Addicts are known to be narcissic – they tend to think that their affliction is unique and cannot possibly be compared to anyone else. Long-standing conflict can be usefully understood as an addiction – or so was a claim made by the recent seminar’s core speaker Padraig O'Malley, the John Joseph Moakley Distinguished Professor of International Peace and Reconciliation, University of Massachusetts, a former addict himself. Just like addiction, long-standing conflict is a form of insanity and recognition (which often comes as an epiphany) that the party you are in conflict with is very much the same as you are – is a first step to recovery.
With funding from the Ireland Funds, Padraig brought the warring factions of the Irish conflict to South Africa for a week-long deliberation with Nelson Mandela and his team. The two factions weren’t flying on the same plane, wouldn’t sit on the same table and wouldn’t come together within a half a kilometer for fear of “contamination”. Predictably, the logistics of accommodating the two sides in South Africa was quite a project, which was falling apart continuously, because, say, the size of beer bar in one faction’s hotel appeared to be larger than in the other. The trip to South Africa and the dialogue there helped to open a line of indirect negotiations between the Irish fractions, effectively supported by their South African hosts, which ultimately brought about the peace agreement.
The Ireland Funds – the global philanthropy organization of the 70-million Irish diaspora – supported this and several other high-risk high-return peace and reconciliation processes. The second part of discussions that day focused on how the public sector could better support innovative high-risk high-return projects – a topic which is of central concern to the World Bank Innovation Practice.
More about the seminar series:
In the modern world, talent is the most precious of resources and it tends to move globally. Mobilization of talent which emigrated abroad for the benefit of country of origin has shown a tremendous potential. Yet putting this promise into practice has proven to be elusive: diaspora initiatives are very easy to start but difficult to sustain in both high and low income countries. Ireland and the Ireland Funds implement such initiatives well locally, and recently they have been moving to the global stage. Ireland Funds is an organization with more than 100 years of history and an established track record in delivering sustainable social, developmental, and cultural projects. The brown-bag seminar examined peace and reconciliation projects supported by the Ireland Funds such as a tour that brought warring factions of the Irish conflict to South Africa. These are high impact projects, which were implemented in rather innovative and flexible ways. Another Ireland Funds' project – sponsoring a meeting of leaders of Iraq's Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds in Helsinki – also serves as an example of how mature diaspora organizations could be instrumental to effective delivery of global public goods.
The session was a part of the BBL series: 'How can talent abroad help build institutions at home?' which is project on migrant talent as key participant of domestic reform coalitions (funded by the MacArthur Foundation).