peace centre from the air July 00

2014 A year in review

December 31, 2014 | Nick Taylor

Foundation for Peace Chief Executive, Nick Taylor reviews 2014

A year ago when I published a similar review of 2013, I could not have conceived the sheer horror that violent conflict would bring to the world in the preceding twelve months.

The acronyms ISIL or is it ISIS or is it perhaps two words ‘Islamic State’ had not entered our public lexicon and places such as Syria, Iraq, Israel, Palestine and the Ukraine hardly gained a mention. In fact, reading the list of the 53 US designated ‘foreign terrorist organisations’ issued in January, none of the above warranted a reference, demonstrating how fast the world of terrorism, war and political violence evolves. 2014 has changed so much in the global landscape and taken violent conflict to new levels not seen since the end of World War II.

The 2013 statistical index, documents 9,707 attacks worldwide. It was 8,400 in 2012. One every hour now one every 55 minutes. These attacks resulted in more than 17,800 deaths (5,400 in 2012 so huge increase in fatalities) and 32,500 injuries. The figures for 2014 will be worse still and many of the incidents will defy the statisticians.

There are constant reminders that our world is affected by violent conflict – as the year ends we are confronted by daily examples from a ‘lone’ attack on a coffee shop in Australia to mass killings of school children in Pakistan. Brutal executions undertaken using the full power of social media to spread extreme ideologies had led to an upsurge in far-right politics and a test of tolerance of those who express more moderate views.

For the Foundation, we faced a far different challenge. Actually, proving our worth and continuing the existence of a key project became our focus. Against the global background, how on earth could this be so?

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 2014, the Foundation has worked to address these very issues through our unique ‘For Peace’ programme that deals with the prevention, resolution and response to violent conflict – before, during and after.

Our year started mired in politics as we tried to save our flagship project, Survivors for Peace. A unique offering assisting UK victims, survivors and those affected by terrorism. It was many of these people who came to our aid to speak out and politicians from all sides of the political divide united to our support with questions being raised in the House of Commons and at Prime Minister’s Question Time.

In March, in the Chancellor’s budget statement, the Government agreed to fund the project for a year and George Osborne said: “I commit to finding for you a lasting solution to your funding issues.” Survivors for Peace continues and the number of increased referrals, and all of our events this year over subscribed, confirm the great need for this work. At the time of writing (31 December 2014) funding is not in place beyond March 2015, but the Prime Minister and Chancellor have offered their personal support and so it is hoped that in early 2015 this vital project will be funded on a sustainable basis. In addition, our great supporter the Irish Government, has commissioned work for us to look at the ‘east-west’ dimension of the continuing peace process on our islands.

We also put in place a new ‘Survivors’ team and have entered into other ventures such as a sponsored PhD collaborative studentship held by the Department of Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology at the University of Liverpool. This three year studentship will focus on the consequences of terrorism for survivors of critical incidents.

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.

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.

We were visited by many people including the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Shadow Secretary of State for Health, the First Secretary to the Treasury and politicians from many of the political parties. We continue to co-Chair the European Union’s Radicalisation Awareness Network related to the PREVENT agenda (PREVENT is part of the EU and Government’s counter terrorism strategy). We continued to attend a number of EU representative bodies and groups and our team worked in many countries such as Somalia, the Lebanon, Canada, the United States, Ireland and across Europe. Politicians united in praise and the Prime Minister paid tribute to our work in the House of Commons.

We are grateful to many in the political sphere who worked hard for us not least David Mowat MP, Nick Bent, Ivan Lewis MP and Tessa Jowell MP. And, in Northern Ireland, to the executive parties DUP, UUP, Sinn Fein, SDLP and the Alliance, who all came together in support of our work. We also put on note our thanks to Secretary of State Theresa Villiers for convening a meeting which agreed in principle to remove jurisdictional funding barriers.

Our team increased in size from nine at the end of 2012 to 18 at the end of 2014. Our charity is financially stable but the elusive goal of remaining sustainable is still a target we seek to achieve.

The media coverage throughout the year continued as they realised our expertise and ability to give independent and intelligent commentary on emerging events and significant issues. We also increased our use of social media and will be making many changes and developments to our presence on the web in 2015 – all of our coverage was beneficial and factual.

For the second year running, in summer, we sponsored a young man called Scott who lost his dad in the attack on In Amenas in Algeria – he joined other people from around the world in New York to take part in a new programme aimed at young victims of terrorism.

The Mayor of London commissioned us to mange the commemoration of the ninth anniversary of the London bombings in Hyde Park.

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. We also moved away from local fund raising to more nurturing of regular supporters and donors and launched a new society lottery and many other methods such as donations from retailers every time our supporters bought their shopping online. The Centre received a makeover and huge support through the main north west John Lewis stores, their partner teams and supplier Halo.

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 Restless Development and the YMCA 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 their second year of operating from a new Service Centre in the building.

We launched two major projects. Women Building Peace, funded by the European Integration Fund, started work in Blackburn, Oldham and Nelson and provides accredited qualifications for ‘third country national’ women in conflict resolution and peace building.

THINK is a project we launched in Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester working with young people, aged 14-19, who are potential young leaders. The project helps them shape ‘thinking’ and influence their peers to prevent extremism. Given the numbers of young people being influenced by the poison of extremism and the preventative nature of this project, we believe this could be a major pillar of peace building. The project is financed by the Royal Bank of Scotland Group.

Our position of independence and neutrality means we received a number of commissions to work to facilitate dialogue in many communities.

All of these commissions accelerated our work to a new level and the impact we make.

However, against this great progress, this has been a year of turmoil for the world. The country threat level was raised and the Government has reacted by pushing a new Counter Terrorism and Security Bill through Parliament, that will most likely receive Royal assent in the coming weeks. The bill is predicated on many security and punitive measures. We have been vocal in our agenda that ‘prevention is better than cure’ and our campaign ‘for peace’ will become more pressing in 2015.

The media and politics is responding. This year was the European Elections and whilst the far right in this country, through the British National Party (BNP) and the English Defence League (EDL), lost their way, in Europe the emergent response to ‘Islamism” and the actions of the likes of ISIS, was to turn more to the right. The emerging threat was from the agenda being captured by certain aspects of mainstream ‘tabloid’ media and UKIP, and others expressing views through a growing anti-immigrant line put forward by the main political parties as a response.

In the next few weeks we will publish our manifesto, not because we are changing our independent stance, but that we need to campaign ‘for peace’ in a far more robust way. We have many answers to the questions being posed and it is time people understood that we can tackle pernicious agendas of radicalisation, extremism and violent conflict. But it needs proper investment and support.

The end of the year signified an important development in Northern Ireland – it is exactly eleven 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.

Last year on New Years Eve 2013 there was a lack of any conclusive outcome from the ‘dealing with the past’ talks after six months of work. This year the NI executive parties, Irish and British Governments did reach an accord via the ‘Stormont House Agreement.’ This document, yet to be fully studied, shows that progress to counter violent conflict and create peace can be made. It also, significantly, contains two small sentences that show the Foundation is being heard and responded to.

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. There is no direct funding for our work or sustainability of such funds.

It is this challenge that takes us into 2015 – 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. Please join us FOR PEACE.

Nick Taylor – Chief Executive
31 December 2014 – the Foundation for Peace in memory of Tim and Johnathan