The role of mediators, the role of objective independent bodies (either national or international) has been over-estimated. This is what I think following a recent eye-opening experience I have had in a global dialogue forum.
Two days of debates by experts on the specific topic, a very structured and well planned programme, all meetings chaired by an excellent diplomat, an event in general very well supported at technical and administrative level in a building that brings the last 100 years a lot of historical achievements as far as labor rights are concerned.
There were about 150 people gathered from more than 50 countries all over the world representing governments, employers and employees.
Hours of preparation, plus hours of travelling from all the continents of the globe, plus hours of meetings, on top of accommodation and travel expenses (for some participants more days spent due to strikes), on top of hidden expenses and costs for non «producing» on regular posts.
What I learnt: More ingredients than the above «technicalities» are necessary in order to establish an honest dialogue and more important to come down to conclusions. This is more difficult if the goal is to come to a consensus after the dialogue. For the dialogue to be productive all participants need to actively listen to one another. Active listening means that they will be open to the ideas of others, they will be ready to re-state their arguments in an effort to pass their message, in an effort the get understood by the others. For a dialogue to end up with consensus trustworthy relationships should have been established (before the dialogue takes place). For a dialogue to be fruitful, goals should be explicit and common. If goals among partners are not mutual it is not possible to come to mutual agreement; on the contrary, all parties find all minor or greater excuses to avoid consensus on the hot staff.
… and there comes the «need» to have an objective organization, a third party to carry out more research on the topic, to collect more facts and figures so that the decision is postponed to the future.
Exchange of arguments is not a dialogue, it is rather a monologue with an audience, who might not even listen to.
But why then did they bother to get together?