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Using Forum Theatre To Break Down The Myths In Inter-basin Water Conflict

Congress: 2015
Author(s): Eshan Tavakoli-Nabavi (Canberra, Australia)


Keyword(s): Sub-theme 9: Water allocation among competing uses and users,
AbstractRegions experiencing high levels of water stress are increasingly dealing with various symptoms of conflict among parties whose existences are tightly linked to water. This study explores the feasibility, and effectiveness of using Boal's Forum Theater to open new windows of opportunity for conflict transformation. Research on the technique to date has mainly focussed on its application to the empowerment of students or participants who have a relatively limited influence on political decision-making. Yet, this study demonstrates how this innovative approach was used to investigate water issues in the most conflict-ridden inter-basin water conflict in Iran. Building trust with parties on both sides of the conflict enabled the research team to plan and design an interactive drama with a number of influential stakeholders to explore issues of inter-province water conflict (e.g. allocations, socio-economic, and environmental problems) in a different way. Through engaging in active listening, major issues were clarified, marginalized voices were heard and possible alternatives were co-constructed by the parties that have rare face-to-face communication due to negative stereotyping of each other at various societal levels. The study demonstrated that there was a huge potential for change in the conflict network. The myths of lack of understanding and entrenched societal conflict over water were revealed to be invalid when some of the workshop's participants with initially extreme opposing positions decided to start constructing new relationships, having reconsidered their perceptions about each other. These findings suggest that forum theatre--even in a very conflictual environment where undertaking any participatory activity seems near to impossible--could be a feasible initiative. Especially if it is used as part of an on-going process (not a single project), it could prove to be a useful strategy for more effectively governing and transforming water conflict

Keywords: Inter-basin, Water Conflict, Forum Theater, Conflict Network, participatory process

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