Praxis of urban peacebuilding in Famagusta Cyprus

I would like to thank Cyprus Network of Urban Morphology, and organizing committee for inviting me to share my experience and thoughts on urban peace-building.

Over 9 years, we tried to generate as a multi-communal movement and to introduce the parameters of establishing a peace infrastructure set forth by the ecocity principles. Our efforts have shown how an autonomous movement for a sustainable future could bring people together.

Varosha partially re-opened in October 2020 after 45 years of being held hostage. This reminded us that every wicked problem requires a “big idea” for its solution, not an untransparent process as it is happening today. We still hope to transform our city into a beacon for peaceful cooperation and sustainability.

This presentation focused on urban peacebuilding in Cyprus, which has been physically divided for more than forty-five years based on the ethnic identity of its two main communities (the Turkish Cypriots in the North and the Greek Cypriots in the South) through the special case Famagusta. The fragmentation of the island in 1974 caused many people to relocate from north to south and vice versa. The separation of social spaces from each other took a sense of belonging into a chaotic form since both communities of Cyprus were detached from their own homes and neighborhoods. This turned many places on the island into a sensitive issue to negotiate. Varosha, once the most vibrant center of tourism in the Mediterranean region, had been abandoned by its original inhabitants, and closed off to the public with barbed wire fencing, and has been depicted as a “ghost town” in international media. It became a symbol of the north-south conflict. Varosha partially re-opened in October 2020 after 45 years of being held hostage. The reopening presents a unique opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the past and rebuild for a better future. Yet it comes with significant risks. Without careful planning, it could become just another unsustainable development in an already crowded Mediterranean tourism market, while cementing Famagusta as the second divided city in Cyprus. The Famagusta Ecocity Project is a vision to turn the whole of Famagusta, not just Varosha, into a beacon for peaceful cooperation and sustainability. The project has been started in 2013 by group of volunteer activist to dissolve the ongoing conflict through mutual dialog, with an empathic language and to design with people a balanced and integrated environment with nature and set an example as a praxis of urban peacebuilding.


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