Women in Water Management and Conflict Transformation in Cyprus

  • 2021/05/28     Dresden, Germany

    Image: Unsplash/Hert Niks

    By Eric Siegmund

    Cyprus today is de facto divided, politically as well as in its water management. Instead of addressing resource challenges in communities separately, the island could serve as reference point. One approach to peacebuilding lies in environmental cooperation and women’s inclusion, according to Dr Emine Eminel Sülün at Nexus Seminar No. 52.

    To grasp the complexity of today’s Cyprus conflict and its implications for environmental resources, it is essential to look back at the colonial past and understand the island’s de facto division. Dr Sülün referred to it as the “Cyprus Problem” which outlaws, for instance, the joint management of shared water resources across the separation line. Through bi-communal projects based on principles of participation and accountability, the resource challenge can be turned into an opportunity for peace.

    The virtual Nexus Seminar No. 52 titled “Women in Water Management and Conflict Transformation in Cyprus” (17 May 2021) featured Dr Emine Eminel Sülün, Assistant Professor at the Near East University, Nicosia, Cyprus, and was the second instalment of the Summer Semester 2021.

    “Water has not been a conflict driver in Cyprus but can be an entry point to conflict transformation.”

    – Dr Emine Eminel Sülün

    Cyprus’s water challenge is in some respect typical of a Mediterranean island. Water availability depends on scarce rainfall and water-intense sectors, namely agriculture and tourism, account for much of its water consumption. Beyond that, the island faces more unique challenges. There is no islandwide integrated water management in place nor does a common political and administrative entity exist. Because of the island’s divided water network, two groundwater bodies reaching across the border are not utilised and, hence, in bad shape.

    Dr Emine Eminel Sülün

    After presenting the status quo, Dr Sülün went on to outline environmental cooperation via water as a potential entry point for peacebuilding in Cyprus. The New Nicosia Waste Water Treatment Plant, completed in 2013, stands as an example for successful bi-communal cooperation and is perceived as a fundamental contribution to the ongoing peacebuilding process. It also bolsters the necessary shift of mindset towards coping with environmental challenges across the partition line rather than focusing on political tensions.

    Besides the economic and environmental dimensions of the Nexus Approach, the gender, thus, social perspective must be considered when developing strategies for a more inclusive and cooperative water management on the island. Women are more vulnerable to ecological and water-related problems due to their disadvantaged political and economic position in society. According to Dr Sülün, these gender-based obstacles should be shed light on to achieve equal participation in water governance-related projects and institutions. Cooperation projects with substantive gender-inclusive community planning processes, such as the Nicosia Plant, promote women’s inclusion and, thus, pave the way for peacebuilding in Cyprus.

    The Nexus Seminar is a monthly lecture series – held in collaboration with PRISMA – Centre for Sustainability Assessment and Policy on behalf of TU Dresden – that highlights all dimensions of research on the Nexus Approach. Find all past and upcoming Nexus Seminars here.