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Bridging the Divide

24 June 2011

Bridges have helped to transform the social, economic, and cultural landscapes of cities across Europe, delegates at a seminar in Londonderry have been told.

‘Building Bridges’ was co-hosted by INCORE - the international Conflict Research Institute at the University of Ulster - in association with the Special EU Programmes Body. It was one of a packed programme of events in the city this weekend to mark the official opening of the new footbridge across the River Foyle tomorrow afternoon.

Research co-ordinator at INCORE and one the event organisers, Dr Ken Bush says bridges have a very important role to play in promoting community cohesion and reconciliation.

“The new Peace Bridge across the River Foyle physically and symbolically unites the city by giving easy access across the geographical divide.

“The seminar was an ideal opportunity to look at its potential impact in an international context by focussing on iconic bridges in other places, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Sweden.”

The £13.4m Peace Bridge is one of many projects to have been funded by the EU’s PEACE III programme and Dr Bush says the seminar was a timely opportunity to reflect on the impact of other EU funded Peace Programmes on reconciliation in Northern Ireland which puts research being carried out by INCORE at Magee campus into the spotlight.

Since the EU Peace programme was introduced in 1995, thousands of projects have received funding. Over 13,000 projects were supported by Peace 1, a further 6,000 by Peace II and projects funded by Peace III are still underway.  Projects have ranged from major infrastructural projects like the Peace Bridge to smaller community based projects - to be eligible, projects had to show that they would have a lasting impact on reconciliation.

INCORE is an internationally recognised as a centre of excellence in Peace and Conflict Studies. A joint project of the United Nations University and the University of Ulster, it combines research, education and comparative analysis, to address the causes and consequences of conflict to promote reconciliation.

Last week participants from 17 countries as far afield as Nigeria, India, Zambia, Sudan, Austria, Australia, Canada, America, Holland, Finland, Portugal, Spain, and Germany joined local practitioners and academics at the Magee campus for 12th annual INCORE International Summer School. The Summer School led by INCORE staff and other international experts is now well established and the international networking opportunities provided over the years has built into a network of nearly 600 practitioners worldwide. The seminar is open to members of the public and there is no charge to attend.