Ali Tuncay and Glafkos Constantinides are two of ten (5 Greek Cypriot and 5 Turkish Cypriot) custodians of cultural heritage in Cyprus.
Appointed by their respective leaders in 2008 to be members of the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage, their role is to watch over the proper safeguard and conservation of Cyprus’ rich historical and archaeological heritage. Not an easy task considered the more than 2300 immovable cultural heritage sites that Phoenicians, Venetians, Lusignans and Ottomans – amongst others - have left on the island as legacy of their presence.
“These are not Greek Cypriot or Turkish Cypriot, or Venetian monuments, they belong to humanity” Ali Tuncay explains to Al Jazeera English talking about the Othello Tower of Famagusta. Shakespeare’s world famous monument is one of the many cultural heritage sites that the Technical Committee has agreed to conserve island wide.
- 19 cultural heritage sites island wide are currently benefiting from emergency measures and conservation projects
- 121 cultural heritage sites were subject to Technical Assessments in 2010
- 700 inventory charts prepared
UNDP’s assistance to the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage started in 2009 when it was requested by the European Commission to support a Study of Cultural Heritage in Cyprus. The study laid the foundation for a more active role of cultural heritage in the on-going peace and confidence building process on the island.
Thanks to the discrete work of people like Ali and Glafkos, Cypriot cultural heritage has finally found in the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage a space where practical aspects of preservation are considered in a non-political manner.
“Occasionally we do argue. But not across community lines. We argue on which is the best way to conserve a building or on how to allocate funds” – explains Glafkos Constandinides.
Since 2012, the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage and the United Nations Development Programme have had the European Commission as key partner in implementing the Cultural Heritage programmee, providing support and 5.3 million Euro of European Union funds.
“UNDP implements emergency measures/ conservation and restoration projects on a list of monuments agreed by the Technical Committee. But our role is certainly not limited to scaffolding and masonry consolidation.” explains Tiziana Zennaro, UNDP-PFF Programme Manager.
Joint projects’ monitoring visits, weekly meetings with the Advisory Board of the Technical Committee, and direct involvement of technical teams from both communities (architects, archaeologists, engineers etc.) act, in time, as team- and confidence-building measure allowing for increased exchange of experiences and the setting of a positive example of successful collaboration between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.