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Global Projects of a Global Irish: Articulating Peace and Reconciliation Platforms in the World

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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 a 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 did it well locally and recently 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 social, developmental, and cultural projects. The brown-bag examined peace and reconciliation projects supported by the Ireland Funds, such as a study tour that brought warring factions of the Irish conflict to South Africa for a week-long joint deliberation with Nelson Mandela and the chief architects of South Africa's historic settlement.  Another Ireland Funds' project – sponsoring a meeting of leaders of Iraq's Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds in Helsinki – serves as an example of how mature diaspora organizations could be instrumental to effective delivery of global public goods.

Conflict as Addiction: 
Addicts are known to be narcissic – they tend to think that their affliction is unique and cannot possibly be compared to anyone else’s. Long-standing conflict can be understood as a form of addiction – or so was a claim of Padraig O'Malley, the John Joseph Moakley Distinguished Professor of International Peace and Reconciliation, University of Massachusetts, a former addict himself.  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. The two factions didn’t fly 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 fell apart continuously, because, say, the size of the beer bar of one faction appeared to be  larger than of the other (and never mind that the side concerned doesn’t even drink). 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 the conflict with is very much the same as you are – is a first step to recovery.

The session started with a presentation by the Ireland Funds, the global philanthropy organization of the 70-million Irish diaspora, which supported several high-risk high-return peace and reconciliation processes. The second part of the discussion focused on how the public sector can support innovative high-risk high-return projects – a topic which is of central concern to the World Bank Innovation Practice.

Sponsored by the World Bank Institute Growth and Crisis Practice (WBIGC) and the African Diaspora Program (ADP). The session is 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).


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