As Northern Ireland continues its post-conflict transition, there is increasing pressure to create the civilianised face for demobilised organisations. In order to achieve this for the UVF, ACT has developed a new strategy to fully implement the objectives outlined in the Statement of Intent (May 2007), whereby all ‘volunteers’ were encouraged to ‘assume a non-military civilianised role.’
In order to realise this, ACT addresses division and violence at the root cause by encouraging and supporting its members to develop non-violent responses to conflict; by empowering its members to participate in the political arena; by encouraging former combatants to adopt more transparent, positive roles in their local communities and by promoting and supporting women’s participation in, and engagement with, former combatants in peace building efforts
ACT has also created a public discourse about the Troubles/paramilitary actions through a permanent exhibition – which forms an integral part of its conflict transformation workspace; whereby former combatants discuss their journey and peace building efforts with young people, community groups, academics and students, local, national and international visitors. The exhibition is a vital component of ACT’s transformation efforts as it is a strong, practical example of a ‘bottom up’ approach to assist former combatants and the general Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist (PUL) community to become reconciled with the past, whilst facilitating civic engagement and inter/intra community dialogue. As such, ACT acknowledges the importance of promoting narratives as a model of empowerment and to build capacity. Such efforts resonate with community based initiatives in other transitional settings, where there is a lack of confidence in the state institutions to sustain and consolidate peace for the long term.