Right-wing supporters in the Turkish Cypriot and the Greek Cypriot communities, as well as Greek Cypriot women and young people are particularly resistant to a political compromise in Cyprus, according to the findings of the Social Cohesion and Reconciliation (SCORE) index, a study presented on Thursday at the Home for Cooperation, in Nicosia.
The 2014 study results, which is a partnership project between UNDP-ACT and the Center for Sustainable Peace and Democratic Development (SeeD), found differences with the same study conducted in 2013, with Turkish Cypriots reporting that they are less willing to reconcile themselves with Greek Cypriots and that they experience at the same time more cultural distance from and worse quality contact with Greek Cypriots.
In addition, the levels of cultural distance have increased for both communities in 2014, compared to 2013.
The findings and policy recommendations included in the study were presented this morning by Maria Ioannou and Alexandros Lordos, from SeeD, to an audience comprising ambassadors, peace-builders, NGO representatives and others.
As Ioannou explained, the SCORE index, implemented twice in Cyprus and once in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Nepal, explores the two main components of peace, that is reconciliation and social cohesion, and their impact on the readiness of people for a political compromise.
In doing so, a sample of 500 Greek Cypriots and 500 Turkish Cypriots were interviewed on a number of variables influencing the final outcome, including the degree people feel represented by institutions and the level of political security they feel, along with other predictors, such as the social and cultural difference they feel, compared to the other community.
Overall scores reveal that social cohesion is low in both communities, standing at 3.9 for Greek Cypriots and 4.4 for Turkish Cypriots, in a scale from 0 to 10.
Reconciliation scores – at 6.2 and 6.1 respectively – also suggest a distance between the two communities.
Furthermore, the scores measuring readiness for a political compromise, at 6.2 and 6.3 respectively, suggest the communities` ambivalence towards this goal.
What is striking while examining the variables used to measure readiness for a political compromise is that, although Greek Cypriots are more in favor of the termination of the status quo, Turkish Cypriots show greater support to the federal solution, that is a bizonal bicommunal federation.
When compared to the results of 2013, the 2014 SCORE index reveals that for Turkish Cypriots, the quality of contact went from positive to negative, while at the same time, their propensity for reconciliation and propensity to vote “Yes” in a future referendum has decreased.
Moreover, the cultural distance between the two communities has widened over the course of the same year, but quality of contact, propensity for reconciliation and propensity to vote “YES” have remained unchanged for the Greek Cypriots.
In particular, 29.9% of Greek Cypriots and 34,9% of Turkish Cypriots said they intended to vote “Yes” at a future referendum.
SeeD Research Director Alexandros Lordos said while presenting the study`s policy recommendations that Cypriots should be assisted in becoming more comfortable with cultural diversity and in reducing social distance between the two communities.
Moreover, he added that the peace process should be made more inclusive and participatory, while policy makers should adopt a citizen-centered approach to address aspects of human security.
He noted that negotiating stakeholders should invest more in the Technical Committees, showcasing their work as an example of how collaboration will work in a future solution.
He also suggested to engage citizens in the negotiations through practical ways, such as the development of a public communications office or by having the two negotiators paying common visits to communities throughout the island.
Other recommendations include closer ties between political parties of the two communities, support policies for teaching the other community`s language in schools and foster collaboration among the academic community from both sides.
The study also includes recommendations for local authorities and Civil Society Organisations, while it calls upon the international community to provide the relevant means of support for Cypriots, in order to develop the policy recommendations.
Addressing the event, US Ambassador to Cyprus John Koenig said SCORE index results demonstrate that Cyprus is at a crossroads, while a settlement remains somehow distant.
He said that in the past few years a lot of significant events have affected public disposition to a compromise, like the economic crisis, the Joint Statement and the “rocky road” of negotiation talks in the past several months.
“Cypriots must choose their way, choose between the status quo and increasing engagement or a new path that will lead to further estrangement and a more distant resolution of the Cyprus problem” he noted.
In a panel discussion that followed, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus Erato Kozakou Marcoullis noted that the results of the study were disappointing, compared to the year before.
“We must intensify our efforts for reconciliation, to make people more ready for a settlement” Marcoullis said while pointing in particular to women and the youth.
To that effect, she suggested that both communities should engage school children in mutual visits, introduce Greek and Turkish language courses in the schools of the other community, while women organisations of political parties should be more active in coming together to discuss issues that affect them.
At the same panel, moderated by SeeD Research Director Ahmet Sozen, Emine Colak, the Head of the Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation, referred to the current climate in Cyprus that inhibits peoples` initiatives to come closer, like exchanges between schools and expressed her concern that the results of next year`s study will be worse.
The event was also addressed by Christopher Louise, the UNDP-ACT Programme Manager.