Cihan Sultanoglu: Remarks at the Opening Ceremony of the Othello Tower/Citadel in Famagusta, 2 July 2015

Jul 3, 2015

Ms. Cihan Sultanoglu, Assitant Secretary-General, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (RBEC) speaking at the Opening Ceremony of the Othello Tower/Citadel in Famagusta, Cyprus. UNDP Photo/Olkan Erguler, 02 July 2015.

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,
Esteemed Representatives of the European Union, the United Nations,
Distinguished Members of the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage,
Dear Residents of the city of Famagusta,
Ladies and Gentlemen, and colleagues.

I am very happy to be here with you this evening as we mark the return of such an important landmark of the city of Famagusta – the Othello Tower and the Citadel.

As I was walking through the beautifully restored castle earlier today, I could not help but think about Cyprus’ rich shared history and unique cultural heritage. The Othello Tower and Citadel stand here as proud reminders of the importance of preserving that history for generations to come.

Indeed, as Cyprus looks forward to a future with more sustainable economic growth and improved livelihoods for all Cypriots, the preservation of the history and traditions of the island which we have come together to celebrate this evening, becomes all the more vital.  

For UNDP, preservation of historically important sites is not just about renovating old monuments, creating jobs and stimulating local economy.  As we are well aware, it can also greatly contribute to reconciliation process and to harmonious development of the island.  In this regard, I am happy to share with you the reflection by UNDP Administrator, Ms. Helen Clark who recognised that the collective efforts of the European Union, UNDP and the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage in preserving the history of the island, have created an enabling environment for peace and sustainable development.

Over the last few days, I have met with various partners and colleagues who have expressed great optimism and expectation for the success of the renewed peace process. I share the same hopes.

I would, therefore, like to recognize the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage and everyone who has been part of this exciting project, the local authorities and technical departments, the many Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot architects, archaeologists and advisors and most importantly the Cypriot communities who have lent their support to this project from the very beginning.

The project would not have been possible without the vision and generous on-going support and engagement of our partner, the European Union. 

Fifteen years ago, UNDP and the European Commission established the Partnership for the Future Programme in Cyprus with the shared and ambitious goal of establishing the solid foundations for peace and reconciliation on the island. Since then, our partnership has come a long way: it is extremely gratifying to see the results of our cooperation and we are proud to have been entrusted by both communities and by the European Commission to support the confidence building process in Cyprus.

We are also happy to learn from and promote the experience of the project in Cyprus as a best practice in promoting confidence and peacebuilding through UNDP’s work in other countries of the region that I cover.

However, our partnership goes well beyond financing and as of 2010 it became a threefold partnership with the Technical Committee on Cultural heritage. Together we are translating our common values and goals into concrete actions such as the one we celebrate tonight. By working together, we can achieve so much more than by working alone.

Our partnership has helped us forward the common aim of promoting cultural heritage as means of reconciliation. The challenge and opportunities are immense:
•    In 2010 a Study of Cultural Heritage in Cyprus identified thousands of cultural heritage sites of particular historical, archaeological and architectural significance; this figure gives us the measure of the potential power of cultural heritage in Cyprus for both reconciliation and economic development of the island.
•    11 of these sites have already benefited from emergency measures or conservation works. And another 20 are under study and work will begin on their preservation soon.

We all agree that much more needs to be done, and larger coalitions need to be built if we are to truly preserve the island’s cultural heritage and unlock its economic potential.

I would also like to take this opportunity to express thanks to the leaders of both communities, as well as to all members of the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage, and all Cypriots who have been part of this project, and who supported the protection of the rich cultural and historic heritage of Cyprus.

By working together on this project, the technical teams from both communities including architects, archaeologists, engineers and others have, over time,  turned what started as a restoration project, into a team effort and daily engagement to create a new shared community value.  They set a positive example of successful collaboration between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.  This is an example that can be replicated throughout the region and globally.

Tonight we will see a performance of Shakespeare’s classic “Othello” staged in the Othello Castle itself. A group of young actors - Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots that are very enthusiastic, talented, with a strong sense of friendship developed through their common acting experience. These people and their joint success give us inspiration and hope.

As you may know, on 30 July the world will celebrate the International Day of Friendship which was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly to promote friendship between peoples, countries, cultures and individuals. I am confident that friendships, such as the ones we are part of this evening, can inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities.

Allow me once again to congratulate you on this important occasion and to wish you all a very pleasant and memorable evening.  

Thank you.