Monday, November 14, 2022

Youth, Peace and Security: Fostering local and global exchange

by Brandon Hamber and Eliz McArdle

In December 2015, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2250 a landmark resolution recognising young people’s positive role in conflict and post-conflict settings. The UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres commissioned a global study on youth and peacebuilding entitled “The Missing Peace” authored by Graeme Simpson, which was presented to the Security Council and then the UN General Assembly in 20181. The report calls for a move away from a deficit model that sees young people as a threat to security. A key message is the importance of recognising and supporting young people as positive contributors to peace. Building on this report, the UN has continued to promote a Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) agenda.

As a contribution to the YPS agenda, the Ulster University authors of this article initiated the Youth, Peace and Security Leadership Series with partners The John and Pat Hume Foundation, the International Fund for Ireland (IFI), and the global peacebuilding organisation Interpeace. The main aim behind the series is to connect Northern Ireland youth work with the global YPS agenda. The specific objectives are to raise the visibility of the role that young people can and do play in peacebuilding and to build local capacities in terms of YPS and leadership.

Launched in March 2021, four public seminars have taken place so far, with 620 attendees across the events. The series has featured young leaders as speakers from Northern Ireland, Libya, Somalia, former Yugoslavia and Sri Lanka (seminars on YouTube). Graeme Simpson, author of the “The Missing Peace” Report, played a crucial role in identifying the international youth leaders who emerged during the report’s development.

Although the seminar turnout has been heartening, awareness-raising alone is limited as it requires those in positions of power to listen and take young people’s work seriously. For this reason, the seminar series has also utilised a capacity-building component using closed facilitated dialogue between youth workers and local and global peer leaders. The seminar series has effectively coupled the public online seminars with private dialogue sessions.

However, meaningful engagement with and between young people requires time and investment. Before the private dialogues, we worked with individual young leaders to help them plan and prepare to meet other local and global young leaders, focusing on the specific seminar themes (e.g. women and Peacebuilding, methods of youth work). Once ready for the private session, a closed meeting between young people from Northern Ireland and border counties and the global peacebuilders took place.

IFI helped select young people for these private sessions through their various projects. Young people joined from IFI-funded groups, including Cliftonville Community Regeneration Forum (CCRF), Limestone United, the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland and Focus Family Resource Centre.

While there was some initial anxiety about being in the spotlight with adult spectators watching, a curated, private and facilitated approach helped to mitigate any concerns and gave space for the participants to voice their opinions. This approach resulted in a rich discussion and helped identify issues that could be taken to the public seminars.

One of the most notable of these private sessions was with the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, who met with 23 young people online for a private session before the public seminar. Prior to meeting the UN Envoy, young people in Northern Ireland and border counties explored the theme of the role of youth in peacebuilding.

In the private session, participants shared perspectives on the leadership acts and actions they undertake and their visions for peace. The UN Envoy helped link their work and the global YPS agenda. The meeting was valuable in discussing strategies for addressing YPS issues and local youth workers and participants said that they felt affirmed by being listened to by the UN Secretary General’s Youth Envoy. The participants then took this learning into the public seminar that followed.

Overall, a considered dialogue ensued in all the private sessions and public events. Global and local considerations were interwoven with a respectful listening and sharing tone. The presence of outsiders with different perspectives was valuable. There is little doubt that the eminence of the global young peacebuilders was important for the local young people. Activism was stimulated by interacting with international YPS advocates.

This type of international sharing was the hallmark of many earlier programmes during the peace process in Northern Ireland and Ireland but has decreased in the last few years. The experience of the YPS Seminar Series suggests it is vital to support this type of work. Northern Ireland and Ireland has much to share and gain from being more centrally keyed into global processes such as the YPS agenda.

This article was first published in Fund Focus, The Newsletter of the International Fund for Ireland, September 2022.

Professor Brandon Hamber is John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill Chair in Peace based at the International Conflict Research Institute (INCORE) and the Transitional Justice Institute, Ulster University.

Eliz McArdle is a Lecturer in Community Youth Work at Ulster University and Course Director for the Certificate in Youth Studies with franchised partner, YouthAction Northern Ireland. She is member of the Centre for Youth Research and Dialogue at Ulster University.

Friday, August 5, 2022

The Problem with Men? The Challenge of Violent Masculinities in a Changing World

On 5 August 2022, I delivered the PJ McGrory Public Human Rights Lecture as part of the Féile an Phobail

The lecture discussed masculinity in a global landscape of rising national fervour, armed conflict, gender-based violence, pandemics and endemic inequalities. It explored the link between violent masculinities and inter-personal, community and political violence and instability, while calling for new understandings of masculinities that can disrupt dominant narratives and lead to positive social change.

The Problem with Men? The Challenge of Violent Masculinities in a Changing World

Hamber, B. (2022). The Problem with Men? The Challenge of Violent Masculinities in a Changing World. PJ McGrory Public Lecture. St Mary’s College, Belfast, Féile an Phobail, 5 August 2022.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Localising Memory and Reinventing the Present

Hamber, B. (2022). Epilogue: Localising memory and reinventing the present, Chapter 10. In Mina Rauschenbach, Julia Viebach, and Stephan Parmentier (Eds). Localising Memory in Transitional Justice: The Dynamics and Informal Practices of Memorialisation after Mass Violence and Dictatorship. Routledge: Abingdon, Oxon and New York, pp. 261-268. More information.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Youth, Peace and Security: Psychosocial Support and Societal Transformation

"Youth, Peace and Security:  Psychosocial Support and Societal Transformation" published by Brandon Hamber; Denis Martinez; Marlies Stappers; David Taylor; and Thomas Unger is now available online.

This paper explores the key issue of mental health and psycho-social services (MHPSS), from a youth-specific perspective. Drawing on the assertions and recommendations of the YPS Progress Study, and coupled with the increasing attention to MHPSS within the sustaining peace agenda, this policy brief pays special attention to the role of youth-specific psycho-social services as a vital dimension of transformative youth resilience, essential to both addressing the consequences and prevention of violent conflict.

This is a report commissioned by Interpeace for their Outside the Box: Amplifying youth voices and views on Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) policy and practice series.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Leaving in Four Parts

Part I

In a thousand invisible places
A charcoal sketch follows me
I am welded onto
A black and white
Willow tree
And obvious
I see me
Through the eyes of a black woman
Ambling a Joburg street
A white child on her back
Passing electric fences
Caring for them all
She collects the Indian Ocean
In a Coke bottle
It wakes me
Splashes over me
Squeezes me into glass

Part II

In a thousand invisible places
The streets preoccupy me
Jacaranda trees are me
Expanding with me
From the top outwards
The purple shade is me
A beast beats
Inside me
Jests with me
Taunts me
I’m not a Gnu
I’m a fucking Wildebeest
You tell me
Powerful on the plains
But with puny legs
Prancing on powder
Vanishing into a mineshaft
With the speed of a mamba

Part III

In a thousand invisible places
The Durban whaling station follows me
The blubber is me
Moving through me
Pink foam echoing secrets about me
Silencing the beeps
An electronic fish-finder
Radiates me
The lines of Indian fisherman
Ensnare me
Humour me
Undercurrents are me
Knots and spark plugs
Weigh down on me
Nothing will bite
Drifting bait
A powerboat is needed these days
Time won’t wait

Part IV

In a thousand invisible places
You beckon me
I am not me
Neither hard
Nor kind
Neither organic
Or designed
Reimagining all of me
I’m running now
Hightailing it
Leaving the big sky
That protects me
In another world
I won’t have to kowtow
I jump the doorway
Landing securely
On clay

Published by Brandon Hamber, Botsotso Magazine, 24 March 2022

Thursday, April 28, 2022

PhD Viva of Dominic Thorpe

Internal examiner for PhD Viva of Dominic Thorpe. Title "Performance Art from Ireland and Perpetrator Trauma", 28 April 2022.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

It’s official: The planning system in Northern Ireland is broken (in so many ways)

You would think that in a small place like Northern Ireland prioritising the environment would be a critical government concern, but seemingly it is the opposite.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) review of planning in Northern Irelandpublished this month is damning, to say the very least. The PAC was “alarmed” and “appalled” by the planning system. It is failing in its role to protect the environment, be an economic driver or deliver places that people want to live and work in.

The review vindicates the views and experiences of all the campaigners who have raised problems with the system over the years. The report notes that the planning system in Northern Ireland is not working, suffering from entrenched problems.
Prehen Woodland, Brandon Hamber

Like my father-in-law George McLaughlin, some have been trying to get these issues recognised for decades, particularly in relation to the Prehen Ancient Woodland. Finally, some acknowledgement.

Some specific findings include:
  • the planning system lacks transparency and public trust; 
  • the PAC was “alarmed by the volume of concerns around transparency” the PAC was “appalled by the performance statistics” there is a lack of accountability for poor performance;
  • the PAC was “alarmed by the Department’s misunderstanding of accountability”;
  • the planning system is one of the worst examples of silo-working within the public sector;
  • the Department’s leadership of the planning system has been weak;
  • members of the public feel excluded and often believe they have no choice but to launch legal proceedings; 
  • the planning committees appear “to take an interest” in particular developments; 
  • the PAC was “alarmed to hear that lobbying is happening, even though it shouldn’t be”. 
The PAC recommends that a Commission is established to undertake a fundamental review to ascertain the long-term and strategic changes that are needed to make the system fit for purpose.

Let’s hope this Commission is established, and proper planning can be put in place that protects the environment. The current dysfunctional bureaucracy with its unaccountable and untransparent governance that routinely supports destructive (lobbied-for) development must go.

Well done the 60-strong group, the Gathering, who have shone a light on this failed system.

Published by Brandon Hamber, Slugger O’Toole, 5 April 2022. Also on Medium.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Voices from the Margins: Young men and post-conflict masculinities in Northern Ireland

Brandon Hamber and Conor Murray have published "Voices from the Margins: Young men and post-conflict masculinities in Northern Ireland".

The report points to the gap (noted in the YPS Progress Study’s recommendations) on masculinity and masculine identities as part of the gendered approach to implementing the YPS agenda. This policy brief focuses attention on supporting the development of alternative and positive masculine identities. While the paper draws on lived experiences in Northern Ireland, it derives lessons and recommendations, captures stories, and offers a narrative with wider relevance for other contexts.

This is a report commissioned by Interpeace for their Outside the Box: Amplifying youth voices and views on Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) policy and practice series

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Peace as Betrayal

Verwoerd, W., Little, A., & Hamber, B. (2022). Peace as Betrayal: On the Human Cost of Relational Peacebuilding in Transitional Contexts. International Journal of Transitional Justice. 

A Jozi Love Letter

“Johannesburg Central At Sunrise” by Paul Saad under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

This city welcomes

Streets watch and wait
New arrivals take the bait
Gilded perdition
Jostling for position
With the skollies
And the recalcitrant
Unemployment rate

This city shines

Off the bonnet of a Beemer
Money creates and stymies
For the sheltered
Rejecting and accepting
Glittering fearful hope
Always space for one more
On the tightrope

This city jives

Buildings boom and sway
Heavy with prospect
Affluence and gunshots
Twinkling and twisted
Affectionate tepid nights
Rhythmic jazz
Wistful in the neon-light

My city of gold

I love you, I do

Published by Brandon Hamber, Botsotso Magazine, 24 March 2022

A Jozi Love Letter

Hamber, B. (2022). A Jozi Love Letter. Botsotso Magazine, 24 March 2022.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Psychosocial Support and Societal Transformation

Hamber, Brandon ; Martinez, Denis; Stappers, Marlies ; Taylor, David ; Unger, Thomas (2022). Youth, Peace and Security: Psychosocial Support and Societal Transformation. Interpeace: Geneva [Download

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Young Men and Post-conflict Masculinities in Northern Ireland

Hamber, Brandon; Murray, C. (2022). Voices from the Margins: Young men and post-conflict masculinities in Northern Ireland. Interpeace: Geneva [Download

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

War in Ukraine: Drifting toward a tipping point

I’ve refrained from commenting on Ukraine on Facebook until now. There are enough brilliant experts on and in the region, not to mention lots of mainly male armchair generals and experts (and few male and female politicians in Northern Ireland) getting very excited on social media about tanks and guns they will never have to hold. So who needs more commentary, huh? So, I have a quick thought on conflict in general, which I have spent a fair bit of my life studying, teaching, and practically engaging with.

“Map of Ukraine political simple city Kiew
Sven Teschke  CC BY-SA 3.0.
The current moment shows all the hallmarks of conflict escalation drifting toward a tipping point. I know it is not rocket science, but all conflicts have them (often multiple times) and it is vital as there comes a moment in conflicts where it becomes impossible in the short term to roll back. People think they know when this point is (because it is not rocket science!), but many protracted wars have shown most fail to spot it or an unanticipated event happens and things tip, creating an even worse catastrophe than the present.

We see classic escalation features: increasing attacks on civilians (by the Russians); constant reference to historical contexts and narratives; arms build-up by multiple players; hardening rhetoric; polarization spouted by the public, not just politicians; the public (outside the country) talking “bravely” of war and why it is needed; the silencing of anyone who utters the word peace or compromise, belittling such approaches (often using the language of masculinity); multiple alliances that are material and historical; rapid shifts in alliances (not just in the region but elsewhere, for you conflict nerds Russia changing position recently on Yemen, for example); everyone over-estimating their war capabilities and miscalculating those of their enemy on all sides; and emotions being praised before reason in the media and by us all.

I do not know where this will go, but routes to de-escalation must be found urgently. I wish I had a magic bullet for this but don’t. However, it is crucial to think about routes to de-escalation as much as we are thinking about other issues like defence. This is hard when seeing the breaching of international law and human rights violations by Russia; it’s emotive. However, this is where we are right now…drifting fast…just an observation.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

USIP Special Report on Reconciliation

Invited participation in The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and the Mary Hoch Center for Reconciliation and Think Peace Learning and Support Hub discussion on a new USIP Special Report on Reconciliation drafted by Dr. Fanie Du Toit and Angelina Mendes. 12 January 2022.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Challenges of Intergenerational Healing after Mass Atrocity

Hamber, Brandon and Palmary, Ingrid (2021). A Dance of Shadows and Fires: Conceptual and Practical Challenges of Intergenerational Healing after Mass Atrocity. Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal, 15 (3), 100-120 [Download]

Challenges of Intergenerational Healing after Mass Atrocity

We have just a new piece published in Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal

Hamber, Brandon and Palmary, Ingrid (2021). A Dance of Shadows and Fires: Conceptual and Practical Challenges of Intergenerational Healing after Mass Atrocity. Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal, 15 (3), 100-120 [Download].


The legacy of mass atrocity – including colonialism, slavery or specific manifestations such as apartheid – continue long after their demise. Applying a temporal inter-generational lens adds complications. We argue that mass atrocity creates for subsequent generations a deep psychological rupture akin to witnessing past atrocities. This creates a moral liability in the present. Healing is a process dependent on the authenticity (evident in discourse and action) with which we address contemporary problems. A further overriding task is to open social and political space for divergent voices. Acknowledgement of mass atrocity requires more than one-off events or institutional responses (the grand apology, the truth commission). Rather acknowledgement has to become a lived social, cultural and political reality. Without this acknowledgement, healing, either collectively or individually, is stymied. Healing after mass atrocity is as much about political action (addressing inequalities and racism) as an act of re-imaging created through constant and contested re-writing.