Implementing a contact-based peacebuilding intervention for youth in a post-accord zone: Challenges and opportunities

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Abstract

Background: This study aimed to: (i) understand the factors that hindered the establishment of a contact-based peacebuilding programme (Peace4Youth, managed by the Special European Union Programmes Body) in Northern Ireland and the border region 20 years after the peace agreement; and (ii) understand the macro, meso and micro factors that influenced the programme’s ability to achieve the stated outcomes for youth.

Methods: A case study design was employed. Six focus groups were conducted in June-July 2018 with 36 youth workers from seven out of the eleven projects that were established as part of the ‘Peace4Youth’ Programme. Focus groups were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed using Thematic Analysis guidelines.

Findings: Challenges that practitioners encountered during project initiation included difficulties recruiting equal numbers of Catholics/Protestants (given the social geography of NI and the increasing number of youth who do not identify with this bipartite social categorisation), and the short-time frame (implications for establishing trust between communities and projects). Factors that negatively influenced the programme’s ability to achieve its outcomes included: bureaucracy; resourcing; the extreme levels of disadvantage faced by youth; and youth feeling simultaneously fearful about intergroup contact but also not perceiving intergroup relations as a pertinent issue in their lives. Positive influences included the youth/staff mentoring relationships; the flexible, youth-led nature of group activities; and the support of a team of experts in youth work for programme staff.

Discussion: Findings are discussed with reference to the optimal conditions of successful intergroup contact and include recommendations for post-accord peacebuilding practice with youth.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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