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What is Action for Cooperation and Trust (ACT)?

On 1 October 2005 the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched its peace building project in Cyprus, Action for Cooperation and Trust (ACT). The purpose of ACT is to create opportunities for Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to work together on concrete projects which will benefit all people on the island, while at the same time promoting inter-communal tolerance and mutual understanding. The ACT project is managed directly by UNDP and has a total budget of US $26.5 million for three years (October 2005-September 2008). The project is funded principally by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), with additional funding from UNDP.

What does ACT do?

ACT provides opportunities for Cypriot organizations to design and implement projects which will help build the foundations for lasting relationships islandwide. One of the main objectives of ACT is to encourage Cypriots to demonstrate the benefits of islandwide cooperation. To this end ACT funds projects and initiatives which focus on multicultural education and youth empowerment, promoting civil engagement, support to environmental protection and the preservation and promotion of Cyprus's rich cultural heritage. In each of these areas ACT works with Cypriots to emphasize the need for Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to work together to achieve a prosperous and healthy future for the island and its people.

ACT provides opportunities for young Cypriots to learn about multicultural values...

The overall objective of ACT's education and youth work is to promote learning within a multicultural society, based on a common value system founded upon justice, tolerance and mutual respect. Giving an opportunity to young people to take a leadership role in promoting education on multiculturalism and tolerance is a vital aspect of these efforts. One of the main areas of work focuses on support to youth skills development programmes that teach and encourage volunteerism and community service, responsible citizenship and diversity in the workplace. Activities bring young people from across the island together through residential camps and training sessions, which not only impart new skills but also break down barriers and prejudices. Using communications tools such as film and discussion forums ACT also creates opportunities for young Cypriots to express themselves and to tackle issues which are common to young people across the island. ACT also supports efforts to create supplementary history teaching materials in both communities, while other initiatives focus on youth entrepreneurship, addressing learning difficulties, road safety and youth delinquency.

ACT's focus on promoting civic engagement derives from the belief that Cypriots are the best resource for building cooperation and trust in Cyprus...

ACT believes that a more vibrant and effective civil society is key to helping Cypriots address the issues which both divide and unite the different communities. Civil society can facilitate reconciliation and also help tackle different social issues which do not limit themselves to a specific community. Through training programmes, civil society networking and exposure to international practices, ACT helps Cypriot civil society organisations (CSOs) acquire skills and knowledge to improve their organisational efficiency and effectiveness. Through this work CSOs can better address the concerns of citizens in different areas and actively engage in decision-making processes. Raising the profile of an active Cypriot civil society is important, and in May 2007 ACT organised Cyprus's first International Civil Society Fair, Open Voices - Active Citizens.
ACT's work on HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness depends heavily on partnerships with civil society organisations and demonstrates one practical reason why cooperation between the two communities at all levels is so important. Though Cyprus has low levels of HIV infection, ACT works with different Cypriot organisations which promote islandwide awareness of the threats posed by HIV/AIDS and which provide support to those who care for people living with the illness.

Caring for the environment is an islandwide activity which depends on strong inter-communal partnerships...

Air pollution does not stop at the Ledra Palace crossing point and airborne viruses are not hampered by barbed wire. From an ecological point of view, the island is a series of interconnected ecosystems and therefore environmental issues can only be properly addressed on an islandwide basis. Against this background, ACT promotes inter-communal partnerships which can help care for the common natural heritage of all Cypriots. These efforts involve support for bi-communal advisory groups; environmental advocacy and awareness; and facilitating technology transfer and knowledge sharing. ACT currently supports three bi-communal advisory groups, which bring together Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot experts and focus on organic farming, dairy farming and pandemic prevention. ACT's environmental advocacy strategy supports the philosophy that Cyprus's rich and varied environmental assets can only be protected and maintained if the two communities work together. In this vein, ACT's support to the Cyprus Environmental Stakeholder Forum aims to establish a broad-based coalition of environmental stakeholders which will forge a common platform for promoting a mutually-agreed islandwide set of environmental priorities. Finally, ACT assists with "Green" technology transfer which reinforces knowledge sharing between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot experts in the area of reforestation and organic farming.

Promoting gender equality and reducing the gender gap is a critical part of ACT's work...

Though Cypriot women have always participated in and contributed to society, they have often faced many difficulties in participating equally in the social, economic and political spheres. In this respect, studies show that Cyprus needs to do more in its efforts to close the gender gap. Issues concerning gender equality are incorporated into all UNDP-supported projects and ACT supports a number of initiatives that aim to reduce the gender gap across the island. These include: training on gender mainstreaming, supporting women's associations, promoting gender equality and helping to organise activities for International Women's Day on 8 March. In collaboration with UNFICYP and NGOs, specific areas of support focus on initiatives aimed at preventing the trafficking of women and promoting women's rights and health, while also paying attention to women in politics, the media and working life.

The active engagement of Cypriots from all communities to preserve the island's rich cultural heritage helps build respect and understanding...

Cultural heritage is universal. It is what all people have a right to inherit from their predecessors and pass on to future generations. As a contributor to a continuous dialogue between civilizations and cultures, cultural heritage can help to establish mutual understanding, cooperation and respect between peoples. Against this background, ACT supports the preservation of cultural heritage monuments in Cyprus as one vehicle to create opportunities to bring people from the different communities on the island together. Moreover, by gathering around a common heritage, people have the opportunity to learn about and respect each other's cultures. Currently ACT is supporting the restoration of several monuments which embody this spirit.

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