Hanna’s House Conference - 06/11/2012

Filed under: IBIS,UNSCR 1325 — Tags: , — Ronan @ 5:52 pm

We were very lucky yesterday to have the privilege of attending the Hanna’s House All-Ireland Conference on North-South Co-operation & Implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 in Croke Park.

The topic for discussion was ‘Delivering Women Peace and Security.’ There were a number of excellent speakers including Professor Christine Chinkin, Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie OBE, Professor Monica McWilliams and Fiona Buckley. The conference was opened by President Michael D. Higgins who spoke with great conviction about several of the issues surrounding women peace and security. The other speakers dealt with subjects as diverse as policing reform, gender quotas, the North-South Inter-parliamentary association and the transformation of the political ‘space’ to make it more accessible to women.

Nura Hagi of the Somali Human Rights Advocacy Group, Shirley Graham of Hanna’s House, DCC Judith Gillespie of PSNI, and Professor Monica McWilliams of TJI, University of Ulster at the Hanna’s House Conference in Croke Park yesterday

In the afternoon we had round-table discussions about various aspects of operationalizing UNSCR1325 and how this process could work. The collective expertise and experience in the room made for lively discussion and some excellent initial recommendations which included: the importance of including gender perspective in every stage of the implementation, evaluation and monitoring of 1325, institutional reform and the need to re-think politics through a gender sensitive perspective.


We would like to thank our friends at Hanna’s House for organizing such a productive and worthwhile event! Make sure to ‘like’ them on facebook!


Film Screening: As If I Am Not There - 01/11/2012

Filed under: IBIS,UNSCR 1325 — Tags: , , — Ronan @ 10:09 am



The Institute for British Irish Studies (IBIS) and the School of Politics and International Relations in University College Dublin (UCD) would like to invite you to the screening of the movie As If I Am Not There on Tuesday, the 6th of November 2012, 6-8pm in theatre 1, Newman Building, University College Dublin (UCD).

The screening will be followed by a discussion with the film director Juanita Wilson.   Juanita Wilson’s debut feature, As If I Am Not There, serves as a timely reminder of the atrocities suffered during the Bosnian War of the 1990s, and the difficulty in resuming any sense of normality in its aftermath. The drama is taken from true stories revealed during the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague.   Samira is a modern schoolteacher in Sarajevo who takes a job in a small country village just as the war is beginning to ramp up. When Serbian soldiers overrun the village, shoot the men and keep the women as labourers (the older ones) and sex objects (the younger ones), Samira is subjected to the basest form of treatment imaginable.

Oscar nominated and IFTA winning filmmaker Juanita Wilson is a renowned Irish director and writer from Dublin. She has been awarded an Irish Film and Television Award for best film, best script, and best director, among other international recognition.

Addressing Cultural Legacies of Conflict. Towards an intercultural and inter-dimensional Dialogue on Women, Peace and Security. - 31/10/2012

Filed under: IBIS,UNSCR 1325 — Tags: — Ronan @ 10:13 am


Hello everyone! On behalf of the IBIS team, I would like to welcome you to our blog.

It his hoped that over the coming months that this space will document and provide comprehensive information on our project, ‘Addressing Cultural Legacies of Conflict. Towards an intercultural and inter-dimensional Dialogue on Women, Peace and Security. ‘

My name is Ronan Kennedy and I am a 2nd year PhD student in the school of politics, I will be in charge of blog maintenance on behalf of Dr.Melanie Hoewer the project coordinator.

The core of this project will focus on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, which deals with the issues of women, peace and security.



Since its inception in October 2000 we have seen divergent approaches to developing individual national action plans (NAP) to implement the resolution. The development of NAPs has highlighted at international, national and community level the distinct issues concerning women affected by conflict and raised further questions on how to construct a more equal society. Melanie has already written about the Northern Irish experience of NAP implementation here, you can also view the Irish national action plan here

This project will set out to exchange and analyse lessons learned from the different implementation processes of UNSCR 1325 in a comparative perspective. Our aim is to bring together the voices and experiences in gendered approaches to conflict resolution from the academic and international community and from key stakeholders from different levels of society.

A further aspect of the study is to analyse the role that international organisations such as UN Women, OSCE, EU and NATO can have in the implementation process. We have already been lucky enough to have organised a joint event with the Transitional Justice Institute in the University of Ulster where the policy director of UN Women Saraswathi Menon spoke to us on the work her organisation is doing with the 1325 process

Further to this we aim to develop innovative approaches on women, peace and security in academic research and policy-making by moving beyond the process of developing national action plans. We hope to discover how those plans are implemented and what impact they have on building a more equal society and on developing a concept of sustainable conflict resolution.

More details on our upcoming conference and regular updates on the current direction of our research will be posted here, so make sure and check back regularly.


Cillian McGrattan on Northern nationalism - 28/11/2010

Filed under: IBIS — Susan McDermott @ 9:19 pm

On 16 November 2010, IBIS member Dr. Cillian McGrattan, an IRCHSS postdoctoral research fellow, delivered a speech to the Trinity College Dublin politics society. The subject title for the debate was, ‘Changing Discourse in Northern Ireland’, and Dr. Sarah Campbell, UCD school of history and archives and Robin Wilson, Platform for change, also delivered speeches.

Cillian’s speech is re-produced in full below:

Northern nationalism

I wish to approach the question(s) of whether the debate in Northern Ireland can move beyond sectarianism and division and whether a new politics can emerge in two ways.

I wish to suggest that the idea of a Northern Ireland problem is itself reflective of an intensely problematic problematisation of what might be seen as conflictual political dynamics. That is to say, the very structuring of the question lends itself to a teleology, a vision of the end-times, that does violence to the very different constitutional and cultural aspirations of the two main communal groups in the North. More than that, in reproducing what is an essentially ethnicised image of the North – namely, of a bad violent past marred by sectarianism and division rather than say a past marred by sordid sectarian assassinations – it is counterproductive of its unarticulated aim of transcending the imagined though not imaginary sectarianism.

This teleology has manifested itself within Northern constitutional nationalism. This has occurred because the transition from violence to peace has created a political dilemma: namely, what does it mean when a revolutionary style of politics is brought within the state? In particular, it has given rise to a question of how constitutional parties react to the inclusion of the revolutionary approach within a process of conflict transformation. What does this mean for how the constitutional style of politics is articulated in terms of policy direction, but – perhaps more problematically – in terms of identity?

The dilemma poses a particular urgency for individuals and communities, torn between political parties: how do they articulate their identity in periods of transition and upheaval, how do they keep faith with their historical forbears – that is, how those forbears, those communal historical narratives, those ‘spectres’ from the past, return to demand adherence to continuity and tradition and thus disturb ideas about the nature of political change.

Although the SDLP has increasingly emphasized its civil rights heritage since the fortieth anniversary of the key civil rights march in October 2008, the essentially teleological narrative of visionary politics that triumphed over adversity and intransigence continues to form the core of the SDLP’s response to that dilemma. As such it encapsulates much of its current self-image and political program:

After so much violence and destruction, the [1998] Agreement saw other parties sign up to principles the SDLP had consistently advocated … While the Agreement’s implementation was frustrated for many years, the SDLP held nothing back and wants only to take the Agreement forward.

While this retrospective perspective is perhaps inevitable given Sinn Féin’s aptitude in the art of borrowing political concepts and language (in this case the SDLP’s) in order to woo the median voter (in this case, arguably, middle-class Catholics), there is limited political mileage in espousing a policy program based on retrospection. Is a very practical and party political concern.

There have been a couple of attempts to move beyond it:

The first is that articulated by Conall McDevitt and younger nationalists – namely, the attempt to reconceptualise the ‘Northern Irish problem’ through a ‘federalist lens’ (perhaps paradoxically, a notion that was explored by Sinn Féin in its Éire Nua policy during the 1970s). This conceptualisation emphasises both the separateness of ‘Ulster’ or ‘The North’ as a distinctive version of Irishness, but one that includes institutional proposals including the retention of the Northern Ireland Assembly within a federalist, united island.

This owes more than a little to consociationalism. It implies the retention of Stormont and the UK welfare state – aspirations that are coated in the rhetoric of regionalism: “The stronger the region, the stronger the island”; Strong regions can “accommodate the divergent nationalistic aspirations because [they] allow another layer of identity to emerge”.

The second attempt is that articulated by Margaret Ritchie who differentiates between what she calls the ‘authoritarian nationalism’ of Sinn Féin and the ‘progressive nationalism’ of the SDLP. The latter, she says, stands for a shared society and embraces differences. Its ethical vision is, arguably, based on the political and ethnic need to claim the moral high ground: The SDLP has ‘a much higher ambition for our society’. The response of the ex-Sinn Féin spokesman, Danny Morrison, who spoke to the same conference, is perhaps indicative of the gulf between the two political styles:

Their [the SDLP’s] holier-than-thou attitude is so quaint and laughable. They are certainly chafing at Sinn Féin having overtaken them at the polls. For fuck’s sake, get over it! Some of them are clearly in need of therapy to deal with unresolved hostility. Austin [Currie] [an ex-SDLP political representative] continues to make the cardinal mistake of holding republicans responsible for the past … without accepting that the state was born out of and in violence, that the forces of the state employed violence to maintain the status quo and thus provoked much of the other violence.

Morrison’s response speaks to the first dilemma that I alluded to – namely, the problematisation of Northern Ireland as a ‘problem’ and as a problem that has definite solutions – the overcoming of sectarianism and ethno-religious division.

Talking of a new Northern Irish political discourse, it seems to inspire two further responses. Firstly, there is the suggestion that the compulsion to discover what is new and transformative in Northern Irish nationalism has resulted in an analytical saturation that obscures the continuities and ignores scholarly critiques and alternative visions based particularly on class or power. While this backlash might be characterized as being essentially ideological – based on complacent anti-revisionist Irish nationalism – it is also saturated with ethical imports – it creates a tautological straightjacket that matches the politicians’ teleological one, and its selective use of source material and abuse of language results in a politicized narrative where the word ‘revision’ becomes a catch-all synonym for any number of forms of moral expediency.

The second response is to ignore questions of class and power, victims and perpetrators, and look to soft responses based on culture, storytelling and the verbiage of pluralism and inclusivity.

Staging tragedy in the Basque Country - 15/11/2010

Filed under: IBIS — Tags: , , , — Pascal Pragnere @ 11:36 pm


This is a draft for a play looking at the situation in the Basque Country now: several actors ETA, Batasuna, the government (PSOE), the Basque socialists, the Basque Nationalist Party, Brian Currin and the Irish experts are competing to find a solution to the Basque conflict, and for the next Nobel prize.

The Basque nationalists are being helped by their Irish friends to find an acceptable way out of the conflict. The other actors also search for a way out, but not necessarily the same one, and not necessarily so fast…

Jokers and potential spoilers like the conservatives (PP), the French government or young ETA dissidents are waiting for the right moment to interfere to ruin everything. The Spanish socialist government themselves are hesitating about the most rewarding option…

Act 1 and 2 are roughly written. Act 3 is waiting. Let’s try to write it!

*starring ETA, Batasuna, PSOE, PSE, PNV, PP, The French, Brian Currin, the Irish Experts, The “Friendship”, signatories of the “Declaration of Brussels”… (some notes about the actors’ personalities can be found scrolling down to the bottom)


The Basque Country, for most activity of the protagonists, and Spain. France, for rear bases of ETA, and for arrests of ETA heads every six months (official calendar). Oslo, London, Geneva, Brussels, Strasbourg for talks, contacts with international mediators and supports for the peace process.


Staging tragedy in the Basque Country.

A draft beginning for a collective writing

Act 1.

Act 1, Scene 1:

ETA has been using violence to gain independence for the Basque Country for more than 40 years. Nothing could stop them: the Francoist dictatorship, the transition to democracy, Democracy itself, socialist governments, conservative governments, autonomy, repression, torture, negotiations, arrests, killings, ceasefires, dirty wars, police cooperation, illegalization of political parties… had no effect. Some of them even made ETA stronger. Permanent ceasefires never lasted very long. All are desperate. All are full of hope.

Act 1, scene 2:

When he arrived in power, a few days after the Madrid bombings (March 11, 2004), Zapatero committed himself to finding a solution to the Basque problem.

He publicly announced that his government would involve in a peace process and in talks with ETA (he was advised on this by Tony Blair). The parliament gave him support for that.

Talks began between government (through the Basque PSE) and ETA, until they were called off after ETA’s bombing of the Madrid Barajas airport car park on December 30th 2006, killing two Equatorian men who were sleeping in their car. Though ETA claimed their death was accidental, talks couldn’t resume. End of peace process.

Act 1, scene 3:

Since then, being under pressure from the PP (who couldn’t stop laughing though they probably had lost the elections because of trying to blame ETA for the Al Quaeda Madrid Bombings), the socialist government has officially refused to have any contact with ETA.

So they reinforced repressive policies, arrests of ETA’s members, illegalization of the organizations presumably linked to ETA, and arrest of their members as “sharing the same aims” as ETA members. But illegalization and criminalization of the independence movement makes new martyrs, and new recruits join…

Act 2.

Act 2, scene 1:

Frequent arrests of ETA members in the last years, mainly in France, make believe that the organization is under high police pressure, and seriously weakened. The governments are now betting on that perspective.

Simultaneously, pressure from within the Basque Country for a peace process with inclusive talks on the Irish model, is increasing.

External pressure is also increasing through the growing involvement of the Irish connection, of the international community, of Brian Currin and his team of “facilitators” sent by the signatories of Brussels.

Who are those “facilitators”? Some of them may be Irish… but that secret is still well kept. Who will know first?

Act 2, scene 2:

In the last year, the illegal nationalist left Batasuna have clearly demarcated from violence and call ETA to abandon violent struggle and to opt for the political way.

They are hoping to be legalized before the local elections due in spring 2011, but the government don’t want them to stand. “This is not enough! ETA must disappear and disband first!” do they repeat incessantly. The PNV also hesitates: legalization might be the way, but a new competitor on the local electoral scene…

Act 2, scene 3:

ETA declared a unilateral ceasefire on September 5th, saying that they would not use violence.

A week later, they declared they had heard the calls of the Declaration of Brussels, of the Friendship, and would respond to them.

At the same time, the parties of the nationalist left are working towards their alliance into something that will probably be a broad party of the Basque left with (Aralar, Eusko Alkartasuna, Alternativa and Batasuna), which will be much harder to illegalize. For that purpose, Batasuna are recruiting “clean” candidates (who were not “contaminated” by too much ETA proximity or former Batasuna mandates). This party or coalition, if it succeeds to stand in the next local elections, may become a real threat to the traditionally dominating PNV.

Act 2, scene 4:

The PNV, who have been expelled from power by the unnatural alliance of PSE and PP, are challenged on their left by the construction of this movement. Luckily, their 6 MPs in Madrid are in a position to reverse the majority. Their support to the government was bought with the transfer of a set of competences to the Basque autonomous executive recently.

The PNV reasserted its commitment to the statutory autonomy (not independence as advocated by the nationalist left), and a new era of pleasant relationships has begun with the PSOE… That opens possibilities for a future alliance in the Basque parliament, to marginalize the PP and counter the rising united nationalist left. So what are the interests of the conservative PP? Ruin it all?

At the moment, the Basque government anti-nationalist (and anti-terrorist) coalition of PSE and PP still holds, but for how long?… Suspense is merely unbearable!

Act 2, scene 5:

Last week, Arnaldo Otegi and other leaders of the nationalist left were being judged for “apology of terrorism” and links with ETA for their role in a public meeting in which the nationalist left issued a peace proposal in 2004, with an agenda for a peace process and political negotiations. The propositions were public, concerted with other political parties, and included talks that took place with the PSE and PSOE… The issue of this judgment will say a lot about the attitude of the government towards legalization of the parties, and its will to involve in the peace process.

Act 3:

Act 3, scene 1?

So what will happen now?

Are ETA going to accept to abandon armed struggle as Brian Currin asked them last week, arguing that they now have no other solution if they want to get out of the deadlock? It seems that he has convinced everyone that if ETA accepts, talks, negotiations, and legalization might happen at a very fast pace. Even the government? If so, Rubalcaba (interior minister) is a brilliant actor.

Currin and Egiguren (president of Basque PSE, in contacts with the nationalist left) agree that a complete and verifiable cease of violence might be assessed by the facilitators for Christmas.

The peace process in Northern Ireland has always been The Reference for the Basques. At the moment, the presence of Irish and Northern Irish people has never been so intense over there: Adams, Maskey, De Brún and others have entered the competition for the next Nobel prize: will they succeed in exporting their method?

Will they also advise about how to deal with possible dissidents?

Will the Spanish Government, who felt they had been mistaken by Blair’s advice during the last process, accept to involve in talks again? Will they resist PP’s hardline pressure?

Will they concede symbolic steps? A representation in Brussels?

Will the world champions concede a football team?

To be continued… Speculation is now open, betting is permitted, even dreaming is allowed! It’s up to you!

**further presentation of some performers:

  • ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna – Basque Country and Freedom), who declared a unilateral ceasefire on September 5thth one), through a video given to a BBC journalist in a Paris train station. 2010 (the 12
  • Batasuna, illegal political party whose leader is in jail (Arnaldo Otegi), who have entered the process of condemning violence, who now ask ETA for a complete cease of violence, and who commit themselves to act only through the political way.
  • The PSOE (Spanish Socialist Party) who are in government in Spain, and who would be happy to solve the Basque question, as they can’t solve the financial crisis. For this purpose, they reshuffled the government in the last days of October and promoted the Interior Minister Rubalcaba as Vice-President of the government, which signifies that security and antiterrorism becomes the priority for the government. Rubalcaba dreams, like most of the PSOE, of a quick police victory over ETA. PSOE alternately or simultaneously used repression, dirty war, or negotiations in trying to solve the Basque problem.
  • The PSE (Basque Socialist Party), in power in the Basque autonomous parliament as the result of a strategic coalition agreement with the PP (Partido Popular) that removed the PNV from 30 years of power. The PSE is divided on the issue: the President of the Basque Government (Lopez) is supporting a Rubalcaba-type solution, whereas the President of the party (Egiguren) is the negotiator of the last talks and favours a negociated settlement. He is having talks with Batasuna, the Basque left, and presumably ETA.
  • The PNV (Basque Nationalist Party), who just obtained the transfer of 20 new competences to the Basque autonomous executive as the PSOE depends on its support to keep a majority in the national parliament (Cortes). The PNV has been very bitter when removed from 30 years of power (1979-2009) in the Basque. PNV usually swings alliances between PSOE or PP, depending on conditions…
  • The PP (Partido Popular), in opposition at the national level, sharing power with PSE in the Basque autonomous community. Radically anti-nationalist. They lost the general election in 2004, most certainly because they tried desperately to blame ETA for the Madrid bombings of March 11th 2004, when it was obvious that it was Al Quaeda’s modus operandi. The maneuver appeared to be too big to be taken for granted by the elctorate.
  • The French authorities are silent. There is no Basque problem (and no Basque country, and no Basque people), but they are always happy to help to ruin a peace process by detaining negotiators, or supporting a dirty war.
  • Brian Currin, a South African lawyer involved in the Truth and Reconciliation commissions there, who is at the head of a team of five “intenational facilitators” currently operating in the Basque Country in search of a solution. The Spanish authorities suspect him of being too sympathetic to the nationalist cause.
  • The Experts: Sinn Fein officials (Gerry Adams, Alex Maskey, Barbre de Brún) who intensify they consultancy action and meet with the nationalists, with ETA, with the PSE and PSOE, in the Basque Country, Brussels or Strasbourg. They call ETA to cease violence, and pursue its aims politically.
  • The “Friendship”, group of MEPs promoting a peace process in the Basque Country; the signatories of the “Declaration of Brussels”, April 2010: international supporters of the peace process such as Nelson Mandela Foundation, Desmond Tutu, Frederik W. De Klerk, Mary Robinson, John Hume, Albert Reynolds, Jonathan Powell, Nuala O’Loan, Raymond Kendal, Betty Williams, Denis Haughey, Aldo Civico, Sheryl Brown, Christopher Mitchell… A very high density of Irish experts in both groups. Call for end of violence, inclusive talks, and legalization of the independentist political parties.

Previous contributors to the scenario:

  • Sabino Arana, the inventor of Basque Nationalism, 1890s.
  • Francisco Franco, the killer of the Republic and of the first still born Basque autonomy, oppressor of the Basque people, stimulator for ETA’s birth (1959) and development.
  • The Constitution, keeper of the unity of the Spanish nation (1978).

Was Lady Gaga confused about where she was? - 03/11/2010

Filed under: IBIS — Asiya Ahmed @ 4:17 pm

One can only wonder why Lady Gaga, one of the most influential celebrities in the world pulled such a stunt on Saturday night.

Lady Gaga producing an Irish tricolour during her concert in the Odyssey Arena, Belfast, caused much confusion and unease in the crowd.

Many stated that they go to concerts for entertainment and to escape from everyday life, not to be reminded of issues which divide the community.

Either Lady Gaga was confused where she was or she purposefully created controversy to prove to the public how ”daring” and ”unpredictable” she is.

Or who knows maybe Lady Gaga wants to air her political opinions..

Were Gaga’s actions down to confusion or was she just pulling a publicity stunt?

Announcement of “the Agreement Generation” Conference - 29/10/2010

Filed under: IBIS — Tags: , , — Aoibhin de Burca @ 6:18 pm

The theme of the conference is the opportunity for change in Northern Irish and all Island politics. The peace process, the passage of time and generations with different frames of reference, has provided the space to reframe the political agendas and the various relationships between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. In particular the conference will focus on the Agreement Generation, those who were raised with the peace process.

The conference aims to incorporate the academic, cultural, policy and political perspectives on the opportunity for change. It will examine the current political situation to see if the traditional fault lines still dominate and if the patterns of conflict remain unchanged. Most importantly it aims to give a voice to the Agreement Generation. It will attempt to identify how space can be created for their perspectives, and how they can be stakeholders in the future of Northern Irish, Irish and all Island politics.

Convenor: Aoibhín de Búrca, ad Astra Research Scholar (School of Politics and International Relations and the John Hume Institute)

The conference will be held in the John Hume Institute for Global Irish Studies, UCD, on the 17th November 2010.

Pre registration essential


09.00-09.30 Registration and coffee

09.30-11.00 SESSION ONE: The aftermath and the post conflict situation in Northern Ireland

11.00-11.15 Coffee break

11.15- 13.00 SESSION TWO: The North/South relationship: the party political perspectives

13.00-14.00 Lunch

14.00-15.30 SESSION THREE: Defining spaces: The role of culture, spatial planning and new media

15.30-15.45 Coffee break

15.45- 17.30 SESSION FOUR: The future: economic and political implications

17.30-18.30 Wine reception

More information available from: http://www.ucd.ie/johnhume/conferences/index.html

Prof. Jennifer Todd on Patterns of Conflict Resolution: Seminar at the University of Ulster

Filed under: IBIS — Gladys Ganiel @ 5:18 pm

Prof. Jennifer Todd, the Director of IBIS, presented some initial results from an ongoing research project at a seminar titled, ‘Patterns of Conflict Resolution: How to Learn Lessons from Northern Ireland,’ on Wed. 27 October 2010 at the Institute for Transitional Justice at the University of Ulster in Belfast.

The one-year project, ‘Patterns of Conflict Resolution: Mechanisms and Sequences of Peace-Making and Peace-Building: How to Draw Lessons from Northern Ireland,’ is funded by the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences and the Conflict Resolution Unit of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs.

Academic experts in conflict resolution from around the world are contributing to the project, which compares the Northern Irish peace process with other attempted peace processes in Mindanao, Zanzibar, Macedonia, Cote d’Ivoire, and the Great Lakes region of Africa (Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo).

Todd opened her presentation by saying that perhaps there are not that many lessons to be learned from Northern Ireland. She said the Northern Irish context was unusual because it:

  • took place within a strong, democratic, stable state,
  • it received exceptionally effective interventions from international actors such as the US and EU,
  • the socio-economic inequalities between conflicting parties had been narrowed considerably over time, and
  • the peace process came in a late phase of a very long running conflict.

Todd then shared results from the research on Mindanao, the former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia, Zanzibar and Rwanda. Like Northern Ireland, these places had a series of peace settlements, negotiated by elites, which initially failed to ‘stick.’

She said that some of the reasons for their failures were:

  • the inability of states and/or the international community to support and ‘sell’ the agreements to ‘spoilers,’ people who might see themselves as ‘losing out’ under the terms of the agreements,
  • a failure to address socio-economic inequalities (thus mitigating a major contributing factor to conflict), and
  • a failure to implement institutional reforms, such as reforming police and security structures

For me, what these results reveal is a consistent and a striking failure on the part of policy-makers and implementers to really tackle the underlying causes of conflict.

Do would-be conflict resolvers pour resources into, for instance, international mediators and negotiators at the expense of reform measures that would really ‘bed-down’ the peace?

Is the main lesson from Northern Ireland that peace of a sort came because Western wealth opened the way for people to work for economic equality and better relationships on-the-ground?

Todd seemed to be getting at this when she warned against what she called a ‘synchronic’ approach to conflict resolution, which takes a relatively short-term view of peace processes and focuses nearly exclusively on political agreements, security dilemmas and strong international interventions.

Rather, she advocated a ‘diachronic’ approach. This approach, while not discounting the importance of establishing power-sharing political structures, also devotes attention to what’s happening outside of the ‘high politics’ of negotiation and mediation.

This means addressing the issues that potential ‘spoilers’ might use to mobilise opposition to peace agreements, such as high inequalities and discriminatory educational and hiring practices. This may involve recognising that the state itself bears responsibility for the way in which its own institutions produce inequalities, so that state reform may also be necessary.

In short, peace agreements aren’t worth the paper they are written on unless they are supported by meaningful reforms that address the causes of conflict.

She added that outside of Northern Ireland, there have been few examples in which meaningful institutional reforms have taken place (as in the case of the Police Service of Northern Ireland), or in which civil society peace activists have received the level of support and funding that has been available through the EU and the British and Irish governments.

I too think that Northern Ireland is exceptional in this regard, although I fear that this is often overlooked in comparative international research that is enamoured with the minutiae of consociationalism.

I am not sure if simply advocating a ‘diachronic’ approach will do enough to draw attention to the fundamental role that institutional reform and civil society must play in peace processes.

Todd and her team are still collating the results from the country case studies, and while some general themes are emerging, it is clear that the research will not result in some ‘check list’ of steps that must be taken to have a ‘successful’ peace process.

Rather, Todd stressed the importance of context. She said that it is most helpful to compare the various elements that come together in each context to create processes both of conflict and of peace, and that these processes have their own dynamics.

Thinking about peace and conflict as dynamic processes requires a certain flexibility of mind and a willingness to take a holistic approach.

For me this highlights the importance of getting policy makers to think beyond the letter of political settlements and to attempt reforms that mitigate inequality and support processes of change, forgiveness and reconciliation among people on the ground.