Dilemmas of Inter-Sectoral Dialogue Processes
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Prepared as a contextual statement (see others
on the occasion of the Earth Summit (Rio de Janeiro, 1992) for the International
Facilitating Committee for the Independent Sectors in the UNCED process (Geneva).
Portions of the text were published in the Encyclopedia
of World Problems and Human Potential
(1994-5, vol 2) and in the online
version of its commentaries (to which links below are made) shaping the global
network of local bargains by decoding and mapping Earth Summit inter-sectoral
issues. [IFCD51B ]
1. Common denominators: Inter-sectoral meetings readily focus on the
lowest common denominator, rather than seeking ways of benefitting from the
variety of perspectives represented. This is often the price of a certain
form of consensus.
2. Repetition: Everything that is
easy to say about development-environment issues has already been said and
written many times. It is questionable whether the time of an inter-sectoral
dialogue should be used to make these points again amongst people who have made
(and heard) them before.
3. Statement fatigue: Many are
tired of each others position statements, whether of their insights or of their
distortions. There is a need to move beyond the phase of "flag
waving", testimony meetings, and intellectual and personal positioning.
4. Communication styles: Each
sector tends to be impatient regarding insights formulated in the
"language" of another sector. Differences in communication style are
important, especially in a multi-cultural setting.
5. Elaboration: Those presenting
insights tend to fail to present them in a sufficiently succinct language. This
tendency exploits the limited time resources of the meeting -- and is
6. Illegitimacy: Sectors tend to
have difficulty accepting the legitimacy of other sectors, even if obliged to
create the impression of doing so.
7. Self-righteousness: There is a
need to move beyond the easy posture of self-righteous blaming of particular
sectors -- and the old pattern of scapegoating another to emphasize the
innocence of one's own sector.
8. Over-selling: Sectors tend to
"over-sell" the merits of their concerns, skills and special
perspective. Excessive enthusiasm can strin credibility.
9. Over-confidence: Sectors tend
to fail to recognize the limitations of their own perspective with respect to
domains of importance to others.
10. Obvious solutions: Some
continue to believe in obvious or magical solutions and perceive as
unconstructive (or "negative") any attempts to note the limitations
of such solutions.
11. Authorities: The traditional
approach of using respected authority figures to impose order on a
"disorderly" dialogue is increasingly questioned. But the challenge
of "self-organization" has not yet been fully accepted.
12. Facilitation: Efforts to use
non-authoritarian, "neutral" facilitators or processes to
mediate interactions are considered suspect. Facilitators necessarily have
particular cultural, linguistic, ideological or disciplinary biases.