CDPB_ISCTSJ Invitation

Lecture by Dr Ofrit Liviatan, Harvard University

Lecture by Dr Ofrit Liviatan, Director, Freshman Seminar Program and Lecturer, Department of Government, Harvard University, USA.

Including the respondents: Lord Alderdice, Professor John Brewer (ISCTSJ, QUB) and Professor Richard Wilford (School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy, QUB).

The Northern Ireland’s experience, extensively explored as a historic example of conflict transformation, has been comparatively under-studied sociolegally even though legal mechanisms played a central role in the efforts to ameliorate the region’s social tensions. Striving to rectify this scholarly lacunae, Dr. Ofrit Liviatanwill draw upon Northern Ireland’s path from war to peace in discerning law’s effectiveness as a conflict management device within deeply divided societies. She will offer an alternative perspective to the currently dominating structure-oriented readings on the persistence of sectarian divisions in Northern Ireland, by proposing that law’s boundaries as a vehicle of conflict transformation are unveiled by the macro-micro interplay between structure and agency. Whereas legal structures effectively contributed to pacifying Northern Ireland’s armed struggle, they also presented human agencies with rational and instrumental opportunities to reproduce the conflict rather than resolve it. Nonetheless, even as legal structures proved limited as a conflict reduction path, the interplay dynamic between structure and agency remains promising for conflict transformation by offering agents considerable opportunities to utilize these structures as a resource enabling reconciliation.

If you wish to attend please RSVP no later than Friday 5 December to rsvp@democracyandpeace.org

Tufts

One Step Forward: Acknowledging the Past and Building Peace by Andrew Dusek

“You’re very welcome to Belfast. We love visitors—it’s each other we hate.” This guileless greeting perplexed me during my first visit to Northern Ireland in the winter of 2010. It had been more than 10 years since the Good Friday Agreement ushered in peace but not reconciliation. Everywhere I saw progress towards a united future, but it was impossible to ignore the need to address a divided past.

The multidimensionality of disturbed relationships continues to complicate the process of reconciliation at the individual, community, and national levels in Northern Ireland. Entrenched dichotomies—whether Protestant and Catholic or unionist and nationalist—continue to serve as literal and figurative barriers to peace. As I strolled among the painted paramilitaries and memorialized martyrs on Belfast’s persistent “peace walls,” I witnessed the on-going difficulty of accommodating British and Irish symbols into a society that is still trying to grapple with national historical memory. This fraught process has complicated the creation of a cohesive Northern Irish identity and impedes restorative and retributive approaches to justice.

The possibility that victims will receive justice diminishes with each passing year, but hope is not lost. Although perpetrators have passed away, evidence is gone, and weapons have been surrendered to decommissioning, legal inquiries continue to illuminate the truth about the Troubles. As perpetrators are incorporated into the peace process and alternative means of prosecuting political visions become available, there is reason for cautious optimism.

Today, strong community leaders like Lord Alderdice and Mr. Donaldson are engaged in the construction of an inclusive Northern Irish identity at the national level. Both men are cognizant that psychological damage cannot be resolved, and dealing with pain held by individual victims and Northern Irish society as a whole requires very different approaches. While many would prefer to forge ahead rather than reopen past trauma, Lord Alderdice and Mr. Donaldson rightly emphasized posterity as a motivation for coming to terms with the past. It is crucial that the descendants of victims and perpetrators do not suffer the same fate as their forbearers.

During my time in Northern Ireland, a former editor of the Belfast Telegraph told me that he could not envisage enduring peace in the next one or two generations because sectarianism is an entrenched mindset. It may be true that societal reconciliation is still far afield. However, with leaders like Lord Alderdice and Mr. Donaldson at the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building, progress towards sustainable, societal peace is on the right track.

 

by Andrew Dusek, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University

 

Tufts

Relationships, identity and the importance of language by Héctor Portillo

I met Lord John Alderdice and Jeffrey Donaldson this October, when they came to our Conflict Resolution Theory course at The Fletcher School to give a talk about their experiences in Northern Ireland and the work of the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building. I will fully admit that prior to that moment most of what I knew about Northern Ireland came from Sunday Bloody Sunday (both the movie and U2’s song) and some episodes of Sons of Anarchy. That is, I barely knew anything about it. I come from México and, although we have strong sympathy towards the Irish people (especially because of the Saint Patrick’s Battalion), I have focused most of my research on the conflict that my home country is going through.

As Alderdice and Donaldson spoke to us about their stories and views on Northern Ireland, I was simply blown away by how a conflict that is so far away and so different is, at heart, also very close and similar. As they talked about relationships, identity, and the importance of language, I could only nod emphatically. When they mentioned the need for closing the gap between political elites and civil society and engaging civil society in the peace process, I could have sworn they were talking about Mexico.

The tragedy of Ayotzinapa, where 43 students were kidnapped by municipal policemen and then handed over to the local drug cartel, has sparked the biggest civilian mobilization I have seen in my country in recent years. It’s not only the tragedy itself, it’s the fact that violence has become part of our lives: over 20,000 people have “disappeared” during the last 8 years, and estimates of murders related to drug violence and the drug war range between 60,000 and 100,000. It is becoming less and less easy to call it a “security issue” and increasingly appropriate to simply call it a “civil war.” The violence may or may not decrease, but we still will have relationships to fix and identities to figure out. Perhaps Mexico and Northern Ireland have more in common than I had thought, and hopefully we can share our experiences and learn from each other.

 

By Héctor Portillo, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University

Tufts

Cultivating a relationship of trust by Kristin Bushby

“The next generation of successful political leaders in Northern Ireland will play to their best hopes, instead of their worst fears.” These words stood out to me during a recent lecture given by Lord Alderdice and The Right Honourable Jeffrey Donaldson MP on their experiences working to establish sustainable peace in Northern Ireland. As a master’s degree student at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, I had the opportunity to learn firsthand about the work of the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building (CDPB), and their role promoting peace, stability, and reconciliation both in Northern Ireland and throughout the world. Reflecting on the discussion, several critical themes emerged.

Creating a Space for Negotiations to Succeed

The Northern Ireland experience embodies the importance of creating a political and social environment in which negotiations have the chance to be successful. For negotiations to succeed, significant backchannel work cultivating support within one’s party is needed, which requires strong transformational leadership, as well as the ability to communicate effectively with the opposing party. A negotiator must navigate the difficult balance of first and foremost representing the interests of its party, while at the same time, cultivating a relationship of trust with other negotiators and trying to understand their party’s needs, so that the negotiation becomes an atmosphere where mutual gains are possible, instead of a zero-sum process. Lord Alderdice and Rt Hon Jeffrey Donaldson MP repeatedly emphasized the importance of cultivating strong relationships throughout negotiations, as well as paying careful attention to language used during the process, which should aspire to transcend issues and create an atmosphere of respect.

Preparing for Implementation of the Agreement

The negotiation process is a means to an end; it is crucial to remember that negotiations are only successful if the implementation of their outcomes is adequately planned. In the case of Northern Ireland, it took nine years to establish stable political institutions following the Good Friday Agreement. Lord Alderdice and Rt Hon Jeffrey Donaldson MP discussed the need to create a space through which realistic societal change could take place, which means allocating appropriate time for implementation of the agreement. This can be extremely challenging in post-conflict societies where citizens and political parties alike are demanding immediate change, yet taking the time to ensure institutions are ready to implement peace deserves serious attention, and should not be rushed. Having this time is also critical to begin the lengthy process of working toward cultural change and gaining acceptance for peace within a society.

Looking Ahead to Sustainable Peace

Northern Ireland is still facing some legacies of its past, including the need to establish a collective identity through the memorialization process. This process, which according to Rt Hon Jeffrey Donaldson MP, may take up to another 10 years to complete, would be completed over twenty years after the Belfast Agreement was initially signed. That this process may be as long as the duration of the twenty-five year conflict itself is a testament to the complexity of peace processes, and the need for a long-term approach to achieving reconciliation.

While the Northern Ireland experience is contextually unique, the lessons learned from its process have valuable implications for conflicts around the world today. Lord Alderdice and Rt Hon Jeffrey Donaldson MP closed their remarks by noting that reconciliation in Northern Ireland was extremely difficult, and that conflict-ridden societies with more economic disparity and ethnic diversity than Northern Ireland face even greater challenges. This makes the work of CDPB and its efforts to share the Northern Ireland experience with the world even more critical.

 

By Kristin Bushby, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University

Tufts

Working with the trauma and wounds by Rabia Altaf

The lecture given by Lord Alderdice and MP Donaldson to Fletcher students had a profound impact on all of us: to hear practitioners of peace building who had a personal stake in the outcome of their conflict was of enormous benefit to the peace builders in training. My personal experience in witnessing conflict has been through my work with the US Department of Defense, mostly with my work having focused on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Having returned from a 17 month stint in May, Lord Alderdice and MP Donaldson’s lecture provided a way for me to see the interethnic conflict within Afghanistan a bit differently, as well as the role of the international community in solving these long-simmering crises.

NATO’s role in attempting to pacify Afghanistan after the American invasion in 2001 has mostly been military-led, with both soldiers and civilians working at the grassroots level up to the national level to calm tensions based on tribe, ethnicity, and political affiliation. The complicated history of Afghanistan coupled with the destruction of its society several times over make for a heartbreaking conflict in which human life’s worth has plummeted. The lecture by MPs Alderdice and Donaldson reframed my understanding of the Afghan conflict by emphasizing that past wounds and trauma, while surmountable, cannot simply be waved away over time. Forging peace requires working with the trauma and wounds that exist as a result of the conflict, and understanding that the group today was not the group that existed yesterday or 30 years ago.

The peace building must be rooted in the present, or else it becomes a rehashing of past wrongs. This is a key issue with Afghanistan’s government and the Taliban: both don’t recognize the other’s right to exist and are at stalemate in their struggle for full control of the country. While Northern Ireland’s peace process does not mirror Afghanistan’s, the lessons to draw from it are still useful in understanding the dimensions of peace building not readily apparent to outside observers.

 

By Rabia Altaf, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University

economy

CDPB report shows NI benefits from immigration

Northern Ireland is benefiting from immigration.  A major new study published today has revealed the substantial economic and social benefits that newcomers bring to our society.

Commissioned by the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building with support from Belfast Policing and Community Safety Partnership and written by Professor Peter Shirlow and Dr Richard Montague at Queen’s University Belfast, the report’s key findings challenge a number of myths, stereotypes and commonly held misconceptions about migrants.

The report examines a number of areas such as population; employment; housing; benefits; economy; healthcare; education; crime; and social cohesion. Below are some of the report’s key findings:

  • Migrant workers contributed around £1.2 billion to the Northern Irish economy from 2004 to 2008
  • Only 4% of the Northern Ireland workforce is made up of migrant workers
  • Only 3% of the total number of pupils attending school in Northern Ireland are ethnic minorities
  • 81.5% of migrants in the UK are employed
  • Less than 5% of EU migrants claim Jobseekers Allowance
  • The cost of temporary migrants using the health service amounts to around 0.01% (£12 million) of the £109 billion NHS budget

The Unite Against Hate campaign has recently been re-launched by the Centre for Peace Building and Democracy who commissioned the ‘Challenging Racism: Ending Hate’ report into the facts about migrant populations in Northern Ireland.

The report highlights the fact that, contrary to popular belief, migrants contribute more in tax than they consume in public services. In Northern Ireland, migrant workers contributed around £1.2 billion to the Northern Irish economy from 2004 to 2008. Migration also contributes to sustaining economic growth, filling labour shortages, bringing much needed skills and enriching society through cultural diversity.

Speaking about the report, the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building Chairman Lord Alderdice said:

“In response to a number of race hate attacks in recent months, the Centre for Peace Building and Democracy was keen to commission a piece of work that would look seriously at the migrant population in Northern Ireland and demonstrate how much migrants contribute to our society.

“The report highlights contributions in tax, skills, labour and cultural diversity – enriching our society rather than threatening it.”

Belfast Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon said:

“Tackling racism continues to be a priority for Belfast City Council and is a priority which has all party political support.  The report provides a strong evidence base for Belfast as a city to be able to champion the positive social and economic benefits of diversity and to continue to promote Belfast as a welcoming and inclusive city”.

Professor Shirlow added:

“The report and its findings are profoundly important because they completely rebut the stereotypes that have plagued our migrant population in recent years. People need to be educated about the facts.

“We frequently hear claims that migrants take our jobs and use up our limited services. Migrants pose no threat to our society. This report will hopefully go some way towards changing the conversation about migrants in Northern Ireland.”

PCSP Chair Colin Keenan said:

“Belfast PCSP’s community engagement has shown that these myths have led to negative stereotyping of the migrant population in Belfast.  In extreme circumstances, these myths have been used as an excuse for racist hate crime which cannot be allowed to continue.  Belfast PCSP will play a full role in challenging these myths going forward.”