A special conference designed to share innovations and best practice in youth reconciliation work will take place in Belfast as part of Community Relations Week (26th April - 3rd May 2008).
The conference, which is being held at Farset International on 29th April, and is hosted by the International Fund for Ireland under its Community Bridges Programme, will bring together 25 community groups from across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and provide a platform to share experiences, learn from each other and celebrate achievements. A series of workshops and feedback sessions involving all participants will form an integral part of the event.
Denis Rooney, Chairman of the International Fund for Ireland, said: “Much has been achieved by the International Fund for Ireland over recent years through our Community Bridges Programme. That said, divisions remain within and between our communities, especially among young people, which must be addressed. These groups have worked at the coal face, overcome many difficulties and barriers and can help others in similar situations.
“Many young people living in polarized areas or in areas of unrest have inadvertently become active agents of violence as a direct legacy of the troubles. This conference will bring together groups that work at the forefront of youth reconciliation so that ideas and practices can be exchanged for the benefit of participants and ultimately for the young people they work with.”
The day will focus on seven thematic problem areas including the ongoing use of violence by the young to solve conflict in communities, youth work at interface areas, sectarian beliefs in single identity heartlands, gaps in existing youth infrastructure, the rise of sectarian behaviours in the young and the ongoing transfer of skills within community relations youth organisations.
Dr Duncan Morrow, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council, said: ‘ A shared and better future only has a chance to grow if it is fed by consistent action and leadership and the commitment of all. Community Relations Week is part of a commitment to the long haul and the hard core of peace-building. Today’s IFI event for youth workers showcases real change and engages local people to take small and large steps that address the difficult issues still arising from conflict and division. This is work in progress. The real prize is still ahead of us.’
The Community Bridges Programme was established by the International Fund for Ireland in 1996. Its aim is to build on the community relations, reconciliation and cross-border ethos of the Fund, with an emphasis on helping communities in Northern Ireland and the border counties to use innovative and ground breaking community projects to address issues of difference and division. The Community Relations Council manages the Community Bridges Programme on behalf of the Fund. In 2008 the programme has a budget of some £3m.
Notes to editors:
About the International Fund for Ireland
1. The International Fund for Ireland is an international organisation established by the Irish and British Governments in 1986 with the objectives of promoting economic and social advance and of encouraging contact, dialogue and reconciliation between unionists and nationalists throughout Ireland. Contributors to the Fund are the United States, the European Union, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Since its inception, the Fund has committed more than £ 589 m/EUR 845 m to a wide variety of projects in Northern Ireland and the Southern border counties.
The Fund’s budget for 2008 is £ 33million/ EUR 48million. Funding priorities include grassroots level reconciliation and cross-community projects. In addition, the Fund seeks to address the root causes of deprivation in the most disadvantaged areas by using shared economic concerns as a platform for regeneration and cross-community activity. The Fund will also continue its pioneering work with children and young people throughout the North and the Southern border counties.
About the Community Relations Council
The Community Relations Council is a registered charity formed in Northern Ireland in 1990. It aims to help organisations and individuals to create a society free from sectarianism and racism. The Council is a development agency for peace in Northern Ireland, based on the principles of equity, respect for diversity and recognition of interdependence.
The Council provides grant aid and advice to voluntary and community groups in support of projects which have a community relations purpose or value.