NORTHERN IRELAND/IRAQ: Purvis Takes Peace Lessons to Iraq

Monday, January 24, 2011
Belfast Telegraph
Western Europe
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A Northern Ireland politician is travelling to Iraq to pass on lessons learned in the peace process.

But Dawn Purvis said she also hopes to learn from the experience of the people of the war-torn country.

The independent MLA, former leader of the loyalist Progressive Unionist Party, said Northern Ireland still had a lot to learn on breaking down barriers in its own society.

Ms Purvis will take part in the conference The Role of Women in Peace-building, Reconciliation and Accountability in Iraq, being held this week in Erbil, Kurdistan-Iraq.

The East Belfast representative said: "I am honoured to be participating in such an important event, one which will have a positive impact on the rebuilding of Iraq. We in Northern Ireland have been through a lot and have much to contribute to other nations emerging from conflict.

"However I am not simply travelling to teach, but also to be taught. While we have come a long way, Northern Ireland still has much to learn in respect of conflict transformation and also much further to go in promoting gender equality in public life."

It is hoped the conference will foster dialogue between Iraqi politicians, civil society leaders and activists to help develop strategies for gender equality and reconciliation.

While acting as an international expert at the event, the Stormont politician said she hoped to bring some lessons home. But Ms Purvis said it was also important to pass on the lessons learned from the ending of the Troubles.

She said: "When Northern Ireland began to build peace, we received enormous help from other nations and governments who had 'been there'.

"I did not hesitate when I was asked to travel to Iraq as I felt I have a responsibly to do likewise for other nations."