Visitors to Derry this summer will “witness the transformation that peace can bring to a city and to a people”, according to the World President of Rotary International, Sakuji Tanaka.
In an online video invitation to Rotary members worldwide, the Japanese millionaire businessman said he was “looking forward” to his visit to the city where he will officially open the local Rotary club’s Peace conference.
In a little over a month the Japanese paper magnate will arrive in Derry, for the event which marks the 15th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement and the culmination of his Rotary year of ‘Peace through Service’.
The Londonderry Rotary Club’s International Peace Conference, hosted in association with the University of Ulster’s International Conflict Research Institute (INCORE), is to held in the Millennium Forum from May 24-26.
Steering Committee Chair, John McMonagle, said the fact that the event is taking place on the same weekend as BBC Radio One’s ‘One Big Weekend’ will show “Derry as a place where things happen”.
He added that it will be a perfect opportunity to showcase the transformation of city from the depths conflict and its potential for the future. “Rotary across the world is made up of business leaders and there’s a possibility of people who have never been here before thinking maybe this city is a good place to invest. It’s a chance to showcase what we are and where we are to a lot of big movers and shakers in business from around the world.”
Local Rotary Club President, Gavin Killeen, said the conference will be “a celebration of the outbreak of peace in Derry”. He added: “The Peace Conference is open to everyone interested in building a better society here.
“Everyone is welcome to the conference, which provides local people and visitors with a chance to view Northern Ireland’s journey from conflict through reconciliation to peace in the context of other international peace initiatives.”
Mr Killeen explained that a major driving factor for organising the conference was the fact that “2013 is a landmark year” for the city. “It is the 15th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement; the year Derry celebrates its designation as the first UK city of Culture; the 400th anniversary of the granting of the city’s charter; the 90th anniversary of the Rotary Club of Londonderry and the 20th anniversary of the founding of INCORE, the University of Ulster’s centre of excellence in peace studies.”
Mr Tanaka is just one of a host of internationally renowned figures who will address the conference. He will be joined by keynote speakers Juan Jose Ibarretxe Markuartu, the former Basque President and architect of the culture-led regeneration of the Basque Country; Roelf Meyer, the chief negotiator for the South African National Party in the talks that ended Apartheid, and ChouChou Namagambe, a gender activist working to protect women in conflict in the Congo.
The Conference - From Peacemaking to Peacebuilding ~ Journeys towards Reconciliation - aims to provide everyone interested in a more peaceful society the opportunity to celebrate what has been achieved in the 15 years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. The event will explore work that is being done in Northern Ireland, South Africa, The Basque Country and the Democratic Republic of Congo to build and embed peace.
A session on ‘Making the Peace’ will examine Northern Ireland’s journey. ‘Building the Peace’ will be delivered by Roelf Meyer, the chief negotiator of the National Party and former Minister of Constitutional Affairs in South Africa, who will reflect on the negotiations with the African National Congress which resulted in the end of apartheid and democratic elections in that country. ‘Working the Peace’ examines the Basque Case, with Juan Jose Ibarretxe Markuartu who was President of the Basque Country from 1999 to 2009. Additional speakers over the weekend will include Northern Ireland’s first Police Ombudsman Nuala O’ Loan, political commentator Eamonn McCann and politicians Dawn Purvis and Gregory Campbell as well as a senior representative of the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister.
The programme for the conference can be viewed at www.rotaryglobalpeaceforumderry-londonderry.com where bookings can also be made.