THE Head of the UN peace-keeping force in Cyprus (Unficyp) Elizabeth Spehar said she is quite hopeful about what may transpire during next week’s meetings between the leaders of the island’s two communities, who will meet in the Swiss resort of Mont Pelerin for intensive talks concentrating on territory.
“If it goes reasonably well, I think we will be in a very definitive stage of this negotiation process,” she said.
Speaking at a conference in Nicosia on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women’s participation in peace processes in Cyprus, Spehar said that here is a tremendous opportunity for these leaders, for the first time in a long time, and perhaps in the most viable fashion ever to present a truly, mutually beneficial political agreement on the table for reunification of the island.
“Women cannot be missing from that equation. Viability and sustainability of any agreement will depend on women participation,” she said.
In the Cyprus talks, she said, despite the progress in female participation and the gender advisory team, there is need to do a lot more.
She added that if the talks continue to go well and if the leaders arrive at their aim of a comprehensive political agreement by the end of the year, they will have to start turning their attention to implementation, to constitutions, to joint federal institutions, key federal and organic laws. “This is where again women’s voices, their concerns and their perspectives will need to be reflected.”
Spehar also said that as seen around the world often, the inclusion or the lack of women is a key factor in failure or success of a particular peace enterprise.
“We’ve seen that when women are involved in peace processes, a peace agreement is more likely to be implemented, more likely to be concluded and also to be sustained and provide sustainable peace”, she said, adding that “if you want to be successful in Cyprus, women’s voices need to be heard”.
EU Principal Adviser on Gender and of UNSCR 1325 Mara Marinaki, who was the keynote speaker at the conference, assured on behalf of the EU that “we are indeed committed to continue together with you as partners in the efforts of building a sustainable and coherent effect of UNSCR 1325 into the Cyprus context”.
As Marinaki said, in the context of Cyprus, much has been achieved in terms of gender equality and the agenda of peace and security, but this should be compared to the zero point of departure, which means that there is a very serious room for improvement.
“We continue to see a considerable lack of addressing the implementation of resolution 1325 to substantially include women in the peace talks but also across the board, political participation, proper inclusion of women in the higher management, across the board in the system, in the government, in public institutions and also in the private sector in leadership positions”, she said.
Marinaki furthermore noted that the absence of Cypriot women from formal peace talks and negotiations shows a gap between the endeavours of the international community and the realities of the overall peace process on the island.
“Women’s experiences, contribution, perspectives are still missing from the policy and security discussions around a comprehensive negotiated reconciliation in Cyprus,” she noted.
Former foreign minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis said UNSCR 1325 in many countries, including Cyprus, has not taken any concrete and real effect in daily life and in particular as far as negotiations are concerned.
Marcoullis spoke of a “tragic situation”, stressing that her inclusion in the team that will accompany the president in Switzerland is a tragic reminder that women are absent in the negotiations and around the negotiating table.
Saying that she was not satisfied with the present situation, she added that changing this situation is a responsibility of the leaders.
“Unfortunately, the negotiations so far that have been leader-led, have been also men-led,” she pointed out.