Monday, December 21, 2015

Digital Futures

Here is a short film in which I, along with others at Ulster University,  explain what the three strands of the ‘Digital Futures – a strategy to shape the future of Blended, Open and Online Learning at Ulster University’ means to our teaching, the student experience and research.
Digital Futures - the academic voice from Office for Digital Learning on Vimeo.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Guerrand-Hermès Foundation Peace Dialogue

It was a great pleasure to participate in a peace dialogue in December. On 14-15 Dec 2015, the Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace (GHFP) with partners the Fetzer Institute brought together a small group of international experts at Highley Manor House in Sussex for a first dialogue in this series to consider the nature of peace and how to apply this understanding in determining the structures, systems and institutional cultures required to bring about a common political vision of peace internationally and globally.  The insights from each dialogue and learnings from the Spirit of Humanity Forum 2017 will be disseminated more widely in different forms of report in 2016/7, including volumes of edited books to be published by mainstream publishers. 

Dialogue participants at Highley Manor

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Making Transitional Justice Work

An expert meeting - hosted by Impunity Watch (IW), International Development Law Organization (IDLO), and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) - entitled “Making Transitional Justice Work”  ran from 25-27 November 2015.  The meeting brought together policy makers, practitioners and experts in the field of traditional justice to discuss and develop new ideas for effective and reinvigorated transitional justice policy. The meeting focused on the practical guide on transitional justice to be used by the Dutch government and other policy-makers in the field. I attended the dialogue and also facilitated a session.

Download concept note and also the programme.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Seminar - Sexual Assault Among University Students

Glad to be involved in this important seminar. INCORE, the Transitional Justice Institute (TJI) and UUSU cordially invite you to a seminar entitled "Sexual Assault Among University Students: Parallels Between USA and UK/Ireland?"by William F. ("Bill") Flack, Jr.

Survey research in the USA and UK/Ireland indicates significant rates of sexual victimization among university students. This talk will summarize the available research, focusing on the import roles of student activism and faculty/staff advocacy in recent developments in the USA, with implications for the same in the UK/Ireland.

Date: 2 December 2015
Time: 12:30 to 14:30
Venue: Ulster University, Belfast campus, Conor Lecture Theatre

Refreshments will be served from 12.30pm with the talk commencing at 1.15pm.

William F. ("Bill") Flack, Jr. is a US-UK Fulbright Scholar (Northern Ireland Governance and Public Policy) at INCORE at Magee campus and Psychology at Coleraine campus from September through December 2015.

RSVP here.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Launch of Beyond Walls Documentary

This event will launch a documentary trailer and the next phase of an exciting international conflict transformation project, delivered in partnership between INCORE and Beyond Walls (CIC).

From the end of 2012 until mid-2014 this project gathered learning from experienced practitioners and participants (mostly from veteran/former combatant backgrounds) promoting peace/reconciliation/humanisation in places of deep seated political conflict. Filmed reflective workshops were held and interviews conducted in South Africa, Israel-Palestine, Northern Ireland/North of Ireland and Ireland.

The extensive film footage and written transcripts from these workshops and interviews provide rich, real life material on the challenges of undertaking peace/reconciliation/humanisation work.

Watch the documentary and if you are interested in supporting the completion of the documentary contact Professor Brandon Hamber.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Conference: Masculinities, Violence and (Post-)Conflict

CALL FOR PAPERS


Postgraduate Conference: Masculinities, Violence and (Post-)Conflict

Date: Thursday, 14 January 2016, 09:00 – 17:00
Venue: Ulster University, York St. Campus (Belfast, Northern Ireland)

The Transitional Justice Institute (TJI) and the International Conflict Research Institute (INCORE) at Ulster University invite proposals for a one-day postgraduate conference on Masculinities, Violence and (Post-)Conflict on Thursday, 14 January 2016. This student-led event will offer academic presentations, peer discussion, networking opportunities and expert feedback in a supportive environment. The conference will be followed by an international high-level workshop on Masculinities and Violence on Friday, 15 January 2016, organized by International Alert, Saferworld and Conciliation Resources (CR), providing a forum for both practitioners and international academics to engage on the topic.

The conference will bring together postgraduate students working on the interface between social constructions of masculinities as well as violence and (post-)conflict. Specifically, the conference will focus on the relationship between these areas, assessing how socially constructed notions of masculinities - in their varying forms, including hegemonic and subordinate conceptions - theoretically and conceptually can, and empirically do (or do not), fuel violence or impact the advancement of women's rights. At the same time, we aim to explore how situations of violence and victimisation influence and (re-)shape notions and dynamics of masculinities (both combatant and civilian identities), in itself and in relation to femininities and gender-hierarchies. The conference will therefore move beyond simplified conceptualisations of gender identities and critically explore the largely ambivalent role of masculinities. We thus aim to approach masculinities as both potentially contributing to violence and at the same time as potentially (and factually) vulnerable. Questions to be explored thus include, but are not limited to:

  • How, conceptually and empirically, can masculinities be linked to violence, including sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and violence against women (VAW)?
  • Conceptually and empirically, what are the relationships between masculinities and femininities, gender equality as well as women's rights within (post-) conflict contexts?
  • How do situations of violence and (post-)conflict shape masculinities, and how are masculinities (re-)shaped and influenced during conflict and post-conflict lived realities?
  • How and to what extent do post-conflict peace-building and transitional justice processes consider and address masculinities?
We invite paper proposals from postgraduate students across various disciplines that utilize a gendered lens while exploring the dynamics of, and/or relationships between masculinities, violence and (post-)conflict either conceptually or empirically in different geographical contexts and across time. In-depth case study analyses alongside theoretical explorations and empirically-grounded papers, including feminist theoretical and methodological approaches, are welcome. Speakers and discussants at the conference include, inter alia, Prof. Fionnuala Ni Aolain, Prof. Brandon Hamber (both Ulster University) and Dr. Henri Myrttinen (International Alert).

If you would like to propose a paper, please submit an abstract of max. 250 words and a short one-paragraph academic bio by 15 November 2015 to Philipp Schulz (Schulz-P@email.ulster.ac.uk) and Seamus Campbell (Campbell-S25@email.ulster.ac.uk).

Papers will be grouped thematically and distributed among three main panels. Each panel will have a designated commentator, an established academic or other expert in the field. Commentators will offer expert feedback as well as complement and stimulate peer-discussion. We are seeking the possibility of a publication of contributions (from conference and workshop), for which selected postgraduate papers might also be considered.

Participation and attendance at the conference are free of charge and participants are invited to attend the workshop on the following day. We regret that we are unable to offer travel bursaries or other assistance with costs. 

To download the PDF, click here.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Special Rapporteur: Focus on Non-Recurrence

This week, 14-15 October 2015, I attended a policy review meeting in Sweden focusing on the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence latest report. The report focuses specifically on the issue of non-recurrence. The Special Rapporteur draws attention to different interventions that can impact of non-recurrence including the role of civil society, the spheres of culture and personal dispositions, as well as the role education reform, arts and culture, and trauma counselling.

Download the Report of the Special Rapporteur A/HRC/30/42, 7 September 2015, click here.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Colombia Visit and Peace Process

In early September I was lucky enough to visit Colombia (17-24 September 2015). Currently, the Colombian government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) are in the midst of negotiations to end the 50 year conflict. Some 250,000 people (80% civilians) have been killed over the decades and 6.5 million people displaced. Talks began in November 2012 in Havana, Cuba. Several accords have been reached and the final agreement is set to be signed in 2016.
Bogota


I was invited to Colombia at the request of the City of Valledupar, one of the cities (some 1.5 hours north east of Bogota by plane) that was most affected by conflict. A series of conferences, presentations, and workshops were being organized under the leadership of Mayor Fredys Miguel Socarras Reales, focusing on preparing for the regional implementation of the peace. I addressed a range of community members (about 150-200) over a two-day process to discuss comparative peace lessons at a community level. I also met with the Mayor.

After the community engagements I spent some days in Bogota meeting some key players in the peace process and sharing lessons with them and different civil society members. The trip ended with a presentation to about 200-300 training lawyers at Libre University in Bogotá as part of conference on Reconciliation, Civil Law and Commissions. Again the focus was on comparative lessons from Northern Ireland.

View of the public meeting

Monday, September 14, 2015

Keynote: Psychosocial Issues and Peacebuilding

From the 6th to the 8th of May 2015, the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (South Africa) and the War Trauma Foundation (Netherlands) hosted a conference attended by 52 individuals from 15 countries around the world that explored the nexus between psychosocial needs, practice and peacebuilding in the aftermath of conflict.

 Based on years of experience in the field of peacebuilding (by IJR and its partners) and a long trajectory of developing, implementing and analysing mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) projects around the world (by WTF and its partners), the two organisations partnered in bringing together academics and practitioners from both fields to explore ways in which the nexus between MHPSS and peacebuilding could be better understood.

As such, the programme was structured in such a way that practitioners could share their experiences (best practice and challenges), academics could put forward their existing research and the group as a whole could explore ways in which the two fields could begin to be brought closer together in order to contribute to the development of more sustainable and holistic interventions.

 The full conference report is available here.

 To watch my keynote address at the conference play below.


Monday, August 31, 2015

Irish Association Talk: Transforming Societies


I will be speaking at the Irish Association for Cultural, Economic and Social Relations autumn lunch on Saturday 12th Sept 2015, 12.30-1.00. My topic is 'Transforming Societies After Political Violence: Reflections on Truth, Reconciliation and Healing in South Africa and N Ireland'. Using personal experience from engagement with victims and survivors during the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, and peacebuilding work in Northern Ireland, the lecture will delve into the complex interplay between individual psychological processes and macro-political interventions such as truth commissions. Specifically the lecture will explore issues such as reparations, “doing justice”, the power of ambivalence, and concepts such as closure, trauma and reconciliation setting out the role of transitional justice, human rights and mental health practitioners in helping survivors move beyond the toxic past without covering it up or becoming mired. The lecture will take place at Stephen's Green-Hibernian Club, 9 Stephen's Grn, Dublin 2. For Details, click here.

Friday, August 7, 2015

MOOCS and Open Learning at Ulster University

By Professor Brandon Hamber and Dr Brian Murphy

These are times of massive change in the digital landscape. Global connectivity through the internet added to the power of communication technologies and the affordability of modern devices makes knowledge more accessible and education more and more distributed. It is in this context that MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses – have been making the digital headlines in higher education recently. And it would be fair to say that a University-sponsored group on Open Learning may not have materialised were it not for the MOOC phenomenon.

The membership of the Ulster MOOCs and Open Learning Working Group drew in expertise across learning and teaching, research and innovation, internationalisation and digital learning; all common aspects of a MOOC. On the principle that we could not ignore the changes taking place, we reviewed the MOOC landscape extensively: what, for example, students expected; what others in higher education were doing and had invested heavily in; and what lay behind the power of the platform.

Download MOOCs & Open Learning Report
We started from a conundrum: we saw Ulster as having a proud and long-standing position of strength in depth behind the walls of our digital learning environment, yet some of the new players in MOOCs and Open Learning had moved into this space openly and rapidly. As we researched and reviewed, we increasingly found tensions in the higher education positions on MOOCs. This was reflected locally too in terms of delivery, resources, priority, issues of exclusivity and the additional pressure on lecturers and others for design, production and delivery in this arena. We recognise these tensions in this report. We also recognise the challenge of discerning a business model that works for Ulster, be it on reputation, finance, values, or a combination of these and others.

All paths led us back to the principles of Open Learning re-forged by the white heat of technology and its potential to transform the dissemination of knowledge and distribution of education whilst also remaining true to our institutional values.

We concluded that:
  • Openness at Ulster should be as much practical as philosophical; widening access, for example, is a dominant gene in our institutional DNA.
  • Openness at Ulster must resonate within our business equation; the tensions of resource must be set in the context of the value of what we want to do, the cost of getting there, and a recognition of where we are coming from.
  • Openness at Ulster should draw from our niche educational provision relative to others in the sector.
  • Openness at Ulster should draw from our niche and high quality research and enterprise; much of our research is publically funded with funders increasingly requiring open dissemination and public engagement with research that is accessible, substantial and demonstrable.
  • Ramping up to massive open courses would be a massive step too far today; we need firstly to underpin a change in culture and capability that moves to openness in an assured manner. A measured approach would be to develop a conventional, for-credit online module and then scale for open access.
  • MOOC costs are prohibitive unless in partnership; partners could be drawn from higher education, the commercial, professional body or third sectors; on a global scale there may be synergy with the aspirations of IGOs and NGOs with a remit in education, health, young people, poverty and peace - UNICEF, UNESCO for example.
  • We must demonstrate capacity and capability by building our external profile in open learning and dissemination in an assured manner – using Jorum and iTunes U, for example. 
  • We should realise the potential for innovation through the research-teaching nexus; using open learning to enhance the student experience and to inject valuable co-creation and collaboration with our students in curriculum and research outputs. 
  • We need a policy statement on open learning with aims and objectives to frame an institutional position and calibrate diverse impacts. 
  • And we must underpin all our efforts with on- going awareness raising, academic discussion, support and targeted projects.

In the end, our journey traced the sequence in the name of our Working Group: from MOOCs to Open Learning. Ironically, the impact of MOOCs on our University can be celebrated already: MOOCs were the genesis of this study and may yet be one the many academic fruits collectively visioned by this Working Group and endorsed by this University.


Blog posted originally on Ulster University Access Digital and Distributed Learning: 02 Jul 2015

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Update on Prehen Woodland: Destruction Continues

Back in 2012 I wrote an article about the destruction of the environment making specific reference to an ancient woodland in Prehen in Northern Ireland. Three years later and the destruction of the woodland continues and developers continue to work away at destroying it. 

At the time I made the point that:

"...not caring about the Prehen woodland, or any other, is like saying the extinction of a specific species of insect is not important because there are lots of other insects in the world. But, like an extinct species, once this ancient woodland is gone, you cannot grow it back."

Posted by Tom McBride on the Campaign Facebook Page, 29 July 2015

It is sad to see no one really seems to take any serious notice. 

So recently I posted the latest update (27 July 2015) from the Prehen Historical and Environmental Society on Facebook calling for us all to take a little action by sending an email. 

So please do read it and if moved by it follow up. Ireland has so few ancient woodlands left, and we should not have another one decimated essentially for profit.

Visit the No to Housing Development in Prehen Woods Facebook page to add your voice or find out more.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Psychosocial Perspectives on Peacebuilding

I am delighted to announce that my new book edited with Elizabeth Gallagher is now out, Psychosocial Perspectives on Peacebuilding.

The book Psychosocial Perspectives on Peacebuilding offers a template for those dealing with the
aftermath of armed conflict to look at peacebuilding through a psychosocial lens. This Volume, and the case studies that are in it, starts from the premise that armed conflict and the political violence that flows from it, are deeply contextual and that in dealing with the impact of armed conflict, context matters. The book argues for a conceptual shift, in which psychosocial practices are not merely about treating individuals and groups with context and culturally sensitive methods and approaches: the contributors argue that such interventions and practices should in themselves shape social change. This is of critical importance because the psychosocial method continually highlights how the social context is one of the primary causes of individual psychological distress.

The chapters in this book describe experiences within very different contexts, including Guatemala, Jerusalem, Indian Kashmir, Mozambique, Northern Ireland, South Africa and Sri Lanka. The common thread between the case studies is that they each show how psychosocial interventions and practices can influence the peacebuilding environment and foster wider social change.

Psychosocial Perspectives on Peacebuilding is essential reading for social and peace psychologists, as well as for students and researchers in the field of conflict and peace studies, and for psychosocial practitioners and those working in post-conflict areas for NGO’s.

Interested in a copy, you can buy from Amazon, or directly from Springer.

You can also get updates on the book by visiting the Facebook Page.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Clinton International Summer School

The Clinton International Summer School, in partnership with the INCORE Summer School at Ulster University, is an intensive scholarship program for university students from post-conflict and developing regions. The curriculum is designed to promote entrepreneurship, leadership and community engagement, and prepare the students to advance positive change and economic development in their home communities. The program provides the participants with a unique opportunity to experience first-hand Northern Ireland’s historical conflict and that region’s continuing road to reconciliation, peace and prosperity.

The 2015 module, taught by myself, Stephen Ryan and John Peto, describes and evaluates the impact that new technologies, in areas such as education, medicine, security and communication, have on peace strategies and conflict transformation. The programme is complemented by a 3 study visit to Belfast and various sites in Northern Ireland meeting local groups, peacebuilders and entrepreneurs. Check out the video below about the summer school.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Good, Bad and Ugly: What lessons can we share?

It is hard to believe that the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement was signed some 17 years ago. Despite the passage of time, many countries in conflict continue to look to Northern Ireland as a model for their contexts.

In the last ten years, the International Conflict Research Institute (INCORE) at Ulster University has been involved in more than 50 local-global exchanges aimed at learning lessons for or from Northern Ireland.

The Agreement is viewed globally as a positive model, particularly in the way it guarantees nationality and identities, regardless of the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland has also demonstrated that it is possible to pursue divergent political goals in a peaceful way.

Two issues that those wanting to learn comparative lessons also consider significant are policing and funding with its allied impact on community work.

Rebuilding trust in the police following conflict is a common global problem. The extensiveness of the Patten Commission process is of constant interest, as well as the creation of shared civilian oversight mechanisms such as the Policing Board.
On the funding front, the extent of funding used to develop the peace process at the community level is a source of fascination to international visitors. Many cannot believe that over £1.5 billion has been put into community peace work since the Agreement.

They are quick to see however that funding has helped develop a skilled community sector who can share lessons on a range of peacebuilding methods as diverse as using art, sport, dialogue, and development. At the same time, international lesson- learners are also often astounded at how much still needs to be done. Seeing the ugly truth of “Peace Walls” and some murals with their violent imagery is a revelation to visitors, as they tend to believe the process has moved well beyond these types of manifestations of conflict. Explaining that only 7% of children attend integrated schools close to twenty years on from the Agreement is shocking to most visitors. Pointing out that, despite some slight improvements in residential mixing, most people reside in largely single-identity communities is also often a surprise.

Those who study and practise conflict transformation are quick to realise that many aspects of the Northern Ireland process represent a negative peace. That is a context where political violence has decreased but the underlying issues that fuel conflicts have not been addressed.

When asked why this is the case, I respond that a more vigorous policy move towards integration has not taken place because there is no commonality of vision in terms of the type of society we are ultimately working towards. Is the goal thin integration or deeper social transformation? Are we going to settle for a society where the dominant communities are going to remain separate and, hopefully, equal, co- existing in negative peace? Alternatively, are we seeking more profound change, where all aspects of life are integrated? This is not an academic question but a practical one as it touches on what is needed to sustain peace in Northern Ireland in the long run.

International lessons would suggest that minimal social change might not be enough for peace to endure, especially in a context where different cultures and political aspirations are inevitably going to rub up against one another. In this context, even outsiders can see that a deeper level of social integration is needed. Without this, peace will always remain tenuous and will mean we can only share the lessons from limited specific examples rather than the peace process as a whole.

Published in Fund Focus, International Fund for Ireland Newsletter, June 2015

Friday, June 12, 2015

Conference: Peace in the Basque Country

On the 11 June 2015 I spoke at a high level conference entitled "Humanitarian Conference for Peace in the Basque Country focusing on peace in the Basque Country". The event was held in the General Assembly in Paris. I focused on lessons from South Africa and Basque Country.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Invitation: Book Launch and Discussion

Manifestations of Woundedness - Violence and Xenophobia

The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, War Trauma Foundation (Netherlands), The International Conflict Research Institute (INCORE) and the African Centre for Migration & Society cordially invite you to a book launch and public discussion coinciding with the hosting of an international conference titled ‘Healing communities, transforming society: Exploring the interconnectedness between psycho-social needs, practice and peacebuilding’.

This book - Healing and Change in the City of Gold: Case Studies of Coping and Support in Johannesburg-edited by Ingrid Palmary, Brandon Hamber and Lorena Nunez - offers radically new ways of thinking about precarious life in the city of Johannesburg particularly for migrants. Using case studies as varied as Pentecostal and Zionist churches, brothels, shelters, political movements for change in Zimbabwe, ex-soldiers groups, counselling services and art projects, this volume grapples with the way its predominantly migrant residents navigate the opportunities, challenges, moral orders and relationships in this iconic and complex city.

Given the recent xenophobic violence in South Africa, the volume has a deep resonance, as it traces through in-depth case studies how migrant residents seek support, to cope and to heal, going beyond what mental health professionals traditionally consider support mechanisms or interventions for those in distress. The book will be launched as part of a public panel discussion focused on the current context for migrants in South Africa and abroad.

SPEAKERS

Professor Brandon Hamber
Director, International Conflict Research Institute (INCORE), Ulster University, Northern Ireland

Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela
University of the Free State, South Africa

Dr Ingrid Palmary
Director and Associate Professor African Centre for Migration and Society, University of the Witwatersrand

DATE: 7 May 2015
TIME: 6 for 6:30pm
VENUE: Sunnyside Park Hotel, Parktown, Johannesburg

TO RSVP please send an email to justiceandreconciliation@gmail.com

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Dealing with Painful Memories and Violent Pasts

My article "Dealing with Painful Memories and Violent Pasts. Towards a Framework for Contextual Understanding" has now been published in the Berghof Handbook Dialogue Series No.11.

The article reflects on the role of different approaches for dealing with painful memories and violent pasts. In it I explore how different dimensions – interpersonal and intergroup relations, memories and identities at the individual and collective level – relate to one another. I also address how one can constructively address victim identities and cultures of victimhood that may stem from painful or traumatic experiences in light of my work in South Africa and Northern Ireland, among other locales.

You can download the paper by clicking here.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Together: Building a United Community Strategy

In May 2013 the Northern Ireland Executive published 'Together: Building a United Community' Strategy which it stated signalled the "Executive’s commitment to improving community relations and continuing the journey towards a more united and shared society".

In autumn 2014, The Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister (OFMdFM) launched an Inquiry into the Building a United Community Strategy (TBUC) and called for submissions. Some 70 organisations responded to the call.

On 21 January 2014 I was asked to give evidence to the Committee about the Strategy. Here are my opening comments to the Committee.

Key Documents

Input by Professor Brandon Hamber to the Committee of OFMdFM

Terms of Reference of the Committee

'Together: Building a United Community' Strategy

Responses to the Consultation

OFMdFM Updates on Together: Building a United Community