Breaking the pattern of deadlock in the Cyprus Peace Process

Interpeace and local partner, the Centre for Sustainable Peace and Democratic Development (SeeD), have developed a La Construction de la Paix en Pratique paper that summarizes key lessons from the Security Dialogue Initiative (SDI). This two-year programme was launched in 2016 to support the Cyprus Peace Process.

Favoriser la compréhension mutuelle grâce au Forum de dialogue à Chypre

Le programme soutient le Forum de dialogue de Chypre (CDF), qui est une plateforme de dialogue permanente réunissant les décideurs politiques et la société civile des deux communautés et de différents secteurs. Dans la période qui a suivi les discussions à Crans-Montana, le CDF a réussi à maintenir et même à accroître son travail bicommunautaire, confirmant ainsi son rôle clé de « filet de sécurité » au processus de paix lorsque le processus de Track 1 stagne.

À l'heure actuelle, le programme s'est concentré sur le partage des résultats et des enseignements tirés, à la fois en interne et en externe, par le biais d'un document d'orientation et d'une lettre au secrétaire général de l’ONU. Ceux-ci mettront en évidence la nécessité d'appuyer un processus de consolidation de la paix à Chypre et de créer les conditions de la reprise des négociations formelles tout en répondant aux facteurs d'échec des processus précédents.

Promoting women’s inclusion in the peace process

To further promote an inclusive discussion on security, SeeD's Security Dialogue Initiative (SDI) concentrated its efforts on investigating gendered insecurities and women’s inclusion in the peace process. SDI made this research output available on the role of women in the Cyprus peace process.

Research findings showed the close relationship toxic masculinity, which encompasses militarization and normalization of violence, has with women’s exclusion in decision making and intergroup relations. Successful outreach was conducted on the findings, diseminating them among the UN, international and local actors. The Women, Peace and Security policy brief is hoped to serve as a useful reference document for the resumption of the negotiations.

Innovative security approach informs Cyprus Peace Talks

In the past two years, significant progress has been achieved in the Chypre Peace Process on many of the negotiation dossiers. However, security arrangements continue to be an impasse for the island’s reunification. After more than four decades of peace negotiations, the security dossier is still locked in a zero-sum dynamic, where one side’s gain is the other one’s loss. For this reason, in October 2016, with the objective to support the Cyprus Peace Process, the Centre for Sustainable Peace and Democratic Development (SeeD) started implementing the “Security Dialogue Initiative” with its international partners, Interpeace and the Berghof Foundation.

The project has sought to find innovative solutions to overcome the deadlock on security, so that solutions can be found that make both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities feel simultaneously and equally secure. As previous research has shown, both communities give first priority to security matters. Therefore, reaching an agreement on the security dossier is not only crucial to achieving a peace deal but also crucial to receive public endorsement of any Peace Plan that will be put to referenda in both Cypriot communities and ensure that ‘the day after’ a transition to a new state of affairs will be socially and politically viable.

Pro-peace rally in Nicosia, Cyprus. Photo credit: SeeD

A locally owned and internationally informed dialogue on security

The “Security Dialogue Initiative” is a participatory dialogue process that includes the involvement of local stakeholders across the island and international experts, with the objective to identify security options that are acceptable to all Cypriot communities and the international security stakeholders (Greece, EU, Turkey, UK and others).

In the first phase of the project, SeeD undertook a comprehensive bottom-up threat and risk assessment in order to turn the dialogue on security on its head and start from people’s fears rather than political solutions. Based on the findings, SeeD followed a participatory research and dialogue process, involving international experts, to develop a proposed security architecture for Cyprus that would respond to these real and perceived threats.

The second phase of the research process subjected the proposals thus developed to rigorous testing. On the one hand, a public opinion poll[1] was conducted to assess the acceptability of the options generated and, on the other hand, the proposals were vetted by another set of experts as well as focus groups (representative of the general public) to assess their viability.

The third phase of the research focused on refining the proposed New Security Architecture as well as transitional arrangements enabling a phased transition from an agreement to the implementation of the architecture.

Pro-peace rally in Nicosia, Cyprus. Photo credit: SeeD

Ways to overcome the impasse on security 

The proposed Security Architecture is based on the following principles:

1) The security architecture should effectively respond to actual and perceived threats. At present, the over-emphasis on international security guarantees acts as an obstacle to identifying institutions, mechanisms and processes that would enable a united Cyprus to manage its security self-sufficiently. In order to break out of the zero-sum dynamic, negotiators should take into account everyday security challenges faced – or expected to be faced in the event of a solution – by both Cypriot communities. Some of these challenges include: the lack of commitment and effectiveness of federal institutions, tensions and violence around property and territorial disputes, biases of police and judges in favor of their own community, assaults by extremists and economic hardship caused by the high cost of a settlement.

2) Preventive remedies are no less important than reactive remedies. Current conversations primarily focus on reactive remedies and hard security, such as the number and deployment of troops, military guarantees etc. However, such mechanisms are heavily focused on how worst-case scenarios can be managed, instead of how they can be prevented from transpiring. To more effectively address threats, a holistic perspective is called for, which would integrate both preventive/‘soft’ and reactive/‘hard(er)’ security instruments.

3) Building endogenous resilience should be the ultimate goal. A settlement can be sustained only if a united federal Cyprus develops its own internal capacities to deal with stressors and threats, as an endogenously resilient state. Resilience of both society and institutions needs to be reinforced, so that in the event of system stressors or shocks, such as incidents of deadlock, perceived injustice or violence, state and societal institutions respond swiftly, effectively and fairly. In this regard, SeeD has also developed recommendations for a transition period, during which state and societal institutions could be developed and strengthened, building confidence in the implementation, functionality and sustainability of an agreed settlement, to ultimately achieve endogenous resilience for a united Cyprus. This will be achieved through 1) the creation of civic loyalty to the federal state and its institutions rather than just ethnic loyalty to one’s Community, without trivializing ethnicity and 2) international support, to ensure the viability of a settlement in this transition period. Nonetheless, the ultimate goal should always be a Cypriot state that is resilient and self-reliant including with regards to security matters – and this is a point that all Cypriots can agree on.

Pro-peace rally in Nicosia, Cyprus. Photo credit: SeeD

Informing the peace talks

On June 28, the Geneva conference on Cyprus has resumed in Crans Montana, marking the latest attempt to secure progress towards a historic agreement on reunifying the island. Leading up to the conference SeeD has been engaging stakeholders that will be parties to the conference to share their recommendations and detailed research findings, thus making an informed and important contribution.

For further information read the New Security Architecture proposal ici.

[1] The public opinion poll had a representative random sample of 3000 people, 1500 from each community. The key purpose of the second phase is to test the viability and acceptability of alternative security formulas.

Linking grassroots with decision-makers: participatory polls inform Peace Talks in Cyprus

The current round of peace talks in Chypre has advanced further than any previous round has since the division of the island in 1974. This is a significant achievement of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaderships in the UN-facilitated talks – whether they are now able to reach a final agreement or not. Interpeace has been engaged in support of peace in Cyprus together with local actors since 2009 and has also been contributing to these latest efforts at reaching peace.

In line with its approche Track 6 of linking the grassroots (Track 3), civil society (Track 2), and high-level political actors (Track 1), Interpeace has supported the conduct of participatory polls to inform the peace talks and the public debate. The hallmark of participatory polls is that the questionnaires are designed together with the stakeholders, which increases the results’ relevance and uptake with decision-makers, anchoring high-level political processes in attitudes of the public. Interpeace and its partners have already carried out such polls in Cyprus previously as well as in Somalia.

Over the course of the last five months, the participatory polls conducted in Cyprus in partnership with Dr Colin Irwin of the University of Liverpool and Cypriot stakeholders have helped identify common ground between the two Cypriot communities on thorny issues in the peace talks, such as territory, governance, and security.

In addition, the polls have revealed that reciprocal confidence-building measures between the two communities are of critical importance to build trust and support for the prospect of peace. The polls have offered precise information about which confidence building measures have the greatest chance of bringing the communities closer together.

In order to inform and inspire the public debate on peace in both parts of the island, these polls are now being published in Cypriot news outlets and on www.peacepolls.org in English, Greek, and Turkish.

A further component of Interpeace’s engagement in Cyprus is its continued partnership with the Centre for Sustainable Peace and Democratic Development (SeeD). In recent months, SeeD has been implementing a research and dialogue process to develop and share innovative options for addressing the security dossier in the Cyprus peace talks. This Security Dialogue Initiative has generated proposals for a new Security Architecture, which have informed the peace talks and the public debate in both communities. They are available from SeeD’s website www.seedsofpeace.eu.

The SCORE Index Sheds Light on Peace Prospects in Cyprus

Young Greek Cypriots and right-wing Turkish Cypriots are more hesitant to reach a political settlement with the other community. These are among the findings of the latest SCORE Index, released on 26 November in Nicosia by Interpeace’s partner in Cyprus, the Centre for Sustainable Peace and Democratic Development, known as SeeD. The Index gauges the level of social cohesion, reconciliation and readiness for political compromise in the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities.

The release of the findings came during an intensified phase of peace negotiations which are being brokered by the United Nations. The findings, which have been shared with the local policy-makers, the UN and other international actors, include:
• In general, individuals who are more satisfied with civic life and feel well-represented by their institutions are more ready for political compromise (as found in the 2014 SCORE Index).
• Deterioriating scores on indicators of inter-group relations among Turkish Cypriots (as compared to the SCORE 2013 and 2014) indicate that they are less ready for compromise.
• Roughly half of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot respondents said they find federation tolerable, yet only 29% and 28% respectively said they would vote “yes” in a future referendum.
• The SCORE policy recommendations were developed through a participatory dialogue process with various segments of the society (including women, politically affiliated youth, and human rights activists) from both communities. In the Greek Cypriot community, recommendations urged greater engagement of – and voice given to – young people, women and those who live outside Nicosia.
• For Turkish Cypriots, measures included raising awareness about their post-settlement status, in order to assure them that they would have more effective institutions and that there would be a key role for those in the right-wing.
• In both communities, political and civic leaders should articulate the strengths inherent in a multicultural society, including the economic, social and political benefits.

The focus group discussions also helped ensure local “ownership” of the findings, said SeeD co-research director Alexandros Lordos. “Local deliberations around SCORE results are essential for social impact,” he said. Lordos stressed that all actors – policy-makers, members of the negotiation teams, local authorities and civil society organizations – take the evidence into account in order to develop strategies that bring the communities closer together and inspire positive perceptions among them.

The research findings also help civil society organizations determine which areas to strengthen, said Jasmine Kim-Westendorf, lecturer at La Trobe University in Australia, who also spoke at the launch event. " SCORE fills a very deep gap,” she said, “because policy makers are focused more on institution building but not on the dynamics at the local level and that is where SCORE comes in.”

It is indeed one of the best tools for the international community, said Christopher Louise of UNDP-ACT, which supported the development of the Index. “The methodology of SCORE is so robust that it can be transported to other contexts and it has successfully done so,” he said. So far, SCORE has been implemented three times in Cyprus, once in Bosnia-Herzegovina, once in Nepal and currently in Ukraine.

The SCORE Index is a partnership project between UNDP-ACT, USAID and SeeD.

More information can be found at www.seedsofpeace.eu and the SCORE Platform at www.scoreforpeace.org.