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[PIO] Address by the Speaker of the House of Representatives Anita Demetriou at the Ninth Special Session of Civil Society


Friday, 26 May 2023, 10.00-13.00

Plenary Hall of the Parliament

Mr. President of the Pancyprian Coordinating Council for Volunteerism (PCVC),

Gentlemen representatives of the relevant ministries,

Dear participants,

Dear colleagues,

Ladies and gentlemen,

The role of civil society, especially in the volatile global context as it is taking shape, undoubtedly emerges as crucial and pivotal in relation to safeguarding democratic processes, defending human rights and upholding the principles of a modern rule of law. It is the voice of citizens, which - through the activities of NGOs - is sometimes assertive, sometimes supportive and, where necessary, critical, intervening in what is happening and what is being planned and translated into policies and strategies.

It is therefore a real pleasure to welcome you today to the Ninth Session of Civil Society, after a four-year suspension of its work following the coronavirus pandemic and the problems that have arisen in all sectors of society.

Civil Society, during the sessions held until 2019, always aiming to highlight the important work of voluntary organisations, has addressed a variety of issues and problems faced by citizens and societies in our country, in Europe and internationally, such as poverty and social exclusion. In addition, previous sessions have addressed the impact of the economic crisis on the functioning of voluntary/non-governmental organisations, their relations with public administration, and the involvement of young people in volunteering and volunteering.

In order to ensure a favourable environment in relation to participation and contribution, Civil Society adopted at the Second Session the National Declaration on Volunteerism, which was the common vision of voluntary organisations, while the Seventh Session highlighted the importance of good governance in the activities of NGOs. In this context, the Code of Good Governance, Conduct and Ethics for Civil Society Organisations was adopted, a code that substantially modernises the voluntary sector and strengthens the work of organisations in providing services based on the principles of transparency, impartiality and respect for human rights.

The Eighth Session, drawing on the experience of previous successful sessions, further highlighted the role and contribution of volunteers, the responsibilities they selflessly shoulder over time and especially in times of crisis, when the problems and needs of citizens become more acute and consequently greater assistance is required to relieve vulnerable social groups. In the context of this session and given that modern needs are growing rapidly, the prospects of the voluntary movement as an important provider of social services were outlined. Civil Society Organizations, acting as a counterweight to the public and private for-profit sectors, in addition to providing social services and programs, defend the rights of the population by promoting social justice, equality, respect for diversity, and balancing economic and sustainable development. At the same time, they undertake actions aimed at promoting research, supporting businesses and industries for healthy business, while initiatives are also undertaken to create a safety network in mountainous areas.

It is therefore clear that volunteering in our country, as a free and spontaneous choice, demonstrates particular sensitivity to people's needs and at the same time voluntary organisations are becoming alternative means of meeting needs with a flexibility that in some cases exceeds that of public bodies.

It is therefore clear that volunteering in our country, as a free and spontaneous choice, demonstrates particular sensitivity to people's needs and at the same time voluntary organisations are becoming alternative means of meeting needs with a flexibility that in some cases exceeds that of public bodies. The remarkable action developed by voluntary organisations increases the need for their support in today's demanding environment. I hope that the report of the 9th Civil Society Summit will trigger an in-depth debate on what needs to be done by the state to ensure that voluntary organisations not only continue to play the important role they have been playing for decades, but also receive further support to enable them to innovate by undertaking programmes and activities for the full development of individuals, groups and communities. I am convinced that the representatives of the relevant ministries and institutions present at today's session will build on the conclusions of the session and, based on the proposals of the participating organisations, will contribute to the further development and modernisation of volunteering and NGOs. At a time when difficulties and problems are affecting more and more people every day, strengthening NGOs is an urgent necessity.

In order to fulfil their objectives, voluntary organisations need incentives. First and foremost, they need financial support and funding. But they also need volunteers, which requires voluntary organisations to have specific public information and awareness programmes and, consequently, to attract, select and train volunteers so that they are empowered and trained to serve and manage social needs more effectively. An important disincentive to volunteering is undoubtedly the excessive bureaucracy that makes the procedures labyrinthine and inefficient. The state and the institutions are called upon to take all those actions and measures that will create a fully supportive environment for NGOs.

As the House of Representatives, recognizing our responsibility for the issues of volunteering, I would like to assure you that we will stand by your side and through the promotion of the relevant legislation we will assist you in your efforts to realize your goals. As President of the Parliament, I sincerely wish to express my deep gratitude for your multifaceted action and contribution in the context of organised volunteering. Volunteering must be linked to high values and virtues, such as charity, altruism and solidarity. Through your varied voluntary work every day, you provide significant support and relief to underprivileged groups in society, so you have every reason to feel proud.

Through your work you make society a better place, a great embrace, especially for our fellow human beings whose problems often lead them to despair and frustration. Your support and love opens a window of hope and perspective to the weaker groups of society, but also to our country in general.

In conclusion, I would like to point out that with your voice and intervention you help us to understand important parameters in addressing the multidimensional modern threats and challenges, which makes you an important partner in shaping policies, social development in our country, for the progress and prosperity of all citizens.

I congratulate you once again for your work -in total- and wish you every success in your meeting, hoping for a lively discussion, through which solutions to the serious problems of survival of NGOs for a more substantial contribution to society will emerge.

(Text as sent by the House of Representatives)
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