Peace dialogue between the citizens of Israel and Palestine
SDDP delivers a systemic approach to empowering citizens whose lives are directly impacted in a conflict situation to be directly involved in achieving consensus on the steps that can be taken to address these wicked societal challenges. The methodology that we have been developing and utilizing over a number of years is called the Structured Democratic Dialogue Process (SDDP).
SDDP provides a unique approach to addressing the challenges of complex societal challenges. Racial discrimination, gender inequality and political conflicts are all areas where the stakeholders (citizens, politicians, experts, combatants, researchers) can participate in dialogues that examine their own experiences of participating as fully engaged citizens (both victors and victims) and activists. Participants contribute to reaching consensus on addressing and resolving the complex system-wide challenges that directly impact their own lives and the lives of their opponents.
The proven and tested structured rule-based approach of SDDP delivers a democratic approach to address the concerns of each participant in the dialogue. As opposed to conventional workshops or assemblies, the SDDP method ensures that every person, irrespective of his or her relationship to the challenge, can participate on an equal footing with experts, leaders, and influencers; each participant will be equally listened to and heard and will be supported in finding their own voice, no matter how hidden or suppressed that voice may be.
SDDP enables us to fully document the development of the ideas of each participant, the progress of the dialogue, and how contributions grow from individual thoughts into a map of influences on the outcome of the challenge. Participants cannot be threatened or bullied by the opinions of experts or other influencers; each will develop his or her own understanding of the challenges that he or she faces, and of the systemic constraints within which change is possible and solutions can be implemented. Participants from all socio-economic backgrounds will feel empowered to have their voices heard, and their opinions democratically voiced and acted upon; and, most significantly, each of the participants will view the achieved consensus as encompassing elements of their own ideas and proposals.
When looking back on the very difficult peace negotiations that have taken place between Israelis and Palestinians, their many failures are well known and have many reasons and excuses.
When we contrast this with the ongoing and successful efforts of grassroots organisations such as the Parents Circle, Combatants for Peace, the East-West Divan Orchestra and many, many more, the difference between bottom-up processes involving citizens, who prior to becoming involved most certainly heald very negative views of their co-participants, is truly amazing. And, where peace negotiations started to show progress, before being cut short due to external factors (eg Taba, January 2021), the participants attested to the achievement of a common language and the beginnings of relationships of trust.
We firmly believe that SDDP could play a role in bringing additional Israeli and Palestinian citizens together to experience “spaces to have honest and open dialogues about how they personally are impacted by, react to, and can address this challenge” in an environment that encourages inclusivity, diversity and innovation, alongside curiosity, scepticism, humour and compassion. Participants in genuine dialogue become more aware of, and better understand, their own preconceptions and limitations (self-trust); and, by entering into relationships of confidence and empathy, can learn to respect the constraints and vulnerabilities of fellow participants (mutual trust). Martin Buber, to a large extent my own personal model for Israeli Palestinian cooperation, who is considered by many to be the ‘philosopher of dialogue’, explained that listening and hearing, as opposed to listening alone, can make us attentive to the other, and in so doing to affirm his or her presence.
Prior to proposing SDDP virtual and/or face-to-face workshops to participants in a conflict, it would be prudent for us to facilitate a series of SDDP workshops for the staff, advisory members, external experts and collaborating organisations who are both supporting and challenging the efforts of the sponsors of the peace process.
Undertaking three SDDP workshops/co-laboratories to address the primary challenges facing the Balfour project in achieving its objectives :
Participants in an initial SDDP will come to a consensus on enriching the peace vision of the sponsor. It will enable the participants to establish a common language to address the challenge;
A second SDDP will identify the obstacles that the Balfour Project will require to address to implement the project vision; and
A third SDDP will reach agreement on the road map that will be implemented to overcome the obstacles identified to implementing your vision.
Obviously, these issues are well known to the sponsor and his or her team and will have been the subject of many hours and days of debate and discussion. However, having the opportunity to bring together the relevant stakeholders, to validate the approach and develop a new road map for the future that identifies the influence relations between the many valid options, could both validate the relevance of SDDP, and provide a boost to the energies of the stakeholders