The research examines the potential of peace agreements to contribute to significant social and economic transformation. We study how the Good Friday / Belfast Agreement (and subsequent agreements) deal with socio-economic concerns and how those bargains been implemented (or not) in Northern Ireland. We focus on how civil society groups and grassroots organisations have made use of the different mechanisms or possibilities offered by a transitional process to implement different provisions of the Agreement, and used the Agreement to leverage further comprehensive socio-economic claims.
The next stage of this research is to broaden our analysis out and consider the experience in selected other countries in collaboration with the Hub networks in Colombia. With our colleagues, we plan a comparative analysis of the role of civil society organisations in the implementation of the peace agreements in Northern Ireland and Colombia. Both countries have experienced lengthy and damaging conflicts and have had a protracted post-conflict phase. While different in context and scale, they share some common factors related to the need to tackle the socio-economic and cultural roots of the conflict. The conflicts have involved numerous political, social, economic, class and other dimensions.
Both conflicts have colonial dimensions and struggle with the legacies of recent and long-term violence. Both conflicts demonstrate that peace agreements do not necessarily mean there is an end to conflict, that peacebuilding requires a continued process in which the peace agreement is the beginning, then we can speak of post-agreement societies but it is not possible to speak of post-conflict societies. Civil society – its role and potential in the implementation of a peace agreement – is another key factor across both contexts. In both societies, civil society has been damaged and constricted by conflict, but has also demonstrated resilience, imagination and determination.