UMass Boston Peace Initiative Issues International Report
June 20, 2012
McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies
Along with the Northern Ireland Foundation, on June 12, Professor Padraig O’Malley, the John Joseph Moakley Chair of Peace and Reconciliation at the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at UMass Boston, launched Bridging the Gap—a report on the Forum for Cities in Transition conference held in Ireland’s divided city of Derry-Londonderry in May 2011.
O'Malley works on conflict resolution challenges across the globe. His Forum for Cities in Transition initiative 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 report's author, Earl Storey, explained how Derry-Londonderry was witness to key events that shaped Northern Ireland's conflict over the years. "Last May, we had the opportunity to invite those from other conflict zones, to share our story of our continuing journey towards peace. It was an encouragement to us to reflect on how far we have progressed on that journey—breaking a historic cycle of division and violence. It also reminded us of what drives our desire for peace. There is nothing so heart-rending as seeing the raw pain of a family who have lost a loved one to violence. This is the real purpose of bringing cities together in the Forum for Cities in Transition--so we never have to see that again—the human cost is too great."
Former Chair of the Derry-Londonderry Forum Group Angela Askin, who is also community relations officer at the Derry City Council, noted, “The conference brought together over 70 delegates from 12 cities that have experienced violent conflict—places as diverse as Kirkuk in Iraq; Jerusalem in the Middle East; Kaduna in northern Nigeria; and Mitrovica in Kosovo. It was an opportunity for people who are working through their own deep wounds of division to honestly share how they are meeting the challenges in their communities transitioning from conflict to lasting peace. These exchanges have led to new initiatives, undertaken by Forum members themselves, to build peace in each of the 12 cities. This is the real measure of success for the Forum. We are not just an annual gathering or a mere talking shop—our actions are making the momentum for peace unstoppable.”
Allan Leonard, director of the Northern Ireland Foundation, remarked upon the work of members of the Derry-Londonderry reconciliation group.
"On behalf of the Forum Secretariat, we could not be more pleased with the local ownership and execution of last year's conference. The Derry-Londonderry Forum excelled at delivering outcomes that it pledged at previous Forum gatherings. For example, there have been two exchanges between local PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) officers and their counterparts in the Mitrovica branch of the Kosovo police, learning from our community based policing model," he said.
UMass Boston’s O’Malley was equally pleased with the report.
“The city of Derry-Londonderry is celebrating a significant contribution to lasting peace, not only within its own constituency, but also in 12 other cities divided by conflict,” he said.
About the Moakley Chair and the Forum for Cities in Transition
UMass Boston’s Moakley Chair seeks to address the tragic crisis of fractured societies around the world and reinforce the commitment to principles of peace and reconciliation among all the participants in the process. O’Malley, born in Dublin, is an international peace broker who has penned several articles and books about his conflict resolution experiences including his leadership role in the Helsinki conferences.
In 2009, UMass Boston hosted a pilot project to explore the idea of creating a Forum for Cities in Transition. The Forum for Cities in Transition (FCT) is an international network of mayors, councilors, municipal officials, business people, and representatives of the voluntary and community sector seeking new ways of working together for the common good. FCT cities include Belfast, Beirut, Derry~Londonderry, Haifa, Jerusalem, Kirkuk, Kaduna, Mitrovica, Mostar, Mitte, Nicosia, and Ramallah.The founding cities are Derry/Londonderry, Kirkuk, Mitrovice/Kosovo Mitrovica, and Nicosia. At that meeting delegates decided to meet annually in one of the member cities.
The next conference will take place in Kirkuk, Iraq in October.
The Community Relations Council in Ireland has dedicated an issue of its journal, Shared Space, to the proceedings of the 2011 conference. Available online at http://citiesintransition.net/page/fct-2011-reports
For further information, contact Nancy Riordan, Co-Secretariat of the FCT at 617.291.1845.