“Coronavirus — baby and mom” by https://www.vperemen.com is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In my work dealing with the impact of political violence, a constant challenge is reminding people that when addressing survivors’ needs during times of conflict, it is the social context that is often the primary stressor.

For example, as much as therapy for victims of conflict is useful, its value is limited if the conflict’s legacy persists and the social environment is destroyed.

You also cannot think about conflict without understanding that it has differential impacts. In Northern Ireland, for example, the neighbourhoods with the highest conflict death rate are those with the highest levels of poverty.

When it comes…


Handing over of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report

I started working in Northern Ireland in 1996, the first question I was always asked was: “Did Northern Ireland need a South African Truth and
Reconciliation Commission (TRC)?” This was understandable, as I was at the time working in South Africa with victims testifying before the TRC that ran from 1995 until 2003. The troubling thing, however, is that I am still regularly asked that same question nearly 25 years later. During this time, how many victims have died without knowing the truth, or obtaining justice for atrocities?

The failure to deal effectively with the past remains a stain on…


Our Halloween Turnip 2020

Turns out the story of Halloween is somewhat like the story of the grey squirrel. Brought to the UK and Ireland from the US in Victorian times as living-ornaments for the wealthy, the adaptable and competitive grey squirrel has thrived contributing to the decline of the indigenous red squirrel. If you asked a child in Ireland to draw a squirrel more than likely, they would pen a grey rather than a red squirrel. Conversely, Halloween, now considered the most quintessential of so-called US consumption holidays, was a late import to the US from Ireland. …


“MERS Coronavirus Particle” by NIAID is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In these challenging times, the University is looking to develop new courses. I suggest we offer a course in “Twitterdemiology”. The degree takes typically 2–3 months to complete, involves sharing, preferably uninformed, opinions on Twitter about the spread of diseases, preferably late at night and slightly drunk. A bonus is you never have to wear a mask during class. Involves some study in terms of looking at the occasional graph on a few websites and making a hasty conclusion. The degree is wholly part-time. …


“Statue of Cecil John Rhodes at UCT” in Cape Town by barbourians is licensed with CC BY 2.0. The statue was removed in April 2015.

Recently I saw a piece quoting the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford, Louise Richardson, saying removing from Oriel College the statue of Cecil John Rhodes, the colonial administrator and financier, risks hiding history. The UK Prime Minister has also expressed the view, in a series of Tweets noting, particularly in relation to the statue of Winston Churchill, that “statues teach us about our past, with all its faults”. Am I the only one who thinks this is nonsense?

Statues are not about history or pedagogy but commemoration. Should we commemorate people like Cecil John Rhodes today?

If the Vice-Chancellor is so concerned…


South Africa has a new leader; the current negotiators in the North feel like a spent force

“South Africa flag” by S Martin is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

In a strange way the South Africa and Northern Ireland peace processes have always been linked. In the 1990s both were heralded as examples of how deep divisions could be overcome, and co-operation fostered between former enemies. Other connections were more direct, such as the former ANC lead negotiator and now new South African president Cyril Ramaphosa’s role in the decommissioning processes as an inspector on behalf of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning.

Two decades later, however, both peace processes have lost…


As part of his recent state visit to the UK, President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia made a stopover in Belfast. The visit, which was planned for several months, took on a new significance given the October “No” vote in a referendum to endorse the peace agreement between the Colombian government and Farc.

President Santos has routinely noted that Northern Ireland is a “reminder of what is possible” and various delegations of politicians, civil society, academia and business from Northern Ireland have interacted with the peace process in Colombia over the years. It is clear from the visit that President…


Frederik de Klerk with Nelson Mandela — World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 1992 by Copyright World Economic Forum (www.weforum.org) is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Days after Nelson Mandela’s release in 1990 I went to a massive welcome home rally at Soccer City — the stadium on the outskirts of Soweto that would host the World Cup final two decades later.

The day was one of unparalleled elation. I remember people walking for miles to see Mandela. As I neared the stadium in my old Toyota, people started to jump on the car exhausted from walking. I arrived at the stadium with 6 people in the car, and 10 people on it and with a dented roof. But I didn’t care. …


“Union” by Reciprocal of Phi Photography is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Northern Ireland has made massive strides towards peace since the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement was signed 15 years ago.

The agreement is viewed globally as a positive model — particularly in the groundbreaking way that it guarantees nationality and identities, regardless of the status of Northern Ireland.

Politicians should be commended that, in spite of their different political aspirations, they have established the power-sharing institutions.

But in spite of this, those of us who study and practise conflict transformation would view the peace here as a negative peace. …


Watching Felix Baumgartner free-fall from space and break the sound barrier was extraordinary. As he climbed out of his little balloon with the curve of the earth below him, I was in awe of both what he had decided to do and the sheer beauty of the earth below.

But what I found equally remarkable was his attitude. Despite the seeming madness of his space dive, he says he is not an adrenaline junkie — rather, he says, he is a ‘risk manager’. He also seemed acutely aware of his family throughout the feat, saying he was worried about dying…

Brandon Hamber

Professor of Peace at Ulster University in Northern Ireland. Medium is my popular writing space. Academic publications at brandonhamber.com

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