Acting on shared experiences: FCT 2011 report launch

Acting on shared experiences: FCT 2011 report launch
by Allan LEONARD for Northern Ireland Foundation
12 June 2012

At Parliament Buildings, where the Northern Ireland Assembly sits, I was responsible for organising an event for our Forum for Cities in Transition project, which is an international network of mayors, councillors, municipal officials, business people, and representatives of the voluntary and community sector.

The Forum for Cities in Transition is an initiative of the John Joseph Moakley Chair at the University of Massachusetts Boston. The Secretariat is share by the Northern Ireland Foundation and the Moakley Chair.

The main objective of the event was to highlight and increase awareness of:

  • the work of the Forum’s members in Derry-Londonderry, especially the hosting of the annual Forum conference in the Maiden city, 23-26 May 2011
  • the developing relationship between Derry-Londonderry and fellow Forum cities, especially Mitrovica (Kosovo).

In regards to the first, there are two publications that have been produced (see embedded versions below), both with support from the Community Relations Council (CRC):

  1. Bridging the Gap, which is an official report of last year’s conference, and provides general background of the Forum and its work
  2. Shared Space Issue 13, a more academic focused journal published by the CRC; this issue was dedicated to the proceedings of last year’s conference

In regards to the second, there was a recent study trip by Derry-Londonderry Forum members to Mitrovica. This was a reciprocal trip of a study visit by Kosovo Police members from Mitrovica to Derry-Londonderry in May 2011.

During that March trip in Mitrovica, the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, William Hay MLA, attending a meeting of the local Forum group, after a walking visit of the city, including the northern, Serbian-populated section.

The event at Parliament Buildings on 12th June was well received by those who attended, which included former Assembly Speaker, Lord John Alderdice; current Assembly Deputy Speaker, Francie Molloy MLA; MLAs from Foyle and East Londonderry: Pat Ramsey, John Dallat and David McClarty; Robin Newton MLA; Minister for the Department of Employment and Learning, Stephen Farry MLA; Ray Mullan and Bebhinn McKinley (Community Relations Council); Stephen Moore and Graeme McCammon (NI-CO); and other associates and friends.

The Speaker, William Hay MLA, was scheduled to address the audience, but was unable to leave the proceedings of the Assembly; Deputy Speaker, Francie Molloy MLA, spoke on his behalf, underlining the Assembly’s desire and commit to develop practical links with legislative assemblies on other areas of conflict or post-conflict, which is a validation of the Forum’s principle that cities that are in conflict or have emerged from conflict are in the best position to help other cities in the same situation.

Several other speakers followed, with Michael Doherty as chair of the Derry-Londonderry Forum serving as emcee. I produced the following video, which encapsulates all of the presentations as well as the background and current work of the Forum:

I was grateful for the photography services of Kevin Cooper, who demonstrated his professional acumen in securing a good variety of images of the day. I highly recommend Kevin and look forward to using him again:

The event was reported in the following places:

Here are the said reports with following press statement:


23TH – 26TH MAY 2011


Bridging the Gap tells the story of the Forum for Cities in Transition — its birth and underlying philosophy. It also describes what the 2011 conference sought to do and reflects on the difference that it has made in the journey to peace, both locally and internationally.

FCT Bridging the Gap

Shared Space is a research journal that addresses themes of peace, conflict and community relations in Northern Ireland, and is published by the Community Relations Council.

A special issue was dedicated to the work of the Forum for Cities in Transition. The Forum is grateful to the Community Relations Council for providing an invaluable opportunity to present the Forum’s work through the Bridging the Gap report and the special issue of Shared Space.

CRC Shared Space 13

13 JUNE 2012

“Maiden City acts on shared experiences”

The city of Derry-Londonderry has celebrated a significant contribution to lasting peace, not only within its own constituency but also in 12 cities in conflict zones across the world.

Yesterday saw the launch of Bridging the Gap — a report of a major international conference held in the city last year. The event was held at Parliament Buildings, with support from the Speaker’s Office.

The conference demonstrated how political and community leaders of Derry-Londonderry are actively working with cities in other conflict zones to take practical actions that improve the livelihoods of all citizens of the Maiden City.

The report was published with backing from the Community Relations Council, and describes the work of the Forum for Cities in Transition and proceedings of its annual conference in May 2011 in the city’s Guild Hall.

Former Chair of the local Derry-Londonderry Forum group, Angela Askin (Community Relations Officer, Derry City Council) said:

“The conference brought together over 70 delegates from 12 cities that have experienced violent conflict — places as diverse as Kirkuk in Iraq; Jerusalem in the Middle East; Kaduna in northern Nigeria; and Mitrovica in Kosovo.

“It was an opportunity for people who are working through their own deep wounds of division to honestly share how they are meeting the challenges in their communities transitioning from conflict to lasting peace. We are not just an annual gathering or a mere talking shop — our actions are making the momentum for peace unstoppable.”

Askin thanked all funders who supported the conference, including Monitor, The Ireland Funds, the International Fund for Ireland, and especially Irish Aid (Department of Foreign Affairs), whose vision for offering local experiences for useful and practical undertakings coincides with that of the Forum’s.

The Forum for Cities in Transition is an international network of mayors, councillors, municipal officials, business people, and representatives of the voluntary and community sector. It is a means of bringing together many different sectors of local society to find new ways of working together for the common good.

The Forum works on the principle that cities that are in conflict or have emerged from conflict are in the best position to help other cities in the same situation.

The Forum is an initiative of Professor Padraig O’Malley (John Joseph Moakley Chair at the University of Massachusetts Boston). The Secretariat is shared by the Northern Ireland Foundation and the Moakley Chair.

Allan Leonard (Director of the Northern Ireland Foundation) remarked upon the work of members of the Derry-Londonderry Forum’s work:

“On behalf of the Forum Secretariat, we could not be more pleased with the local ownership and execution of last year’s conference. The Derry-Londonderry Forum excelled at delivering outcomes that it pledged at previous Forum gatherings.

“For example, there have been two exchanges between local PSNI officers and their counterparts in the Mitrovica branch of the Kosovo Police, learning from our community based policing model.”

The report’s author, Earl Storey, explained how Derry-Londonderry was witness to key events that shaped Northern Ireland’s conflict over the years:

“Last May we had the opportunity to invite those from other conflict zones, to share our story of our continuing journey towards peace. It was an encouragement to us to reflect on how far we have progressed on that journey — breaking a historic cycle of division and violence.

“It also reminded us of what drives our desire for peace. There is nothing so heart-rending as seeing the raw pain of a family who have lost a loved one to violence. This is the real purpose of bringing cities together in the Forum for Cities in Transition — so we never have to see that again — the human cost is too great.”



The official report, “Bridging the Gap” is available online at

The Community Relations Council dedicated an issue of its journal, Shared Space, to the proceedings of the 2011 conference. This is also available online at

The 2012 annual conference of the Forum for Cities in Transition will take place in Kirkuk, Iraq, from 7-11 October.

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