European Parliament Committee back de Brún's PEACE report
The European Parliament Regional Development committee has overwhelmingly backed a report on the EU-funded PEACE programme written by Sinn Féin Six-County MEP Bairbre de Brún.
Speaking after the vote Ms de Brún said:
"I am delighted at the practically unanimous support MEPs have given to my report today. This report was written in consultation with grassroots activists involved in PEACE and reflects the great work done for national reconciliation by PEACE. It also draws some conclusions which I hope will be useful as PEACE III unfolds and as the Task Force appointed by Commissioner Hübner gets down to business."
The report (the first to be drafted in Irish) is scheduled to be voted on by the whole parliament in May.
Note to Editors
Regional Development Committee endorses PEACE programme lessons
The experience gained from the PEACE programmes in Ireland, positive results and best practice, what may be improved, challenges still to be faced and lessons to be learned are set out in an own-initiative report by Bairbre de Brún (GUE/NGL), approved by the Regional Development Committee on 27 March with 41 votes in favour, 1 against and 1 abstention.
Lessons from these programmes could help elsewhere, within and beyond EU borders. The possibility of creating a Europe-wide network of regions and cities living with, or emerging from, conflict and exclusion is now under discussion, notes the rapporteur.
- Local empowerment is essential to peace-building, because civil society participation improves policy making and governance.
- Experience in dealing with EU funds, and in developing provision mechanisms that involve the voluntary sector, non-governmental organisations and local authorities, could serve in other, similar funding programmes.
- Establishing a network of enterprise centres in deprived areas contributes to economic and social development, and helps boost confidence and hope.
- Co-operation among participants in EU-funded programmes should not stop once EU funding comes to an end - government departments are asked to consider how to maintain this work, so as to ensure that mainstream funding continues thereafter.
- When structuring future initiatives, the Commission is asked, in relation to its task force on the North of Ireland, to replicate the "active citizenship" approach from the PEACE I and PEACE II programmes, and to step up its support for infrastructure improvement.
- Cross-border work is central to regenerating urban and rural communities, and should be further developed, as should [co-operation between local chambers of commerce and] working relationships and forums for the voluntary and community sectors on both sides of the border and for voluntary organisations that already work on a cross-border basis.
- Funding programmes should make widespread use of both large and small-scale local consultations and include schemes that allow for the approval of small grants to fund work that is needed at short notice [as well as schemes that allow for long-term sustainability and can make a contribution to local communities].
- A reduction in bureaucracy is needed to ensure that small projects are not overburdened.
- Progress takes time. Peace-building is an evolutionary process, and individual grants need longer time frames to allow projects to make a difference.
- It is important to consult the voluntary and community sectors in order to develop local strategies, and local businesses are also influential participants.
- Development in rural areas requires greater synergies between rural and regional development funding than has been the case to date.
- A data base could be created as a learning tool for work on peace and reconciliation at home and abroad, including success stories from projects funded by PEACE I, PEACE II and the International Fund for Ireland. Experience from projects under these programmes should inform other international peace-building work, as part of a two-way process.
PEACE programmes benefit a wide range of sectors, areas, groups and communities and encourage cross-community projects. The bulk of PEACE funding is managed by local partners and NGOs, enabling various sections of the community to work together.
The Special Support Programme for Peace and Reconciliation 1995-1999 (PEACE I), allocated €750,000,000 to 15,000 projects. Designed with a lot of local community input, it helped legislators to learn how to work with voluntary sector and community partners.
The EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation 2000-2006 (PEACE II), allocated €994,000,000 to 7,000 projects. PEACE II placed more emphasis on the economy and economic viability, but some of the "bottom-up" approach was lost, says the rapporteur.
The current PEACE III programme (2007-2013) is expected to provide total funding of about €333,000,000. It stresses reconciliation, and seeks to use the work of Hamber and Kelly1.
Since 1989, the EU has also been a key contributor to the International Fund for Ireland, established by the Irish and British governments in 1986. The other contributors are the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Under PEACE II programme measure 4.1, there was an exchange of experience at project level between areas across Europe and further afield, including Albania, Belarus, Moldova, Serbia, the Ukraine and Bosnia.
Regional Development Committee