A network of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot civil society organisations (CSOs) is calling for a shake-up of the Cyprus peace process to include a more central and active role for civil society working in tandem with negotiations between the leaders of the two communities.
At a time when both local and international interest on the Cyprus Problem appears to be waning, in lieu of presumed deadlock ahead of the Cyprus EU Presidency to start in July, the group is calling for the adoption of a more participatory framework to include a wider group of stakeholders in the peace process, an approach they believe will enrich efforts to reach a comprehensive settlement.
“For some time now, the formal peace process has become distant from public concerns and priorities”, said Alexandros Lordos, researcher with the Cyprus2015 group. “Ultimately, in the absence of public legitimization and support from people on the ground, the negotiations end up running around in circles thus failing to achieve any convergences”, added Lordos.
The group has been invited to address the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Conflict Issues at the House of Commons in London on Tuesday 15 May, and will also be speaking to an audience of UK-based Cypriots at the London School of Economics the following day. “What we are saying is that there is not one Peace Process”, said Bulent Kanol, Director of the Management Centre of the Mediterranean. “By focusing solely on the talks at the leadership level, we are losing out on real opportunities to achieve society-wide mobilisation and reconciliation away from the confines of the negotiating room. Our work is based on the notion that a culture of peace can be fostered through dialogue and cooperation”, he added.
In what will be the first articulation of a common position, the group will highlight the role that civil society can play both as an example of how cooperation can be achieved, and how this sector can drive the process forward. “We are certainly not interested in a normalisation of the status quo”, said Michalis Avraam, Director of the NGO Support Centre. “Despite the lack of progress at the political level, a number of cross-community structures have been established by civil society working to promote a solution to the problem, and to overcome the practical obstacles imposed by division”, added Avraam.
However, such efforts must be supported by a variety of actors in order to broaden participation to include marginalised groups, such as women and youth. “The concerns of women and youth in Cyprus cut across community lines”, said Rana Celal, a member of the Gender Advisory Team. “We care about equal and fair representation, the same way we share the same worries for our future employment opportunities. It is time we demanded that this be reflected in a comprehensive path to a solution”, Celal added.
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Association for Historical Dialogue and Research - http://www.ahdr.info/
Cyprus2015 - http://www.cyprus2015.org/
The Management Centre of the Mediterranean - http://www.mc-med.eu/
NGO Support Centre - http://www.ngo-sc.org/
Youth Power - http://youthpowercyprus.org/