Citizen-to-citizen dialogue is an increasingly essential component of international diplomacy. Only by understanding our differences and embracing our role as global citizens will we be able to solve our most intractable global challenges, including the continuing impact of Agent Orange in Vietnam.
It was a typically warm and sunny day in Honolulu late last October that students and faculty at the Matsunaga Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution learned firsthand how citizen-to-citizen dialogue works.
They participated in an innovative mock-dialogue simulating the first-ever meeting of the US-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange. The session was facilitated by Charles Bailey of the Ford Foundation Special Initiative on Agent Orange/dioxin.
Following an introduction from Mr. Bailey and event organizer Anne Marie Smoke, participants were assigned to represent members of the US-Vietnam Dialogue Group. After warming up to the process, each ‘member’ shared their role in the group and in the community, why they were chosen to participate and what they could bring to the table.
All aspects of that first meeting were simulated and students walked away with a true understanding of citizen-to-citizen dialogue and why it not only matters, but is essential to progress on addressing the toxic legacy of Agent Orange.
In the words of Cindy Iodide, a graduate student at the Matsunaga Institute:
“This morning’s US-Vietnam Dialogue Group Simulation was a tremendous experience. I felt disappointment that our time together had come to an end….was two and half hours too long? Truthfully I would have stayed for six. The experience was tremendous.”
For more information about this event or to download resource materials to host your own mock-dialogue, visit the Matsunaga Institute’s website.