Building Federalism: Security Precedents, Federal Courts, Local Government in Cyprus

On November 11 2019, the Forum, in collaboration with the High Commission of Canada, held an event exploring the potential of federal models in the development of a settlement to the Cyprus conflict.

Using comparative international perspectives, Forum experts addressed three themes of particular relevance in the current Cyprus context: security architectures of federal systems; the role of courts in the protection of minority rights in federal systems; and the role and practice of local government in federal systems.
Held at the Ledra Palace Hotel in the Nicosia buffer zone, the event was attended by both sceptics and supporters of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation in Cyprus.

The approximately fifty-five participants included politicians, academics, lawyers, journalists, and members of civil society and business people from the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities. Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) Elizabeth Spehar provided opening remarks, emphasizing the importance of increasing understanding among stakeholders in Cyprus of how federal systems around the world operate to ameliorate conflict and foster secure, peaceful and diverse societies.

Several senior representatives of the UN Office of the Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on Cyprus were in attendance, as well as a delegation from the Hiroshima Peacebuilders Center, supported by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Discussion focused on the range of options that federal governance architectures provide to policymakers, and the ways in which federal systems and their institutions are tailored to the specific and unique circumstances of a nation. In a highly interactive engagement, participants expressed that they valued learning about the ways in which federal systems around the world work, and how federal governance institutions are established to support the functioning of a federal policy.

Participants commented on the need for increased understanding among Cypriots of what federal governance is and how it can be implemented, as many stakeholders on the island view it as an inflexible and highly structured form of state organization. There was particular interest in the functions and role of local government in federal systems, and the importance of this level of governance with regard to service delivery and decision making in local communities.

Attendees emphasized that there is a need in Cyprus for more information on the practice of federalism. Furthermore, this information must be communicated effectively and as broadly as possible to all stakeholders on the island. This will be crucial to ensure that the communities in Cyprus are well prepared and able to make informed decisions on any future federal settlement to the conflict.

Read this fascinating Forum of Federation’s Occasional Paper about how Federalism could be a tool for unity in Cyprus:  http://www.forumfed.org/publications/2002-04-annan-plan-cyprus-attempted-un-mediated-constitutional-transition-number-27/