The Belfast Conflict Resolution Consortium (BCRC) is a citywide cross-community partnership working to assist conflict transformation at Belfast’s interfaces. The project was part-financed by the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund through the EU’s PEACE III Programme for Peace and Reconciliation during the period 2009-2014 which built on the successful pilot that was delivered April 2007-June 2009, supported under the EU Peace II funding stream. During the period November 2014-April 2016 BCRC was supported by funding from OFMDFM, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, the Community Relations Council and Belfast City Council. The current phase of the project is supported through the Executive Office's Central Good Relations Fund as well as Community Relations Council Core Funding.
The overarching mission of BCRC is focused on two parallel processes:
1) To provide an integrated response to tensions at interfaces and to prevent outbreaks of violence through fostering and expanding cross-community strategic alliances.
2) To enhance within interface communities conflict resolution skills, local leadership capacity, democratic involvement, and reconciliation efforts and to share future work on the legacy of the conflict and social problems faced by these communities.
The project employs a team of 5 staff which is given operational direction from the Project Manager and the lead agency, Falls Community Council, as well as strategic direction from its steering group and partner organisations BRN, EPIC, Intercomm and PANG. The vast majority of BCRC’s staff and steering group, and its ‘Local Area Contact’ network, live in interface areas and are also extensively involved in local groups as members of committees and as volunteers.
The project was set up in April 2007 and has since focused on a number of key areas, including Intercommunity Engagements, Practitioner Work & Initiatives, Shared History & Dealing with the Past, Research Projects & Policy, Training & Capacity Building and International Study Visits/Activities. During the period December 2008-December 2011, for example, BCRC organised 31 training/capacity building courses for some 376 participants as well as 28 intercommunity engagements for approximately 728 participants and 10 shared history/dealing with the past events to 323 participants. Out of the 28 intercommunity engagements, 20 took place at a local level and 8 on a citywide basis while the 31 training/capacity building were divided into 16 citywide and 15 local courses.
The BCRC project is primarily focused on interface areas across Belfast. These are disadvantaged areas that are classified as areas of greatest need in the Noble indices and are experiencing high levels of multiple deprivations. These are also areas that are likely to be characterised by high levels of sectarian and racial crimes and tensions. The communities in which BCRC is working have been deeply affected by the conflict and many of the areas have suffered physical dereliction as a result of the conflict. On-going tension and violence continues to impair the communities’ economic, social, and physical progress.
As part of BCRC’s objective to provide support and assistance to local groups and networks, the project continues to engage with stakeholders and local processes across the city on an ongoing basis. BCRC’s key focus remains on interface communities across Belfast with a particular emphasis on engagements with residents, local groups and networks; the prevention of and dealing with interface incidents and violence; parallel to working with local groups and initiatives. As part of this work, the project has an ongoing engagement with numerous local groups and networks across the city and team members also continue to engage with statutory agencies on issues related to interface areas.
The project aims to draw on its collective experience to push forward opportunities for peace building and reconciliation. BCRC will assist in developing and enhancing cross-community frameworks for residents and those working at interfaces to address social and economic issues as well as core issues of division. It is anticipated that sustainable and positive relationships will be built through dialogue, problem solving and shared actions. The project further aims to bring in to this process individuals who have previously been disengaged and isolated from the peace process.