina Romero

Gina Romero is a social activist, social entrepreneur and expert in civic education, youth empowerment, integrity and anticorruption as well as democracy strengthening.

She has wide experience in public diplomacy, networking, formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of social projects for development. She is an international consultant on anticorruption and youth issues and is currently the Director of the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Democracy.

Gina is a professional in the field of government and international relations, and has a Master in the Analysis of Political, Economic and International Contemporary Problems from the Universidad Externado de Colombia, among other courses and degrees. 

Gina has received recognition on several occasions for her work in Latin America and the Caribbean: Global Changemaker (2011), Drapers Hill Fellow (Stanford, 2012) and Historical and Accountability Fellow (Columbia, 2017).

She has been part of the founding groups of different civil society organisations at national, regional and global level such as Ocasa (Colombia), Redlad (Americas), the World Youth Movement for Democracy and the Global Youth network for Democracy (global).

....................................................................................................................

Follow Gina's experiences with dialogue in Latin America in this article and the next part in this blog post.

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