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2013 a year in review

December 31, 2013 | Nick Taylor

Foundation for Peace Chief Executive, Nick Taylor reviews 2013

A charity differs from most other organisations in that it is set up for public benefit. This ‘test’ is one that is legally complex but in essence it means everything we do has to be beneficial and we are constantly required to prove the need for our existence. I call this our ‘licence to operate.’

Our history starts 20 years ago, a consequence of the Northern Ireland ‘troubles’ and the end of 2013 is still dominated by the continuing daily journey towards a lasting peace related to that conflict. This year is not only the twentieth anniversary since the IRA planted bombs in Warrington resulting in the deaths of Tim and Johnathan, but it is also a year in which the political parties in Northern Ireland have tried to confront and deal with the past as well as attempting to address contemporary conflicts relating to parades and flags.

At the same time, we are constantly reminded that our world is not immune to violent conflict – as the year ends at least 14 people are killed in a trolleybus explosion, the day after 17 died in a railway station suicide attack in the same Russian city, Volgograd. From shopping centres in Kenya to refineries in Algeria to sporting events in Boston to a street in Woolwich, violent conflict and terrorism is still a reality. As are the ideologies and psycho-social motivations that underpin such actions whether that be the militant extreme politics of the Far-Right through to al Qa’ida inspired acts or indeed anyone who believes they can further their aims through the use of violence.

We have no doubt our need is proven – this is a world in which conflict, often violent, is a real risk not just to human life, but to the very fabric of society in upholding freedom and democracy and in creating a stable economic and safe environment. Prejudice and discrimination needs to be challenged whether in our communities, schools, universities and prisons. There is no place for extremism or those who seek to radicalise vulnerable people. Our heath, social and welfare systems should not have to look after those affected, and the human cost – well that is just not something that we cannot tolerate.

In 2013, the Foundation has worked tirelessly to address these very issues. The end of 2012 saw us revise our strategy around an increased understanding of the unique aspect of our offering. We are not an organisation that just works with victims or to a specific agenda such as the pursuit of justice or aligned to a cause such as faith – we offer programmes and services that address violent conflict before, during and after. Our dimensions of work are prevention, resolution and response. But even that description does not demonstrate the uniqueness of our approach as it is in the ‘interface’ areas between those three dimensions that we make the real difference. For example, the bringing together of victims with ex-perpetrators, the use of dialogue not just as a process to help people recover but also in challenging communities to make positive changes and the use of leadership techniques in all areas of prevention and response – victims empowered to challenge and enable change. Our strategy provides an exciting vision and presents a unique ‘public benefit’ making a real difference to society.

The engagement from the public and stakeholders such as politicians and the media has been magnificent throughout the year and was stimulated by a very special date in our calendar – 20th March – the twentieth anniversary of the Warrington bombing. In March we came together as a community in the spirit of reconciliation and enterprise to not just commemorate a tragic event but to celebrate the achievements made since that date. Our Founders, Colin and Wendy remain active within the charity set up in memory of their son, and although Johnathan’s parents are no longer with us it was good to see his family involved in a number of our events.

A commemorative event was staged by Warrington Council, a local authority that leads in its commitment to peace, at which the community and many people and organisations from across the world joined together. In recognition of the significant contribution the Foundation makes, many local organisations selected the charity as their cause of the year. From the Warrington Guardian to the Golden Square Shopping Mall to Mid-Cheshire College to the Warrington Golf Club to technology specialists Space 48 – all joined together to support our cause. Colin and Wendy were widely recognised with First Recruitment Group opening Parry House in Birchwood, the Warrington Guardian presenting an Inspiration Award accompanied by a standing ovation, an honorary degree for Colin from the University of Chester and the year was punctuated with Wendy Parry receiving the OBE. Our local events proved a sell out attraction from Christmas parties to a sporting dinner to annual charity balls and golf days. Our board of trustees and our patrons continued their support.

We were visited by many people including the President of Rotary International in Britain and Ireland, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Victims Commissioner (Northern Ireland), the Home Secretary and politicians from many of the political parties. The international community responded and Colin and Wendy were invited as guests of the United States Government (State Department – Centre for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications) to address 30 Global Counter Terrorism Forum (GCTF) member countries in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. We participated in a further GCTF event in London. We continue to co-Chair the European Union’s Radicalisation Awareness Network related to the PREVENT agenda (PREVENT is part of the Government’s counter terrorism strategy). We continued to attend a number of EU representative bodies and groups in places and countries such as Rome, Croatia, Greece and Brussels. Politicians united in praise and the Prime Minister paid tribute to our work in the House of Commons.

In March, we travelled to Northern Ireland to address Assembly members, meet the Speaker and senior politicians from the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister. Later in the year we travelled to Dublin to meet the Secretary General of the Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade in Ireland.

The media coverage throughout the year was astonishing from specially commissioned documentaries to live broadcasts at the Peace Centre to numerous editorial and news items. At one time we were featuring on BBC outlets almost every week and all of our coverage was beneficial and factual.

We were published widely including a chapter about our dialogue work in a book called ‘Ireland and Victims – confronting the past, forging the future’ – the book Tim – an ordinary boy was re-published and we produced a new book for children accompanied by a teaching resource pack for use in schools.

In April the daughters of Bronwen Vickers (who was injured after the Warrington bombing and died a year later) became active supporters of the Foundation and ran the most successful fund raising event of the year – Bronwen’s Walk – in memory of their mum. In summer, one of Bronwen’s daughters, Harriet, joined other people from around the world in New York to take part in a new programme aimed at young victims of terrorism.

Throughout the year we were supported by local fund raisers and volunteers who did everything from sponsored challenges to helping run aspects of the Peace Centre.

Our consultative and expert experience was called on from providing insight into incidents such as the Woolwich attacks to presenting papers and conference input at the likes of Liverpool Hope University to making documentaries related to justice and aspects of the Troubles. We carried out a wide reaching study into the economic impact of terrorism and produced a paper and supporting conference, with eminent visiting speakers, entitled the ‘Cost of Peace and Price of Extremism.’

Our international Peace Centre took in more bookings than ever with numerous groups using the facilities for residential stays, teaching and learning to conferences and seminars. National like-minded organisations such as International Alert and Talk for a Change hosted events. Our local partner, Warrington Youth Club, continued to increase participation at their events and are a major contributor to the delivery of our charitable public benefit. And the NSPCC, co-owners of our building, celebrated one year of operating their new Service Centre from the building.

Our work continued to deliver real benefit with the victims programme aimed at a database of about 500 and days such as ‘Families Living with Trauma,’ dialogue courses, critical incident response seminars, (trauma) liaison officer training running throughout the year. Much of our work remains sensitive and confidential has included mediation and support in the aftermath of high profile incidents as well as behind-the-scenes work with all sorts of groups. We also continued our management of events such as the 7/7 commemoration in London and support at events such as Omagh. We have continued our prevention work in many cities such as Lisburn and Leeds.

In terms of people we worked with in 2013 (April to December) we hosted: day programmes 1030, PREVENT awareness 12, conferences 140, Response work 122, Leadership 19, adult training 226. A total of 1,549 people worked with and a running total of 22,650. Of course, these figures do not include the thousands of people who participate in events at the Peace Centre. Our subsidiary company (Timjon Co Ltd trading as the Resolution Training Company) offering courses based on Foundation principles and techniques to non-beneficiaries in order to raise funds, continued to offer courses at the Centre and delivered a major contract to a housing association.

In autumn we became a major supporter of One World Peace Day (21 September) and organised a week of events with the culmination being an international Peace Lecture delivered by deputy First Minister and ex IRA leader Martin McGuinness. This lecture received international attention and tried to address the Peace Day theme of who will you make peace with.

Against this background, the charity has developed a new strategic approach responding to the changing need and a challenged funding climate. A number of new posts have been created to move to funding based on long-term commissions and social investment. By the year end this approach has already realised a number of new prevention/resolution contracts that will commence delivery in quarter one 2014. This is an area of growth alongside a Peace Centre that continues to operate efficiently but contrasts sharply with a lack of commitment and action by stakeholders in relation to the support of victims, survivors and those affected by political violence and terrorism.

The end of the year signified an important anniversary in that it is exactly ten years since we published ‘The Legacy – a study of the needs of GB Victims and Survivors of the Northern Ireland Troubles.’ The study concluded with 18 recommendations. many for Government – none of which were implemented and still remain ‘live’ issues. The needs of GB victims and survivors are ignored with a ‘hand off’ and ‘pass the ball’ approach between the British Government and Northern Ireland Assembly. The lack of any conclusive outcome from the ‘dealing with the past’ talks on New Years Eve (date of publication of this note) after six months of work is perhaps the best indication of the policy and political impasse we face. Violent conflict is changing with our citizens at risk from global incidents and the Foundation is fast adapting to provide the new level of service that is needed. Again, there is no overall ‘owner’ and therefore a lack of accountability in Government. It is this challenge that takes us into 2014 – a New Year that we will hope will be peaceful and prosperous but in reality will continue to need our work to prevent, resolve and respond to violent conflict.

Nick Taylor – Chief Executive

31 December 2013 – the Foundation for Peace in memory of Tim and Johnathan