Since the project was set up in April 2007, its activities have focused on a number of key themes and areas including Intercommunity Engagements, Practitioner Work & Initiatives, Shared History & Dealing with the Past, Research Projects & Policy, Training & Capacity Building and International Study Visits/Activities.
Below are some examples of the events and activities organised by BCRC from April 2007 onwards.
During the funding period December 2008-December 2011, 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. From early 2012 until September 2014, BCRC engaged a further 341 individual attendees/participants through a range of events and activities. A total of 18 events were organised as well as 13 training and capacity building opportunities.
A Public Launch of our Peace III Programme, our new website www.bcrc.eu and the conference report From Confrontation to Co-operation, took place on 24th November 2009 at the Europa Hotel. The event was attended by in excess of 78 people, representative of groups and communities from across the city of Belfast. We would like to thank all those who gave of their time to attend the event and lent us their support. Special thanks go to the two Junior Ministers, MLA Gerry Kelly and MLA Robin Newton, along with Belfast Lord Mayor Councilor Naomi Long for their encouraging speeches.
BCRC organized a seminar/workshop on 17th September 2009 in conjunction with Community Places to provide information on planning reform to community activists. This was done in response to the geographic workshops which emphasised land use planning and housing development as major issues for interface communities. The seminar highlighted the relevant aspects of the current planning reform proposals being introduced by the Department of the Environment. As part of the seminar there was information on the process for making a response to the DoE consultation. BCRC submitted a response to the consultation based on the experience of interface communities. Download Report
Some examples of BCRC training and capacity building include:
- Marshalling Training
- Introduction to Lobbying
- Planning Reform seminar (in conjunction with Community Places)
- Presentations to the District Policing Partnerships
Staff are continuously involved in local interface interventions, community safety initiatives and community development activities on an ongoing basis and this local work is tied into the citywide approach of BCRC to address issues impacting on interface communities.
In April 2008 BCRC organized a conference entitled ‘From Confrontation to Co-operation: grassroots conflict resolution’ to explore the relationship between grassroots conflict resolution processes and current political processes. This involved presentations about BCRC’s work and approach followed by questions and discussion. The conference was opened by the Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Jim Rogers who endorsed the work and approach of BCRC and keynote speeches were delivered by both Avila Kilmurry (CFNI) and Brian Currin (Human Rights lawyer, South Africa). The conference was attended by in excess of 100 people, including representatives of community groups citywide as well as representatives from statutory agencies such as NIO, PSNI, NI Housing Executive and Belfast City Council. Conference participants endorsed the approach presented by BCRC and welcomed the emergence of BCRC as a significant and innovative conflict resolution initiative.
The project carried out a series of 4 workshops across Belfast in February 2008 which included facilitated discussions to identify the main issues affecting interface communities. The workshops brought together grassroots practitioners and residents from Belfast’s different religious and political backgrounds and the discussions highlighted a clear need for shared strategies on numerous issues, including: community safety and policing, youth, education, employment, health, housing and regeneration, integration of migrant worker communities and political representation. A report was produced based on the outcome of the workshops: ‘Issues and Strategies for Conflict Transformation at Belfast’s Interfaces’.
In February 2008, INCORE, the University of Ulster’s International Centre of Excellence for the Study of Peace and Conflict was commissioned to carry out a piece of research on BCRC’s behalf. The result was the report entitled ‘Communities in Transition. An exploration of attitudinal barriers to the development of intercommunity relationships in a post-conflict society’. Some of the main conclusions of the research included:
“Questions persist at local community level with regards to the benefits of the peace dividend and local issues remain.”
“Sizeable minorities of residents do not feel they have a large amount of say at the local community level.”
“There was an endorsement by local communities of the idea of working in partnership.”
“There is some trust in community leaders to work together and address community problems, and a sizeable minority of people feel community leaders are doing a good job under difficult circumstances.”
“There are fairly strong perceptions that there still is in-fighting between some community leaders and roughly half of respondents (varying in different areas) feel that some community leaders are more interested in other issues (e.g. protecting their jobs) than meeting local needs.”
As part of its aim to ‘internationalise Belfast’s experience and expertise…”, BCRC organised a study visit to Israel/Palestine 22nd – 28th November 2007. The trip was carried out on the back of the work of the Belfast-Jerusalem Civil Society Partnership (Intercomm and INCORE/University of Ulster in Northern Ireland and partner organisations Ir Amim and Panorama in Israel/Palestine). A cross-community delegation of 12 people took part in the study visit which aimed to confirm and contrast approaches to conflict resolution and to encourage reciprocal learning between the two conflict settings and between local practitioners in Belfast/Northern Ireland and Israel/Palestine. A number of connections were made during the trip, both within the group itself as well as with local organisations and individuals working with peacebuilding and community development issues in Israel/Palestine. It is anticipated that these connections will help enrich and strengthen the continuing work of the BCRC, locally as well as internationally.
In recognition of the innovative approach of BCRC the project was offered four places at the training developed by the Social Justice Mediation Institute. The five day intensive programme is a mediation certification course which combines mediation theory and skills practice with an examination of issues of power imbalances, identity and diversity. The social justice mediation training in Amherst USA was attended by four people during two phases, 27th August - 31st September 2007 and 26th – 30th May 2008.
BCRC staff member Claire Hackett was invited to lead a workshop at the annual conference of the Association of Conflict Resolution conference in Phoenix Arizona 24th to 27th October 2007. The workshop was entitled First Parties as Third Parties: Moving from Trauma to Resilience in the North of Ireland/Northern Ireland. This visit also included participation in training on environmental and public policy consensus building.
Following on from this visit the Association of Conflict Resolution invited BCRC to submit an article to its quarterly magazine ACResolution. The article entitled Walls Apart analysed BCRC’s approach to peace walls and was published in the special issue of ACResolution on social justice and conflict intervention in Summer 2008.
During the Peace II funding stream, BCRC organised 35 training and capacity building programmes which aimed to enhance conflict resolution skills, local leadership capacity and democratic involvement. A total of 1,498 training days were provided in the form of 514 training and capacity building places for conflict resolution practitioners, community workers, youth, BCRC staff and steering group and BCRC constituencies.
Examples of BCRC training and capacity building activities carried out April 2007-June 2008 include:
Social justice mediation
Principled Negotiation Skills
Understanding the Northern Ireland Assembly
Race and Ethnicity
Evaluation of Peacebuilding
Intercommunity planning residentials
Understanding prejudice and discrimination
Exchange visits re community programmes
Youth work level 2 accredited