In September, EWMI concluded its three year Promoting Dialogue and Tolerance in Fiji (PDTF) project. Throughout the term of the project, EWMI worked with Dialogue Fiji (Hyperlink: http://www.dialoguefiji.com/), a coalition of Fijian NGOs, to strengthen Fiji’s civil society capacity by creating regional and national dialogues throughout the country. PDTF promoted tolerance between the divided social and political groups by bringing together representatives from different communities to discuss important local and national issues at each of the dialogues. This was an entirely demand-driven initiative, which reflected and respected the goals and perspectives of EWMI’s partners on the ground in Fiji.
The last four months of the project, although bustling with activities, were especially successful. EWMI’s consultant Sylvia McMechan and Dialogue Fiji hosted two workshops on dialogue facilitation in June and September. Find our news article on the June session here: http://www.ewmi.org/PDTFJune2013. In the September session, Ms. McMechan’s training covered Dialogue Fiji’s methodology and the general dialogue process. The participants in this training were all experienced mediators from around the Suva area, who will now be able to lead Dialogue Fiji’s upcoming regional dialogues and thereby greatly increase the organization’s capacity. Additionally, EWMI hosted two regional Dialogues: the Western Divisional Dialogue in June and the Northern Divisional Dialogue in August. Dialogue Fiji effectively created a safe space where government representatives, NGO members, religious and community leaders were able to build confidence and trust in each other while discussing national issues, developing strategies to improve their respective communities, and finding ways to decrease tensions between the Fijian majority and the Indo-Fijian minority.
In the last year of the project, EWMI and Dialogue Fiji created dialogues on the national constitutional drafting process with many different stakeholders, including NGO representatives, members of the public sector, community leaders, youth groups and religious group leaders. The dialogues explained each step of the drafting process and encouraged participants to make official submissions to the government on the constitution.
Overall, one of the notable outcomes of the project was that the majority of the participants from all the dialogues were either members of the government, including the Prime Minister’s office, or leaders of Fiji’s prominent NGOs. Dialogue Fiji’s surveys and follow up activities indicated that the dialogues led to increased communication between members of these two sectors. It should be noted also that the vast majority of the participants indicated in the surveys that they would attend dialogues in the future and that these events increased their respect toward other ethnic groups. At the end of the project, Dialogue Fiji chronicled over a dozen success stories of how participants used mediation and facilitation techniques from the dialogues to effectively decrease conflicts in their communities and workplaces.