Northern Ireland delegation visits war-torn Iraqi city for conflict talk (Belfast Telegraph)

Northern Ireland delegation visits war-torn Iraqi city for conflict talk
http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/northern-ireland-delegation-visits-wartorn-iraqi-city-for-conflict-talk-16225884.html
By Brendan McDaid (Belfast Telegraph)
18 October 2012

A delegation from Belfast and Londonderry has made a ground-breaking trip to the war-torn Iraqi city of Kirkuk to speak about experiences in post-conflict Northern Ireland.

The visit was undertaken amid tight security and secrecy.

It was the first time an international conference has been staged in Kirkuk, recognised as one of the most dangerous places in the world.

As a result, negotiations are now taking place to host officers from the Iraqi police to take part in the World Police & Fire Games in Belfast in 2013.

Foyle PSNI commander Jon Burrows, Chief Inspector Chris Yates, SDLP councillor Gerard Diver and Michael Doherty from the Peace and Reconciliation Group, made up the Derry delegation.

Four councillors from Belfast City Council also took part.

A bomb went off killing two police officers and a civilian close to where the conference was taking place. The event was organised by the international Forum for Cities in Transition, but some delegates from the 12 cities involved pulled out amid security fears, while sections of the Iraqi government opposed the event.

Mr Diver said there was a real sense of deja vu in a city where checkpoints, military patrols and explosions are an everyday reality for the people.

He said: “The atmosphere was tense. We had to do a journey from where we were staying to a high-risk area, a journey of about an hour, and we had so many soldiers and police to protect us that you couldn’t help feeling a bit anxious about it.

“That kind of tension is palpable. You can feel it in the air and the security presence would remind you of here years ago, although the problems there in terms of scale and of building trust is mindblowing.

“But it was a very worthwhile experience,” he said.

“The people there were so appreciative of the fact we went there.”

Derry-Londonderry group finds hope in Iraq

Derry-Londonderry group finds hope in Iraq
Forum for Cities in Transition
14 October 2012

A delegation from the Maiden City returned from a four-day visit to Kirkuk, Iraq, where they shared learning with twelve cities in transition from conflict towards a sustainable future.

The delegation from Derry-Londonderry, which hosted last year’s Forum for Cities in Transition event, included Councillor Gerard Diver, Jon Burrows, Michael Doherty, and Chris Yates.

Gerard Diver, former Mayor of Derry-Londonderry, remarked:

“This was my fourth consecutive attendance of these Forum meetings, starting with a pilot conference in Boston in 2009. The annual gatherings are excellent opportunities to learn from each other.

“We found hope and confidence among our counterparts in Kirkuk, towards building a better city with improved public services for all its citizens.”

Michael Doherty, director of the Peace and Reconciliation Group, added:

“Crucially, these annual events are followed up by specific pledges — real projects delivered in collaboration with other member cities. In the past we’ve brought police officers from Mitrovica to Derry-Londonderry, to learn how we deliver community based policing.

“Excitingly, resulting from this year’s conference in Kirkuk, we will investigate how we can host a delegation from the Kirkuk Police Service to participate in the 2013 World Police & Fire Games.”

Chris Yates, PSNI Foyle Chief Inspector, and his colleague Jon Burrows, reflected on what they saw in Kirkuk:

“During our visit in Iraq, we met with civil society leaders, and we are greatly encouraged by their work, especially considering the greater security instability that they face daily.

“It is the mixture of the need to provide security and consensual policing, with broad engagement with local communities, that provides the sound foundations for sustainable peace. Witnessing other cities pursue this approach gave us confidence that we are getting things right back home.”

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 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 the same situation.

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.

FCT Derry-Londonderry interview 20100531 (BBC Radio Foyle)

Mark Patterson (BBC Radio Foyle) interviews Gerard Diver, Willie Lamrock, Jim Roddy, and Maeve McLaughlin on Derry-Londonderry participation at Forum for Cities in Transition annual conference in Mitrovica, 24-28 May 2010: