December 16, 2017

Statement by the Representative of Cyprus to the 3rd Committee Mr. Demetris Hadjiargyrou on Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children

My delegation has aligned itself with the statement of the representative of France presented on behalf of the European Union.

At the outset I would like to welcome the efforts of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and to thank him for the various reports in the area of “The promotion and protection of the rights of the child.” I would also like to express the deep appreciation of my delegation to the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights and to Mr.Olara Otunnu and Ms. Ofelia Calcetas-Santos, as well as, UNICEF, UNESCO, WHO and ILO for their commendable efforts that have managed to elevate the subject to the very top of the human rights agenda. My delegation would also like to express to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which has been fulfilling its task with diligence and professionalism, our sincere gratitude.

Over the last ten years, since the landmark World Summit for Children and despite the considerable improvements that have been registered, much more needs to be done to achieve the goals of the Plan of Action. Progress on primary education has not kept pace with the increase in population, illiteracy is rampant in many regions of the planet, malnutrition, maternal mortality, the AIDS crisis and exploitation of children, whether as cheap labour, for prostitution or as soldiers, are areas which require further and immediate action. Endemic poverty in many parts of the world, and new forms of exploitation and violence against children and women present new challenges that the community of nations has an obligation to address.

My government would also like to welcome the adoption, in June 1999, of the International Labour Organization Convention 182 concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour and the creation in 1999 of the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC).

Cyprus looks forward to the upcoming special session of the General Assembly, next year, for the Follow-up to the World Summit for Children, and will participate in the preparatory process, in the hope that it will result in a concise, forward looking and action-oriented document that will give new impetus and adequately reflect the will of the international community to expand even further our common efforts so that we can meet successfully the many challenges that lay ahead. It looks forward and welcomes the active participation of NGO’s which so often bring to the forefront of the agenda specific problems faced by children thus assisting governments to initiate new policies for their solution.

The Republic of Cyprus, since its independence, has adopted and consistently pursued a policy of active promotion and protection of the rights of the child.  Cyprus has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990 and submitted its national report in 1996. The Convention, according to our constitution, has superior force to any domestic law and its provisions have been involved in court proceedings and affected the outcome of such cases. Cyprus is also a party to many international Conventions, including the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and the European Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of decisions Concerning the Custody of Children.

Existing national legislation is extensive and effective. The legislative framework includes, the Children’s and Young Persons Law of 1990, the Violence in the Family Law of 1994, the Parents and Children Relations Law of 1990 and the Adoption Law of 1995. Furthermore we are constantly reviewing the national legal framework in order to reach full conformity with the Convention and bring existing national legislation in line with the acquis communautaire of the European Union. In this respect we have established a Central Committee for Monitoring the Implementation of the Convention which in cooperation with non-governmental organizations is engaged in increasing public awareness on the rights of the child. In addition, comprehensive programs and services for the welfare of children have been strengthened while we are also pursuing a more systematic collection of data in the field.

Cyprus has invested heavily in the areas of education and health. There are today 112 active community centers for children. 13,5% of the national budget corresponds to the expenditure allocated to Education. The government subsidizes children’s programmes operated by NGO’s  that constitute 37% of state grants. The Department of Social Welfare Services implements general preventive actions and policies for families and children. Such actions include family and individual counseling for families at risk and public assistance in the form of cash allowances and/or services.

The government has also put in place a ‘Plan of Action for Children’ for a five year period stretching from 1999-2004. This plan is multi-dimensional and its scope far-reaching: its general objective aims to further integrate the values and principles of the Convention in the whole educational system and to enhance children’s awareness of their rights. It also strives to improve children’s health by the expansion of the mental health services and through the establishment of Child and Adolescent Departments in the major towns. Moreover, the Plan makes available the instruments needed to address the prevention of violence in the family and has put forward child support services. It also seeks to promote children’s participation in decision-making and to involve children in issues that concern them while it promotes research, data collection and the dissemination of information on issues related to children.

There is one category of children in Cyprus whose fundamental right to education is utterly violated and cannot benefit from the provisions of the current Plan for Action. These are the Greek-Cypriot children who live as enclaved persons in the area of Cyprus illegally occupied since 1974 by Turkey. Upon finishing elementary school, these children are forced to make a very hard decision. Either be deprived of secondary education, or be separated from their parents in order to attend secondary education in the government-controlled area of the country. This is a very hard choice that children should not be forced to make. Furthermore, obstacles are placed every year by the occupation regime in the timely delivery of books and other school supplies that are provided by the Government of Cyprus, for the small number of Greek Cypriot children who attend elementary school in the occupied area.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most ratified treaty in human history. We consider this as indisputable proof that all governments possess the political will to pursue policies in the interest of their most vulnerable group of citizens. Although we realize that we live in a world of finite resources we believe that no matter how high the investment in the area of the promotion of the rights of children, the end result of such policies cannot but benefit all societies as they strive to construct a better future.