H.E. Mr. Andreas
It is an honor for my country, Cyprus, and myself personally, to be participating in this Special Session of the General Assembly on Children. I wish to convey to you the cordial greetings of the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr. Glafcos Clerides, and to express our appreciation to the Secretary-General for the excellent organization of this Special Session. I would also like to thank most sincerely the Chair and members of the Preparatory Committee for all their hard work.
The 1990 World Summit and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which came into force in the same year, were landmarks in the history of children's issues. For the first time ever, a political consensus was built around children, placing them firmly on the international agenda. The Summit embraced the principles enshrined in the Convention and was, in effect, the first global movement aspiring to convert these principles into action.
We recognize that much progress has been made in the years since the Summit, especially in the areas of survival and health. We agree, however, with the assessment of the Secretary-General, that a lot remains to be done to achieve the Summit's goals. I am confident that this Special Session will take up the challenge to adopt strategies that will not only complete the unfinished agenda of the World Summit and further promote the human rights of children, but will also facilitate the exercise of these rights, with particular emphasis on the active participation of children in society.
To this end, I believe that the Special Session should focus on the importance of investing in children and cultivating a new vision of them. A vision that considers children not merely as "objects of protection" and "passive recipients of services", but as legal subjects with their own rights and capacities to participate in decision making on matters concerning them.
Cyprus is a small island in the southeast of the Mediterranean, with a population of about 700,000. It is traditionally a child-centered society, with a strong family focus, as measured by societal values. Since the early stages of the establishment of the Republic in 1960, we have aspired to improve the situation of children and have ratified all major international instruments for their protection and development. As a result, we have developed a comprehensive legislative framework, as well as social policies and structures to meet the needs of children and also support families in the upbringing of their children.
Our desire to create a better world for all vulnerable groups in society, including children, is reflected in State expenditure for the implementation of social programs, which constitutes 37% of the total public expenditure (2002). Recognizing the importance of joint action for the promotion of social development, the Government works in partnership with NGOs and Local Community Councils, by providing technical assistance and annual grants for the operation of social programs and services. Last year (2001), 50% of State grants were directed at children's programs run by the voluntary sector.
We are not claiming that there is no room for improvement in the situation of children in Cyprus. On the basis of our experience from monitoring the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and in line with positive international trends concerning children, we are currently focusing on improving:
1. The coordination of children's policies and programs at the governmental,
nongovernmental and private levels;
These goals have been incorporated in a National Plan of Action for Children, covering the period 2000-2004, which was prepared in close collaboration with all parties involved with children's issues, from both the governmental and non-governmental sectors.
What is regrettable, however, is that the Government is prevented from implementing this National Plan of Action for the benefit of all children in Cyprus. Due to the continuing occupation by a neighboring State of nearly 37% of our country, children and families living in the occupied areas cannot be reached. In the case of Cyprus, creating "a world fit for children" necessitates a political settlement that will allow all Cypriot children, whether they are of Greek, Turkish, Armenian, Maronite or Latin origin, to have equal access to services to live in peace and enjoy their basic human rights, including their right to associate freely with each other and learn from each other's cultures.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
"A world fit for children" presupposes world-wide peace. If we are to create a peaceful and secure future for our children, a future that will allow them to realize their human rights and fundamental freedoms, we must link our work to peace-building agendas. We must have the political will to invest in our children and enable their active participation in society, not only for their sake but also for the benefit of society as a whole. For, children who are provided with conditions guaranteeing their survival, protection and development, as well as opportunities to participate in decision-making processes that concern them, will grow to their full human potential and become active and conscientious members of democratic societies of the future.