“It is referred to as the Dead Zone, the Green Line or No-Man’s Land” writes Birte Vogel as he describes the Buffer Zone. This piece of land is controlled by the United Nations and divides Cyprus into Greece and Turkey; it holds the possibility of cooperation on an island that has long been torn by conflict over territory. In his recent article, Vogel explores how location might influence conflict resolution. Although there is much research about the peacemaking process, little attention has been given to the role and impact of physical space.
In his article, Vogel interviews local actors in Cyprus’ Buffer Zone to explore how geography has influenced and constrained conflict resolution in the area. He argues that physical space impacts who is included and excluded in the peace making process: he compares the Buffer Zone to other spaces that have been used as peacebuilding sites (namely sporting arenas and heritage sites), and argues that different people are drawn to the events based on how they perceive the location. Vogel also explores how the Buffer Zone—being run by the UN– can be viewed as both a site where peace activists are protected from state restrictions but also as an area where participants must conform to the international community’s agenda. Finally, he argues that by influencing who is welcome to participate, and the type of dialogue that is encouraged, the space has become an echo chamber of sorts which restricts the solutions which can be envisioned.
In light of this analysis, peacemakers who are seeking non-violent alternatives might want to ask themselves how peace spaces influence the solutions formed. Practitioners would do well to ask, what kinds of people feel welcome in this physical space? What kinds of things might people feel free to say, and what might they not feel free to say in this location?
Vogel, B. (2018). Understanding the impact of geographies and space on the possibilities of
peace activism. Cooperation and Conflict, 0010836717750202.