In early September the Chair, Professor Brandon Hamber, undertook a visit to Colombia (17-24 September 2015).
At the time, the Colombian government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) were in the midst of negotiations to end a conflict that has spanned some 50 years.
The conflict has seen the death of some 250,000 people (80% civilians) and the displacement of 6.5 million people. Formal talks began in November 2012 in the Cuban capital, Havana. Several accords have been reached and the final agreement is set to be signed in 2016.
Professor Hamber was invited to Colombia at the request of the City of Valledupar, one of the cities (some 1.5 hours north east of Bogota by plane) that was most affected by conflict. Under the leadership of Mayor Fredys Miguel Socarras Reales, a series of conferences, presentations, and workshops is being organized, which will focus on preparing the regional implementation of the peace.
Professor Hamber addressed a range of community members (about 150-200) over a two-day process to discuss comparative peace lessons at a community level. He also met with the Mayor. After the community engagements he spent some days in Bogota meeting some key players in the peace process and sharing lessons with them and different civil society members.
The trip ended with a presentation to about 200-300 training lawyers at Libre University in Bogotá as part of conference on Reconciliation, Civil Law and Commissions. Again the focus was on comparative lessons from Northern Ireland.
On returning from Washington DC, Professor Hamber spoke on 12 September 2015 at the Irish Association for Economic, Cultural and Social Relations, Stephen’s Green-Hibernian Club in Dublin on the topic of “Transforming Societies After Political Violence”. The lecture focused on the challenges of building peace in societies emerging from conflict and emphasised the importance of creating context-driven approaches to political and social trauma. The lecture also focused on how dealing with the past remains a key aspect of the Northern Ireland peace process that still needs to be grappled with.
He was born in South Africa and currently lives in Belfast. In South Africa he trained as a Clinical Psychologist at the University of the Witwatersrand and holds a Ph.D. from the Ulster University. Prior to moving to Northern Ireland, he co-ordinated the Transition and Reconciliation Unit at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation in Johannesburg. He co-ordinated the Centre’s work focusing on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
He was a visiting Tip O Neill Fellow in Peace Studies at INCORE in 1997/1998. He was also the recipient of the Rockefeller Resident Fellowship (1996) and was a visiting fellow at the Centre for the Study of Violence in Sao Paulo, Brazil. In 2010-2013 he was a Mellon Distinguished Visiting Scholar at University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He has been awarded The Paul Harris medal for contributions to peace by Rotary (2013), and was listed as one of the Top 100: The most influential people in armed violence reduction by the Action on Armed Violence Network (2013/2014).
He has consulted to a range of community groups, policy initiatives and government bodies in Northern Ireland and South Africa. He has undertaken consulting and research work, and participated in various peace and reconciliation initiatives in Liberia, Mozambique, Bosnia, the Basque Country and Sierra Leone, among others.
He has lectured and taught widely, including, on the International Trauma Studies Programme at Colombia University, New York and the Post-War and Reconstruction Unit, University of York; and at the University of Ulster.
He has written extensively on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the psychological implications of political violence, and the process of transition, masculinity and reconciliation in South Africa, Northern Ireland and abroad.
Ulster University hosted President Clinton’s 5th visit to Derry~Londonderry where he honoured John Hume’s outstanding contributions to peacebuilding, helped to launch ‘Peacemaking in the Twenty-first Century’ edited by John Hume, Tom G. Fraser and Leonie Murray and celebrated the University’s success in raising the £3m required to establish the John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill Chair in Peace.