This wide ranging project is developing education and training in four innovative areas: community divisions and relations; rights, justice and equality; political education and culture and identity. It aims to give people the opportunity to explore divisions within our society and possible routes to resolving conflict; to explore, understand, uphold common standards of rights and justice owned by all; to develop political thought and debate and to maximise trained and effective participation in the political process; and to assist imaginative explorations of identity.
The project supports the delivery of a one year Certificate in Community Relations course, accredited by the University of Ulster. It has developed political education for a wide range of political parties in Northern Ireland and has facilitated political discussion via seminars on the Framework document, pre-election meetings and briefing sessions with political parties and community organisations.
The project has enabled the Ulster People's College to respond to the peace process. The challenge round the breakdown in the cease-fire was met positively and constructively through supporting a broad coalition of community and church groups seeking a restoration of the cease-fire and progress towards inclusive political talks. Meetings were held with the range of political parties to gain insight into the way parties and political movements were responding. Several meetings were organised for community and voluntary groups across Northern Ireland to counter the sense of isolation and depression they felt, to create solidarity and to boost morale.
Nine cross-community Irish Language courses have been delivered during each year of the project. An event within the Belfast Festival at Queen's has been established, beginning with discussion in 1996 of the role and purpose of community festivals in the cultural life of Northern Ireland. A series of identity, culture and politics sessions have examined new publications with the author in conversation with an audience. In May 1996 the project contributed to the organisation of a major conference - Belfast on Community Development, Democracy and Citizenship. A publication from the conference is forthcoming. A training seminar organised by the project in conjunction with QUB Law Department on 'Women's Rights as Human Rights' led to a publication which focused on the range of international standards defining the rights of women and the opportunities for employing these standards in Northern Ireland.
Project staff have been involved in a number of initiatives in interface areas in North Belfast:
1) providing support for the development of a mediation project
in the Limestone Road/Duncairn Gardens area.
Project staff have contributed regularly to journals including Causeway and the Community Relations Trainers Journal.
In its first six months the project worked with 325 participants
in courses, conferences and events. During 1996 it worked with
over 1,200 participants. To date the project has contributed
to the development of political knowledge and skills in Northern
Ireland; has increased political debate and interaction between
politicians and community based organisations; supported attempts
to resolve community divisions; and has developed a range of innovative
programmes and materials to explore division and develop strategies
to resolve conflict. Through additional funding from the Belfast
European Partnership Board the project will expand its work with
community based organisations, political parties and youth organisations
and increase the number of participants in the year long community