Nicosia 20090618

Easy 20-minute walk to Ledra Palace, site of 3-day annual conference by PRIO Cyprus Centre.

I say hello to Professor Adrian Guelke (Queen’s University), who’s surprised to see me. I tease by saying that I’m stalking him.

Adrian gave an excellent and concise paper on the topic of comparing peace processes in deeply divided societies. I have heard him say before that he is cynical of the validity of making such comparisons. But here he articulated this well, by reviewing the definitions of “peace process” and “divided societies”. I video recorded his presentation in full.

I recognised Avishai Ehrlich (Academic College of Tel Aviv-Jaffa) from a previous conference I attended in Loccum, Germany. His presentation today was “Comparative research on conflicts in partitioned states: Methodological considerations about choosing states, parameters, and a theoretical framework”. As I understood his presentation, he argued that quantitative/empirical comparisons don’t work because it removes conflicts out of context, and qualitative comparisons, while better, are susceptible to subjectiveness, especially in regards to which conflicts/areas you decide to compare.

Costas Constantinou (University of Nicosia) gave a presentation on “The promise and the limits of comparative conflict analysis”. This was more structured than Avishai’s presentation. Costas also highlighted the subjectiveness of comparative analysis, providing as an example a display in a military museum in Turkey that put side-by-side artefacts of Turkey’s operation/incursion in Cyprus alongside North Korea’s operation/incursion.

After a break, there was an introduction by Ari Sitas of his book, The Ethic of Reconciliation. I haven’t read it, but from Ari’s introduction, it’s obvious that his book provokes deep thinking. One panel commentator described it as prophecy: describing the future as it will be, without defining how it will be achieved. This was said in a complimentary way.

There was a generous lunch at Chateau Status. At my table, a young woman described her idea of a variant of a reality tv show (The Apprentice?), which she calls “The Last Negotiator”. Here, you’d start with a dozen contestants, all aspiring negotiators, who are given scenarios that they have to resolve. Everything they do is viewed by a wide audience. The contestants are eliminated, with the last negotiator surviving offered a real job.

After lunch, there was a session based on practical experiences. John Pampallis (Centre for Education Policy Development, South Africa) described the South Africa transition, while David Officer (INDEX, Cyprus) made comparisons between Northern Ireland and Cyprus.

In the subsequent Q&A, I asked David for his views on the relative strength and weaknesses of the civil society sector in Cyprus, for both Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities. I also underlined his remark about sleepwalking into accepting and applying to Cyprus the consociational elements of Northern Ireland’s government. Several subsequent attendees also made remarks to these two points. (One woman’s reference to not provoking “the Cyprus consciousness” intrigued me; I had to have Marios explain that term to me later.)

All this animated David. He went into detail how weak the civil society sector is for both communities in Cyprus (particularly the Greek-Cypriot community). Said that while this sector is strong in Northern Ireland, as measured by employment (many thousands) as well as the role it played in the peace process, it is very weak in Cyprus, employing a few hundred people. David also said that while the civil society sector played an important role in the passing of the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement, and appreciated for such, on the other hand he said that in Cyprus he and his team’s efforts to explain (including a little green book) to ordinary citizens a yes/no vote on the Annan Plan Referendum of 2004 were explicitly not welcomed by Cypriot Government authorities.

Afterwards, I introduced myself to David and explained how Quintin Oliver, who he cited in his presentation, provides secretariat services for my organisation. David and I had a good chat. I was impressed when he asked me about my blog (he found some previous postings on Cyprus). Good to know a blog serves a purpose of letting people find you!

Went into town to meet Marios and Deniz at Costa Coffee. I was waiting for them inside: non-smoking and air-conditioned. When Deniz arrived she said, “Why are you sitting in the losers’ section? We need to go outside where all the people are!” But by now all those tables were taken. We found another cafe, more authentic and just as cool place to be seen. A good discussion ensued.

Deniz left and Marios invited me for dinner. He asked what food I would like. I said, “When in Rome…”. We went to a good tavern he knows. It was a delicious feast. Halloumi cheese ravioli was my favourite. Marios and I kept the discussion going. His management training work is very interesting. We discussed the value
of the film “Twelve Angry Men” as a training tool.

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