Third-Side Movement in Venezuela

William Ury

Director of the Global Negotiation Project, Program on Negotiation, Harvard Law School

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

Essentially we were working at NGO-type levels, and you go from one to the other and you're working up and down this pyramid - from the top to the grassroots. Over the ensuing couple of years we engaged - we developed - at that same time we decided to have a public conference on the third side, and they rented a theater in downtown Caracas, and we didn't know who would show up from both sides and they were a little afraid because both sides didn't get together and if they did get together they were afraid there would be violence. I think this theater could maybe hold 400 or 500 people and 700 or 800 people showed up. And they actually had the National Guard out there because they were concerned about violence and it was this whole big thing, but actually it was calm and 500 people came for the whole day to talk about the third side.

It wasn't just one-way communication; what we did was to use that to break -- even in this tough theater-like setting - to get people to say, "Okay, who could be natural third siders, and where is the third side in this society, and what would be the music of the third side ?" and out of that meeting I asked, "Who would like to be on the organizing committee for this? Because this is something you've got to do."

And I saw myself and our role was simply to try to empower or give hope to people or give some space to people and they had to do it themselves and they had an organizing committee and I think 50 people raised their hands or maybe more than that, and then they had a meeting and then out of that came a group that organized major public events all around Venezuela. There are networks of peace and they got children involved in schools and radio programs and TV programs and there was a whole grassroots organization that's still going on, under several names, but one of the names is (??? Spanish), "Here, there's room for everybody," "Here, we all fit." They're continuing right now to organize dialogue on both sides and even doing imaginative things, like street theatre, where you know, they'll put down a table and two chairs and they'll invite passersby to take a chair and engage in dialogue.