Building Peace & Democracy in Ireland North and South

The conference on the ‘Role of the Community and Voluntary Sector in
Building Peace and Democracy’ held in Dundalk on the 15th June 2006 was
the culmination of a series of meetings and workshops held by the CWC in
2005 with the community sector.1 These all expressed a growing concern
about the way in which their role was being increasingly and erroneously
defined by the state as a service delivery function. Participants at these events
felt that this was being done to the exclusion of the empowering, participative,
social change role that defines community work and the community sector.
(The CWC understands the community sector as consisting of community
groups and non-governmental organisations active at local, national or
international level in tackling poverty and inequality). In response to this
demand from the sector the CWC undertook to organise a major conference
on the role of the sector and obtained funding from the Community
Foundation of Northern Ireland ‘Social Justice Initiative Fund’ to hold such a
conference.

The Dundalk Conference set out to look at the role of the community and
voluntary sector in advancing justice, peace, equality and social inclusion; to
examine the changing context in which that work takes place, and explore the
role the sector needs to take into the future, particularly vis-à-vis the state. It
provided an opportunity to reflect on the work of the community and
voluntary sector north and south in promoting the inclusion of excluded
communities and in spearheading work on developing an all-island set of
values, principles and standards in community work. It was also an
opportunity to discuss the changing context in which this work is taking place
– within the context of both the advancing peace process and the changing
nature of Irish society north and south as it becomes more diverse. At the
same time the relationship between the state and the community and
voluntary sector is changing and there is concern within the community sector
about being pushed toward a service delivery role rather than a collective
process for social change that includes advocacy, empowerment, and
widening of democratic participation.

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Building Peace and Democracy in Ireland North and South (.pdf)