Former member of the Commonwealth Commission on Respect and Understanding, Lord Alderdice, addresses participants at Commonwealth roundtable on reconciliation
True reconciliation requires building trust and relationships among communities emerging from conflicts, and in institutions and legal regimes for delivering justice, Lord John Alderdice, a former member of the Commonwealth Commission on Respect and Understanding, has said.
Lord Alderdice, who was also a former Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, was speaking at the opening of a Commonwealth roundtable on reconciliation at the Commonwealth Secretariat’s headquarters in London. He said experience had shown that when people feel valued and respected, they are more likely to be receptive to dialogue.
The Commission on Respect and Understanding, established in 2005 by Commonwealth leaders, was led by renowned academic Prof Amartya Sen. Its objective was to explore initiatives to promote mutual understanding and respect among all faiths and communities.
The Commission produced a report, Civil Paths to Peace, which concluded that the Commonwealth can play a significant constructive role in the use of dialogue and multilateralism in dealing with issues related to violent conflict.
Lord Alderdice said: “In recommending civil paths to peace, we were not saying that other approaches such as military, security and political are not important, but that to say that true peace and reconciliation comes when people as human beings feel valued, respected and given dignity – emphasising the role of civility in building relationships for long term peace.”
He added that it was not sufficient to just invest energy in setting up institutions for promoting reconciliation if there was no genuine relationship and respect among the parties involved.
Drawing from the experience of peace processes in Northern Ireland, in which he played a significant role, Lord Alderdice said: “Promoting reconciliation is not just about money, resources and positions or forgiving and forgetting – though these are important. Reconciliation is not about ticking boxes. It is more about fairness and how you help people deal with the memories and legacies of the past.”
Speaking at the opening session of the roundtable, Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said the discussions demonstrated the Commonwealth way of creating opportunities for sharing experiences and distilling good practice to address pressing global challenges.
Mr Sharma said the Commonwealth is keen to practically carry forward the key messages contained in Civil Paths to Peace.
Pablo de Greiff, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence, addressed the meeting by video link from Italy.
Participants at the roundtable include senior government officials, subject experts, and representatives of national human rights institutions and civil society organisations. The countries represented are: Kenya, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Uganda and United Kingdom (Northern Ireland). All these countries have had to and continue to deal with post-conflict reconciliation.
Source- Commonwealth Secretariat