16 November, 2017

Building Counter-narratives in the Catalan conflict

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Campaign Activist
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by Ramon Tena

The conflict between Catalunya and Spain has emerged in the European agenda, especially in the last couple of months. We have seen wide mobilizations in the Catalan streets by partisans of independence and the “right to decide”, and by those citizens defending the unity of Spain. The conflict between institutions in Barcelona and Madrid has had strong effects in dividing citizens, not only Catalans and Spaniards, but also inside Catalonian society and increasingly within Spanish society itself.

In spite that conflict per se is not necessarily negative, one of the effects has been an increase of miscommunication, stereotypes, extreme polarisation and hateful speeches. These are especially noticeable in social networks such as Twitter and Facebook.

In this context, the blog Andorra Mediació (www.andorramediacio.com) has decided to launch an initiative to counter hate speech and promote alternative narratives. This website is linked to the social entrepreneurship initiative Dialoga (www.dialoga.ad), based in Andorra and focused in promoting dialogue as a tool for conflict transformation. As the blog is based in a neutral country (which is not associated with the Spanish nor to the Catalan side), it was an interesting platform to start this initiative.

The initiative consisted in opening the blog for mediators from Barcelona and Madrid to express their view on the Catalan conflict and putting forward proposals to manage the conflict through dialogue. After publication, articles were shared in social networks, and a debate followed, especially in LinkedIN. In total, there have been 9 articles ranging from conflict analysis to possible mediation and negotiation alternatives. Each article has had around 2000 views in social networks and in the blog itself, and has steered interesting debates, especially in the LinkedIN group “Entusiastas de la Mediación y ADRs”, a group about mediation and alternative dispute resolution with about 11.000 followers.

The objective was to show that, in the midst of confrontation, there were still voices that defended a negotiated solution, and show that cooperation (in this case between mediators from Madrid and Barcelona) is possible. Even if the reach of this initiative has been limited, it has had the effect of appeasing the debate among Spanish conflict resolution practitioners. As one of participants -Emilio Navas, a mediator from Madrid- put it: this initiative allowed me to look at the conflict from a different perspective, and that’s quite a deal.


As the conflict is evolving very quickly, so is this initiative. From this week, the blog will promote publications by common citizens from all corners of Spain and from very different points of view. They will explain how the conflict is affecting them and share their views. Contributions will come from a non-violent communication perspective. Thus, the objective will be simply to explain one’s personal point of view and not to try convincing others. Hopefully this will promote humanisation and empathy towards citizens with very different opinions about the Catalan conflict.

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