“Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” US Ambassador John Koenig quoted the famous quote of anthropologist Margaret Mead as he welcomed participants to The Power of One Conference held in Cyprus this week. This proved to be an inspiring and relevant statement to address the dynamic crowd that had descended upon the Buffer Zone in Cyprus. The Power of One Conference, with the support from USAID and the United Nations Development Program, united over 150 delegates from NGOs across North Africa, Middle East, Eastern Europe and Cyprus, hosting the first ever inter-regional learning exchange conference. PeacePlayers Cyprus had the honor of participating in this innovative event.
In a time of tremendous social and political change within this region, citizens and civil society members alike find themselves at the forefront of creating and establishing the changes they want to see within their communities. While each participant in the conference came with their own diverse set of backgrounds and experiences the grounds were set to identify common strategic issues faced throughout our region. The conference’s objectives were to identify these common themes, exchange knowledge and stimulate innovative thinking in addressing such key issues and finally to establish inter-regional partnerships.
The three areas of focus, taken into consideration throughout the conference were social cohesion and reconciliation, shaping the policy debate and lastly the right to be heard, new media’s role in community representation. The first day of the conference divided the 150 individuals into smaller working groups to discuss these focus areas. While the first day of the conference dealt more with the theoretical discussions revolving around such societal issues, the following two days of the conference were centered on innovative action. A competition was then held over the last two days of the conference for small groups to develop feasible projects addressing these issues and present them in front of the entire delegation. Many powerful project ideas were then presented on the final day of the conference with PeacePlayers combining forces with individuals from organizations in Palestine, Egypt and Morocco to present the idea of replicating our youth camp model for building inter-societal understanding. While we were not chosen as the winning project, we still hope to continue to build on this idea.
The conference proved to be a powerful few days, enriching and motivating at the individual level as well as organizationally, reminding us as participants that we may be one but we draw on the Power of many to create the changes we wish to see in our world.