Interview with Olga Demetriou, Guest speaker at GA4

27848471_1870867802983536_278660465_n

What inspired you to follow this career?

I was interested in how other people live and I wanted to understand society better, but I wanted to understand it from the ground perspective, so that was Anthropology.

What do you do at the Peace Research Institute Oslo?

PRIO Cyprus Centre is a branch of the Peace Research Institute in Oslo, we carry out research connected to peace and in Cyprus we focus on aspects of peace building around the Cyprus conflict. We look at issues that are connected to the conflict, we try to analyse what the parameters are and we try to produce information for academics, for the public, for policy makers, that would help make better informed decisions about future peace building.

As someone who researches both refugees and gender equality, how do you think the way society sees women differs between Cyprus and a country like Syria?

I think that gender inequality is an issue across the world. It’s an issue in Norway, it’s an issue in Cyprus, it’s an issue in Syria, and I think what we need to understand is that gender inequality, bad as it is on its own, a lot of the time comes with a host of other inequalities. That also plays into the way which we often see the world. As divided into developed and developing countries, into a Christian West and a Muslim East and so on and so forth. So the question about comparing Cyprus and Syria also falls partly into that gap of seeing some countries as more developed than others in terms of gender equality and so on. What I prefer to concentrate on, is how gender inequalities play out on the local level given the specific of the place in question. So for example in Syria we have a war going on, at the same time we have a process of peace negotiations. And in the process of peace negotiations we have great debates and with the Gender Advisory team in which I’m involved we have invited Syrian women in events to talk about their experiences of the situation in Syria at the moment. We’ve had a conference a couple of years ago that included perspective of this sort and we’ve seen that Syrian women have been very vocal about being included in the peace negotiations, about having their say on the peace table, about having gender inequality being addressed in a new constitution or an agreement. Cypriot women also have been waging similar kinds of struggles so there’s actually a lot that connects the experience of Cyprus and Syria. Cyprus is also in a process of negotiating its own peace and in a process of hearing its own women ask for a place at the table as well so that’s very instructive and it’s always instructive to hear how women are waging their struggles against inequality no matter what place they are from.

What do you think must be done to ensure a prosperous future for refugees?

I think that the place to start is to start talking to refugees and to actually start seeing them as individual human beings with human dignity and political identities who have ideas about their own expectations, their options and their plans and I think we’ll start forming more realistic policies about how those expectations can be met rather than having our own biases dictates about how we treat them.

How do you balance a successful career and a healthy personal life?

With difficulty. (Laughter)

Interview with Zein Fakhoury (American Community School of Amman, Jordan)

28052465_1836975316376067_1657298493_n

Have you been in any other MUN conferences?

No this is my first one.

Describe your journey to Cyprus

My journey to Cyprus was very easy actually. The flight was amazing. When entering Cyprus it smelled amazing and there’s a lot of greenery which I really enjoyed because in Jordan we really don’t see a lot of trees and the environment isn’t really good there, but in Cyprus it’s pretty good.

Tell us your favourite thing about your culture back home.

My favourite thing back in Amman is the food. We have a really delicious dish, the main dish of Jordan, it’s called Mansaf and it’s really good.

What’s a typical day at school for you?

A typical day is stressful and fun because I hang out with friends at school. Studying really hard but also having fun.

Interview with Susana Elisa Pavlou, Guest speaker at GA2

What inspired you to pursue your career?

”I don’t think there is one particular person that inspired me. I think that I -through the course of your life- there are many people that come in and sort of lead your or push you along that path. That was probably sort of predetermined, but I would say that they are all women. If I had to point to one person I’d say that it was my mother because she was a fighter who overcame extreme challenges that had a lot to do with gender equality. But I think I always had a strong sense of justice and I came across professors, friends, mentors in my life that were huge inspiration to me. I cannot point to one, except my mum.”

Who’s your role model?

”My mum is my role model. But I’ve got a lot of role models. One example – you know one thing I keep saying to myself and my colleagues- is that women need to be braver and the first woman I heard this from is a radical feminist called Julie Bindel who will be in Cyprus on Wednesday evening talking about prostitution and violence against women and she always says that women need to be braver. I think that a lot of women often do not speak up as well as a lot of men do not speak up about injustice. That’s kind of something I always had in my mind. That we must be braver, I must be braver in order to speak out and take action. This is often associated with risk, that people might disagree with you, people might attack you for your opinions but we must be brave if we want to see change in the world.”

What do you think is the biggest problem women in Cyprus face ?

”That’s a difficult one. Again I can’t give higher priority to such issues. How can I say that violence against women is not as serious as women’s economic independence? I said it in my speech and I’ll say it again all forms of inequality are related. But I would say that something that is a part of all issues is women in decision-making positions in all sectors including political and economic. I think that would have an impact on policy and legislation across the board and benefit women. ”

Any upcoming projects with the Mediterranean institute of Gender Studies?

 ”We have many many many projects. I would say in terms of we always accept volunteers. Mostly our projects have to do with research and raising awareness. But we have public events. One example is the event on the 14th of February 2018 where we have invited a very prominent feminist, Julie Bindel. Everyone is welcome to attend. It’s very important that men and women attend many of these events to raise awareness.”

Interview with Sarah Eltell (American Community School of Amman, Jordan)

27935045_2461184600773500_2138634600_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you been to other MUN conferences in other countries before? How is this one different from those?

I’ve been to two THIMUN conferences in Qatar and one local conference in Dubai. This is the first time I met people from Cyprus, that’s pretty obvious, and it’s really global, there’s a lot of students from all around the world, which is big.

Describe your journey to Cyprus

The school proposed the idea of going to Cyprus for MUN and I was really intrigued by that, because Cyprus has always been a place I wanted to visit, so I signed up for it. The journey was an hour flight, I got to know my classmates better, learn a bit of Greek.

Tell us your favourite thing about your culture back home.

The culture in Jordan is very family-based, every weekend we meet with family, there’s like 20 people in one room. The food is also a major part of the culture, the traditional food with rice, meat and all that. We speak Arabic in Jordan, which is the main language. Other than that, it’s a very diverse and accepting culture because we have a lot of international residents in Jordan.

What’s a typical day at school for you?

A typical day at school is going in the morning, meeting with friends before class, working on different projects. I’m in the yearbook so I work for things in the yearbook and we take pictures. Cause we’re seniors we do a lot of things around school.

 

Interview with Carsten Lederer, Guest speaker at Special Committee on Bioethics

What are some Bioethics concerns you have to think about in particular in your area of research?

Well, the risk – benefit analysis is a major concern because I don’t work on permanent correction of the germline or in neutral lethal diseases so we normally deal with adolescents or adults in therapy and there the concern is you know, is the risk justified by the benefit that the patient gets. In Cyprus in particular because you have disease management which is very successful so even the conventional treatment of bone marrow transplantation is not taken up for most Cypriot patients but that’s also because it’s not available here. You have to go abroad to do it. But it’s also because they feel that the management regiment is safe. So do you want to put them through you know this kind of treatment and the danger of developing cancer later on against them having a reasonable life at the moment. That is of course not my decision, but that is something that is relevant. The other point is how to get things effective against how to get things safe. Initially there was a huge discussion for thalassemia about whether we should give complete chemotherapy, and now it turns out that yes we should. But the initial discussion was you know, thalassemia is not lethal, with management, so we should just mildly do that, which is safer, but is probably not efficient and then you might as well not do the therapy at all. So for these type of concerns you’re going to know the answer with time, when you get the data in from those initial experiments.

You mentioned that when it comes to Bioethics, you are not only concerned about the possible effects of using a particular technique, but also about the effects of not implementing it. Could you expand on that? 

Well if you don’t provide a therapy at all, for some patients, they die, because while management is good in Cyprus, it’s not that widely developed so it’s not available in other countries. And while you may not be able to treat every patient there, maybe you will be able to help some of them doing this. So providing therapies is an obligation, and that’s something we work for so you always have to balance this, you know, the dangers like what if editing the germline endangers them in the future or opens the floodgate for society going for wider applications, for cosmetic research and so on, against the responsibility you have towards the patient who has a right to be treated with the best treatment available.

Could you tell us about Global Globin 2020? What is the goal and what is being done right now?

Our laboratory has the biggest, most important database on hemoglobinopathies worldwide, that’s the Ithanet Portal, and we got involved with Global Globin 2020 because the project is about mapping mutations in thalassemia in different countries. It was created by the Human Variome Project and they’re inherently interested in human variations and single nucleotide polymorphisms and they saw that our data base was probably the best around for this kind of analysis and for integrating data. The Human Variant Project is based in Australia and on these molecular aspects and they see  that now that the genome has been completely sequenced they plan from being molecular focused on being diagnostic and societal focused, to now apply the knowledge we’ve gained as benefit to society. So Global Globin 2020 wants to apply the technologies available to us also to low and middle – income countries. There are 40 countries involved already with representatives in the project. At the moment it’s all on finding money. Different organisations fund for network meetings and so on and the idea is that we actually implement the modern countries’ centers of excellence from which then we can start implementing similar diagnostic centers and screening programs also in other countries. The focus there is on Africa for Sickle Cell Disease and on South East Asia for thalassemia, because there’s huge poverty there, low income generally and absence of prevention programs, that cause huge suffering.

Other than thalassemia and sickle cell disease, what are other areas where you’d be interested in seeing the application of genome editing?

Well genome editing can also be used to do research. So you can knock out stuff and find out what it does basically. The classic approach was to look at mutants and see the phenotype and then find out what causes the phenotype and the mutation to take place. Now it’s the other way around, we can do reverse genetics and introduce a mutation and you know where and what takes place so you can chart the phenotype, so you can confidently map things. You can find out what different things do. Because our department is the thalassemia department so we really look at thalassemias and rare anemias. There are more diseases that also affect your blood, which affect a smaller proportion of people, that are much more diverse and one of the scientific programs we’ve proposed now is to look into other rare anemias. Of course, worldwide thalassemia is still rare, only in Cyprus and European countries, so we could also look at other anemias that can be treated with similar types of methods.

Interview with Mrs Andria Neocleous, Guest speaker at GA3

-What are the everyday challenges in your profession?

“Many. The fact that there are many cases that are not recorded, and this makes it very difficult to help the children in need. We try to break the silence of these children by awareness campaigns that we make. Another challenge is that there are no existing procedures to help children to report, so it’s important that we have some changes. There are still things to be changed and policies to be made.

-What do you enjoy most about your job?

“When we see that children get help, and they go back to ‘normal’. This is an achievement, and we think that the smile of the child when it gets help is an achievement on its own. “

-In your opinion, what are the best ways that someone can help a victim that has been tortured or trafficked?

“Of course through therapy. Because the traumas exist because of this abuse, only with psychological support and therapy the victims could eventually tackle the situation. This will make them feel protected, having someone to talk to and feel that they are away from the perpetrator, and by this method they will get the support they need and will make them feel better.”

-Why did you choose this career path?

“That’s a difficult question. For me, this job gives meaning. It is great when you see the result of your work, efforts and struggles, especially by seeing the result on the children.”

Interview with Jack Lambard (American Community School of Amman, Jordan)

IMG_3080

Have you been to other MUN conferences in other countries before?

No, this is my first time participating in a conference.

How did you like Cyprus so far?

 I think the weather in Cyprus is much better than in Jordan. It’s generally milder and more pleasant. Also, the nights in Cyprus are more tranquil and quiet and they are just perfect for a peaceful stroll. Lastly, Cyprus seems to be a very organised country.

Tell us your favourite thing about your culture back home.

Well, I’m actually from Texas and I currently live in Jordan because my dad is a diplomat and he was transferred there. So my favourite thing about our culture in Texas is how people there don’t give up and they always stick to their beliefs.

What’s a typical day at school for you?

My typical day at school would be going from class to class and rushing to do my homework between breaks.

Isabel Andreatta of Shanghai American School Pudong (GA4)

Interviewing Isabel Andreatta

of Shanghai American School Pudong (GA4)

IMG_3855

-What’t the culture like in Shanghai?

“So it’s a lot a variant,  diverse people there, because it is a metropolitan. Because of that, even though I do attend an American school, and there are a lot of Chinese people there, there is always mixing of the different  culture. Which is strange but great.”

-What about the food?

She giggled “It’s really good. I love Shanghai food! It depends in which part of China, but it is really good. Inn Shanghai it is very classic but super elegant. It is mostly based dumplings and noodles! It’s amazing!”

Interview with British High Commissioner, Mr Matthew Kidd

What made you interested in your current job?

“Well I suppose that the honest answer is that the first time I came to Cyprus at the beginning of my career, I did not have any choice – I was told that was what my place was. So I came and I enjoyed it and felt particular interest in it. Then, I was not involved with Cyprus directly for 20 years of my career or more, and then I had the opportunity to apply and come back as a High Commissioner, so that was the point when I had a choice to make. I did apply because the place interests me. There is a worthwhile, important job to be done, to which I hope I can contribute. I am glad to be back, and in fact, I was asked last summer if I would come back again, and the answer was even easier to say ‘yes, I will see what I can do, and I want to come back, and here I am!'”

What qualities in your opinion make you a good Commissioner?

“I am not sure what the answer to that is! I think that one of the things I have learned in my career is that when you are in the business of persuading, explaining and trying to win support from others on what you think is the right plan of action – which is basically what Commissioners do – one of the really important things is not how you say to others what you think is right. It is how you listen to what they think is important, and then find a way to compromise. So I would like to think that I have learned a bit of that!”

You also mentioned in your speech that Costa Rica is one of the few countries that use peaceful means instead of armed forces. Do you think this may be a possibility for Cyprus?

“I know that this is something that is being talked about. It is a difficult choice for any country to make, how to best protect itself and its interests. It is true that it is easier to implement this in a country like Costa Rica where there are no significant military threads to worry about, unlike Cyprus. This is a real choice, but it’s tricky.”

Given the many attempts to resolve the Cypriot crisis, what do you think must be done in order to finally reach a viable solution?

“Most of what needs to be done, in terms of reaching an agreement, has actually been done. The two sides, by now, have gotten into discussing even the difficult parts, the trickiest aspects of the negotiation. So what they need to do, with the help of others, is to keep working on the remaining things that need to be settled, and not allow themselves to lose their momentum and nerve – not allow themselves to be discouraged. Also, they need to think of the implementation of the solution – it is not just agreeing how it will work, it’s also putting in place the things that they need to make the solution work.”

Finally, what is your opinion on Brexit and how do you think Europe may be affected?

“Well, as you know we are in the beginning of defining of what our negotiating aim will be, in agreeing what Brexit will look like. The thing is, we still have just as strong an interest in Europe as a continent and a region remaining strong, stable and prosperous, and we will want – from a different position, outside of the EU – to be very closely involved in helping to manage all the security challenges that affect us all together, even after Brexit. We will also have just as much of an interest in a strong EU economy so that we can sell to it and buy from it, sharing its prosperity and contributing to it, but we will probably do so from a different basis, from outside rather than inside. Now how that works is going to be the big challenge in the upcoming negotiations.”

DSC_0710

Interview with Mr Takis Hadjigeorgiou, Member of European Parliament

How would you say the experience of being a member of Parliament in Cyprus differs from being a member of the European Parliament?

“There is a huge difference. Huge. Let me first tell you that the atmosphere of the Parliament in Cyprus, regretfully (can we say regretfully?), is full of poison. We have a lot of populists and it was very difficult for me to stand it for more than 12 years. So, I was there for 12 years. In the European Parliament, yes there are a lot of populists even there but if you want to work on what you have in front of you, and if you want to not see them, or avoid them, you can. So, in the European Parliament I concentrate on what I have in front of me and I am satisfied because in that position I can meet people who in their portfolio have important issues. What I say usually is: we are not important people because we have an important position. We do have important positions, although some of us are not important people. We have to differentiate that. Don’t believe that anyone who sits on a table and in front of him has a label saying ‘Euro-Parliamentarian’ or ‘Minister’ or ‘President’  immediately means that he is an important person. We have to look at it, we have to check it, we have to put him in scrutiny to see if he represents the position he has.

The second difference between our Parliament and the European Parliament is obvious. Our Parliament deals with issues which have to do with Cyprus most probably, but there you have to see what goes around the globe. You have to deal with issues about Albania, about Turkey, about Syria, about the United Nations, about United States, Russia, and to understand the complexity of the world which becomes unfortunately day by day, or year by year, much more complex than ever before. And I don’t want to say that we are in danger, but yes we face again very very difficult times on our planet, environmentally, politically, economically – all these issues that we have in front of us today.”

As a politician you have expressed high interest in the Cyprus problem. What do you consider to be the major problem regarding this issue?

“I have a very clear picture about that. I think that the main obstacle is the fact that 43 years after the invasion, after the presence of Turkey in Cyprus, [Turkey] believe[s] that the occupied areas are part of Turkey. And this is the obstacle in my opinion, at this point of the time. They can’t digest that the solution may change the relationship that Turkey has now with the occupied areas after the solution. They can’t understand that. So they have to overcome this idea they have about the occupied part of Cyprus, which they don’t call occupied areas. They have to overcome this obstacle to see, to believe, to understand that they have to leave Cypriots to govern our own issues alone. That means of course that they have to withdraw their army, to understand that we don’t need guarantees and most of all to understand that we don’t need them to intervene in our policy life.”

Lastly, what is your opinion on MEDI.MUN and what can the participants gain from this experience?

“As I said to you before, the whole planet is becoming very complex and we need young people to have the ability to understand this complexity and to overcome the problems they will face during their life. And to overcome not only their problems but to try and find solutions on the problems we face globally, so this experience, I’m sure, will help them to understand first of all the complexities as I said of the politics of the planet. If you first understand the complexity, then you may have the ability to try to see if you can propose some solutions. So I find it very very important yes.”

DSC_0971

By Eleni Tserioti

Interview with Dr. Alexia Panayiotou

Feminism has done great leaps over the years. Do you believe that in some developed countries we have reached equality between the sexes?

“Um, no, in none. That’s a simple question. Unfortunately I don’t think we have reached equality anywhere in the world. There’s varying degrees of it, there’s some countries that have done better than others, and I know we always refer to the examples of Scandinavian countries. But even so, even in the Scandinavian countries, there is no representation, there is still violence against women, there’s still trafficking, there’s still honour violence in Sweden. So we’re not there yet.”

In your opinion, what do you think is the biggest reason why women are so under-represented in leadership roles and STEM fields of study?

“As I said in my presentation I believe there’s the demand side and the supply side of the explanation. The demand side is that I think there’s still discrimination, so even if women come forward, we stereotype them, we don’t promote them, we don’t vote for them. It’s just that now I think we’ve become more savvy and more sophisticated in hiding our sexism. So we’ll say for example, like I said in this HBI study, women are outperforming men and have all these great measures but you know when it comes down to it ‘We’re really looking for something else to make someone a manager or a partner, so unfortunately she doesn’t have it.’ So yes, we’ve become better at hiding it. It’s always there, in the way we treat female politicians, in the way they’re represented in the media, the way that school counsellors still deal with girls who want to study medicine or STEM. This is all the demand side, and then there’s the supply side, and that is that women are not coming forward, not demanding equal treatment or just being overburdened with the double shift, so okay we’ll say I do want to see my kids and we don’t have equality in the family and the states don’t care so we don’t have proper childcare. So yes, this is a very complex issue, girls are holding themselves back and girls after they listen to their counsellors who say ‘Are you sure you want to be a doctor? That’s at least 15 or 16 years, and you’re also a very giving person, and you’re also very good at Chemistry and Biology. Have you thought about being a nurse?’ And girls believe that, and they don’t think about going for Medicine or Maths so it’s both issues, the demand and the supply.”

Do you feel like being a woman has ever been a disadvantage through all the years of studying you’ve been doing in order to be successful?

“I’m not sure if I would say disadvantage but it something that I would take into account. We may think that we live in a gender-less world but it’s a very gendered world. From the moment we get up in the morning, to going to bed at night and throughout our lives we have to live in a very gendered world. It could be the little things like people honking at you when you’re driving because they assume that you’re a bad driver when they look at you and they see a woman. It could be the person in the parking lot who is bossing you around about where to park but they wouldn’t boos around your brother or your friend. So it’s these little things that you have to tackle on a daily basis and then there’s issues in safety. You can’t walk on the streets safely, you have to watch what you’re wearing, no matter what they say. We see research that when we go to see our school counsellors, they treat us differently, our teachers, our managers, our professors treat us differently. So, I would hate to use the word disadvantaged but I would say that yes it’s an issue for women throughout their lives, whereas it shouldn’t have been it the same way that it’s been for boys and men but in a different context. Like, we assume that after a divorce a father shouldn’t be with his kids and that’s a result of a sexist world as well, it’s just the flip side. But sexism is bad for everyone, not just for women.”

In your speech, you mentioned the quota companies would have, to have a specific percentage of women on the board. As you saw, many disagreed, on the grounds that the most skilled people should be hired, regardless of their gender. Why do you support the implementation of this quota?

“Because, first of all I strongly believe that women are equally skilled, if not better skilled, and yet because of years of discrimination through multiple levels throughout their lives, they’re not equally represented on company boards. I think another question that often comes up is ‘but won’t we end up with less skilled women and how tragic would that be?’ But we don’t stop to think of the less skillful men that we have had for centuries in multiple countries that have destroyed the world, not just businesses – and we didn’t stop to think that the only reason he got the job was because of male privilege. We don’t stop to think of it that way but then when it’s about quotas all of the sudden we remember issues about equality and equal skills and discrimination, oh and a very skilled man is going to be discriminated upon but all these centuries, millennia we don’t stop to say oh that skilled woman, she was discriminated against. So I think it’s a necessary thing to go forward. Will some people be discriminated upon, reverse discrimination? Probably, but this has been happening all along.”

If there was one piece of advice you could give to all the female members of MEDIMUN to face this discrimination what would that be?

“I would say first of all believe in yourself and your abilities. Believe in your brain. And second of all – I have [a second piece of advice], I’m cheating – demand a better world. Organise and demand a better world.”

 

16700159_1352988451389902_18497325_n

By Constantina Courea

Interview with the Dutch Ambassador, Mark Rutgers van der Loeff

How would you encourage the exchange of students between Cyprus and The Netherlands both for education and for other purposes?

“I think the Netherlands has quite a bit to offer Cypriot students. We have [a wide range of courses], the universities are in English so they are accessible to Cypriots and English-speakers in general as well. It is pretty affordable. The fee is 2000 euros per year and the living expenses are reasonable as well. If you look at the statistics, the number of Cypriots who go to the Netherlands to study goes up every year. Currently there are around 200 Cypriots going to the Netherlands to study there.

How do you think events such as MEDIMUN help students improve?

“I think it helps them a lot because I have to say, it is kind of a simulation. It is very realistic. How the UN works is pretty much how it’s played here so if you have this experience and you put it on your CV I think it will be useful for many employers considering your application, so I think it’s useful. It gives delegates experience.”

What is your stance on the current relationship of Greek speaking and Turkish speaking Cypriots? Do you think a solution to the Cyprus problem would remove the obstacles standing between the two communities?

“Well, absolutely. The Netherlands, as all EU countries, are very Interview 2much in favour of the reunification of Cyprus and we try to support them however we can. For instance, we support NGOs in Cyprus who work on bringing together Turkish and Greek Cypriots. We do also support a lot of events in the buffer zone, in the Home for Cooperation and if you go there you will see both sides meeting. You will see it is actually very natural. People live on one island and unfortunately due to the history they have been split for a couple of decades. But when I see how dynamically and positively people interact, I am hopeful that it will be solved.”

How do you think the current refugee crisis is affecting both Cyprus and The Netherlands?

“It is affecting the whole of the EU in the sense that there is a large number of refugees coming to EU countries. I think the EU made a very good deal with Turkey about managing the crisis and the EU made a very good deal internally about how to redistribute refugees coming from Greece and from Italy to other countries, so i think the EU, being a big block, with hundreds of millions of people and a lot of money available is very much able to deal with the refugee crisis right now.”

By Sivekar Tascioglu

Interview with Irish Ambassador Nicholas Twist

In your message on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Website, you stated that Cyprus and Ireland have “many features of historical context in common”. In your opinion, what are these?

“First of all, Ireland and Cyprus have a special relationship with the UK; not always a balanced relationship, because we were both colonies, and we hope to maintain the legacy of that relationship. On the other hand, we also have a very positive relationship as we are both small islands finding it difficult to make our way in the broader world, in economic terms, so it’s useful to have this special relationship with the UK. I also have to say that both countries are slightly alarmed at the Brexit prospects and how we have worked together on that. Following the state visit by president Anastasiades in Ireland last October, our respective Brexit task forces are working together as loyal members of the EU. Even though we have no intention of leaving the EU, the more cooperative and constructive our relationship is with post-Brexit UK, the better it will be for all involved. “

In what ways have you been promoting the relations between Cyprus and Ireland?

“Well, the highlight of my time as ambassador was the state visit by president Anastasiades, as it reinforced the excellent relationships Ireland and Cyprus have, and the less need there is for official state visits. One of the more practical things I have been doing, are my regular visits to the Home for Cooperation in the UN buffer zone. I was there only yesterday to talk about an agreement on the buffer zone french theater festival which will be held next November. They do a lot of things on reconciliation, where people from the north or the south can meet in the middle avoiding the discomfort of crossing sides and showing their passports. Personally, I am very conscious of the tension and lack of trust that exists on this divided island, as Ireland was in a similar situation. I believe that it is necessary for people of both sides of any divided country to come together and connect. “

In what ways can people who are interested in learning about the Irish culture and history do so through the embassy?

This is a difficult topic because Ireland had its own economic crisis a few years before Cyprus, and we are still recovering, so it is difficult to fund cultural events. Another main difficulty is logistics. There are no direct flights between Cyprus and Ireland so trying to get lecturers or performers from one country to the other may be challenging. However, there had been some history professors along with myself, who gave lectures in the Soloneion book shop. We are trying to keep our level of availability of information of Irish history to the highest level for eager learners, but as i mentioned,the circumstances do not always allow us.Interview 1

                                                                                                    By Valerios Athinodorou and Christia Kai

Interview with Mr Vassilis Petrides

What is a typical day in your life?

I hate to disappoint you but there is no typical day in my life. In fact, this is what I like about my job and family life. I am usually at the office by 8 a.m and return home at about 6 – 7 p.m. There is no office routine except that I am usually at my post advising and guiding rather than managing my team in their many varied daily challenges. When I am not out with business associates, which is unfortunately more often  than not, I spend the evenings at home with my wife and 11 year old daughter, who usually greets me with homework questions as soon as I step through the door. Whenever I am allowed some free time, I use it to go on cycling trips for as far as my legs can take me.”

What qualities make a CEO a good leader?

“I wish I was a good enough CEO to answer this one. With hindsight and having made my share of mistakes, I would advise anyone who steps into this position to look out for the following:

Be a good listener and open to new ideas from other team members.

Build a good team that will have a team spirit.

Set achievable and measurable goals.

Take calculated risks and never doubt your instincts, they are usually correct.

Know when to pull out of a bad deal.”

How did studying engineering help you in your current job?

“Engineering is a discipline that allows you to measure your progress and helps you evaluate the risks of entering into any venture. It has helped me apply the logic and discipline of engineering into my everyday approach to management problems, especially when analysing new opportunities. Management is very much a numbers exercise and to be able to sense-check your business is a great asset.”

How can a successful business remain relevant?

“There are no hard and fast rules about this one. Any business needs to adapt to changing circumstances in the marketplace and competition. A formula or business model that works well today is no guarantee for success tomorrow. A CEO needs to be ready to adapt rapidly to a new set of circumstances as product cycles get shorter and market conditions change without warning. For instance the digital world is changing many of the norms of our industry and if you chose to ignore it, you will become as relevant as horse drawn carriage makers became in the age of the automobile.”

In your speech you spoke about the Cypriot economy being like a game of snakes and ladders. What reforms are in your opinion necessary to stabilize and improve the Cypriot economy in the long run?

“I drew the analogy with the game of snakes and ladders because that’s exactly how the Cyprus economy behaved during the last 15 years. No matter what venture or business area or opportunity you chose to enter, any wealth created was likely to be lost due to external unrelated circumstances that were mostly the result of poor oversight and poor governance.

To break from this negative cycle, Cyprus needs to adopt a new set of rules that will lead to stability and encourage long term economic growth. If one believes that economic growth will only be achieved through new foreign investments and private sector capital risk, Cyprus needs to convince investors and entrepreneurs that the economic climate and the checks and balances associated with it are in place. This means that Cyprus will have learned its lesson of allowing our economy to run into unmanageable deficits, and adhere to strict fiscal economic guidelines, This in turn will encourage private sector opportunities to risk investments in Cyprus to achieve healthy returns as confidence returns. The effect of new capital will be that it will result in high growth rates which will allow the banks to lend more easily and at cheaper rates. This will only happen when Cyprus is no longer regarded as a high risk destination, after we prove that we have taken the painful reform measures and rating agencies give us their mark of approval.”

Interview with Mr. Patrick Connell

Could you describe a typical day in your life?

“Generally we start pretty early in the morning, a little after seven, and what we will do is we look at information that has come in from Washington overnight and make sure that there are no outstanding issues that need to be dealt with. Then we sit down and have a review of the press from all over Cyprus and anything that’s important in the world. We meet with the ambassador and discuss with her the important things that are going on in the embassy and around Cyprus, and we get guidance from her on what is the best way to deal with certain issue. Then, after that, generally we will meet with different people around the island to talk about issues that are of importance, whether it’s the Cyprus problem, or economic issues – so we deal with a whole range of issues and we will meet with people to talk about those things and just engage with citizens from different parts of society, about these issues important to Cypriots, and find a way to send the information back to Washington as well.”

What was the greatest challenge you needed to face recently?

“I think very recently we had the visit of Secretary Terry to Cyprus and it consisted of many, many different moving parts. We had many people from Washington who came and we also had some of our most important leadership from the state department who came and It was all in under 24 hours, so we had to arrange all of the secretary’s transportation issues, and his meetings, and how he would get from one place to the next, so I would say that was a challenge.”

For which accomplishment do you feel most proud?

“I think I have been really lucky in my life, that the different positions I have had in the state department have given me the opportunity to be involved in some really important issues, and I suppose becoming a diplomat is one of the most important accomplishments that I have had.”

What, do you believe, is your greatest motivation?

“For me, the greatest motivation are the things that people are interested in and that they can feel passionate about. You touched on two of these things for me. One of them is the rights and issues of the Romani people of Europe and I have been very involved in those issues for the last seven or eight years, and I participated in many relevant conferences. And the same about our environment – I feel very strongly about the importance and need to protect our environment. The opportunity to participate in that beach clean-up here in Cyprus was just a great opportunity to do something that I care a lot about.”

If you could start your career all over again, would you do something differently?

“I would have to say no, because I have no regrets, I had a really varied career, I practiced as a lawyer and I did that for many years before becoming a diplomat and I loved it, but ever since becoming a diplomat I had such a wide breadth of experiences that I feel very fortunate about. So no, I wouldn’t change anything.”

What advice would you give to young people aspiring to follow in your footsteps?

“The most important thing is education, to pursue it with all of your passion, which is the second thing as well: to do the things that you’re passionate about – find what really interests you and gets you excited, and work for it with all your passion.”

Interview with Rani Gerges, Palestine

What was the hardest part about participating in MEDI.MUN ?

The hardest part was trying to understand the Greek language when the delegates where speaking between them. When I tried to communicate with some of them they thought I was a Cypriot so they spoke to me in Greek, so yes, it has to be the language.

What is your favourite food you tried in Cyprus?

It has to be the Greek souvlaki kebab. It is very similar to one of our traditional dishes so yes, I did enjoy it a lot.

 

Interview with Milad Elias from Palestine, GA3

How has MEDI.MUN impacted your life?

I improved my abilities with MUN, it has been very different from other procedures compared to other MUN conferences I attended in Palestine. We had to debate on the topic in general and discuss it with other delegates in a formal debate, but here we started immediately with the resolution which is probably a better idea. This really helped us improve our abilities with writing resolutions and learn about procedures I didnt know about before, as we dont have them in Palestine such as the confession box; we had a gossip box instead. I made a lot of new friends and even met people who are partly Palestinian or know a lot about Palestine, and ask us how the situation is, to which we reply that actually it is not stable. We were very happy to be here.

Interview with Rami Alaraj, Palestine

What are a few cultural differences that you can pin point between Cyprus and Palestine?

Cyprus is nearly like Palestine, but we have cleaner streets. Otherwise, we noticed that we are very similar in things like food and music. Some of the Greek music we heard was like Arabic music.

What are some everyday hardships you are faced with back at home?

As you know, Palestine is under occupation, so in every entrance of the city there is a different checkpoint. For example, to get to my school we go through at least one checkpoint. My colleagues have to go through two. An interesting story is how we came here through the Jordanian borders, and we had to go through three different checkpoints. The first one is Palestinian one. You get searched, they stamp your passport and you go. Then there is the Israeli checkpoint and they humiliate you, they let you sit out in the sun and wait. Then you get searched, sometimes they make you take off your clothes, anything to humiliate you. And then at the Jordanian border everything happens again. Three different checkpoints… this is very difficult. In my country I cannot go anywhere without a special permit, for example, our trip here could have been much shorter if we had a permit. But, of course getting a permit for the airport is very difficult. Those are everyday hardships for us.

 

Interview with Ms Androulla Vassiliou


You spoke about gender equality in your speech. What was it like to have the opportunity to study abroad at a time where women had little opportunities to do so? How did this change your views on the power of women in society?

Well, you are absolutely right. When I left Cyprus to go to England my parents had not realised the change that I was getting into. It was really a psychological and social shock for me to go from the society of Cyprus to England, where the society is completely different. It was difficult to adjust, but I managed and my education gave me the opportunity and power to see things differently. When I came back to Cyprus as a young lawyer, I faced a lot of discrimination from my clients mostly. Let’s not forget that back then I was the 13th woman lawyer, while now we have 3000 women lawyers, so you can imagine the changes that took place between now and then. Education is very important to enable and empower women.


What is your vision for the Cypriot Education system?

First of all, it has to address the united Cyprus. We need to build a culture of understanding and this we cannot do from one day to another; it is a long process. You have to change the mentality of people and the way they behave. You have to change the teachers, the students and the schools. Introduce them with a special ethos, not just another new subject. After the unification, we need to consider what changes we need in order to give both Greek and Turkish Cypriot youth, the skills that they need in order to face the challenges of the 21st century. Not only the dry knowledge, but also the transversal skills that are needed in life.

How did your husband’s election as a President change your life?

Completely. It was a crossroad for my career because I had to give up my legal profession, so I was left without a profession, but I decided that for those five years I would devote my energy in different social causes, one of them being gender equality. I was behind the setting up of the Permanent Agency of Women’s Rights in Cyprus and also attempted to tackle the taboo that existed at the time for children with mental disabilities. At the time, HIV was something new for Cyprus, so nobody accepted it and I remember being one of the first people who went to the house of a woman who was an AIDS sufferer and I had coffee with her, I even drank from her cup to give the message that HIV is only transmitted through sexual intercourse or blood transfusion. As you can understand there were a lot of taboos at the time that I wanted to tackle.

 


How did you combine your role as a mother with the great career you have had?     

I must say it was difficult to combine the two. That is why in the European Union and the United Nations we try to have a balance between careers and personal life. In my time, for example, if you wanted to have a career you had to work day and night, really, in order to cope with your multiple duties as a mother, and you would always be under a lot of stress. This in a way continues even today. However there are some social changes, for example young couples nowadays share their responsibilities in the family and the house. This is a very good and encouraging phenomenon and I believe that we need to work more towards this direction of sharing in order to give women equal chances and opportunities as men.


 What is the most important piece of advice for the ambitious youth of today who is currently having a hard time?

The youth of today is indeed having a hard time but I think there were always difficulties. My advice is to never surrender yourself to difficulties. Persevere, and I am sure that you will succeed at the end. And also, another important piece of advice is to never lose an opportunity. When you see an opportunity, grab it, because it never comes again. Opportunities come once in a lifetime. I remember, for example, when I was a young lawyer and I was looking for a job- I started my own practice, but I couldn’t make ends meet, so then I heard about a vacancy in the bank. I went for the interview and after it, they said: “Yes, you are right for us, we are going to employ you”. But when I asked about the salary, they gave me a ridiculous salary, I said “Would you accept this salary, for your children?” and they said “No, we are not talking about my children, we are talking about you”. And then I thought, shall I accept this ridiculous salary? But at the end I said yes, I will accept it because, if you grab the opportunity, gradually you will make yourself known, appreciated and you will succeed and this is indeed what happened to me. So when I hear people nowadays saying “Oh I didn’t check out this job because it is not up to my standards”, I say no, you should never think like that, you should take the opportunity and gradually you will find something better. Step by step you will go up.

Interview with Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis

Have you experienced any discrimination for being a woman in a mostly male dominated field?

I would say that all in all if I look at my career so far I have not experienced any serious discrimination, primarily in my professional career but this is not the norm and I do not want to generalise it because we were going through difficult times at the time I was growing up. There was not so much competition, we were the first group of females that were really pursuing their careers. I had difficulties with coping with the family. That was the most difficult part of my advancing in my career and unfortunately this is something that many women are still facing. I would say that this is also one of the reasons that many women do not assume high positions, because of the responsibilities that they have with the family, with the children and they cannot cope with these double responsibilities. This is where the government and the whole system has to be supportive with building the necessary infrastructure to support parents in general but most importantly supporting women to cope with this double responsibility.

Do you believe that you could have taken a different path in your career should circumstances were different or did you follow a path close to what you imagined from the beginning?

I have to be very frank with you, I never had a very clear picture from the beginning of what I wanted to do. When I was growing up, my primary objective was to get a good education because I value education very highly and I think it’s the most important tool, the most important treasure that can get you where you want in the future; so that was my primary aim and in that I have succeeded. I got, I think, the education that I wanted from very good educational institutions and that opened my way towards what I thought would be my destiny and that was the diplomatic career. But again, being a diplomat I never aimed at something which was higher, everything came by itself. Through my work, through my dedication, through my contribution. So I never had a fixed objective, you know, “I want to be a minister” or ‘I want to be this or that’, I just moved along doing the best I could do, and this is my advice: do explore your possibilities and utilise all your talents and all your possibilities and this will bear fruit.

Which was the biggest crisis you faced as a foreign minister?

I wouldn’t say it was a crisis, it was a very big challenge and that was during our presidency of the Council of the European Union which was the first time Cyprus was assuming this very high responsibility. There was a lot of preparation, and in fact my appointment was six months before the presidency started so there was a lot of pressure to prepare the ministry, the ground, coordinate the other ministries in order to fulfil this important task successfully.  So I’m really very satisfied that despite the pressure, despite the problems that we faced being a small country with not too many resources, not too many members of staff that could contribute to this task, we were able to succeed and we had a very good presidency.

Based on your opinion on the issue of gender equality, what is your opinion on the issue of LGBT+ rights and what do you think should be done in Cyprus to remove the discrimination against LGBT+ individuals?

Look, I think we are moving forward in this direction. I have seen in recent years changes that were unthinkable, let’s say, during the time I was growing up. Many people have suffered because of this discrimination, many people’s human rights were violated throughout the years. However now I see that our society, as part of the European Union, has to adapt not only its laws and legislations but also its behaviour, we have to adapt to more European standards. I see that we are moving in the right direction and there is a lot of debate about these issues, open debate, and that is good, but there is a long way to be reached.

What do you think is the importance of a movie star like Emma Watson giving a speech like ‘He For She’ back in 2014?

I think it’s very important not only because she is a woman, but because she is a personality and I think that she has devoted a lot of her time and talent in this effort, in this task, but there are many many other personalities and individuals that are very supportive of this objective of gender equality. This movement, the “He For She” was an initiative of Iceland, a very small country but at the top of the list of countries in the global gender equality index. More and more politicians, academics from the art world, from theatre, celebrities are joining this movement because, as I said in my speech, gender equality is not a woman’s issue. It is an issue that everyone should take onboard because it is something that will have very positive effects in all countries, and this has been proven. It is proven, not only a theory.In countries where women are utilised as much as men, there is more progress, there is more development, there is more efficiency and this is very true because when you have a hundred talents and you use only fifty of those you are missing a lot. So we have to look at the importance of achieving gender equality and get everyone onboard and this is why I chose to speak on this issue. At his particular age you have to start being involved, girls and boys in the same way because this is for the benefit of all, this is not something that will take away rights from men. It is something that will add rights, but it will add also prosperity and economic development to the country as a whole.

Interview with Elizabeth Kassinis

What is a typical day in your life?

Reading a lot of news and interacting with people who are involved in current events.  There is a lot of meeting people.

What is the biggest challenge you face every day regarding USAID?

I think I would say understanding what people really want. That’s the hardest thing. People say a lot of things, but it may not be what they want. The challenge is negotiating and really figuring out how to be effective as well as understanding what somebody really  wants, because they are not always willing to tell you.

Why do you think that the interaction between the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots is an important issue especially today?

I think that for the Cyprus issue to be ultimately resolved, the two sides have to understand each other better and part of doing that is having young people meet each other, better understand each other, figuring out, kind of what we were saying before, which is what everyone really wants and what they are willing to live with. Because peace will require compromise and compromise is hard.  None of us likes to compromise. I don’t. That’s for sure.

Lastly, what do you think about MEDI.MUN and how can the participants be involved in USAID?

I think that MEDI.MUN is an excellent opportunity for people to get to know each other better, using discussion in a respectful environment, to understand issues that are really important. You all are the leaders of the future and if you can’t figure a way to talk to one another and ways to tackle issues in a safe environment, then it will never happen and we have to hope that it will.

And I think that there’s room for everyone to get involved in non-governmental organizations and some organizations that do bi-communal work. Actually volunteerism is very important. And whether it is within your community or whether it is bi-communal it is important for young people to get involved.

Interview – Former Financial Minister Michael Sarris

What was the defining moment that set you on the career path you have taken?

Well, as a young person I wanted to work in a place where I would have the opportunity to contribute to improving human welfare everywhere in the world, not just in Cyprus and that is why I thought of studying economics, and perhaps getting a job in an international organization with a focus on development would be the best way to serve.


What do you think is the key benefit anyone can have by knowing about economics?

 I think that economics is in the heart of human activity in the sense that we are all constantly facing choices, we need to maximize our benefits within the resources provided. Economic policies matter. If economic policy mistakes are made, everybody pays very dearly. So, it is important to understand how things work and do the right thing from an economic point of view.


 

What is your opinion on the possibility of Greek exit from the Eurozone, and generally the events that took place over the summer?

I think the situation in Greece remains very very difficult. Greece has had many years in which it has not really come to terms with what it needs to do. Political process has not been able to generate the right political ways and resources for Greece to begin to grow again and create jobs. As long as that remains an elusive goal, the difficulties will remain.


In your speech you mention Germany and its role in the financial crisis, how far do you think Germany is to be held responsible for the situation?

First of all every country that gets into trouble has to first look at itself and ask “Why am I in trouble?”, “What did I do wrong?” It is much too easy to blame others for the difficulties of our own country, or any country. Having said that, I think it is fair to say that Germany, with the very important role it has in Europe and in the Eurozone, having a very sufficient economy, an economy that has been able to generate a lot and produce surpluses, has not done its part to help other countries. You know, the way economics is supposed to work is those who have surpluses to allow their citizens to consume more so they can import the goods produced in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and elsewhere so that the economy of those countries can work. So I think in that regard, Germany has not played its role in this important respect.


You also talked about how the older generations have in a way ruined the economy  and the youth has been left to face the consequences. What do you think should be the attitude of young people who are now up against the current conditions?

I did not quite say that actually, but it is fair to say that it is the people who have been around for longer who are responsible for these problems and in many ways young people are victimised in the most telling way, for example the lack of employment. There is nothing worse than to invest in yourself, finish your studies and then not be able to do what you have prepared yourself to do. So I think the blame game will not help anybody. I think pressure has to be applied to do the things that are necessary, encourage investors from this country or from abroad, those who will invest in creating employment opportunities. Unfortunately, much of the youth have to find jobs in other countries. That in itself is not a bad thing. My own view is that the global welfare improves when people move around. People don’t object when people move from Athens to Thessaloniki or from Istanbul  to Ankara, or from Limassol to Nicosia to find jobs. It shouldn’t be a problem if you have to go to England or Germany. It’s more difficult, I admit, but I think that will be part of globalization now, that there will be more mobility of labor and people should be ready. They should prepare themselves with languages, they should prepare themselves with the ethos, the psychology and the culture to operate anywhere.


 

What is the most important thing you have learned through your various positions and involvement in such issues?

There is a number of things I think that people should have in mind. Always say things the way you see them. I think in some way we are sometimes unjust to people thinking that they will not understand or appreciate reality, so we sugar-coat things. Good economics tends to be good politics in the end. People are mature enough to understand. Thinking straight and talking straight is the best advice that can be given to people.