Category Archives: Worldwide initiatives

Tweet them right and they will follow

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A little birdy told Peace Exchange that the Cyprus Community Media Centre (CCMC) had offered another packed-with-information workshop last week.

A workshop that introduced participants to the power and many uses of the popular microblogging platform Twitter.

Even though the symbol of the little blue bird frequently shows up on web pages, only one year ago, statistics showed Cypriots had little time for capturing their thoughts or activities, or engaging with ‘followers’, by means of the Haiku-like 140 characters offered by Twitter. It was all about Facebook.

That has changed, and apparently there are just as many of us Tweeting as checking our Facebook feeds these days.

Which means CCMC’s workshop was particularly timely, as Twitter is yet one more tool in civil society organisations’ tool-kits for engaging with and mobilising their stakeholders.

Topics were pitched at the beginner level, but much ground was covered.

Participants learned how to customise their Twitter accounts, harness the power of retweets, hashtags and keywords and try out applications to identify and monitor topics being tweeted about in real time, such as: twitterfall, twendr.comtwinitor.com and twitscoop.com.

They also learned Tweeting strategies to build and mobilise their networks.

A simple tactic is to find (e.g. by using listorious.com) influential Tweeters with many followers in a particular niche, and then follow who they’re following, thereby making the most of similar ‘communities’.

Another key practice is to develop a distinct ‘voice’ and to listen and respond to followers, without merely blasting them with information.

The workshop also stressed that while Twitter was a very valuable tool for activists and civil society organisation to reach people and affect change, it could not simply replace grassroots mobilisation of stakeholders.

One of the case studies used that illustrated this point well was the recent uprising in Egypt. While Twitter certainly played a key role in coordinating people, protesters in the street were still also verbally communicating to those not online about where and at what times to gather.

A lot of material to cover in the space of two short hours, but those attending the workshop were certainly left with an array of knowledge and tips to put into use.

As one participant noted: “Inspiration and change can start online, and the momentum can be increased through grassroots activism and physical gatherings or events – this is the change process in our century.

“We were so excited after the training and we hope we see a Twitterstorm – where people come together to tweet on the same topic at the same time – in Cyprus really soon.”

Good stuff indeed, and you can be sure CCMC will be offering more tools, tips and insight in the months ahead.

That’s all for this week, but we’ll be back again shortly, so watch this space!

(And, for those who want their own Twitter overview, check out the videos here  and here.)

You can read a Greek version of this post here, and a Turkish version here

Tools and strategies for the work ahead

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The good folks at the Cyprus Community Media Centre (CCMC) recently completed a particularly busy week, equipping attendees of two key workshops – electronic newsletter creation and online activism – with the training to maximise their outreach and mobilise their stakeholders.

The first workshop focused on introducing participants – a mixture of NGO representatives, Peace it Together project partners and social activists – to the free online platform MailChimp, which allows users to design email newsletters, share them on social networks and track their results.

Attendees were led through a series of exercises to make the most of MailChimp’s wide array of pre-designed and customisable newsletter templates.

Tips and hints to remember in particular were:

  • To be meticulous in compiling the newsletter’s list. Far better to have fewer contacts who are genuinely interested in the content than a massive list of folks who are, at best, apathetic about what you’re sharing, or, at worst, likely to resent the intrusion into their already-overloaded inbox
  • To make subject lines catchy, so the target reader is more tempted to open the emailed newsletter
  • To make content attractive with hyperlinks and lots of bold visuals
  • To make content succinct and easily scanable
  • To ensure newsletters really contain ‘news’ – and if there isn’t enough newsworthy material to share, to consider delaying sending out the newsletter until there is – or simply adopt a less frequent emailing cycle

After an overview of the range of social media tools available, the second workshop exposed participants to both online and offline strategies for activism, with case studies compiled from the regional players in the Arab Spring, as well as Cyprus.

Among the steps in digital activism outlined by the workshop, were:

  • Documenting: digital content creation – text, audio, video
  • Mobilising: information sharing with a call to action
  • Synthesising: aggregation and combining of content

The workshop stressed that activism was more than simply posting a link on Facebook or Twitter, or ‘liking’ the content of a site, and that the internet was just the starting point for coming together to create change.

Ultimately,  focusing on the technologies people were already using was what was rewarded by outreach and mobilisation, rather than utilising tools whose function was unlikely to reach target stakeholders.

“People living in Cyprus are very active online and already use tools of online activism without the methodology of affecting social change,” noted CCMC’s Beran Djemal.

“This workshop helped to convert the tools into strategic action, and helped Cypriot activists better position themselves in the regional context using best practices from other online activism initiatives around the world.”

Attendee Sophia Arnaouti, from Cyprus Islandwide NGO Development Platform (CYINDEP) and Peace Centre agreed. “The workshop really built our capacity even more to be able to campaign in a dynamic way,” she said.

So much to take in, but well worth the effort – thanks CCMC!

That’s all for this time but, as always, stay tuned and we’ll see you in the next post.

You can read a Greek version of this post here and a Turkish version here.

GUEST POST: CCMC marks new milestone in media collaboration

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You know the bits in the James Bond films when the athletic spy leaps over impossibly wide chasms, or flies across rooftops on a speeding motorbike, all the while keeping his balance, control and direction?

Well, there are situations when the obstacles are not physical, and the means to overcome them are words, ideas, opinions and collaboration – and yet the stakes are just as high.

This week’s guest post is by CCMC‘s Michalis Simopoulos, who shares with Peace Exchange the latest milestone in media collaboration across the divide, with the launch of the Collaborative Media Initiative report.

Take it away Michalis!

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It’s been a long time in coming, but was worth the wait.

Since the Collaborative Media Initiative (CMI) project started back in June 2010, Peace it Together partner CCMC has been grappling with what ‘media collaboration across the divide’ actually means.

Media is not only a broad concept, but a fluid one. After all, in an increasingly globalised information environment, is it really possible to isolate the media in one locality without considering its interdependence on regional, as well as technological developments?

One thing is for sure – the case of the media in Cyprus is not unique. Media in conflict and post-conflict zones has impacted the lives of ordinary citizens in both negative and positive ways.

On the one hand we may recall the incitement of ethnic hatred across the Rwandan airwaves contributing to horrific genocide in 1994. On the other, we can only marvel at the courage of journalists such as Gordana Igric, Director of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), whose organisation has changed not only the media landscape across this volatile region, but is transforming the culture of antagonism and hatred of decades gone by.

In the case of Cyprus, the conflict continues to frame relations between the island’s two main communities, placing additional barriers to effective communication and information exchange between them.

It also has the effect of marginalising the voices of those who speak of Cyprus as one, relegating the importance of issues relevant to all communities on the island.

So bringing together media professionals in this environment is a necessary step to promote a culture of trust and understanding between communities.

A Potential Untapped: Media Working Together Across the Divide in Cyprus, the final report of the CMI launched on Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at CCMC, highlights the importance as well as the potential of media collaboration for the future of Cyprus.

The report has identified ways in which different stakeholders – be they at the decision-making level, reporting in the field, or at the grass-roots civil society level – can contribute to a greater convergence of the media across the divide.

But equally, it has emphasised the need for organisations like CCMC to further empower people like Osman Kalfaoglu and Giorgos Kakouris, journalists at Yeniduzen and Politis newspapers respectively, who want to “explore ways to allow journalists to be able to exchange information on a daily basis across the divide” and to “open up new fields of inquiry and to connect the issues that concern Cypriots from a new, island-wide perspective”.

The full report is available for download on the CCMC website, and if you have any suggestions on how CCMC can support people like Giorgos and Osman, drop us an email at info@cypruscommunitymedia.org.

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Thanks Michalis, an important milestone indeed!

Please keep the guest posts coming, and Peace Exchange will be back with more good stuff soon.

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

You can read a Greek version of this post here, and a Turkish version here.

Coming together for One Day on Earth

A little over a hundred years ago, with the beginnings of what we would know today as cinema, few would have dared imagine that they would be able to view moving images on a screen as a kind of staple of daily life, let alone record their own lives and share it with people worldwide.

The advent of TV, mainstream news and the internet changed all that, and now, with the proliferation of cheap digital cameras, free editing tools and the vast outreach of online communities, we can effortlessly create content that, to varying degrees, is available – in real time – to all.

Given this amazing potential for capturing and sharing, a grassroots project like One Day on Earth – in which, on October 10, 2010, over 19,000 volunteer filmmakers from across the globe shot more than 3,000 hours of footage from their daily lives to combine into a feature-length documentary – may have seemed an inevitability.

Yet, in the words of the event’s creator, Kyle Ruddick, this first movie to feature footage from every country in the world on the same day: “it was a really challenging task to do” and represented a huge undertaking.

Given that the film highlights priority UNDP issues, such as women’s empowerment and sustainable development, and that filming took place in over 95 UNDP Country Offices, it is unsurprising that UNDP was one of the project’s partners in October 2010.

More specifically, 120 HD video cameras were donated to UNDP by the One day on Earth team and were sent to colleagues in UNDPs Country Offices all over the world, to film UNDP’s work on 10/10/10.

In the case of Cyprus, and as part of its mandate to be involved in grassroots collaborative media initiatives, Peace it Together together partner CCMC also submitted material for the film, shot at the old Nicosia airport.

The footage featured Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot youth sharing their views and experiences at the airport, which was abandoned after 1974.

So, when do audiences get to see the fruit of this burst of creative collaboration? The answer is, sooner than you think!

One Day on Earth has its world premier on Earth Day, April 22, 2012 and will be shown in over 160 countries around the world, including Cyprus.

CCMC, in partnership with Peace it Together partner Youth Power, will screen the documentary twice this Sunday, at 8pm at the CCMC Community Space in Nicosia’s buffer zone (with Greek subtitles), and in the CCMC Community Space hosted by the Environmental Society of Lefke (with Turkish subtitles), in parallel with screenings around the world at the same time.

More information on the screenings can be found here.

And for filmmakers who might have an interest in being part of this year’s recordings on December 12, 2012, as well as educators of kids aged four to 18, a wealth of resources as well as a community platform can be found on the One Day on Earth website.

Peace Exchange leaves you with a video of Ruddick’s Ted TV talk on the making of One Day on Earth, a project that harnessed the power of that most abundant resource we all share: our stories.

That’s all for this time. See you in the next post!

You can read a Greek version of this post here, and a Turkish version here.

‘A delicate moment’ – UN special adviser Alexander Downer briefs the PiT network

Peace Exchange tries to maintain a balance between upbeat and motivating posts in this little corner of the Internet.

On this occasion, however, the offering is both sobering and a call to action. Here’s why.

Last Wednesday, UN Special Adviser in Cyprus Alexander Downer met with Peace it Together representatives at the Cyprus Community Media Centre, to brief them on the current state of the negotiations.

In a nutshell, the high-ranking UN official made it clear time was running out on bringing the talks to a positive conclusion, and that deadlock on the critical issue of cross-voting was threatening to bring the peace process to a grinding halt.

Keeping to a tight schedule that permitted him little time beyond an hour’s window, Downer briefed attendees on the developments of the past six months, summarising the progress, or lack thereof, made at talks held in Geneva, Switzerland and Greentree, New York between UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities.

While there are still sticking points in the chapters under discussion, said Downer, ultimately the bone of contention was the issue of cross-voting, desired by the Greek Cypriot leadership and rejected by the Turkish Cypriot leadership.

“It’s quite a delicate moment. On the property issue, more and more quiet progress is being made, (albeit) painfully slowly,” he observed. “But the cross-voting issue is unresolved.”

Given that he has to submit a report on the situation to UNSG Ban this week, after which Downer and the Secretary-General will meet in mid-April to decide what the next step should be, the UN special adviser was blunt:

“(The two leaderships) are not going to agree on all the core issues in the next nine days, so there is a question mark over the survival of the peace talks, he said.

And, as of June 30 – the last day before the Greek Cypriot government takes over the presidency of the EU Council – if the cross-voting deadlock is allowed to continue, said Downer, the Turkish Cypriot leadership may simply decide to discontinue negotiations, effectively bringing an end to the reconciliation process.

In response, Bulent Kanol of the Management Centre pointed out that, for their part, civil society groups were not being made privy to the crucial issues under discussion, effectively hindering them from acting as agents of positive peacebuilding in their communities.

“Civil society feels powerless,” he said, adding that the political leadership “should not drive forward on (the issue of cross-voting) on their own”.

Furthermore, the UN could get involved in making the negotiations more accessible to civil society, he noted.

Addressing this last point, Downer stressed that what was needed now was urgent, personal responsibility to be taken on the individual level.

“These talks are weeks away from a complete crisis due to only one thing – the cross-voting presidency issue,” he said.

“The future of all people on the island hangs on this issue which has poisoned the whole atmosphere of these talks.”

Adding his own thoughts on the role of the Peace it Together network, Giorgos Andriotis of NGO Support Centre, asked, in the event of a crisis in the talks: “How do we convince people that it’s going to be really hard to restart the process, as it has happened in the past?”

It all comes down to “the issues of substance”, replied Downer. Civil society needed to pose the question: “what do I think about cross-voting, and what do I want from my leaders”.

So, in wrapping up, the Peace Exchange urges its readers to seize the moment.

Let’s not wait to get educated or updated on the key issues passively, but use whatever resources and outlets are available to make the importance of reconciliation stressed to the leaderships of the two communities. Before it is too late.

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

See you in the next post!

You can read a Greek version of this post here, and a Turkish version of this post here.

Message from the UN Secretary-General on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Peace Exchange shares with you UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message on the occasion of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination:

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“March 21st is an important opportunity to remember that racism undermines peace, security, justice and social progress. It is a violation of human rights that tears at individuals and rips apart the social fabric.

“As we mark this International Day under the theme of ‘racism and conflict’, my thoughts are with the victims.

“Racism and racial discrimination have been used as weapons to engender fear and hatred. In extreme cases, ruthless leaders instigate prejudice to incite genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“There are many valuable treaties and tools – as well as a comprehensive global framework – to prevent and eradicate racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Nevertheless, racism continues to cause suffering for millions of people around the world. It thrives on ignorance, prejudice and stereotypes.

“The United Nations is responding by working to foster inclusion, dialogue and respect for human rights. Where societies have been shattered by conflict, the United Nations strives to promote peace processes and peacebuilding that foster inclusion, dialogue, reconciliation and human rights. Uprooting racism and prejudice is essential for many war-torn societies to heal.

“At the same time, I look to all people to join the United Nations in our drive to eliminate racism. We must, individually and collectively, stamp out racism, stigma and prejudice.

“This year, we are spreading the word through social media. Visit our new website, http://www.un.org/en/letsfightracism. Tweet your support with the hashtag #FightRacism. Share the text of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination with the link http://bit.ly/xGOrnX. Post to one of our Facebook pages in English, French or Spanish. Or create your own campaign.

“Join us, on this International Day, in spreading awareness to stop racism.”

Act now, act together for the Sahel

A children’s fable tells the story of an ant and a grasshopper during the balmy days of summer.

While the ant labours in the hot sun, gathering up grains from a nearby farmer’s field, the grasshopper sings and idles about ignoring the passage of time.

But it is the ant who has the final laugh, as the bitter austerity of winter humbles the grasshopper who had done nothing to provide for the lean months while the opportunity existed.

This is a call to all Peace Exchange readers to be ants, not grasshoppers when it comes to the plight of the countries of Africa’s Sahel – Niger, Chad, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, parts of Senegal, Northern Cameroon and Northern Nigeria – where at least 10 million are struggling to get sufficient food this year, chiefly due to drought.

As United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) head Helen Clark noted after a joint UNDP/OCHA Mission to Niger late last month:

“The emergency situation now unfolding, and expected to peak between March and August, is the latest in a series of recurring and deadly food shortages in the Sahel. It comes just two years after the region’s last severe food security and nutrition crisis in 2010.”

Nonetheless, the vigilant Niger Government, as Clark noted in her debriefing remarks, has been “quick to appreciate and react to the implications of last year’s rain shortfall and poor harvest.

“Alerted through its early warning system, the Government expressed concern as early as August last year, developed an emergency response plan, and directed some of its own resources to avert a worsening situation.”

And part of February’s OCHA-UNDP mission was to assist in meeting the immediate emergency needs of the people of Niger, while also addressing the underlying structural causes of food insecurity, so as to break the cycle of chronic drought in the region.

However, only around 10 per cent of the more than $400 million required for Niger has been raised so far, and more must flow in if the situation is not to get even worse.

“I think a stepped-up international response is really urgent now, stressed Clark.

“So, that’s a matter for governments, and it’s a matter for ordinary citizens in countries which care, to start looking at which of the charities you support are active in these countries, and look to give a little to many people to make a difference.”

This is a perfect opportunity to harness the network of support and multifaceted cooperation that lies at the heart of the Peace it Together network.

We can all – by sharing this post on our various social networks, by getting informed on the issue, by lobbying for aid where possible and, yes, by donating time or resources directly – “act now, act together” for the Sahel, as Clark puts it.

You can get more information on this unfolding crisis here. For direct giving, some charities to consider donating to include UNICEF, Oxfam, Save the Children and Mercy Corps.

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

Until then, stay warm, have a great weekend and… see you in the next post!

You can read a Greek version of this post here, and a Turkish version here.