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Dialogue and participation bring Cypriots closer to a settlement

Dec 31, 2015

In ten years, Cyprus has transformed itself into a more cohesive society with strong prospects for peace

Nicosia, Cyprus, 31 December – The U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) today ended a ten year, multi-million dollar initiative that has bridged differences and helped create a dialogue among communities on the long-divided island.

Funded by USAID to the tune of over $60 million USD, the Action for Cooperation and Trust (ACT) programme helped create an intricate set of relationships across ethnic lines, spanning civil society, business and politics. The programme has also contributed to restoring the island’s historic buildings in a major boost for the island's memory and identity.

Since 2005, the programme’s pioneering maps and surveys have given an indication of the island's level of confidence in unity and diversity. The surveys now indicate that 53 percent of Greek Cypriots and 29 percent of Turkish Cypriots trust one another, as compared with 19 and 4 percent respectively in 2006. Broken down to the local level, the indicators have helped policy-makers map and target interventions for a decade.

Reflecting on a decade of peacebuilding work across the island, ACT Programme Manager, Christopher Louise, said:

“As the programming draws to a close, we are seeing great optimism with regard to the peace process. The two leaders have committed to a shared goal of reaching a comprehensive settlement as swiftly as possible, while influential civic and political leaders from all communities are now working together to design a societal roadmap for a  solution. These efforts are succeeding because of ACT’s work over the last decade.”

The UN’s work in Cyprus over the decades has resulted in monumental shifts in how the island’s communities deal with each other. With the opening of checkpoints in 2003, UNDP’s work focused on strengthening collaboration and showcasing the practical benefits of inter-communal cooperation.

UNDP-ACT raises hopes that the Cyprus conflict will ultimately be resolved at the local level. For example, the people of Potamia in the Greek Cypriot community and Konthea (Turmenkoy) in the Turkish Cypriot community, worked with ACT to involve communities in local development projects.

Meanwhile, Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities, separated by the Green Line in the region of Famagusta on the island’s eastern cost, created new business and cultural relationships with ACT’s support. In December 2015, the two mayors of the respective communities agreed to jointly develop a tourist package that would boost the economy of the greater Famagusta region.  

Other highlights from the decade include the revision of history textbooks by teachers from both communities. An innovative approach to peacebuilding, the SCORE index continues to help measure levels of social cohesion and reconciliation over time – a model now being replicated in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nepal and Ukraine. The Mahallae platform was similarly utilized to engage citizens in the peace process.

Most recently, the programme oversaw the restoration of the Armenian Church and Monastery, which was awarded a European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra in 2015.

The peace negotiations show clear signs of progress. But the true legacy of UNDP-ACT has been its ability to create a space for civic dialogue that feeds into the Cyprus peace process, lending it additional legitimacy and credibility.

For more information, read the summary report highlighting the achievements of the UNDP-ACT programme.

You can also explore the interactive story of the civil society peace-building movement in Cyprus.