Reconciliation Fund Projects
Navigating the challenges in cross-border cooperation
Three projects have received funding support from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Reconciliation Fund: Border Animator, Border Navigator, and Border Compass. These initiatives have enabled ICBAN and stakeholders to focus on 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, as a result of Brexit. The projects have also had a strategic focus on macro-challenges such as globalisation, the pandemic health crisis, economic shocks, and political changes, which require organisations such as ICBAN to react and respond accordingly.
BORDER ANIMATOR (2020)
ICBAN, together with project partners, the International Centre for Local and Regional Development (ICRLD), delivered a modular programme of capacity building and animation for Management Board members and Senior Council Officials between 28th May and 2nd July 2020. The objective was to develop skills in how to more confidently address challenges of sustainability, Brexit, the public health pandemic and other impacts on the Region, through strategic and collaborative responses.
The programme commenced with an initial introductory session, on ‘The Principles of Cross-Border Co-operation’. This was followed by three Modules, delivered across five sessions, on the following:
- ‘Cross-Border Cooperation: The ICBAN Management Board of Management as Leaders and Facilitators of Change’
- ‘Maximising lessons from other regions, including border areas’
- ‘From Case-Making to Place-Making
Due to restrictions on gatherings and meetings caused by the public health pandemic, the sessions were delivered online using a mix of group sessions, seminars, workshops, discussions with guest speakers, and digital interactive tools. Programme content was also appropriately adapted to take into consideration the implications of the developing public health crisis.
The programme was very successful with an average of 21 participants across the various sessions. Personal working relations between the various local authority members has been enhanced through the development of a strong collective and cohesive grouping.
The draft ‘Framework of Regional Priorities for the Central Border Region, 2020-2028’ which was developed through the programme will shape the direction and delivery of key ambitions and initiatives for the Central Border Region going forward. This has been underpinned by 3 x detailed post-module reports comprising the various module contents, interactions with participants, and emerging themes and priorities, along with a findings report on the impacts of Covid-19 on the Region.
BORDER NAVIGATOR 2019/2020
The initiative provides an opportunity to build upon the outcomes of the 2018 Border Compass Project and has two key project elements.
- ‘The Border into Brexit’ study
This will be the third study completed between ICBAN and Queen’s University Belfast. This latest project provides a voice for border region residents and works on the impacts of Brexit on everyday life and the potential for a ‘No Deal’ Brexit scenario. The initiative included an online survey, focus groups and engagements with key stakeholders. The final report ‘The Border into Brexit’ was published in December 2019.
- Strategic Development Forum
The ‘Border Compass’ Project had highlighted that there was a renewed commitment to continued cross-border cooperation by local authorities and other stakeholders to help deal with the challenges of our time. ‘Border Navigator’ now provides opportunities for these stakeholders to come together and focus on the most important strategic development opportunities and challenges. ICBAN will be working closely with the International Centre for Local and Regional Development (ICLRD) on this project element – a key element of which will be the production of a new ‘Strategic Action Plan for the Central Border Region’.
BORDER COMPASS 2018
The Border Compass Project has also had a series of elements, which required collaborative working between different project partners.
‘Brexit at the Border’ study
‘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, capturing the enthusiasm and aspirations of young people living in this border area.
‘Looking Beyond Our Borders’
This element focussed on the experience and learning from other border regions of Europe to help 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. Mr. Breandán Ó Caoimh (Research Affiliate of the International Centre for Local and Regional Development – ICLRD) chaired and facilitated the gathering. 70 delegates attended; with all eight Member Councils of the ICBAN Partnership represented. The key theme was 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. The panel session saw questions and answers to stakeholders from across the Region on facets of cross-border cooperation, including, community safety, well-being, maintaining current employment levels and the environment. Presentations from the event are available in ICBAN’s online Library.