THE International Fund for Ireland today launched a new five-year strategy that will expand and intensify critical peace-building programmes in Northern Ireland and the southern border counties of Ireland.
The ‘Community Consolidation – Peace Consolidation 2016-2020’ strategy will allocate up to £20million towards a significant new youth programme aimed at those who are unable to access or remain in traditional education and training provision.
The five-year plan also will see the scaling-up of two current programmes that have successfully reduced the influence of paramilitaries and assisted communities to start discussions on the removal of physical divisions or so-called ‘Peace Walls’.
A new shared education programme will also provide training to prepare and equip teachers to facilitate sharing within schools.
The Fund said it is committing to a difficult but essential scope of work and is working with the British and Irish Governments to secure a funding structure of up to £45 million for the five-year period.
Dr Adrian Johnston, Chairman of the International Fund for Ireland said:
“During a challenging time for the Peace Process, we have taken new risks to engage in areas where the threat of paramilitary organisations and opposition to the political process had grown.
“We have secured important and often radical results that have helped stabilise communities and generated new solutions to sensitive issues.
“In the course of this work, it has become apparent to the British and Irish governments that the Fund – as a unique independent vehicle – should continue and expand on the work it has been doing over the last number of years.
“The first phase of our Peace Walls Programme successfully and carefully built confidence and relationships within and between communities. While community appetite for the programme has grown, there has been a critical lack of funding and resources for the wider economic and social regeneration required to make physical change sustainable.”
He added: “The work we started under our current strategy needs to be scaled up to engage more groups that were previously excluded from peacebuilding activities and to address many of the root causes of division. This strategy is designed to assist the British and Irish governments and the Northern Ireland Executive to capitalise on our proven experience and calibre of delivering positive change in areas where others cannot or will not intervene.”
Writing jointly in the new strategy, Theresa Villiers M.P. Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Charlie Flanagan T.D., Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade endorsed the Fund’s five-year plan:
“Working with local community groups, which are determined to embed the peace, the IFI has been able to provide models for dealing with complex and difficult situations. By engaging with those who have not yet or only recently started on the journey of reconciliation, the IFI is ensuring that no part of Northern Ireland is left behind in the search for a stable and shared society.
“The British and Irish Governments are keen to see the IFI’s work continue. In endorsing this Strategy, we hope that it can also be supported by the international community whose solidarity on the journey to peace in Northern Ireland has been of immense value.
“That support sends a very potent signal to communities in Northern Ireland and the border counties in the South that the world remains enthusiastically committed to the work of peace-building on the island of Ireland.”
The ‘Community Consolidation – Peace Consolidation’ strategy will deliver four specific programmes: Personal Youth Development Programme (PYDP); Shared Education Programme, Peace Walls Programme (PWP); and the Impact Programme (PIP).
The Personal Youth Development Programme will present young people with new opportunities to become active in good relations and access jobs and skills training.
The personalised programme is designed to allow participants to enrol and opt out at multiple points that suit their circumstances and will support them to make decisions that improve their lives, communities and interactions with others. The Fund is proposing to allocate up to £20 million to the Personal Youth Development Programme.
The Shared Education Programme will complement previous IFI education initiatives by concentrating support towards the early and continuing professional development of teachers to encourage shared education delivery and collaboration between schools and other educational institutions. The Fund is proposing to allocate up to £5 million to the Shared Education Programme.
Since 2012, the Fund has invested more than £3 million in seven projects within the Peace Walls Programme. These projects have created new dialogue within and between communities and secured alterations to 21 interface barriers. The Fund proposes to allocate up to a further £10 million to advance this work.
First launched in 2013, the Peace Impact Programme has supported communities in areas affected by high levels of economic and social deprivation to engage in peace building activities and develop new solutions to difficult issues including intimidation; disaffection and isolation. As a result, many individuals – particularly young people – have become actively involved within their own community and are providing leadership that is helping stabilise communities and reduce sectarian tensions and the risk of paramilitary violence. The Fund proposes to allocate up to a further £10 million to advance this work.
The ‘Community Consolidation – Peace Consolidation’ strategy is available to download from: www.internationalfundforireland.com