November 25, 2017

Statement by the Representative of Cyprus to the 3rd Committee Mr. Demetris Hadjiargyrou on the Elimination of Racism and Racial Discrimination

Mr. Chairman,

The struggle against racism and racial discrimination is today more relevant than ever. As we have witnessed repeatedly over the last decade, the ugly phenomenon of ethnic and religious intolerance has been aptly demonstrated in many parts of the world. Its results have been shocking. At the dawn of the 21st century, in a world populated by more than six billion human beings and characterized by the increased pace of globalization, both in terms of economics and migration – legal and illegal – the dangers posed to our societies by intolerance in any form must not be underestimated. It is, therefore, imperative that the international community, seriously address the issue with determination and perseverance. 

The actions of us all must be centered on a common approach that can only be elaborated by the only truly global forum, that of the United Nations and implemented at various levels – international, regional, national or local. It is for this reason that Cyprus has always strongly supported effective action by the United Nations. In this respect, my delegation welcomes the Secretary-General’s reports and the initiatives undertaken by the United Nations, the most recent being the convening of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and related Intolerance held last year in Durban. My delegation also expresses its appreciation to the Special Rapporteurs of the Commission of Human Rights and the Office of the UN Commissioner for Human Rights for their substantial contributions to the debate on this item. I would also like to reiterate my delegation’s support to the work carried out by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

We welcome the conclusion of the deliberations in Geneva concerning the Declaration and Programme of Action of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and related Intolerance. Irrespective of the difficulties encountered during and after the Conference, difficulties with considerable political overtones, it is my delegation’s belief that this event represents an important step in the right direction, one that would give new impetus to the world-wide efforts to combat all forms of intolerance with a spirit of cooperation and foresight for the full implementation of its two documents. Special attention should be given to the new challenges that have appeared and ways should be explored for a preventive approach to fighting racism. We believe that in this effort, universal ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination should be made a top priority and attention should be drawn to the model legislation drawn by the United Nations to fight racism and intolerance. The role of non-governmental organizations in producing practical solutions and assisting governments in implementing various programmes is also very important.

Mr. Chairman,

Since my delegation has already aligned itself with the statement made by the delegation of Spain on behalf of the European Union, I will limit the rest of my statement to issues related to the situation in Cyprus and our efforts at countering racism and intolerance.

Cyprus was one of the first states to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. My country is also one of the few states to have made the declaration under Article 14 of the Convention.  We have also ratified the amendment to Article 8, paragraph 6 of the Convention. Our combined 15th and 16th periodic report was submitted to CERD early last year and examined by the Committee on the 2nd and 3rd of August 2001.

In our efforts to reach full conformity with the Convention and taking note of the suggestions of CERD, we have reviewed and amended the legal framework on the protection of refugees and displaced persons regardless of ethnic origin, as well as, the procedure for acquiring Cypriot citizenship. Furthermore, we have established various institutions to facilitate the implementation of the Convention and strengthened our channels of cooperation with non-governmental organizations. One of them, the National Institution for the Protection of Human Rights, established in 1998, has been particularly active in its efforts to disseminate the provisions of CERD but also of all human rights conventions. Among its current projects is the preparation of a handbook on human rights, an anthology of the cases of the Supreme Court relating to human rights and of human rights cases dealt with by the Commissioner for Administration. The Institution has also made its services available to foreign nationals residing or working in Cyprus and has requested of their diplomatic missions to appoint a liaison officer, if possible, for direct communication with its officials.

In the field of education, which we regard as central to eliminating indirect and structural forms of racial discrimination, we have reinforced academic curricula and instituted programs on human rights with a view to further developing the respect of all human beings and peoples, irrespective of their language, race, color or religion and promoting the spirit of tolerance, acceptance and cooperation.

Cyprus places special attention to the education programs of the children belonging to minorities through a system of direct subsidies toward the school tuition for Latin, Maronite and Armenian students who attend private schools. In addition it fully covers the fees and expenses of Turkish Cypriot students who reside in the government controlled area. Accordingly we have established language programs for children of immigrants, as well as, training programs for civil servants on the provisions of the Convention and the launching of information campaigns, which improve public awareness on the Convention and publicize the existence of all legal and administrative remedies. Furthermore, the Ministry of Education and Culture subsidizes cultural activities for all religious groups, which include book publishing, performances, libraries etc.

Cyprus is still coping with the tragic effects of the Turkish invasion in 1974, which has de facto separated its people. We know very well the grave consequences of the repugnant policy of ethnic cleansing which we have witnessed with the expulsion of the Greek-Cypriot inhabitants from the occupied area. Although Cyprus has been one of the first states to ratify The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, due to the policy of the occupying power, we are prevented from enforcing its provisions to the entire country, a fact that has been duly underlined by CERD in its report contained in document CERD/C/59/Misc.15/Rev.3 of 10 August 2001. In it, the Committee expresses its concern at the  “occupation, since 1974 by Turkish forces of 37% of the territory” of Cyprus, which has caused “the separation of the various ethnic and religious communities” and which, according to the Committee constitutes “an obstacle to peace and the enjoyment of human rights in the region” and “impedes the construction of a progressive anti-discrimination strategy for the island as a whole.”

It is our sincere hope that the direct talks begun earlier this month between President Clerides and the Turkish Cypriot leader Mr. Denktash will lead to an early agreement, on the basis of the Security Council resolutions, that will allow all Cypriots to live in a reunited, democratic and prosperous Cyprus, member of the European Union, with their fundamental freedoms and human rights fully protected.

Mr. Chairman,

The consensus that guided the United Nations in the adoption of Three Decades for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination has resulted in many positive developments. As the Third Decade nears its end in 2003, we look forward to renewed action on both, the international and national levels, to counter the new challenges stemming from a very different world than the one in which the First Decade was launched. New forms of racism and intolerance are confronting us. Let us be guided by that very consensus, which has made thirty years of action against racism something to be proud of.