Finance Minister Hears Sector Views on New Peace Plus Programme
In the meeting, held at Minister Murphy's request, NICVA and a range of representatives from organisations across Northern Ireland with experience of the previous PEACE and Interreg programmes since 1995, discussed key lessons from these for the new PEACE Plus programme.
Key issues highlighted in the discussion included the following -
1. The importance of Peace Plus being a Special Programme to meet today's peace-bulding and co-operation needs, not a top-up to mainstream public spending
Concerns were raised that the Peace Plus programme should not be used to top-up or fill gaps in mainstream public budgets, or to plug the gaps potentially left by the ending of other programmes such as the European Social Fund (ESF) Programme, but that it should be a programme to directly address the peace and reconciliation and cross-border co-operation needs of today.
2. The need to ensure that bureaucracy isn't a barrier to accessing Peace Plus funding
Sector representatives highlighted their concerns that the bureaucracy involved in accessing and accounting for Peace Plus money should not be barrier to organisations applying for funding, which a number believed it had become under previous PEACE programmes. It was vital that past experience or the perception of PEACE money as being difficult to access and manage did not colour perceptions of and willingness to seek support from the new programme.
3. The need to value both the financial and relationship-building benefit of the programme and to be prepared to take risks to maximise the benefits
It was acknowledged by a number of the sector representatives that a significant element of the value of previous PEACE programmes in particular, had been not their financial contribution to projects, but also their value in forging new relationships and encouraging closer joint working and negotiation between people who would not previously have worked closely together. It was acknowledged that previous PEACE partnership structures had played an important role in peace-buildiing and reconcilation by enabling people to do business differently and that this experience should inform future programme design. The value of previous PEACE programmes in taking risks and being prepared to support projects in the knowledge that not all of them would work successfully was highlighted as a positive feature which should be considered in the future Peace Plus programme.
4. The need to address the legacy of conflict and current peace and reconciliation needs
Sector representatives highlighted to the Minister that the new Peace Plus programme had an important contribution to make in addressing current peace and reconciliation needs including tackling sectarianism and racism, and through projects to address the legacy of conflict on public spaces and interfaces, as well as creating new shared space. It was important that this focus was retained and that the programme was not simply targeted at broad public spending priorities; particularly given the pressures on many budgets at this time.
5. The need to build upon the legacy of cross-border statutory/voluntary sector co-operation built under previous Interreg programmes
In relation to the legacy of previous Interreg programmes in particular, the point was made that Interreg had made a major contribution to developing partnership between statutory bodies and voluntary and community organisations, for example in health, and putting in place vital cross-border services that needed to not be lost and to be built upon through the future Peace Plus programme.
Minister Murphy welcomed the opportunity to hear these perspectives and was keen to engage further on the issues raised. He underlined the need to ensure that the new Peace Plus programme did not become simply a top-up to mainstream budgets but remained a special EU programme with a clear and distinct focus on peace and reconciliation, co-operation and partnership.
NICVA's full response to the Peace Plus consultation, based on discussions at a major sector consultation event in Feburary can be read here.
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