At this juncture in global political affairs and international relations there has never been a greater need across the world for people to work for democracy, reconciliation and peacebuilding. We have seen such efforts blossom over the last 25 years in Northern Ireland/Ireland and I hope that they will continue to bear fruit to reflect unity in diversity in our restored political institutions. Such work can and should be replicated in other parts of our global world.
This compelling imperative fuelled my desire to accept the invitation to join the Board of CDPB in July 2021 and eventually to accept the unanimous support of Board colleagues to take on the mantle of Chairperson of this important organisation. I was replacing Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP who stood down as Chair and still remains a member of the Board. CDPB owe our thanks and gratitude to Sir Jeffrey and his predecessor, Lord John Alderdice who along with other Board members provided strategic direction to ensure that our organisation continues to fulfil our objectives. We have all been ably assisted by Eva Grosman who is our Chief Executive. Eva is a powerhouse and has provided dynamic leadership in these islands in terms of peace-making 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 and her team to ensure that the objectives of the organisation continue to be fulfilled.
Our democracy and peacebuilding work has been overshadowed by war in Ukraine in 2022. We have all been horrified by the scenes of mass death and destruction which we have witnessed on our television screens on a daily basis since late February. International efforts are required to work with President Zelensky to ensure that peace and democracy is secured and that the Ukrainian people can return to their homeland through a massive re-building programme for peace, prosperity and infrastructure building.
Our work has concentrated in the past year in the following areas: Fellowship programme which involved young people from across Northern Ireland coming together to work on democratic peacebuilding initiatives. This programme will continue to be delivered and sincere thanks are due to the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin, Irish American Partnership, our corporate partners and our mentors from business and industry for their advice, sponsorship and unfailing direction and guidance.
Other work programmes included the Unite Against Hate which was supported by the Executive Office.
Our international work focuses on engagement with colleagues in Colombia and work led by Lord Alderdice in Jerusalem.
This year also witnessed the appointment of Reeya Gadhvana as our Head of Programmes and we will continue to work with young people and internships – in fact we will be hosting two young women from Harvard in Belfast during the summer.
Notwithstanding the rigours and challenges of the pandemic over the last couple of years, our work has continued and blossomed. That bedrock of support from the wider community including business and industrial representatives is invaluable on so many levels as we continue our mission and fulfil the objectives of CDPB.
CDPB is one of the most inspiring and worthwhile organisations I have worked with, and I hope to continue to work with Eva, Board members and others to fulfil our commitment to democracy and peacebuilding locally and internationally.
Baroness Margaret Ritchie of Downpatrick