Act Beyond Borders

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Contract Title Human Rights and Reconciliation – Civil Society Acts Beyond Borders
Contract Number EIDHR/2009/167-502
Funding Period 01/01/2010 - 31/12/2012
Funding Agency European Commission, European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR).
Total Cost
€ 874,863 €(Total Budget)
Partners YAARI

The Civil Society Act Beyond Borders Project is co-funded by the European Commission, European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) and was carried out in collaboration with The Palestinian Dialogue Center (PDC) from West Bank and The Association for Progressive Education in Honor of Meir Yaari (YAARI) from Israel.


The modern day violent conflict between Israeli and Palestinian factions has lasted for more than half a century. This conflict exists at the political as well as the civic level because there have been repeated human rights violations within the two communities which have created a culture of mistrust, hatred and demonization. The political instability that exists within and between the two communities further polarizes Israeli and Palestinian civil society. Even though the conflict is engrained in the psyche of the people, the hope from many CSOs is for peaceful co-existence and increased respect for human rights. While recent political developments have been attempting resolution, especially since the most recent outbreak of violence, there is need for strong support for CSO collaboration to advocate for positive change at the society level regarding issues ranging from human rights, cooperation, and integration to democratic representation that will shape national developmental policies and a willingness to accept the other. The time is now for the civil society actors to be supported in their efforts to be strengthened in their capacity building exercises and continued dialogue. Experts in and on the region have begun to turn to civil society as a new direction to solve the age old problem. Civil society is a possible answer to the question of how society and state can interact and reinforce each other in a manner that creates and sustains a democratic system. CSOs can play a crucial role in raising awareness about democratisation, civic participation and human rights, including rights of citizens, and in mobilising citizens to stand up for these rights and to raise support for issues of concern to their respective political leaders if supported in these endeavours. Palestinian and Israeli civil society can utilise the experience of European civil society organisations and implement its model that has had a positive effect on governments across Europe to improve the capacity of civil society in various European countries and use these in Israel and Palestine to increase the strength of democracy and human rights.

Cyprus has experienced many of these same situations over the period of its conflict. In recent years the CSOs in Cyprus have begun to work together in a collective manner to achieve what the political apparatus has not thus far, namely cooperation and trust building measures. This is why FWC has chosen to propose this action. It is oganization's strong belief that if the cypriot experience can be shared with the colleagues from Israel and the Palestinian territories, it can be developed a real change from a bottom-up approach at the civil society level. Utilising the strategies that have proved most effective from their years of conflict resolution work, namely structured dialogue and capacity building trainings for CSOs, Future Worlds Center deem it relevant to contribute to the capacity building efforts of civil society in Israel and the Palestinian territories.


Project Steering Committee

A Project Steering committee was created and has been monitoring as well as offering feedback and ongoing communication with the partners and the lead applicant. An advisory board of esteemed members all of whom are experts in conflict resolution topics was created as well.

Advisory Board Members:

  • President, Dr Aleco Christakis, Founder, Institute for 21st Century Agoras.
  • Dr. Harry Anastasiou - Professor of International Peace and Conflict Studies in the Conflict Resolution Graduate Program and International Studies Program at Portland State University.
  • Dr. Hrach Gregorian - President of the Institute of World Affairs.
  • Mr. Marios Michaelides, Acting Head of Cyprus Intercultural Training Initiative.

Interactive online portal

A website has been created with all relevant information about the project and the partner organisations as well as newsletters, informative material, publications, links, and various news articles. Also available on the website are all deliverables produced throughout the project (reports of the structured dialogue workshops, workshop reports).

Also created was a closed facebook group where participants can freely communicate with each other to exchange ideas, information, actions as well as keep in touch with each other on a personal level.

Structured dialogue workshops

Bringing the leaders together

A six day workshop was held in Cyprus at the Sandy Beach Hotel in Larnaca, Cyprus from 25 July - 31 July 2010. Ten Palestinians and eleven Israelis attended. The participants were a unique combination of civil society actors, local business people and youth. In total, there were 21 participants and 2 partners that took part in the process. On the first day a project orientation workshop took place so the participants could learn and understand what is required from them throughout the project. Following was the SDD co-lab: the process of SDD involves 3 co-laboratories or Co-Labs, including The Tree of Vision co-lab; The Wall of Obstacles co-lab, and The Action Agenda co-lab to penetrate the wall and approximate the Tree of Vision. In each Co-Lab, stakeholders respond to a triggering question: during the first session of the co-laboratory, the participants focused on the triggering question: What are descriptors of a mutually beneficial co-existence of Israelis and Palestinians? During the “Wall of Obstacles” co-lab, participants identify obstacles that are preventing us from reaching the vision tree. The triggering question was “What are obstacles to what “ought to be” to create an ideal, mutually beneficial model of coexistence of Israelis and Palestinians?”

Launching the project On July 29 2010 at the CCMC (Cyprus Community Media Center) at Ledra Palace, Nicosia, Future Worlds Center (FWC) organized for the participants a "Cyprus Peace Makers Act Beyond Borders" conference. Several key individuals were invited from peace building projects in Cyprus to give a small welcoming speech, all of whom attended and gave small speeches about their experiences in Peace Building projects between the Turkish-Cypriot communities and the Greek-Cypriot communities.

The aim of this small gathering was for the participants to be able to experience firsthand conflict resolution cases from these two communities and thus relate some of these issues to their own problem.

The keynote speakers were: Mr Marios Michaelides member of the Advisory Board,Mr. Mustafa Damdelen, a prominent businessman who leads the Turkish Cypriot business community’s efforts to promote resolution of the Cyprus conflict and to normalize relations between Turkey and Greece. As a director of the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, he works to educate the people of his community about the benefits of European Union accession and supports conflict resolution training and other activities that seek to advance integration of Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Since 2006, Mr Damdelen has been the vice president of the Cyprus European Union Association, which aims to achieve a united Cyprus within the EU. Following was Ms. Canan Öztoprak who was the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus Cabinet Minister appointed in April 2005 by the Government of Prime Minister Ferdi Sabit Soyer. Her portfolios are National Education and Culture. She has been an active peace activist member of the Cyprus Conflict Resolution Trainers Group. Mr. Lellos Demetriades then spoke to the Palestinian-Israeli group. Mr. Demetriades served as Mayor of Nicosia for 30 consecutive years from 1971 – 2001. During his long term in office as a mayor he initiated a harmonious joint venture with Mr. Mustafa Akinci on the Turkish Cypriot area of Nicosia in setting up a general Town Planning (Master Plan) of Nicosia and a public city Sewage System, which was a very difficult exercise in the divided city, the beneficial results of which have been noted by the U.N. Secretary General and appreciated by the people of Nicosia. Certain International Organisations (Europa Nostra, Habitat and very recently (22 September 2007) the Aga Khan) granted awards and medals to Lellos Demetriades and Mr. Mustafa Akinci, for their contribution in the cause of their common endeavour in particularly difficult times. Mr. Mustafa Akinci, the final speaker, was elected Mayor of Nicosia (north) by the Turkish Cypriot residents of the Northern half of Nicosia. Mr. Akıncı, was re-elected twice and served for 14 years, during which he established a fruitful dialogue and cooperation with his counterpart Mr.Lellos Demetriades. The projects –within the framework of the Nicosia Master Plan-which were initiated jointly with Mr. Demetriades, they received wide recognition and were also awarded by various prestigious international organizations.

Creation of multi-stakeholder Action Groups

The participants chose to separate into 4 groups with different categories about the actions in which they believe are needed. The categories are Business, Non Formal Education, Women, Students. Business: This action group focuses on the business aspect; their target is to open a center of both Israeli and Palestinian businessmen who can openly work with the Arab countries, Europe and the States. The main point they agreed upon was to focus on marketing strategies that will open the markets between Israel and Arab countries, and to open the markets of the west, Europe to the Palestinian side. This action group believes that they can create jobs this way and they focused on mutual agreements and programs in order to create mutual basis of understanding. Other ideas include to find a way to produce and export things together; the support by the Israeli side to the exportation of Palestinian products; and to create a group of people, students, economic organizations who would be interested in this program, which will result in creating positive public relations and increase the marketing possibilities. The target is to achieve these goals and then the corporation itself be able to overcome all the difficulties that exist for exporting and getting products across the checkpoint, and when this finally comes through then this will build trust and create jobs. Non-Formal Education: The entire group has experience working with youth. The goal is to begin with trainings, first in their own region and the jointly on both sides. This event will include also social activities and a seminar. Women: The women view women as leaders in society and leadership in the field of education, so they thought to create a model of twinning’s schools. The twinning model means that all people involved, the school students, the teachers, the principal, and the parents know that this includes introducing certain things from each side. The first step is to find an elementary school, and start the process with the principal so that they commit to the process. Then they will have a meeting with the teachers about social issues and education and the problem of education in the two societies and about the two cultures of the communities. From these meetings they will develop a team of Palestinian and Israeli teachers. Each team will follow a certain process, and each teacher will have activities for the pupils that will teach them the cultures, sports, arts of the other community. Their goal is to try to touch 3 target groups: teachers as leaders in the field of education, pupils; 30 pupils in each class and the third group will be the parents who are related to their community. Then at the end of the process all the groups will convene for a big festival. They haven’t decided yet the exact content to include, but the target is to create a role model of corporation between two schools and each pupil in these schools will know that their school cooperates with another school whatever their political opinion is. Students: This group decided to talk about creating a program between two universities in Jerusalem. They did not decide on the specificities but agreed it will be about cultural issues, religion, language and other. The aim of this program is to engage young Palestinian and Israeli students and to raise a generation that cares about the “other”. A generation that cares about the others’ culture, issues, and has the opportunity to get to know one another. The course will take place over three months, throughout the duration of a semester. Israeli and Palestinian students and professors will have the same content and the same curriculum. This idea is directed towards the obstacle of prejudice that Israelis have towards Palestinians and Palestinians have towards Israelis.

Five trans-national Action Plan support workshops

The workshops took place on the 20th – 21st of December at Talita Kumi. The aim of the workshops was to cover topics such as Project Planning, Project Development and developing detailed and concrete action plans for the implementation of the action projects. Under the guidance of the lead applicant team members, the action groups divided themselves accordingly to discuss project ideas. The businessmen discussed the problems that prevent business cooperation is due to a lack of trust but also differences between the two business cultures.

In the Non-formal education group, they discussed ways to be successful in creating a peaceful society. They believe that educational programs on both sides can lead to two states for two nations, by strengthening the culture of peace through education. The participants envision writing shared educational programs, discussing environmental issues and the ways to work together towards a better environment. The participants also discussed cooperated projects dealing with social and legal rights to help produce a better economy.

The students divided themselves into two separate groups. One group decided to focus on the proposed ideas from the Cyprus workshops, and the other on media projects. They agreed to contact the newspapers at their respective universities and that all involved participants are to write articles about the project.

Finally the women’s group; they agreed that in order to develop project ideas, it is important to build relationships first. As a result, the women spent the evening familiarizing themselves with one another and later expanding their project ideas.

10-day Training of Local Trainers

10 local trainers, 5 Palestinians and 5 Israelis, met on 28th-30th July 2011 in Talitha Kumi, West Bank, for the first phase of the training. The aim of the training is to empower local trainers to take a lead in promoting Human Rights and Democratic participation within the CSOs and within their societies and to act as multipliers within their communities. The ToT involves CSO leaders and the partner organisations as well as other civil society actors in Israel and Palestine, who are interested in developing their skills and understanding effective training for CSOs and play an active role within the project. The effectiveness of the TOT is to equip 10 prospective local trainers with the skills, tools and creative techniques to deliver interactive training events in a way that makes learning enjoyable and effective. It provides the local trainers with an introductory understanding of the theory and practice of civil society strengthening, organisational development and capacity building. The participants who complete the training course will form the pool of trainers that will conduct the Basic and Advanced Open CSO Training Workshops in Israel and Palestine.

So far the participants had the chance to try different tools of teambuilding and to reflect on the mission and the vision of their own organizations. After creating 2 groups, the participants build up their own organizations with shared vision, mission and common goals and they started to use some tools of strategic thinking to improve and promote their new organizations. The second phase of the training will take place in Cyprus and will focus on the training and facilitation tools.

Series of Basic Civil Society Strengthening Workshops

Series of non-formal civil society action workshops

Series of Advanced Civil Society Strengthening Workshops

Ten Panel Discussions/ Public Roundtables

Final Human Rights Conference in Cyprus