Monthly Archives: December 2011

Year in, year out, the constant is change

What a year it’s been. Truly. These images attest to that.

Most of us are living through times that, while perhaps could have been predicted at some indeterminable point in the future, were definitely shocking in their forceful manifestation in 2011.

The most compelling example of this is, undoubtedly, the Arab Spring.

Did any of us expect Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak would be ousted from power so dramatically? Or Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi consigned not just to history, but to an ignominious death?

Were we prepared for 2011 to be the year when ordinary people of the region took matters so courageously into their hands, ignited by the act of protest of Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi?

Chances are, we were not. And yet these movements have surged not far from our doorstep, here in Cyprus.

Meanwhile, the international Occupy movement has gathered momentum in turn, challenging the world’s ongoing economic and social inequalities.

Riots and rallies have been on the news constantly, and the voice of the disenfranchised has been heard at its clearest yet.

Austerity and negative credit ratings have crept into our everyday vocabulary.

Famous (and infamous) personalities have passed away. The great and the good, the talented and corrupt.

And of course, a multitude of natural disasters have reminded us that humankind is never so advanced as to be shielded from the mighty forces that lie beyond our control, and that the earth is nor merely our playground, but rather a shared home that deserves more reverence, more respect and, quite frankly, more awe than we are often prepared to give.

In the course of this year even the most unassuming of us has been confronted with an urgency to fix things that are broken. And to take personal responsibility for what that might mean.

So much can happen in the course of one year. But time is always relative.The only thing that matters is now.

What will 2012 bring the Cypriot peace efforts? Where will we be this time next year? How will ordinary voices – from every part of the political spectrum – shape the dialogue regarding the island’s future?

As ever, the answer lies with each of us.

That’s all for right now, but Peace Exchange will be back again with more good stuff for you soon.

Till then, stay warm and dry and… see you in the new year!

Restoring the historical infrastructure for peace

Peace Exchange was musing the other day at how common heritage crops up in different ways and in various guises.

It can be heard in the dialects of a language, and mirrored in the shared values of people living in the same geographical location.

It can flow as the undercurrent in folktales, poetry and traditions. It can even determine the names of children, in a bid to remember, honour and renew.

But where history’s influence is unmistakable is in a country’s infrastructure and in its public spaces.

And of course, those structures that have bound together the people of any age still resonate with the power to unite through common usage and as important gathering points.

For this reason, Peace it Together’s various Cultural Heritage partners and the Future Together Project partners have turned their efforts towards not merely restoring important structures from Cyprus’ past, but identifying best practices arising from stakeholders participating in such restoration – and in this way doing their part for reconciliation.

You might say that the Cultural Heritage partners and Future Together partners take peacebuilding rather literally!

To date, the Cultural Heritage initiatives have overseen the restoration or rehabilitation of seven key buildings and monuments, including an Armenian Church and Monastery, Peristerona House, the Grand Turkish Bath, Prophet Elias Monastery, Cultural Heritage Circle Preservation, Day Care Centre at Paphos Gate and the Church of Agios Neophytos in Troulli.

Meanwhile, Future Together is helping existing partners and other interested parties to extract lessons from already established participatory development models, to produce a Best Practices Guide for both Cypriot and regional practitioners.

Peace Exchange invites you to watch the video above on the opening of the Turkmenkoy/Kontea peace park, as an example of the positive impact of participatory planning – and making an asset of common heritage in bringing people together.

Another project that aptly demonstrates this dynamic is summed up in a podcast on the provision of a day care centre for the mentally handicapped in Favierou. You can listen to the moving story here.

As ever, more good stuff to follow, so stay tuned and… see you in the next post!

No better time to share

How is everybody feeling? Hopefully pretty good, given the time of year.

If you’re reading this and you’re Cypriot, or spending the holidays in Cyprus, or even if you’re a Cypriot abroad, there are three things Peace Exchange is willing to bet are on the festive menu.

Firstly, there will be food, secondly there will be time spent with family…

… and thirdly, there will be food.

Okay, so that was only two things on the menu. The point is, Cypriots really do enjoy their grub.

And at this time of year, chances are all manner of delicious and highly tempting roasted, baked, sauteed, boiled, marinated, salted, peppered, sugared, jellied, cream-filled, caramelised, garnished, smoked, steamed, glazed, fondue-ed and fricasee-ed treats have magically appeared on tables, and packed refrigerators thereafter.

Alas, not so for the majority of folks on this overcrowded planet.

Peace and well-being can never thrive as long as even one country struggles to feed its people.

At this time of year, it’s not only appropriate to give thanks for all that we enjoy on this lovely island together, but to spare a thought for those among us and beyond these shores who have very little.

Or who have had everything taken away in a flash.

Peace Exchange invites you to visit the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) portal and become re-acquainted with the food crises that are still present across the world, some engendered by civil war, some by droughts and famines, some by natural disasters.

Go and have a look and, when you do, consider sharing some measure of the resources available to you, with those who cannot even count on a plate of food a day at this special time – or beyond.

There are a plethora of good places online through which to make an offering – a simple search on Google offers plenty of options – and of course, many initiatives island-wide for the collection and sharing of food, clothing and other necessities.

Even a bowl of food for a stray dog or cat is a lovely thing to offer from the heart. So much depends on a plate of sustenance. So much is available to share.

And while we’re on the topic of sharing, Peace Exchange leaves you with the following video – a Ted TV talk given by Josette Sheeran, head of the WFP – to keep you thinking as this post ends.

That’s all for this time, but check in again soon for more good stuff.

Sifting through conversations, interpreting perspectives

Cypriots may be going online in greater numbers and apparently  have an insatiable thirst for acquiring new phones, yet images of old men bent over newspapers at the local coffeeshop, or market-goers exchanging gossip while picking out fresh produce or drivers drawing up to  friends’ cars to yell out a question or greeting, are still commonplace.

We like to be constantly in conversation – whatever our background or social station – taking advantage of every occasion to express our ideas (usually vociferously), as well as our preferences, our dislikes, our hopes and fears.

In particular, chewing over politics and the state of the Cyprus problem is little short of a national sport (with football and food following in hot pursuit).

The video above bears testimony to Peace it Together partner Cyprus 2015‘s endeavours to credit this endless exchange of perspectives with the attention it is due – in the context of reconciliation.

To research the outlook of a broad cross-section of stakeholders from the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities as to what reconciliation might mean.

Indeed, the think tank’s mission is, in its own words:

“to contribute towards a sustainable settlement of the Cyprus Problem through objective research and respectful dialogue between all relevant societal and political stakeholders, in a way that complements the peace efforts on the island”

This mission is carried out through a plethora of methods: via public opinion polls, focus groups, interviews with leading personalities, commissioned academic research, stakeholder panels – Participatory Action Research (PAR), video documentaries and policy proposals.

And it is aimed at engaging all three tracks of Cypriot society – the leadership, broad civil society and the general public – in the hope of going beyond bi-communal issues, to address issues of trust, understanding and the healing of internal rifts within each community.

For example, in its most recent opinion poll, the results of which were released this July, Cyprus 2015 found clashing perspectives, but also opportunities for convergence, over the Security, Territory and Citizenship dossiers of the peace talks, with the outcome of a future referendum remaining in the balance.

Most respondents did not wish to prejudge the outcome and are undecided on how they might vote in a future referendum. However, the negative political climate that predominates in this protracted process is leading to public discontent, which is reflected as a trend for undecided voters in the Greek Cypriot community to shift towards a ‘No’, while Turkish Cypriots are expressing increased ambivalence over what they would vote.

This highlights the urgent need for not only increased public information about the main issues, but more importantly, public dialogue and discussion as well.

Thus, without the research work of this Peace it Together partner, many of the subtler, yet important beliefs regarding a shared future might go unheard or unnoticed.

You can access more of Cyprus 2015’s publications and media here, and also subscribe to its YouTube channel here.

Rest assured as well that The Peace Exchange will also be updating you on the project’s new endeavours as they arise.

That’s all for this week, but there will be more good stuff on the way soon.

Till then, Peace Exchange wishes its readers a very pleasant holiday weekend. See you in the next post!

Peacebuilding is women’s work too

Peace Exchange often posts about heartening efforts towards peacebuilding, and   the creative and grassroots resources harnessed in the process.

However, Peace Exchange will also at times highlight important gaps and shortcomings in this process, too.

One such shortcoming is the ongoing dearth of women at the official, visible levels of Cyprus reconciliation efforts.

So far, while there are some women represented on the Working Groups and Technical Committees, more needs to be done to involve more women – and at higher levels.

In the words of Magda Zenon, of local NGO Hands Across the Divide:

 Everything in Cypriot society is viewed within the narrow focus of “the national problem”, and all-important issues in daily life, including health, education, women’s development and gender discrimination, do not get the attention they deserve or are marginalized.

This identification with the national problem and with specific ethnicity in a patriarchal society such as Cyprus deprives women of other choices in relation to their self-definition as individuals or as a part of a gender group.

It is thus not surprising that gender inequality has never been addressed as a social and political issue. The conflict is viewed as genderless, implying men’s and women’s experiences of the conflict are the same, or if they are seen as different, only the official male discourses are heard.

Hands Across the Divide has previously sent letters to the community leaders highlighting the importance of women’s involvement in peacebuilding processes – an effort which has continued with each peace negotiation process.

Thus far, the current conditions have effectively sidelined women when it comes to the official discourse on  reunification.

Meanwhile, Cyprus continues to be one of the UN’s members that have not yet formed a National Action Plan to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325, passed in October 2000.

The video above effectively illustrates the need for UNSCR 1325, the key points of which are:

  • Increased participation and representation of women at all levels of decision-making
  •  Attention to specific protection needs of women and girls in conflict
  • Gender perspective in post-conflict processes
  • Gender perspective in UN programming, reporting and in SC missions
  • Gender perspective & training in UN peace support operations

Yet while UNSCR 1325 is binding on all UN member states, it continues to be neglected in implementation in Cyprus.

This is part a worldwide shortcoming to include and give prominence to the input of women in peace efforts, as highlighted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon last year during the 10th anniversary of UNSCR 1325.

At the end of the day, women have a different experience of conflict.

They and their children are always the most affected groups during a conflict, and can therefore offer a fresh perspective and alternative ideas during conflict and post conflict situations.

Women have made great strides in all walks of life; however, they are still not included in such platforms as the peace process in Cyprus.

And it is sobering to note that this year’s Nobel peace prize winners - President Sirleaf (Liberia’s first elected female president), Leymah Gbowee (an activist recognized for uniting women against Liberia’s warlords) and Tawakkol Karman (a Yemeni journalist)  – join only a handful of fellow female peace prize laureates.

Meanwhile, UN Women, “widely hailed as the best hope for significant action globally on women’s rights, is falling short of both money and power as it limps toward its first anniversary in January”, reported a recent Nation  magazine article.

Small wonder then, perhaps, that Cyprus’ women have so little say in official reconciliation efforts.

Nonetheless, without their involvement, the process cannot be considered as having taken into account all the voices of Cyprus.

Bracing news – A look ahead at future possibilities

Peace Exchange was musing the other day on how familiar the daily offerings seem to be, by way of Cyprus news.

In a small place with lots of history – an island no less – the reportage can sound at times rather akin to that of the day before.

Imagine, however, what it might be like to tune in to the national broadcaster some two decades in the future, and take in the day’s events arising from a united landscape.

Yes, it would be familiar in some respects, but there would also be much that would be exciting and new.

If you have 15 minutes to spare, click ‘play’ on the above video and find out just how such a news bulletin might appear with The Nine o’ Clock News in the Year 2030.

An initiative of Peace it Together partner Economic Interdependence, and created by the prolific Crewhouse media team, the fictive bulletin offers a vision for a reunified Cyprus based on the aspirations of Cypriots.

Within a quarter of an hour, the bilingual film offers viewers a snapshot of a thriving island, where the buffer zone is a distant memory and reconciliation has yielded economic gains for both sides.

Via the “Cyprus News channel, broadcasting islandwide”, we encounter students planting trees in the national park that was once the dead zone, an al fresco celebration in an olive grove to mark the success of a Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot business partnership and the exciting transfer to Premier League football team Arsenal of a London Cypriot striker of mixed heritage.

Meanwhile, the island’s president is now a woman and new air routes between Greece, Cyprus and Turkey are poised to capitalise on the wealth of historical treasures offered by the three neighbour countries.

Incidentally, while the film had its local premiere back in September, it will be shown for the first time at the United Nations’ New York headquarters this Friday, as part of a special event to highlight the worldwide initiatives of the UNDP.

After the screening, there will be a Q and A with Haoliang Xu (Deputy Director UNDP Regional Bureau for Europe and the CIS), Elizabeth Spehar (Director of Europe Division DPA) and Nilgun Arif (UNDP-ACT, Cyprus).

Regarding Peace it Together partner Economic Interdependence, the project was established by the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the Greek Cypriot Community and the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce to foster inter-communal trade and to demonstrate first-hand the potential economic benefits of reunification.

The Nine o’ Clock News in the Year 2030 offers an inspiring and creative look at just how such benefits might play out.

The best of kids’ TV in Cyprus – come with an open MIDE

Did you know kids in Europe watched two-and-a-half hours of TV a day?

That’s a lot of cartoons, adventure series, educational shows and so forth. And a big responsibility for TV producers and programmers, hoping to both entertain but also offer wholesome, progressive content for young minds.

To help tackle such a responsibility, the Prix Jeunesse Foundation was set up in 1964, whose main focus is organising a biennial competition  – the Prix Jeunesse International – to draw the best in children’s television around a theme.

Producers from around the world attend the event in Munich to learn from one another and identify the next big show in kids’ TV.

(In fact, one of its early winners was ‘Sesame Street’ – recognise those furry faces in the photo above? – which was sold to over 50 countries within four years of being awarded the prize. )

Winning entries then tour the world via the Prix Jeunesse ‘suitcases’, passing on insights from the festivals to local TV producers in special training programmes.

One such ‘suitcase’ is now in Cyprus in a two-day event this week, organised by the Goethe-Institut Cyprus in partnership with the Association for Historical Dialogue and Research (AHDR) and the Cyprus Community Media Centre.

As there hasn’t been an entry from Cyprus in the Prix Jeunesse festival yet, this event will hopefully encourage Cypriot media practitioners to enter the competition, while encouraging dialogue, a deeper understanding of quality kids’ TV and professional cooperation in the field of children’s media between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities.

More info on the Prix Jeunesse ‘suitcase’ here.

On a related note, Peace Exchange is keen to introduce yet another of the Peace it Together partners – the Multiperspectivity & Intercultural Dialogue in Education (MIDE), helmed by the AHDR, which also focuses on identifying and making available the keys to an environment of learning that leaves young minds on the island open to diversity and dialogue.

Through MIDE, from July 2008 until November 2011, the AHDR has expanded its scope to include extensive research, diverse public outreach and a wider range of materials and trainings it offers to its core target groups.

In addition, the AHDR has broadened the resources it offers the general public, with the formation of a library and archive related to Cyprus history, history education, inter-communal relations, and global outlooks on similar subjects.

Meanwhile, as of November 16, 2011, the AHDR embarked on the second phase of the MIDE project, which, over the next 24 months, seeks to enhance the work already undertaken.

This phase aims to leverage the resources the AHDR created within the first phase of the MIDE project, with the focus on:

  • Further developing efforts to engage the general public and key stakeholders on issues related to history, historiography and history education in Cyprus, as a means of advancing greater sensitivity to the importance of multi-perspectivity and critical thinking
  • Extending educational and research programmes to ensure key actors – educators, youth, researchers and policymakers – have opportunities to engage with AHDR
  • Continuing to work in partnership with organisations such as the Council of Europe, teacher trade unions across the divide, EUROCLIO, PRIO, CCMC, the International Center for Transitional Justice and the Elders, as well as developing new local and international relations with other institutions
  • Increasing the capacity of history educators, influencing public perceptions on critical approaches to history and history education and guiding policy change to promote intercultural skills and understanding, as well as multi-perspective approaches to education

Peace Exchange highly recommends the videos on AHDR’s YouTube channel  for more of an entertaining and compelling insight into its mission.

That’s all for the moment, but we’ll be back again soon with more good stuff for your reading pleasure. See you in the next post!