Cyprus, a picturesque island nestled in the Eastern Mediterranean marks a significant day in its history - Independence Day. A less known fact is that, even though Independence Day is celebrated on the 1st October each year, the official proclamation of the Republic of Cyprus was on 16th August 1960, following the “Cyprus Act” which established an independent sovereign Republic of Cyprus, and stipulated that “Her Majesty shall have no sovereignty or jurisdiction over the Republic of Cyprus.” This occasion is a symbol of resilience, unity, and enduring spirit of the Cypriot people. It is also a day when Cypriots come together to celebrate their hard-won freedom and self-determination, reflecting on their cultural heritage and vibrant traditions that make this island unique. Festivities include parades, concerts, and cultural exhibitions that showcase the rich Cypriot history.
Unfortunately, following the intercommunal violence in the 1960s and the invasion in the summer of 1974, 36% of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus has been occupied and the island is de facto divided ever since. My active involvement in conflict resolution and peacebuilding, especially following my selection as a UN Youth Champion for Environment and Peace, has made me realise the importance of bottom-up peacebuilding. As McEvoy-Levy suggests “a peace agreement’s endurance depends on whether the next generations accept or reject it, how they are socialised during the peace process, and their perceptions of what that peace process has achieved.”
For this reason, I utilised my international youth climate networks as the Delegate of Cyprus to the Youth4Climate and Pre-COP26, my previous experiences within the Commonwealth, such as through my participation in the Pan-Commonwealth Parliamentary Assembly for COP26 and my attendance at two Commonwealth Day Services, as well as my local networks with young Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots and Cypriots in the diaspora to establish the “Local Conference of Youth on Climate Change” in Cyprus (LCOY Cyprus) in 2022. This environmental peacebuilding initiative is supported by YOUNGO, the official children and youth constituency to UNFCCC, the UN in Cyprus, British High Commission in Cyprus, the British Council and Friends of the Earth Cyprus.
So far, we have engaged with more than 200 people across the island, organised two conferences in the UN Buffer Zone and composed two policy papers, advocating among others, for greater youth involvement in the Cyprus settlement process, in light of UN Security Council Resolution 2250 and most recently, Resolution 2674. Some of our suggestions include the establishment of a Technical Committee on Youth as part of the Track I peace process, as well as greater youth involvement in all Technical Committees, especially the one on environment.
The environment has a great potential to unite people – together, we work for the turtles that swim across our sea, and the birds that fly above the barbed wires. If not us, then who? If not now, when?
The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Royal Commonwealth Society.