Guest Blog: Parliament and Peace-Building

Guest Contributor
Lord Hylton in Armenia

Lord Hylton in Armenia

I am one of many independent (Crossbench) Peers and would like to introduce you to my background in my first guest blog.

In the late 1960s I visited Northern Ireland as the civil rights protests began to turn into armed conflicts.  In 1971 I began to take part in the work of the House of Lords as an hereditary Member.

From the late 1970s onwards, I became a regular visitor to Northern Ireland.  I was a supporter of a whole range of peace-building groups and activities, all of which prepared the ground for the ceasefires of 1994 and the political agreements of Belfast (1998) and St Andrews (2006).  Prison visiting in both England and Northern Ireland was part of my contribution.  The dynamics of deeply divided societies, human rights issues, confidence-building steps and police and criminal-justice matters were the subjects of my many questions and speeches in Parliament.

When the old Soviet Union broke into its component parts, a friend from West Belfast introduced me to people from the Republic of Moldova, which had suffered a short civil war in 1991 & 1992, and alas remains split to this day.  This led to 10 years of regular visits, conferences and meetings of all kinds.

We worked as external, independent facilitators to bring together civil groups, local authorities and the two rival governments.  We acted in parallel with the official mediators, Russia, the Ukraine and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.  Sadly, no-one has been successful in overcoming the underlying identity problems and the unhelpful influence of a major foreign power, so Moldova remains divided and poor.

More recently I have been to other post-conflict countries, such as Bosnia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.  In all of them, tight political control was suddenly removed.  Nationalism was exploited to further personal ambitions.  Wars followed, displacing many people, wrecking the struggling economies and killing and wounding large numbers.  Conflicts remain unresolved over Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, while Bosnia struggles with the complex Dayton Agreement (1995).

All these experiences deepened my long-standing interest in the Middle-East and very recent involvement with Iraq.  In the latter, a friend with his team is working with religious and other leaders towards national reconciliation.  His efforts helped to bring about a joint Shia and Sunni pronouncement against sectarian violence and the killing of civilians, particularly via suicide bombings.

In Israel and Palestine, colleagues of mine have been building relationships with the political and religious extremes on both sides.  They have used the history of the IRA and Sinn Fein, to show how it is possible to move from the armed struggle to political methods.

In August 2006 there was an appalling war in south Lebanon.  This was followed over the last New Year by the devastating assault on Gaza.  These man-made disasters could have been foreseen and more inclusive dialogue might have prevented them.

In Middle-Eastern culture, trust is often built through shared meals and frequent visits in the worst of times.  My colleagues are trying to build reliable unofficial channels of communication.  I support them, and try to reflect their views in our debates in the House of Lords, as well as the understandable fears and angers of the parties in conflict.

I hope to see the whole world devoting concentrated effort and attention to building sustainable peace in the Middle East.  It will only be sustainable, if it grows from the ground upwards, as well as from the top levels downwards.  It will require the help of Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Thank you for welcoming me to your site – let me know what you think of my first blog.

Lord Hylton

8 comments for “Guest Blog: Parliament and Peace-Building

  1. Croft
    10/03/2009 at 1:47 pm

    I’m afraid I have to make a confession, when your post first popped up with the picture and caption and so used am I to ‘lord surname of placename’ that for a few seconds my brain read Lord Hylton *of* Armenia, which seemed to promise a story! 😀

    Having had a quick look at theyworkforyou you seem well above average for taking part in debates and putting down questions yet – even condensed – it would seem you must spend considerable time abroad. Looking at the issues and areas you mention many would seem outside of the practical areas UK government policy can have great impact. How effective do you think the house can be over such issues? I’d suspect that in some cases government probably finds the issues so intractable that they are probably quite keen to stay as far away as possible.

  2. Blue
    10/03/2009 at 5:42 pm

    Looking forward to the next post.

  3. ladytizzy
    10/03/2009 at 5:42 pm

    I think it is we who should welcome you – it is as much your blog as any other Peer who contributes (minimum of a tenner to put a joke up for Comic Relief).

    Thank you for giving an insight into what matters to you and how you have used your position to count.

  4. 10/03/2009 at 6:12 pm

    It is encouraging to read of such an active involvement in issues outside of the house. Us mere ‘electoral fodder’ often only see or read of the dull or corrupt side of politics these days as the MSM is just not willing to print interesting stories such as yours unless they can find a sleaze element.

  5. 10/03/2009 at 10:52 pm

    Good to have you on-board Lord Hylton. You have a fine array of experience and a lot to give to debates in the House, it seems (to an outsider) that what makes a good Lord is asmuch a function of what Lords do outside the House than inside.

    If you need any tips on how to be a successful blogger, just ask Lord Norton.

    I for one hope you become a regular on the site. 🙂

  6. Senex
    11/03/2009 at 6:20 pm

    Lord Hylton, good post and welcome to the blog. It seems you are a very active member of the Lords’, a diplomat with empathy and one endowed with copious amounts of common sense. I sense you are also somebody who values his independence greatly.

    It must be difficult to summarise a career in and around the House of Lords in just a few lines. I believe you came to the House in 1967? Catching the drift of your post it suggests you may blog on topical foreign affairs as and when they arise?

    Hansard’s dry record has you down as blowing hot and cold on climate change. How does climate change affect you personally and do you feel some topics are hot whilst others are just plain barmy?

  7. beccy83
    12/03/2009 at 11:43 am

    Please see below the responses to your posts from Lord Hylton…….

    Liam: Many thanks for your response. I think you have a good point.

    Alfred: Many thanks for your response. In the House of Lords we perhaps have an advantage over the Commons in that we do not have to worry about constituencies.

    Ladytizzy: Many thanks for your kind welcome. With best wishes.

    Croft: Many thanks for your comments. I have been four times to Armenia, but never for more than a week. The British government cannot be very effective in the various conflicts that are still outstanding from the old Soviet Union. This is part of the reason why most of those conflicts remain in a frozen state. It is fair to say that the US and the United Nations have not been particularly successful either in relation to these old disputes. On a more cheerful note, the House of Lords does from time to time raise issues that have otherwise been overlooked or neglected. Best wishes.

  8. edemprog
    13/03/2009 at 11:33 am

    Lord Hylton’s response to Senex’s comments above:

    Thanks for your comments. Technically, I inherited in 1967, but did not take part in the House of Lords until 1971. Yes, I’m likely to comment on foreign affairs.

    Yes, climate change is important and should be addressed at the same time as current economic problems. Natural causes have been aggravated by man-made pollution. Best wishes.

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