Belfast councillors build links in Iraq

Belfast councillors build links in Iraq
Forum for Cities in Transition
14 October 2012

A delegation of four Belfast City Councillors from the Good Relations Partnership returned from a four-day gathering in Kirkuk, Iraq, where they explored the dynamics of building peace, reconciliation and prosperity across 12 cities in three continents who are in transition from conflict.

Councillors Tim Attwood, Mervyn Jones, John Kyle and Bob Stoker explained:

“We were impressed by the efforts being made by our counterparts in Kirkuk towards building a peaceful and prosperous society in their most extraordinary post-conflict environment.

“Our colleagues in Kirkuk Provincial Council expressed gratitude for our insights into how a divided city can be reconciled through dialogue and partnership.

“We learnt much, strengthening Belfast links with Kirkuk, Kurdistan and other cities. We offered to share our expertise and work with them in promoting economic development and good community relations.”

As in previous annual gatherings of the Forum for Cities in Transition, each attending city pledges action-based projects, working within and among fellow member cities.

At the conclusion of this year’s gathering in Kirkuk, the Belfast delegates proposed:

  • To work with Hasan Taran from the Kirkuk Provincial Council to have Kirkuk Police Service participate in 2013 Police and Firemen Games in Belfast
  • To organise a Policing and Community Relations seminar for police services attending the 2013 Police and Firemen Games in Belfast
  • To encourage closer economic links between Belfast and Kirkuk (and utilising Invest NI’s office in Erbil)
  • To share good practice on promoting equality with cities in transition
  • To investigate with Queen’s University Belfast the possibility of a conflict resolution conference in 2015

The four councillors concluded:

“What particularly encourages us about the Forum’s work is that it is based on the premise that those who have dealt with such conflict are in the best position to share knowledge and best practices with others who are going through the same process.

“The mixture of Forum members — from elected local government representatives like ourselves, to those from the statutory, voluntary and community sector — reminded us of our work in the Belfast City Council’s Good Relations Partnership, which is similarly representative of the wider community in Belfast.

“It gave us confidence that our approach to conflict transformation here in Belfast is the right one.”

ENDS

NOTES

The Forum for Cities in Transition is an international network of mayors, councillors, municipal officials, business people, and representatives of the voluntary and community sector.

The Forum for Cities in Transition is an initiative of the John Joseph Moakley Chair at the University of Massachusetts Boston. The Secretariat is shared by the Northern Ireland Foundation and the Moakley Chair.

The 2012 annual gathering of the Forum was held in Kirkuk, Iraq, from 7-10 October, hosted by Kirkuk Provincial Council and facilitated by INSAN Iraqi Society. The participating cities were: Beirut, Belfast, Derry-Londonderry, Kaduna, Kirkuk, Mitrovica, Mitte, Mostar, Nicosia, Ramallah and Tripoli.

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