Cyprus Dialogue Forum

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exploring the challenges, both current and future.

snapshot CDF comprises over 100 organisations from both communities, representing: Who? The Political Parties; Trade Unions; Business & Professional Associations; and Civil Society. engage in a non-formal dialogue on the obstacles to reaching and what? Stakeholders implementing a federal solution. They look at what needs to change and how, collectively developing options in 6 multi-sectoral, inter-communal Task Groups: Labour Market; Human Rights; Culture & Memory; Education; Economy; Political & Security Concerns.

dialogue is held at the Fulbright Centre in the Nicosia buffer zone. Simultaneous where? The interpretation of Greek, Turkish and English is provided in all meetings, helping to overcome language barriers, while expanding participation in the dialogue.

Forum was designed from scratch by its stakeholders and officially launched in 2015. when? The Following a lengthy, ‘learn as you go’ approach, the Task Groups agreed on their agenda, identified knowledge gaps and explored the main challenges in their thematic areas.

formal talks are top-down, non-transparent & competitive, focused exclusively on why? The the end goal. Any other long-term, structured, inter-communal cooperation depends on Track 1 success. There is little focus on a solution’s sustainability & the resilience of implementing agents. The Forum was created with a long-term view, to create a more inclusive, collaborative & independent space for dialogue. It enjoys strong local ownership. Stakeholders seek common understanding on divergent viewpoints, & to generate options for change. Even with no peace process, dialogue continues as members learn more about each other, build relations & create an environment for understanding, collaboration & consensus.

jointly addressing the knowledge gaps in each community, stakeholders hold a how? After fact-based dialogue on present & future challenges, helping to remove long-held

misconceptions, while building trust & credibility in the non-formal process. The same members can play a key role in implementing a future settlement. Meanwhile, stakeholders can also act as change agents in their own communities, smoothing the path towards a federal solution. The dialogue creates its own traction, developing a long-term change mechanism.

Tangibles/Intangibles For the 1st time, stakeholders from both communities contributed to the latest CEDAW report on gender discrimination across the island. The ILO held an exploratory visit to Cyprus in March 2018 to see how it could help the Labour Market Task Group develop a roadmap towards a single labour market. Considerable research has been done in the various Task Groups on tourism, education, work discrimination & cultural policies in both communities. Through its research, the CDF is becoming a knowledge resource for both sides. While stakeholders are keen to contribute to the Track 1 process, even without formal talks taking place, Task Groups have convened 25 times since Crans-Montana. Beyond cultivating a culture of dialogue, stakeholders enhance their understanding of both communities while helping to build a federal consciousness.

Non-formal dialogue Broad representation Inclusive Fact-based dialogue SUPPORT MECHANISM Resilience Common understanding Collaboration LEGITIMACY Safety net BREAKING BARRIERS MULTI-SECTORAL

MEMBER ORGANISATIONS ACCEPT LGBT Cyprus AIPFE Women of Europe AKEL Akova (Gypsos) Women Association AKTI - Centre for Research and Studies Association for Historical Dialogue and Research (AHDR) Association for the Prevention and Handling of Violence in the Family BES Bi-communal Initiative of Relatives of Missing Persons BKP Youth Organisation Centre of Visual Arts and Research CTP CTP Women Organisation CTP Youth Organisation Cyprus Academic Dialogue Cyprus Chamber of Commerce Cyprus Confederation of Organisations of the Disabled Cyprus Greens Women Cyprus Greens Youth Organisation Cyprus Hotel Association Cyprus Shipping Chamber Cyprus Women’s Lobby Cyprus Youth Council DAÜ-SEN DEOK DEV-İŞ DISY DP EDON Famagusta Youth Center (MAGEM) FEMA

Feminist Teachers Association Folk Arts Foundation Folk Arts Foundation Youth Future Worlds Centre (CYINDEP) Gender Advisory Team GODISY Green Action Group Hands Across the Divide HÜR-İŞ Insurance Association of Cyprus Invest in Education Kalkanlı Solidarity and Aid Association KAMU-SEN KAYAD Community Center Kontea Heritage Foundation KOOP-SEN KTAMS KTÖS Kyrenia Youth Research Centre Lefkoşa Folklore Association Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies Movement for Federal Cyprus Naci Talat Association NEDISY NGO Support Centre Pancypriot Association of Repatriated Cypriots from England PASYDY PEO POED POGO Politeia POST Research Institute PRIO Cyprus Centre Queer Cyprus

Refugee Rights Association Research Institute PROMITHEAS SeeD SEK Socialist Women Movement STIGMA TC Artists and Writers Association TC BAR Association TC Business Women Association TC Businessmen Association TC Chamber of Commerce TC Chamber of Industry TC Education Foundation TC Hoteliers Association TC Human Rights Foundation TC Insurance and Reassurance Association TC Journalist Association TC Shipping Association TC Shopkeepers & Artisans TC Travel Agents Association TC Young Businessmen Association TDP TDP Youth Organisation The Management Centre of the Mediterranean Theatre Etc TC Orthopaedic Disability TÜRK-SEN UBP UBP Youth Branch Wellspring Association Write Cy Youth Power


an inclusive dialogue with broad representation.

The Cyprus Dialogue Forum comprises over 100 organisations from both communities in Cyprus, representing four main sectors across the island:

Political Parties

Business and Professional Associations

Civil Society

Trade Unions Each stakeholder appoints representatives, mandated by their organisation’s executive board, to participate in a non-formal, multi-sectoral and inter-communal dialogue. The majority of stakeholders are represented in the Forum at the highest level, while some also participate in the Bi-communal Technical Committees, within the formal process. The CDF Secretariat (a small group of full-time staff) provides numerous services to support the dialogue: coordination, facilitation, technical support (interpretation & translation), fundraising, research and administration.








exploring the challenges, both current and future.

The Forum’s members are committed to exploring in detail the multiple challenges, both current and future, that the two communities face regarding the island’s reunification. Stakeholder representatives are divided into six multi-sectoral, inter-communal Task Groups:




human rights



Each Task Group sets out to identify the obstacles on the road to, and in the implementation of, a federal solution. For each thematic area, existing frameworks in both communities are mapped and knowledge gaps identified. Research is then produced to fill those gaps, allowing for a fact-based dialogue to follow. With shared data sets on the table, stakeholders are able to scratch the surface of widely held views

and positions. They dig deeper to achieve a common understanding on the divergent viewpoints within each group, in the process, revealing structural continuities that often reinforce the chasm between the two sides. Through the non-formal dialogue, facilitated by the Secretariat, Task Group members look at what needs to change and how, with a view to jointly developing options for change.


Located in between but goes Beyond the barriers.

The dialogue is held at the Fulbright Centre in the UN-controlled buffer zone in Nicosia. Special booths have been installed to provide simultaneous interpretation of Greek, Turkish and English in all Task Group meetings, allowing stakeholders to speak in their mother tongue and overcome any language barriers that may exist.

The result has been a broader participation in the dialogue, going beyond multilingual speakers to create a more representative sample of stakeholders from both sides. In turn, on any particular issue, participants are able to enjoy a broader and deeper understanding of the various positions held by a more diverse group of representatives.

around the diamond table there is no head, and everyone is equal in the dialogue.

all meetıngs are sımultaneously translated ınto englısh, turkısh and greek languages. Overcoming language barriers ENHANCES active participation and MUTUAL confidence.


Locally designed, locally owned.

An initial group of 44 stakeholders held over 80 meetings between 2014 and 2015, to design the non-formal process from scratch, identifying values and principles, goals, structure, procedural rules and more. For the first time, a broad representation of society from both communities sat down at the same table to work out their own rules of engagement and objectives, without any external interference from international organisations or donors. The CDF Secretariat provided light facilitation during those preparatory meetings, until the Forum was officially launched on 12 March 2015. In the following months, the Secretariat held bilateral consultations with potential members, raising the number of stakeholders to over 100, representing all four sectors in both communities. Given that members were creating their own non-formal process, as opposed to copying the framework or format of similar processes around the world, such as in Lebanon or Myanmar, stakeholders engaged in a considerable period of reflection on the best way forward. To ensure an inclusive but meaningful, and manageable, participation in the ensuing dialogue, stakeholders were divided, according to expertise and relevance, in to one or more of the six Task Groups, formed in May 2016. Following a lengthy process of designing their own road map, agreeing the agenda, identifying knowledge gaps and striving to fill them, each Task Group has set about exploring the main challenges in their respective thematic areas.

Design process begins Values, Principles & Structures developed CDF launched CDF grows from 44 to 100-plus organisations Agenda defined Task Groups formed Knowledge gaps identified, research concluded Fact-based dialogue Generating options for change


“I should sell my tongue and buy a thousand ears.”

Jalaluddin Rumi (1207 – 1273)

Talks on the Cyprus problem have been ongoing, one way or another, for over five decades. Throughout that time, the talks have always been top-down, non-transparent and competitive, focused exclusively on the end goal, while governed by the principle, ‘Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.’ Any subsidiary effort, such as the Bi-communal Technical Committees, depends for success on the rather volatile Track 1 process. These structural problems have not gone amiss by the UN Secretary-General (UNSG) who has

repeatedly called for greater civil society involvement in the peace process. Even when the formal talks do go well, there is little focus on a solution’s sustainability or the resilience of implementing agents. As a result, examples of long-term, structured, inter-communal cooperation are few and far between. The Nicosia Sewerage System and Master Plan are on that short list of examples, but only because the two local leaders at the time, avoided high politics, kept a low profile and found solutions of mutual benefit, earning each other’s trust on the way.

The Forum, however, was not set up to complete specific projects. It is a long-term process, aimed at creating an inclusive space for non-formal dialogue; an independent space, fully owned by local stakeholders, committed to developing a common understanding of the challenges faced in their areas of interest and generating options for change.

collaboratıve space

Whereas a joint understanding implies unanimity, with all the difficulty that entails, reaching a common understanding requires a collaborative space to explore and reflect on the fears and concerns behind the long-held positions of either side. Respecting different viewpoints and acknowledging disagreements where they exist is part of that process.

By deconstructing various positions to identify the assumptions behind them, participants enhance their understanding of each other and the challenges before them. The low common profile of the non-formal process has UNDERSTANDING given stakeholders considerable latitude to do this, but also to start considering in common, alternative approaches to the dialogue that acknowledge the fears and concerns of the ‘other’ without leading to impasse.


The Task Groups are determined to take the process further and generate options for the problems faced on the road to, and in the implementation of, a federal solution. One of their goals is to feed these options in to the Track 1 process, providing a support mechanism to the peace negotiations.

But what happens when there is no formal process to speak of? The stakeholders continue to meet, identify and fill knowledge gaps about the ‘other’ community as well as their COLLABORATION own, working together to prepare the ground for post-settlement implementation. In the process, they’re building relations across sectors and communities, while creating a fertile environment for mutual understanding, collaboration and consensus.

safety net

The networks developed among key stakeholders in both communities, as well as the uninterrupted dialogue held on a non-formal level, provide a kind of safety net for inter-communal relations every time the formal talks lead to an impasse or collapse.

how? DecıdE OWN agenda



fact-based dıalogue

Stakeholders are encouraged to go beyond making a wish list of what they want to see in a reunified Cyprus.

They do not simply show up to meetings, express positions and leave. They jointly decide the agenda, identify problems and knowledge gaps, approve research to fill the gaps, assess the current situation in each community, and, through fact-based dialogue, work towards a common understanding of present and future challenges. The result has been a very strong local ownership of the process by stakeholders who gained trust in the integrity and autonomy of the process. The Forum was safeguarded against external influences, giving it legitimacy and credibility, while reinforcing the view that change must come from within. Most Task Groups have now reached the problem-solving stage, where they want to generate options for change now and in the future.

The best written laws require people to apply them, as does a peace settlement. The Forum’s members are in key positions across Cyprus, and have already developed a culture of consensus-based dialogue, breaking the terminology barrier to hear the views of the ‘other’ without engaging in a blame game. They do not all agree, but they work towards a common understanding on what unites or divides them. They are best placed to collaborate for a smoother implementation process, should a solution ever be reached. In the meantime, the non-formal dialogue has the capacity to bring about incremental changes. After exploring and highlighting the gaps on each side of the dividing line, stakeholders are then in a position to act as change agents within their own communities, advocating for adjustments that would smoothen the path towards integration within a federal solution.

For example, stakeholders from both sides are working to: flag human rights violations across the island; prepare for the development of a single labour market; and, work on truth and reconciliation between relatives of missing persons from each community. Surprising synergies have been formed through the dialogue that transcend traditional battle lines. Within the Labour Market Task Group, it is interesting to see Greek Cypriot (GC) business associations lending a sympathetic ear to Turkish Cypriot (TC) unions promoting unionisation in the private sector and the right to collective bargaining. It becomes apparent through dialogue, that creating a level-playing field in a unified economy is of mutual benefit to varied stakeholders in both communities.

As such, one can see how the process of non-formal dialogue is creating its own traction and developing a long-term mechanism for change. Regarding Track 1 peace efforts, the CDF Secretariat is in consultations to explore with senior political stakeholders how to more actively support future peace talks and ensure against collapse. The nature of this effort could help overcome potential deadlock in the formal process through a more flexible, informal discussion of the disputed issues, allowing for a deeper reflection and better understanding of opposing positions, as well as the chance to explore new options.

Practical steps map



The dialogue on gender discrimination was expanded to develop an island-wide approach to the universal issue of gender equality. On the request of the OďŹƒce of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the CDF Secretariat compiled a report (based on stakeholder inputs) for the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), including, for the 1st time, the situation in both communities of Cyprus. As a follow-up, the CDF is in the process of creating roadmaps of change towards gender equality in both communities and in a federal Cyprus. It also hopes to provide new inputs to revive the work of the Technical Committee on Gender. On invite from GC and TC stakeholders, the International Labour Organization (ILO) held an exploratory visit to Cyprus in March 2018 to meet with Labour Market Task Group members. The aim is to help stakeholders develop a roadmap on how to integrate two distinct labour markets with dierent structures, regulatory environments & mechanisms into a single labour market. The Memory Task Group, consisting of a bi-communal group of relatives of the missing, met with the Committee on Missing Persons, resulting in an agreement on cooperation between the two. Stakeholders in the Economy Task Group reached agreement on the Values & Guiding Principles of Tourism in a federal Cyprus. Mapping of Tourism assets in both communities was completed; now, stakeholders are exploring collaboration in undisputed areas, such as Special Interest Tourism. Comprehensive research was done on Discrimination in the Workplace in both communities. Research was conducted in both communities on current structures, principles, policy priorities and practices in Education, including on school commemorations. The Secretariat mapped convergences & divergences contained in the last UNSG report on the Cyprus peace talks. It also created a common knowledge base, mapping the main outputs over the decades of previous rounds of peace talks, in terms of principles, structure, etc., of a federal Cyprus. A mapping of cultural policies & structures in both communities was undertaken. Stakeholders looked at how certain cultural policies can strengthen social change. Fears and concerns on main federal principles, like single sovereignty, were mapped. The Secretariat is developing viewer-friendly resource guides to create a library of knowledge, not only for stakeholders, but the public at large, including media and academia, as well as international peace platforms.

Breaking the knowledge barrier Beyond breaking the language barrier, through simultaneous interpretation at meetings and translation of key research documents, the CDF is also breaking the knowledge barrier.

There are clear knowledge gaps within and between the two communities, making it difficult to take informed and reasonable decisions based on competing data sets. The Secretariat, in coordination with the Task Groups, has commissioned relevant research in order to tackle these gaps and competing realities, in the process creating shared knowledge within the Forum. In addition, daily media reviews of Greek and Turkish-language press are sent in English to all members, keeping stakeholders in each community abreast of press coverage of the Cyprus problem on either side. As a result of this knowledge creation, stakeholders become more aware of the current realities in each community, some different, some shared. They learn, for example, that on a particular issue, implementation is the biggest issue creating

imbalance between the two communities, not existing legal frameworks. Cracks begin to show in the long-held misconceptions of the ‘other’; stereotypes and misunderstandings resulting from a lack of information or distorted data slowly wither away. This shared knowledge becomes the basis of the dialogue, as we see a shift from “I know” to “we know”. Stakeholders start talking from the same knowledge set, breaking assumptions, and using evidence-based data to create options for the future. In turn, they enhance relations and shared understandings, and even, on occasion, show empathy for the challenges faced by the ‘other’.

In other words, the process of knowledge creation and fact-based dialogue, in and of itself, cultivates the basic ingredients needed for future collaboration and agreement.

Dialogue highlights For the 1st time, TC organisations contributed to the CEDAW report on Cyprus while the number of GC organisations contributing also expanded to include key stakeholders like KEVE, PEO, SEK and POGO. Dialogue in the Labour Market Task Group led economic & political stakeholders from both communities to support the unions’ vision of a single labour market. On the request of GC & TC stakeholders, the Secretariat is developing ties with international resource partners, such as CEDAW and ILO. Stakeholders are now committed to contributing to the Track 1 process, should it resume. The CDF has worked on developing ties with both sides and the UN. Senior TC representatives responsible for Education and Labour in their community have approached the CDF seeking input on the Forum’s related research. In the summer of 2016, the Secretariat held a constructive dialogue with selected stakeholders to reframe the debate on Security & Guarantees by deconstructing fears and linking specific threats/concerns with different types of security. The resulting document was shared with both sides before talks in Geneva & Mont Pelerin 3. Proving its use as a safety net, since the collapse of talks in July 2017, the CDF has facilitated no less than 25 Task Group meetings, with the participation of political stakeholders from both sides. After the Technical Committee on Culture approached the CDF for support post-Crans-Montana, the Secretariat twice provided a meeting space for the committee to convene, as well as simultaneous interpretation, on the request of its members. CDF members have also helped open backchannels of communication during critical moments in the peace process. The Education Task Group held very constructive meetings during the impasse over ‘enosis’ in the peace talks, elements of which found their way into the media. Unions & business associations from the same community engaged in dialogue for the 1st time in a collaborative space, compared to negotiating in a competitive space. For the 1st time, unions of one community got to meet and discuss with business associations of the other and vice-versa. Representatives of specific industries, such as the Shipping and Hotel industry, were able to meet their counterparts on the other side of the dividing line for the 1st time. Through CDF relations, political youth organisations got together for the 1st time in over a decade and developed a platform, outside the Forum, for common activities.

Changing norms Stakeholders from all four sectors see the value in this dialogue, as well as the improvement in relations between those involved. The achievements to date represent the value of relationships and connections developed through the CDF. Over time, members of the CDF are increasing

their influence in and understanding of the island as a whole, through a process of non-formal dialogue and knowledge creation.

And beyond cultivating a culture of dialogue, they are also, to some degree, helping to build a federal consciousness.

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