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Communities

Communities share Peace Walls Programme lessons with international audience

Published on:  30 Oct 2014

An international forum today (Wednesday 29th October) heard that interface communities are taking brave steps to address peace walls, but the resources available to support progress are not enough to meet the appetite for change.

As part of the Forum for Cities in Transition, more than 80 people from 15 divided cities across the Middle East, Africa and Europe visited local groups involved in the International Fund for Ireland¹s Peace Walls Programme (PWP).

 

Launched in 2012, the PWP seeks to create the conditions needed to begin the removal of the interface barriers and has provided a range of confidence and relationship building initiatives to assist residents to arrive at a position where they feel it is safe and appropriate to consider the removal of Peace Walls in their area.

The PWP delivery model has generated considerable momentum for positive physical transformation and received widespread acclaim from community groups, government departments and statutory agencies.

Speaking at the Forum, Dr Adrian Johnston, Chairman of the International Fund for Ireland (IFI), said:

Supporting interface communities to deliver meaningful and sustainable change, both physical and attitudinal, is a key part of our work. We are always keen to promote and share our work with other parts of the world emerging from conflict. Peace walls are among the most visible remaining symbols of community division in Northern Ireland, but there are real concerns that early removal could negatively impact on the safety of residents and potentially de-stabilise the Peace Process.

The IFI has invested nearly £3 million in two years to help residents at interface areas get to a point where they feel it is safe and appropriate for barrier removal to happen. The Programme has delivered significant progress and has begun a schedule of works to transform interface areas in Belfast and Derry/Londonderry.

He added, Interface communities that have engaged with the IFI have demonstrated courage to re-imagine their communities. While there is an opportunity to make serious progress, there is also a real risk that the momentum could be lost if the NI Executive does not back that courage with financial support and resources to match the ambition of the communities.

There are approximately 100 Peace Walls in Belfast with a smaller number in Derry/Londonderry and Portadown. Approximately 30 Peace Walls have been erected since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

The Forum for Cities in Transition is a four-day gathering aimed at debating and learning from challenges and successes of peacebuilding.

Forum for Cities in Transition Director, Professor Padraig O'Malley, said:

At a time of great division in the world, it is crucial that we focus on what we can do on a practical level, to bring together opposing sections of society.  It is imperative that we hear the voices not just of those at the extremes of conflict, but also those who work every day to bring about resolution and cooperation, often under terribly difficult circumstances.

Forums for Cities in Transition is funded by the International Fund for Ireland, Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Irish Aid and the Reconciliation Fund), Belfast City Council, Northern Ireland Housing Executive, Ireland Funds and the Community Relations Council.

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