Category Archives: UNDP-ACT

Media Buffer Zone Project – Raising Capacities of Civil Society for the Production of Multimedia in Cyprus, the Middle East and South East Europe

photo (3)As a follow up to winning the audience award for best project idea at the Power of One Conference held in Nicosia, Cyprus in October 2012, the Media Buffer Zone Project team was invited to present and workshop their innovative project at the “POINT2013 – Political Accountability and New Technologies Conference” held in Sarajevo 23-26 May 2013.

Now you may be asking yourself what does this prestigious “unconference” featuring many fascinating speakers such as UZROK from Serbia, Milica Begović of UNDP-Montenegro, “The Facebook Girl of Egypt”, Esraa Abdel Fattah and the famed Amira Yahyaoui of Al Bawsala from Tunisia have to do with a group of committed activists from the MENA region, Cyprus and Central Europe who want to provide media skills trainings to NGOs and develop an Internet platform linking media talent to civil society have to do with this group of incredible entrepreneurs? Well, more than you’d think!

It seems our unique idea formulated during long days and coffee-fueled brainstorming sessions, but whose birth was really a product of the group’s years of passion and experience working for their respective communities, is something that many innovative people relate to and are inspired by. So, it was a natural fit in this turbo-charged and “change the world for the better” atmosphere.

The crowd response to our informative workshop session included people from Egypt, Libya and across Europe and was overwhelming positive. We all wish we could have started the trainings on the spot! However, we agreed to settle for stimulating idea creation, exchanging the needs of various communities in a more in-depth fashion and creating a space for a better understanding amongst the regions.

In-between the conference sessions members of the Media Buffer Zone Project team gathered in hotel lobbies, coffee shops and Labor Union halls (yes really, we met at the headquarters of the “Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Bosnia and Herzegovina”, thanks labour leaders!) to discuss how best to implement the project to satisfy the needs of all.

The first order of business we thought of was to gauge the pulse of the people by conducting an in-depth needs analysis of what NGOs from our regions really need. So naturally we turned to our trusted partners from Palestine, Near East Consulting, who have years of experience in just this type of data mining. Next we thought to design the trainings from the actual research and turn that info into training materials civil society can use in their efforts to build their capacity in media skills.

Then we planned to use these tools to train “trainers” in media skills to multiply across the regions with media skills trainings in both Cyprus and Egypt to better equip our target audiences from the vast experience of both media partners CCMC and Qabila. From there we decided to develop a web-based platform which will link interested media professionals to active NGOS in the region to better serve the needs of the people these organizations serve. Whew! From an idea to being productive is an exciting and challenging proposition.

In order to make this all work we realized we need the vast networks of our partners Universal Patient’s Rights Organisation (Cyprus) and Zašto ne? (Bosnia and Herzegovina) to activate their networks to communicate, inform, and motivate the participants. Only in times of true inspiration due the stars align and such partnerships are formed!

So, here we go on our journey from a loose confederation of NGOS scattered throughout the Middle-East, Mediterranean and Central Europe to a tight-knit group of dedicated civil society leaders working for an innovative inter-regional knowledge exchange to strengthen the role of citizens and civil society in stimulating positive social change. Follow our adventures on twitter at @MediaBufferZone.

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CCMC Incentive Awards announced tomorrow!

Photos from Day 2 of CMFE Conference 2011 #cmfe2011

Stop the press!

CCMC is announcing the recipients of its Incentive Awards for Media Collaboration tomorrow Tuesday 22 January, 11 am, at a ceremony at the Home for Cooperation in Nicosia.

The Incentive Awards were launched in September 2012 under the MultiCommMedia project in order to promote professional collaboration between the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot media, and to initiate a discussion about the importance of a common media space for all Cypriots.

At CCMC we believe wholeheartedly that the exchange of content as well as dialogue among media across the island can play a crucial role in helping all communities understand each other’s daily realities and concerns.

We can’t wait to announce the new partnerships, and we are convinced that their work will create new possibilities for cross-community understanding!

And the newly opened Crossroads Cafe will be providing us with the best coffee and cookies in town!

Envisioning Education in Cyprus in the 21st Century

AHDR

CCMC member the Association for Historical Dialogue and Research (AHDR), working in collaboration with the Cyprus Academic Dialogue (CAD), are organising a policy dialogue discussion on ‘Education in Cyprus in the 21st Century’ on Thursday January 24, from 18.30 – 20.30 at the Home for Cooperation.

The discussion will focus on the following issues:

·         The role of Education in Cyprus, within the current socio- political situation and its possible contribution to the efforts towards a settlement of the political problem, and

·         How education could contribute to the sustainability of a future settlement?

The discussion will be held in Greek, Turkish and English and translation will be provided.

Th event will be the first installment of an exciting initiative involving key stakeholders from the main communities in Cyprus working collectively on a public consultation driven procedure, which will lead to the production of policy recommendations on education in Cyprus. The policy paper will be formulated using all key points raised in this series of events in order to articulate a collective vision on the future of Education in Cyprus in the 21st Century. Moreover, the policy paper will include recommendations on educational policies in the two main communities in Cyprus, both within the current political (pro-settlement) environment, as well as within a post-settlement political environment (irrespective of the content and the form of this political settlement).

The initiative is based on the AHDR’s comprehensive research project, exploring history teachers’ views of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot history curricula and textbooks used across the existing divide in Cyprus, as well as history teachers’ use of methods that promote, historical thinking in their teaching.  You can download “History Educators in the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot Community in Cyprus: Perceptions, Beliefs and Practices” from the AHDR website.

For more information, please contact AHDR by e-mail ahdr.mide@gmail.com, or on the phone at +357-22-445740 or +90-548-8345740.

Can there be a ‘Women’s Peace’?

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By Olga Demetriou, a member of GAT – Gender Advisory Team (prio.olga@cytanet.com.cy)

This article was first published on page 16 of The Cyprus Weekly (21 December).

Last Thursday, the Buffer Zone was host to a conference entitled ‘Women’s Peace’. Conference organisers GAT (which stands for ‘Gender Advisory Team’) argued that women’s perspectives of peace and thus their expectations from a peace agreement should be integrated into the agendas of conspicuously male Cypriot politicians. GAT, which consists of Cypriot academics and activists working in various areas of gender rights has been making that argument since 2009, when it was formed.

Since then, it has taken the point to negotiators and others involved in the peace process, in the form of recommendations of what a gender-sensitive peace agreement should entail. Much of this may still to most people sound too technical or narrowly-focused on ‘women’ (why 50% of the population should be considered ‘narrow focus’ is still perplexing to me, but that is another discussion). So what does it actually mean? GAT’s perspective on power-sharing is a good example.

‘Power-sharing’ is intuitively understood as the diachronic domain of men; ‘power’ tends to signal what women should not be interested in – and most ‘good’ women often aren’t. ‘Sharing’ of course carries a more ‘homely’ ring to it, but in the given hyphenated structure (‘power-sharing’), it tends both to be effaced by the power of the first term, and to act as a prop that lends ‘power’ an added ‘technical’ implication. The question of ‘power-sharing’ thus tends to be understood as a technical matter pertaining to numbers in the allocation of seats in government and state institutions and in the calibration of each citizen’s vote. Together, governance and power-sharing have resonated more with (male) politicians, who propose and reject schemes of assigning weight to votes, ministries, and state institutions.

GAT’s recommendations on governance and power-sharing take a different approach. From the inception of modern statehood in Cyprus, women’s representation in government has been minimal; and the structure of negotiations thus far threatens to perpetuate this situation into the future state. GAT’s key concern is to re-position the interpretation of ‘power-sharing’ within more pluralistic framings of democratic rights. And while women’s rights are central to this attempt, the rights of sexual and immigrant minorities, and of children, youth, and the elderly are also embraced.

In a context where ‘the Cyprus problem’ is presented as ‘urgent’ and everything else ‘secondary’, and because, despite its persistence over three generations now, ‘the Cyprus problem’ is likely to be outlived by the problem of gender inequality, women, along with other social groups, have a stake in the phrasing of the Constitution, the government’s organogram, the design of the courts, the make-up of the police, and so on. The recommendations put forth by GAT are a mere reminder that ‘sharing’ must not be about ethnic ratios solely, but about gender ones as well. And that it needs to be framed in the aim not of a compromise against some ideal of autonomy, but of obligation, cohesion, cooperation, and inclusion.

The four sets of recommendations (on governance, citizenship, property, and economy) reflect this logic and call for no less than an overhaul to the thinking that has guided negotiations thus far. It is GAT’s vision that the mainstreaming of gender in the peace negotiations, and the implementation of an agreement, as well as in efforts outside the formal frame of negotiations, will contribute to a different understanding of the problems that have plagued the island over the decades. These have not only been problems of ethnicised politics and foreign interventions but also of a social and patriarchal order. ‘Cyprus’ from this perspective might slowly begin to look like a different place, a place other than conflict, war and trauma, a place where the future can be imagined productively and built solidly.

This is what a feminist (in a non-exclusive sense vis-à-vis men) ‘sharing’ of ‘power’ should be about.

GAT’s report and recommendations are available online.

Getting the word out! CCMC live in Chicago

The magic of the digital age…

Last Wednesday (1 August), CCMC’s Larry Fergeson took the CCMC message to Chicago, speaking at a workshop during the annual Alliance for Community Media (ACM) Conference. Larry took part a discussion on “Community Media for Development and Conflict Resolution in Europe” over Skype, joining fellow panelists Erik Möllberg, Assistant Manager at Access Fort Wayne, John Higgins (a good friend of CCMC!) from University of San Francisco, and Pembe Mentesh, Programme Analyst at UNDP-ACT in Cyprus.

The panel was an opportunity to discuss how community media can be a useful tool for development work, advocacy, and social change, with CCMC as a case study, while Larry also doubled up as a member of the Board of the Community Media Forum Europe (CMFE) to outline the work of the organisation at the European level.

The discussion was featured in the latest edition of the AMARC Europe newsletter, where you can also read about the threats to the community radio movement in Greece.

Five Years in the Making: NGO Law Reform in Cyprus

This article was first published on page 16-17 of The Cyprus Weekly (3 August).

Yiouli Taki cuts a frustrated figure. As the coordinator for the NGO Initiative, an informal group of civil society representatives working towards reform of the legal framework for non-governmental organisations (NGOs), she has spent countless working hours organising meetings and drafting letters with the aim of achieving greater legal recognition of the sector. “This is as much about the process of reform as it is about the legislation”, says Taki, who doubles up as lead researcher at INDEX Research and Dialogue, a non-profit organisation working on issues of social policy. “Five years since this process started we do not know where we stand, and we are frustrated”, she adds.

Back in November 2007 things were on the up. Civil society, a novel concept for a country which just three years previous had joined the European Union (EU) had been limited to – and dominated by – institutions such as trade unions, the Church and political parties. The concepts of volunteerism and philanthropy covered the range of activities promoted by these institutions as a way of giving back to society. Cyprus’ accession to the EU created new opportunities and incentives for participation of a new form of civil society which had been developing in Cyprus since the late 1990s that was neither politically motivated nor philanthropic in its outlook on issues of societal concern. Increasingly active at the European level through networking and partnerships, Cypriot NGOs have started becoming more assertive in their demands for participation in decision-making processes.

In parallel, institutions of the state, the Planning Bureau in particular, started to see NGOs as potential implementing partners for policy both at home in abroad. European practice in the field of development cooperation – the delivery of financial support for countries in the developing ‘Global South’ – suggested that national agencies implement their policies in collaboration with local NGOs. CyprusAid, Cyprus’ development agency, has been implementing policy through ‘delegating’ funds through other EU member states such as Denmark and Ireland as well as through United Nations (UN) organisations like the World Food Programme. For collaboration to take place with local NGOs it was necessary for them to, amongst others, fulfil certain principles of financial transparency and accountability. Reform of the legal framework thus became a ‘wish’ for the Planning Bureau. “Not so much a wish, but also a need”, Taki responds.

On the initiative of the Planning Bureau funding was secured from the United Nations Development Programme in Cyprus (UNDP-ACT) and a reform process was launched. In April 2008 a report assessing Cyprus’ legal and regulatory framework was published by the European Centre for Not-for-Profit Law. The report, available online, included a series of recommendations for the relevant Ministries of the Interior and Finance calling especially for the adoption of legislation which would set out a “Public Benefit Status” category for NGOs. The NGO Working Group – formed in June 2008 and later renamed the NGO Initiative – was an effort on behalf of civil society to participate effectively in the public consultation process expected to be launched by the respective Ministries. “We had requested in our correspondence from the very beginning that our positions are taken into consideration in a future bill, and that we would like for there to be a consultation in line with standards set by the Council of Europe”, said Taki.

And there are serious shortcomings in the existing legislation. “The obstacles to registering an NGO under the Law on Associations and Foundations must be removed for the civil society sector to grow and become more professional”, says Nadia Karayianni, who represents the NGO Support Centre in the NGO Initiative. “Just recently we had the case of ACCEPT [an organisation working on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights], for which official registration effectively depended on permission from the Church because the law asks for the opinion of so-called relevant stakeholders. I think this case illustrates clearly the problems associated with this approach.”

Exogenous factors have also made it harder for NGOs to operate effectively. At present there are disparate provisions for state funding for NGOs, with limited operational support available. There are also severe limitations on the activities that are deemed as ‘profit-making’ for NGOs, which makes financial sustainability a key concern. So when the government imposed a 350 Euro tax levy on registered companies, including not-for-profits in response to the financial crisis, those managing and working for not-for-profits have had to dig into their pockets to keep their organisations afloat. The likelihood is that this fee would have been avoided had new legislation been in place sooner. Taki insists that the problem is one of definition. “When you start structuring a bill you have to put some basic concepts down on paper, and this is where the state creates definitions that are conflicting with those given by the sector itself”, says Taki. “Instead of entering into a real dialogue they are trying to update the legislative framework based on outdated concepts of what constitutes public benefit activity.”

Things could be set to move before the end of the year. According to information obtained by the Cyprus Community Media Centre (CCMC) the Ministry of Finance’s work on all aspects of the legislation reform, including feedback received on relevant aspects handled by the Inland Revenue Department, was concluded in May this year. The new legislation package will be sent to the Law Office of the Republic of Cyprus for legal check once the summer period is over.

However for the process to be successful the Ministry of the Interior must expedite its own procedures as well. The submission of the two draft bills for Parliament approval at the same time will make it easier for lawmakers to see the correlation between them. “We are not aware of what is happening at the Ministry”, Taki insists. “We have had unanswered correspondence since November 2010! However, we acknowledge that a number of position changes took place in the last few months, and, having sent a new package to the Minister on 22 June of all this correspondence, we are hopeful that a constructive dialogue will start with Ms Eleni Mavrou very soon.”

From outside looking in, there is no reason why the appropriate legislative reforms cannot take place before the end of 2012. Inter-ministerial communication will be key for the bills to reach Parliament, and this is where the Planning Bureau could play its final role in the process. As the holder of the Presidency of the Council of the EU, a positive conclusion by December 2012 would be further indication of Cyprus’ European transition.

Bringing life to a stagnant process: Cypriot civil society in London

6:30pm in London tonight, Cypriot civil society will be speaking to the UK APPG on Conflict Issues. “Bringing life to a stagnant process”. To find out more, click here.

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