MFA presents ‘’Stella Soulioti Award’’ to Cyprus Paraplegic Association

Cyprus recognises the need to create conditions for everyone to benefit from the opportunities and possibilities they are entitled to and deserve Minister of Foreign Affairs Constantinos Kombos said on Thursday, presenting the “Stella Soulioti Human Rights Award” to Cyprus Paraplegic Association (OPAK) at a ceremony at the Ministry, in the presence of Minister of Justice and Public Order, the Commissioners of Law, Gender Equality and Protection of Human Rights, Ambassadors and representatives of the diplomatic corps on the island.

The Minister said that in 2011 Cyprus ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol and since then, it implements 10-year Strategies through 3-year National Action Plans.

Kombos noted that this year’s ceremony coincides with the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was a landmark moment in humankind history, but also serves as an occasion to reflect on what has been achieved and what is still to be done.

“Notwithstanding the many achievements since 1948 that humanity is enjoying in human rights, it is undoubtful that there is still a way to go.  The world remains volatile; conflicts arise, climate change effects exacerbate, new technologies emerge; challenging our ability to protect and further promote the human rights. The time has come for the world to recommit to our humane values and the noble principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” he noted.

The Minister said that Cyprus decided to present its first-ever candidature for membership to the Human Rights Council for the period 2025-2027 and recalled that two weeks ago, at the High-Level Event Commemorating the 75th Anniversary that took place in Geneva, President Christodoulides pledged Cyprus’ intention to intensify efforts aiming to bridge the gap in a number of human rights policy areas, including the rights of the child and persons with disabilities, as well as, to eliminate gender based violence and discrimination.

Referring to the Cyprus Paraplegic Association the Minister said that over the past 43 years, it has significantly expanded its outreach to provide assistance and support to persons with reduced mobility.

Receiving the award OPAK President Demetris Lambrianides said that the association has fought and succeeded in providing those in need with state-sponsored wheelchairs and other necessary support and medical supplies, has developed sports for persons with disabilities, demanded professional rehabilitation and the recognition that work does not only serve as a means for income, but is an important factor for a high quality of life.

Lambrianides also said that disability benefits and independent living care benefits were also important achievements that covered part of the cost of disability and enabled paraplegics and quadriplegics to decide who their personal assistant would be. He also referred to the efforts for accessibility issues and the service of personal assistants which became a reality following an initiative by late Minister of Labour Zeta Emilianidou.

He noted that the “Stella Souliotis Human Rights Award” is a very important initiative, since we need to work intensively to recognise the importance of human rights in our country and the obligation of all citizens to defend them and demand their service, which will contribute to the progress of society at various levels, and will truly provide a better quality of life and standard of living.

He called on all to place special interest in the young generation because the youth, he noted, are bearers of human rights which they should enjoy and they need to grow up with a philosophy of respect for human rights in general.

The Secretary of last year’s recipient ”Cyprus Stop Trafficking”, Nelson Neokleous, spoke of the activities that took place in 2023 noting that raising awareness on human trafficking and prostitution is their utmost priority.

He also said that the situation is particularly depraved in the Turkish occupied areas of the island due to the absence of preventive measures and the great indifference of society and added that despite the problems that exist due to the Turkish occupation, they continue to build interpersonal relationships and hope for a more successful humanitarian approach.

Justice Minister Anna Koukkides Prokopiou and the Commissioner for Administration and Protection of Human Rights Maria Stylianou Lottides presented awards of excellent contribution for 2023 to the organisations Caritas Cyprus and Generation for Change CY.

The “Stella Souliotis Human Rights Award” was established by a Cabinet decision in 2021, with the aim of highlighting the efforts and the work being done and encouraging those who fight for the protection of human rights in Cyprus.

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