The Tutu Foundation UK

On the whole, as I get older and older, I have been giving up my different commitments. I did, however, take on one new commitment last year, which was to become an Ambassador to the UK-based Tutu Foundation. As an Ambassador I am merely one in a list about a mile long, a list which contains many well-known names and others who are working in a less high profile way to advance the causes Archbishop Desmond Tutu made so particularly his own.

The Foundation’s website gives a good description of the remarkable day I attended last year at the new Regent’s University – which many of my contemporaries will remember as Bedford College, a women-only college of London University. When it was later wearing a different hat, as the Regent’s College School of Psychotherapy & Counselling, I received some of my training there as a mediator – a training I found particularly useful when mediating almost intractably difficult disputes between people determined not to give an inch of ground away if they could help it.

The first of what will be a series of Annual Peace Summits is described in these terms:

Regent’s University London hosted the Tutu Foundation Peace Summit 2016 on April the 9th. We are extremely grateful to our long-term partners at Regent’s University London for their continuous support and encouragement. The day proved to be extremely successful as Anna Delaney reports below:

“One of the lessons of history is that we don’t learn the lessons of history” – Martin Bell.

A thought provoking statement if ever there was one.

And thought-provoking very much defined the tone of the day at The International Peace Summit held on Saturday April 9th at Regent’s University in collaboration with the Tutu Foundation UK. The event drew in an audience of over 100 to hear experts in international relations, human rights, policing, terrorism, psychology, mediation and journalism covering topics such as policing conflict, the psychology of conflict, and the process of mediation. A day of informed and candid reflections, as well as challenging and thoughtful questions from a high calibre audience, kept energy levels high from start to finish.

The morning panel session saw Sir Hugh Orde, Peter Sheridan and PC Sakira Suzia stressing the need for “humanising conversations” in policing conflict and the value of and working with the community. Sir Hugh Orde stated,

“You have to believe the unbelievable is possible”

and said that “trust and risks” were vital in any reconciliation. Reflecting upon their experiences in Northern Ireland and the London Riots, all three speakers agreed that there are times for talking and times when that approach is inappropriate, but ultimately no conflict is insoluble.

An equally splendid afternoon panel saw Martin Bell, Tamara Ben-Halim, Mungi Ngomane, Serena Chaudhry and Dr Neven Andjelic share their stories from the ground – reflecting on troubles in Bosnia and Serbia and the Middle East. The speakers were diverse in age and viewpoint, but all emphasised the challenges of mediation and the importance of the language we use; it has the power to either isolate or empower communities.

Paul Randolph and Spenser Hilliard led insightful workshops on “The Psychology of Conflict” and “Mediation In International Conflicts” respectively.

A beaming highlight of the day was the compelling speech from special guest, Nontombi Naomi Tutu, daughter of the Archbishop and renowned human rights activist, who spoke sincerely about recognising the humanity that we share. Nontombi gave us all food for thought when she reflected on forgiveness being a two-way process based on respect and reaching out to one another.

“Building bridges is much more difficult than constructing walls”;

words which resonated powerfully in the room. Nontombi underlined the need to recognise that the person on the other side is human – just like us. Again, acknowledging the humanity that we share is the first step towards successful reconciliation.

When Paul Randolph held the reflections at the end of the day – hope – was the sentiment that seemed to reflect the mood of the room. Whether inspired by a particular remark, story or speaker, audience members expressed the enlightening and positive impact that the summit had had on the way they viewed the future and peace.

There is hope in building bridges. We look forward to the next summit!

For my part, I found the discussion between the three wise police officers the unforgettable highlight of the day: two of them with vast experience of what was actually involved on the ground during the back-breaking process of making the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland really work in practice: the other a young woman who was doing much to bridge the divide between the police and the distrustful communities they serve in parts of North London, who spoke of her personal experiences during the London Riots which followed the death of Paul Duggan.

 

The second of these “International Peace Summits” will take place at the same venue on 1st April 2017. The morning’s fare will include two key-note speeches by politicians, both of them old friends of mine: (Lord) Alex Carlile on The Rule of Law, and (Lord) Paul Boateng, our former High Commissioner in South Africa, on African Economic Empowerment in Post-Conflict Reconstruction.

Between these two set-piece speeches I will be chairing a panel discussion on Justice post Conflict? The panel will include Sir Hugh Orde (one of the stars of last year’s event), Sir Geoffrey Nice QC (who prosecuted Mr Milosevic and has vast experience of post-conflict Yugoslavia), Marina Wheeler QC (whom I helped to train as a mediator long ago), and Sir Alan Ward (my successor as Chair of the Civil Mediation Council).

The morning will finish with a half-hour event with the tantalising title Pan-Cultural Events including Choir.

The highlight of the afternoon will be the hour given over to Voices of the Young – Post Conflict. The contributors, all of them students, will include a Syrian student who won an award as the “Young Arab Woman of the Year”.

Before they speak, Professor Judith Ackroyd will chair a panel on the Human Aspect. It is hoped that Columbian FARC negotiators may be able to come, and the rest of the panel will be made up of a former Africa Editor of the Financial Times[1], a psychiatrist[2], and a former Ambassador[3].

And the third key-note speech will be given by a Zimbabwe Senator[4], in conversation with our former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind.

The day will be wound up by a Question & Answer session , interspersed with Reflections by Paul Randolph, with whom I have conducted mediation training in Estonia, Latvia and Romania, and who has done so much to raise the profile of mediation as a sensible way of resolving disputes for those who find costly long-drawn-out adversarial contests not to their taste.

I am sure that more details of this absorbing day will be available soon on the Tutu Foundation’s website.

 

At the same time as I received details of the event next April, I received the welcome news that the Foundation has received a financial grant from the Mayor of London’s office to take forward in ten more London boroughs the work they did last year in a pilot project In Southwark, work which is described in these terms:

Relationships between the police and working class, black and ethnic minority communities have longstanding historical tensions. Many of the tensions arise from mistrust and negative perceptions between police officers and the young people who live in these areas. More important is the fact that the tensions have been mainly between the police and the predominantly, minority ethnic youths who live in these areas.

One Youth Futures young leader, Mark Murray from South London, had grown up witnessing the growing negative tensions between his family, friends, community and the police and in 2014, following a particularly challenging confrontation with the police himself, he asked why he and other young people could not sit around a table with the police and speak to each other as human beings. It was from here that the project was born and expanded in partnership with the Tutu Foundation and their experience in reducing community conflict through their Conversations for Change programme.

The roundtable embodies the philosophy of ‘Ubuntu’; an African concept that has many meanings but can be understood mainly in terms of the capacity for an individual to express compassion, reciprocity, dignity, humanity and respect. It has gained global recognition through Archbishop Desmond Tutu and was also adopted by Nelson Mandela, who described ‘Ubuntu’ as

a ‘way of life which underpins an open society’.

The project’s ambitious objectives include these two laudable aims:

  • To provide the members of the police force working on the ground and the young people in those communities with the skills and confidence to listen to each other and express themselves to each other;
  • To enable the police and young people to build trust, so that they can work with each other and talk to each other to build safer communities.

I heard something about the success of the Southwark pilot project at a Tutu Foundation event at the BFI last autumn, and I am delighted that a way has been found to take this work forward elsewhere in other parts of London where it is so very badly needed.

[1] Michael Holman.

[2] Dr Tim Ojo.

[3] Boyd McCleary.

[4] David Coltart.

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