Building bridges through technical assistance and business in Cyprus

01 Mar 2006

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Since 1997 the Regional Bureau for Europe and CIS (RBEC) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been managing various programmes aimed at supporting the peace-building process in Cyprus.

New Horizons - These include the Bi-communal Development Programme (BDP), the Action for Cooperation and Trust (ACT) and the Partnership for the Future (PFF). All RBEC programmes in Cyprus were designed and implemented in full co-operation with the Cypriot authorities to respond to immediate needs.

The accession to the European Union marks a new stage in the island's history, but despite past and present national and international initiatives, the existing socio-economic gap between the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities is still a major obstacle to the peace-building process in Cyprus.

To fill the gap between the northern part of Cyprus and the Republic of Cyprus, RBEC has established a new trust fund, which will support the sustainable development of the Turkish-Cypriot community through the quick delivery of targeted technical assistance projects. Contributions to the Fund, in cash or in kind, may be accepted by RBEC from Governments of Member States of the United Nations and of the Specialized Agencies as well as from intergovernmental or non-governmental organizations, or from private sources.

Partnership Fora

On the other hand, UNDP in Cyprus is giving intra-island trade a boost with the establishment of Partnership Fora, which seeks to bring Cyprus's two communities together to do business and thus contribute to the reconciliation process. Funded by the European Union under the UNDP Partnership for the Future (PFF) programme, the project fosters business by promoting direct personal contact between Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot companies.

Meetings between enterprises are arranged by the UNDP/PFF based on matching business interests. Since meetings focus on one product/service group at a time, they also provide opportunities for identifying and analyzing obstacles hampering intra-island trade and for subsequent follow-up action. So far two Partnership Fora have been successfully organized, focusing on ICT and the furniture industry and more events are planned.

Giuseppe Belsito, UNDP/PFF Business Development Adviser, said that psychological barriers, bureaucratic obstacles and lack of awareness are some of the reasons that continue to prevent the island's two communities from forming business partnerships. But the Partnership Fora shows that "the private sector can be a formidable reconciliation force in a post-conflict situation," he said.