Navigating border challenges in 2018 through the Border Compass Project.
The Border Compass Project was funded through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Reconciliation Fund and commenced in March 2018. Through the Project, ICBAN aimed to address the challenges of a changing environment – where one jurisdictional area of the Central Border Region will be in the EU, while the other progresses to leave. The project would also focus on macro challenges such as globalisation, economic shocks or political changes, which require organisations such as ICBAN to react and respond accordingly.
The Border Compass Project had a series of elements and worked in collaboration with different project partners.
Brexit at the Border
‘Brexit at the Border’ was a study in partnership with Queen’s University Belfast and was published in June 2018. The study built on the work of the 2016 research initiative with QUB – ‘Bordering on Brexit’. The study gave a voice to border citizens and undertook to record those voices – through both an online survey which received almost 600 responses and a series of focus groups with 49 participants from across the Central Border Region. The resultant report highlighted the hopes and fears of border citizens in a post-Brexit world and the overriding need to return to protect a hard won and valued peace.
ICBAN ensured those voices were heard by disseminating the resultant report to those involved in high-level negotiations, including the EU’s negotiating team and the UK and Irish Governments. To date, the study has been referenced in over 120 media publications worldwide and a research video was also produced.
The Youthful Voices initiative was delivered with Verbal Arts. The focus of the work was with 14-17 year olds – those who were unable to vote in the Referendum: by virtue of age or jurisdiction. Throughput the duration of the Youthful Voices programme, 54 Reading Room workshops were delivered to 29 young people. A two-day residential was held in Donegal which enabled some intensive discussion sessions, as well as some outdoor activities to encourage the breaking down of barriers. In November a ‘Top Table’ type event was organised which gave young people the opportunity to question local Councillors, MLAs, MPs and TDs on issues pertinent to them. The Youthful Voices programme resulted in a number of young people gaining an OCN Level 3 Accreditation as a Peer Facilitator, which will enable them to deliver the programme to other young people, as ‘Cross-Border Champions’.
A short digital film of the Youthful Voices programme was produced, and which demonstrates the enthusiasm and aspirations of young people living in this border area.
‘Looking Beyond Our Borders’
The impetus for this element of the project is tapping into the experience and learning from other border regions of Europe to counter the consequences of returning to a back-to-back development as a potential consequence of Brexit. The paper examines strategies, models and solutions from other border regions of Europe, where one area within the EU adjoins another area outside of the EU. It explores some of the incentives for cooperation across borders in a changing environment. The report is authored by Mr Martín Guillermo-Ramírez of the Association of European Border Regions and includes case studies from different regions with an EU and non-EU interface.
The aim of the Sustainable Solutions element of the project was to bring together the learning and the outputs of the various elements referenced above into a set of tangible and long-lasting solutions to the challenges facing the Central Border Region. Three Sustainable Solutions workshops were held, with 53 participants attending. These included a workshop between Senior Council Officers and elected representatives on the Board of ICBAN, a session between Community Planning Coordinators from across the area, and a ‘Top Table’ type event which gave young people the opportunity to question local Councillors, MLAs, MPs and TDs on issues pertinent to them.
ICBAN has also produced a Community Planning Mapping document covering the eight Member Council areas. This document has been shared and refined with Community Planners and developed as a resource to inform future cross-border planning and activities.
The need for continued cross-border cooperation was highlighted as a priority as part of a renewed commitment given to future collaboration. Discussions are underway to devise the most appropriate mechanism to enhance the involvement of both the executive and democratic functions of local government in working together through the cross-border partnership.
The Border Compass Final Conference event on ‘The Future of Cross Border Cooperation’ was held in the Slieve Russell Hotel, County Cavan on 30 November 2018. 70 delegates attended; with all eight Member Councils of the Central Border Region (Armagh City Banbridge and Craigavon, Cavan, Donegal, Fermanagh and Omagh, Leitrim, Mid Ulster, Monaghan and Sligo) represented by speakers and delegates. Other Council areas beyond the Region were in attendance, along with key stakeholders from multiple sectors and it was recognised that the challenges facing cross-border cooperation will require concerted efforts across the entire border corridor area. The conference featured several inspiring Case Studies in Cross-Border Cooperation including the UNESCO Global Geopark initiative between Fermanagh & Omagh District Council and Cavan County Council, and work on ‘Developing a Statement of Cooperation on Planning’ by Mid Ulster District Council and Monaghan County Council. Presentations from the Conference are available in ICBAN’s online Library.
The panel session saw questions and answers to stakeholders from across the Region on facets of cross-border cooperation. Participants identified diverse areas for future collaboration including community safety initiatives, well-being, maintaining current employment levels and the environment. The crucial importance of maintaining good cross-border relationships in the current times was also emphasised.