Panel discussion facilitated by UN in Cyprus to showcase power of sport to foster peace
On 29 September 2022, the 3rd Cyprus Forum, the largest policy-making forum on the divided island, featured a discussion on the underreported topic of Sport and Peacebuilding. The panel session facilitated by the UN Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Cyprus (OSASG) brought together five experts and sport practitioners to discuss about the unique ability of sport to bring people together, connect individuals and communities, transcend differences, and dispel misconceptions.
This discussion was deemed especially opportune at a time where the UN feels there is a need to build bridges and nurture people-to-people interactions across the island.
In his keynote address, on the same day, SRSG/DSASG Stewart stressed the importance of building new ties as well as strengthening existing ones – both for restoring trust and reinvigorating the prospects of a settlement in Cyprus. These efforts are through active, regular contacts across all segments of society including youth. This is precisely where sport can play a decisive role.
The panelists, four Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriots as well as a UNOG representative, through their work experience or personal journey, helped shed light on a relatively under explored vehicle for fostering mutual understanding and respect on the island. They touched on past, current, and planned activities for promoting reconciliation through sport-based approaches at the grassroot level. The discussion also addressed the specific enabling role of sport towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In the following weeks, two intercommunal sport events at grassroot level were held around the games of basketball and tennis, which were further testament of the growing realization of the need to “give peace a sporting chance” across the island.