November 14, 2018

Statement by Amb. Korneliou, 15th Annual International Human Rights Summit, 5 July 2018

Fifteenth Annual International Human Rights Summit

United Nations, 5 July 2018

Allow me to begin by extending our appreciation to the Youth for Human Rights International for inviting Cyprus to co-sponsor this year’s International Human Rights Summit. It is a great honour to address this summit which marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. United by the common belief that fundamental human rights need to be universally protected,  nations from all regions of the world joined efforts in 1948 which led to the proclamation this milestone document in the history of human rights.

70 years later, this same belief continues to be equally timely and especially, urgent. Recent trends around the world, show that the overall commitment to human rights is not as firm as it once was. We are now facing the risk of going back to a situation where freedom of expression is restricted, discriminations are tolerated and the rule of law is selectively applied.

We should not forget, however, that these ecumenical values are the main pillar of Peace and Democracy. It is of utmost importance that governments and societies recognize the gaps in the protection and fulfillment of human rights. We, the member-states, are responsible for combating discrimination, neglect, abuse and violence as well as barriers to social integration and adequate participation.

Having in mind the lessons learned, the only alternative to overturn these worrisome trends is through the advancement of human rights education. We should develop national strategies and policies that will lead to the empowerment of youth, through the fulfilment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Let me present an outline of Cyprus’ best practices,  implemented at national level and developed in alignment with the commitments resulting from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention of Human Rights. I will concentrate on the interconnection between education and human rights, considering the theme of today’s discussion.

In the case of Cyprus, education in public schools is focused on tolerance, in other words the acceptance of difference and the respect for other cultures. Free and accessible education is offered to all without prejudice to gender, color, religion, political beliefs or ethnic background.

Currently, the educational system is undergoing a major reform, for the purpose of securing a more democratic and human-centered school environment. Schools are equipped with the necessary tools to be able to take action in cases of discrimination in order to give every child the opportunity to achieve their individual educational objectives to the maximum.

Since 2011, trainings on the issues of diversity and discrimination are offered to students and teachers in public and private schools of Elementary and Secondary education. The training, conducted by the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights, is offered in the form of “experiential learning” adjusted to the age of the students.

A Code of Conduct manual on how to combat racism and a Guide for managing and recording racist incidents in the school environment were prepared and disseminated in 2015 by the Ministry of Education and Culture.

The Youth Board of Cyprus, in cooperation with the Commissioner for Human Rights, published also in 2015 a manual on “Defining and exorcising hatred”. The manual provides a definition of hate speech and sets out the basic principles and definitions of hatred as well as its basic forms of expression.

In addition, two Student Forums on Diversity and Migrant Integration were co-organized recently by the Youth Board of Cyprus and the Commissioner for Human Rights.

These are just a few examples, underlining that the issue of human rights is a high priority of the Government. No doubt, a lot of progress has been achieved of which we are proud. However, our end goal is the cultivation of a culture of human rights across all levels of public and civil life. A holistic education based on the principles of equality and non discrimination that can ensure the empowerment of youth as the ultimate actors of change.

Cyprus is a firm supporter of youth initiatives. We strongly believe that the future lies in the hands of today’s youth. Therefore, we call upon the leaders of tomorrow to become advocates for peace, justice equality and human rights for all.

Thank you.