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Opinion: A ‘Brexit Convention’ for Northern Ireland

We are committed to partnership, equality and mutual respect as the basis of relationships within Northern Ireland, between North and South, and between these islands.”
Preamble to the Belfast Good Friday Agreement 1998

There is one certainty that is clear in the opening weeks of 2017: we are in uncertain times. Much of the current commentary and discourse is about the RHI scandal, who was responsible, who was to blame. There are serious issues and questions unresolved and in whatever talks process that will emerge, a lot of focus will be on getting answers.

Politicians are elected to represent their community and fulfil their electoral mandate. This must be respected and it will be for the politicians to negotiate and decide how best to create the next talks process.

As Einstein observed “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same results”. Therefore, a central focus of these talks must include relationship building. This requires providing space to politicians and support to find new ways of communicating and relating to each other. Without this, the Assembly and Executive will fail to function and lack of trust will make negotiations and delivering for citizens practically impossible.

It is also a time for our society, and each of us individually, not to react but to proactively think about how we all work together to solve the challenges that affect us all.

In a matter of weeks, the UK Prime Minister will trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and the Brexit negotiations will begin. The timetable of an NI Assembly election/ talks process will have no bearing on this.

A serious problem arises: Northern Ireland has no Brexit plan. Not only do we not have a plan, it is likely that we may not have a government to advocate on our behalf. The political talks between the NI parties will be about saving the institutions, not about how to establish the best outcome for Northern Ireland in the upcoming Brexit negotiations. The implications of Brexit are some of the most important policy and constitutional issues Northern Ireland has to face.

We need a space for informed thinking, debate and solutions to ensure the best outcome for all the people of Northern Ireland in the Brexit negotiations.

So what can be practically done against the backdrop of the current political crisis?

I propose that a “Brexit Convention” is immediately established. This Convention would be a ‘collective’ of key influencers from across business, civic, community, voluntary, trade union, student, agriculture, media and many others. This group should be as widely representative of society in NI as possible and include new voices, emerging leaders and the most marginalised in our community.

The Convention would represent a genuine collaborative relationship between the public, private and community sectors and provide expertise and assistance during this time of crisis.

It would be tasked to “establish recommendations to achieve the best outcome for NI in the upcoming Brexit negotiations”. It could have support of British & Irish Governments and report to the NI political parties.

Part of this process could involve hosting “Town Hall” style meetings which allow the public to engage with ideas and be part of the process. This will lead to creative thinking, innovative perspectives, expertise, transparency and accountability.

image1 (2)This format could provide a model that might be used to assist with the political negotiations and to examine other issues in the future, for example around mental health or an ambitious economic plan, etc.

In the longer term, consideration should be given to establishing a think tank with local, national and international expertise to develop innovative policy and strategic thinking. Northern Ireland needs to connect to a much bigger global reality.

It is a time for us to collectively step up to the challenges we face. This proposal won’t resolve everything, but if we utilise the best of our abilities, our creative spirit, call upon our resilience and summon our courage, we can start to find solutions in a meaningful way. This will inspire us to continue on our journey to grow a united community and build a prosperous, peaceful future for all.”

Conor Houston, Programme Director, CDPB

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Lord Alderdice honoured for Excellence in Promoting Peace & Collaboration by Global Thinkers Forum

Lord Alderdice to be presented with a Special Award for Excellence in Promoting Peace & Collaboration by Global Thinkers Forum – the global platform promoting accountable leadership, women’s empowerment and youth development.

Among other Honourees are the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), for Excellence in Positive Change; Alwaleed Philanthropies and HH Prince Alwaleed bin Talal who donated his entire fortune to philanthropy, will be recognised with a Special Award for Excellence in Contribution to Humanity, world-acclaimed Turkish author Elif Şafak, for Excellence in Promoting Gender Equality, One Heart World-Wide, an organisation that helps reduce maternal and neonatal mortality in rural areas for their Excellence in Women’s Empowerment.

“In the 21st century, philanthropy earns a strategic dimension. At the core of this transformation is the will to hold business leaders and businesses more accountable, expand, and nurture the notion of ethical leadership. We live in a complex era; accountable leadership is being challenged every day. We need role models in giving, empowering, promoting peace, in actively effecting positive change. We are very proud of the exceptional Honourees lineup, the work of which our organisation is celebrating this year”, says Elizabeth Filippouli, Founder & CEO, Global Thinkers Forum.

The 4th Awards for Excellence Gala, celebrating the work of outstanding leaders, individuals and organisations will be hosted by international broadcaster Stephen Cole and a live concert will be conducted by famous Belgian Maestro Sir Dirk Brossé.

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Belfast marks Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

A panel of expert speakers outlined the challenges and opportunities for Northern Ireland’s female entrepreneurs at an event in Belfast today to mark Women’s Entrepreneurship Day.

The event, in conjunction with the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building, was hosted at the Ulster Bank headquarters in Donegal Square East and included student, entrepreneurs, early stage businesses and community representatives from across Northern Ireland. Speakers included Lord Alderdice (CDPB Chairman), Cathy Martin (WED Ambassador for Ireland and founder of CMPR) and Brenda McLaughlin CBE (NI Trustee on the National Board of NSPCC)

Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED), the world’s largest entrepreneurial and financial empowerment initiative, recently appointed country ambassadors to oversee and coordinate activities in over 144 countries worldwide, supporting, empowering, and celebrating women entrepreneurs on every continent. 51% of the UK population is female, yet just over 20% of SME are majority female led. If women started businesses at the same rate as men, there would be an 150,000 extra start-ups each year in the UK

Speaking at the event, Karen Lawther, Chair of Focused Women, Ulster Bank’s internal network  to support women in business, said: “Supporting female entrepreneurship is core to what we do as a bank, and is an important part of building a dynamic economy and business culture. We take pride in supporting initiatives like this which offer people the chance to learn, connect and gain confidence from some truly inspiring speakers.”

Addressing a Women’s Enterprise Day event at the Ulster Bank Headquarters in Belfast today, Lord Alderdice, Chairman of the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building, said:

“It is a sign that things are getting better that no-one finds it remarkable for us to have women as three of the four First Ministers in the United Kingdom, but we should take this as an encouragement of what is possible, rather than as a sign of achievement.  While in some areas of work life the particular contributions of women, and the proper regard for women as equal citizens is increasingly recognised, other areas of the economy still deny themselves the business advantage that women’s creativity brings to the top table. Women’s Entrepreneurship Day gives us a chance to remind ourselves and others of the exciting successes of women as entrepreneurs in social, economic and public life.”

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Lord Alderdice to address RISING Global Peace Forum

02 People feel increasingly fearful and insecure in a world where old certainties have disappeared, societies are less stable and the rapid and unpredictable change that is exciting for some is now frightening for many. Using his professional background as a psychiatrist and his experience in dealing with conflict and especially violence in various parts of the world, Lord Alderdice will provide a somewhat controversial analysis of why he believes the global community is spinning down into chaotic violence, and how we need to radically change our approach if we are to begin to provide a sense of security for our people.

For more information visit www.rising.org

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TEDxStormont Women 2016 speakers announced

TEDxStormont Women is back, taking place on Thursday 27 October from 6pm to 9pm at Parliament Buildings, Stormont.

Organised along the ‘It’s About Time’ theme and supported by Ulster Bank, the event will feature 14  leading thinkers, innovators, artists, politicians, philosophers and entertainers from the UK, Ireland and the United States representing such diverse fields as technology, entertainment, visual and performance art, design, politics, music and education, among others.

The event will be compered by former broadcaster Sarah Travers.

This will be the second time that TEDxStormont Women has taken place and due to popular demand will be in the Great Hall, Parliament Buildings, Stormont.

Over 175 guests have signed up already with nearly 200 expected on the day.

Eva Grosman, Curator of TEDxStormont Women 2016 said:

“This is an event that provides a platform for women and women’s issues at the home of decision making in Northern Ireland.”

“Bringing TEDxStormont Women to the wonderful setting of Parliament Buildings is the perfect place to listen to the ideas and inspiration of the wealth of speakers participating this year”

“Through the power of our ideas we can overcome the challenges of the 21st century and TEDxStormont Women presents a wonderful opportunity for us to hear from some fantastic women from the worlds of politics, business, and entertainment and beyond as they share their ideas.”

“The event has been made possible with the support from our main sponsor Ulster Bank who has had the vision to support TEDxStormont Women.

Richard Donnan, Head of Northern Ireland at Ulster Bank, the lead sponsor of TEDxStormont Women 2016 said:

“We’re proud to support our local communities and TEDxStormont Women is an excellent way to do that – we have a strong history of supporting female entrepreneurship, and through initiatives like our Focused Women’s network, we provide a platform for women to share ideas and achieve success.

“This event provides people with the opportunity to hear from some truly innovative and insightful speakers and build on the energy and enthusiasm generated by the most recent event at the MAC.”

Speakers and Performers will include:

  • Claire Sugden – MLA Northern Ireland Minister for Justice
  • Niall Downey – Doctor, Surgeon, Airline Captain
  • Eileen Mullan – Launched Strictly Boardroom, Chair of Age NI
  • Kaja Choma – Fitness Trainer, Health Advocate and Personal Growth enthusiast
  • Lindsey Robinson – Perinatal Mental Health advocate (Married to Gavin Robinson MP)
  • Adele Doherty – Alzheimer’s Society, Regional Operations Manager
  • Lady Portia Di’ Monte – Belfast socialite Drag Queen
  • Carrie Montgomery – Deputy CEO, Contact NI
  • Julia and Jean-Paul De Villiers – (Julia) Creator of the Julia Cameron lifestyle brand and (Jean Paul) Peak performance coach and best-selling author
  • Joyce Ferder Rankin – Award Winning Photo Journalist, Off to Antarctica in 2017
  • Nuala Davies – Actoress, Singer, Burlesque Dancer, Writer, Teacher
  • Dorcas Crawford – Senior Partner at Edwards &Co Solicitors and launched #BelfastHour
  • Amanda St John – Singer-Songwriter
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Post-EU referendum Toolkit launched

eu-debate-post-referendumThe Centre for Democracy & Peace Building (CDPD) “EU Debate NI” programme has launched a post-EU referendum toolkit for community groups and organisations.
The toolkit has three key parts:
1. A simple to follow overview of where we are post-referendum and what might happen next;
 
2. Four short videos by Jamie Smart, author of the best-selling book “The Little Book of Clarity”. These videos provide tools which empower  communities to deal with uncertainty and change;
 
3. An introduction to the issues that NI will have to consider in the future negotiations such as peace funding, freedom of movement of people and other relevant issues.
 
We have created an exercise in which the group are invited to meet the “Brexit Ministers” and have to decide what to prioritise and why.
We will capture this information at our workshops across NI and provide to elected representatives and other key stakeholders as we try to establish the best outcome for all the people of NI.
Our EU Debate NI programme is kindly supported by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.
If your group/ organisation would be interested in booking a workshop please contact:
Conor Houston, ProgrammeDirector CDPB: conor.houston@democracyandpeace.org
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RISING Global Peace Forum

CDPB is delighted to partner with RISING Global Peace Forum and RISING 16 their second annual gathering.

Taking place from 15th to 16th November 2016 in Coventry, UK, it will bring together great minds from across the globe to discuss the world’s most intractable issues. World leaders, peace practitioners, academics, diplomats, media and the public will convene from all over the world over a common aim: provoking peace.

RISING 16 will examine “the ripple effect” of responding to conflict, whether with action or inaction.

The event will explore the consequences of interventions in areas such as global migration, international conflict, community cohesion and countering violent extremism; the role of women in peace and security; and the impact of conflict on children and young people.

For more information and to book your tickets please visit www.rising.org

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Dr Eugen Koh: Art, healing and Northern Ireland

CDPB hosted Dr Eugen Koh in Belfast last week, following his visit to Northern Ireland in September 2015.

Reflecting on the visit Dr Koh said:

“May I thank the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building for inviting me back to Belfast. I have always been very conscious of myself as an outsider: and what would an outsider know? While I am more than ready to concede my ignorance, I hope that my genuine interest and impartiality have helped me to understand the complexities and suffering of Northern Ireland. My visit last year left me in no doubt the fragility of the present peace and also the enormous work already being undertaken by so many to make it long lasting, and usually with so little resources. I have been humbled by the sacrifice of the so many, and have wondered throughout this visit ‘why am I here and what can I offer, really?

The aim of this visit, my third to Northern Ireland has been to understand the art sector and its contribution to the extensive endless effort in building peace. I have seen again and again so much important work that are being done. Following this visit, I am more convinced than ever than the work of the art sector is critical to the overall effort being undertaken in the broad community. In my public lecture “Art, Trauma and Cultural Change’ at the Golden Thread Gallery I tried to put forward the reasons why art is so important not only to overcome the trauma of the Troubles but also to facilitate the cultural change necessary for moving forward. I am very grateful to the many who have spoken to me about their work and shared their view of the situation in Northern Ireland. I leave Belfast troubled, with many questions.

It appears to me that the dominant narrative is one of difference and segregation. Any suggestion of commonality seemed threatening. Why is there such a retreat into an overwhelming emphasis of difference? Why is the possibility of commonality so feared? I believe that difference is very important as it gives us a sense of self and identity, and therefore, security. But then, how can we engage with ‘the other’ in peace without commonality? We need both difference and commonality. Can we have both ? And if we can, how do we find the delicate balance between difference and commonality? I think these questions invite vital conversations, vital to building lasting peace. While I think these conversations are necessary across communities and sectors, I believe the art sector can play a vital role in helping everyone to have such conversations in the most sensitive and powerful way. Is there a role for an outsider like myself in such difficult conversations, I wonder?”

You can read Dr Koh paper “Art, healing and Northern Ireland” HERE.

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TEDxStormont is Back!

TEDxStormont is back, taking place on Saturday, 17 September from 11am to 3pm at the MAC in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter.

Organised along the theme of “Imagine” and supported by lead sponsor Ulster Bank, the event will feature 12 leading thinkers, innovators, artists, philosophers and entertainers from the UK, Ireland and the United States representing such diverse fields as technology, entertainment, visual and performance art, design, politics, music and education, among others.

Speakers will look forward and “Imagine” the kind of future we could have together as a society, here in Northern Ireland and beyond. The event will be compered by broadcaster William Crawley.

This will be the third time that TEDxStormont has taken place and due to popular demand has been moved out of Parliament Buildings at Stormont and will now take place at The MAC in  Belfast city centre. Over 250 guests have signed up already with nearly 300 expected on the day.

Some of the previous TEDxStormont speakers have included: Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol; Christina Lamb, Foreign Correspondent for the Sunday Times; former First Minister Peter Robinson; deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MLA; Kate Carroll widow of murdered Constable Stephen Carroll, Economy Minister Simon Hamilton MLA, Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir MLA and Lord Alderdice.

Eva Grosman, Curator of TEDxStormont said:

“We are really excited for our third TEDxStormont. Due to the demand for tickets we have had to move from Parliament Buildings at Stormont to The MAC in the Cathedral Quarter in Belfast which means we can give more people the opportunity to come and listen to some of the best speakers and ideas generators around.”

“The main thrust of TEDx is to develop ideas worth spreading. Since we started we have had over 50 speakers travel to Belfast to tell us what they think and give us food for thought about the society we want to develop in Northern Ireland.”

“This year we have some first rate speakers from as far as California and Boston, and also closer to home, so we will have a blend of experiences that will create a fantastic event.”

“The event has been made possible with the support from our sponsors and we must give a particular thanks to our headline backer Ulster Bank who has had the vision to support TEDxStormont. We also have to send out a massive thanks to our other sponsors who include leading law firm Mills Selig, Politics Plus, Lagan Construction, Digital DNA and Uber.”

Richard Donnan, Head of Northern Ireland at Ulster Bank, the lead sponsor of TEDxStormont said:

“Our ambition is to be the most trusted bank for customer service, trust and advocacy – and one of the ways we’ll seek to achieve that is by encouraging the development of new and creative thought leadership in our local communities. That’s exactly what TEDxStormont will promote and it’s why we’re really pleased to be playing our part. There is an exciting and diverse range of speakers who are positioned to give real insight and so it is a great fit.”

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‘Born and Reared’ screenings and workshops to mark #CRWeek16

To coincide with Community Relations and Cultural Awareness Week, the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building will host series of community screenings of ‘Born and Reared’ across Northern Ireland. It will include Q&As and workshops with film makers Hen Norton and Dan Dennison.

‘Born and Reared’ is a moving documentary that explores contemporary Northern Ireland, through the lives of four men living in the aftermath of violent conflict; a story about re-imagined identity of place and the fragility of masculinity.

Contextualised by the country’s past the film is firmly rooted in the Northern Ireland of today as a population struggles to come to terms with the horrors and the sacrifices of its past and the men turn to face a future defined by their hopes, rather than regret.

Filmed over a year with the men in and around their homes, the filmmakers focussed on the stories that took place long after the cameras had left the news story that was Northern Ireland.

In a society where masculinity has long been measured in violence and aggression, what happens to the identities of men when the Troubles end and the roles previously held are no longer accepted or needed?

Public screening:

Monday, 19 September at 6.30pm | Queen’s Film Theatre, Belfast |Tickets £4

To book tickets please go to: https://queensfilmtheatre.ticketsolve.com/#/shows/873561134

 

For information about community screenings please contact Susan McEwen at susanmcewen@icloud.com.

 

About Community Relations and Cultural Awareness Week

This year’s Community Relations and Cultural Awareness Week will take place between 19th and 25th September, 2016.

Supporting the Together: Building a United Community strategy, it is an opportunity to celebrate all aspects of our culture and heritage, promote cultural diversity and tackle sectarianism and racism.

The Week provides a platform for organisations and groups from the community and voluntary
sectors, arts, culture, sport, education and the wider public sector to showcase innovative approaches to good relations and building a united and shared community.

The theme for this year is Building the Future Together and will focus particularly on youth and looking at how all members of our society can shape the future to be a positive space in which our diversity is celebrated.