Bradford calls on peace experts

July 13, 2001

Alison Utley looks at the fall-out from flare-ups in multi-ethnic communities

Bradford University is applying its expertise in conflict resolution in the international arena to help resolve hostilities that broke out on its doorstep last weekend.

The university is devising a "Programme for a Peaceful City", which academics hope can play a role in restoring harmony to Bradford's shattered communities following several nights of violence on the city's streets.

Lord Ouseley's race-relations panel yesterday published its long-awaited report on Bradford. It warns of deteriorating relations between different cultural communities in Bradford.

Panel member Jenny Pearce, professor of Latin American politics in Bradford's department of peace studies, said: "The department's expertise in international conflict resolution has been recognised over the years, but now it is time to focus on what is going on in Bradford itself.

"Bradford is not a war zone, but the whole ethos of peace studies has a surprising relevance and what we need to do is to engage in the real issues and offer Bradford something it needs - which is not empty rhetoric."

Professor Pearce described the Ouseley report as a fresh approach to race relations.

Drawing on her experiences in Colombia and elsewhere, Professor Pearce emphasised the need to gather grassroots perspectives on the conflict in Bradford.

"The trouble is that all conflicts are complex and multi-layered. This one is no different," she said.

"The soundbite approach, which tends to reduce everything to race, is very dangerous and cannot take account of varying historical dimensions, gender, poverty and lack of political leadership - all of which played a part in the disturbances.

"Once you understand that, there can be no magic recipes. But one thing we must urgently address is the incredible demoralisation among the large numbers of people who have been working in our communities for years without any recognition. That is an issue of leadership," Professor Pearce added.

The university is already working with city authorities on planning the establishment of an international peace centre that will house a museum and conference hall.

Tom Woodhouse, of Bradford's Conflict Resolution Centre, said: "We want to contribute to peace building in our own community since there is increasing evidence that poverty and conflict are ever closer to home as a result of economic globalisation.

"Crime and cultures of violence are affecting us all but we aim to uncover creative models of community peace-building and share this expertise between cities through a tailored programme for Bradford."

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