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'Sustained Dialogue' in New Zealand

Media Release From IPS, School of Government, VUW

10 October 2003

'Sustained Dialogue' in New Zealand

Former US diplomat and author Harold (Hal) Saunders will visit New Zealand 28 October to 7 November as a guest of the Institute of Policy Studies in the School of Government at Victoria University. Dr Saunders is President of the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue and author of A Public Peace Process: Sustained Dialogue to Transform Racial and Ethnic Conflicts.

The purpose of the visit is to explore the relevance to New Zealand of Dr Saunders' work in transforming racial and ethnic conflict.

Sustained dialogue focuses on relationships that divide communities. The goal is to transform and build relationships to deal with practical problems. The core elements are simple but profound: dialogue rather than debate, a willingness to listen, and commitment to an ongoing process.

Dr Saunders has commented: "Just as governments have used diplomacy and formal mediation or negotiation as their instruments for dealing with conflict, sustained dialogue is the instrument that citizens outside government use for addressing the human dimension of conflict to change their relationships. Only governments can write peace treaties but only human beings - citizens outside government - can transform conflictual relationships between people into peaceful relationships."

Organiser of Dr Saunders' visit in the Institute of Policy Studies, David Robinson, said, "Some underlying issues in New Zealand are hard to resolve, or even understand, in the limited time available in current debate. This particularly applies to Treaty issues, but is also relevant to possibly divisive matters of ethnicity and race generally. We are exploring the possible application of a process that enables people to identify and explore underlying relationships in an enduring manner, rather than focusing on immediate political, legal and constitutional counter-claims."

Harold Saunders is a former member of the National Security Council Staff in the White House and Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs. After the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, he flew on Secretary of State Kissinger's diplomatic shuttles in the Middle East. In 1978-79, he worked with Carter, Sadat, and Begin to produce the Camp David accords and helped to negotiate the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty. Hal is co-moderator of a US-Russian task force on regional conflicts, the US-China Dialogue and the Inter-Tajik Dialogue. Amongst his other important books is The Other Walls: The Arab-Israeli Peace Process in a Global Perspective.

The visit is part of the IPS Programme on Sustained Dialogue, being developed in collaboration with the US International Institute for Sustained Dialogue and the Kettering Foundation. Dr Saunders' schedule in New Zealand includes meetings and training workshops with academics, officials, church and community groups, seminars and lectures.

He will deliver a public lecture at the VUW Law School on 4 November on Expanding the Field of Conflict Resolution: Sustained Dialogue.


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