Online Peace-building Dialogue: Opportunities & Challenges Post-Covid-19 Pandemic Emergence
AbstractWhile peacebuilding dialogue would normally take place face to face, restrictions in ensuring a safe space and travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the geographical dispersion of participants necessitated the move towards an online platform to avoid its collapse. The shift towards online platforms has presented new opportunities and challenges to peacebuilding – both official and unofficial. Online peacebuilding dialogue is cheaper, quicker, and easier to organise than face-to-face meetings. These advantages have allowed for the inclusion of wider and typically marginalised groups. Online tools have also made it simpler and indeed possible for those groups to join peace talks from their homes allowing a wide geographical coverage of participants. Despite these advantages, there are challenges to whether Online Peacebuilding Dialogue can replace in-person dialogue. Furthermore, the shift has presented facilitation challenges to peacebuilders due to the increased number of participants and the nature of online dialogue. Moreover, online tools can amplify existing marginalisation leading to dialogue domination by certain classes. This paper aims to understand the challenges and opportunities arising from this shift to conducting dialogue and peace talks – both formal and informal – to online platforms due to the spread of COVID-19. The paper concludes by proposing a set of facilitation recommendations to those organising and facilitating peacebuilding dialogue to ensure the successful creation of a safe online communicative space suited to conducive peacebuilding dialogue.