The Committee was reminded that 10th April, 2018 would mark 20 years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA). The British Council, working with both universities as well as the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building, was proposing to host a major conference in Belfast to mark the event. The conference would take place in a number of venues across the City from 10th – 12th April 2018.
The objective of the conference was to bring together policy makers and peace practitioners from around the world to share reflections and case studies on building effective, inclusive and sustainable peace. The series of plenary sessions, workshops, site visits and cultural events would create an open, inclusive and shared space for international dialogue to reflect upon the experience of peace processes across the world. The events would build on the Northern Ireland experience of and expertise in conflict resolution and peace building. By marking the achievement of the multi-track work that led to the signing of the Agreement, the conference would provide opportunities for international dialogue to reflect on the experience of everyday peace building. The conference would also reflect on the contribution of partners such as the EU and the USA in the achievement and continuation of peace.
The British Council and its partners hoped to attract a number of individuals who played a key role in the negotiations at attend the event. They hoped, in particular, to invite former US President Bill Clinton to the event. In order to provide civic endorsement to the invitation, the British Council had asked whether the Lord Mayor of Belfast could issue this invitation on behalf of the City.
The Conference programme is currently being drafted. It will involve a series of tours, discussion and panel sessions, cultural showcases and visits to relevant projects and sites across the City. These were likely to involve Girdwood and the Innovation Factory. Attendees at the event would come from Northern Ireland but there would also be representation from international cities that were dealing with issues of conflict resolution.
The involvement of former President Clinton was seen as highly symbolic, given his close involvement in local politics at the time of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. His visit to the City Hall and the former Mackie’s site in 1995 were also undertaken at a critical time in the process. A return visit to both locations offered a significant opportunity to explore how the City had developed since that time and to showcase how local partners were working collectively to improve lives within our communities.
This Conference presented a significant opportunity for the City to tell its story twenty years on from the Good Friday Agreement. It also offered an opportunity to reflect on developments since that time and to engage in discussion with other cities and locations that had undergone similar experiences.
The Committee authorised the Lord Mayor to issue an invitation on behalf of the City to former President Bill Clinton to address this major conference in Belfast to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement in April 2018.