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 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

Launch of Interpeace’s report on Inclusion in Sweden

Marginalization and exclusion have caused an increase of violent incidents in Europe in the past decade. Issues associated with socio-economic inequalities and lack of opportunities have resulted in social protests and riots. Following a series of social unrests in 2012 and 2013 in Suède, Interpeace initiated a participatory research initiative in Tensta, a suburb of Stockholm, to better understand the challenges facing marginalized communities and identify practical ways to overcome exclusion. In 2015, Interpeace launched the second phase of its programme, engaging over 200 stakeholders across the country in a dialogue about the opportunities to build a more inclusive Swedish society. The project was carried out in four areas of Sweden: Tensta in Stockholm and Rosengård in Malmö, well known marginalized neighborhoods in the country, as well as Luleå in the north and Älvsjö in the Stockholm area, two areas that are representative of the national average in terms of demographics and socioeconomic standards.

Tensta Centrum, Sweden. Photo credit: Oskar Kullander

"People shouldn't be focusing on their differences but on what they have in common. We are all humans and have much more in common than what we think." Youth from Tensta, Sweden

Building on the findings of its work, Interpeace is launching the report “From Margins to Mainstream: Fostering Inclusion in Sweden”. Our research reveals three main aspects that emerged as cornerstones of inclusion, according to the participants consulted in the research: acceptance, dignity and diversity. Promoting these three aspects at all levels of society will help foster greater inclusion and create better opportunities for everyone to prosper. The report highlights a number of recommendations that can be taken up by the various stakeholders working on this topic, including institutions of the state, the private sector, municipalities and civil society. The report also discusses how tackling barriers of exclusion in all aspects of life, including the education and employment systems, are critical to laying the foundations for greater inclusion.

tensta market 2

Tensta, Sweden. Photo credit: Oskar Kullander.

"The only way to fail is to not do anything." A teenager from Älvsjö, Sweden

Sweden, as several countries in Europe, has recently adopted tougher asylum legislations. The large influx of migrants and refugees to the continent in the last two years captured the attention of the media and has served to reinforced negative perceptions and stereotypes of immigrants among the public, reviving and polarizing the debate on the effectiveness of integration policies and practices.
Today, Sweden has the opportunity to construct the foundation for a society that is rich in empathy and culture. Failing to take these steps, the country will see poorly integrated immigrant communities continue to grow in size and scope, and social exclusion will increase accordingly. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and in particular Goal 16 on inclusive and peaceful societies presents an opportunity for Sweden to implement a vision for inclusion that is meaningful in tackling the challenges of inclusion in highly developed settings and to inspire other countries.

Read the full report here - From Margins to Mainstream: Fostering Inclusion in Sweden. The Swedish version of the report will be available shortly.

cover page of Sweden report

From Margins to Mainstream: Fostering Inclusion in Sweden

Following a series of social unrests in 2012 and 2013 in Sweden, Interpeace initiated a participatory research initiative in Tensta, a suburb of Stockholm, to better understand the challenges facing marginalized communities and identify practical ways to overcome exclusion. In 2015, Interpeace launched the second phase of its programme, engaging over 200 stakeholders across the country in a dialogue about the opportunities to build a more inclusive Swedish society.

Read the full report here. The Swedish version of the report will be available shortly.

Celebrating inclusion in Sweden: The Launch of the One Sweet World campaign

Building on its work in Suède, Interpeace has joined forces with Ben & Jerry’s to spread the word of inclusion. Interpeace’s work has shown the importance of building inclusive societies. Through our partnership and campaign with Ben & Jerry’s in Sweden, we want to engage people from all walks of life and promote the idea that inclusion concerns everyone in Swedish society.

Celebrate inclusion and join the One Sweet World campaign in Sweden starting on September 2, 16:00-17:30 at the Tensta market, Stockholm’s second largest festival!

One Sweet World

Through ‘One Sweet World’, we are calling on people across Sweden to stand up for inclusion. We are asking people to share positive community stories, to celebrate local heroes and break down myths and stereotypes regarding differences.

We are inviting our friends and followers to get engaged through the One Sweet World campaign. There are no quick fixes to building more inclusive and welcoming societies, and it will take much more than a single campaign. That is why we will be adding our voice to movements already under way across Sweden, from community projects that bring people together to organizations helping to improve understanding, build common ground and ultimately drive change from the grassroots.

To learn about the One Sweet World campaign and how you can get engaged and spread the word of inclusion visit our campaign page ici

Our work in Sweden

The campaign builds on Interpeace’s work on inclusion in Sweden. In 2013, Interpeace started to explore how its proven methods could help address rising social tensions in Sweden. Today, we work with actors at the local and national level, seeking to help promote a more inclusive society.

In 2015, we launched a nation-wide research seeking to capture people’s voices on inclusion and better understand how inclusion can be increasingly fostered in Sweden. Our latest report, presenting the findings of our research led in Älvsjö (Stockholm), Luleå, Rosengård (Malmö) and Tensta (Stockholm) will be published in September 2016 (“From Margins to Mainstream: Fostering Inclusion in Sweden”, Interpeace, September 2016).

Our work has shown that exclusion and marginalization of societal groups sow the seeds for misunderstandings, mistrust, and potentially violence. While Sweden has taken great steps towards building an inclusive society, critical challenges remain especially with regard to increased discrimination and marginalization of immigrant populations from Swedish society. These issues prompt reflections about the progress of inclusion in Swedish society, and invite us to reflect creatively on how to foster greater inclusion.


Empowering youth to transform conflict and build peace

Youth are one of the main victims of exclusion around the world, both in fragile and developed contexts. Ethnic diversity, as well as religious, economic, social and political differences, create multiple barriers within societies, which most often fail to respond to the needs of young people. In this absence of opportunities and participation, youth become vulnerable and many times stay caught in a vicious cycle of violence and stigmatization. But as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “Youth are more than victims of poverty and economic downturn – they can be agents of change.”

Rako, Puntland. Photo credit: PDRC

Interpeace recognizes that marginalization and disengagement can lead to devastating effects in the lives of young adults. But if they are given the opportunity, youth have an invaluable role in the contribution of building more inclusive and peaceful societies. For this reason, in the past 22 years, Interpeace has engaged youth in a wide range of peacebuilding initiatives, where they have become powerful leaders of positive transformations in their communities.

In Latin America Interpeace has worked with youth since 2007: leading participatory processes to develop comprehensive public policy proposals, which addressed root causes of youth-related violence in seven countries in Central America, and supported the creation of regional youth networks by providing trainings to improve their peacebuilding capacities. More recently, in Honduras et un Salvador, two of the countries with the highest homicide rates in the world, Interpeace has worked with sports clubs in Tegucigalpa to build trust and find common ground between rival groups, as well as promote entrepreneurial capacities with youth groups in El Salvador.

Honduras soccer stadium. Photo credit: OsArGarMor

Working with youth has also been at the heart of many programmes developed in West Africa. In Abidjan, Interpeace and its partner organization Indigo Côte d’Ivoire work specifically with youth engaged in organized crime. Through a process of interactive dialogue, the project seeks to reconnect at risk youth with their respective communities. And in Mali, with its partner organization the Malian Institute of Action Research for Peace (IMRAP), programmes have focused on providing spaces for dialogue to promote trust and social cohesion by encouraging cultural exchange between young Malians.

In Eastern and Central Africa, Interpeace has also worked with multiple partner organizations to nurture youth as peacebuilders. Supported by its partner organization in Puntland, the Puntland Development Research Center (PDRC), youth were able to lead the way to peace in a feud between two clans in the Rako district helped by PDRC’s Mobile Audio-Visual Unit (MAVU). Youth activists were able to take action together, which led to the signing of peace agreements in 2015, which ended a five-year conflict. Moreover, working with The Economic Community of the Great Lakes countries (CEPGL), which brings people together from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, Interpeace has worked in diverse peacebuilding activities designed to foster critical thinking, deconstruct stereotypes, raise awareness about identity manipulation, and foster relationships among young adults from different backgrounds.

Rako District, Puntland. Photo credit: PDRC

In developed nations like Suède, exclusion is also a serious problem amongst the youth. In 2014, Interpeace developed a participatory research project to analyze the main issues facing the area of Tensta, a neighborhood that is home to a large immigrant population, which suffered a series of social unrests and protests in 2012 and 2013. Exclusion and marginalization were two of the main factors highlighted by the people interviewed, especially with regards to youth and how they are affected by a lack of participation in their community’s development and employment opportunities. Research also revealed that the Tensta youth can play a central role for positive change in the area. As a result, Interpeace is now working with youth on solutions to build more inclusive societies. A video was made by the young activists of Tensta telling their stories in a Documentary called “Dreams from Tensta.”

Tensta, Sweden. Photo credit: Interpeace

Breaking barriers, reinforcing trust and understanding the dynamics of youth groups around the world are fundamental strategies in peacebuilding efforts. Providing opportunities and spaces for active participation will help youth become the leaders of the future, and will enable them to recognize themselves as powerful agents of positive change. For this reason, Interpeace celebrates Youth Day - young adults, unquestionably, play a key role in building more inclusive and peaceful societies.