Technology for Peace
The project Technology For Peace (Tech4Peace) was envisioned and implemented in order to enhance one of the most basic human rights, the right of communication across the military barriers in Cyprus.
The Tech4Peace project was founded as one of the projects selected for implementation during a Peace Bazaar organized by the Cyprus Conflict Resolution Trainers Group in 1997 . The members of the founding team were Yiannis Laouris, Harry Anastasiou, Dervis Besimler and Bekir Azgin. They were all members of the Cyprus Conflict Resolution Trainers Group.
1. Background Information
The project began in 1996 with two activities which were practically funded by their participants:
A bicommunal virtual organisation (known as UCM: United Cyprus Movement) has been set-up on the Internet to discuss matters of general interest and attempt to inform and recruit Cypriots (both Turkish and Greek) who live abroad. The software for automating the workings of this virtual community was partly designed and developed by one of the applicants of the present application (Laouris) and a Turkish Cypriot (Durduran). The whole system was hosted in various university servers (USA, Australia) but since 1997 it became a "refugee project" because the expenses rose to a level that the participants couldn’t afford.
In August 1997, the applicants from the Greek Cypriot side (Laouris and Anastasiou) in coordination with their counterparts in the North (Besimler and Azgin), together with other members of the TFP Initiative from both communities, and all members of the Bicommunal Trainers Group, planned and materialized an Internet Workshop for students (see chart). This activity was funded (provision for space and snacks) by the Fulbright Commission and took place in the Fulbright Building in the Buffer zone.
In 1997, a USIA grant ($12,000 for our side) to Mr. Hrach Gregorian (International World Affairs Organisation) who has been collaborating with the two sides of the TFP initiative, was used to pay for two computers, in the South and four in the North, a server in the States, rent for space and internet fees for six months, and modest facilitators' remunerations. Following two parallel workshops, and a follow-up for a six-month period of virtual negotiations and communication, the project was brought to existence and its significance and contributions became visible.
The project also had the enthusiastic support of the USIA representation in Cyprus (Mrs. Judith Baroody), it received great and positive attention by the media, by diplomats and of course, more importantly, it was embraced by the peace builders of both sides who gradually saw the potential and opportunity provided by cyberspace.
A small follow-up grant by the USIP ($6,000 for our side) supported the purchase of two additional computers, and paid for internet connection fees during a workshop that took place in the summer of 98. This workshop signalled the new revised strategy of the TFP initiative which was to involve and train active and existing members of bicommunal groups so that they could benefit from the potentials and advantages that virtual cyberspace infrastructures have to offer.
The bicommunal project Technology For Peace (TFP) has been in action for some time now. Its contribution to the rapprochement effort on the island has long been established and fully acknowledged, both by peace-building citizens in the two communities and by interested third parties.
The vision which underpins the TFP Initiative is to enhance in Cyprus one of the most basic human rights, the right of communication between the two communities.
The scope of the TFP Initiative is to apply modern technology in the service of Peace with emphasis on the usage of internet and internet-based applications such as internet-phone and internet video conferencing, hosting peace related web pages and other relevant applications.
The TFP project has already established sites in the respective communities. In addition to the funds provided so far by Funding Organizations, the TFP has been supported both financially and in terms of man hours by its members. For example, while the funds for renting Internet Services have already been used up, the system continues to operate with subsidees from its members. It has organised and hosted many seminars and workshops, organized many other activities and laid the foundations for the first organized infrastructure for the bicommunal world. In contrast to its numerous activities and significant contributions so far, to this date, it has been supported only by modest funds.
Its support at this stage is crucial as its aims and resulting benefits are very wide and multifacet. The fact that this type of activity is a priority is also being underlined by the fact that in all obstacle maps and vision maps generated by numerous bicommunal groups in the years 94-97 the issue of organized communication is always scattered in the priority regions (see example in Appendix).
CYBER Kids has supported the TFP project by donating to the project funds and space. CYBER Kids hosted the project for over 12 months at its own expense and even at the completion of the period it continues to provide space until TFP succeeds to receive its own funding at which stage it will hopefully move to its own space.
Additionally, the other relation between TFP and CYBER Kids is that technical know-how required by TFP is sometimes drawn from the accumulated professional know-how of CYBER Kids without costs.
2. Needs Assessment
As the political situation stands right now, the TFP project provides the only form of communication in a bicommunally structured system between the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. The ban on direct bicommunal contacts and events has consequently raised the TFP project to a new level of significance. For the first time, citizens engaged in peace building have in fact been able to sustain communication through periods of paralysis of the rapprochement efforts resulting from political reasons and impasse. Through e-mails and chatting they can now keep the citizen peace process alive, sustaining motivation through difficult times, while anticipating possible progress on the political level. In fact, a number of bicommunal groups which have been active through regular meetings are now requesting training and participation in the TFP project as the only means of sustaining communication and continuity for their work.
Using technology to promote communication and peace activities in a conflict area like Cyprus, in which physical access is restricted, is a top priority on the agendas of those who wish to support rapprochment. The need for communication between the two sides is obvious. The fact that now hundreds of people who were involved in bicommunal activities communicate through emails is to a large degree due to the fact that dozens of people received direct training by TFP and dozens of others regularly call and request help, contact information or technical support by TFP. TFP Volunteers have invested hundreds of hours supporting all those who wished to stay in contact with the other side.
It is needless to underline the fact that peace builders from both sides, view the TFP initiative as their virtual "office" which provides them support at all levels and they expect this office to become more efficient and more active.
Moreover, a new Coordinating Group has been formed in each respective community which is making full use of the group e-mailing system that we have set up in the context of the TFP project (currently, the members of the Coordinating Group are working with their respective groups to introduce them in TFP and encourage them to use and benefit from the infrastructure that TFP is creating). In this context sustaining and further developing of the TFP project has far reaching repercussions for the cause of peace in Cyprus, particularly by way of sustaining citizen involvement, in spite of the periodic political odds.
The facilities made available by TFP do not entail only a means of communication but also a hi-tech type of infrastructure which can now be used for a vast range of projects and activities. In this sense, the need and also the opportunity of the TFP project is to optimize its utilization by adding informational content to the system and to invite citizens to utilize it efficiently and effectively. The first TFP facilities have now been set up and await for their utilization in purposeful bicommunal ways. The amount of informational content relevant to peace building that TFP can host is unlimited. And the same is true that the number of currently participating citizens and groups is relatively small. Now is therefore the time to reap the benefits from the TFP project that has been set up to host content and users optimally. Without the suggested project, as the next step in place, the TFP project will in effect remain far underused in relation to its present potential.
In addition to providing a sustainable means of communication, internet exposes peacebuilders from both communities to global information. The fact, for example, that within a few minutes, one can access first-hand information on most recent issues (e.g. EU-Cyprus relations, Palestinean-Israel disputes etc.) or read about the mission and activities of all types of organizations (e.g. Peace Centers, funding organizations, government agencies etc. world-wide).
PART IV Project Description, Sustainability, Impact and bicommunality
In light of the above perspective, activating and further expanding the TFP project is now a priority and urgent need. It is a fact that the full potential of TFP is far from realization because of two main reasons: a) a number of bicommunal groups are in queue waiting to be trained in using TFP to reactivate, enhance and expand their rapprochement activities, and b) more equipment is needed to meet the demand.
More specifically, we request funding for a series of workshops, in which a number of active bicommunal groups, whose contacts have been abruptly terminated by political intervention since last December, can be reactivated through training in the use of the TFP facilities. (Note: Even if direct bicommunal contacts resume, the TFP facilities can add a vital efficiency dimension to the work and communication between the bicommunal group members).
We suggest one initial training workshop to train trainers followed by a series of a few two-day workshops to train representative members of active bicommunal groups. Their content and area of emphasis are explained in more detail below in Part VI.
2. Electronic Archives (web pages) and Strategies
In a further series of workshops, the various bicommunal groups will create their web pages giving a profile of their work and activities and creating a virtual meeting and promotion place. This will entail a) design the electronic base for their home page with a great range of sub-pages reflecting the entire spectrum of their bicommunal activities and b) add the relevant textual-literary content for their pages.
This would involve a combination of computer experts designing the electronic base of the TFP internet page(s) working together with active representatives of the various bicommunal groups who will provide and prepare all the relevant information for the content.
The workshops will involve four major components:
1. Design all the essential pages to be prepared, and their electronic-thematic interrelationships, involving all the relevant persons representing the corresponding areas i.e. Archives of past conflict-resolution workshop results, a magazine section hosting articles on peace, policy scenarios for peace, a record of past bicommunal and peace events, announcements of upcoming events, a "library" of book lists on peace related issues, a page presenting official political documents of the two sides side-by-side including UN documents, a section on imaginative post-solution, news bulletins, etc., a creative ideas section, etc., etc.
2. Design the electronic base for the server that will host the TFP page(s), and their interactive relationships, mostly by people versed in technical matters, graphic designers etc.
3. Compile the content materials, classify them, process them and upload them. There exist already a mass of material, ideas and projects which are scattered and essentially unknown and inaccessible to the public and interested parties.
4. Develop an on-line web-based system, which will permit the members of the various bicommunal groups to re-vote, thus changing their votes on certain questions based on changes in the real political arenas and the changing broader political environment of the Cyprus problem. The Interactive Management methodology introduced by Professor Ben Broom in Cyprus has been used to develop the first bicommunal vision maps, obstacle maps and options map. With this tool, we will not only have a stationary picture of the three maps, but also a dynamic one that will reflect the changing phases that the Cyprus problem Is going through. We will thus be in a position to provide a picture of how bicommunal consensus changes in time due to external factors (i.e. political environment, economic changes, crisis events, development of the peace movement etc.). Furthermore, the system will allow any Cypriot citizens from anywhere in the world to participate in a collective map, thus contributing to a Cypriot Bicommunal Peoples' Vision Map.
Each of the above phases can in fact be broken down into a more detailed process.
In order to meet the demands of the coming phases, the technological infrastructure of the project needs to be upgraded. Previous funding was used for setting up four computers for training purposes, buying an ISDN Router to connect to an ISP, paying ISP connection fees for six months and covering logistics and seminar-related expenses. For the next phase it is necessary to purchase a full size server (including its software) and connect this to the ISP via a leased line in order to improve performance and reduce costs.
Currently, the TFP project is sharing a server put in place by one of its supporting organizations (CYBER Kids). When this project is supported, TFP will acquire its own server and connection facilities thus rendering it independent.
4. Significance and Sustainability
The TFP project already has a past history. Its development has now brought it to the point where it can provide a permanent electronically based infrastructure which can now host innumerable bicommunal projects and initiatives. In this sense, TFP is both a project in its own right and a facilitating tool for numerous other projects. The above mentioned characteristics thereby qualify the TFP as a project of optimal relevance and sustainability.
As it appears throughout the proposal, TFP started as a bicommunal project from its conception. It is probably the first bicommunal project which received seed money which in fact has outlift the original effort and continues to exist making available framework and services.
6. Who are the coordinators The coordinators of the project are experienced peace builders, key members of the intercommunal movement since 1990, sensitive about the numerous sensitivities of the Cyprus problem, and known for being practical and efficient in their approach.
Yet another uniqueness of the TFP is the fact that the original founders are now beginning to move in the background while training a new and broader group to gradually take over and expand the project. As part of the project intention in the minds of the founders, for this transitional process to be completed, the TFP project must now be funded and supported accordingly.
The requesting organization for the project in question is Technology for Peace. TFP is a bicommunal non-profit NGO, which in the South is currently under the umbrella of a non-profit research center (CNTI). The goal is, in the near future, to form hopefully the first purely bicommunal NGO together with our counter parts in the North.
PART V Beneficiaries
The importance of such a project is that it will provide a body of material and knowledge relevant to the peace efforts in Cyprus on which one can build further projects indefinitely. It can make available, for the first time, world wide, an entire spectrum of information which gives the broader profile of the Cyprus situation and the range of peace building efforts and related culture. It can in effect provide a vital reference point for all those interested and working on the Cyprus problem at various levels ranging from citizens, professionals, academics, students, policy makers and third parties.
Especially for peace builders these sites would become a reference point that gives a bicommunal context for the problem and its possible solutions, one which provides information, ideas, and a culture in a peace enhancing framework.
The numbers for each category of beneficiaries can in this sense extend indefinitely, in accordance with interest and initiative.
PART VI Implementation arrangements
Phase 1: Set up infrastructure and prepare trainers: Set-up new server and connect to cyberspace via leased line.
A two day workshop that involves active representatives of key bicommunal groups to prepare them to act as facilitators, organizers and trainers for all upcoming workshops. Coordination with USA partner and preparation of plan of action and relevant materials.
Phase 2: Train all Bicommunal Groups to use internet: Two-day workshops to train key representative members of all bicommunal groups in using Internet and Technology For Peace Facilities, such as group e-mail, the TFP Virtual Negotiation Program etc. to facilitate their peace promoting work and coordinate their activities using Cyberspace.
Phase 3: Cultivate a cyberspace culture and publicizing of activities In a series of small workshops, identify, design and develop the electronic base for Web Pages for each bicommunal group. Each group will be encouraged and trained to assume responsibility in designing, developing using and promoting their own cyber office. In other words, groups will be encouraged to go beyond the simplistic development of web pages to the creation of a cyber space and cyber presence that will act as a place of coordination, discussion, data gathering information point, etc. for their activities. Train a "webmaster" for each group who will be given virtual and physical access to the TFP equipment.
Continue collecting content information on activities and work of all the bicommunal groups and up-load it on the appropriate TFP Web Pages. Provide continuing technical support and technical advise to all groups.
- Laouris, Y. and Tziapouras, G. (2002). Technology used for peace in Cyprus. Peacebuilding 3(3), 4-8.
- Laouris, Y. (2004). Information technology in the service of peace building. The case of Cyprus. World Futures, 60, 67–79.