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

22, October 1998

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

At the outset I would like to extend my delegation's appreciation to the Secretary-General of the UN for his efforts and his reports in the area of "The promotion and protection of the rights of the child"; this most important aspect of the work being carried out on the broader theme of human rights of which the United Nations has been at the forefront.

We would also like to thank Ambassador Olara Otunu, Ms. Ofelia Calcetas-Santos and Mr. Bacre Wally Ndyiae for their comprehensive statements to the Third Committee, as well as, to Mrs. Carol Bellamy for her report and for the truly admirable work that UNICEF has been doing for years. We 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.

As we approach the end of this decade, eight years after the landmark 1990 World Summit for Children, we must take stock of the developments that have occurred. The World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children and the Plan of Action provide the blueprint for our efforts at national and international level for the attainment of the noble goals enshrined in those documents.

The concerted efforts of national governments, international organizations and the civil society have succeeded in delivering "more progress for the world's children in the past decade than in any comparable period in human history", as the Secretary-General points out in his report on the progress on the implementation of the World Declaration and Plan of Action. This progress was registered primarily in the improvement of medical care, the elimination or substantial reduction in the occurrence of many diseases and the reduction of infant mortality leading to the saving of seven million young lives every year.

Yet much more has 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 globe, malnutrition, maternal mortality, the AIDS crisis and exploitation of children, whether as cheap labor, for prostitution or as soldiers, are areas which require immediate action. Endemic poverty in many parts of the world, exacerbated by the recent turmoil in global financial markets and new forms of exploitation and violence against children (and women) present new challenges that must be addressed by the entire international community working in tandem.

My delegation fully supports the efforts of international organizations in promoting initiatives on a number of areas affecting the human rights of children. The work carried out by UNICEF in the areas of children with disabilities, the prevention and eradication of the sale of children and their sexual exploitation, the protection of children affected by armed conflict and in the elimination of the exploitation of child labor have our strong support.

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 the cases. Cyprus is also a party to other international conventions, including the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and the European Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions Concerning the Custody of Children

The policy of my government, since the establishment of the Republic in 1960, has been consistent in the pursuit of the welfare of children. We have thus achieved a significant reduction of diseases and infant mortality (nine deaths per thousand live births), the total elimination of malnutrition and of major communicable diseases, including thalassemia, which had been endemic to our region. In the area of education and child labor, the legal framework has been strengthened and enforced successfully so that every Cypriot child, even if requiring specialized care, attends a minimum of nine years of primary and secondary education (until the age of 15).

Furthermore we are constantly reviewing the national legal framework in order to reach full conformity with the Convention. 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.

There is, however, one category of children in Cyprus whose fundamental right to education is utterly violated. These are the children whose parents live, as enclaved persons, in the part of Cyprus which is occupied by the Turkish military forces since 1974. These children are forced to move to the area under the control of the Government to receive secondary education. As repeatedly stated in the reports of the Secretary-General on the Question of Human Rights in Cyprus, these children, Greek Cypriot school boys over the age of 16 who attend school in the southern part of Cyprus, are not allowed to return to their homes in the northern part, not even to visit. Furthermore, obstacles are placed every year by the occupation regime in the timely provision of books and other school supplies for the small number of Greek Cypriot children who attend elementary school in the occupied area.

The ratification by 191 countries of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, rendering it the most widely acceded convention in the area of human rights, testifies to the importance that the international community attaches to this issue. As we are approaching the end of the decade of the children, we consider it a duty to intensify our common efforts so that the goals set 8 years ago will be fulfilled to the greatest possible extent.