Category Archives: Uncategorized

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!

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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.

Borders are where imagination begins

Peace Exchange has something rather special up its sleeve today.

Something that really speaks to the essence of the Peace it Together network’s endeavours.

Curious? Well, it comes in the form of a video.

Here it is.

Yes, it’s a Ted talks video. Perhaps you’re acquainted with Ted.

Ted, according to Wikipedia is: “a global set of conferences owned by the private non-profit Sapling Foundation, formed to disseminate ‘ideas worth spreading'”.

In other words, freely accessible and frequently uploaded recordings of talks given by innovators from all walks of life: from technology, to literature, to science, to politics and beyond.

The video above is listed under Ted’s ‘inspiring’ category.

And indeed it is, when you consider that the lady giving the talk, Amy Purdy, is a double amputee who nonetheless went on to become a snowboarding champion, an entrepreneur and a pioneer.

There may be some who may snicker a little at her obvious nerves and rather cliche-ed opening.

Regardless, if you put that aside and watch till the end (it’s a whisker over nine minutes) you’ll find the video speaks about an oft-repeated, but ultimately transformational idea.

In Amy’s words:

“Our borders and obstacles can do only two things: one –  stop us in our tracks, and two – force us to get creative…

“Borders are where the actual ends, and also, where imagination begins…

“It’s not about breaking down borders, it’s about  pushing off of them,  and seeing what amazing places they might bring us…”

The Peace it Together network aims do that too, using current obstacles as a starting point to  “get creative” in bringing the island’s communities together.

It uses the boundaries that exist to harness imagination for the benefit of peacebuilding and cooperation.

And it acts to to keep the island’s citizenry aware of the possibilities for intercommunal harmony and reconciliation.

These are a few of the reasons why Peace Exchange thinks you should watch the video. Quite apart from which, it’s a compelling life story told with simplicity,  sincerity and an endearing self-deprecation.

Meanwhile, the International Day of Persons for Disabilities is just round the corner, to be marked on December 3. You can read UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message for the day here.

That’s all for the moment, but the Peace Exchange will be bringing you more good stuff very shortly.

Till then, stay tuned, keep warm and… see you in the next post!