Building Peace through Dialogue: Ten Years of Sustained Dialogue across Universities in Ethiopia

27 Aug 2021

22pages PDF

The Sustained Dialogue Project is one of the primary and longest running fruits of our collaboration. When we piloted it at Addis Ababa University in 2009, it was based on our analysis that universities in Ethiopia – particularly Addis Ababa University – were confronted with inter-group conflicts. We knew Sustained Dialogue – which uses continuous dialogue among diverse people to bridge differences – is effective at promoting a culture of dialogue and tolerance. We also knew that it’s suitable for contexts where interpersonal and intergroup conflicts are along identity lines. We adapted the methodology to the Addis Ababa University setting, but we weren’t sure how it will be received or whether it would be effective there. However, we found that the methodology proved effective and useful, so much so that four years later, Addis Ababa University was ready to allocate budget for Sustained Dialogue and implement it as its own activity. Today, Sustained Dialogue (or ‘SD’ as it is affectionately known) is implemented in five universities across Ethiopia and more than 15,000 Ethiopian university students have been through the SD process. The universities see its value and are ready to own the project and run it on their own. They have also suggested LPI and PDC to scale up the project inside these universities, to launch SD in the other Ethiopian universities, and to open up SD to the broader university community (lecturers, university administration and communities around the university campuses). LPI, for its part, has used the lessons from implementing SD in Ethiopia to launch SD projects in Sudan, Somalia, Kenya and Sweden. This booklet is our way of sharing our decade long SD journey with a wider audience. In it, we share the stories and testimonies of students and university administrations who have been transformed by SD or have witnessed the transformation of others. We also share some of the challenges and opportunities we faced in this ten-year journey. The personal stories from former and current SD students, together with the evolution of conflicts in Ethiopia, encourage and challenge us to do more and to do better to improve interpersonal and intergroup relationships in Ethiopia; and make dialogue the primary means for conflict resolution in Ethiopian universities. This is no easy task. But we are confident that we can leverage our long partnership, the experience we have gained from implementing SD, the support of our financial partners, and the skills and talents of SD Alumni, to take SD to another level in the coming years.