The United States has supported peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland for decades. As President Obama has said, the people of Northern Ireland and their leaders have traveled a great distance since the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Critical work remains, however, and the United States will continue to assist in building a strong society, vibrant economy, and enduring peace in Northern Ireland.
Legacy of Support to the People and Leaders of Northern Ireland on the Path to Prosperity and Lasting Peace: For decades, the United States has supported the efforts of the people and leaders of Northern Ireland to realize a prosperous, lasting peace. The United States’ commitment is broad and deep, with strong support from across the political spectrum. More than two decades before 1998’s landmark Good Friday Agreement, President Carter stated that the United States “wholeheartedly supports [a] peaceful means for finding a just solution that involves both parts of the community of Northern Ireland,” offering financial assistance in the event that an agreement was reached. President Reagan reiterated President Carter’s promise when the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed years later. In 1986, President Reagan’s commitment was realized when the United States agreed to provide assistance to a newly created International Fund for Ireland (IFI) that would support economic and social development in those areas of Northern Ireland and the border counties of Ireland that had been most affected by the conflict. The United States remains fully committed to working with the people and institutions of Northern Ireland to implement the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and the 2006 St. Andrews Agreement. This was shown by the dedicated work of many senior U.S. officials who encouraged and supported political negotiations.
Collaboration to Promote Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation: Through assistance provided via IFI, the United States has demonstrated its commitment to an inclusive civil society in Northern Ireland, nurturing the peace process in local communities. Ninety-seven community organizations have completed the IFI-funded Community Leadership Program, a training and leadership program designed to bolster community groups and organizations.
Educational and Cultural Exchanges: Hundreds of students and scholars from the United States and Northern Ireland have participated in the Fulbright Program, with U.S. scholars benefitting from the Fulbright-Northern Ireland Governance and Public Policy Award and senior public sector employees from Northern Ireland benefitting from the Fulbright Northern Ireland Public Sector Award. A new Fulbright-Northern Ireland Assembly Award will be offered this year for American students to study in Northern Ireland. In addition, hundreds of Northern Ireland civil society leaders, including legislators, artists, and activists, have participated in U.S. government-funded professional exchange programs. For example, in April 2013, two senior staff of the Northern Ireland Assembly participated in an International Visitor Leadership Program on legislative management practices.
Economic Cooperation: The United States is an important economic partner for Northern Ireland, supporting economic growth in the region. In the period 2002-2012, $1.6 billion (nearly 35 percent) of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Northern Ireland came from the United States. In the past five years, more than 50 U.S. investment projects have resulted in more than $1 billion in investment and almost 5,000 new jobs in Northern Ireland. In addition to the jobs that have been created through U.S. FDI in Northern Ireland, the assistance that the U.S. government provided to the IFI contributed to the creation of an additional 57,000 jobs in Northern Ireland and the border counties of Ireland.
Advances in Scientific Research that Promote Economic Development: The U.S.-Ireland Research and Development Partnership is a pillar of our scientific research and economic development with Northern Ireland. The partnership seeks to accelerate scientific research and economic development by encouraging collaboration and coordination among scientists from the United States, Ireland, and Northern Ireland in five priority areas: health, sensor technology, nanotechnology, telecommunications, and energy and sustainability. The partnership also encourages efforts to bring innovations to market by fostering private sector connections. In November 2012, the State Department led a delegation of U.S. entrepreneurs and technology leaders to explore partnership opportunities.
Promoting Women as Political and Social Leaders: The United States has also promoted the instrumental role of women in society, particularly in promoting peace and security. In 1998, the U.S. government launched the Northern Ireland Vital Voices Initiative to unleash the leadership potential of women to transform lives and accelerate peace and prosperity in their communities. Former Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, Melanne Verveer, traveled to Belfast, Northern Ireland, in December 2012 to promote the advancement of women and engage with leaders and civil society representatives. Ambassador Verveer spoke on Women, Peace, and Security at the University of Ulster, celebrated the contribution of women active in advancing the Northern Ireland peace process, and met with representatives of the Women in Business Northern Ireland organization. IFI is also funding activities that seek to promote the role of women in the Irish peace process. Eighteen women’s groups have asked to participate in the IFI-funded “Learning through Engagement” project, through which urban and rural women’s groups are connecting across both geographic and sectarian lines.