FCT 2013: Remarks by Professor Padraig O’Malley

Remarks by Professor Padraig O’Malley
Opening Ceremony of the 4th Forum for Cities in Transition Conference
Murtala Mohammed Square
Kaduna, Nigeria
4 November 2013 

Your Excellency, Vice President Sambo; Your Excellency, Governor Yero, and all assembled Excellencies,

This is an auspicious — indeed, not just auspicious but a groundbreaking occasion for the Forum for Cities in Transition to have the privilege, as a result of the Kaduna Forum for Cities in Transition and Kaduna State, to conduct the fourth annual conference of the Forum here in Kaduna.

We are profoundly grateful for your hosting us.

Adding to the groundbreaking occasion is the presence of six Nigerian cities and four others from the rest of Africa.

To Kaduna State, we are profoundly grateful for underwriting the cost of this conference, because without your generosity we would not be here — and we will remember that and hope you have set a precedent for other cities.

Your Excellency, Governor Yero, we thank you and we will not forget.

And to the many hundreds in the balconies who have made the journey here this morning for this historic occasion, we are humbled by your presence and hope our endeavours do you, the people, justice.

It is our hope that at the close of the conference we can announce that the Kaduna FCT has established a Nigerian FCT, with the Nigerian cities who are participating in this conference as its founding members, making Kaduna the peace centre of Nigeria and the hope that a Nigerian Forum will contribute to healing the divisions among Muslims and Christians that has enmeshed Nigeria in religious conflict for decades.

To all Nigerians here, I want to say that these cities can do together what they cannot do individually — one Nigerian city can help another, bonded by their similarities, their difficulties, their divisions — and their commitment to healing those divisions.

The Forum for Cities in Transition wishes to pay a special welcome to our Balkan cities — Mostar, Sarajevo and Srebrenica — cities torn apart by horrific violence during the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

And a special welcome as well to our delegation from Baghdad, a city where daily bombings erase human life instantaneously, pre-empting any kind of reconciliation between Sunni and Shia in the process, with the result that we are beginning to witness Iraq slip slowly, but with frightening speed, into a full-scale civil war, with neighbour turning on neighbour, with every possibility that Iraq will become another Syria.

Many of our delegates made arduous journeys to secure their visas and we appreciate the lengths you went to and for your patience in order to participate in this conference, and we hope you will leave here believing that your efforts were well worthwhile.

There is an official agenda, which you have — and there is an unofficial agenda — the unofficial one is of your own making.

You will have ample opportunities to meet and get to know each other during the week, to mix and not only share your narratives of conflict, but to explore ways in which you can help each other further reconciliation among your diverse communities who were once in conflict — and some who still are.

At the opening of every conference, I make a point of emphasising that this is not just a conference; it is a conference that produces outcomes — and I stress that word.

Each conference is linked to the previous one; so Kaduna 2013 is linked to Kirkuk 2012 to Derry-Londonderry 2011 to Mitrovica 2010 to Boston 2009.

The sums of your cities has created a chain that links you and enables you to engage in continuing interaction, reinforcing that you can do together what you cannot do alone.

Most importantly, as I said, this conference is about outcomes.

Each participating city will be asked at the close of the conference to make a specific commitment that will be completed before next year’s conference. To carry out a project that will further reconciliation in its own city or help another city lower on the ladder of transition and needs your help.

The diversity of ethnic groups, nationalities, religions and culture that are assembled here will produce a synergy that will bond you in the common pursuit of finding ways to further reconciliation and healing in each others’ cities.

You will work hard, you will learn much, and you can translate that learning into outcomes that will assist you on the journey to equality of services for all of your citizens, tolerance, respect for human rights, dignity for all — and will reinforce your understanding that you are all cities in recovery from great trauma, and that you must pursue a continuous process of healing; that otherwise you will slip back into conflict.

On behalf of the Forum for Cities Secretariat — Nancy Riordan, Candyce Carragher, Allan Leonard, Quintin Oliver and myself, we wish you success in your endeavours, and we are here to assist you in every way we can.

Thank you.

Peace professor: What keeps people apart are barriers ‘created mostly by their governments’ (WBUR)

Peace professor: What keeps people apart are barriers ‘created mostly by their governments’
Here And Now (WBUR)
17 June 2011 

Here And Now Guest: Padraig O’Malley, professor of international peace and reconciliation at the University of Massachusetts:

The city of Derry, once a flash point during The Troubles in Northern Ireland, was the setting for the latest meeting of the Forum for Cities in Transition.

Participants from other divided cities around the world attended the conference as part of a long process to bridge ethnic gaps.

UMASS International relations professor Padraig O’Malley told Here & Now‘s Monica Brady-Myerov that “what keeps people apart is not people, it’s artificial barriers created mostly by their governments.”


Making a film about a man who makes peace (Boston Globe)

Making a film about a man who makes peace
Loren King (Boston Globe)
22 May 2011

Boston filmmaker Jim Demo is in Northern Ireland, continuing production on his documentary “The Peacemaker.’’

It’s about Dublin-born, Cambridge-based Padraig O’Malley, professor of international peace and reconciliation at the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Demo will film the second annual Forum for Cities in Transition conference in Derry/Londonderry this week with delegates from four continents and 12 divided cities. Launched by O’Malley, the inaugural conference was held at UMass Boston in April 2009.

Demo describes his documentary as a portrait of O’Malley’s life, work, and philosophy. He says the project began in an unlikely, though some might say perfect, spot: the Plough and Stars pub, in Cambridge, the local watering hole that O’Malley has owned since the 1970s. “I thought it was just a fish tale at the bar. But as I researched him, I discovered he was involved in high-level peace processes in Iraq, South Africa, Northern Ireland, and other war-torn regions,’’ says Demo, a former lawyer who formed Central Square Films in 2006. His first film was the 2009 comic short “First Time Long Time,’’ starring John Savage, Amanda Plummer, and Karen Black.

Unleash the dogs of capitalism (Boston Globe)

20101017 Unleash the Dogs

Unleash the dogs of capitalism
Kevin Cullen (Boston Globe)
17 October 2010

What should come after disarmament? How about tax policy?

As Owen Paterson works the room in Washington on Tuesday, schmoozing at a job creation conference for Northern Ireland hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, prospective investors may be tempted to do a double take at his name tag.

Paterson is an Englishman, Britain’s secretary of state for Northern Ireland. But when it comes to tax policy, his pitch is decidedly Irish.

In fact, when it comes to tax policy, Paterson wants to out-Irish the Irish.

The Republic of Ireland’s economy, troubled at present due to a meltdown of its housing and banking sectors, was for much of the last two decades the fastest-growing in Europe. Much of the credit for that growth was attributed to the Republic’s 12.5 percent corporate tax rate, the lowest in Europe, which enticed many multinational companies, especially American ones, to establish a gateway to Europe there.

Northern Ireland, saddled with a 28 percent rate like the rest of the United Kingdom, could only look south with envy. Who would open a business in Belfast or Derry when they could drive an hour south, on the same island, and pay less than half as much tax?

Paterson hopes to change that equation. Next month he will present a policy paper to the power-sharing Northern Ireland Assembly, recommending a drastic cut in the corporate tax rate. Paterson will call for undercutting the Republic by instituting a 10 percent rate. At the very least, he said, the rate in Northern Ireland needs to match the Republic’s.

Paterson and his boss, Prime Minister David Cameron, want to reverse a decades-old policy of building and sustaining peace by heavy government spending. It’s time, they say, for Northern Ireland’s vaunted peace process to be pushed along by the natural flow of free market capitalism, not the artificial stream of state subsidy.

“I know that’s revolutionary,” Paterson said recently, sitting in Emmet’s, a pub on Boston’s Beacon Hill named for a 19th-century Irish rebel who was executed by the British in Dublin. “But it’s irresponsible to do nothing. We have to give the private sector a chance to grow.”

For many years, the prevailing model in post-conflict societies like Ireland has been to buy off the combatants (or their constituents) with publicly funded jobs and huge state-funded bureaucracies. But now a new idea has begun to gain traction: transforming divided societies by encouraging the private sector. Writing recently in Foreign Affairs, Carl J. Schramm, president and CEO of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and coauthor of “Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism,” suggested the traditional approach of international development in post-conflict and post-disaster societies has to shift. In Iraq and Afghanistan, he notes, the economies are faltering despite the infusion of billions of dollars because massive public spending creates dependence instead of innovation. A faltering economy, meanwhile, threatens whatever political progress is made.

“There is a proven model for just such economic growth right in front of US policy makers’ eyes: the entrepreneurial model practiced in the United States and elsewhere,” Schramm wrote. “This model rests to a huge extent on the dynamism of new firms, which constantly introduce innovations into the economy.”

In Northern Ireland, public spending constitutes 77 percent of GDP, more than twice what is found in many other regions of the United Kingdom. The vast majority of people work for the government or government-funded agencies. The private sector is tiny and hasn’t grown in the decade since the worst of the violence ended.

Those government subsidies, meanwhile, underwrite the separate but equal division of social services, from schools to health clinics, that may have helped keep the peace but has also kept most Catholic nationalists and Protestant unionists living parallel lives without much interaction. Some estimates place the duplication of services in Northern Ireland, a place roughly the size of Connecticut with a population of less than 2 million, at more than $1 billion a year.

While the infusion of billions from the British exchequer helped remove many of the biggest grievances at the heart of the conflict in Northern Ireland, especially the inequality in housing, the failure to develop a real market economy has held back the cause of integration and reconciliation.

Tax equalization on the island of Ireland would be one step toward making its unification more realistic. But losing that competitive advantage over Northern Ireland would test the Republic’s commitment to unity.

Ironically, some of the strongest voices calling for tax equalization belong to unionists, those who want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom. Unionists tend to be overrepresented in Northern Ireland’s relatively small entrepreneurial class, and they appear to view tax equalization as gaining an equal footing, not a slide down a slippery slope.

Paterson acknowledges that weaning people in Northern Ireland from such a heavily subsidized society “is a huge cultural shift.” But the cuts are coming anyway. A sweeping overhaul of the UK’s welfare system and shrinking of state spending is the centerpiece of the coalition government led by Cameron, the Conservative Party leader. The Labor government that did so much to propel the political process that led to peace steadfastly refused to lower Northern Ireland’s corporate tax rate as a way to stimulate investment.

For Paterson, an admirer of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, and an avowed Euroskeptic, his enthusiasm for free market economics and thumbing his nose at the mandarins in Brussels who frown on low corporate taxes are complementary positions.

But can a Thatcherite normalize Northern Ireland?

Paterson said American business officials he met in Washington and Boston on a recent visit were intrigued by the prospect of cutting the tax rate.

“Smart people realize this is a good time to get into Northern Ireland,” he said.

Padraig O’Malley, the Moakley Professor of Peace and Reconciliation at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and director of the Forum for Cities in Transition from Conflict, agrees that Northern Ireland needs to wean itself from the British taxpayer.

But he said emulating the Republic’s recipe for promoting investment with low taxes looks less attractive while surveying its current budget deficit and stagnant growth. Some companies have left Ireland for better deals in the Far East and elsewhere. He thinks Chinese companies might be more tempted to locate in Northern Ireland than American ones if the tax rate is dramatically lowered.

How much a company pays in taxes is just one of many factors that go into a decision to locate in a particular country. Some countries in Europe lowered their tax rates in response to the Republic of Ireland’s success, but none came close to going as low as 12.5 percent. The low-tax approach to attract business is more common in parts of Asia.

Getting politicians in Northern Ireland to agree to reducing tax revenue while simultaneously absorbing drastic public funding cuts, all in the name of creating a more normal economy and society, will be the biggest test of their fledgling power-sharing democracy.

“It’s up to them,” Paterson said. “But the status quo is not acceptable.”

Kevin Cullen, a Globe columnist, formerly headed Globe bureaus in Dublin and London.

A wreath laid in Iraq (Boston Globe)

20090715 Wreath Iraq

A wreath laid in Iraq
Farah Stockman (Boston Globe)
15 July 2009

UMass Boston professor Padraig O’Malley laid a wreath today at the site of a bombing in Iraq that killed at least 72 people last month which appeared to be aimed at fomenting ethnic tensions in the volatile Kirkuk region.

Kirkuk is one of five “divided” cities participating in a peace forum established in Boston by O’Malley this past April. Elected representatives from Kirkuk visited Massachusetts this past April to learn about how Boston had overcome violence and division during the busing crisis of the 1970s.

The group toured Boston neighborhoods that had been impacted by violence, led by Robert Lewis Jr., the Boston Foundation’s vice president, whose home was fire-bombed in 1976, presumably because his family were the first blacks to move into a white housing project in Maverick.

Other participants included representatives from Mitrovica, a city divided between Kosovo and Serbia; Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, claimed by both Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities; and Derry/Londonderry and Belfast, in Northern Ireland.

After the meeting in Boston, the group pledged to meet annually and share experiences.

O’Malley traveled to Kirkuk after a series of deadly bombings to read a letter of condolence to Kirkuk’s Provincial Council from the group.

“When one of you dies, all of us die a little, too,” he said. “We stand with you in resolute solidarity.”

Divided Cities (Chicago Public Radio)

Professor Padraig O’Malley is interviewed by Chicago Public Radio for Worldview programme: “Divided Cities”

What happens when you bring government officials from cities divided along ethnic and political lines together in one room? Arguments? Perhaps an outbreak of violence? According to veteran peace negotiator Padraig O’Malley, you get exactly the opposite.

After years of subtle and, at times, not so subtle prodding, he convinced Protestant and Catholic leaders from Northern Ireland to meet with their South African counterparts. He says the parallels the groups drew helped create the foundation for future discussions among the Northern Irish that eventually produced the Good Friday peace agreement.

O’Malley decided if he did it with the South Africans and the Northern Irish, why not do it with other divided societies? Thus, the “Divided Cities” conference was born. O’Malley is currently a professor at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. Earlier this month, his university sponsored a symposium of leaders from Kirkuk, Iraq; Nicosia, Cyprus; Derry-Londonderry in Northern Ireland and Mitroveca, Kosovo, all cities with deep-seeded ethnic disputes and in various stages of conflict resolution.

Peace Work (Radio 4)

On today’s BBC Radio 4 programme, Peace Work, Mark Devenport investigates how Northern Ireland’s politicians are sharing their experiences of conflict resolution. Interviews include Professor Padraig O’Malley (University of Massachusetts, Boston), Quintin Oliver (Stratagem (NI)), Jeffrey Donaldson MLA (Junior Minister, OFMdFM), and Martin McGuinness (deputy First Minister).

Immediate disclaimer: I am assisting Prof. O’Malley in a forthcoming conference on divided cities, to be held next month in Boston, and Quintin provides regular assistance in my main employment. So not surprisingly I’m sympathetic to their views of conflict resolution.

Devenport’s journey begins with O’Malley’s achievement of getting Northern Ireland politicians to travel to South Africa over ten years ago, before the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement, for conversations with Nelson Mandela. Donaldson and McGuinness refused to be in the same room, but each left with their own positive impressions.

Fast forward to 2007/8, and O’Malley is driving another ambition to get Iraqi politicians to meet Donaldson and McGuinness for similar conversations. The result was an agreement among the Iraqi delegates to the Helsinki Principles, which pledged the signatories to pursue completely peaceful politics.

Critics say that it’s absurd (or in Jim Allister’s case, outrageous) to think you can export Northern Ireland’s tenuous stability as some one-size-fits-all conflict resolution product. But in the interview, O’Malley makes no such boast. Instead, he emphasises the shared human behaviour of those involved and affected by conflict situations in divided societies.

Indeed, O’Malley’s next step is to develop this concept for divided cities. The premise is that those elected representatives and policy officials in municipalities that have emerged (or are emerging) from division share an understanding among other municipalities in similar circumstances, than those which haven’t.

The forthcoming conference on divided cities will bring in delegates from Derry/Londonderry (Northern Ireland), Kirkuk (Iraq), Mitrovica (Kosovo), and Nicosia (Cyprus). The objective is not for anyone to attempt to solve anyone else’s division as some part of grand conflict resolution, but rather exchange experiences of how councillors and staff have dealt with them.