Opinion leaders learn to deal with various identities in Ivory Coast
The FPS Foreign Affairs supports initiatives which promote peaceful co-existence. Among other places, in Ivory Coast.
In the past 20 years, Ivory Coast has undergone a significant identity crisis. This has left a deep impression on the social fabric, and has had a considerable influence on the sense of citizenship. One crisis has led to another, culminating in the violence which broke out following the elections of 2010-2011. Many conflicts have centred around identity: generalisations about others, dogmatism, regrouping on the basis of ethnicity and a refusal to progress in the name of respect for religion.
The Belgian NGO Verbatims is specialised in identity-related conflicts. With Belgian support, they set up a project targeting reconciliation in Ivory Coast. The objective: teaching opinion leaders, such as political parties, journalists, intellectuals or traditional leaders how to deal with different identities.
Verbatims organised debate forums (Forums de la Gouvernance identitair) in Abidjan and in the west of the country. Opinion leaders were brought together to learn how they can better identify and manage identity-related conflicts which lead to human rights violations. They also learned how to establish a more open citizenship, whereby cohesion within society can be enhanced.
In general, the project received significant positive attention. Verbatims was one of the few NGOs to encourage debate on the extremely sensitive questions of identity in Ivory Coast. The organisation hopes that the country will be able to enjoy political and social stability in the long term.