Peace begins by building bridges: UNFICYP hosts networking fair inside the buffer zone

27 Jun 2023

Peace begins by building bridges: UNFICYP hosts networking fair inside the buffer zone

In the evening of 23 June, Ledra Palace Hotel became buzzing with conversations, music, and more than 300 Cypriots from across the divide, some often meeting for the first time to discuss business and entrepreneurship. The location, known on the island as the headquarters for UNFICYP British peacekeepers, became a hub of handshakes, hugs, warm welcomes, and chats on different topics. The reason: The Mission, together with partners, organized the third edition of its Networking Fair initiatives, this time focusing on building bridges through businesses and entrepreneurship.

The United Nations recognizes the tremendous contributions of small enterprises to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. In many parts of the world, micro, small and medium enterprises are the backbone of societies, and it is proven that they contribute to local and national economies and to sustaining livelihoods, among working women, youth, and at many times to they also support groups in vulnerable situations.

For Aliye Taygun, "having participated in the fair for the third time has been an incredibly enriching experience, brimming with networking opportunities, bright ideas and inspiration. After moderating a panel discussion on Green Line Regulation last December at the second edition of the fair, I was delighted to take on a new role as one of the presenters this time." Aliye works as an International Relations Officer at Oxygono. Notably, she played a pivotal role in supporting Cyprus's inaugural policy-making conference, known as the “Cyprus Forum”.

For Rémy Mérieux, from Cyprus Peace and Dialogue Centre, such events help build bridges between the communities: "These events have a strong impact on the Cyprus peace process. They help cultivate the culture needed for peace in many ways. It provides the opportunity of interaction between the communities, which helps breakdown stereotypes and misconceptions. Fostering intercommunal business partnership helps to promote initiatives by showing that there are benefits to overcome the status quo of division."

The event offered to participants a chance to familiarize with a series of different businesses who set up their stalls outside of the hotel and several speakers presented topics ranging from Green Line trade, the potential of partnerships, using emerging technology tools for social impact and presentations of how start-ups initiatives can help foster peace.

Sotiris Themistokleous, the Director of Strategic Development at the Center for Social Innovation, explains the role of the Center: "our organisation specializes in developing tangible solutions to support marginalized groups to develop their entrepreneurial skills, to access the market, develop their own businesses, and contribute to the social and economic development of the island.”

Themistokleous continues: “That is what we believe will improve the quality of life of the people around us. Develop our society in a way to be more understanding, more inclusive and open to different cultures. We can have different opinions and perspectives, but we have an ultimate goal: collaboration, and a unified development of the Cyprus market," he concludes.

The fair was organized by UNFICYP, in partnership with the Cyprus Peace and Dialogue Centre, Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, the Center for Social Innovation and the World Bank. In addition, a series of different businesses, entrepreneurs, and organizations from across the island, as well as EU-funded projects, joined the event that gathered more than 300 participants. The event was also supported by Turkish Cypriot Association of Shopkeepers and Artisans, StartUp Grind Cyprus, Unity Growth, CyprusInno and Oxygono.

UNFICYP puts partnerships at the heart of its work to achieve sustainable peace and is a key priority under the Action for Peacekeeping agenda. The Mission’s Civil Affairs Section is responsible for facilitating activities that promote harmony and trust between communities. UNFICYP’s intercommunal activities range from supporting the preservation of common cultural heritage, promoting intercommunal dialogue through cultural, sports and other events, and through the facilitation of essential services for both communities.