Cumulative Impact Case Study

TitleCumulative Impact Case Study
Publication TypeBook
Subtitle / Series TitleHow Did Northern Ireland Move Towards Peace?
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsFitzduff, N, Williams, S
Number of Pages56 pp.
PublisherCDA Collaborative Learning Projects - Reflecting on Peace Practice Project
CityCambridge, MA
Accession Number1313

(The following text forms the Executive Summary of the Study)
Northern Ireland has in recent years become less violent and contested, more peaceful and stable, though by no means perfectly peaceful and just. How did this happen, and what can be learned from it? Based on interviews with a wide range of actors in Northern Ireland - political, paramilitary, civil society, and government figures - this study summarises what people on the spot think brought about change.
Mapping the 73 answers to the question: "To what do you attribute the changes in Northern Ireland?" reveals that more than half were initiatives of civil society, and another quarter were government-initiated. They included all five areas of work identified as necessary to peace-building: political options, righting injustice and inequity, conflict transformation, cross-community dialogue, and managing diversity. This study focuses particularly on the four initiatives which were cited twice as often as any other: The Hume-Adams talks; work with prisoners; the Anglo-Irish Agreement; and Fair Employment legislation. These four were initiated respectively by a NI politician, by civil society, by the two governments together, and by the British government. They led to structural and systemic change, as well as changes in attitudes, perceptions, and behaviours.
The authors conclude with a series of hypotheses which could be tested against reality, both in Northern Ireland and elsewhere, including:
- Different initiatives can have a cumulative effect when the provide assurance that all issues and grievances will be address.
- Civil society was important both because it provided a multiplicity of programmes, and because its low profile and engagement with armed paramilitary organisations provided crucial contacts.
- Actors at all levels had important contributions to make: grass-roots communities, NGOs, national and international organisations, paramilitaries, politicians, and local, national, and international governments.
- It was helpful to have a complex pattern of initiatives, including some 'constructive redundancy.'
- Societies coming out of conflict have to do more than others, and government in particular has to meet higher standards than most in order to rebuild trust.
- Paradigm shifts, sea-changes in society's perceptions, were associated with iconic events. The most effective peace programmes were able to consolidate and build on these paradigm shifts.
- Acts of courageous individuals, visionary leadership, and changes in policy and structure all contributed to the change in Northern Ireland.

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