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Accepted Paper:

Commoning the Uncommon: Environmental peacebuilding in Northern Ireland  
Niamh Small (Queens University Belfast)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the intersections between environmental activism and peacebuilding in Northern Ireland. Focus is placed upon the mobilizing potential practices of commoning can have for environmental activists in the rebuilding of social ties eroded by legacy of ethnopolitical conflict.

Paper long abstract:

The legacy of the violent ethnopolitical conflict known as ‘The Troubles’ continues to manifest itself in Northern Ireland. As a consequence, high levels of residential, educational and political segregation remain. Political segregation is institutionally solidified through the consociational power sharing agreement, implemented as a transformative vehicle to a less sectarian system. However this portioning of state institutions along ethno-national lines often sees the collective rights of ethnic groups given political legitimacy at the detriment of alternative political viewpoints. In such a context, the very definition of ‘commons’ could be seen to be problematic to implement in Northern Ireland where the lack of commonality between two dominant opposing ethnic groups remains institutionally enshrined.

This paper examines the peacebuilding potential that the commons in practice can have among environmental activist groups in Northern Ireland. In addition to promoting pro-environmental behaviour, practices of commoning can perform a peacebuilding function by providing a facilitatory space for the rebuilding of social ties amongst citizens that have been eroded through decades of conflict and division. With natural resources such as clean air and water conceived as something concerning all individuals irrespective of ethnonationalist background, the fight to protect them from the effects of anthropogenic climate breakdown can be seen as an important vehicle for widespread community engagement to build lasting cooperation and sustainable peace. Therefore this paper will closely examine the peacebuilding potential of the concept of the commons to unify citizens and communities and provide opened spaces for new means of participation in political activity.

Panel P019a
The everyday politics of the commons and social movements I
  Session 1 Friday 29 July, 2022, -