The Hellenic Mediation and Arbitration Centre partnered with Mediators Beyond Borders who collaborated in the set-up of a conflict prevention tool in Greece to address the rising social and political tensions which assail the Greeks and the migrant community.
The austerity measures implemented by the Greek Government as a condition to access EU Central Bank and IMF rescue funds combined with the large numbers of undocumented migrants making desperate attempts to attain Hellenic shores has severely impacted societal harmony in the country. At a time when public institutions are weakening and citizens’ trust in their leaders has plummeted Greece is a hot cauldron bubbling with conflict.The Athens Migration Dialogues works by empowering citizens, creating a safe space where courageous conversations can be had, engaging a variety of stakeholders on difficult issues.
The 5th of October saw the unfolding of the second in the series of these dialogues which were first held on April 27 2013 as a part of the ongoing project in Athens. Initially, the aim’s of the project, were to build the capacity of Greek mediators to facilitate dialogues on difficult and dangerous issues and the primary issue seemed to be migration.
The event was well attended by 70 participants who were broken up into smaller groups for discussions that took place from 10 am till 5pm, with a lunch break. Greek citizens, second generation migrants, members of the Albanian community, an admiral of the coast guard and other public institution officials participated in the event. Officials spoke only on behalf of themselves and not the institutions they represent.
In the week ahead of the Dialogue, a group of around twenty Greek professionals interested in Dialogue facilitation received intensive training how to structure and manage a reflective dialogue about a delicate issue where differing views are recognised and promoted but conflict is prevented. This included developing skills in emotional intelligence, nonverbal communication, cultural and transcultural communication styles, listening skills and dealing with impasse.
One secretary said over the course of the dialogue, his scepticism about its purpose and its effectiveness was transformed into the conviction that Public Dialogues in Greece about migration are relevant, necessary and possible. Other participants showed similar enthusiasm, with a teacher proposing that the project be shared and brought to schools. Other Greeks also held initial reservations about the outcome of the Dialogues because they have seen the deterioration of dialogues where there is mutual listening into conversations at crossed purposes. Ultimately, the Open Dialogues project restores the Greek peoples confidence in their ability to spin this wheel back the other way. Many moving stories poured into the circles and all participants reported they looked forward to the next session in April 2014.
More information the Athens Migration Dialogue can be found here
For information about the Hellenic Mediation and Arbitration Centre
For more information about Mediators Beyond Borders