Conflict Transformation International Seminar

Derry, Northern Ireland

5th – 12th June 2023

The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience-Europe (ICSC-Europe), a subsidiary regional ICSC entity, partnered with the Bloody Sunday Trust to hold a six-day international seminar on Conflict Transformation in Derry, Northern Ireland, from June 5-22, 2023. 

The Seminar brought together eight civil society organizations from the Balkans to explore how the “Derry Model” and the Northern Ireland experience can support and expand their work and practice fostering truth, justice and lasting peace in the region. Through researchers’ and practitioners’ presentations as well as first-hand actors’ sharing of experience, participants explored community based truth-seeking processes and victim-driven advocacy efforts in the Northern Ireland context.  Participants exchanged with different local stakeholders how agreements between the different parties were negotiated and the challenges and opportunities in building and maintaining lasting peace at community level. As part of the exchange, participants also met with former combatants to explore how the armed campaign ended, how former combatants adopted a democratic route, and how they continue to build and maintain peace.

The Seminar also served as a platform to envision new partnerships and collaboration in the region. After four intensive days of meetings and rich discussions with different stakeholders in Derry and Belfast, participants discussed main challenges and priorities in fostering peace and reconciliation in the Balkans and explored regional collaboration to move forward some of the priorities identified.


Quotes from Participants

‘The most valuable insight for me was the important role played by ex-combatants in maintaining and building peace’

 ‘Constructive engagement of former combatants can have a huge impact on peace process and this was well demonstrated during conversations’

‘It was thought provoking and inspirational’

‘For me, the level of dialogue, their [former combatants] calmness while sharing completely different perspectives, without anymore showing he or she felt attacked by the perspective of the other or that his or her perspective was diminishing her trauma or her victim experience that was something vary valuable’

‘Seeing that this kind of dialogue can happen between the people who were also engaged in the conflict, that really gives me hope. The panelists actually shared some very useful strategies on how they did it, both within their own community but also by creating ties with another community’  

‘Derry Model improved my personal perspective on the possibility to reconcile two deeply divided communities’

Main Takeaways

The following are main takeaways from the Seminar:

  • Engage former combatants, politicians, and religious leaders who have experience in the conflict and as such, have the trust of their communities to engage in peacebuilding with all sides of the conflict.
  • Build trust across communities by creating opportunities for dialogue “at equal level” and cooperation based on common interest and respect. 
  • Foster inclusive narratives of the past that avoid marginalization of voices, hierarchy of victims, and ultimately resentment and increased polarization. 
  • Support trauma-sensitive societies that acknowledge the trauma and needs of survivors and ex-combatants.
  • Develop a shared vision of the future based on common ground among all parties.
  • Establish a strong framework for measuring and assessing impact and develop adaptation strategies and mechanisms.