Being a small EU Member State currently hit by the economic crisis, Cyprus saw its humanitarian budget decimated in the last two years. Despite such budget limitations, the Republic of Cyprus is wholeheartedly participating in the preparations for the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS).
In view of our participation in the European consultation in Budapest, we organised a public consultation "International Humanitarian Conference: Cyprus’ contribution to the reshaping of the international humanitarian system". The event was held on 23 January at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and was led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ioannis Kasoulides.
The public consultation was attended, inter alia, by representatives of non-governmental organizations, Cyprus' Civil Defense, academics and students from private and public institutions. All participants came prepared to convey their opinions and suggestions, guided by their will to support the formulation of positions and views which would contribute to the international consultations.
Cyprus has been a recipient of humanitarian aid – an experience which over the last few decades increased people's solidarity and understanding of its importance.
I came to Budapest with all the views from our civil society in my briefcase. This included concepts such as prioritization of needs; taking into consideration affected population's viewpoints; considering the needs of vulnerable groups such as women, children and people with disabilities; urbanization; climate change; nexus between humanitarian aid and development assistance; capacity building for humanitarian workers.
I was also equipped with the outcomes of the discussions held in the Council with my EU peers.
I felt proud that ECHO, the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department, and its head, EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides – who happens to be a fellow Cypriot – were actively participating. Stylianides' presence makes us Cypriots strive even more to contribute to this amazing preparatory procedure.
The Budapest consultation was very well organized: small breakout groups discussed all the items at hand and shared valuable experiences, and were followed by a synthesis by the very capable secretariat. In this vibrant and productive setting, I felt that governments, NGOs and other stakeholders could discuss in a structured way, complementing each other's points of view, asking plenty of questions and receiving, slowly but surely, answers.
I enjoyed being part of this event for the fruitful discussions we have had. From my experience as a diplomat at many international gatherings, I can’t say that this is always the case…