South Africa: The Narcissism of Small Differences - What the Ira Learnt About Negotiation From the ANC

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Padraig O'Malley, a 'professor of peace', describes here how he developed a hypothesis: The protagonists in one conflict who have successfully resolved their differences are best positioned to assist those in another conflict. To test this theory, he and others brought leaders of South Africa and Northern Ireland to a meeting at a secure conference centre adjacent to the De Hoop Nature Reserve in the Western Cape. The relationships that developed helped pave the way to peace talks on Northern Ireland. This is an extract from a new book, Imagine: Reflections on Peace, by the VII Foundation.

I began documenting the bumpy transition from apartheid to democracy in South Africa in late 1989, in a process which involved interviewing teams of negotiators on all sides of the conflict. I had also spent 20 years preoccupied with another thorny conflict - the one that had bedeviled Northern Ireland for a generation. Born in Ireland and educated there and in the United States, I was then a fellow at the University of Massachusetts Boston with a focus on divided societies. I had convened two conferences on Northern Ireland in Massachusetts in 1975 and Virginia in 1985 and interviewed the leadership...

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