The fifth seminar in the Dealing with the Past series entitled “Reconciliation and Dealing with the Past: A global perspective” was hosted online on 28 July 2020, 55 people attended.
The seminar was given by Dr Fanie du Toit, Senior Research Fellow and Former Executive Director, Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, South Africa & Technical Advisor (Community Dialogue), and part of the In Transformation Initiative, Myanmar. The seminar discussed three prominent conceptual models of reconciliation which have been used internationally as a guiding metaphor for political transition from war or oppression to something “new”. It included references to the South African, Iraqi and Myanmar cases, each of which continue to pose their unique challenges to prevailing theories on reconciliation. The seminar explored the idea of reconciliation as understood as a complex, ever-evolving form of inter-dependence.
The seminar is part of the Transitional Justice Institute (TJI) and INCORE, in partnership with Healing Through Remembering and the John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill Chair in Peace, online seminar series. The seminar was chaired by Professor Brandon Hamber.
The Chair facilitated a discussion with Dr Wilhelm Verwoerd at the Belfast launch of “Verwoerd: My Journey through Family Betrayals” on 17 October 2019. The discussion focused on key aspects of the book, and particularly Dr Verwoerd’s challenges of coming to terms with the fact that HF Verwoerd, his grandfather, was the South African Prime Minister who is widely considered the architect of the apartheid system. Topics for discussion included key questions of the responsibilities of those who benefitted from the apartheid system, the question of “betrayal” when you take a different path to peacebuilding from those around you, as well as the relevance of the book to wider contexts.
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.
In 2017 Interpeace and the Kofi Annan Foundation launched a joint project on reconciliation that aims to contribute to the current debates on reconciliation by identifying innovations and lessons that can inspire national and international actors engaged or willing to engage in reconciliation efforts, as well as shedding light on how such efforts can best be supported by international actors. Professor Hamber and Grainne Kelly were contracted by the Kofi Annan Foundation to write a case study for the large research project, as well as contribute to a high-level symposium convened by Mr Kofi Annan aimed at capturing lessons on experiences of reconciliation and provide guidelines on how to design and implement reconciliation processes. Over 2017 Professor Hamber and Grainne Kelly worked on research to inform their report (high level interviews with policymakers). A draft Northern Ireland case study was submitted to the Kofi Annan Foundation in the summer of 2017 and then presented to a high-level symposium in October 2017 in Bogota, Colombia. Kofi Annan opened the symposium on reconciliation in Bogota, Colombia. Grainne Kelly presented her and Brandon Hamber’s research on reconciliation and its challenges in Northern Ireland. You can see more about the event here: http://www.kofiannanfoundation.org/building-lasting-peace/reconciliation-symposium/
Professor Hamber and Grainne Kelly continued to work on the concept of reconciliation. In 2017 they spoke at two high-level events in Northern Ireland. The first with The Executive Office and staff as they consider the role of reconciliation in the draft Programme for Government and Together: Building a United Community (TBUC). They participants and delivered the keynote address at a further seminar at the “Together: Building a United Community Engagement Forum” on 15 June 2017, with the Executive Office (TEO) and over 160 community practitioners, policymakers and academics that took place at the Girdwood Community Hub.
Great to hear John Caulker speak about “Sustainable Peace in Post Ebola Sierra Leone” at a recent seminar hosted by the Chair within INCORE. It was fascinating to hear how the community networks that the project John Caulker established called Fambul Tok (“Family Talk”) were used to help building community resilience in the face of the virus. Fambul Tok was set up to deal with the legacy of war and focused on sharing stories often from perpetrators of violence, but the community solidarity they built through that reconciliation project became instrumental in combating misperceptions and changing behaviour around Ebola. They are now looking to roll out a wider process of networks since the end of the epidemic. Caulker was also critical of the international community who treated the epidemic as solely a medical problem failing to see that engagement of communities was needed to stop it and that communities also had to deal with the problems Ebola caused (inter-community tensions and stigma). In post-Ebola Sierra Leone problems still prevail in that funding support is for “Ebola victims” which singles people out rather than support whole communities. Caulker believes any interventions should be community-centric.
The seminar was recorded and the recording will be posted on the Hume O’Neill Peace Blog soon.
The John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill Chair in Peace will be hosting the seminar “Go Local: The role of communities in ensuring sustainable peace in post Ebola Sierra Leone” by John Caulker. John Caulker founded and has led the implementation of the Fambul Tok program since its inception in 2007, initially through his position as the founding Executive Director of Sierra Leonean human rights NGO, Forum of Conscience.
Date: 26 September 2016. Time: 1pm to 2:30pm. Venue: Ulster University, Belfast Campus, York Street, BA-03-019.