UMass Boston hosts global peace conference in Belfast, Northern Ireland
McCormack Graduate School, University of Massachusetts, Boston
29 October 2014
The annual gathering of the Forum for Cities in Transition (FCT), led by Professor Padraig O’Malley from the University of Massachusetts Boston, has gathered more than 70 delegates from 15 cities across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa for a four-day, global peace conference in Belfast, Northern Ireland which began on October 27.
The FCT brings together an international network of mayors, councilors, municipal officials, business people, and representatives of the voluntary and community sector from warring and previously conflicted communities across the globe. The forum works on the principle that cities that are in conflict or have emerged from conflict are in the best position to help other cities in similar situations.
Delegations this year include representatives from Baghdad and Kirkuk (Iraq); Belfast, Craigavon, and Derry-Londonderry (Northern Ireland), Haifa and Jerusalem (Israel); Kaduna (Nigeria); Mitrovica (Kosovo); Mitte (Berlin, Germany); Mostar, Sarajevo, and Srebrenica (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Ramallah (Palestine), and Tripoli (Lebanon).
Working together under the theme of “Promoting Reconciliation through Resilience,” the conference includes plenary sessions and facilitated workshops on tools for community leaders, services for victims and survivors, and how to work together for a strong, fair city management. The conference is action-oriented in which participants can explore how relationships are negotiated and maintained between and among communities, how to deliver equitable basic services together, and how to set standards of transparency that will increase their populations trust in their efficacy.
According to O’Malley, “At a time of great division in the world, it is crucial that we focus on what we can do on a practical level, to bring together opposing sections of society. It is imperative that we hear the voices, not just of those at the extremes of conflict, but also those who work every day to bring about resolution and cooperation, often under terribly difficult circumstances.”
Padraig O’Malley is the John Joseph Moakley Distinguished Professor of Peace and Reconciliation and a celebrated facilitator/convener and author on topics related to divided societies, O’Malley has played major roles in breaking the gridlock and promoting peace in South Africa, Northern Ireland, and more recently the Middle East. He was one of the intellectual architects of the Good Friday Agreement, having engaged Nelson Mandela personally in the peace process.
Ira A. Jackson, dean of the McCormack Graduate School, is in Belfast to attend the conference. He said, “Northern Ireland stands as a beacon of hope and resiliency. And while true reconciliation and justice is still very much a work in progress, delegates from war torn communities around the world have been inspired by the Northern Ireland experience and peace process.”
The inaugural conference was held at UMass Boston in 2009 and subsequent forums have taken place in Mitrovica, Derry-Londonderry, Kirkuk, and Kaduna.