Communities share Peace Walls Programme lessons with international audience (International Fund for Ireland)

20151029 IFI

Communities share Peace Walls Programme lessons with international audience
International Fund for Ireland
29 October 2014

An international forum today (Wednesday 29th October) heard that interface communities are taking brave steps to address peace walls, but the resources available to support progress are not enough to meet the appetite for change.

As part of the Forum for Cities in Transition, more than 80 people from 15 divided cities across the Middle East, Africa and Europe visited local groups involved in the International Fund for Ireland¹s Peace Walls Programme (PWP).

Launched in 2012, the PWP seeks to create the conditions needed to begin the removal of the interface barriers and has provided a range of confidence and relationship building initiatives to assist residents to arrive at a position where they feel it is safe and appropriate to consider the removal of Peace Walls in their area.

The PWP delivery model has generated considerable momentum for positive physical transformation and received widespread acclaim from community groups, government departments and statutory agencies.

Speaking at the Forum, Dr Adrian Johnston, Chairman of the International Fund for Ireland (IFI), said:

“Supporting interface communities to deliver meaningful and sustainable change, both physical and attitudinal, is a key part of our work. We are always keen to promote and share our work with other parts of the world emerging from conflict. Peace walls are among the most visible remaining symbols of community division in Northern Ireland, but there are real concerns that early removal could negatively impact on the safety of residents and potentially de-stabilise the Peace Process.

“The IFI has invested nearly £3 million in two years to help residents at interface areas get to a point where they feel it is safe and appropriate for barrier removal to happen. The Programme has delivered significant progress and has begun a schedule of works to transform interface areas in Belfast and Derry/Londonderry.”

He added, “Interface communities that have engaged with the IFI have demonstrated courage to re-imagine their communities. While there is an opportunity to make serious progress, there is also a real risk that the momentum could be lost if the NI Executive does not back that courage with financial support and resources to match the ambition of the communities.”

There are approximately 100 Peace Walls in Belfast with a smaller number in Derry/Londonderry and Portadown. Approximately 30 Peace Walls have been erected since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

The Forum for Cities in Transition is a four-day gathering aimed at debating and learning from challenges and successes of peacebuilding.

Forum for Cities in Transition Director, Professor Padraig O’Malley, said:

“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.”

Forums for Cities in Transition is funded by the International Fund for Ireland, Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Irish Aid and the Reconciliation Fund), Belfast City Council, Northern Ireland Housing Executive, Ireland Funds and the Community Relations Council.

Article originally published: http://www.internationalfundforireland.com/media-centre/101-press-releases-2013/674-communities-share-peace-walls-programme-lessons-with-international-audience

Progress on interfaces crucial part of lasting peace jigsaw: Ford

Progress on interfaces crucial part of lasting peace jigsaw: Ford
Department of Justice
29 October 2014

Justice Minister David Ford has addressed delegates at the Forum for Cities in Transition international conference in Belfast.

The fifth annual Forum for Cities in Transition conference is being held in Belfast for the first time and this year’s theme is ‘promoting reconciliation through resilience’ brings together delegates from 15 cities across Europe, the Middle East and Africa over the course of this week to learn, explore and share their challenges and successes.

Addressing delegates on the third day of the conference, David Ford said: “We continue to make positive strides in our efforts to tackle community tension at interfaces and move towards the creation of a safe, secure and shared future by addressing the issues of prejudice and division.

“Regrettably the recent trouble at the interface in East Belfast highlights the importance of dealing with the underlying problems in interface communities if continued progress is to be made in the removal of interface barriers.

“I utterly condemn the recent violence, which highlights the need for not only community leadership but consistent and sustained political leadership if we are to deliver economic, social, community and physical renewal within interface areas.”

The Minister continued: “Progress within interface communities is a crucial part of the peace jigsaw in Northern Ireland and as you will have seen from your visits in north and west of Belfast this week a lot of positive work is underway on the ground.

“However whilst we have made small steps forward on this issue, there is still a large body of work to do to keep it moving in the right direction. My officials are working closely with other Executive departments, statutory authorities and local community groups to give this process momentum. In particular I want to praise the work of the International Fund for Ireland funded Peace Wall Programme.

“The work undertaken by community groups under this programme, such as Duncairn Community Partnership, is valued and essential, transforming local areas that have witnessed significant cross community strife in the recent past to ones which are capable of embracing a shared, rather than divided society.”

The Minister was a key speaker at the plenary workshop on ‘Strategic focus on community work at interfaces’ at Farset International Hotel Belfast, he shared a panel with Adrian Johnston – Chair of International Fund of Ireland and Peter Osborne – Chair Community Relations Council NI.

NOTES:

  1. More information on the Forum for Cities in transition project is available online at https://citiesintransition.net/
  2. For media queries on the Justice Minister’s attendance at the event contact DOJ Press Office on 028 9052 6139.

[Statement originally appeared: http://www.dojni.gov.uk/index/media-centre/progress-on-interfaces-crucial-part-of-lasting-peace-jigsaw-ford.htm ]

FCT 2014 speech by Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Nichola Mallon

FCT 2014 speech by Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Nichola Mallon
Forum for Cities in Transition 5th annual gathering, Belfast, Northern Ireland
28 October 2014

Distinguished guests, elected members, ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of Belfast City Council, I would like to warmly welcome you to our great City Hall for your Fifth Forum for Cities in Transition conference. For those of you who have never been in this building, you are particularly welcome and I hope that you have an opportunity to have a look around at all of its history.

You will have by now, greeted old friends and made some new ones. Conferences like this are very much about connecting and reconnecting with people as they are about the subject and content. So for the Belfast delegates who have visited those countries on previous conferences, I know how much pride they have in hosting you here in Belfast over the course of this week.

As a mark of the Council’s support of the work of the Forum, the Council has financially supported this Gathering and we are delighted to be doing so.

I’m sure that you have now seen a lot of our City. You will now know that our city has 88 physical barriers that separate neighbourhoods and keep many of our communities apart.

Despite the successes of the Peace Process, community division still exist in many parts of the City. You will get opportunities during these four days to see how these divisions are manifested in local working class neighbourhoods. Disputes around flags, parades, protests and cultural expression have entrenched already acute division. Some sections of our community feel alienated from civic society, some feel their cultural identity is being diluted and as a result some communities are suspicious of initiatives seeking to ‘bring people together’. Despite these divisions however, Belfast is committed to continue building peace in our city and in our country.

Enshrined in legislation under the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, the Council and all statutory agencies are required to build better relationships between people from different political, racial and religious backgrounds. This Good Relations work is about tackling sectarianism & racism and promoting cultural diversity.

This means that we need to redouble our efforts to create the environment in which citizens can have the same opportunities regardless of their economic circumstances or their cultural background.

Over the past number of years, as a result of the Peace Process, Belfast has become a much more diverse place with people arriving from all parts of the world to make Belfast a place where they wish to live, work, study, socialise and raise a family. This provides us with great opportunities as a city.

Indeed the most successful cities in the world are those that are the most diverse. Therefore, we need to build the type of society that was envisioned within the Good Friday Agreement.

The theme of your Gathering this year is ‘Promoting Reconciliation through Resilience’. Belfast is keen to learn, share and participate in reconciling communities where relationships have been fractured as a result of our conflict.

Our City Council has a leading role in providing strong leadership, advocating reconciliation and building trust amongst our citizens. Creating this good relations environment, in many ways, is the prerequisite to facilitating progress in all the areas of life. Improving the quality of life and health & wellbeing for ordinary residents in our poorest areas can support the Peace Process and consolidate the positive political moves over the last 16 years as we seek to make a difference to the lives of ordinary people who live in Belfast. The equality and Good Relations agenda is about creating the conditions in which everyone can have the same life chances and quality of life, regardless of their circumstances and regardless of their cultural background.

Good Relations principles and outcomes need to be embedded in all areas of our work, in order to create the trust, confidence and relationships that will enable people develop improved opportunities for participation in the civic and social life of the City.

As we continue with work to resolve current difficulties, we are given confidence by the support we have received from local, national and international friends who continue to encourage us as we move towards a city reconciled.

I want to take this opportunity to wish you well for the remaining time you have in Belfast and the important ongoing work as you monitor the progress of the bilateral project initiatives pledged in previous years and commit to new pledges for your ongoing work.

I wish you well with the remaining two days and I look forward to seeing you back in City Hall on Thursday for the final session of the Gathering.

Thank you.

August 23rd 2013: Tripoli

Eklat Conseils, in association with Impact Media Group, presents August 23rd 2013: Tripoli, a film by Elias Khlat:

On Friday August 23, 2013 when worshipers were finishing their noon prayers at Taqwa mosque, a car bomb exploded. Taqwa mosque, located at the northern entrance of Tripoli, Lebanon, and bordering the highly volatile neighbourhood of Tebbeneh, was devastated along with the surrounding commercial area. Seven minutes later, another car bomb exploded in front of Salam mosque on Mina Street, which is located near the southern entrance of the city. Both bombs caused 50 deaths and over 500 wounded, along with millions in commercial losses. The consequences were catastrophic for Tripoli, but civil society organisations quickly responded and helped create a positive momentum.

The film shows how the city and its people survived these disasters, despite the massive human and material losses. The film tries to answer many questions and to document and preserve the incredible human spirit and sense of unity that emerged under the auspices of the “Coalition of Campaigns Against Violence in Tripoli”. The movies stands as a testament of the solidarity among the citizens of Tripoli at a crucial time in history.

FCT 2014 speech by FCT Kirkuk, Ahmed Askari (Member, Kirkuk Provincial Council)

FCT 2014 Speech by FCT Kirkuk, Ahmed Askari (Member, Kirkuk Provincial Council)
Forum for Cities in Transition 5th annual gathering
28 October 2014 

Honoured guests and delegates of the meeting of the Forum for Cities in Transition, it is a pleasure to be here with you all, and I extend the greetings of the people of Kirkuk to you.

Firstly, we would like to thank the organisation – the Forum for Cities in Transition – and the organisers of this event, for gathering participants from all of these distinguished cities.

Our delegation consisted of six participants, representing all the different ethnicities, religions and groups within Kirkuk.

Unfortunately, of these six, five were refused visas by the British Embassy in Amman, Jordan, and the British Consulate in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government.

I am fortunate to hold British citizenship, which has enabled me to be in your humbled presence.

Ladies and gentlemen, I feel it necessary to clarify for you the current situation in Kirkuk. Kirkuk is one of the biggest cities in Iraq, comprising of a population of nearly 1.5 million residents.

It is a city of great wealth, rich in natural resources, especially oil and gas deposits.

It is an important strategic commercial centre, between the cities in the north and south of Iraq.

It is a multi-ethnic city that is made up of more than four ethnic groups.

It is also a city of different religious persuasions, such as Christianity, Islam and Yezidism, amongst others.

Within these religions also exists the different denominations, such as Shia/Sunni and Catholic/Protestant.

There are dozens of political parties of various ideologies and beliefs.

Politically, the city is in the midst of a struggle between the central government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil.

According to the current Iraqi constitution, Kirkuk is a disputed area.

However, the people of Kirkuk have coexisted and enjoyed good relations historically, and continue to do so.

Esteemed participants, in addition to Kirkuk’s own local problems, it now faces terrorism in the form of the group known as ISIS (Daiish).

Currently, one-third of Kirkuk’s territory is under the control of this terrorist group.

This has resulted in the creation of a frontline with ISIS more than 70km.

The people of Kirkuk, with all its constituent parts, have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the other governments of Iraq in the fight against the biggest enemy of humanity, known as ISIS.

Up until now, with the backing of the people of Kirkuk, its administration, the Kurdistan Peshmerga forces and the coalition partners, Kirkuk has continued to steadfastly defend itself.

Many of our sons and daughters have become victims to this unprovoked conflict.

However, work and daily life in Kirkuk continues in relative normality.

The security forces have been able to protect the lives and homes of the people of Kirkuk.

Ladies and gentlemen, as a result of the savage treatment inflicted by ISIS on the provinces under its control, a large number of people have been internally displaced and have sought refuge in Kirkuk.

This has placed further pressures on the province.

Finally, we would like to call on the international community, freedom-loving people in the world and non-governmental organisations to support the people of Kirkuk, all the cities of Iraq and Syria in their fight against this genocidal, international terrorist and inhumane group.

We also call upon them to help the displaced people who have been forced from their homes, their lives and in this modern age are witnessing their relatives being sold as slaves.

We salute the valiant people of Kirkuk, the peshmerga forces who are acting as a counter-terrorist and defensive force.

We salute the brave peoples of Kobani, Shangal, Qaratapa, Rumadi, and all the people and places that continue to fight this evil known as ISIS.