Poland and its Eastern Neighbours: Foreign Policy, the EU and NATO

Centre for Democracy and Peace Building and the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice at Queen’s University Belfast

invite you to a lecture

Poland and its Eastern Neighbours: Foreign Policy, the EU and NATO

by HE Witold Sobków, Ambassador of Poland to the Court of St James

on Monday, 1 June 2015 from 6.45pm to 8pm

Canada Room, Queens University Belfast, University Road, Belfast BT7 1NN

RSVP no later than Wednesday, 27 May to  r.mcgreer@qub.ac.uk


Until his appointment as Ambassador of Poland to the Court of St. James’s in August 2012, Witold Sobków served as Permanent Representative of Poland to the United Nations in New York and as Political Director (CFSP). Previously, he was in the Department of Strategy and Planning of Poland’s Foreign Policy, with the rank of Titular Ambassador. In 2006 he served as Under-Secretary of State for European Affairs.

Witold Sobków was Poland’s Ambassador to Ireland from 2002 until 2006, prior to which he had been Senior Adviser to the Minister on European Affairs. In

2001 he was Director for Non-European Countries and the United Nations System, having served as Deputy Head of the West European Department since November 2000 when he came back from the UK having acted as Deputy Head of Mission at the Polish Embassy. Before joining the Ministry, Witold Sobków was for 7 years a lecturer at Warsaw University.

He is a civil servant and holds two MAs /summa cum laude/ in English language and literature, and in Italian language and literature, both from Warsaw University. He undertook various postgraduate programmes, e.g. Islamic studies at London University, security in South-East Asia at King’s College, diplomacy/economics/security/political science at Stanford University as well as national and international security at Harvard. He received scholarships to study in Siena, Venice and Perugia.

We cannot begin to tackle hate crime and bigotry without a shared vision

A young Lithuanian woman has been left to pick up the pieces of her business – a nail bar in east Belfast – following a racially-motivated arson attack, which left the small business burnt to the ground.

This sickening attack follows on the heels of incidents in north Belfast, where Polish residents were targeted because of their race.

A few days ago, the local media reported a 43% increase in hate-related crime incidents, following the attacks on members of the Polish community; it went almost unnoticed.

During his first historic visit to Northern Ireland the then US President Bill Clinton said: “Countries are just like people with their personalities, hopes and nightmares.”

So, using his analogy, I tried to imagine Northern Ireland as a person – an insecure teenager, rather aggressive on occasions, who finds it extremely difficult to take responsibility for his own actions and is constantly blaming others. He is spoiled rotten by the rich uncles in London and an older, not rich, aunt in Dublin. He is driven, fun-loving with a great sense of humour. He even shows major potential, yet he is still unsure about his own identity, worth and future.

The question I have now is this: as a society attempting to evolve from the dark days of the Troubles into a more multi-cultural country, how can we try to mature together? We cannot begin to address hate crime, bigotry and other social problems here without a vision or a shared sense of commonality. Differences are important, but common humanity matters more.

The problem is in Northern Ireland so much is fragmented. There is so much talk about “multi-agency approach” involving strategies and action plans, but it seems that very little progress is being made. I suppose it’s part of our fledgling society which is still trying to grow up.

Perhaps we all need to take a leaf out of President Clinton’s book. He did not talk about the old, bureaucratic and mediocre networks, but a new, creative approach to leadership.

We need a new approach if we want an inclusive society here. The world is changing – and so, too, is Northern Ireland.

Together, perhaps, we can turn the immature teenager into a tolerant and responsible grown-up.


Expert led hate crime conference expected to outline a ‘better future’ for Belfast

The key issue being explored by a range of partners at the ‘Towards A Better Future’ Conference taking place at Belfast City Hall today is how to make a positive impact on hate crime and promote Belfast and Northern Ireland as a place confident in the benefits of diversity.

Led by the Belfast Policing and Community Safety Partnership in association with the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building and supported by Unite Against Hate, Department of Justice, and Belfast City Council, the conference will play an important role in facilitating a citywide and regional conversation to promote social cohesion and tolerance.

Set against a backdrop of rising levels of hate crime and in particular levels of racist hate crime in Belfast, the focus of the conference will be to further develop the short/medium term work already underway and to begin the process of exploring how shared outcomes can be achieved.

The conference kicks off with a range of leading specialists in the field of hate crime and social cohesion sharing knowledge and expertise. There will then be sessions in different locations across the city, where delegates have the opportunity to engage directly with communities on how hate crime and intolerance affects them.

As part of these satellite sessions, Belfast and Northern Ireland will also have the opportunity to showcase its existing good practice with a wide and varied range of related case study presentations.

The final conference session will work with all delegates to develop an agreed platform for action going forward and the overall conference report will link to the development of “The Belfast Agenda” which is Belfast’s Community Plan.

Cllr Colin Keenan, Chairman Belfast Policing and Community Safety Partnership said today:

“The ‘Towards A Better Future’ conference will, in my opinion, be the start of a new era of tolerance and respect in our City and across our region”.

“Many immigrants come to Northern Ireland for work and the chance of a better life. That’s why it’s imperative that we, in positions of responsibility, make it our business to make them feel welcomed”.

“This conference will build on the great work of the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building, Queens University Belfast and Belfast PCSP, who jointly published a report dispelling common myths surrounding immigrants in our city.”

“On that point I want to thank all involved in this conference and praise them for their work. Together we can build a better future for everyone”.

Justice Minister David Ford MLA added:

“There is a responsibility on all of us to work towards a truly shared and inclusive society.  My Department’s Community Safety Strategy recognises that a growing diverse society can bring challenges in how some people perceive a problem and react to it.  If unchallenged, prejudices can grow and negative attitudes can be learned.  These can manifest into abuse; intimidation; damage to property; and unfortunately physical injury. 

It is important that we all unite in the message that hate and intolerance are not acceptable and that the society we aspire to is one which promotes equality and will challenge prejudices.  I believe that reducing prejudicial attitudes driving hate is achievable but requires strong leadership and partnership working across the justice agencies, Executive Departments, local government and the broader voluntary and community sector. I therefore welcome today’s conference which makes a valuable contribution to that debate.” 

Lord John Alderdice, Chairman of the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building added:

“The ‘Towards a Better Future’ conference aims to build on the excellent work already undertaken in Belfast and across the region to tackle prejudice and promote social cohesion. Bringing together the right mix of people, at the right time via a number of dynamic sessions we aim to promote wider knowledge of the issues and how to equip policy makers and those tasked with implementation through examples of good practice.”  

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin said:

“We take hate crime very seriously and actively investigate all incidents reported to us. Hate crime is wrong on all levels and the PSNI will do everything it can to protect and reassure the growing number of people from different backgrounds and cultures who choose to come to Northern Ireland to live, work or study. We know this type of crime can have a devastating effect on victims and we want to reassure everyone that we are committed to tackling this issue and playing our role in preventing these crimes occurring.” 

In May last year we launched Operation Reiner, a co-ordinated investigation into a series of hate crimes across Belfast. Since then we have made 95 arrests and 46 have been charged.  As this work continues – the message is clear – Actions have consequences. If you choose to demonstrate your hatred by attacking or abusing others we will investigate you and seek to bring you to justice.”

This conference provides a great opportunity to collectively look at what we can do together to tackle hate crime. Police alone cannot provide a solution. It requires a long-term, collective multi-agency response with the range of skills and perspectives necessary to build a safer, more confident society which welcomes diversity.  By building strong partnerships empowered and capable to address the identified issues, we can start to get to the heart of the problem, providing long lasting solutions which increase awareness and confidence in all communities.”


Towards A Better Future

Belfast Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP) and the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building are delighted to invite you to participate in:

“Towards a Better Future:  Hate Crime and Community Cohesion Conference”

Building on the excellent work already undertaken in Belfast and across the region to tackle prejudice and promote social cohesion, this conference will present delegates with the opportunity to be part of a range of dynamic conference sessions which will enhance knowledge on this issue.

The conference has been designed to facilitate knowledge sharing and development at both a strategic and grass roots level with a range of session types and formats and is free of charge.

For more information please contact Katharine McCrum at mccrumk@belfastcity.gov.uk or by telephone on 02890270556.

New Festival Aims to Spark Ideas on Politics and Culture

Over 35 events at Northern Ireland’s first festival of ideas & politics during 9-15 March

The inaugural Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas & Politics was launched at Belfast City Hall today (11 February) by the Lord Mayor, Nichola Mallon and writer and performer, Nuala McKeever. The seven day festival features a packed programme of 37 events in 12 venues across the city and is supported by 20 partner organisations.

The festival is designed to celebrate and support the role of the citizen in political and cultural life. With talks, theatre, workshops, film, humour and lively debate, the festival will provide a unique opportunity for people to have their say and engage with some of the big issues impacting on our lives in a fun, dynamic way.

The exciting line up of speakers includes Steve Richards, BBC presenter and political commentator; Philip Coggan, author and columnist with the Economist; leading artist Rita Duffy; and local professors from Queen’s University and Ulster University such as Dave Archard, Arthur Aughey; Derek Birrell; John Brewer; Yvonne Galligan; Dagmar Schiek; and Peter Shirlow.

Other contributors include Lord Alderdice, Liam Clarke, David Grant, Margo Harkin, Tom Kelly, Paula McFetridge, Susan McKay, Duncan Morrow and Nicholas Whyte.

According to founder and Festival Director, Peter O’Neill:

“More than ever, our society needs to cultivate a culture which provokes imaginative ideas and ways of engaging with each other on the big issues of our time. We want to encourage participation from people not normally involved in political debate and stimulate a discussion on new ideas and activism. There’s something for everyone in our programme – most of the events are free and spread across the city. So join us in sparking some new ideas on politics and culture.”

The festival covers a wide spectrum of issues including, but not limited to, mainstream political debate. The touchstone topics in the programme, which are likely to be prominent in the forthcoming general election, include Voting and Identity; Dealing with the Past; Immigration; Gender Quotas; Faith & Politics; Young People & Democracy; Public Sector Reform; Charities & Politics; the post-election political landscape; and Peace Building & the Arts.

However, other events examine wider themes such as the threats to democratic processes; the right to have children; the public value of universities; the tension between free trade & social rights; and issues raised by audiences in a series of informal Café Conversations.

The programme also includes cutting-edge theatre from Terra Nova Productions; a special Tenx9 storytelling event on People Power; and workshops that explore identity and the visual manifestation of politics. In addition, a film strand, programmed by Queen’s Film Theatre, features some of cinema’s sharpest satires and the Great Big Politics Pub Quiz is resurrected for those who want to have some fun whilst raising funds for Amnesty International.

The festival is independent, non-partisan and non-aligned. Its aims are:

  • To provide a high quality showcase for new ideas on politics, culture and activism in Northern Ireland
  • To encourage the participation of under-represented groups in political/cultural debate and discussion
  • To stimulate reflection and debate on difficult and controversial issues
  • To promote free speech.

Dignity Leadership Training with Dr Donna Hicks, Harvard

The need has never been more urgent for people in leadership positions to be educated in matters related to dignity.  The desire to be treated as something of value is universal; it is our highest common denominator.  At the same time, we are all vulnerable to having our dignity violated, creating conflicts wherever human beings cluster—in families, communities, in the workplace and among nations.  It is one of the root causes of conflict, yet it is rarely addressed when attempting to manage and negotiate a resolution to disputes.  How can something so fundamental to the human experience have been neglected for so long?  The Dignity Model, an approach to understanding the role dignity plays in our lives and relationships, addresses this powerful yet unexplored aspect of our shared humanity.


The objectives of Dignity Leadership Training are the following:

  1. Understanding the basic components of Dignity Model:
  • Working definition of dignity
  • The evolutionary roots of dignity
  • Ten elements of dignity
  • Ten ways we violate our own dignity
  1. Understanding of the Impact of Dignity Violations and Honorings
  1. Developing Dignity Skills
  • How to honor dignity
  • How to defend your dignity when someone violates you
  • How to take responsibility for violating others
  • How to resolve conflicts with dignity
  • How to reconcile conflict relationships
  • How to create a culture of dignity within an organization
  • How to identify and address the systemic indignities that are embedded in the structure of an organization
  1.  How to work with groups within and across communities to promote dignity skills and awareness.

About Donna Hicks

Donna Hicks is an Associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University. She has been involved in numerous unofficial diplomatic conflict resolution efforts including projects in the Middle East, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Colombia, Cuba, and Northern Ireland. She was a consultant to the BBC where she co-facilitated a television series, Facing the Truth, with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, which aired in the United Kingdom and on BBC World in 2007. In addition to teaching conflict resolution at Harvard, Clark and Columbia Universities, Dr. Hicks conducts training seminars in the Dignity Model, a human-centred approach to rebuilding conflict relationships, in the US and abroad. She is the author of the book, Dignity: The Essential Role it Plays in Resolving Conflict, published in 2011 by Yale University Press. http://declaredignity.com


3 day training from Wednesday, 18 February to Friday, 20 February (9.30am – 1pm)

Graduation: Friday, 20 February (2.30pm – 4pm)

Belfast Castle

Antrim Road, Belfast BT15 5GR


For bookings and more information please contact:

Aileen Turley

Telephone: 02890 270469

E-mail: turleya@belfastcity.gov.uk


This event is organised in partnership with North Belfast DPCSP, North Belfast Partnership and Intercomm and is supported by Community Relations Council.

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

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


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

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