Some new insights into the psychology of individuals and large groups in a world of changing conflicts

The use of overwhelming force no longer guarantees victory in war. Under what conditions do supposedly weaker conflict actors ‘outpower’ stronger actors? Lord Alderdice will argue that those most willing to sustain extreme conflict have been ‘devoted actors’ driven by non-negotiable ‘sacred values’. Bringing into dialogue insights from large group psychology, neuroscience, and epigenetics with those of political science, he will describe two factors one biological, and the other from complex large group psychology, that can help explain these apparently non-rational phenomena.

John, Lord Alderdice has an academic and professional background in medicine, psychiatry, and psychoanalysis. He was a consultant psychiatrist and Senior Lecturer at The Queen’s University of Belfast where he established the Centre for Psychotherapy with various degree courses, research work and clinical services. He also devoted himself to understanding and addressing religious fundamentalism and long-standing violent political conflict, initially in Ireland, and then in various other parts of the world. This commitment took him into politics, and he was elected Leader of Northern Ireland’s Alliance Party from 1987 to 1998, playing a significant role in the negotiation of the 1998 Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. When the new Northern Ireland Assembly was elected, he became its first Speaker. In 2004 he retired from the Assembly on being appointed by the British and Irish Governments as one of the four members of the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC), appointed to close down the operations of the paramilitary organizations (2003-2011) and he continued with this work on security issues when he and two colleagues were commissioned by the new Northern Ireland Government to produce a report advising them on strategy for disbanding the remaining paramilitary groups (2016).

Having been appointed to House of Lords in 1996 he was elected Convenor of the Liberal Democrats for the first four years of the Liberal/Conservative Coalition Government from 2010 to 2014. His international interests had previously led to his election as President of Liberal International, the global network of some 100 liberal political parties and organizations. He served from 2005 to 2009 and remains an active Presidente D’Honneur. He recently was elected to the House of Lords Select Committee on International Relations and Defence.

He is the founding Director of the Conference on the Resolution of Intractable Conflict, based in Oxford and with colleagues in Belfast he also established the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building which continues work on the implementation of the principles of the Good Friday Agreement and takes the lessons of the Irish Peace Process to other communities in conflict. More recently he set up The Concord Foundation with a wider remit in understanding and addressing the nature of violent political conflict and its resolution. Lord Alderdice’s work has been recognized throughout the world with many fellowships, visiting professorships, honorary doctorates, and international awards. Lord Alderdice is currently the Executive Chairman of CCW.