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.