The city of Belfast recently rang in a symbolic 20-year anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement by hosting an international peace conference that proponents hope will continue to support international accord. The Ulster University Belfast campus saw nearly 250 delegates from around the world come together during the Build Peace conference, with attendees declaring the conference a roaring success.
The fifth international Build Peace conference was partly supported by Build Up and the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building, according to Ulster University. This particular event marked the first time that the Build Peace conference was held somewhere in the UK, though its participants came from all around the globe to discuss common struggles and methods for peacebuilding.
Previously, such conferences have been held in the United States, Switzerland, Colombia, and Cyprus. Northern Ireland was chosen for this particular conference thanks to the symbolic 20-year anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement which helped bring an end to The Troubles. The event delivered a sizable boost to the local economy, generating tourism revenue and bolstering local hotels.
According to the Irish News, more than 900 beds were booked for the event, which was predicted to ultimately generate some £345,000 for Belfast’s economy. Organizers for the event took time to note how diverse its attendees were, not only demographically but also professionally.
“We’re excited to bring together practitioners, activists, academics, policy makers, artists and technologists from around the world to share experience and ideas on using technology, arts and other innovations for peacebuilding and conflict transformation,” Build Peace co-founder Helena Larrauri told the Irish News.
Speakers at the event included South African advocates who worked extensively with such renown peace actors as Nelson Mandela. Professionals who helped shape the Good Friday Agreement, too, were in attendance, with President Bill Clinton’s former Special Envoy for Northern Ireland George Michael making an appearance.
The conference, held in conference centres UK, covered the role of technology in peacebuilding, and attendees discussed how disparate peacebuilding initiatives across the world could work together to better achieve their goals. The event’s historic setting in Belfast made its focus on peace and reconciliation particularly pertinent, given the dark history and subsequent rebuilding that once haunted Northern Ireland.
“In spite of local setbacks, the experience of the NI peace process is of enormous international interest. But of course our focus will also be on the global and looking to the future,” the director of the British Council of Northern Ireland said in a statement.