Attempts to resolve the long-running Cyprus conflict are ongoing. One of the main critiques of peace talks between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots has been the closed nature of the negotiation process which, led by small elites in both communities, has never meaningfully involved the wider public. In 2009 this deficit in the political process prompted UNDP to support the Cyprus 2015 project. The project used public opinion polls to examine several dimensions of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot attitudes to the negotiations, and findings were communicated to the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders and negotiating teams. The results were also used to establish a vibrant public debate about what a final settlement would look like. This was intended to garner genuine societal ownership – and by extension the long-term viability – of any future peace plan.
By 2012 it was clear that public polling of attitudes was insufficient to understand the drivers and dynamics required to reach a political compromise in Cyprus. When the Cyprus 2015 team formally constituted as a non-government organisation called the Centre for Sustainable Peace and Democratic Development (SeeD), UNDP agreed to finance innovative research into creating the social cohesion and reconciliation index (SCORE). The conceptual foundations for the index were established at an international workshop in 2012 which brought together 10 leading peace and reconciliation specialists from 6 different countries (Rwanda, South Africa, Northern Ireland, Serbia, USA and Israel).
Since 2012, we have been using the SCORE methodology as well as innovating new similar evidence-based frameworks to promote a better understanding of the island’s conflict, and provide evidence-based recommendations to Cyprus’ negotiators, decision makers and the UN leadership on the social and political drivers of a solution likely to be supported by the majority of Cypriots. We continue to work with the negotiating teams, the UN system, and the full range of civic and political actors to support evidence-based decision-making and promote civic behaviours that can lay the foundation for a durable political solution.
Our Most Recent Cyprus Projects
The Security Dialogue Initiative: 2016 - 2018
The Security Dialogue Initiative (SDI) aimed to support the Cyprus Peace Process by researching, understanding and formulating solutions for the security needs and fears of the two main communities in Cyprus and the potential risks that may arise during a post-transition period. SDI explored and designed viable and evidence-based security arrangements that could enable all communities in Cyprus to simultaneously feel secure. The research and subsequent advanced analysis that involved over 3000 people across the island produced the New Security Architecture for Cyprus, which was a highly valuable document that informed the security negotiations on the leaders' level as well as among the general public. In the run up to the high level peace talks at Crans Montana in June 2017, we discussed our proposals with key people who would be attending the peace conference both in Cyprus and in Geneva. Establishing a strong line of communication and constructive dialogue with different stakeholders ranging from the national negotiation teams to members of parliament to UN officials, the SDI was instrumental in shaping and shifting the security debate on the island. You can read the SDI Security White paper here or the Oxford Research Group blog post based on SDI findings here.
The second phase of SDI was focused on Gender, Peace and Security Agenda. The SDI findings with the identified gender and gendered insecurities as crucial elements that require further research to inform negotiations and promote a more inclusive and resilient peace process. SDI revealed that Cypriot women and men also differed in the ways that they talked about the conflict. Women talked at length about the context of the dispute, particularly focusing on the relationship with the other community, they were most concerned about everyday security, and talked about fairness in a way that incorporated both their need for stability and material interests. Men used more linear and legalistic language, and were most concerned about state security. Considering that women’s heightened insecurities translate into scepticism and resistance for the peace process, their inclusion as well as acknowledging their perspectives, perceptions and needs would not only make the process more inclusive but also more resilient. As such, the Gender SCORE Cyprus process was designed to unpack gendered securities, gender stereotypes as well as obstacles and opportunities to fostering women's meaningful participation in political, economic and social life in Cyprus. For a more detailed account of SDI's gender findings, visit our list of publications here.
The SDI was implemented with our international project partners, the Berghof Foundation and Interpeace and funded by the U.S. Department of State, the Federal Foreign Office of Germany and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Current Cyprus efforts: 2018 - to date
The World Bank’s Mind, Behavior, and Development unit (eMBeD) and SeeD have formed a collaboration that aims to understand and address differences in attitudes and perceptions towards reconciliation horizontally and vertically across all levels of society (civic, administration, private sector) through a combination of diagnostics, workshops and interventions that promote better communication, social contact and perspective taking. By focusing on activities that can be done at scale in both the TCC and ROC, this new collaboration aims to address the existing low levels of intercommunal trust and social cohesion across the island, something that can lead to sustained welfare gains for all and support the talks for a solution. The actual activities will be developed jointly and as part of an extensive diagnostic work and meta analysis of research completed to date. Areas that this work program is exploring include, but not limited to:
- Designing an information platform that enhances the inclusiveness and evidence-basis of the negotiating process;
- Develop perspective taking interventions that expose citizens the diversity and commonality of the two communities (through food, sports or economic activities);
- Identify and develop contact interventions at scale, with the goal of improve social cohesion across the two communities.