Thursday, September 29, 2016

Learning lessons from the Ebola crisis

Fantastic to see my old friend and colleague from Sierra Leone, John Caulker, recently in Belfast. He spoke at an INCORE seminar on the topic of “Sustainable Peace in Post Ebola Sierra Leone”. He explained how community networks that the project John established called Fambul Tok (“Family Talk”) were used to help building community resilience in the face of the virus. Fambul Tok focuses on the  legacy of war and particularly on sharing stories about the past often from perpetrators of violence. John outlined how the community solidarity they built through that reconciliation project became instrumental in combating misperceptions and changing behaviour around Ebola. They are now looking to roll out a wider process of networks since the end of the epidemic. John was also critical of the international community who treated the epidemic as solely a medical problem failing to see that engagement of communities was needed to stop it and that communities also had to deal with the problems Ebola caused (inter-community tensions and stigma). In post-Ebola Sierra Leone problems still prevail in that funding support is for “Ebola victims” which singles people out rather than support whole communities. John believes that any interventions should be community-centric and he has proven the value of this in Fambul Tok.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Thoughts of Chris Matthews in Donegal

I had the pleasure of attending the 2016 Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Award in Buncrana, Co Donegal on 23 September 2016. The award, which was the 5th award so far, was given to Chris Matthews. Matthews is an American political commentator and most well known for his talk show “Hardball” on MSNBC. He also served as Press Secretary to Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill. At the event Matthews took to the opportunity to reflect on the current political situation in the US. He felt what was going on right now was “crazy”. There is a tension between Trump’s “nasty politics” and Trump selling people an unrealisable dream of “manufacturing in 1950s”, compared to Hilary Clinton as an experienced politician but being painted as “the establishment”. He also noted that when he worked with Tip O’Neill he focused on letting people “know who you are” and in O’Neill’s case that meant people could support him as his values were made more prominent. Matthews also reflected on O’Neill’s political style noting that he understood that debate was a way of moving politics forward, and that today people have forgotten this thinking debate is politics. When the debate is done compromises have to be made and the work done Matthews noted. He ended by saying that his “crystal ball is a bit foggy” about who would win the US election, but if African Americans, Hispanics and women vote, Trump will lose. But we will have to wait and see...

Monday, September 19, 2016

How can technology build peace?

Very excited to be part of the Unusual Suspects Festival taking part in Northern Ireland.

  • Wednesday, 12th October 2016 at 2:00pm to 4:00pm
  • The Nerve Centre at 7-8 Magazine Street Derry BT48 6HJ 

How can technology help develop connections between people and places? What’s the role of digital platforms in divided societies? Join us for an innovative and interactive session exploring how technology can be used to boost and create peacebuilding, or #PeaceTech.

 Speakers include #PeaceTech innovators:

  • Melissa Mbugua, the Innovation Engagement Officer from Ushahidi, the Kenyan crowdmapping platform that’s been used in Kenya after the election violence in 2008, Syria and across the world. 
  • Jen Gaskel, the co-founder of the Build Peace international conference, which aims to explore technologies as a means of enhancing the impact of peacebuilding initiatives, as well as bringing together local and international thought-leader and activists to re-think approaches 
  • Brandon Hamber, the John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill Chair based at the International Conflict Research Institute (INCORE) at Ulster University, which through a combination of research, education and comparative analysis, addresses the causes and consequences of conflict in Northern Ireland and internationally. They also aim to promote conflict resolution management strategies.
  • Enda Young, the co-founder, of Transformative Connections, which focuses on the role technology in promoting peacebuilding and positive social change. Their mission is to create and support real and lasting connections between people and practice.

The Innovation Peace Labs, a new initiative created by the Ulster University, will host the session, alongside the Nerve Centre, Transformative Connections and other international partners.

To register click here.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Handbook: “Transforming War Related Identities”

It has been a great privilege for to write the lead article for the Berghof Handbook Dialogue series entitled “Transforming War Related Identities”

The series explores the question of how individuals and collectives can come to terms with war memories or trauma after mass atrocities is crucial for framing post-war relationships. But how do the processes on different levels (individual and collective) and diverse dimensions of identity formation relate to each other? How to deal with trans-generational legacies of violence? How can the needs of the victims be served in an appropriate way, and how to address “cultures of victimhood” that stem from past violence?

These questions are discussed by scholars and practitioners, peace activists, psychologists and social scientists in Berghof Handbook Dialogue 11 (ed. by Beatrix Austin & Martina Fischer).

The following contributions are available on our website:
My contribution  analyses diverse approaches for dealing with painful memories and discusses how different dimensions (interpersonal and intergroup relations, individual and collective memories and identities) relate to one another. The chapter builds on experiences from South Africa and Northern Ireland, where Hamber chairs the International Conflict Research Institute (INCORE) at Ulster University. We asked scholar-practitioners from other contexts to comment on his thoughts. Olivera Simic (Griffith University, Brisbane) and David Becker (Free University, Berlin) focus on working with trauma and reflect on experiences in coping with painful memories in the Balkans. Andrea Zemskov-Züge (Berghof Foundation) brings in examples from the Caucasus (Georgia/Abkhazia) and Undine Whande’s text makes reference to South Africa and to experiences from Germany in dealing with the legacies of the second world war.

You can also purchase the hard copy from Berghof and it includes my response to the above articles, visit here.

This Handbook Dialogue is dedicated to Dan Bar-On, who spent most of his life reflecting on practical approaches for dealing with the past and exploring how people whose lives and identities have been shattered by violence come to live a decent life again.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Dealing with the Past Course for Professionals

Schloss Münchweiler in Switzerland the venue for the training
It was great in July to team up once again with Alistair Little (Beyond Walls) to teach on the The Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and swisspeace course entitled Dealing with the Past Advanced Learning Course for Professionals.

The course according to the organisers addresses a range of topics which are central to the development of a holistic approach to Dealing with the Past (DwP) and to the implementation of relevant mechanisms for dealing with prior and on-going grave human rights violations. Special attention is paid to case studies, to a gender based approach, to the need to integrate dealing with the past in the negotiation of peace agreements, as well as in the post conflict efforts.

In 2016 the course took place in Switzerland, 5 - 13 July 2016. Alistair and I taught a two day session on dealing with victim-perpetrator issues in post-conflict societies, reconciliation and dealing with the past.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Documentation, Human Rights and Transitional Justice

Special Issue of Human Rights Practice (2016, 8, 1) now out focusing on "Documentation, Human Rights and Transitional Justice".

Edited by Elisabeth Baumgartner (swisspeace), Brandon Hamber (INCORE), Briony Jones (swisspeace), Gráinne Kelly (INCORE), and Ingrid Oliveira (swisspeace).

The Special Edition can be viewed here:


  • Documentation, Human Rights and Transitional Justice by Elisabeth Baumgartner, Brandon Hamber, Briony Jones, Gráinne Kelly, and Ingrid Oliveira
  • Truth Commission Archives as ‘New Democratic Spaces’ by Briony Jones and Ingrid Oliveira
  • Practice, Power and Inertia: Personal Narrative, Archives and Dealing with the Past in Northern Ireland by Brandon Hamber and Gráinne Kelly (email for a copy)
  • The Archive as Confessional: The Role of Video Testimony in Understanding and Remorse by Juliet Brough Rogers
  • Arrested Truth: Transitional Justice and the Politics of Remembrance in Kosovo by Gëzim Visoka
  • Truth, Evidence, Truth: The Deployment of Testimony, Archives and Technical Data in Domestic Human Rights Trials by Daniela Accatino and Cath Collins
  • Tensions in UN Information Management: Security, Data and Human Rights Monitoring in Darfur, Sudan by Róisín Read

Policy and Practice Note

  • Official Victims’ Registries: A Tool for the Recognition of Human Rights Violations by Jairo Rivas