Anastasia Antoniou: Meeting people from diverse backgrounds contributes to building bridges and breaking down stereotypes
A committed peace activist, Anastasia Antoniou is a young Greek Cypriot dedicated to peacebuilding and protecting the environment in Cyprus. She wanted to connect with like-minded people from across the divided island, so she joined the UN Youth Champions for Environment and Peace initiative. Now in its third year, the initiative aims to bring young people together to work on common environmental issues, helping to build trust and confidence between the divided communities of Cyprus.
“I am Greek Cypriot and unfortunately getting in touch with Turkish Cypriots does not happen organically; it needs to be initiated,” Anastasia highlights.
She joined the third edition of the UN Youth Champions for Environment and Peace programme which offers a unique opportunity for young people from all communities living on the island to work together and discuss peacebuilding priorities as well as the many environmental issues we are facing.
Anastasia notes: “The programme has fully met my expectations as I have learnt more on environmental peacebuilding and climate activism. I had the chance to meet and discuss with professionals within relevant fields as well as with other young people living in Cyprus who share the same concerns as me regarding the socio-political situation on the island.”
“Participating in this programme has allowed me to become a member of the Youth Champions Alumni Network, and now I have access to the opportunities available to them,” she adds.
The third edition of the UN Youth Champions for Environment and Peace, concluded in December 2022, was organized in cooperation with the British Council Cyprus, focused on environmental peacebuilding and climate activism.
Anastasia recommends UNFICYP’s initiative to young people interested in peacebuilding and environmental protection, as she sees it “a good opportunity to expand your knowledge on these important topics, especially in the context of Cyprus, and to network with people who are also interested in the same issues.”
“As young people living in Cyprus, we experience the negative consequences of the Cyprus problem first hand. Joining this programme helped me learn more about the role of peacebuilding and advocacy, and what can be done to bridge the gap between the communities,” Anastasia explains.
Since its inception in 2020, more than 80 young people from across the island joined the UN Youth Champions for Environment and Peace programme.
She stresses that “meeting people from other ethnic backgrounds and nationalities contributes to building bridges and breaking down stereotypes and prejudices.
She concludes: “even though this may not seem like something significant to some, taking into consideration the extent of the segregation between the two main communities on the island and that some people have never even met someone from the other community I believe that it really is a big step.”
Youth Participation: For UNFICYP, youth can be a positive force for development when provided with the knowledge and opportunities they need to thrive. UNFICYP partners with young people, helping them participate in decisions affecting them, and strengthening their ability to advance issues such as climate action, education, and employment.