The new project was funded (in December 2019) by the Reconciliation Fund of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Dublin. The on-going work on this project is being carried out by Martin Melaugh. The initial working project page can be viewed here.
On 7 June 2019, The Chair was invited to a further Social Forum (hosted by Bake Bidea) in the Basque Country. This civil society structure aims to engage the wider society in the peace process and it took place in Biarritz. The Chair gave the keynote address followed by discussion with the wider public focusing on reconciliation and victims issues. The Forum specifically focused on issues in the French Basque Country, as well as reconciliation and victims issues.
On 5 October 2018, The Chair was invited to the “5th Social Forum” (hosted by Bake Bidea) in the Basque Country. This civil society structure aims to engage the wider society in the peace process and it took place in Pamplona. The title of the conference was the “Right to know the truth: mechanisms for the recognition and reparation of the victims of the conflict” and The Chair gave the keynote address followed by discussion with the wider public.
The event was covered in a range of newspapers provoking a range of different reactions:
On 13 September 2018 the Chair hosted the Truth and Reconciliation Platform in the Great Hall at Magee. The event took the form of survivors of the conflict sharing their stories and experiences with the public. Powerful testimony was given by Joe Campbell, Kathleen Gillespie, Stephen Travers and Alan McBride. The evening was deeply moving and inspirational, and shows why moving forward the peace process is so important.
As part of his recent state visit to the UK, President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia made a stopover in Belfast. The visit, which was planned for several months, took on a new significance given the October “No” vote in a referendum to endorse the peace agreement between the Colombian government and Farc.
President Santos has routinely noted that Northern Ireland is a “reminder of what is possible” and various delegations of politicians, civil society, academia and business from Northern Ireland have interacted with the peace process in Colombia over the years. It is clear from the visit that President Santos is seeking an international mandate to continue to garner support for a perhaps revised agreement, as well as to get more funds from the UK government to support aspects of the peace process. Northern Ireland offers the president an opportunity to show that peace and compromise can work in terms of political co-operation even if aspects of the peace process remain unfinished. For example, proposals for dealing with the past have still not been agreed 18 years after formal agreement.
But being in Northern Ireland will also present challenges for President Santos on the home front. Although the international community have been helpful in the peace process, some of those who supported the “No” campaign have criticised the president for being overly focused on the international community and his standing, rather than listening to how many Colombians feel. The peace process has become about presidential politics and not genuine social engagement, some would say. The transformation of some former combatants from guerrillas into formal politicians, a key part of the failed agreement, also remains a contentious point in Colombia and one the “No” campaign exploited.
For those who oppose President Santos’s political perspective and approach to peace in Colombia, the Northern Ireland process might not be seen as a rosy example. There is a sizeable amount of the Colombian population who still see any involvement of former combatants in government as problematic. The president is walking a tightrope between maintaining international standing and support, winning over more people to his position which includes the need for compromise with the Farc, and keeping the Farc on board. The latter remains a growing challenge as proposal from those opposing the agreement seem to be focused on limiting Farc’s rights (eg to participate freely in so-called normal politics). The road ahead will indeed be bumpy.
On the positive side, it seems that most agree that a political agreement is needed to end the 50-year-old war. Colombians however clearly differ in the ways they think this should be achieved. Northern Ireland has balanced this position for years, and in that sense is a comparative case study to be taken seriously. It also highlights that peace is never a done deal, and that building peace, as obvious as it sounds, is always a process that requires constant attention and nurturing. This is as true for Colombia as Northern Ireland where distrust, separation and a legacy of violence continue to impact on how the future might look.
Published by Professor Brandon Hamber, John Hume and Thomas P O’Neill Chair in Peace based at the International Conflict Research Institute at Ulster University, Irish News, 7 November 2016.
As part of his state visit to the UK, Juan Manuel Santos arrived in Belfast today. He was welcomed at Stormont by First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. He also attended a lunch at the Titanic Centre organised by InvestNI, and then visited the Girdwood Community Hub. Professor Hamber was offered to opportunity to attend the Girdwood event, however, due to prior commitments with a visiting delegation from Georgia could not attend.
However, Professor Hamber and Professor Mallinder were interviewed by BBC Radio Ulster about the visit to Northern Ireland. Listen to the interview, click below.
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.