Monthly Archives: January 2012

GUEST POST: CCMC posts on this week’s National Media Encounter, co-organised by Media Against Racism in Sport

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At the beginning of this month, Peace Exchange had looked ahead to the four-day National Media Encounter that is currently being organised by the Cyprus Community Media Centre and the Media Against Racism in Sport (MARS) network.

The event kicked off in the Buffer Zone on Wednesday, and will culminate this Saturday. Its objective is to offer Cyprus media professionals exposure to media cross-practices in training, ethics and production, thereby fostering an inclusive approach to media content creation.

Peace Exchange is delighted to have Michael Simopoulos of Peace it Together network member CCMC, post on the event in his own words:

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Michael Simopoulos: “The discussions taking place at the Cyprus Community Media Centre this week around racism and exclusion in sport could not be more relevant. The cases of Premier League footballers Luis Suarez and John Terry which hit the headlines in the British press in recent weeks, have reignited a discussion that many thought was buried in the past. Namely: how widespread and deep-rooted is racism in UK sport?

“Speaking during the opening plenary discussion of the MARS – Media Against Racism in Sport National Media Encounter (on Wednesday, January 25), Nikos Trimikliniotis, a researcher at the University of Nicosia, brought the discussion into a local perspective.

“‘When we talk about racism and discrimination in Cyprus, we are talking about problems of society at large,’ he said. ‘Their manifestation in sport, or activities on the periphery of sport, is part of a wider societal problem that the relevant authorities need to address.’

“Coşkun Ulusoy, one of the few footballers who can claim to have plied his trade across the whole of Cyprus, agreed. ‘The challenge we face is changing people’s minds and attitudes,’ he noted.

“Despite losing one of the keynote speakers in Karolina Pelendritou to a training injury the day before the encounter, the Cypriot Paralympian gold medalist set the tone during Wednesday’s discussion with her own perspective on discrimination in the sporting arena.

“In response to a question sent to her over email as to why there is disproportionate treatment of disabled and able-bodied athletes, she pointed out that ‘having enjoyed preferential treatment for a disabled athlete, I wonder how much the status of disability in Cyprus would change if the movement for disabled sports was given appropriate coverage by the media’.

“MARS is a programme developed by the Council of Europe to examine how the media can respond to the challenge laid down by Karolina, and the last few days the CCMC Community Space has been a hub of activity.

“With the cross-production workshop drawing to a close on Saturday, January 28, journalists and civil society activists have been working in pairs to produce media that truly reflects the diversity of sporting activities, approaches and perspectives that characterise a modern society.

“With the able support of representatives of the Council of Europe and the Community Media Forum Europe, participants have been tackling issues ranging from football fan culture, to the ability of basketball to promote intercultural dialogue and fair play.

“In fact, the success of the programme, thus far, has strengthened our belief at CCMC that with every such activity we are moving closer towards one of our goals – to build an inclusive and diverse information society.

“For more information on how to get involved with MARS activities, check out the website at: www.coe.int/mars, or contact CCMC at info@cypruscommunitymedia.org.”

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The Peace Exchange thanks Michael for posting on this week’s National Media Encounter and looks forward to more such opportunities to host you – the members of the Peace it Together network – in sharing about your events, developments and personal insights from the peace building scene in Cyprus.

That’s all for this time, but we’ll be back with more good stuff soon.

Have a great weekend and… see you in the next post!

A song for the Horn of Africa

From the hushed and well-trimmed lawns of Ivy League college Dartmouth, to the dusty expanses of the Horn of Africa, that is where Peace Exchange is heading today.

What’s the connection? We’ll admit it’s not obvious at first.

After all, in the first environment, one conjures up the confident presence of students who have every expectation of enjoying a life of achievement, self-betterment and financial security.

Whereas in the second, the mind re-visits the all-too-familiar images of desperately emaciated individuals, queuing to receive a tiny portion of food in the ongoing grip of famine and war, staring listlessly off into a hopeless future or taking to the seas to man pirate ships in a fierce resolve to survive.

Indeed, countries in the Horn of Africa have been facing severe drought and the worst food crisis in 20 years, affecting an estimated 13 million people.

Nonetheless, while the thumbnail sketches of the two environments convey enough of the truth to establish a contrast, there is always the stuff happening behind the scenes as well, which may not be as immediately obvious.

For one thing, agencies such as UNDP are engaged with humanitarian actors in the region as an essential part of the response, addressing underlying factors of livelihoods and governance. In Somalia in particular, UNDP is navigating a course between the obstacles – Al Shabaab militia on the ground, which recently banned some international relief agencies from working in the areas they control, and pirates off the coast – to employ, train and rehabilitate Somalis, especially its youth.

Meanwhile, grassroots advocacy organisations such as ONE are using all manner of creative campaigns online to continue to draw attention to the famine in the Horn of Africa.

And yet a third category – such as the young singers of the a cappella group Dartmouth Aires who appear in the UNDP-sponsored video above – are offering their talents to entertain while offering service.

Following their success in a nationally-televised ‘Sing Off’ competition, the Ivy League vocalists enthusiastically lent their skill to record the public service message above, calling all of their fans and viewers to check out what UNDP is doing in the Horn of Africa, and to find out how to get involved.

In the Aires’ own words, the objective is to: “make the first famine of the 21st century, the last”.

Peace Exchange invites you to listen to the Dartmouth Aires’ beautiful song – chosen because it evokes a close-knit clan scattered to distant regions, much as the ongoing Horn of Africa famine has forced starving families to leave their villages and walk, often for weeks, in search of food – and to consider how many different yet collective approaches there are to securing peace and prosperity.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about UNDP’s work in Somalia, check out the short documentary below.

That’s all for this time. Join us again for more good stuff soon.

Until then, stay warm and dry and… see you in the next post!

GUEST POST: Engage shares about the Active Dialogue Network on Gender and Diversity

And now for something a little bit different.

Ready? Here we go.

Peace Exchange kicks off today with what will hopefully be the beginning of an ongoing series of ‘guest posts’ from the Peace it Together network.

Our first PiT network member blogger is Jale Canlibalik, a project manager for ENGAGE, who wanted to share on the progress of the Active Dialogue Network on Gender and Diversity, which met up this week at the Home for Cooperation.

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Jale Canlibalik:   “There are so many issues in Cyprus that need to be addressed and we’ve only really begun to scratch the surface for many of them.  It’s important that we go beyond opening up the dialogue between the two communities and really begin working together to identify and address some of these issues, advocate for policy changes and lobby lobby lobby to make these changes an institutional reality.

“It is with this in mind that the Engage project team have decided to launch four core Active Dialogue Networks (ADNs) within the framework of the new phase of our project (2011-2013). The four ADNs will focus on Peace & Reconciliation, CSO Profile & Enabling Environment, Sustainable Development and Gender and Diversity.  Network participation will include cross sector groups, including representation from local authorities, the business and international communities in Cyprus, academia and civil society.

“On Monday, January 16, 2012, the Gender and Diversity ADN met at the Home for Cooperation with facilitators Ilke Dagli and Nadia Karayianni.  The main aim of this particular meeting was to delve more deeply into some of the main issues that have come out of previous discussions with women.

“The issues ranged from creating an action plan for Cyprus that relates to the UN’s Security Council Resolution 1325, changing ‘maternity’ to ‘parental’ leave to be much more inclusive of father’s rights, women’s empowerment, as well as improving the levels of sex education in schools and addressing the issues of domestic violence and awareness amongst women of their legal rights; the discussion also stressed the need to change Article 154 (171) dealing with ‘acts against nature’ in the TCC and the gender pay gap.

“These issues were clustered according to theme and prioritised.  The list will point the team towards those matters that will be lobbied for first.

“In looking at the Gender and Diversity SWOT analysis results, one realises how much work has been done to date by dedicated individuals, groups and organisations but also how much work still remains to be conducted.

“To follow up, the Engage team will be seeking out the points of view and feedback of people in rural areas across the island on the issues prioritised and at the same time the team will be taking in hand the most important problems related to gender and diversity in these areas.”

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The Peace Exchange thanks Jale, and hopes many more from the Peace it Together network will follow in her footsteps – after all, this is your blog, and is meant to be a place to share, update and exchange!

That’s all for this time, but join us again for more good stuff very soon – and if you have a post to share, please let us know!

Calling all filmmakers wielding cameras for peace…

Up till fairly recently, film-oriented Cypriots on the cusp of entering the work force were under few illusions about their prospects of making movies on the island.

Growing up in a traditional society, with a rather conservative outlook on what professions were worth taking up – usually ones that had been in the family for years – the realm of cinema seemed something only worth pursuing in other countries.

Nonetheless, over the years, feature film directors like Michael Cacoyannis, Dervish Zaim and Panicos Chrysanthou,  as well as documentary makers such as Danae Stylianou and Yeliz Shukri, have bucked that trend.

And now more than ever, given the advent of digital cameras and more affordable equipment and post-production tools, the time is right for the island’s  filmmakers to take up a more prominent role.

Which is a very positive development, given that film can be used as a tool for peacebuilding in a way that other media cannot, as it is about viscerally telling a story while portraying others’ perspectives and building empathy where there may only have been stereotypes and prejudice before.

So for those filmmakers working in the domain of peacebuilding, Peace Exchange would like to bring to their attention a film festival they should consider sending their works to.

After all, no matter how much cheaper the process has become, it still requires a considerable amount of time and effort, and the finished results should have the chance of being presented to as wide an audience as possible.

Not to mention, taking part in festivals always allows for exposure to the work of peers which is inevitably both inspiring and motivating.

The festival to consider is the 2012 Millenium International Documentary film festival , running from April 17th to 28th in Brussels, which was created to:

promote documentaries and their makers; a genre that explores social, cultural, economic, humanitarian and environmental issues. It is dedicated to documentaries that reflect widely the objectives of the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDG). It also contributes to the diversity of films on offer in cinemas, as the selected films are, for the most part, not screened in Belgium.

This is where we find the Festival’s objective: to serve as a platform for promoting filmmakers, documentaries and the MDGs, with the purpose of informing and, when possible, pushing for action.

The eligibility criteria and regulations can be accessed here, and those wishing to apply can click to register here.

Meanwhile, it’s also incredibly helpful for filmmakers to keep an eye on festivals organised around their subject, even if they’re not taking part, especially as many fests will host trailers or even the entirety of winning entries on their websites.

Peace Exchange invites you to follow the updates of this year’s Peace on Earth festival which is a not-for-profit fest

established to celebrate and encourage the work of independent filmmakers from around the globe on the themes of peace, nonviolence, social justice and an eco-balanced world.

Now that opportunities for movie-making on the island are ever increasing – and here we should mention that Peace it Together partner CCMC is one of the best resources for those who have peace-oriented projects to film – let’s make sure the work produced gets to a cinema near you – wherever that may be!

That’s all for the moment, but Peace Exchange will be back with more good stuff soon.

Until soon, stay warm and dry and… see you in the next post.

Saving beyond a rainy day

Is it just us, or has it been a really rainy winter season so far?

The Peace Exchange’s posts seem to be written increasingly with the sound of heavy rain falling in the background these days, and nature has been rather inclement on those of us who have absent-mindedly left our umbrellas at home.

After all, Cyprus is far more known for its problem with a lack of water due to the island’s abundant sunshine (and, of course, ever increasing consumption).

The fact is, for a small, frequently arid place, it behooves members of all of Cyprus’ communities to learn about ways of cutting down on water usage, and making any use go as far as possible.

The short film featured above charts one of the initiatives taken in this direction.

The CCMC documentary chronicles a Water-Saving Technology exhibition launched last March at Nicosia’s Ledra Street crossing, under the auspices of the Environment Technical committee, and organized on their behalf by the AKTI Project and Research Centre and the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Environmental Engineers, and in co-operation with The Cyprus Environmental Stakeholder Forum and The Regional Network for Sustainable Future.

The buffer zone exhibition formed part of the project ‘Awareness Raising Measures for Water-Saving’, a confidence building measure implemented on behalf of the Environment Technical Committee and supported by UNDP-ACT.

Thanks to this event, water- saving technologies for households and gardens were demonstrated to the general public, in the push to conserve this precious resource islandwide.

More importantly, the event was a wake-up call, a call to action for all citizens on the island to put aside their differences and cooperate on saving an ever-dwindling resource upon which the survival of their shared island depends. Leading this call to action were an impressive array of senior figures: the Special Representatives of the two Leaders, Messrs. Iacovou and Ozersay, as well as the Special Assistant to the Secretary General, Mr. Alexander Downer, and the two Mayors.

So, while it may be rainy now and many of us are moaning about being caught out by the weather (while secretly enjoying the side benefits of shockingly clean cars), it’s worth thinking about what it means to launder our clothes, take a shower or boil some vegetables, and take action before the long, dry summer months to preserve the most vital part of the island’s natural wealth.

Otherwise, without each of us taking responsibility for cutting down and making more use of the water we enjoy on tap, initiatives such as the above exhibition will be nothing more than a drop in the ocean.

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

In the meantime, enjoy the weekend, stay warm and dry and… see you in the next post!

In the spotlight: the power of volunteerism

It takes a special kind of person to step forward and freely offer time, resources and skills to meet any given situation of need.

In a different age, before the isolation and individualism brought on by more affluence, disintegration of families and increasing online social interaction, acting for the common good and a general duty to benefit the community was much more the norm.

Nonetheless, unsung heroes who step forward for no other reward than a desire for service are still doing their good work, and of course, the fruits of their efforts are everywhere we care to look.

Take the teams who are now working to clean up tonnes of oil leaking from a damaged cargo ship at Christmas Island.

The Panamanian-flagged MV Tycoon broke its moorings at Flying Fish Cove in heavy seas this past Sunday before breaking in two, causing an oil and phosphate fertiliser spill whose impact on the surrounding ecosystem could take years to assess and rejuvenate.

Given the 60-metre stretch of beach which is now a mess of sand and animals covered in oil, volunteers will be expected to help with the clean-up for at least the next week or so.

The same spirit of responding to a call for service resounds across the world both at the grassroots and highest public levels, with the United Nations Volunteer programme (UNV) being no exception.

The UNV contributes to peace and development by advocating for recognition of volunteers, working with partners to integrate volunteerism into development programming, and mobilising an increasing number and diversity of volunteers, including experienced UN Volunteers, throughout the world.

The programme, with Field Units in 86 countries, is represented worldwide through the offices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and reports to the UNDP Executive Board.

Naturally, any UNV volunteer deployed to Cyprus would be operating in the same landscape in which the Peace it Together network – with its own valiant numbers of interns and volunteers – is active.

Peace Exchange chatted with Michieru Sakai, currently working with UNDP-ACT, to get a firsthand glimpse of the life of a UNV volunteer:

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Peace Exchange: Please introduce yourself

Michieru Sakai:  I am from Yokohama-city, Japan, 34 years old.

I am a former trainee of the Programme for Human Resource Development in Asia for Peacebuilding commissioned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, implemented by the Hiroshima Peacebuilders Center (HPC).

My interest is taking photographs. I acknowledged it when I bought a camera lens, which was actually more expensive than the camera itself!

PE: What drew you to volunteering with the UNV?

MS: I was accepted into the above mentioned Human Resource Development programme in 2009 – it is a very unique programme.

The Hiroshima Peacebuilders Center (HPC), commissioned by MOFA, coordinates the entire program in cooperation with the UNV.

The course consisted of approximately six weeks of the practical training in Japan and 12 months of the Overseas Attachment as UNV volunteers. This is how I was deployed to Cyprus as a UNV.

I came to Cyprus in February 2010 for a year. Then I was fortunate that my contract was extended till September 2012, after having completed the Overseas Attachment.

PE: What is the nature of your volunteer work?

MS: Under the direct supervision of the UNDP-ACT Peace & Development Advisor, there are three main roles I have.

The first is to support and ensure implementation of strategic vision of overall programme at UNDP-ACT.

As the second main role, for Support to the UN Good Offices and the Confidence Building Measures project, I assist the Peace & Development Advisor to provide diverse technical and financial support to mechanisms and confidence building measures that feed into the ongoing peace process and wider reconciliation process.

The third role is to provide support for linking the official peace talk process by the Good Offices and peacebuilding work of partner organizations.

Besides this, I promote volunteerism as a UNV. For this purpose, I submitted the short documentary to the International Film Festival hosted by UNV.

PE: What would you say have been some of the rewards to volunteer work in Cyprus?

MS: Firstly: encountering inspiring people: It is a reward for me to meet people with passion for peacebuilding. They are voluntarily finding extra time from a busy schedule, and using their skills and knowledge for the future of the island. Even if they have different occupational titles, I know we all share the spirit of volunteerism.

Their attitudes inspire me a lot, and I am grateful for the fact that I have met them through my UNV work in Cyprus.

Secondly: working closely with different UN entities. I appreciate that I can have the opportunity to work jointly with UN Good Offices and UNFICYP. I understand that it is rather uncommon for a UNV in other countries to have such an experience.

Thirdly: exploring beautiful cultures and sceneries: I am grateful that I can explore this beautiful island every weekend. I am planning to upload more photos from Cyprus to my blog, www.michie.ru.

PE: Could you mention any challenges you’ve encountered while in Cyprus?

MS: Since I am the only UNV in Cyprus, I have experienced some administrative difficulties at first. However, I have been fortunate to be surrounded by experienced colleagues who can find the way out and always helped me solve the issues.

PE: And finally, how do you see the UNDP-ACT’s peace-building work developing in Cyprus?

MS: Well, I came to Cyprus in 2010. Given that the UNDP-ACT started in 2005, my time here has been very limited. However, I have understood the highly developed capacity of partner organisations from their activities, their reports and their meetings with constructive discussions. I think the fact that there are plenty of things in peacebuilding I can learn from partner organisations implies the UNDP’s efforts have been successful.

The other day, I saw a dove with an olive branch flying to mark the future of the Peace it Together network. Cyprus is an island filled with olive trees, and an accumulated knowledge about peacebuilding.

The dove of the Peace it Together emblem captures the essence of this and exports it to the wider region and beyond.

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The Peace Exchange thanks Michi for those thoughts!

Meanwhile, PE will be bringing you more chats with the behind-the-scenes heroes, the interns and volunteers who grease the wheels and keep everything humming in the Peace it Together network in future posts, so please stay tuned.

Until soon then… see you in the next post!

Sustaining the goal of living lightly on the earth

There can be few people today who are unaware of the  mounting crisis we are living through, as a worldwide community.

In recent years we have experienced a combination of a global financial emergency, a food crisis, volatile oil prices, accelerating ecosystem degradation and an increasing number of climate-induced extreme weather events.

These multiple and inter-related crises call into question the ability of a growing human population to live peacefully and sustainably on this planet, and demand the urgent attention of governments and citizens around the world.

For a small island such as Cyprus, vulnerable to droughts, desertification and over-pollution, among other environmental challenges, investing in sustainability is thus of obvious importance.

And of course, part of the Peace it Together network’s approach is to foster the opportunities and collect the data to tackle the island’s areas of concern in the context of peacebuilding.

One example of this can be seen in Cyprus 2015′s documentary: Sustainable Development in Cyprus, which looks at the challenges and opportunities in relation to issues of water, energy, construction and mobility.

For its own part, UNDP-ACT has enforced strict environmental impact guidelines on all its projects, and the environment is a recurring theme in all peacebuilding endeavours.

These include an island-wide water awareness campaign (a confidence-building measure arising from the ongoing reconciliation talks on the island), as well as research and advocacy on common approaches for both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities towards sustainable development.

But the UN’s push towards protecting the environment and promoting an infrastructure of sustainability, is not just limited to Cyprus – it is taking place worldwide as a a very important event looms on the horizon: the Rio + 20 – the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

The objectives of this gathering – also referred to as the Earth Summit 2012, and which takes place in Brazil over June 20-22 this year – are to:

secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assess the progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, and address new and emerging challenges

The Conference will focus on two themes: (a) a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; and (b) the institutional framework for sustainable development.

This mammoth event that has been in the planning since December 2009, will be the fourth earth summit of its kind and represents another milestone in ongoing international efforts to accelerate progress towards achieving sustainable development globally.

It is envisaged as a conference at the highest possible level, drawing the participation of heads of state and government or other representatives, and culminating in a focused political document.

For more background on the Rio +20 conference, you can visit the links here and here. You can also like the summit’s facebook page here.

Oh, and if you’d like to send out your own ideas as to how to manage our common future in a sustainable and lasting way, you can post a message on the Rio +20 site here.

That’s all for this time, but as ever, Peace Exchange will be back with more good stuff soon. Until then, enjoy the weekend and… see you in the next post!

Safeguarding media diversity: a sporting approach

It’s a fairly basic thought, but one worth re-visiting… the faces we see on TV, the events covered in the news, the information brought to us through the various media sources, have a particular slant.

While it is easy to grow accustomed to tuning out when familiar topics reach us again and again, we live in an age where same-old, same-old is not good enough anymore.

In particular, the proliferation of free digital tools and the near-instant, rapid share of information via social networking platforms, means that we are  now being exposed to the images and rights of people who had traditionally been disenfranchised, and whose presence is still under-represented by mainstream media.

One European network dedicated to tackling lack of social and cultural diversity in sports media coverage, is MARS – Media Against Racism in Sport. MARS is supported by a consortium of high-profile actors, which include the Community Media Forum Europe (CMFE) and the International Federation of Journalists.

(Incidentally, the CMFE held a three-day conference in Nicosia last November, under the auspices of the Cyprus Community Media Centre (CCMC), at which MARS was also a participant. If you’d like to read about the highlights, you can access them in this post and its follow-up.)

Mars, as a joint EU-Council of Europe programme, chooses to focus on sport because it is both an important area for building social cohesion and a major sector of investment in the media industry.

Some figures to put this into context: only five per cent of press articles cover cultural and social aspects of sport; 40 per cent of all sport articles refer to only one source and 20 per cent refer to no sources at all.

Meanwhile, female athletes have four times more chances to be covered by a female journalist rather than a male one, but less than five per cent of sport news and stories are produced by female journalists.

Given the genuine need to tackle such a dearth of diversity in sports media coverage therefore, MARS and the CCMC will be holding a National Media Encounter over the period January 25-28.

The objective of the four-day event is to offer local media professionals (journalism students, reporters, media managers and so forth) exposure to media cross-practices in training, ethics and production, thereby fostering an inclusive approach to media content creation.

Looking ahead, CCMC’s Michalis Simopoulos noted that: “one of CCMC’s aims is the promotion of intercultural dialogue through the mass media and to promote the principle of non-discrimination.

“The mass media are capable of shaping public opinion on issues such as racism and diversity and for this reason they are in a position to suggest potential solutions for the promotion of mutual understanding and tolerance.

UEFA‘s backing of the MARS programme indicates just how timely it is. Issues of racism in sport have been very prevalent in recent months and therefore we hope the MARS programme can further engage Cypriot journalists in discussions around these issues.”

The full details and schedule for the National Media Encounter can be found here. Pre-registration for all eligible parties is until January 12.

That’s all for the moment. Peace Exchange will be back with more good stuff soon, so stay tuned and… see you in the next post!