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One Sea, One Struggle: Avli Statement on the Baniyas Oil Spill

By nikolasmichael96

As we write this, potentially thousands of tons of oil are on their way to blanket the east coast of Cyprus, with some of it already reaching Dipkarpaz/Rizokarpaso, irreversibly damaging the sensitive marine and coastal ecosystems of that region. While we are monitoring the situation as it develops, several facts are clear.

First, the spill originated at Baniyas Thermal Station, a power station in Syria that, like in Cyprus and much of the Middle East, uses oil to generate power. As details emerge, it is clear that the plant has been neglected after years of conflict/civil war in Syria. 

Unfortunately, countries in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, including Cyprus, have been prioritising conflict and the pursuit of profit at the expense of health, safety, and the environment. The fact that no country in the aforementioned region has embraced the revolutionary potential of renewables, and instead all continue burning fuel, is a testament to the vice grip that fossil fuel led economic and political interests have on countries all across this region. 

Second, the administrations in the north and the south of Cyprus are once again hamstrung by the political situation on our island. While we commend the efforts to “inform” one another about developments, the COVID pandemic has demonstrated  a huge lack of a coherent plan for cooperation between the two sides in the face of various crises. This became obvious over the past years with the deadly wildfires which have left behind burned land and destroyed ecosystems.   Whilst Cypriot authorities have been aware of the oil spill since 26 August, plans to take action only emerged on 31 August. Even though the Republic of Cyprus has an oil spill response vessel (Alexandria) as well as other technical equipment and expertise to handle the crisis, the Turkish Cypriot administration has chosen to ask for help from Turkey. Every person in Cyprus, directly or indirectly, is dependent on our island’s sensitive ecosystems. We deserve a response that prioritises our island first, and sets political agendas aside.

Third, the extraction of and reliance on fossil fuels in the Eastern Mediterranean means that disasters like this are just waiting to happen. Even as we see oil cover our eastern sea, political elites in this country are unified behind the senseless strategy, supporting offshore drilling in those same waters. There is no such thing as a “natural” disaster anymore. Every wildfire, every drought, every square kilometer of nature destroyed, is a result of political decisions or inaction and our politicians have all been complicit in this regard. Even  the “green” or the more “socialist” political parties have done nothing to advance environmentalism or socialism, but rather embraced the hydrocarbon projects, contributing to the commodification of our common sea. 

Fourth, the rampant conflict and instability in our region is a recipe for climate disaster. As we have seen just this year with the worst wildfires on record, and recently when we had the worst drought in 900 years, we are going to need a coordinated and region-wide response to the climate crisis. The fact that we cannot even coordinate a response to an oil spill, a disaster which struck the same region before, means that we need to make a drastic change. This means putting aside the politics of mutually assured destruction and embracing a policy for the future, one that prioritises health and safety over the pursuit of power and profits. 

We demand that the administrations on both sides of the divide rise up to the occasion and immediately coordinate a response to the Baniyas Oil Spill. 

At the same time, we demand for a public commitment for the protection of our common natural heritage, with specific emergency response plans for different types of disasters (wildfires, oil spills etc), as well as a joint declaration cancelling hydrocarbon exploration projects combined with a commitment for an island wide decarbonization strategy.  

The post One Sea, One Struggle: Avli Statement on the Baniyas Oil Spill first appeared on AVLI.

Release: Cypriots Defy Division and Meet for Coffee.

By nikolasmichael96



Young Cypriots come together for a social gathering in solidarity and rejection of division.  


Cyprus, 1st of November 2020 – A  group of Greek and Turkish speaking Cypriots came together for coffee and conversation in the spirit of peace, cooperation, and human connection. The group came together in response to the latest divisive measures taken by leaders to further divide Cypriots under the guise of public health measures. 

The joint action brought together Cypriots from both sides of the divide to share music, art, games, and good company. The event was organised to bring attention to the efforts taken by the leaderships of the two communities to use the COVID-19 pandemic to divide Cypriots by taking unilateral decisions on the matter, and to show solidarity in these difficult times. For the past few months, the pandemic has been used to break trust between the two communities and instill fear, for a health emergency for which collaboration should have been the way of work from day one. This situation has been negatively affecting real human relationships between the communities, while the leaders show no clear end to this de facto division. Characteristically, a message on a banner of the event read: “Borders and checkpoints are made-up. Our friendships and human connections are real.”

Κύπριοι αψηφούν τη διχοτόμηση και συναντιούνται για καφέ.

Νέοι Κύπριοι ενώνονται για μια κοινωνική συνεύρεση με αλληλεγγύη και ενάντια στη διχοτόμηση.  


Κύπρος, 1η Νοεμβρίου 2020 – Μια ομάδα ελληνόφωνων και τουρκόφωνων Κυπρίων συναντήθηκαν για ένα καφέ και κουβέντα με πνεύμα ειρήνης, συνεργασίας και ανθρώπινων σχέσεων. Η ομάδα συναντήθηκε σε απάντηση των πιο πρόσφατων διχοτομικών μέτρων που λήφθηκαν από τους ηγέτες για να απομακρύνουν ακόμη περισσότερο τους Κύπριους μεταξύ τους, με το πρόσχημα των μέτρων για τη δημόσια υγεία. 

Η κοινή δράση έφερε κοντά Κύπριους κι από τις δύο πλευρές των οδοφραγμάτων για να μοιραστούν μουσική, τέχνη, παιχνίδια και καλή παρέα. Η εκδήλωση διοργανώθηκε με σκοπό να στρέψει την προσοχή προς την προσπάθεια των ηγεσιών των δύο κοινοτήτων να χρησιμοποιήσουν την πανδημία για να χωρίσουν τους Κύπριους λαμβάνοντας μονομερής αποφάσεις για το θέμα, και για να δείξουμε αλληλεγγύη σ’ αυτές τις δύσκολες στιγμές. Τους τελευταίους μήνες, η πανδημία έχει χρησιμοποιηθεί για να διαλύσει την εμπιστοσύνη μεταξύ των δύο κοινοτήτων και να ενσταλλάξει τον φόβο, για ένα θέμα δημόσιας υγείας για το οποίο η συνεργασία θα έπρεπε να είναι ο τρόπος αντιμετώπισής της από την πρώτη μέρα. Αυτή η κατάσταση έχει επηρεάσει αρνητικά πραγματικές ανθρώπινες σχέσεις μεταξύ των δύο κοινοτήτων, ενώ παράλληλα οι ηγέτες δεν δείχνουν κάποιο ξεκάθαρο τέλος για αυτή την de facto διχοτόμηση. Χαρακτηριστικά, σε πανό της εκδήλωσης αναγραφόταν: “Τα σύνορα και τα οδοφράγματα είναι φτιαχτά. Οι φιλίες μας και οι ανθρώπινες σχέσεις είναι πραγματικές.”

Kıbrıslılar Bölünmeye Karşı Çıkıyor ve Kahve için Buluşuyor.

Kıbrıslı Gençler, dayanışmak ve bölünmeyi reddetmek için sosyal buluşmada bir araya geldi.


Kıbrıs, 1 Kasım 2020 – Yunanca ve Türkçe konuşan Kıbrıslı bir grup, barış, işbirliği ve insani bağları güçlendirmek adına kahve içmek ve sohbet etmek için bir araya geldi. 

Ortak eylem, her iki taraftaki Kıbrıslıları müzik, sanat, oyun paylaşımı yapmak ve birlikte iyi vakit geçirmek için bir araya getirdi. Etkinlik, iki toplum liderlerinin COVID-19 pandemisi konusunda tek taraflı kararlar alarak, Kıbrıslıları bölmek için kullanma çabalarına dikkat çekmek ve bu zor zamanlarda dayanışma göstermek amacıyla düzenlendi. İlk günden itibaren işbirliğinin temel alınması gereken acil sağlık durumunda,  son birkaç aydır salgın, iki toplum arasındaki güveni kırmak ve korku aşılamak için kullanıldı. Bu durum, iki toplum arasındaki gerçek insan ilişkilerini olumsuz yönde etkilerken, liderler bu fiili bölünmenin net bir sonunu göstermiyor. Etkinlikte ki pankart mesajlarından biri ise şöyle: “ Sınır ve geçiş noktaları insan yapımıdır, bizim arkadaşlıklarımız ve bağlantılarımız gerçektir.”

The post Release: Cypriots Defy Division and Meet for Coffee. first appeared on AVLI.

An opportune moment for marine spatial planning

By reclaim-the-sea

A guest blog on Scottish Environment Link by Glen Smith, a social science researcher and PhD candidate at UiT The Arctic University of Norway.

Diarmid Hearns is right to point to the importance of the Scottish planning system in determining how space is developed and, subsequently, how people live their lives (The Scotsman Opinion 18/01/2018). The National Trust for Scotland research findings that Mr Hearns discusses are indeed concerning. The sense of disconnect between citizens and a system that helps determine the use and non-use of space needs to be urgently addressed, as does the lack of trust in that system.

Much of the frustration towards the planning system stems from the limited opportunities for people to affect decision outcomes: around 60 per cent of those asked in the National Trust of Scotland survey felt this way. The planning system is plagued by instances of late or limited stakeholder engagement. Or, more worryingly, of no engagement at all.

It must be said that many Scottish people are pushing hard to right these wrongs. It remains a political hot topic, with some communities taking more direct action. Examples include the formation of Development Trusts or, in more radical cases, direct community land buyouts. Whilst it is true that any local ambitions to change land use patterns through these channels are still subjected to planning procedures, they are at least conceived through community-based committees. So the ‘step zero’ of planning can stem from local residents. But not all communities have the means to take such steps. Furthermore, they are a symptom of a problem, rather than a solution. Why would communities feel the need to take matters into their own hands? What is broken? How can we fix it? These are important questions.

Unfortunately, steps taken by the Scottish Government have done little to stop these questions being asked. The rhetoric is in place but the demonstrable impact is not. Communities might have taken centre stage in the most recent round of land reform, as indicated by the emerging Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act of 2015, but true participatory processes require a redistribution of power. That seems like a bridge too far for the Scottish Government. The new Planning Bill does not offer too much hope in this regard either. As pointed out by Planning Democracy SCIO, among others, the Planning Bill actually proposes to reduce the overall number of opportunities for community engagement in planning.

It is important that Scotland continues to push for a more democratic planning system. But I would like to suggest that the push be extended offshore to include marine spatial planning, especially for inshore waters. Scotland’s National Marine Plan is to be implemented in the Scottish Marine Regions where plans will be adapted to meet localised needs and demands. Some regions have already produced pretty comprehensive plans, although they took different routes to get there.

However, having studied the governance of marine spatial planning processes in Scotland for a number of years, it seems that as the system becomes institutionalised it is in danger of adopting some of the same failures from its terrestrial relative. Decisions made about the use or non-use of the seabed affect coastal communities. They can significantly change the social dynamics of coastal towns and villages as the necessary infrastructure and workforce are put in place to capitalise on ‘blue growth’ opportunities. Marine planning partnerships in the regions are designed to incorporate local opinions into decision making; but public input is not assured in most cases.

The challenges, laws and perceived relevance of marine and terrestrial planning differ considerably. But both need to be underpinned by the good governance principles of transparency and participation. The marine planning system is still in the making but it is never too early to ensure that such principles are built in. Diarmid Hearn talks of a great opportunity for “the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament to get people back into planning and ensure their voice is heard”. I couldn’t agree more. But while we are here, let’s discuss the sea as well.


– Glen Smith is a social science researcher and PhD candidate at UiT The Arctic University of Norway. His work focuses on the governance of marine management in Scotland