Bridge of Hope is uniquely involved in the field of Transitional Justice, which is an area of research and practice applied to societies emerging from conflict. Together with our partner at the Transitional Justice Institute (TJI) at Ulster University (UU), we have developed a grassroots programme that speaks to people whose lives have been changed by conflict. The work centres on the Transitional Justice Grassroots Toolkit which invites experiences of conflict and transition to be placed within a local and global context. The Toolkit considers how transition works in practice and asks what remains to be done. Former Human Rights Commissioner and TJI Professor Monica McWilliams believes this work is unique, and unlike anything else in the world. It has recently been translated into Arabic and Spanish for use right across the globe.
The programme is based on the principle that people living in areas that experienced the worst impacts of the conflict have a vital contribution to make to the work of dealing with the past. It has singularly involved disadvantaged Belfast communities who are experiencing high levels of social and economic deprivation as well as health inequalities. These same communities were disproportionately affected by the conflict. For example within one square mile of the Ashton Centre, 635 people lost their lives and over 2,500 people were injured as a result of the conflict. Against this backdrop, the Toolkit Programme frames a broader conversation about what building blocks are required to create a more equitable and empowered society.
The Transitional Justice Toolkit Grassroots Programme has been delivered to nearly 600 people to date. This includes communities from Mount Vernon, New Lodge, Tigers Bay, Falls Women’s Centre, Shankill Women’s Centre, West Belfast women’s groups, UU Community Development degree students and international summer schools connected to TJI. A ‘Training for Trainers’ programme, accredited by UU and worth 40 undergraduate credits had its first intake of 12 trainees in September 2015 and completed in January 2016 with a theory to practice residential. The highly innovative community-academic training programme involved trainees learning how to effectively deliver the Transitional Justice Grassroots Toolkit to individuals and communities moving out of conflict.
Director of TJI and Professor of Human Rights and Constitutional Law Rory O’Connell said:
“The Transitional Justice Institute is honoured to be involved in this project with our partners in Bridge of Hope. As a research institute, TJI adopts an action-oriented research strategy which involves working closely with our partners at local, national and international level so as to deliver on our research and education objectives and to serve the community. Thanks to this approach, TJI is ranked first for impact in law in the UK’s Research Excellence Framework 2014. Our work with Bridge of Hope, spearheaded by Eilish Rooney, is a perfect expression of our approach to research.”