1980-1997
1998-2003
2004-2008
2008-2014
intro
The island of Cyprus rests at the crossroads of three continents, in the waters of the Eastern Mediterranean. Its unique geographical position makes it a place rich with history, both in ancient and recent times.
One important part of this history is the civil society peace-building movement that has been developing throughout the last few decades with the purpose to reconcile the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities on the island.
Separated by a Buffer Zone called The Green Line, and with limited access to each other until the opening of crossing points in 2003, the two communities are still trying to find the best way of building a peaceful and prosperous society together.
Separated by a Buffer Zone called The Green Line, and with limited access to each other until the opening of crossing points in 2003, the two communities are still trying to find the best way of building a peaceful and prosperous society together.
early years: 1980 to 1997
The peace-building movement draws its roots from a series of bi-communal meetings, workshops, and trainings that enabled people to make contact and work together in the name of a common vision.
During that time contacts between people from the two communities were almost impossible. Nevertheless, some pioneers found ways to meet, for example by attending meetings and workshops abroad.
One of the first groups of pioneers was a team of experts from both communities who in 1978 joined forces to complete a joint sewage system for Nicosia. They formed the Nicosia Master Plan, a team of architects, city planners, sociologists, and economists which became instrumental in building a common vision for the divided city of Nicosia.
Then, starting in 1980, a series of bi-communal meetings was organized by the British Friends of Cyprus Committee in London with Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot journalists, educators, politicians, public servants, and architects.
Other initiatives followed such as the 1984 Interactive Problem-solving Workshop organized by Herbert Kelman from Harvard University and the 1985 Operation Locksmith Workshop that took place with Leonard Doob from Yale University.
From 1988 to 1993, a series of four Problem-solving Workshops (in Ottawa, London, and Nicosia) was organized with the help of Ron Fisher from the Canadian Institute for International Peace and Security. These workshops aimed to build trust between Cypriots using ideas from the growing academic field of conflict resolution.
In 1992, Louise Diamond from the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy came to Cyprus to organize two Conflict Resolution Workshops.

She teamed up with Diana Chigas from the Conflict Management Group and a fruitful collaboration emerged between the two organizations, leading to the establishment of the Cyprus Consortium in 1994 with the support of the Cyprus Fulbright Commission and USAID.
The Cyprus Consortium carried out a series of Trainings for Trainers from 1994 to 1997 and helped build a pool of local trainers that offered assistance to different bi-communal groups focused on specific issues.
These workshops and groups used a technique called Interactive Management which was employed by Fulbright Scholar Benjamin Broome to help Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots develop strategies for their peace-building efforts. The work culminated in a Cyprus Peace Bazaar event where 241 promising bi-communal projects were showcased and 15 were selected as the most instrumental to the needs of both communities and the bi-communal movement.
Another key development was a series of 25 mediation trainings offered to various groups by Fulbright Scholars Marco Turk and John Ungerlider.

These trainings used exercises, roleplaying, and discussion to help Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots learn mediation techniques that could be applied at home, at work, or in community settings.
Therefore, the focus of the movement during these early years was on civil society development and mediation and peacebuilding. The various trainings and workshops equipped people from the two communities with conflict resolution and mediation tools and also led to the establishment of bi-communal groups that started to meet regularly and were the seeds of the civil society peace-building movement in Cyprus.
But in December 1997 political difficulties meant that Turkish Cypriots could no longer cross the Buffer Zone to meet with Greek Cypriots. This meant the movement needed to adapt to the new circumstances.
But in December 1997 political difficulties meant that Turkish Cypriots could no longer cross the Buffer Zone to meet with Greek Cypriots. This meant the movement needed to adapt to the new circumstances.
initial developments: 1998 to 2003

Between 1998 and 2003, the civil society peace-building movement began to develop outside the Buffer Zone, working not only on mediation and reconciliation, but also carrying out activities in areas of common concern for both communities.
initial developments: 1998 to 2003

Between 1998 and 2003, the civil society peace-building movement began to develop outside the Buffer Zone, working not only on mediation and reconciliation, but also carrying out activities in areas of common concern for both communities.
initial developments: 1998 to 2003

Between 1998 and 2003, the civil society peace-building movement began to develop outside the Buffer Zone, working not only on mediation and reconciliation, but also carrying out activities in areas of common concern for both communities.
These initiatives had a bi-communal component with parallel, collaborative, and some joint projects taking place.
These initiatives had a bi-communal component with parallel, collaborative, and some joint projects taking place.
These initiatives had a bi-communal component with parallel, collaborative, and some joint projects taking place.
During this period around 200 civil society organizations in Cyprus made use of the support offered by the USAID/UNOPS Bi-communal Development Program to do work in different relevant fields. Even though a variety of initiatives were implemented, cultural heritage, environment, and public health were predominant during this period.
Cultural heritage initiatives were focused on restoring and preserving the architectural artefacts of the island such as the traditional quarters of Old Nicosia and the Venetian Walls surrounding the heart of the city, the Monastery of Apostolos Andreas, and the Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque.
Environment initiatives were deemed vital for the preservation of fragile ecosystems across the island and carried out important work with local fauna (sea turtles, snakes, griffon vultures, Cyprus donkeys and Cyprus mouflons) as well as reforestation, cleaning-up events on beaches across the island, and biodiversity awareness campaigns.
Public health initiatives were also implemented during this period to eradicate diseases and pests, to inform the public on disease prevention issues, and to introduce new medical techniques in Cyprus.
At the same time, work was still being done on bringing people together in order to help them overcome the past. The establishment of a Friendship House in Pyla in 1998, accessible to both communities, meant that some level of contact was still possible and people continued to work together. Meanwhile, bi-communal public events organized in the Pergamos Park in Pyla were the beginning of a new era of contact and dialogue.
The approach of the civil society peace-building movement during this nascent period was to identify and address the most urgent needs in society in areas such as capacity development, knowledge & innovation, and social good.
In 2002, the emerging civil society peace-building movement had its first major public outreach opportunity when a Common Vision document was created and signed by 86 Turkish Cypriot NGOs calling on the leaders of the two communities to come to a settlement and outlining criteria for a solution.
But the most crucial event for the evolution of the movement came in 2003, when crossing points between the two communities were opened and Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots were able to make contact, and thus work together, much more easily than before.
growth & cooperation: 2004 to 2008
The lifting of crossing restrictions in 2003 was a major turning point for the civil society peacebuilding movement in Cyprus. It enabled the multiplication of joint projects and the establishment of inter-communal networks and thematic groups such as:
At the same time, the emerging civil society sector continued growing and attracted support from the European Union and USAID, through the following programmes:
Working on common projects enabled Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to find ways to build relationships & cooperate on issues of common concern. The thematic reach of the civil society peace-building movement continued to diversify with considerable growth in areas such as arts & culture, education, youth, and social inclusion.
Arts & culture initiatives worked to bridge the gap between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot artistic communities through joint exhibitions and performances, art competitions and collaborations, and efforts to involve more people such as the Open Studios events during which artists opened their workshops for visits from the public.
Social inclusion initiatives were centered on offering support to marginalized groups, combating discrimination, and promoting human rights and respect for diversity.
Education initiatives focused on promoting tolerance through civic and peace education, training teachers and educators in conflict resolution, initiating a dialogue on historical narratives in both communities, and providing educational materials and trainings on various environmental, health, and social issues.
Youth initiatives included numerous bi-communal summer camps on different topics, skill development opportunities, and events focused on peace and reconciliation.
While capacity development, knowledge production, and working for social good remained essential pillars of the civil society peace-building movement during this period, encouraging dialogue & promoting diversity also became central to the movement’s efforts for reconciliation.
The focus on mutual understanding and multiculturalism was particularly important following the rejection of a comprehensive settlement in April 2004.

While the Turkish Cypriot community voted in favor of the settlement, an outcome that was influenced by the great mobilization of Turkish Cypriot civil society, the Greek Cypriot community voted against the plan, and a solution wasn’t reached.

In May 2004, the Republic of Cyprus joined the European Union with the acquis communautaire suspended in the Turkish Cypriot community.
When negotiations for a settlement were resumed in 2008, 13 working groups and technical committees were set up to pave the way to fully-fledged negotiations. The participants in some of the committees included civil society leaders and technical experts who had been involved in the peace-building movement
At the same time, some civil society organisations were beginning to occupy an increasingly important role in addressing the democratic deficit of the formal peace process and providing specialized services to their communities.
This specialization is reflected in an increasing tendency towards equal distribution of initiatives belonging to different thematic areas, a definitive sign of the consolidation and maturity of the civil society peace-building movement. One important development is that some areas that had been lagging behind such as gender, media, and business & economy began to bloom during this period.
Gender initiatives focused on the empowerment of women and the fight for gender equality in the private sphere, through trainings and community awareness events, and the public sphere, by setting up a Gender Advisory Team whose purpose was to mainstream gender equality in the peace process and by highlighting the importance of including UN’s Security Council Resolution 1325 in the Cyprus negotiation process.
Media initiatives were mainly directed towards encouraging the emergence of a non-biased, independent, community media sector in Cyprus and equipping community leaders with the necessary skills for professional online journalism and media production. Moreover, civil society in Cyprus was the host for an international community media conference where practitioners exchanged best practices and discussed the future of community media in our technology-driven societies.
Business & Economy initiatives were centred on highlighting the benefits of economic co-operation between the Greek Cypriot community and the Turkish Cypriot community. The Chambers of Commerce in the two communities carried out a joint project called Interdependence which aimed to encourage joint business initiatives and private sector development through market research and business cooperation grants. In addition, the Stelios Awards, rewarding business cooperation between the Greek Cypriot community and the Turkish Cypriot community, proved to the Cypriot public that such cooperation can be achieved and is beneficial for all.
During this period, civil society peace-building initiatives have increasingly focused on actively engaging with the general public, through active citizenship activities, and decision-makers, through advocacy & policymaking initiatives. At the same time, dialogue & diversity initiatives have also continued growing in numbers.
These trends confirm that civil society in Cyprus is contributing to the creation of a multi-cultural society and is helping mend the divisions between the different communities on the island, and strengthen the relationship between the public and the island’s leaders.
With support from UNDP ACT, a pool of civil society specialists has been established in Cyprus working to bridge the gap between needs on the ground and policy-making processes in different thematic areas:

Education & History
Association for Historical Dialogue & Research

Media & Communications
Cyprus Community Media Centre

Economic Cooperation
The Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry, The Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce

Environment
Cyprus Environmental
Stakeholder Forum
Education & History
Cultural Heritage and Participatory Planning
Kontea Heritage Foundation, The Cyprus Scientific and Technical Chamber (ETEK), Union of the Chambers of Cyprus Turkish Engineers and Architects

Civil Society Development
The Management Centre of the Mediterranean, NGO Support Centre

Youth
Youth Power, Mediation Association, PeacePlayers Cyprus

Research & Advocacy
SeeD (Centre for Sustainable Peace and Democratic Development)

To see the full range of organizations working on peace building in Cyprus click here.
In addition to UNDP ACT, other programs helped support the civil society peace-building movement:
A landmark for the civil society peace-building movement was the opening of the Home for Cooperation in 2011, in the Ledra Palace Buffer Zone, twenty years after pioneers of the Cypriot civil society peace-building movement first met here.
Another significant moment was the establishment of the Peace it Together network, which connected the efforts of peace-building and reconciliation NGOs on the island.
Mahallae is the fruit of this collaboration, a platform designed to connect the experiences, resources, and expertise of civil society practitioners in Cyprus and the region and to encourage the use of technology and innovation for social change.
Together with SCORE, a tool that uses a scientific approach to identifying the obstacles to reconciliation, Mahallae is dedicated to using the power of technology for social good.

At the same time, as information technology opens up new avenues for communication and collaboration, new initiatives of the civil society peacebuilding movement are seeking ways to benefit from science and technology in their work.
Today, civil society organizations in Cyprus are becoming more firmly established and specialized and they tend to be better placed to influence policymaking in the two communities. The story of civil society peace-building in Cyprus continues and new generations of activists and practitioners are carrying the mission further, adapting old methods and inventing new tools to build a peaceful, multi-cultural, prosperous society on the island.