A center for the promotion of cultural exchange in Cyprus

Project completed
Four people shaking hands
The project seeks to help revitalise the buffer zone and bring the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities closer together. © SDC

Thanks to this project, an abandoned house in the Cypriot buffer zone was acquired, completely renovated and converted to create a social and cultural centre. The centre opened its doors at the beginning of May 2011 and has since hosted numerous activities topromote dialogue between the local population groups. In so doing it is making an important contribution to reconciliation and peace building in Cyprus.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Cyprus
Strengthening civil society
Non-governmental organisations
01.10.2008 - 30.04.2012
CHF 153'150

Note: the texts under all the headings, with the exception of 'Results achieved', describe the situation before the start of the project.

A centre for promoting dialogue

Cyprus is the third-largest island in the Mediterranean, and has been divided since 1974. A buffer zone separates the north of the island from the south. Cyprus lacks any form of infrastructure for fostering dialogue between the two cultural population groups. The aim of this project to build a social and cultural centre is to intensify dialogue between the Cypriot and Turkish populations. The project also represents the first step in a move to revitalise the buffer zone that divides the island geographically into two parts, bringing the two cultures indigenous to Cyprus closer together and enabling them to engage in joint activities.

The first cultural centre in Cyprus – with a Swiss contribution

The Association for Historical Dialogue and Research (AHDR) was founded in 2003 as a non-governmental organisation by a group of historians, teachers, ethnologists, linguists and research scientists. Thanks to funding from several donor organisations and countries, the association was able to acquire and renovate an old, disused building directly located in the buffer zone. Switzerland contributed CHF 153,000 towards the renovation and refurbishment of the cultural centre as part of the Swiss enlargement contribution. The total cost of the project amounts to CHF 1.6 million.

Opened at the beginnng of May 2011, the centre has since been organising various activities that foster an exchange of ideas and opinions among the population. It is the first intercommunal and multifunctional establishment in Cyprus, a building in which cooperation and collaboration between the ethnic populations of Cyprus is actively promoted. The building, whichwas transformed by a Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot team of architects, contains a conference room, a library, multifunctional seminar rooms for training courses, events and presentations, and a café. In addition to the local population, local NGOs also benefit from this project since they are permitted to use its various premises.

Revival of the buffer zone – a reality since May 2011

The “home for cooperation” is the first centre to be shared by both population groups of Cyprus, and promotes research and dialogue as well as history and education. Since the opening ceremony on 9 May 2011, cultural events and training courses have been held on a regular basis in the social centre. During the day, the social centre is open to the local population. This project represents a first step towards the transformation of the buffer zone to create a place of encounter and cooperation between the two cultures in Cyprus.

For greater tolerance between the cultures

Much of the history taught in Cypriot schools isheavily biased according to culturalperceptions of events in the past. The aim of the AHDR, which operates the centre, is to teach history to Cypriot schools in a more multidimensional context. The organisation is hoping to attract up to 800 national and international teachers a year to various events with the aim ofproviding this type of multidimensional insight into Cypriot history. Consequently not only schoolchildren in Cyprus but schoolchildren throughout the world will gain an insight into the country’s rich history, which in turn will generate mutual respect and understanding between the island’s populations over the long term. The centre is also aiming to attract more than 2,000 visitors a year to its multicultural museum. Overall, these measures will contribute to greater tolerance and respect between the cultures in Cyprus.