On 26 to 28 June 2019, the Chair travelled to Geneva at the invitation of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN OHCHR). The Chair was asked to address the concept of reconciliation and how it relates to transitional justice, and human rights. The input took place at the UN in an event entitled “Working Session on Transitional Justice”. The high level meeting included representatives from the UN in a range of their county offices.
The Chair hosted on the Magee Campus Steve Youngblood from The Center for Global Peace Journalism, Park University. The Centre promotes the concepts of peace and peace journalism. A seminar entitled “Is Ethical Journalism Possible?” was held and attended by a number of journalists, students and academics on 28 May 2019. It was interesting to read Steve Youngblood’s blog on the event. He notes:
“Derry, attendees correctly pointed out the many obstacles to peace journalism starting with the name. The word peace, I was told, is loaded with baggage here, much of it negative. One journalist suggested calling PJ socially responsible journalism. I said they could call it bangers and mash if they like and that the principles and concepts are more important than the label. Regarding those principles, journalists at my lectures and workshops seemed to generally agree about their utility. Underscoring this, another participant said that PJ is not that radical and it “nothing different than what we already aspire to.” That’s encouraging”.
The visit of Steve Youngblood was sponsored by the US Embassy-London.
On 29 January 2019 the Chair hosted Dr Estrada-Fuentes from Universiteit van Amsterdam and University of Warwick for a seminar on the Magee Campus. Dr Estrada-Fuentes is an applied theatre practitioner and an academic. A seminar open to the public, staff and students discussed the challenging issue of victimhood in the Colombian peace process. The seminar was entitled “Restorative Reintegration: Complex-victimhood and Reparations in Transitional Societies”.
On 16 November 2018, the Chair hosted a seminar on the Magee Campus that focused on “Civil Rights: Lessons from Ireland and US”. It was a timely seminar in that it considered over 50 years on what had been achieved in since the civil rights movements in the US and also in Ireland.
The main speaker at the seminar was Andrew Williams, Director of HECUA. HECUA (Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs) trace back to the 1968 unrest in North Minneapolis following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The urgency and turbulence of the situation prompted Ewald (Joe) Bash, National Youth Director of the American Lutheran Church, and Joel Torstenson, an Augsburg College sociology professor, to build a unique program for college students to understand the nature of the urban crisis. INCORE, under the management of the Chair, partners with HECUA each year to teach and place US students in Derry-Londonderry each year.
To this end, Andrew made the perfect speaker to reflect on the ongoing challenges, particularly in the US, with regard to race. A black person is killed by the state or state-sanctioned violence in the US every 28 hours noted Andrew. One of the most striking quotes Andrew spoke to and developed was ““…because white men can’t police their imagination, black men are dying” (Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric).
On the day Professor Paul Arthur, Professor Emeritus of INCORE and Ulster University, also shared his views and personal experience about the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland. He responded to Andrew’s talk noting that rof Paul Arthur says three words that stuck out were “wounded justice”, “indifference” and “mid-wife”. The hope lies in the growth of civil society that can be the “mid-wife” entrenching civil rights.
On 7 November 2018, The Chair, Dr Coyles and Dr Grant made a presentation entitled “Hidden Barriers and Divisive Architecture: The Case of Belfast” at the Pushing Boundaries Seminar hosted by the School of Applied Social and Policy Sciences. To read more about “hidden barriers” research click here.
Ulster University partnered with Build Up and the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building to host the fifth international Build Peace Conference on 29-31 October 2018. The conference brought together practitioners, activists, academics, policy makers, artists and technologists from across the world to share experience and ideas on using technology, arts and other innovations for peacebuilding and conflict transformation.
The Chair helped organise a showcase event to highlight the work of Ulster staff in the important area of peace and technology. The event took place on 31 October and was entitled “Division. Data. Design. Debate”. This highly interactive session worked with the audience to solve the problems with Ulster University research teams relating to Wellbeing & Data, Societal Division, Social Media & Political Discourse, and Arts & Conflict. The session also included inputs from Ulster MSc and PhD researchers tackling subjects such as the use of memes in conflict, Twitter and its role in conflict, and Alt-right discourses on social media.
On 24 October 2018 the Chair hosted , with the Evens Foundation, a lecture by Bart Brandsma, a leading expert on dealing with the fall-out of polarisation. Brandsma argued that “us versus them” comes in many forms such as EU versus UK, Muslim versus non-Muslim, believers versus non-believers, left versus right, man versus woman, teachers versus parents… the list is endless. Brandsma argued that underneath we can see a universal pattern – and a dynamic of polarisation that we urgently need to understand.