Day of Peace in Dublin

Dublin, Ireland - On September 23, UPF Ireland sponsored a program to commemorate the UN International Day of Peace at the famous Buswells Hotel in central Dublin. A gathering of NGO representatives and Ambassadors for Peace heard Mr. Ian White speak on the topic "Lessons Learned from the Northern Ireland Peace Process." A second presentation, entitled "The Universal Peace Federation and Peacemaking," was given by Mr. Jack Corley, Director of UPF-Ireland.

iraland 01Mr. White is the Director of the International and Political Programme and former CEO of the Glencree Peace and Reconciliation Centre in Ireland, an institution that has been deeply involved in facilitating the process of peacemaking in Northern Ireland. He also represents the Glencree Centre in peacemaking projects in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and Haiti.

In his presentation, Mr. White pointed out the key issues that led to the 1998 Good Friday agreement and eventual halt to the violence between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland. Among the issues he covered was the importance of getting leaders of the extremes to participate in the peace discussions. He pointed out that without dealing with the extreme elements in any conflict, it will be virtually impossible to ensure long-term peace. He started by giving a short story of his personal journey in peacebuilding, marrying outside his community in Northern Ireland; then he focused on a number of lessons from the Irish Peace Process and related them to international contexts:

• Peace is a process not a product. In Ireland, there was a referendum to agree upon a process, not to agree on a result. If you cannot live with the answer, it's better not to ask the question. If people been asked to vote on whether they wanted a united Ireland, to stay with Britain, or for Northern Ireland to be independent, not everyone would have been able to live with the result.

• There is no sustainable military solution to a protracted security problem or violent conflict. People engaged in non-state armed activity are seldom psychopaths; they are people with a cause that we may not believe in but they feel strongly enough to engage in violence. We need to dialogue and include them rather than marginalize them, because marginalization only leads to more aggression and strengthens the armed group.

• Peacebuilding must be inclusive. It is easy to build peace with your friends; it's your enemies who present the challenge.

• Trust is important to consider. Many protagonists state that the lack of trust between them prevents them from engaging in peace building. They do not need to trust each other in order to engage in peace building, but they do need to trust a third party.

• Doing the unexpected is often a useful tip for those who work in peace building. Mr. Smith quoted an example from his work with Travellers (Gypsies) about how doing the unexpected kept a process on track.

• When the problem seems intractable, it is often helpful to reframe the problem and seek to fully understand the context. To change the relationship between two people, it is often necessary to change the context within which they exist.

In his presentation Mr. Corley explained UPF’s view on the importance of involving religious iraland 02representatives and spiritual values as essential components of any peacemaking effort. He pointed out that although many of the conflicts in the world, including Northern Ireland, are not primarily religious conflicts, the parties involved happen to be from different denominations or religions, and therefore it is important to involve religious leaders in the peace process.

Participants expressed their satisfaction with the program, finding the approaches to peacemaking to be new and creative, and applauding the results.

At the conclusion of the program, Mr. White was appointed an Ambassador for Peace. This appointment was significant in that Mr. White comes from a Protestant family in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and is married to a Catholic woman from Dublin, Ireland.

To read UPF's Declaration on the International Day of Peace 2009, click here.

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