Dialogue as a trustbuilding method in Ukraine
'Violence in any form is a tragic expression of
our unmet needs.' — Marshall B. Rosenberg
A group of facilitators in nonviolent communication held a dialogue between local community representatives and border guards in Donetsk oblast on 16 October. Dialogue is used as a method of communication and trustbuilding in conditions of impending or actual conflict. The dialogue in Donetsk oblast was led by Lada Kanevska and Oleksa Stasevych, the representatives of Foundations for Freedom INGO (Ukraine), as well as Duke Duchscherer, a certified trainer of the International Centre for Nonviolent Communication (USA). Find out more about the dialogue in this report by K Antonov.
The recent arrival and accommodation of the military men (who turned out to be the border guards) in Novohrodivka, a small town in the Donetsk oblast, 15 km away from the ATO (anti-terroristic operation) zone, resulted in rumours and gossip amongst the townspeople, causing some tension in the community. In fairness, it has to be noted that the military officers made efforts to explain the purpose of their stay in the town to the town administration and the locals, as well as to provide local residents with the security guarantees and a peaceful non-confrontational neighbourhood. However, a misunderstanding occurred and it was difficult to establish a fully effective interaction between the two sides.
Duke Duchscherer (USA), a certified trainer of the International Centre for Nonviolent Communication, Lada Kanevska (Kyiv), an experienced mediator, facilitator, and training manager, as well as Oleksa Stasevych (Lviv), manager of the Ukrainian Action: Healing the Past programme of the Foundations for Freedom INGO offered their help in dealing with the tense situation. Their two-day visit in Novohrodivka was an unforgettableand moving event.
A nonviolent practice of conflict resolution is being increasingly used worldwide. The author of the methodology of nonviolent communication is Marshall Rosenberg, an American psychologist who in the 1960s developed his own system of nonviolent communication and in the 1980s founded the Centre for Nonviolent Communication. The trainers and lecturers of the Centre travel the world suggesting their mediation assistance in conflict resolution and learning the nonviolent communication methodology. This type of mediation is provided by facilitators and professionals whose task it is to ensure the successful group communication.
The facilitators who came to Novohrodivka have managed to hold four challenging meetings a day with groups of townspeople, the border guard station command, the border guards themselves, and with a group containing representatives of both sides.
Townspeople voiced their needs by selecting cards containing words such as 'peace', 'friendship', 'cooperation', 'freedom', 'equality', 'presence', 'safety', and 'order' cards, whereas the border guards chose 'trust', 'care', 'understanding', and 'respect'. Using the cards gave people the chance to better understand each other.
Everyone had a chance both to express themselves and to be heard by all dialogue participants. Their ideas turned out to be similar: the local citizens needed peace, safety, and protection and the border guards added peace, trust and cooperation. The keyword for everyone was 'peace'.
At the end of the dialogue, the problem seemed to be solved and the tension related to the presence of the military men in the town was finally dissolved. However, this is just half the battle. In order to build more effective communication, it was decided to develop a joint-action plan between the local community and border guards.
The dialogue ended by thanking the experts and facilitators for their attention to the problems of the townspeople and the valuable time spent together in such a useful and fruitful way. Ukrainian society has clearly needed, and still needs, effective communication. Today the need for dialogue is ever more pressing. May the basis for it be neither the salvos of guns nor volleys of automatic gunfire, but rather the methods of nonviolent communication.
K. Antonov, Novohrodivka, Donetsk oblast, Ukraine
Translation: Halyna Bunio
Please note: Initiatives of Change International community unites people of different beliefs, faiths and religions all over the world. The views of the author may not coincide with the views of Initiatives of Change and Foundations for Freedom.