CDPB Annual Report 2020 – 2021

This past year has brought great challenges for many as together we have faced the impact of a global pandemic. Despite this, CDPB has continued to deliver a programme of activities that bring people together, even if it has often been by virtual means. Our commitment to peace building and the strengthening of democracy remains undiminished. 

This annual report provides an insight into our ongoing work, often alongside excellent partners such as Bryan Patten and the Washington Ireland Program, with a focus on empowering the next generation as they take on the baton of peace and step forward to provide the leadership of the future. One of our successful joint initiatives in the past year has been our engagement with Yale University in delivering the ‘Democracy, Identity and Civil Society’ Program and we hope to undertake further such projects in the year ahead.

Our sincere appreciation also goes to our funders, including the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Irish American Partnership. They share our desire to foster and promote reconciliation and join in our commitment to investing in our young people.  Without the support of people like Aidan Browne and Mary Sugrue we would not have been in a position to deliver so much in these difficult times.

I also wish to place on record our great admiration for the solid leadership provided by our CEO Eva Grosman as she has directed the work of our project teams and helped mentor our fantastic interns and also our appreciation to the members of our Corporate and Advisory Boards.  So many people give freely of their time to advise and support the work of CDPB and without them, our achievements would not have been possible.

Looking ahead, our Board has exciting plans for the development of CDPB.  We are currently in the process of finalising our charitable status and have plans to develop a new ‘Fellowship’ programme and an online platform as well as establishing new corporate partnerships that will help make us even more effective in delivering our various projects.

As our peoples begin to emerge from the pandemic and look forward to better times, maybe we have a slightly different perspective on life and are more appreciative of things we once took for granted. Perhaps this offers an even greater opportunity to promote and strengthen the values associated with democracy and peace building and to be agents for change in a way that is truly transformative of how we live and work together.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson

One Thousand Paper Cranes launches online resources

‘One Thousand Paper Cranes’ launched its online toolkit, including a video message of peace and hope from young people in Hiroshima, story of Sadako Sasaki and instructions on how to fold the origami crane.

The project developed by the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building, supported by the Community Relations Council and endorsed by Japan House London celebrates the culture of peace and links between Northern Ireland and Japan.

The aim of the project is to make 1000 origami paper cranes with messages of lasting peace. The cranes will be offered at the Children’s Peace Monument in Hiroshima to mark the 75th anniversary of the bombing later this year.

In addition, as part of the project, Visiting Professor in Immersive Futures and diversity and inclusion specialist Deepa Mann-Kler with team from Ulster University will create Tsuru – an artistic intervention using Augmented Reality to explore peace building in digital and physical spaces of Belfast and Hiroshima.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP, Chairman, Centre for Democracy and Peace Building said:

“We are delighted to be launching this project which is aimed at strengthening relations between Northern Ireland and Japan through the sharing of our respective experiences in peace building.

Drawing our inspiration from the work of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, we will be particularly encouraging young people to value the peace process and to engage in collective learning as we work towards reconciliation in our troubled and divided land.

An added benefit of the project is the study of peace through cultural exchange and exploring the richness of our cultural diversity as well as all that we have in common through our shared humanity.”

Michael Houlihan, Director General, Japan House London said:

“Japan House London is privileged to be associated with such an inspiring initiative. Culture can sometimes be the simple expression of how different societies find very different solutions to the same challenges of everyday life and living.

Sharing and understanding the experiences of others can teach us much about ourselves, and offer answers as to how we can build a more peaceful world. It is part of Japan House London’s mission to be a cultural bridge bringing the United Kingdom and Japan together.”

Watch video here:

Online Resources are HERE.

Music Unite: Celebrating Culture by Jeffrey Donaldson MP

Music can unite people, cultures, traditions and communities.  This was clearly demonstrated by the remarkable ‘Music Unite’ event held at The MAC Belfast last week.

Theatre goers mixed with Loyalist bands in the heart of Belfast’s vibrant Cathedral Quarter – in a space where the diversity of culture brought people and communities together.

It was an evening of music, rhythm, culture, diversity and positivity.  The Shankill Road Defenders, Ballykeel Loyal Sons of Ulster and North Down Defenders performed together with an eclectic mix of traditional flute band music fused with Colombian, Kurdish, Ghanaian, Sri Lankan and Irish sounds. Flutes from Ulster, pipes from Colombia, drums from Ghana and Uilleann pipes came together to create powerful symphony.

The Music Unite event was the highlight of what has been an incredible and transformative project.

I grew up in a culture of bands, joining Orangefield Flute Band, Kilkeel when I was still in Primary School and over a number of years of hard practice graduating from percussion to the flute in what was one of the finest part-flute bands in County Down.  I well remember bursting with pride as I donned my band uniform for the first time and marched all the way from Ballinran Orange Hall to Kilkeel for the annual Twelfth parade. In later years I was a founding member of the Pride of Ballinran Flute Band, today one of the best melody flute bands in the country. Therefore, I know the bands scene well and recognise the invaluable contribution that marching bands make to the lives of many young people.  Those young people experience what it is like to be part of a team – to make a contribution in creating musical and human harmony and learning a sense of discipline that stands them in good stead for the challenges of a modern society.

With my interest in marching bands, I have seen at first hand the tremendous local talent that exists but is often overlooked within the music scene.  Sir James Galway developed his immense musical ability in a flute band in Belfast and there may well be other James Galway’s in the ranks of such bands across Northern Ireland.  Music Unite offers a platform for bands to display their undoubted talent to a wider audience with whom they may not normally connect and is designed to break down barriers and challenge perceptions and stereotypes that are often associated with the local band scene.  This is not about persuading people to alter their identity or to change their culture to suit others.  It is about promoting a better understanding of that culture and enabling people to engage with each other in a way that promotes greater harmony across our community.

This does not mean that we overlook the problems sometimes associated with parading and music in Northern Ireland.  Far from it.  I recognise that this is a controversial issue for some and that a minority on both sides of this debate sometimes engage in behaviour that is unacceptable.  However, the idea that the way to resolve this or to alter negative behaviour is to isolate or punish an entire musical fraternity is one that needs to be challenged.  Inclusivity must be practised and not just preached and ought not to require people to abandon their beliefs or their identity or to somehow whitewash their culture to create some kind of unrealistic neutrality.  Diversity surely implies respect for difference, although that respect has to be gained and not just taken for granted.

Last year the Centre for Democracy & Peace Building in partnership with ‘Beyond Skin’ launched the ‘Music Unite’ programme.  Our partners at Beyond Skin lead by the brilliant Darren Ferguson are to be commended for their pioneering work with this project.

This work began with the Shankill Road Defenders with the aim of using music to unify people and empowering and enabling individuals and communities.

Our innovative programme enabled Loyalist bands to meet, exchange ideas & music genres with people from other backgrounds and cultures, develop musical skills, build capacity and challenge stereotypes.

In the past year, the Shankill Road Defenders have performed in numerous events in places that would have been simply unimaginable just a few years ago.  This included playing to hundreds of people as part of the Culture Night Belfast and a performance at Belfast City Hall as part of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Secretariat’s St Patrick’s Day reception. The band also played with the North Down Defenders at the Chinese Welfare Association in Belfast earlier this year.  Cultures and communities united by music.

It’s been an incredible journey.  The bands involved in this project have demonstrated remarkable vision, energy and leadership.  They have engaged positively with this project – perfecting their musical skills and collaborating with musicians from around the world.  They have been ambassadors for the positive contribution that loyalist bands make to our musical heritage and culture in Northern Ireland.

A report highlighting the success of Music Unite by Professor John Brewer and Dr Francis Teeney from the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s University Belfast has been published by the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building.  I commend the authors for endorsing the programme and note the important recommendations they have made.  This will no doubt promote further debate and discussion on the way forward.  We must continue this vital work and give further consideration to the recommendations contained within the report.  The Report is available at

Music Unite is the start of a new flow, a new rhythm that brings people together.  It challenges perceptions and stereotypes. Importantly, it provides hope that Northern Ireland is moving forward together to a new beat – one which creates a positive celebration of our unique and diverse culture and identity.


Senior members of CDPB offer assistance in Colombian Peace Process

​As we come to a critical period in Colombia’s history, senior members of CPDB have returned to offer assistance on a number of fronts.

The negotiations between the Government of Colombia and senior officials of FARC are coming to a conclusion and though it had been clear for some weeks that the March 23rd deadline would not see the signing of an agreement, it was equally clear that the commitment of both sides is very likely to see a positive outcome within weeks.

Director, Jeffrey Donaldson MP and Chairman, Lord Alderdice both made separate visits during March to follow on their previous involvements in the Colombian Peace Process.

In his three-day visit Jeffrey Donaldson continued his work with other Northern Ireland politicians engaging with FARC political figures and elected and governmental officials, including the Presidents of the Senate and the House in the Colombian Congress.

Lord Alderdice met senior government officials including the country’s President, Juan Manuel Santos and also spent much of his week-long visit encouraging and supporting university and professional groups and peace NGO’s, including the Colombian Peace Council and the Centre for Memory Peace and Reconciliation in Bogota. He focussed in on the needs of the seven million victims of the decades of violent conflict and explored the challenges the Government faces in re-integrating thousands of former guerillas and paramilitaries. He also addressed meetings of senior private sector CEO’s in Colombia about the opportunities and responsibilities of the business and commerce communities to contribute to the implementation of the Peace Agreement when it comes.

Speaking to the press in the Presidential Palace in Bogota after his meeting with President Juan Manuel Santos, Lord Alderdice said:

“I had an excellent meeting with the President and assured him of the support and good wishes for the Colombian Peace Process of the more than 100 member parties of Liberal International, of which I am Presidente d’Honneur, and also of people across the United Kingdom and Ireland. We discussed in some detail the challenges of completing the negotiations in the very near future, seeking public affirmation in a plebiscite and the difficult and inevitably long-term work of implementation during the rest of his Presidency and beyond. The President is working extremely hard to deliver a peace that will make for a better future for the children of Colombia, and for their sake this unprecedented opportunity for a settlement must not be lost.”

CDPB intends to continue to respond positively to the requests for assistance from Colombia.

Finding the way forward

My experience of the Northern Ireland peace process suggests that conversations have been just as important as negotiations in finding a way forward at critical junctures and on vital issues.
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