Keynote address by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, H.E. Mr Kasoulidesat the event organized by the United Nations Association of Cyprus commemorating UN Day and Human Rights Day
15 December 2022
Excellencies,Ladies and gentlemen,Colleagues
On behalf of President Anastasiades, allow me to extend this government’s gratitude to the President of the United Nations Association of Cyprus, Dr Christos Theodoulou, for organizing this event in celebration of the United Nations Day.
This year represents the 77th anniversary of the entry into force of the UN Charter. We usually say that with age comes experience and wisdom. This is also true for international organizations such as the UN. The UN was created from the ashes of the second world war and has developed into a the primary vehicle for multilateralism and wide cooperation between its member-states, striving for the most noble of objectives, the advancement of humankind. The UN Day is celebrated every year to remind us of the necessity and significance of peace, unity, cooperation, and equality.
The UN’s chosen theme for 2022, is “End racism, build peace.” If we look around us today, we quickly realize how desperately we need to bring about changes. Racism represents the Lernaean Hydra of our times. Its toxicity and its proclivity to unmask different methods of violating human rights and fundamental freedoms, is unparalleled. It spawns chaos, conflict and misery in its passage. Its effects are devastating. There are many historical precedents that attest to the fact that racism is often the catalyst leading to atrocities. I will only point to the fact that Genocides very often have their roots in ethnic and racial hatred, with the most glaring example that of the Holocaust which was the outcome of vile, racist stereotypes which were propagated through crude disinformation, thus leading to the murder of millions. Let us not forget, at the same time, that centuries of colonialism and slavery have also caused racism to be deeply entrenched in the consciousness of nations and the lives of their citizens.
If we are to effectively tackle this scourge, we need to become a modern-day Heracles. We need to tear down the walls of hate and plant seeds of acceptance, solidarity and most of all, peace. We need to look at our policies and our actions and ask if these are enough. It is obvious that as long as this phenomenon exists, we are not doing enough. Combatting racism requires concerted daily efforts at all levels. It requires constant education, inclusive policies, solid investments in social cohesion. But most of all it requires from every single one of us to re-examine our long-held assumptions and unconscious biases.
Ladies and gentlemen,
On the 10th of December, we commemorated the 74th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a Declaration that places individuals and their well-being at the center of national and international policies. Indeed, an important testament to its universality lies in the fact that the team responsible for drafting the Declaration, was inspired by thinkers as diverse as Thomas Aquinas and Confucius. And although it was adopted as a political resolution, given its significance, it has been incorporated in numerous Treaties, rendering it as an integral part of human rights law.
Human rights ensure equality, freedom and peace. They can lead us to a just and equitable world by expanding the boundaries of the possible as well as the horizons of hope. Article 1 of the Declaration proclaims that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. This should be the epitome embedded in all our actions.
Regrettably, we continue to witness ever-growing pressures on human rights, even their total disregard. Every single human being’s human and inalienable rights are sacrosanct, irrespective of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, disability, culture or beliefs. They are neither a luxury, nor a commodity to be traded, used and then discarded. We all have equal rights, including the right to live in peace and dignity.
Human rights deficiencies exist everywhere around the world; in some countries, less but in many, unfortunately, more. A plethora of reasons account for this far from ideal reality: war, foreign occupation, pandemics, climate change, deep social inequalities, to name only a few. The result is always the same: suffering, injustice, struggle, marginalization, hardship, despair. We must push back against cynical notions that this is the fate of humankind. The pioneers behind the creation of the United Nations and the ideal of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights most definitely rejected such cynicism.
Building a better “today” to ensure a brighter “tomorrow” is the only way to ensure that these pressures will be defeated, We are fortunate enough that the necessary tools are at our disposal and they are be found within the UN Charter. What is absolutely imperative is an iron-clad commitment by all to the indispensable values of peace, justice, human rights, freedom and respect for international law. A commitment that must be put in action without exception and without resorting to double standards.
The United Nations is still the only institution that brings together all the countries of the world. It remains central to our efforts to achieve peace and prosperity, through cooperation and solidarity. Conflict prevention, conflict resolution, respect for international law and human rights remain the hallmarks of the United Nations system.
In one of its strongest Resolutions, the UN Security Council deplored the declaration of the purported secession of the occupied part of the Republic of Cyprus, considered the declaration as legally invalid and called for its withdrawal. At the same time this resolution calls all States not to recognize any other state on the island except the Republic of Cyprus.
The hybrid threats and daily violations from the skies above the Aegean islands, to the ground in the UN Buffer zone here in Cyprus and on the water, from the Libyan Sea to the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey challenges the sovereignty of its closest neighbors.
We have been witnessing recently unprecedented efforts by Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot leadership to embark on a process to upgrade the status and seek for international recognition of the secessionist entity in the occupied Cyprus
Turkey has set as a pre-condition the recognition of sovereign equality to the resumption of negotiations and has moved away from the agreed UN framework.
This has happened against the backdrop of our efforts and bold initiatives to build confidence between the two communities in Cyprus.
The UN’s entire raison d'être, as Secretary-General Guterres himself has noted, is that humanity is capable of great things when we work together. It is incumbent on all of us, as individuals, as communities and as states, that we heed that call.
Allow me to leave you with the words of a previous occupant of this position, the late Dag Hammarskjold. Quote: “The day will come when all will see the U.N. and what it means clearly. Everything will be all right when people stop thinking of the United Nations as a weird Picasso abstraction and see it as a drawing they made themselves.” Wise words indeed.