at the municipal hall of Nicosia on Saturday 20 june 2009.
I am delighted to welcome you today and would like to thank you for joining us for the opening of this unique photographic exhibition. The 20th of June, has been declared World Refugee Day, a sad reminder of the suffering of refugees around the world. It is therefore the most appropriate date for the inauguration of an exhibition entitled ‘Refugees: Real People, Real Needs’. Organized under the auspices of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, this open-air exhibition is, like most photographic exhibitions, both artistic and enlightening.
Over the coming 3 weeks, and as you walk down Ledra Street, I’m sure your eyes will be opened to the plight of refugees around the world. The touching images on display are a meticulous selection of the most impressive winning photos of World Press Photo, taken by professionals with a very clear mission: to draw the public’s attention to the painful situations that create refugees. Complementing them is a selection of photos from the photographic exhibition entitled ‘Protection: What Refugees Need’.
Here in are island we are well aware of the harsh realities that refugees have to cope with. One third of the population of our island has experienced, firsthand, the human suffering, humiliation and the hardship associated with displacement.
We are indeed proud, as a Municipality, to be the launch pad of this exhibition which the citizens of Nicosia and our visitors can enjoy for 3 weeks, before it moves on to tour other cities and locations on the island.
On this occasion, I would like to take the opportunity to thank the UNHCR for their role in the allocation of international funding for the Nicosia Master Plan. UNHCR has already allocated funds for the realization of such projects, including the Chrysaliniotissa and Arab Ahmet residential quarters. I am happy to be able to say that the population there is already growing and revival is on its way.
There is no doubt that an exhibition such as the one that is opening today serves two purposes. On the one hand, naturally, it was conceived to establish and reinforce awareness of the distressing circumstances and conditions that refugees around the world are faced with, usually through not fault of their own, as victims of tragic events.
On the other hand, and more importantly, it is a cry for help. Our help. May this exhibition motivate us all, individually and collectively, to empathize with refugees around the world, and turn this empathy into tangible support. The UNHCR is constantly fighting time as it strives to alleviate the pain and suffering of refugees. Let us all do whatever we can to support the Commission’s admirable work, in word and deed.
And now, please join me as we proceed to Ledra Street for the official opening of this exhibition of truly compelling photographs.
Mayor of Nicosia