Centre for Democracy and Peace Building Annual Report 2022 – 2023


This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in N Ireland/Ireland, which was been celebrated by the visitations and addresses by current and former Presidents of the United States of America, current and former Prime Ministers of the UK, current and former Taoisigh of the Republic of Ireland and the President of the European Commission.

Notwithstanding the important events that have taken place earlier this year, it is important to remember that democracy, reconciliation and peacebuilding is an ongoing daily process and not an one off event. In that respect I hope that peace efforts here in N Ireland will continue to bear fruit which will reflect unity in diversity in all aspects of our lives, and in our institutions of government, which I hope can be restored shortly.

As we mark this important anniversary on the island of Ireland, there has never been a greater need across the world for people to work for democracy and reconciliation and to continuously participate in peacebuilding. We have witnessed ongoing terror and violence in Ukraine and a war waged against innocent people and democratic political institutions. Only lately, we have seen the horrors of terrorism and violence in Sudan and Yemen. All the violence perpetrated against communities and people is underlining the compelling imperative and importance of the ongoing process of democracy and peacebuilding.

Centre for Democracy and Peace Building continues to be involved in important work in supporting current and future leaders. Our work encompasses the important Fellowship programme, which is aimed at political, business and civic leaders in Northern Ireland who were and will continue to be involved in paving a new, prosperous future for our region. This flagship programme is supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Dublin, Allstate NI, Devenish, FinTrU, Fujitsu NI, Ulster Carpets, the Irish American Partnership and our new partner Norther Ireland Electricity Networks.

Other important work includes the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement Course, Leadership in Arts and Culture, Re-thinking Leadership series, collaborative work with the UME Oleander Initiative programmes in Japan and the partnership with the John Smith Trust.

All this work is carried out under the strategic direction of our Board – of which I am proud to be Chair along with my director colleagues, and the dynamic work of Eva Grosman who is our Chief Executive. Eva is a powerhouse and has provided dynamic leadership in these islands in terms of peacebuilding and democracy.

We and the wider community owe Eva an enormous debt of gratitude and heartfelt thanks. I hope to continue to work with Eva, her team and our directors to ensure that the objectives of the organisation can continue to be fulfilled – particularly as we move on from the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We also owe a debt of gratitude to many business leaders and academics who have supported our mission and peacebuilding work over several years. Such combined efforts are vitally important in working towards fulfilling our commitments to democracy and peacebuilding locally and internationally.

Baroness Margaret Ritchie of Downpatrick

Hiroshima: City of Peace Study Visit

CDPB collaborates with the UME Oleander Initiative to deliver the Art, Memory and Peace Programme in Hiroshima, Japan.

On the 26 February, four delegates from Northern Ireland, Oxford and New York gathered in Hiroshima, Japan, to embark on a six day exploration of the city that suffered the horrors and destruction of the atomic bomb on 6 August 1945. At the heart of the UME Oleander Initiative programme was the intersection of public space, art and historical memory, with the guiding question for the five days; what lessons from Hiroshima can be applied to your own context?

The delegation began its journey right at the very heart of Hiroshima, learning about the city through a guided tour of the Peace Park as well as a visit to the recently refurbished Peace Memorial Museum, focusing on the aftermath of the atomic bomb and how Hiroshima suffered, recovered and now prospers as a city of peace, seventy-eight years on. The A-bomb dome, found just outside the Peace Park, is the perfect illustration of Hiroshima’s resilience. The building, although smashed and shattered, remains standing for all to see. The interplay of hope and devastation is etched into the fabric of the city.

The group also took a trip to Hifukushisho, a former Japanese Army clothing depot that housed over 2,000 workers and their families. The building survives to this day and is a point of contention in the city, reminding people of Hiroshima’s deep history as a military city prior to 1945. The preservation of the building highlights the complex issue of seeking to move on as a city of peace whilst acknowledging an uncomfortable past:

The highlight of the trip was the day spent with Toshiko Tanaka. Toshiko-san is a hibakusha, a survivor of the atomic bomb. The delegates were able to hear her powerful retelling of 6 August 1945, a testimony marked by the juxtaposition of pain and suffering with hope and joy. To be able to sit down with a hibakusha and hear their testimony and ask questions is a rare opportunity and it was a real honour and privilege the delegation will never forget. The day also consisted of an enamel workshop with Toshiko-san, whose art has been showcased around the world, including the UN and the Vatican.

CDPB would like to extend its thanks to the UME Oleander Initiative and its team for an excellent and impactful programme, underpinning the unique connection between Hiroshima has with Northern Ireland. We hope this trip is the first of many collaborative opportunities between CDPB and the UME Oleander Initiative.

Political, business and civic leaders graduate from prestigious Fellowship Programme as Northern Ireland gears up to celebrate Good Friday Agreement Anniversary

Fellows attended sessions in Belfast, Dublin, and Oxford as part of the programme backed by prominent Northern Irish business leaders, the Department for Foreign Affairs and the Irish American Partnership.

Leaders in politics, business, and civic society in Northern Ireland have graduated from the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building’s prestigious Fellowship programme at a ceremony held at Hillsborough Castle.

The Fellowship is a Programme for 25 mid-career political, business and civic leaders in Northern Ireland and aims to support, develop and provide Fellows with an opportunity to reimagine complex political and civic leadership through innovation and capacity building.

The Fellowship’s Advisory Board, which includes prominent business leaders from FinTrU, Fujitsu NI, Allstate NI, Devenish and Ulster Carpets, led curated sessions seeking to evolve and enrich leadership in Northern Ireland, with Fellows also attending sessions with the PSNI, Bauer Media NI (Downtown/Cool FM), as well as residentials in Oxford and Dublin.

The Fellowship is delivered by the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building, working with key stakeholders and facilitators from across the business sector and academic institutions to support the peace process, strengthen democracy and navigate through complexity. This year’s cohort saw 25 individuals engage with leading policymakers, business leaders, and public figures, equipping each Fellow with a renewed ability to tackle some of the most pressing social, political, and economic issues in Northern Ireland.

The graduation ceremony gathered esteemed business and political leaders from across the UK and Ireland to mark the success of this year’s programme which concludes as Northern Ireland gears up for celebrating 25 years of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement in April.

Attendees heard from the Fellowship Advisory Board Chair, John Healy OBE, and Ulster University Professor Karise Hutchinson, Advisory Board Vice Chair, and others including Minister of State, Steve Baker MP.

Tánaiste, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minster for Defence, Micheál Martin TD said:

“I would like to extend my congratulations to the Fellows who have graduated today. I am glad that my Government, through the Reconciliation Fund, has been able to support this important work.

“As we mark the 25th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement in a number of weeks, it is important to recognise the work that programmes such as the Fellowship have achieved in helping to train and educate the next generation of civic leaders.

“I wish the class of 2023 all the best over the coming months and years as they work to help foster change and transform their local communities.”

Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office, Steve Baker MP, said:

“I wish to extend my congratulations to the Fellows who have graduated from this inspiring Fellowship. As Northern Ireland marks 25 years of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, a programme like this is testament to the determination and innovative spirit of the people of Northern Ireland”.

“A programme that brings together a diverse range of people to work through opposing views, propose shared solutions, and imagine the kind of leadership required to move forward, is incredibly heartening. I would like to thank both the Fellows and the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building for their hard work, and I wish them all the best of luck for their future endeavours.”

Karise Hutchinson, Professor of Leadership at Ulster University and Vice-Chair of the Fellowship Advisory Board, said:

“It has been a brilliant experience this year as I have watched our Fellows grow and continue to explore the spirit of possibility. The Fellowship continues to fill me with optimism that Northern Ireland’s emerging leaders can navigate us through complexities that we will no doubt face in the years to come. As we also celebrate 25 years of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, I am proud to congratulate this next cohort of leaders whether that be in politics or business, and I wish them the best as they continue to transform this place that we live through their work in their respective community or organisation”.

Chief Executive, Centre for Democracy and Peace Building, Eva Grosman, said:

“The Fellowship Prorgramme which runs each year is a unique opportunity to gather ambitious leaders from diverse backgrounds to develop their own leadership and spark new conversations for progress and innovation in Northern Ireland”.

“The Fellows have been a credit to themselves throughout this year’s programme. Their open-mindedness, determination, and optimism for Northern Ireland and it’s future has been truly inspiring. It has been an honour to see unlikely friendships form, and I have watched on as our Fellows have worked through differences, spend time with one another and recognise a greater agenda where we can all work towards a shared goal. I would like to thank each Fellow for their hard work, for giving this programme a chance, and I look forward to seeing what they will achieve as their career progresses”.

TEDxStormont set to return to Parliament Buildings

TEDxStormont is set to return to Parliament Buildings on Saturday 25 March with a stellar line up including globally renowned cellist Patrick Dexter, Sky News Senior Ireland Correspondent David Blevins, Principal of Hertford College, University of Oxford Tom Fletcher, Senator Emer Currie, journalist and author Leona O’Neill, and Northern-Irish-Ghanian artist Winnie Ama.

The daylong event, supported by Herbert Smith Freehills and compered by presenter and broadcaster Sarah Travers, is expected to see 200 guests fill the Great Hall at Parliament Buildings for the event’s 10th anniversary.

As we look forward to marking and celebrating 25 years of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement in April, this year’s speakers will deliver their talks on the theme of “YES”. Standing on the iconic red dot, speakers will share their ideas on hope, peace, and possibility for Northern Ireland and beyond.

Beginning as a four-day conference in California, TED and the TEDx programme has grown to support world-changing ideas with multiple initiatives like TEDxStormont, which since 2013 has organised over 20 events and meet-ups, including TEDxStormont, TEDxStormont Women, Salons, City 2.0, TED Global viewing parties, TED Circles, Countdown, and a week-long virtual Summer Camp.

Across the span of a decade, TEDxStormont has hosted some of the most acclaimed speakers including Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol, Lyra McKee, Ana Matronic of the Scissor Sisters, and astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell.

The event will bring individuals from an array of backgrounds such as academia, journalism, music, business, and sport.

TEDxStormont speakers being announced today include:

  • Darragh McCarthy – CEO, FinTrU
  • David Blevins – Sky News’ Senior Ireland Correspondent
  • Emer Currie – Senator and Spokesperson for NI, Special Education and In`clusion
  • Janina Ramirez – historian, documentary maker and author
  • Jim Dennison – Chief Executive of the Simon Community NI
  • Joan Mulloy – Irish solo sailor
  • Karise Hutchinson – professor of leadership
  • Leona O’Neill – academic, former journalist, author
  • Lisa Strutt – leadership coach, co-founder, trustee
  • Matthew McEIhinney – a theatre director, a football fan and a child of the peace process
  • Patrick Dexter – globally-renowned cellist
  • Peter Corry – musician, performer, producer
  • Tom Fletcher – Principal of Hertford College, Oxford University, diplomat and author
  • Winne Ama – Northern-Irish-Ghanian artist
  • Lisa McLaughlin, Managing Partner of Herbert Smith Freehills’ Belfast Office said:

    “Original ideas and inspiring individuals are the twin pillars of progress, so it is always important to give a platform to those who can help develop the foundations on which our collective futures are built. We are thrilled to be able to support efforts to ensure their vision of change becomes a reality”.

    Selina Wallace, Business Director at Smarts Agency added:

    “It’s a privilege to once again support TEDxStormont, especially in what is a milestone year for the event and for Northern Ireland. As a creative agency Smarts is passionate about creating ideas that drive change and we look forward to considering the insights and new ideas for positive change that each talk will offer. The speakers announced today set the stage for what will be a phenomenal event.”

    Eva Grosman, Curator of TEDxStormont 2023 concluded:

    “It is fantastic to be joined by some of the most inspiring and respected individuals from various fields at this year’s TEDxStormont, taking place in the historic backdrop of the Great Hall at Stormont. We can certainly feel a sense of expectancy and excitement ahead of our 10th anniversary event”.
    Our fantastic speakers will help us to imagine how ideas, solutions and fresh opportunities for change and progress are always within reach”.

    Tickets and more information are available at www.tedxstormont.com.