The Contribution of Bicommunal Contacts in Building a Civil Society in Cyprus
PublisherAmerican Psychological Association
Place of publicationWashington, DC, US
SourceThe social psychology of group identity and social conflict: Theory, application, and practice.
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This chapter focuses on Cyprus and illustrates the process involved in conflict resolution workshops and their importance for the development of a civil society. The work in Cyprus has been greatly influenced by the contributions made at both theoretical and applied levels over the years by Herbert Kelman, and specifically by the insights we gained from his work of many years on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (e.g., Kelman, 1979, 1993). The work in Cyprus has focused primarily on community building and civil society development across ethnic lines. I contend that the Cypriot bicommunal citizens' efforts at peace building challenge the omnipotence of the state and the dominant narratives of nationalists in the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communitiesthe latter are based on the superiority and absolute righteousness of one's own side. The bicommunal peace builders stress citizenship as a shared value and a unifying point of reference rather than the traditional ethnic identities historically exploited by the official discourses on both sides and turned into points of contest and separation. The dualisms, bipolarity, and perceived homogeneity in each community are challenged as oversimplifications of a much more complex social landscape. My general thesis is that unless Cypriots have a well-developed, self-critical civil society committed to the peace-building processes, the best political agreement signed at the official diplomatic level will be very difficult to 'sell' and will fail to crystallize in the long term. In this chapter I first review the history of the Cyprus conflict. Second, I outline the conflict resolution framework and the goals of the conflict resolution training workshops in Cyprus. Third, I assess the ideas developed during interethnic encounters that were held either in Cyprus or abroad. Fourth, I look at specific current projects aimed at creating a civil society and, fifth, I describe suggestions for implementing a shared vision. I conclude with lessons learned from the case of Cyprus. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)