In 2007, O’Malley, in collaboration with Nobel Prize winner Marti Ahtisaari’s Crisis Management Initiative and Tufts' Institute for Global Leadership, assembled senior negotiators from Northern Ireland and South Africa to meet in Helsinki with their counterparts from Iraq. A second Helsinki conference took place in 2008, when thirty-six leaders from all political parties in Iraq met with the same Northern Ireland and South African facilitator/negotiators. That session resulted in the “Helsinki Agreement,” a series of principles that became the basis for exploring political reconciliation in Iraq in 2009.
Helsinki and the Future of Kirkuk - Bagdad, November 19 to 21, 2009
Leaders from each of the three governmental bodies that lay claim to oil rich Kirkuk in Iraq's north will gather for the first time in an effort to defuse tensions over this oil-rich city as the country prepares for a crucial election in January 2010.
The high-level meeting in Baghdad will bring together the Kirkuk Provisional Council, the Kurdistan Parliament, and the Iraqi Parliament. At issue is how the ethnically mixed city, comprised of Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, Christians, and other minorities, will govern themselves, whether Kirkuk province should become part of the autonomous Kurdistan region, the property claims of people who were displaced during the reign of Saddam Hussein and who will control and profit from the oil fields beneath the city.
This significant summit has been arranged through the work of Professor Padraig O'Malley, the John Joseph Moakley Distinguished Professor of Peace and Reconciliation at the University of Massachusetts Boston’s McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies. During the conference, Professor O'Malley and his team of negotiators from Northern Ireland and South Africa will use the Helsinki Agreement, a set of guidelines agreed upon last year by Iraq's national leaders as a result of a process facilitated by O’Malley and his team, to guide the discussions. The hope is that the conferees will create an inter-parliamentary tier involving the three legislative bodies as the political vehicle to secure a peaceful future for the divided city.
The meeting is to take place in the chambers of the Iraqi Council of Representatives (CoR) beginning 5.00 pm on Thursday, Nov. 19. It ends Saturday evening.
The Iraq Project - Helsinki Meetings Culminate in Baghdad
Padraig O'Malley has brought the main Iraqi political parties a step closer to reconciliation.
The initiative, known as the Iraq Project, is an effort of the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies, the Institute for Global Leadership of Tufts University, and Crisis Managment Initiative of Finland with suport from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Finland.
Two confidential meetings in Helsinki, Finland and a third in Baghdad, have brought together Iraqis to explore with South African and Northern Irish negotiators the political basis for political reconciliation in Iraq. The first round of talks concluded in September 2007, the second in April 2008. And in July 2008, the Helsinki Agreement, composed of 16 principles and 15 mechanisms to assure their compliance, was signed by politicians from Sunni, Shiite, Kurdish, Turkmen, Communist and other parties.
As Project Director, Padraig O'Malley commented in a lecture at the Kennedy Library in Boston on May 8, 2008: "The Helsinki talks process . . .is based on the simple premise that people from divided societies are in the best postion to help those in other divided societies."
UMass at Helsinki II, April 2008
Thirty-eight Iraqis met for three days in Helsinki, Finland to develop principles on which reconciliation might be based. They were aided by extraordinary facilitators from Northern Ireland and South Africa.
UMass students, faculty, and staff describe the meetings.
Pat Peterson: "Staff of the conference center, note takers from Tufts and UMass, and organizers from Helsinki all assembled in the reception area at midnight to welcome the participants who walked slowly past us, some wearing turbans or checkered shumaggs and flowing garments and pulling their luggage on wheels. This was the beginning of three days of debate and drama with some theater mixed in." (A member of the staff of the Moakley Chair).
Nancy Riordan: "Having just finished a seminar on Track II Diplomacy, witnessing the Helsinki I and II processes firsthand was work in the field of the sort graduate students dream of." (2007 Graduate of the McCormack Graduate School, on the staff of the Moakley Chair)
Rajini Shrikanth: "The principal facilitators, South Africa's Cyril Ramaphosa and Northern Ireland's Martin McGuiness, were at once quietly confident and, at the same time, open to having their confidence destabilized. They communicated no expectations of success or failure, and therefore they provided the Iraqis the kind of open environment free from pressure in which multiple perspectives could be productively exchanged." (Professor of English Literature and Director of the Honors Program)
Andrea Crowell: "The willingness and enthusiasm of the Iraqi participants of Helsinki I and II and seeing members of the Northern Irish and South Africa Delegation sitting next to their former political enemies and working together toward a common goal gave me renewed hope in the ability of the Iraqi people to come to a resolve. Even the worst conflicts can be sorted out when there are individuals committed to the process." (2007 Graduate of the McCormack Graduate School)
John Moore: "A particularly poignant moment occurred when the Iraqis were engaged in intense discussions about defining Iraq's identity, which had surfaced ethnic and religious tensions. Jeffrey Donaldson (a former member of the Ulster Unionist Party) spoke eloquently of his experience in finding it possible to maintain an individual identity separate from a national political identity. While speaking, he held up his own passport and that of his former enemy from Sinn Fein, Alex Maskey. Both are from Northern Ireland, but Donaldson carries a British passport and Maskey carries an Irish passport. His point was that there can be creative solutions to these seemingly intractable and highly controversial issues." (A graduate student in the Dispute Resolution Program)