To mark the 20th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Peace Agreement and to encourage new thinking and research in peacebuilding and reconciliation, the British Council ran a conference in Belfast on 10-12 April entitled Peace and Beyond. Over 200 international delegates attended a programme of events across seven locations in Belfast with input from multiple organisations, a range of themes and numerous international speakers. Presentations from the Northern Ireland perspective involved individuals who have been prominent in peacebuilding in Northern Ireland and internationally, including Senator George Mitchell and Professor Monica McWilliams.
Joanne Hughes, Director of our Centre for Shared Education, chaired a conference session at Titanic Belfast on the inter-generational impact of conflict. Her session explored the effects of conflict on a new generation of young people, particularly those born in the years after ceasefire and peace agreements. Panellists included those who had personal and professional experiences of the conflict in South Africa, Lebanon and Northern Ireland.
Key themes that emerged during the session related to the relationship between disadvantage, marginalisation and the ongoing impact of conflict, and the need to find creative and constructive ways to tackle the negative legacies of the past which are manifest in risk behaviours such as substance abuse and anti-social behaviour, mental health issues, high levels of suicide and ongoing low-level sectarianism.
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