Development Dynamics in Cyprus: Engaging Youth in Civic Participation

Peristianis, Nicos, and Elisa Bosio (2010). "Development Dynamics in Cyprus: Engaging Youth in Civic Participation" Paper presented at the 7th annual conference of the HDCA, 21-23 September 2010, Amman, Jordan.

Young Cypriots are at a crossroads. Amid political uncertainty they are struggling with their transition from childhood to adulthood in a world that is increasingly competitive, challenging and confusing. Their pursuit of education, decent jobs, friends and relationships is taking place against the background noise of the Cyprus Problem. This paper begins by presenting an overview of the first Human Development Report for Cyprus, which explored key human development dynamics in Cypriot society through focusing on perhaps of the most critical stakeholder in the future of the island, namely youth. More specifically, the Report brought to the fore the voices of young Cypriots through a research study, which for the first time mapped the aspirations of youth in both the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities; it was largely based on the results of a comprehensive, island-wide Youth Aspiration Survey administered to over 1, 600 young Cypriots across the island. Based on these sources, this paper will present the aspirations and perceptions of youth in a variety of areas, including relationships with their families and views on education. Attitudes towards national identity interaction with individuals from the other community, and young peoples’ opinions on building peace in Cyprus are also explored. The paper then examines how Cypriot youth grow to become entrenched in the Cyprus Problem, feeling unable to contribute to its resolution. From an early age, the development of Cypriot youth is affected by the typically overprotective relationships that form between them and their families. The other side of the ‘safety’ provided by their families is dependence and feelings of powerlessness – which can potentially result in problems that spill over into all domains of the lives of Cypriot youth, such as education and socio-political participation. The paper explores how the relationship between Cypriot youth and their families and, consequently, the impact that this may have on the development of Cypriot youth, may be explicated through Bourdieu’s concept of habitus. The paper concludes that, ultimately, youth development needs to be geared towards ensuring that all young people have the tools and skills to thrive in the communities and countries in which they live.
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