In this story series, UN Peacekeeping shows the impact of Action for Peacekeeping, which guides peace operations across 12 active missions.
Story by Stephanie Lemesianou. Edited by Urjasi Rudra
Turkish-Cypriot Burak Berk Doluay will never forget the email that started it all.
The island-nation of Cyprus has been divided for over four decades, separating the Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot communities. Back in 2016, Doluay felt that there were far too few career opportunities for young people in his community, so he decided to explore the potential of business partnerships across the divide. What he did not know was that a young, Greek-Cypriot entrepreneur shared the same ambition.
“I sent him a long email. And, he wrote back, because what I had outlined was the exact same vision that he was going for,” says Steven Stavrou.
Their mission was to find ways to provide tools and resources for Cypriot entrepreneurs and use business partnerships as a peace-building mechanism. This was Stavrou’s first-ever interaction with a Turkish-Cypriot, but he had no hesitation over the partnership.
“We believe entrepreneurs are natural peace-builders, they have this kind of mindset of productivity and growth, and they don't put differences first. They put that aside and I think that's exactly what we did,” says Stavrou. “He treated me like a really good friend and family member from day one.”
Together, they founded CyprusInno, a non-profit organization and social venture that organizes live events, provides digital tools and connects innovators. The organization began operating first as a digital platform, but both Stavrou and Doluay saw the need to acquire a permanent, physical space.
With the support of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), Doluay and Stavrou transformed a peacekeeping military container in Cyprus’ UN-controlled Buffer Zone by hand into a welcoming co-working space, called The Base.
“The fact that UNFICYP Civil Affairs was a partner and a champion for us going into that space and transforming it, was everything,” says Stavrou.
The UN Buffer Zone is accessible by both communities and it is a convenient location to bring people together. Now that they have a physical space to work from, Doluay and Stavrou don’t have to wait for the next event or programme to come together and make an impact; it happens daily.
”If Greek and Turkish Cypriots or other community members are coming into the Base, and at some point, they start exchanging some ideas, the impact is happening automatically. It doesn't get any better than that,” says Stavrou.
Promoting the participation of youth in peace processes is a priority for UN Peacekeeping. Collaborating on numerous workshops with UNFICYP, Doluay and Stavrou have been able to expand their reach and connect with more community members. They have also been participating in local and international consultations, helping shape policy on entrepreneurship and peace. Doluay attended the UN consultation on Youth, Peace, and Security and contributed to UN Resolution 2250 which emphasizes the importance of youth as agents of change in the maintenance and promotion of peace and security. Stavrou attended the EU Commission’s Youth and Digitalization consultation in Estonia and contributed to the youth policy. Recently, CyprusInno was nominated as a finalist for the 2022 SDG Action Awards.
Even though innovation, technology and entrepreneurship are not necessarily the first tools one would think of when talking about peacebuilding, Doluay and Stavrou are proof that peacemakers have many faces, talents and tools.
“A business collaboration is as intimate as any sort of other relationship can be, right? You're building something new with that person. And your livelihood depends on it, your future,” says Stavrou.“It requires the same trust and relationship-building that we would expect peacebuilding to have.”
|Peacebuilding and sustaining peace is a key area of the Action for the Peacekeeping agenda, aiming to support the inclusion and engagement of civil society and all segments of the local population in the peacekeeping mandate implementation. UNFYCIP’s work in Cyprus also contributes to the A4P+ area of supporting host countries in building lasting peace. In 2015, the UN Security Council adopted landmark resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security, acknowledging the “important role youth can play in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and as a key aspect of the sustainability, inclusiveness and success of peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts.”|