Uniquely placed to lead on conflict resolution


In a recent visit to Queen’s University Belfast, President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins remarked that “peace is a process, not an event, one that requires persistent and dedicated attention and effort.” The statement drew nods of agreement throughout the packed lecture theatre.

It was Oscar-nominated English writer William Nicholson who once described experience as a “brutal teacher”. Northern Ireland can testify to that. But, while the dark days of Northern Ireland’s ‘Troubles’ brought enduring pain and loss, they also spurred academics at Queen’s to deeply consider the subject of peace, conflict resolution and reconciliation.

April 2018 marked the 20th year of the Northern Ireland Good Friday Agreement. In the spotlight of the world’s media, Queen’s University marked the occasion with a high profile event involving former US President Bill Clinton, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Senator George Mitchell. The speakers held Northern Ireland up as a beacon of hope, an example of what is achievable in conflict resolution. It also further positioned Queen’s University as a global authority on conflict resolution and peace studies.

It is true that Northern Ireland is uniquely placed to lead on these subjects. It understands the complexities, layers and nuances of conflict situations. In 2016, Queen’s University established The Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice – one of the University’s four Global Research Institutes.

Queen’s is at the forefront of research in security, conflict resolution and global security. The Institute helps societies emerging from conflict resolve lingering differences and reconcile the challenges of justice, peace and security.

Under the leadership of Acting Director Professor John Brewer, the Institute brings together researchers from fields as diverse as Politics, Public Health, Sociology, Ethnomusicology, Planning and Computer Engineering. They have a cross-national focus, including traditional and modern societies, and historical and contemporary cases.

Professor Brewer explained; “People want to learn from the context here in Northern Ireland. For example, we’ve had former fighters from Lebanon meeting former combatants here. We had hunger strikers and lawyers from Israel-Palestine coming to meet former hunger strikers here and we’ve had a cross-community group from Israel-Palestine meeting a cross-community group from Northern Ireland.” But we have much to learn from them too.

The Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice draws students and researchers from across the world. Research undertaken at the Institute is impacting areas of conflict from the Middle East to South Africa, and beyond.

For further information, visit http://www.qub.ac.uk/Research/GRI/mitchell-institute