This is some exciting work being done in Cyprus in the academic community in regards to higher-profile peace work. Many peace psychologists are involved in exceptional academic work in the Cyprus community and I encourage members to keep an eye open for their work. If you are interested in reading more from these excellent peace psychologists you could also look at chapters in these books –
Social Identity in a Divided Cyprus
Contested Symbols as Social Representations: The Case of Cyprus
–– Scott Moeschberger, President-elect, Division 48
Cyprus Academic Dialogue – A Bi-Communal NGO of Academics, Scholars and Intellectuals Engaging for Peace in their Shared Island
Nicos Anastasiou, Co-President, Cyprus Academic Dialogue and Academic Director, InterNapa College
Costa Constanti, Political Analyst, Cyprus Academic Dialogue Board Member
Cyprus Academic Dialogue (CAD) held its first gathering of academics from both communities of Cyprus firstly in Nicosia in 2009 and then in the UN Buffer Zone in 2010 with the assistance of the Centre for Dialogue of La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia. The aim of these initial meetings was to discuss and exchange ideas on the Cyprus Problem and ways to end the division of the island. In 2012, CAD registered as an independent bi-communal NGO within the Republic of Cyprus with 210 members from both communities, the diaspora, Turkey, Greece, United Kingdom and elsewhere. It has an elected Board of Governors, all volunteers, led by two co-presidents – one from each main Cypriot community.
CAD has grown to be a respected, influential, impartial NGO that supports peace, peace-building, peace-keeping, dialogue, compromise and engagement across the entire spectrum of politics and civilian led initiatives. CAD’s primary aim is an acceptable solution for the benefit of both the communities of Cyprus on the principles of a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political quality. CAD the last few years has been able to engage with the leaders of the two communities, the inter-communal negotiators and their advisors, political parties, Cyprus Problem related NGOs, media based in Cyprus, and, more importantly, political parties, media and civil societies in Turkey and across Europe. CAD was the first bi-communal Cypriot NGO to engage academics and other stakeholders in Turkey with the 2011 and 2013 roundtables in Istanbul and the 2015 roundtable in Ankara with the participation of Turkish Foreign Affairs officials, government representatives, as well as diplomats from many other interested countries. The latter event was an incredible opportunity to exchange ideas and have the Cypriot voice heard in the Turkish capital, something lacking for approximately 50 years.
The CAD aims to bridge the divide between the aims and goals of its Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities, whilst fostering an environment of peace, cooperation and compromise. The CAD not only consists of academics, but has grown to include writers, journalists, activists etc. Together they reach out to all stakeholders and the common person in Cyprus to facilitate a shift towards reconciliation and future-looking rhetoric that is inclusive of all Cypriots, regardless of ‘ethnicity’ or political affiliation. Whilst not wanting to erase the past, through peaceful non-confrontational approaches, CAD exposes the benefits of reunifying the island and working together for the common good of all inhabitants of the island.
CAD, being a non-political entity and being tapped into the media and political parties, has been able to express itself as a Cypriot NGO working neither for, nor against, any of the communities of Cyprus, but purely as a Cypriot NGO. CAD always aims to be impartial and open-minded. CAD objectively looks at the realities and encourages dialogue and exchange of ideas to reach the best possible convergences between all stakeholders. This makes CAD quite a unique NGO, not only in Cyprus, but across the entire Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean region.
By engaging the media, CAD has been able to reach much of the population and to allow them to see various points of view and alternative options to those currently known. CAD tries to influence policy making of the Cypriot leaders and its negotiators as well as public opinion by developing policy papers and public statements and encouraging progress in the peace talks. Its efforts focus to influence public opinion positively so that the negotiations for peace in Cyprus can be viewed as a necessity to break the stalemate and reach a solution for the future of all Cypriots. Its attempts are to explain the details of the peace process and the path to reunification through conferences, workshops panels, op-eds, public announcements and the social media. Such events have taken place all over Cyprus, in Turkey, Greece and the UK.
Via the social-media page, CAD has been able to communicate ideas and information to an incredible 55,000 Cypriots (out of a total population of under one million). This helps to drive public opinion and raise awareness of what can be demanded and expected of the Cypriot leaders.
Apart from the historical roundtables in Turkey, CAD also hosted the two Chief Negotiators at an intense closed-door discussion on the island of Corfu in 2015. In June 2016 it hosted the two Cypriot Leaders whereby they presented their views of life in a post-reunification federal island. This garnered unprecedented media attention, both locally and internationally.
CAD has these last few years campaigned and prepared policy papers on the crucial Property Issue in the negotiations, on Displaced Persons, Governance, Truth and Reconciliation, Security, Decentralized Federation, Education and Confidence Building Measures (CBMs). These have been shared with all stakeholders, political leaders, negotiators, advisors, the UN, EU, political parties, diplomatic circles, academic institutes, NGOs etc. These have generally been linked to workshops, roundtables, panels and online debates within Cyprus, as well as Turkey. In recent years the diaspora has become more engaged in the process and CAD has opened fronts with them as well, mainly in the UK and Australia.
By fostering a culture of peace, CAD has endeavored to contribute to the lessening of misinformation, to lowering ethnic-based tensions, hate-speech and racism, to limit exclusion, to encourage interaction and has chipped away slowly at the physical and mental wall that divides Cyprus and the Cypriots. By exposing Cypriots to alternative views, progressive ideas, demystifying the ‘other’ and encouraging truth and reconciliation, CAD does its utmost to foster a culture that demands peace and is driving the island away from division and towards unity. The work being undertaken by CAD in Cyprus can be utilized as a case-example for the Middle East and the broader region and indeed if the island is reunited soon Cyprus can be a shining example of peace for other nearby troubled areas. CAD could help to export its methods and engage regional partners to follow suit.