Peace Polls

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Northern Ireland - Peace Building


Everyone agrees that the division between the two communities in Northern Ireland is getting worse. Over twenty-five years of the troubles more and more areas have become effectively segregated. Only a tiny proportion of children attend integrated schools. But is increasing communal separation what people really want? Or have they been driven to it by fear or because there has been no other option. One purpose of the survey analysed in this interim report has been to find out whether ordinary people in Northern Ireland want to live their lives separately or together. This is not just a question of living in separate housing estates or districts. It covers a wide range of bread and butter issues: employment, education, policing and the system of local and regional government. In all of these there is a choice between structures which, intentionally or otherwise, make separate provision for members of the two communities and structures which facilitate sharing and cooperation. There have been surveys on all these matters in the past. But this one is different. Unlike most other opinion polls it has been designed to allow people to express their preferences over the whole range of practical options on each issue rather than simply saying which they like best. And unlike most other opinion polls the people asked were given as much time as they needed to make up their minds. So the survey presents a more considered picture of what a representative sample of people would most like and also what they would be prepared to accept as second or third best on each issue. This should help everyone-including local politicians and the British and Irish governments-to see what compromises are most likely to gain general acceptance.

Download the full report with analysis: SEPARATION OR SHARING? and Questionnaire


It is suggested that the problems of segregated education, conflict and the division of societies is at least as old as the history of formal education in Ireland and has contributed to conflict in Israel, Lebanon and in other post- colonial nation states. A review of social science theory suggests that group identity and attitudes may be most accessible to influence during the years leading up to and including puberty. Using a multi-technique and multi-natural experiment methodology the success of an integrated secondary school for Catholic and Protestant boys and girls in Belfast, Northern Ireland was assessed. New students who came to the integrated secondary school from segregated primary schools were found to have very few friends in the 'other' community even when they lived in parts of the city where they were a minority. However, after five years at the school the children had slightly more friends in the 'other' community than in their own. Past pupils from the school were also found to maintain a significant percentage of friends in the 'other' community in contrast to young adults of the same age at an integrated university. This success in the establishment of positive inter-community friendships was matched by an increase in the reciprocal understanding and acceptance of the respective politics and social identities of the Catholic and Protestant students at the school. Inter-denominational social integration at the school in Northern Ireland was not found to be greatly influenced by social class and gender. However, at a similar school for 'Eastern' and 'Western' Jews in Jerusalem differences in the policies of the school and stronger sociocultural divisions in the wider society made social integration more difficult to achieve in Israel. It was concluded that integrated secondary education can improve inter-community relations in Northern Ireland while segregated education adds to the polarisation of that divided society. Recommendations were made to improve the effectiveness of integrated education within each school and it is suggested that both parents and community leaders should support integrated education through their direct participation and through legislation that would include integrated education as a human right.

Download the full report with questionnaires and analysis: Integrated Education


In an effort to reduce conflict between societies the Member States of the United Nations drew up the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. With reference to education Article 26 of the Declaration contained three clauses to promote justice, peace and freedom through education by making it a universal right that is directed to the establishment of good relations between racial, ethnic and religious groups while remaining subject to parental choice. These rights have been elaborated and strengthened in Articles 13 and 14 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Article 18.4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, by the UNESCO Convention Against Discrimination in Education, various regional Human Rights instruments and most recently in Articles 28 and 29 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. With a certain sense of regret those who worked so hard to include these provisions in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights must be congratulated on their foresight as many deeply divided societies continue to violate these fundamental principles of education established to create what is now termed a 'Culture of Peace' through equality of opportunity, mutual understanding and tolerance. For example, in Israel and Northern Ireland all three clauses of Article 26 have been repeatedly broken while efforts to rectify these Human Rights abuses have been, and continue to be, persistently subject to political manipulation aimed at perverting the endeavours of would be peace builders. In the first part of this paper I will review some of these violations and the steps that have been taken to correct these abuses in the deeply divided societies of Northern Ireland and Israel. In the second part of the paper I will attempt to evaluate the effectiveness of various human rights reporting and complaints procedures in relation to these abuses in Northern Ireland and suggest what future steps could now be taken to strengthen international institutions so that the application of these human rights can be progressively removed from political interference.

Download the full paper: Education, Peace Building and Human Rights