Project background and justification
Over the last year, a series of political developments have once again attracted international attention and paved the way for new, grassroots peace building initiatives that aim at reaching a lasting solution to the Cyprus problem.
The collapse of the talks between the leaders of the two communities at The Hague in December 2002, an unprecedented popular mobilization of Turkish Cypriots, and the signing of the Cyprus Accession Treaty by the European Union (EU) all created pressure that eventually led to a partial opening of the border. This has allowed crossings of the Green Line beginning in late April 2003. More than half a million Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots crossed for the first time since 1974. Most of them visited their previous homes, a very painful process that was handled with extreme responsibility by the majority of Cypriots. Out of hundreds of thousands of crossings, only on a few occasions were tensions or expressions of violence observed. This positive public behavior can be partly attributed to the dedicated and persistent work of peace-builders that took place during the past ten years.
Because of a 30-year economic embargo against the Denktas regime, the economy of Northern Cyprus remains severely depressed. Thus, another important outcome of the border opening is that citizens have now also begun thousands of cross-community economic transactions. This small capital injection has boosted the morale of Turkish Cypriots, and may be contributing to the reduction of the number leaving the island in search of better living conditions. More significantly, the United Nations and the EU have also begun to provide some resources for economic collaboration and promoting interactions between the Turkish and Greek Cypriot business communities. In the next few years, with Cyprus’s accession to the EU, resource commitments in support of economic advancement programs are expected to continue to grow significantly, although the amount flowing into Northern Cyprus will ultimately depend upon whether Cyprus accedes to the EU as a divided or a united nation.
Overall, Cypriot citizens’ actions during the past months have demonstrated their strong desire to live together in cooperation and harmony, sending a message to politicians that is becoming harder to ignore. Many activists and observers believe that the window of opportunity to solve the Cyprus problem is once again open, but for a limited time. Civil society groups are faced with the challenge of intensifying and becoming more strategic in their peace efforts, ensuring that a culture of peace and cooperation survives and flourishes in the post-settlement era. Our project, "Reconciliation Now intends to do exactly that. The project, as noted above concetrates on three pillars:
During the implementation of the Reconciliation Now! contract, a number of different sub-projects were implemented:
- Media Literacy Project (including follow-up projects/activities related to the 2002 Young Journalists Project)
- North-South Economic Cooperation Project
- Improving the Capacity of Cypriot NGOs to Plan and Manage Bicommunal Projects
The goal of the Reconciliation Now! program was to contribute to the peace and reconciliation process in Cyprus by supporting projects that expand opportunities for Greek and Turkish Cypriots to cooperate in three strategic areas, namely:
- Media development and responsible journalism;
- Economic cooperation (ie. training and technical assistance to support joint business ventures); and
- Strengthening the capabilities of Cypriot civil society to plan and manage bicommunal programs that will create opportunities for Cypriots throughout the island to participate in citizen dialogue and access conflict resolution training and mediation opportunities.
Reconciliation Now-Project objectives
- Promote economic development in northern Cyprus by convening groups of business people to examine opportunities and barriers, providing training (conflict resolution, entrepreneurship & management skills), access to information and technical advice to facilitate the creation of joint Turkish and Greek Cypriot business ventures.
- Enhance the role of the media in the reconciliation process by creating a critical mass of journalists and editors within Cyprus’s leading media organizations that understand the ethics and practices of a free and balanced media, and that have acquired new skills to advance the practice of journalism in Cyprus.
- Improve the skills of managers and young professionals in a few select NGOs in Cyprus to design and manage more strategic and effective bicommunal programs.
The brief below will give an overview of the (situation) social, economic & political and explain/emerging the reader to the situation "Reconciliation Now" aims to overcome.
Overview of Turkish and Greek Cypriot NGO Peace Building Initiatives
Between 1974 and 1993, only sporadic bicommunal meetings and events took place, either in Cyprus or abroad. From 1993-99, more than 100 groups (each consisting of approximately forty members) were created. Each of these groups participated in and benefited from at least one, one-week training workshop. Most of these workshops were conceived, designed and organized by senior peace builders in Cyprus. The workshops were always mixed (Turkish and Greek Cypriots). Special permissions for the meetings were obtained through the intervention of the American Embassy and the Fulbright Commission. Beginning in 1999, the availability of UNDP/UNOPS funding, and later EU funding for bicommunal projects, signaled the emergence of a more formal civil society sector, with hundreds of NGOs formed on both sides of the border. Out of these hundreds, only a small number are both active and have visions that focus on the re-unification of the island. The most visible initiatives are in five areas:
NGO Resource and Support Centers
Providing Cypriot NGOs with support and capacity building services is considered instrumental in supporting their work. Examples are: (i) The NGO Resource Center in South Nicosia (directly operated by UNOPS) which provides space for meetings and workshops; (ii) The Management Centre in North Nicosia (funded by UNOPS and managed by the Management Group) which also provides space, a library and training for NGOs; (iii) The British Council (funded by EU) which offers courses in public relations, marketing, budgeting and resource management, etc.; and (iv) the Tech4Peace portal (funded by UNOPS and managed by CNTI) providing free pages to all NGOs in Cyprus and up-to-date dynamic information about all peace activities in Cyprus.
The most visible bicommunal Youth Group is Youth Promoting Peace (Y2P) which has been funded twice by UNOPS and is managed by CNTI. Y2P employs two young professionals as project coordinators, a Turkish Cypriot located at the Management Centre office in North Nicosia, and a Greek Cypriot located at CNTI’s offices in South Nicosia. Y2P has collaborated with numerous other youth initiatives in the organization of mass events and joint programs, including The Youth Centre, the Youth Encounters for Peace Group (YEP), the School for International Training (SIT – located in Vermont) environmental NGOs and other groups. At least 20 activities involving approximately 20,000 people in all have been co-organized over the past five years.
The HasNa Young Journalists Project (see Section II.) has also emerged as a highly effective program targeting young professionals from both communities.
Trade Unions and Chambers of Commerce The Trade Unions and Chambers of Commerce of Turkish and Greek Cypriot business people have met regularly, issued common declarations, intervened in the political arena and co-managed EU-funded programs valued at more than 15 million euros. The Trade Unions were instrumental in organizing the mass demonstrations in Northern Cyprus last October in support of the Annan Plan. Joint efforts now focus on resolving legal and political obstacles to enable real business interactions between the North and South.
One of the most promising interventions lies with senior business leaders, who have met many times outside of Cyprus (Brussels, Istanbul, USA, etc.) and have released joint declarations in support of an immediate solution based on the Annan Plan. It was the political pressure exerted by this group that led to the establishment of an UN-supported call center to enable telephone calls between the two sides of the island. More recently, a Forum of ten senior business people, headed by Mr. Dinos Lordos (Greek Cypriot) and Mr. Erdil Nami (Turkish Cypriot) was formed to encourage and support business interactions between the two communities.
In late 2002, two Peace Platforms were formed; the first, called “This Country is Ours” is a platform of 41 organizations located in the North. The second is a Greek Cypriot analog, "Support SOLUTION NOW - 40 NGOs already did". This platform set up the first welcome kiosk at the checkpoint when the gates opened; in early 2003, it expanded to include more than 300 people. The Turkish Cypriot platform has recently been expanded to include over 90 NGOs. There is also an effort to create one common platform. The platforms operate on an ad-hoc basis to mobilize people whenever mass political pressure is required, and do not receive external funding.
New Challenges and Opportunities for Economic Development
Since 1974, economic activity between the two sides of this divided island has been practically non-existent. In addition to the obstacles imposed by the political status quo, this can be attributed to: (i) the economic embargo imposed on Northern Cyprus by the U.N. and the EU; and (ii) Turkey’s non-recognition of the Republic of Cyprus and, as a consequence, the ports of the island. Despite the economic aid provided by Turkey (U.S. $100-200 million annually), the economy of Northern Cyprus remains seriously depressed. External studies have concluded that a peace settlement in Cyprus would have important economic benefits for all Cypriots, but most significantly for Turkish Cypriots.
A study by Robert Nathan Associates, a U.S. consulting firm, identified four factors that will “profoundly influence the institutional framework for Cyprus’ post-settlement economy: EU accession, the Annan Plan structures, financial assistance from the international donor community, and the ‘peace dividend’.” Over the past four years, the Greek Cypriot economy, has made legal and policy reforms in the areas of banking, taxes, trade and market liberalization to align itself with the EU’s “acquis communautaire”. On May 1, 2004, the Greek Cypriot economy will become part of an expanded EU market of over 400 million consumers. EU entry will take place regardless of whether there is a settlement of the Cyprus problem, although the EU has expressed its preference for accession of a united Cyprus. Evidence suggests that many in the Turkish Cypriot community agree. However, because of the current state of affairs, the Turkish Cypriot economy has not even begun to analyze the reforms that will be required by the acquis communautaire, nor to set any of these reforms in motion. Delaying a political settlement will only prolong the Turkish Cypriot community’s economic disadvantages. A settlement is expected to generate sharply increased financial inflows, especially in infrastructure development, tourism, housing and other construction. The Turkish Cypriot economy is in a period of “severe stagnation”. Its weak performance is attributed to three major factors: (i) a banking crisis in 2000; (ii) a 60% devaluation of the Turkish lira by Turkey in February 2001 that caused a massive decline in purchasing power for Turkish Cypriots; and (iii) growing uncertainty regarding a peace settlement, which has inhibited individual investment. Most of the real growth in the Turkish Cypriot economy during the past several years has been in the services sector, especially transportation, communications, business and personal services. One success story in terms of economic growth has been tertiary education. With five universities serving 23,000 students from the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East region, higher education has become a major foreign exchange earner for the Turkish Cypriot economy, although the quality of education provided through this system needs improvement. Many believe that long-lasting peace will only be achieved in Cyprus when the economic difference between Turkish and Greek Cypriots is minimized. Both the UN and the EU are now making available, for the first time, funds for projects to encourage joint business ventures, especially business activities that will contribute to the economic development of the North. However, the supporting infrastructure for business people to effectively form such partnerships and to absorb and benefit from these new opportunities is still lacking. This project will deploy a team with experience in business development to actively work with potential joint business venture candidates, supporting them from beginning to end to apply, manage and benefit from such opportunities, and to ensure that they are equipped with the necessary skills to succeed.
Robert Nathan Associates (a U.S-based consulting firm) prepared a detailed study of the Economic Future of Cyprus that examines the benefits of a peace settlement. According to Nathan Associates, the economic growth that likely would accompany a settlement will have important implications and require a series of structural adjustments. Such adjustments must take place on both sides as Cyprus harmonizes with the EU and as the Turkish Cypriot economy modernizes. For example, investment and human capital would need to be shifted into more efficient sectors, and some companies would need to be upgraded to be able to compete within the EU and global markets. At the same time, substantial EU financial resources and other forms of assistance are expected to flow into the Cypriot economy, creating new opportunities.
Unfortunately a political settlement has not been reached yet. However, some progress has been achieved: i) relatively free movement of business people across the border; and iii) the exchange of some goods and services as a result of the lifting of certain restrictions.
To support this momentum two new EU funded programs have recently been announced to encourage joint ventures between Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot business people. The first one, the "Business Support Project" is managed locally by UNOPS and will provide funding for projects up to $30,000. The second will be managed through the Trade Unions and is expected to provide approximately U.S. $2.5 million (however, no specific guidelines have been announced yet). Both projects are targeting small and medium size enterprises (SMEs). To support the spirit of business (colla) opportunities & intercommunal collaboration, CNTI has step up its action/work/ its commitment on bringing the two communities closer and enhancing capacity building and innovation. In this respect following a board decision it was decided/agreed that the services of an EU funded project on business innovation and incubation will be made available to T.C interested parties. Analytically, CNTI serves as the Research & Development Unit of Ekkotek Ltd., one of the first high-technology business incubators in Cyprus. Ekkotek is funded through an EUMEDIS grant for the promotion of innovation in Euro-Mediterranean countries. The management team of this project has agreed to extend its benefits and services to Turkish Cypriot business people, should the training modules be relevant to their needs. This can be done through: i) organizing seminars and workshops for young business leaders or aspiring entrepreneurs in the Turkish Cypriot community; ii) setting up a distance learning facility in the North (possibly at the Management Centre) where Turkish Cypriot entrepreneurs can tap into pre-existing training modules on business development. Taking into consideration the status quo on the island, the new political developments and these new EU and UN initiatives pose two critical challenges:
1. How to ensure that both Greek and Turkish Cypriots benefit from an eventual “peace dividend”; and
2. How to ensure that business people and their employees are equipped with the appropriate business, conflict resolution, mediation and negotiation skills to cooperate effectively and thus succeed in joint ventures.
CNTI serves as the Research & Development Unit of Ekkotek Ltd., one of the first high-technology business incubators in Cyprus. Ekkotek is funded through an EUMEDIS grant for the promotion of innovation in Euro-Mediterranean countries. The management team of this project has agreed to extend its benefits and services to Turkish Cypriot business people, should the training modules be relevant to their needs. This can be done through: i) organizing seminars and workshops for young business leaders or aspiring entrepreneurs in the Turkish Cypriot community; ii) setting up a distance learning facility in the North (possibly at the Management Centre) where Turkish Cypriot entrepreneurs can tap into pre-existing training modules on business development.
On this backdrop, the project Reconciliation Now! focuses on areas identified by HasNa through a process of needs analysis and consultation, including: (i) project ideas that were the outcome of two meetings of a Senior Trainers Group ‘think tank’ in Cyprus; (ii) a visit to Cyprus by HasNa board member Chris Zachariadis in May 2003; (iii) a one week program development trip to Cyprus by HasNa’s Executive Director, Ms. Pat Scheid, in July 2003. During this trip, Ms. Scheid met and brainstormed with NGOs and other senior peace builders, representatives from donor agencies (USAID, U.S. Embassy, UNOPS, Fullbright Commission), and the past participants of HasNa’s Young Journalists Project. The focus was to define a program strategy, develop a proposal given current opportunities and challenges, and review project management infrastructure (planning, reporting, accountability, etc.) with an eye towards building capacity for this and future initiatives. The program areas that HasNa has chosen to focus on are:
- Building the skills of journalists and the role of the media in the reconciliation process;
- Providing supportive services to Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot joint business ventures to begin to build the foundations for a common future.
- Training, team-building and the development of more strategic programs that will help to sustain the work of the next generation of NGO professionals and peace builders.
The Use of Opinion Polling Data: Timely data gathering, analysis and dissemination of the public’s views about important/hot topics relevant to peace and reconciliation through the media. Journalists will be given the opportunity to learn new skills in computer assisted research and other practices and technologies to ensure that opinion polling data is used responsibly. Linkages with one or two leading American universities will be established for this purpose. For example, HasNa already has worked with the University of Maryland’s School of Journalism for its Young Journalists Project, and the university has expressed an interest in continuing its involvement. Investigative Reporting & Reporting on Special Topics: Journalists, especially young journalists, will be given the opportunity to learn new skills in investigative reporting, conflict reporting and understanding and reporting on specialized topics (for example, health, business and economics, international affairs, etc.) Media Symposia: Building on the successful media symposium organized in May 2003, HasNa and collaborating Cypriot NGOs will launch a series of symposia that will be designed to engage journalists and editors in a process of reflection, planning and action around the role of the media in creating a better future for Cyprus. Conflict resolution training that equips journalists and editors, who often find themselves at odds with one another, with practical skills for the workplace will be among the topics offered. Independent Online and Print Publishing: Internet communications and journalism have played a critical role in Cyprus by linking Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot peace builders and making instantaneous and organized information and results of bicommunal activities and projects available. Online and independent print publications have also served as alternatives to the mainstream media for neighborhoods and “virtual communities”. The HasNa Journal, published in 2002, is one example, and its continued publication will be encouraged and promoted. Under this activity, HasNa will also seek to offer small grants to provide seed money to young journalists, students or community groups to publish independent and online newspapers and journals. Youth Essay Competitions: To raise awareness about issues that will impact the future of Cypriot youth, and to develop critical thinking and writing skills, specific theme-oriented essay competitions will be organized. The Youth Center and the Y2P Project, both of which have experience in organizing grassroots educational and cultural activities for youth, will take the lead. Public Forums, Group Discussions and Promoting Media Literacy: Open forums and presentations will be organized in locations throughout the country on current and “hot issues” with the purpose of increasing public awareness, facilitating structured citizen dialogue and promoting media literacy. Citizens will also be given opportunities to participate in conflict resolution training programs, facilitated by a core group of senior trainers, through these public forums.
The project was funded by US-based Foundation HasNa Inc.. The project involved the organization of a series of workshops island-wide about issues related to media literacy. The workshops were implemented by Dr. Gary Gumpert and Dr.Susan J. Drucker. Mrs. Elia Petridou from FWC and Selhan Zeki of the Management Centre were selected to coordinate this project. The Advisory Board supervised the process from launch to completion.
Under the Media Literacy aspect of the project the below events were organized:
- Media Literacy
- Economic Collaboration
- NGO capacity building
- Human Rights through Media Literacy - Training of trainers
- Series of trainings to raise awareness on Media Literacy
- MEDIA LITERACY
- NORTH-SOUTH ECONOMIC COOPERATION
- IMPROVING THE CAPACITY OF CYPRIOT NGOS TO PLAN AND MANAGE BICOMMUNAL PROGRAMS
The program aims was fully bicommunal. At the same time, it focused on three very sensitive but key project areas – responsible media, bicommunal economic cooperation and capacity strengthening of the NGO sector in Cyprus (especially Turkish Cypriot NGOs). All of these areas of intervention will require more intense interactions and deeper reconciliation processes. To put these ethics into practice, the following principles and practices will be adhered to by the project management team and Advisory Council:
- All activities will aim to increase interaction and meaningful cooperation between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities.
- The project will be managed by a mixed group of Turkish and Greek Cypriots.
- Project personnel will be co-located in premises in both South and North Nicosia, and project management activities (planning meetings, training workshops, networking, research and information sharing, etc.) will also take place in both locations. The broadest participation reaching different segments of Cypriot society will be sought for project activities, which are expected to take place not only in Nicosia, but also in locations throughout the country.
- An Advisory Council composed of equal numbers of Greek and Turkish Cypriots, as well as 2-3 international experts, will develop strategies, monitor the project’s overall achievement of goals and ensure accountability. Qualified personnel from funding organizations or external experts will also be invited to monitor progress, review accountability mechanisms, and participate in evaluation processes from time to time.
- HasNa will, from time-to-time, assess the functioning and effectiveness of the bicommunal team, including the extent to which decision-making power is being shared equitably, resource allocation between the North and South is balanced according to the project’s stated goals and progress is being made in terms of strengthening the management capacity of Turkish Cypriot NGO managers and young professionals.