Forum for Cities in Transition

Forum for Cities in Transition gathers in Belfast

October 26, 2014 | Nick Taylor

This week (commencing 27th October 2014), the Forum for Cities in Transition will convene its 5th annual gathering in Belfast.  The Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace will visit the forum on its opening day.

The Forum for Cities in Transition brings together protagonists from divided societies. Its guiding principle is that one divided society is in the best position to help another.

Originating in a conference convened by South Africa President Nelson Mandela and the University of Massachusetts Boston in mid-1997, Professor O’Malley, from the University in Boston, brought together Northern Ireland’s most senior party negotiators with those involved from all parties that led to the historic 1994 settlement in South Africa that brought the end to apartheid.

Northern Ireland party leaders were effusive in their praise of the contributions of the South Africans, revealing that one divided society can well assist the peace-making work of another divided society.

The proposed premise is that those who have real experience of doing the ordinary (refuse collection, water treatment, public transportation, social housing) in extraordinary circumstances (physical segregation, zero-sum politics, blaming the out-group for societal ills) are in the best position to learn from others’ practical experiences.

A pilot conference was held in Boston in April 2009, and delegates agreed a set of basic principles, expressing its collective desire to continue and expand this work. The Forum for Cities in Transition was established; there have been four annual gatherings since, hosted by member cities Mitrovica (2010), Derry-Londonderry (2011), Kirkuk (2012) and Kaduna (2013).

These annual meetings are an ongoing process, grounded in tangible outcomes as each city delegation pledges at the event conclusion.

These commitments are projects to further conflict transition and reconciliation, designed so that cities on higher rungs of conflict transformation assist those on lower rungs. This process is reciprocal, because those with particular expertise are reminded of how they attained it, while recognising there is assistance from fellow cities for their own uncompleted work.

There are 15 member cities of the Forum for Cities in Transition:

Mitte (Berlin)
Tripoli (Lebanon)

The Forum is serviced by a joint Secretariat: the Moakley Chair (Boston) and the Northern Ireland Foundation (Belfast).