Şadiye Işısal is a young Turkish Cypriot activist interested in conflict resolution and peacebuilding and is looking forward to the day when she will live in a united Cyprus. Living in Nicosia, the last divided capital in Europe, she joined the UN’s Youth Champions for Environment and Peace initiative which aims to bring young people together from across the island to work together on shared environmental concerns, helping to build trust and confidence between young people across the divided island.
“The programme gave me more power to push and never give up on this journey of living in a better Cyprus. This experience made me realise that Cyprus is not only a home for Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots; but it is also a home for other nationalities who share the common vision of a united island,” Şadiye highlights.
She decided to join as she had always dreamed of becoming a representative of Cypriot youth to voice her support for building lasting peace as well as to advocate for the role of young people’s participation in helping to make progress towards a united Cyprus.
“The programme was very interesting and useful,” says Şadiye and explains that “it has taught me the concept of environmental peacebuilding and the role of young people in the climate crisis. When talking specifically about Cyprus, we were introduced to local environmental issues by researchers who opened my eyes on environmental issues that the island is experiencing.”
During the intense 2 weekend long sessions she attended with her peers at Ledra Palace Hotel, she says “I learnt how challenging it is to balance environmental, social, and economic concerns while anticipating the long-term impacts they can cause.”
Furthermore, Şadiye adds: “I had the opportunity to learn more about the work of the UN in Cyprus and their contribution to the Cyprus peace process.”
For her, the programme offers to young people on the island a unique experience to meet like-minded friends from the other community and of other nationalities who care about the environment and are willing to take action to mitigate climate impact. “This programme offers such a cohesive and multi-communal atmosphere which is almost impossible to find on the island,” she details.
For her, “the power of youth contributes immensely to the general peace efforts on the island. My experience from the programme can be described as life-long multi-communal friendships with fulfilment and happiness along with interactive expert training on environment and peace,” Şadiye concludes.
As youth are increasingly demanding more just, equitable and progressive opportunities and solutions in their societies, the need to address the multifaceted challenges faced by young people have become more pressing than ever. For UNFICYP, youth can be a positive force for development when provided with the knowledge and opportunities they need to thrive.
UNFICYP partners with young people, helping them participate in decisions affecting them, and strengthening their ability to advance issues such as climate action, education and employment.
Since its inception in 2020, more than 80 young people from across the island joined the UN Youth Champions for Environment and Peace programme. The third edition, concluded in December 2022, was organized in cooperation with British Council Cyprus with the focus on environmental peacebuilding and climate activism.