Without trust there can never be a sustainable solution in Cyprus, the UNSG’ Special Representative in Cyprus, Colin Stewart, said on Thursday, adding that “to address the current political impasse and division on the island, fostering trust-building is a key approach of the UN, and civil society plays a key role in this strategy.”

Speaking during a conference in Nicosia, on “Sustainability of the water and energy supply and waste management in Cyprus in the context of a peaceful, fair and workable settlement of the Cyprus Problem and the wider issue of climate change” organized by the Cyprus Peace and Dialogue Center, the Glafkos Clerides Institute and the Next Century Foundation, Stewart also noted that “sustainable peacebuilding is not something that happens only at the level of political leaders – it also has to be built from the bottom-up.”

Stewart noted that “bringing people together – civil society and experts, north and south – to protect the environment can also help break down some of the divisions on this island – not only north and south, but between hardliners and pro-solutionist, and open new channels of dialogue, giving an important reason for cooperation.”

Moreover, he said that “the UN in Cyprus, as part of its mandate, and simply as part of its responsibility as a local actor, has invested significantly in environmental peacebuilding and in limiting its own environmental footprint.”

Stewart said that they facilitate the Technical Committee on Environment, adding that “one of the initiatives we have been supporting is a major proposed bicommunal sola power plant in the buffer zone. With EU funding and implementation by UNDP, the technical-feasibility study is wrapping up and we look forward to moving forward with this exciting project,” he noted.

Furthermore, he stressed that “we also take seriously our responsibility to reduce our own carbon footprint. The UN in Cyprus is regulating its own usage of fuel, water, and electricity, renewing its fleet with hybrid cars, reducing the usage of single-use plastic, recycling waste throughout its operations and installing solar energy plants. We are taking coordinated actions to “Green the Green Line” through clean-ups of the buffer zone and elsewhere,” Stewart said.

He went on to underline that “working together on the environment is of course a crucial investment in and of itself, but – of particular importance to the UN’s mandate in Cyprus – it also has important benefits and opportunities for peace. Public opinion polling has shown that the greater interaction between the communities – for whatever reason – the greater the understanding and trust,” he noted.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Repeated rounds of UN-led peace talks have so far failed to yield results. The latest round of negotiations, in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana ended inconclusively.

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