Macedonian expert to address Belfast event on conflict transformation
A world-renowned expert on conflict resolution will this week outline previously war-torn Macedonia’s journey to greater satiability and cooperation at an event in Belfast. Saso Klekovski, a founder member and executive director of the Macedonian Center for International Co-operation, is keynote speaker at a major Community Relations Council (CRC) policy conference on Tuesday at the Stormont Hotel. Mr Klekovski is an internationally renowned expert who has also worked in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
The conference - on the theme Transformation to a Shared Society - comes on the second day of Community Relations Week (April 30 to May 6) and in the week prior to the installation of a new power-sharing xecutive at Stormont.
According to Dr Duncan Morrow, Chief Executive of CRC: “We have reached a critical point in the journey from violent conflict to a peaceful future. Much has changed, but there is still a distance to travel. Above all, the challenge is to move from managing our conflict to transforming our relationships. This means embracing partnership rather than polarisation and moving from a divided society to a shared future for everyone.”
“The possibilities for the new Assembly are immense,” according to CRC Chair, Eamonn McCartan. “Our locally elected ministers have the opportunity to reshape public spending priorities to underpin a culture where sharing is preferred over separation and where social cohesion is a key consideration. Every government department must realise the role it plays in implementing A Shared Future values and not evade its responsibility.”
The CRC Conference offers an opportunity for participants, which include public sector policy makers as well as community relations practitioners, to discuss specific aspects of transformation through a series of workshops. These will include economic regeneration of interface communities, murals and memorials, parades and protests, regeneration of former military and security sites, and the challenge of the new ethnic diversity.
Mr Klekovski will outline global experiences of post conflict transformation in order to help Northern Ireland learn from best practice in its journey to a shared future.
“Northern Ireland has much to learn from Macedonia which, pre 2001, was long considered the model of a multicultural society and conflict prevention, but following outbreaks of violence was plunged into political and social crisis. Mistrust between Macedonians and Albanians had never been higher,” Mr Klekovski says.
“The general public's cynicism about politics skyrocketed and political parties struggled with difficult issues such as changing the constitution or adopting an official second language.
“Just like Northern Ireland, Macedonia's recovery was a major achievement. The Ohrid Agreement positioned the Macedonian state on the right track that leads towards a multiethnic state. Consensual democracy lay in the foundation of the new strategy, in the shape of a combination of political liberalism, based on the individual rights and the collective rights of the nations.
“However, while the international community has largely congratulated themselves and the Macedonian people on quickly resolving the country’s 2001 violent conflict, on the whole Macedonia continues to be an underachieving, underperforming country in which peace is still fragile. Northern Ireland must realise that achieving peace requires long term and multi facetted approaches,” he adds.