Mediterranean Peace Forum 20/21

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, an international gathering of 12 nationalities physically might seem like the Everest of achievements, but being the 10th anniversary for the Mediterranean Peace forum, Rotaract Mediterranean in collaboration with District 2452 under the sponsorship of Cyprus International Institute of Management, did not rest until the event came to life. The MPF was hosted in Cyprus, held on the 22nd of May, across all media platforms to wire into and jump start as many dormant and active impactful minds alike.

Through online gatherings and processes, the team was able to, not only successfully conduct the Mediterranean Peace forum for this year, but held immediate workshops to freshly squeeze innovative ideas, coming up with four interesting projects in long term preparation for next year’s Peace Forum. The groups participating in the preparation are motivated by the prospect of awards next year, before anything, for their dedication and perseverance.

An event reuniting an aim for peace that is “Far from the eyes but close from the heart.” -Astrid Durand Viel.

Astrid Durand Viel

Rotaract Mediterranean President

Aiming to discuss peace, economy, sustainability and gender inclusivity while the world is in a constant state of recovery from the COVID19 pandemic, Mediterranean peace forum opens by Rotaract Mediterranean President Astrid Durand Viel with pride that the Mediterranean Peace forum has been a constant annual ritual since December 2012; attended this year by Mediterranean nationalities including Lebanon, France, Greece, Bosnia and of course the host country Cyprus. Despite the challenges of mobility between countries, there were also non Mediterranean nationalities to support from Jordan, Bahrain, Russia, Bulgaria, the UAE and more.

Jelena Cvetkovic 

District Rotaract Representative for District 2452

Emphasizing the support for MPF, Helena brings the focus of the even to peace building initiatives,

Given that We are diverse, We can make an impact as the youth change makers.”

Semeli  Kyriacou 

Cyprus Country Secretary

Mediterranean Peace Forum Chairperson

After consecutive lockdowns, closing of country borders, interruption of business activities, undeniably shaping global peace, economy and society in our daily lives, Semeli comes to touch the exhaustion of souls throughout the pandemic and creates the familiar feeling of irritability, where it can be channeled into constructive initiatives.

She mentions the impactful words of UN Secretary General that the uncertainty created from the pandemic may create incentive to promote division and turmoil fueling a sudden escalation of violence due to devastating miscalculations. COVID-19 has highlighted the world’s unpreparedness for the pandemic, and more severely, it has surfaced the abundance of social inequalities, as well as the need for funding public health.

On another note, Semeli reminds us of how devastating the effects of COVID19 pandemic has been globally for women as the worst affected sectors. If anything, the pandemic has put the spotlight on how women are missing from decision making tables. Semeli led the HOC team to organize the Mediterranean Peace Forum on the ground, delivering such an impactful inclusive event.

Theodore Panayotou

CIIM Director and Dean Professor of Economics 

The Cyprus International Institute for Management has created a Strategic partnership with Rotary and Rotaract upon the realization of the values that Rotarians hold. Theodore referred to the four way test, familiar to each Rotarian and Rotaractor by heart, in his own words; “Do no harm, have Compassion, Ask yourself if it is the truth?” All of which are familiar to him as if he were teaching ethics.

 The institute generally offers 5 50% scholarships and 10 30% scholarships through its fields of studies including data analytics, business intelligence and MBA, but as of May 2017, CIIM has created a joint scholarship to be 5 50% scholarships for EACH Mediterranean Country which amounts to 24x chances for Mediterranean Rotaractors to receive the scholarship.

The question to Mr Panayutou is, how are peace and sustainability related? How by building peace we can build sustainable development and how has the pandemic affected this? Has it created a willingness of the world to achieve global benefit?

The answer starts with a jolting reminder that there is a whole quarter of the world where sustainable development is a dream, because of disruption by wars, conflicts and violence. The pandemic has enabled us to learn something that might be useful in the global challenges of peace. One of which is most hidden, which is the growing digital divide between the “well-to-do” and the “not-so-well-to-do”. There is a literal very direct relation between sustainable development and peace, you will not get the first until you achieve the latter and vice versa.

The world has always been trying to achieve negative peace; ending a conflict, but now we need to focus on positive peace; identifying and resolving the underlying causes lack of sustainable development.

What the pandemic has taught us is that challenges can come suddenly and without warning, all the plans become irrelevant. The pandemic is global, non discriminate and does not identify east or west, we are all in this together. It has also taught us that we are not prepared for a pandemic but despite that, we are more creative than we thought. We are willing to cooperate even with our enemies when facing a bigger enemy; no one organization can do it alone. We are even willing to make sacrifices, to give up the things we took for granted. Would you give up your personal freedom for the climate?

We have also learned that many of us are suspicious of science until we can experience a direct tangible benefit to our selves; given the decline in resistance to the vaccine from 35% to 15%.

Capitalism and profit are powerful motivators for innovation, but without regulation they are motivators for exploitation. We need to be less nationalistic, and utilize digital transformation more towards the means to achieve sustainable development – our only pathway to peace.

We are all interdependent on a global scale, no man and no woman is an island, we are all connected. You can hide with the lockdown but you can’t run, so we better get along not only with each other but within our own families” -Theodore panayotou

Katarina Kalavas 

Deputy District Governor 2452

Since February 23rd 1905, when Paul Harris decided to found Rotary through international relationships, Rotary has been in line with peace. Since the start of the UN in 1945, Rotary International was one of 42 organizations present, ranking highest in terms of consultancies. A chair in the UN was and continues to be reserved for a Rotary International representative engaging in critical humanitarian activities that rotary and UN lead hand in hand.

Rotary’s goal today is to create environmental Sustainability through measurable activities worldwide. People of function, driven by the desire to create opportunities and find solutions to the tough challenges that affect people, members address the underlying causes of conflict including but not limited to poverty, discrimination, ethnic tension, lack of access to education and unequal distribution of resources.

In the fight against COVID19, the focus has been on providing assistance to underdeveloped countries shifting the focus that has been since 1988 amounting to 2.6 billion dollars in the battle against polio.

Cyprus has been a pioneer in peace building, where Rotarians and Rotaractors coexist in harmony, united under the rotary banner joining forces and achieving their goals through global grants. Reminiscing about the first rotary club in Cyprus that was established in 1938 Nicosia with 17 members, until today, where Cyprus consists of 20 rotary clubs and 9 rotaract clubs that create innovative projects including spreading awareness about dyslexia and assisting neighboring countries like Lebanon when crisis hits with amounts reaching 30 thousand dollars.

Within the COVID19 pandemic, Cyprus has been able to donate ICU beds and medical apparatus to hospitals costing 150 thousand dollars. Alongside, Cyprus has been focusing on the environment, beach cleaning and tree planting as the effect on it as a Mediterranean country has been eminent in terms of climate change; decreasing rain fall, desertification causing a decline in diversity of plants. Consequently, all the mentioned has caused a decline of pollinators that play an essential role in the continuation of fruits. In this effect, District 2452 has been collaborating in the Cyprus pollinator project, with more details found below.

“Peace building remains a cornerstone of our mission as a humanitarian service organization.” -Katarina Kalavas

Maria Hadjipavlou

Academic and Feminist Activist

When asked about gender balance and equal gender representation, about what is missing? What is the general benefit from equality? What  do women have to offer in peace negotiation teams? Maria responds that during the pandemic, most prominent is the deepening of gender inequality and rise of sexism and racism as well as the lack of etiquette and education where digitalization isn’t available.

An interesting eye opener from Maria is that upon studying wars and their root causes, gender is a component that isn’t readily studied, thus worth digging into as a means of conflict resolution.

October 2020 marks the 20th anniversary for the security council resolution feminist achievement, a female dominated body in the UN where the demand of women’s movement had been met and NGOs with the thoughts that feminists are capable of influencing global governments. Around the same time, UN Secretary General engaged a round table discussion from women from the Central African Republic, Mali and Cyprus where Maria herself attended as an observer.  Mr Guterres remarked that in his view that if women were present in negotiations, the talks wouldn’t have collapsed, informing us of the dismal statistics of how women are sidelined; detailing that from 1992 to 2019, in major peace processes, the world has had only 13% women negotiations, 3% mediators and merely 4% signatories of agreements. This provokes the non legitimacy of women’s voices and contributions, while it is widely agreed of their ability to promote democracy and justice for all.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 was adopted unanimously in October 2000 to integrate women and their prospectives in peace and security. Each of the resolution’s mandates stands on one of the four pillars: Participation, Protection, Prevention, Relief & Recovery. Furthermore, recognizing the efforts of women’s activism especially in conflict ridden areas.

A woman negotiator does not guarantee that she will raise issues of women equality. Depending on the goals and strategy for women who promote feminism, women can make a difference in the equality process. Needless to say, the fact that it has been observed that 35% of agreements signed by women last 15 more years has enabled women to establish their print on peace decision making tables.

The pandemic has highlighted the over-spending on differences and very little on peace structures and peace building processes.” -Maria Hadjipavlou

Farid Mirbagheri 

Professor of international relations – University of Nicosia

Peace is not just silence of the guns, it means the absence of violence in all forms and the unfolding of conflict in a constructive way.”

An amazing intro, and an impression that lasts by Mr Mirbagheri. The wise words don’t stop here as he continues to quote principal founders of discipline of peace and conflict studies Johan Galtung in his words that anything that impedes  the full realization of human potential can be categorized as violence.

War and physical combat, financial mismanagement, corruption, breach of human rights, exposure to biological and non biological hazards, lack of basic social care are manifestations of violence. Positive peace is to proactively produce a process of cohesion, peace and tranquility, not to just settle for negative peace; just stopping violence from taking place.

The pandemic in his opinion had highlighted the uneven distribution of wealth resources and opportunities and power, backed up by numerical economical facts. To keep this state of affairs is maintaining  national peace and security. Without development, peace is not sustainable. He raised the concern of distorted capitalism, profit above everything else without any regulation, quoting Scottish Economisr Adam Smith on his words that we should allow the invisible hand of profit to do what it does as long as it does not transgress the bounds of justice.

Global security has been threatened by pandemics and terrorism so we had to give up some freedoms, and to find cooperation in emerging parameters, is a new ray of hope that people can begin to understand the international approach, that you can’t just look after your own environment individually. The perfect time to introduce the collective security basis, “one for all and all for one”.

Although the pandemic is a fight of generation and a threat to peace and security, it is also fertile ground for initiatives and raising awareness through the digitalized connection to create an international unanimous voice calling for actions of sustainable development, and ultimately peace and conflict resolution.

BY Salma El-Assal


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