Irene Antoniou: For any solution to be viable, it needs to be inclusive

18 Jan 2022

Irene Antoniou: For any solution to be viable, it needs to be inclusive

Irene Antoniou is a 28-years-old Cypriot from Paralimni and a volunteer at the Famagusta Avenue Garage. Together with other participants, she took part in the "peacebuilding in divided societies" programme, organized by UNFICYP Civil Affairs Section.

Referring to the programme, Irene notes that “it is a very good opportunity for people to learn more about peacebuilding processes and how and where we, as individuals, come into these processes”.

She highlights that since she joined the sessions: “I have a greater awareness of how complex peace negotiations can be and how many variables can be involved. I learnt how individuals and people at grassroots level can play a role in the process and how important it is to consider women and youth while working towards a solution.”

Furthermore, Irene notes that the programme has helped the participants “to see that there are a lot of people who wish to work towards achieving lasting peace on the island and it gives us courage and hope. It motivates us to take action through intercommunal and inclusive events. It expands our knowledge and skills on how to bring people together since we experience it as well during the workshops.”

For her, “for any solution to be viable, it needs to be inclusive. Everyone needs to be included in the process of reaching a solution. Women and youth need to be included to ensure that a possible solution caters for everyone’s needs and that it promotes everyone’s rights.”

Like Irene, more than 40 young participants took part in a negotiation simulation, with the support of the Institute of World Affairs and other expert facilitators. “Meeting people from other communities is one of the greatest benefits of participating in these workshops. It is so nice to see that even though we may come from different backgrounds, we join these workshops because we have common goals, similar aspirations and it’s rewarding to have the chance to interact, exchange opinions and ideas about how we may be able to play a role in our communities to strengthen the desire for peace in our country,” she adds. 

When talking about youth participation, Irene explains: “youth have been raised on this island in a very different environment than the generation currently negotiating a solution. As such, youth are often more willing to look into the future without the shadows of the conflict. Their voices and their determination should be given room to strengthen the efforts for lasting peace.”

The workshops were part of the “Peacebuilding in Divided Societies” programme, organised by UNFICYP in collaboration with the British High Commission and the British Council in Cyprus. The programme will continue this year with the ‘Young leaders in action: inclusion of women and youth in peacebuilding’ initiative from January to March.