|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-second General Assembly
69th, 70th & 71st Meetings (AM, PM & Night)
SPEAKERS CALL FOR POLITICAL WILL, STRONG PARTNERSHIPS, SMART INVESTMENT TO BUILD
BETTER WORLD FOR CHILDREN, AS GENERAL ASSEMBLY’S HIGH-LEVEL SESSION CONTINUES
Also Stress That, despite Progress in Target Areas of 2002 Action Plan,
Millions of Children Remain Victims of Hunger, Violence, HIV/AIDS, Exploitation
Acknowledging that the road to 2010 and to 2015, the years on which most targets for children converge, would be strewn with obstacles -– from grinding poverty and humanitarian crises, to the effects of HIV/AIDS and global warming -- General Assembly delegations today called for steadfast political determination, strong partnerships, smart investment to help build a better world for children.
Political will, global cooperation and targeted funding, particularly for education and health care, were desperately needed to ensure that today’s children were prepared to shoulder the challenges of the future, speakers stressed, as the Assembly opened day two of its landmark conference reviewing progress towards “A World Fit for Children”, the Plan of Action to improve the lives of young people, adopted at the Assembly’s 2002 twenty-seventh special session. That plan supported the Millennium Goals and urged action in four target areas: promoting healthy lives; providing quality education; protecting against abuse; and combating HIV and AIDS.
The meeting opened on a sombre note with a message from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who said he felt compelled to urgently address the Assembly in the wake of yesterday’s terrorist bombing against the United Nations premises in Algiers. Calling the incident “an attack on us all and our highest ideals”, he vowed not to let the tragedy deter the world body from carrying out its mission to help those most in need.
“This was a despicable strike against individuals serving humanity’s highest ideals under the UN banner,” Mr. Ban told the Assembly via satellite from Bali, Indonesia, where it was close to midnight, and where he was attending a United Nations Climate Change Conference. He said the attack was one more ugly reminder that terrorism remained the scourge of our times, and all must be resolute in pursuing those that preyed on the innocent. He called on the Assembly to stand united. It was important to work together to bring perpetrators to justice.
When speakers took the floor to highlight national strategies to promote children’s rights, Rita Sobral, a youth delegate from Portugal, speaking on behalf of the European Union, set the tone. She said she was aware that a lot had been done so far, but the truth was that millions of children were still victims of hunger, violence, discrimination, HIV/AIDS and all kinds of exploitation. Further, girls were suffering immensely, only because they were born girls. That was hard to believe “and impossible to accept”. Calling on Governments to act decisively, she said she hoped and believed that a better future for all children was possible.
Victoriana Nchama Nsue Okomo, Secretary of State for International Cooperation of Equatorial Guinea, said that children were not only the future, but also the present, so long-term goals must be based on their current situation. Education had been identified as one of the main pillars for ensuring the future of her country. Without it, there was no way of creating understanding of such important issues as prevention and the fight against HIV/AIDS, the rights of the child, democracy, tolerance, and climate change, she said.
“If we cannot ensure the integral training of children in the present, to speak about future plans is pure utopia,” she said, stressing that poverty eradication, universal primary education, reduction of child mortality, the fight against the spread of disease, and ensuring a sustainable environment must be dealt with in an integrated fashion. By 2015, those who were children today would be young people and many of the people here in the Assembly would be elderly. “Have we ensured that we have prepared [them] to shoulder the challenges of the future?” she asked, appealing to the international community for swift action to implement agreed objectives.
Bangladesh’s representative said his country had intensified national efforts to implement all the agreed-upon commitments, with a few failures, many difficulties and some notable successes. Bangladesh had increased collaboration with development partners, and the Government’s relationship with non-governmental organizations and civil society was stronger than ever. As a result, there had been significant improvements in social and health indicators for children, including reductions in under-five mortality rates, infant, as well as maternal mortality ratios and school dropout figures, in addition to notable improvements in immunization, sanitation and access to safe drinking water.
Despite those gains, however, major challenges persisted, with poverty and recurring natural disasters being stumbling blocks. He said that just last month a cyclone had devastated the lives of millions and wiped out considerable progress made in poverty eradication in affected areas. International assistance was less than had been assured, and still less when compared to the commitment shown by the Government and the progress it had achieved.
Unless significant new inflows of resources were injected into the system, it would be difficult to sustain progress and arrive at agreed targets for children and the Millennium Development Goals, he said. That situation was not unique to Bangladesh, but reflected a global culture where commitments and pledges by the international community were often not fully honoured. The commemorative meeting should be seized to renew political commitment, at national and international levels, to invest more in children and to provide a better future for posterity.
Picking up that thread, Liechtenstein’s representative was among the many speakers who underscored the mixed progress in achieving a world fit for children. He was concerned by the “stark discrepancy” between international norms and standards on children’s rights, and their weak implementation. The Convention on the Rights of the Child had the highest number of State parties of any international treaty in history, yet States had failed to protect children’s most basic rights, he said.
Beyond that, he said children’s rights were actively being violated as they suffered physical and psychological cruelty at home, were being dragged into armed conflict, and trafficked or sexually abused. Full respect for children’s physical and psychological integrity must be a universally applied rule of civilization, he added, welcoming regional initiatives aimed at promoting universal standards. At the same time, he noted that, despite progress made under the leadership of the Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict, more must be done to bridge the large implementation gap in that field.
Liechtenstein attached great importance to children’s well-being locally, nationally and internationally, he continued. Priorities for the long-term welfare for children and young people focused on support for families, including through financial measures, recreation, and quality of life, among other areas. To fully implement the 2002 Declaration and the Plan of Action, States must scale up their response to the remaining challenges, and Liechtenstein was committed to increasing partnerships in that regard. It also planned to reach an official development assistance percentage of 0.6 per cent next year.
When the Assembly began its work in the afternoon, Esperanza Cabral, Minister of Social Welfare and Development of the Philippines, presented the conclusions of a round table held yesterday on “promoting healthy lives and combating HIV and AIDS”. Cecilia Landerreche Gomez Morin, Minister, Head of the National System for Integral Family Development of Mexico, summed up a second round-table discussion, held earlier in the day on “providing universal quality education as a key to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and the first line of protection against abuse, exploitation and violence against children”.
Others participating in the commemorative meeting were the Ministers and senior Government officials from Guatemala, Portugal (on behalf of the European Union), Republic of Korea, Croatia, Canada, India, Zambia, Ecuador, United Kingdom, Israel, Spain, Colombia, Germany, Indonesia, Tajikistan, Burkina Faso, Uruguay, Syria, Nepal, Bahrain, Serbia and Malawi.
Also addressing the plenary were the representatives of Iceland, Saudi Arabia, Austria, Peru, Cuba, Tunisia, Sri Lanka, United States, Japan, Turkey, Monaco, Qatar, Australia, Russian Federation, Kuwait, New Zealand, Sudan, Senegal, Benin, Lebanon, Ireland, Yemen, Libya, Iran, Moldova, Bhutan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Myanmar.
The Observer for the Council of Europe also spoke, as did the Observer for the League of Arab States.
Also participating in today’s event were youth delegates from the United Kingdom, Israel, Colombia, Uruguay, New Zealand and Yemen.
The General Assembly will reconvene tomorrow, Thursday, 13 December, at 10 a.m. to conclude its commemorative high-level plenary devoted to the follow-up to the outcome of the twenty-seventh special session on children.
The General Assembly met today to continue its high-level plenary on the follow-up to the outcome of the 2002 special session on children. (For background, see Press Release GA/10672 of 11 December.)
General Assembly President Statement
General Assembly President SRGJAN KERIM, of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, began today’s meeting by conveying to the Government and people of Algeria the Assembly’s profound sorrow at the tragic events that targeted the United Nations premises in Algiers yesterday. He also extended the Assembly’s deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the United Nations staff members who were killed or wounded as a result of the bomb attack.
He then announced that the Assembly would hear a message from the Secretary-General, and invited delegates to take part in a moment of silent prayer or meditation.
United Nations Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON, speaking by videoconference, said it was close to midnight in Bali, Indonesia, but he had felt compelled to urgently address the General Assembly in the wake of yesterday’s attack in Algiers, Algeria. Words could not express his shock and outrage at the despicable strike against those serving the world’s highest ideals under the United Nations banner.
The dead were still being counted, and searches were underway for those missing, not only United Nations staff, but also innocent Algerians. Their sacrifice would not be forgotten. He had expressed condolences to the President of Algeria and to Algerians, and had asked the President to take all measures to ensure safety. He had further requested United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Director Kemal Derviş to fly to Algiers immediately. The security and well-being of United Nations staff was paramount, and he, as Secretary-General, would take every measure to ensure their safety, beginning with a review of security provisions policies.
All remembered the August 2003 attack on United Nations Headquarters in Bagdad, he continued. Since then, measures had been taken to increase the security of United Nations premises around the world. Meanwhile, United Nations staff continued their dangerous work; their mission would always be to help those most in need. Indeed, colleagues in Algiers would ask no less.
The attack in Algiers was one more ugly reminder that terrorism remained the scourge of our times, and all must be resolute in pursuing those that preyed on the innocent, he said. As Secretary-General, he wished to assure delegates that he would continue to work with them to combat that danger. “Let us salute our brave men and women”, he said, as the attack in Algiers was “an attack on us all and our highest ideals.” He called on the Assembly to stand united. It was important to work together to bring perpetrators to justice.
CARMEN MALDONADO DE WENNIER, Secretary for Social Welfare of Guatemala, noting that Guatemala had had problems with a population in which more than 50 per cent were young people under 25 years old, said they were the country’s “human capital”, and efforts were under way for their development. Guatemala had started various measures that had prompted some progress. The Ministry of Education had worked to achieve 97 per cent attendance in primary school, and it was hoped that the remaining 3 per cent would be addressed next year through remote education. To prevent criminality, national actions had focused on the individual as “a complete human”, and efforts to address that issue started from the premise that it was important to listen to the children’s hearts. “We have to cure physical and spiritual hunger,” she said.
Continuing, she said Guatemala in 2003 had implemented a law for the comprehensive protection of children and adolescents. In 2004, the country had started a plan of action, under which successful programmes were being carried out, focusing on “growing up well in the home”, which placed mothers as the managers of development. On fighting HIV/AIDS, the country had implemented a national plan and was working to decrease mother-to-child transmission. Working with other countries, the Government had developed a handbook to deal with abandoned children.
To combat trafficking in children, Guatemala had created an office within the Public Ministry, and a strategic plan had been implemented. The country also adhered to The Hague Convention on international adoptions, which would come into force on 31 December. There would be a change of Government on 14 January, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had suggested a road map. She supported the declaration to be adopted at the end of the session, adding that to achieve goals, “let us think with maturity”.
IDÁLIA MONIZ, Secretary of State to the Minister of Rehabilitation of Portugal, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that now was an excellent occasion to boost the synergies between all those involved, with a view to identifying ways to ensure the full implementation of “A world fit for children”. There were many reasons to celebrate progress in the realization of children’s rights and in the fulfilment of many of the promises made in 2002. The Secretary-General’s report on progress towards a world fit for children demonstrated the progress made in many areas, such as reducing child mortality and malnutrition. In 2006, for the first time in the modern era, the number of children dying before their fifth birthday fell below 10 million. Progress had also been made in ensuring universal primary education for girls and boys; protection of children against abuse, exploitation and violence; and in combating HIV/AIDS. The world was close to eradicating polio and was making rapid progress on measles. States had also demonstrated a commitment to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
However, despite those positive and inspiring achievements, every year, millions of children continued to die from preventable causes, and to be victims of discrimination, violence and exploitation, including child labour and involvement in hazardous work, armed conflicts, poverty and insecurity, she went on. In a world full of promise, of new technologies, communication, wealth and opportunity, many children were still left out. Many countries continued to face constraints on their capacity to provide systems to ensure widespread, equitable access to basic services that were critical for child survival, development and protection, such as health care, clean water and sanitation, and quality education. Many children -- in particular girls, children in rural areas, indigenous children, children belonging to ethnic minorities or migrant children, and children affected by HIV/AIDS -- were victims of discrimination, poverty and exclusion.
She said it was clear that by investing in children, the foundation was laid for a world that cared and where passivity and indifference had no place. It was true that a lot remained to be done, but the normative framework of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, together with the agenda for the decade agreed upon at the special session, as well as the results of the current mid-decade review, were a strong foundation for the way forward. In Portugal, the Convention had led the Government to look at the child, and at all children, differently.
RITA SOBRAL, a youth representative accompanying Ms. Moniz, said that she was aware that a lot had been done so far. However, millions of children were still victims of hunger, violence, discrimination, HIV/AIDS and all kinds of exploitation. Many girls suffered immensely, only because they were born girls. That situation was hard to believe and impossible to accept. As a young girl and a citizen of the world, she hoped and believed that a better future for all children was possible.
MOON CHANG-JIN, Vice Minister for Health and Welfare of the Republic of Korea, said that his country had made numerous efforts to protect the rights of children, and had also developed a wide array of policies to implement the goals of “A world fit for children”. The Government had formulated the Comprehensive Plan for Child Protection and Development in 2002 and, ever since, the protection of child rights and the monitoring of the Convention on the Rights of the Child had become pillars for child welfare policies in the country. The Government had put in place a comprehensive plan for child safety to prevent child abuse, school violence and child accidents. It was also strengthening the policies on the protection of children from environmental harm. The country’s other initiatives included the plan for children and youth in poverty and the creation of the Child Policy Coordinating Committee.
To improve children’s health and control HIV/AIDS infection among children and adolescents, regular physical examinations were conducted in schools, in order to gather sound data on the trends and develop child health indicators, he continued. Health education, including information on HIV/AIDS, was being distributed among parents and teachers. Government spending on health benefits and support for children in need had been increased. The country’s education budget had been increased, and the Government was doing its utmost to protect children from abuse, exploitation and violence. There were 44 child protection centres across the country, and child protection laws were strictly enforced. In addition, a community-based support system was being developed to help children in crisis. In cooperation with international organizations, the Government had also been providing assistance for the benefit of children around the world, including those in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. At the Inter-Korean Summit in October and the Prime Ministers’ talks in November, the two Koreas had agreed to develop and implement projects to improve nutrition and promote disease prevention for children in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
PJER ŠIMUNOVIĆ, Assistant Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of Croatia, aligning himself with the European Union’s statement, said States parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child were strongly obliged to effectively incorporate its provisions at national and international levels. Croatia was a motivated advocate of efforts to prevent children’s involvement in armed conflict, and considered the Paris Principles and Commitments on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups as a useful guide for common efforts to address those children. He underlined the importance of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, and said in September Croatia had presented its initial report on implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention. Following the Committee’s recommendations, his country in 2003 had established the Office of the Ombudsperson for Children.
Nationally, the Government cooperated with UNICEF to protect children from different forms of violence, and was pleased to share its experiences, he said. Corporal punishment could not be applied at home, in schools, nor implied in the penal system. Also, parents must protect children from humiliating treatment by other people. For children who could not obtain their maintenance rights from parents, he said free legal aid was now offered to any child on whose behalf an individual claim for maintenance was being processed, or on whose behalf an increased maintenance or distress had been placed.
He welcomed the United Nations’ study on violence against children, and hoped States would find the political will to implement its 12 recommendations, notably those for rehabilitative measures. Croatia noted with appreciation the groundbreaking report on the impact of armed conflict on children, which had helped to protect children; an increased international legal framework was particularly important, notably with the first prosecution of perpetrators by international tribunals.
VICTORIANA NCHAMA NSUE OKOMO, Secretary of State for International Cooperation of Equatorial Guinea, said that children were not only the future, but also the present, and long-term goals must be based on the current situation of children. In Equatorial Guinea, education had been identified as one of the main pillars for ensuring the future of the country. Without education, there was no way of creating understanding of such important issues as prevention and the fight against HIV/AIDS, the rights of the child, democracy, tolerance, and climate change. The country, with the support of UNICEF and other partners, had been working to achieve results in many areas, including the fight against malaria and HIV/AIDS, the programme of eradication of polio, periodic inoculation for children and pregnant mothers, and the building of schools and medical centres. A special programme was being implemented to ensure food security, and a fund for future generations had been created in the country.
She said that, in all of those efforts, the Government had incorporated civil society and non-governmental organizations. The country’s First Lady presided over the committee to support Equatorial Guinea’s children, which provided support in such areas as education, health care, and food security. Last month, the Government had organized the second national economic conference to design a new economic vision for 2020. Major resources would be allocated to the social sector, including children, with the necessary support of international agencies. Her Government’s commitment to the welfare of the children was not in doubt.
“If we cannot ensure the integral training of children in the present, to speak about future plans is pure utopia,” she said. The goals of the eradication of extreme poverty; universal primary education; reduction of child mortality; the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; and ensuring a sustainable environment must be dealt with in an integrated fashion. By 2015, those who were children today would be young people, and many of those present would be old people. “Have we ensured that we prepared the children to shoulder the challenges of the future?” she asked. Towards that end, it was necessary to ensure quality education and protection of children against abuse, exploitation and violence, and to promote a better quality of life, in particular thorough fighting HIV/AIDS. Culture or customs should not be used as a defence for the abuse of children. She appealed for action for the implementation of policies adopted.
RAYNELL ANDERYCHUK ( Canada) noted that her delegation included two youth representatives, who had been “the most active of our contingent”. Canada recognized the need to invest in its children and youth, and continued to develop policies to ensure their health and well-being, while also helping to address the challenges of tomorrow. The country’s National Plan of Action, “A Canada fit for children”, was the product of extensive consultations, including with Canadian children and youth. The Government was working to ensure that all Canadian children were healthy, including aboriginal children and youth. In particular, it was striving, in collaboration with aboriginal leaders and provincial and territorial governments, to improve the socio-economic well-being of aboriginal children and families through consideration of their unique needs.
While half of the country’s youth were in post-secondary education, many without advanced education would face problems when entering the workforce, she continued. Those issues were of major concern in countries like Canada, with the impending retirement of its ageing population and the increasing impact of globalization. While the number of children exposed to HIV from their mothers had declined due to increased antiretroviral treatment, the proportion of older youth contracting HIV was still significant.
“All of us here today understand that children are one of the more vulnerable populations in the world and, as such, they need and deserve our protection, particularly from violence and exploitation,” she said. In Canada, the Government had moved forward with policies and practices that could better protect children, such as stronger penalties for the trafficking of persons, including children. Provincial and territorial child welfare legislation had been strengthened to prohibit a range of violence, including physical and sexual assault, emotional harm, exposure to domestic violence, and forms of neglect. Canada was pursuing efforts to prevent all forms of family violence, including child maltreatment and neglect. Canada was also pleased to have been involved in the United Nations study on violence against children. The rights of the child should be a priority for everybody. She called on States that had not yet done so to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child. “In our individual and collective efforts, let us direct our full attention to implementation of this critically important Convention,” she said.
ANIL KUMAR, Secretary of the Ministry of Women and Child Development of India, said that the progress achieved so far was rather mixed. Achievement of targets in four major areas of the special session –- promoting healthy lives; providing quality education; protecting children against abuse, exploitation and violence; and combating HIV/AIDS –- would also strongly reinforce the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Under-five mortality had been reduced to less than 10 million in 2006, but a significant number of countries were unlikely to meet the goal of two-thirds reduction by 2015. Of the 2.2 billion children under age 15 in the world, an estimated 1 billion lived in poverty. Progress towards the goals of universal enrolment and ending gender disparity was encouraging; however, major challenges persisted regarding school attendance and quality of learning. He supported the Secretary-General’s call to fill the financing gap -– the difference between what developing countries needed to achieve the goals and what they could mobilize from their own resources -– by raising the official development assistance of developed countries.
India had been adopting an integrated approach for the welfare of children, who comprised 42 per cent of the country’s population –- the largest child population in the world, he said. The country had adopted a national charter for children, and its achievements in respect to all indicators for children over the past decade had been positive. Many challenges remained, however, and the country was determined to pursue them with greater vigour and allocation of greater resources. Among other things, a child budgeting review had been initiated. The Government had resolved to increase public spending on education to at least 6 per cent of the gross domestic product, with at least half of that amount earmarked for the primary and secondary education sectors. The largest early childhood development programme in the world was currently implemented in India, under the Integrated Child Development Services programme. Free and compulsory education was a fundamental right for all of the country’s children in the 6 to 14 years of age group, and a universal elementary education scheme had contributed towards the realization of Millennium Development Goal 2 in India.
Several initiatives had been undertaken to create a protective environment for children, and the country remained strongly committed to full eradication of all forms of child labour, he said. India was committed to promoting healthy lives and combating HIV/AIDS. The National AIDS Control Organization had developed a clear and effective response for every segment of the community, including children. India’s first paediatric programme on HIV/AIDS had been launched in November 2006 to enhance coverage of children living with HIV/AIDS and provide them with specific paediatric formulations. In all its endeavours, the Government was working closely with civil society organizations, including non-governmental organizations.
BOBBY MBUNJI SAMAKAI, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Sport, Youth and Child Development of Zambia, said that his country remained committed to promoting the well-being of children, as evidenced by the integration of the commitments of “A world fit for children” and the Millennium Development Goals in the country’s revised National Child Policy, the Fifth National Development Plan and the poverty reduction strategies. Zambia had also ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international human rights instruments related to the child. Furthermore, Zambia had embarked on the process of reviewing various pieces of legislation to bring them into line with international standards.
In its efforts to protect children, Zambia had undertaken measures that included a review of the Child Protective Acts to provide for stiffer penalties for perpetrators of violence against children, he went on. The Government had also continued to support the efforts of non-governmental organizations and other institutions caring for orphans and vulnerable children. The devastating impact of HIV/AIDS on all sectors of the economy, communities, households, and particularly children, continued to be a major challenge for Zambia. In its effort to tackle that problem, a multisectoral integrated strategic plan aimed at prevention of HIV transmission, treatment, care and support had been developed. A number of key measures and initiatives were being implemented, including the provision of antiretrovirals. With the support of its cooperating partners, Zambia had also introduced paediatric antiretroviral formulations to children and had revised its school curriculum to incorporate issues of HIV/AIDS, in order to strengthen provision of information to children.
He noted that, although Zambia had recorded some progress in the implementation of the goals of “A world fit for children”, much more remained to be done for the targets to be achieved in the remaining period. Accelerated action was required, particularly in the areas of resource mobilization. Zambia would continue to call on the international community, its cooperating partners and civil society to support its efforts at achieving those goals.
SARA OVIEDO, Executive Secretary of the National Council of Children and Adolescents of Ecuador, said her country was among those that had signed international treaties to create a legal framework to guarantee children’s rights. Such agreements were leading countries in the right direction. At the same time, today, as the plan of action was being evaluated, provided a unique opportunity for her country to reaffirm its commitment to guarantee the rights of its 5 million children and adolescents. In July 2003, a new law on children and adolescents had come into force. Further, the country had reduced infant morality by 2 per cent. On education, she said the social agenda for children contained ambitious goals, and had promoted the eradication of violence in the education system. In the face of new forms of violence -– including child prostitution and transnational gangs -– Ecuador had reformed its penal code.
On children’s participation, she said last year there had been a campaign called “Look Me in the Eye”, in which children had expressed their priorities. The Government was now taking action on those demands. One success had been the establishment of the first public body for children and adolescents, charged with monitoring progress. She stressed that, at the South American meeting on climate change, 170 adolescents had demanded from Governments a clear attitude on dealing with that phenomenon. Also, Ecuador had reduced extreme poverty, and had increased social spending aimed at basic social services. The 2002-2006 period had seen an increase in social investments.
She said Ecuador had also dealt with serious constraints. The Inter-American Institute for Children and Adolescents had held a special meeting to look at implementing new laws, public policies and ways to implement institutional readjustment. The declaration to be adopted at this meeting stressed the appointment of a Special Representative on violence against children, and Ecuador would support its mandate.
ANNE JACKSON, Director of the Child Well-Being Group, Department for Children, Schools and Families of the United Kingdom, said that improving the lives of children and young people was a major priority for her country. A substantial body of legislation had been put in place by her Government and the Devolved Administrations –- in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. In England, a new Children’s Plan had been published yesterday, setting out a comprehensive set of actions for children and young people, and to help the country make further progress measured against the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Internationally, the country was committed to tackling child and intergenerational poverty, and to improving the conditions of children in countries in which its Department for International Development worked, seeking to ensure that children and young people had a direct say in policies and programmes that affected them. As the second largest donor to UNICEF in 2006, the United Kingdom had been helping to fund child protection programmes for children and adolescents most at risk and vulnerable to HIV infection.
The United Kingdom was providing $15 billion over 10 years in support of countries seeking to achieve the education Millennium Development Goals. In July 2007, the country’s Prime Minister and the United Nations Secretary-General had launched the Millennium Development Call to Action, with the support of the heads of Government and private sector leaders. An essential pillar was children’s basic right to education. She also highlighted the Government’s work to tackle online child abuse, saying that, in 2006, a new Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre had been set up in the country. The Government carried out proactive investigations, worked with police around the world to protect children, and played an active role in a range of international efforts in that regard.
Despite commitment at the highest level in the United Kingdom, the Government was very conscious that much more remained to be done, both domestically and internationally, to tackle issues such as child abuse, poverty, and health and well-being challenges, she said.
Also speaking for the United Kingdom were child delegates IQRA BILAL and ALEX WHITE. Ms. BILAL said that, within the country, there was an extensive youth participation network, giving young people many opportunities to express their views, such as the United Kingdom Youth Parliament and school councils. To further improve youth participation, it was necessary to ensure that every school had such a council, and that youth forums were more accessible and better publicized. Children who were not in school must get the opportunity to have their voices heard and influence decision-making, as well.
Mr. WHITE added that young people and children should feel more involved with democratic and political decision-making, both domestically and internationally. The child delegates were involved in a project that had allowed them to hear the ideas and views of many children. By doing that, they had found that many children did not know about the Convention on the Rights of the Child. So, the question was how would they be able to defend their rights, or get support, if they did not know those rights existed? Children in the United Kingdom would also like to eliminate all forms of discrimination and promote equality and respect between people of all ages.
YITZHAK KADMAN, Executive Director, National Council for the Child of Israel, said that his country’s strong commitment to children’s rights could be seen in its accession to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was reaffirmed in its signing, in November 2001, of the two Optional Protocols to the Convention, on the involvement of children in armed conflict and on the prohibition of the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. The First Optional Protocol had already been ratified, and the country was at an advanced stage towards ratifying the second.
He said that there had been a number of innovative, unique and pioneering programmes in Israel. Those included an Ombudsman for Children and Youth, which served as an advocate for all children across the nation. The Ombudsman fielded 10,000 inquiries each year regarding all aspects of life, and employed professionals representing all groups in the population. There was also the Children’s Rights Mobile Unit, which provided creative and enjoyable educational programmes to teach children’s rights and responsibilities to elementary school-age children around the country. In addition, there was the State of the Child in Israel, a comprehensive statistical abstract published annually. The publication reviewed all aspects and dimensions regarding the state of the child in Israel.
He announced that, since 2000, Israel had prohibited the use of corporal punishment both at home and in school. That policy met the Convention’s requirements. Unfortunately, fewer than 20 countries had adopted that requirement to date.
In the conflict in its region, Israeli and Palestinian children had suffered unjustly, he went on. It was the obligation of all parties to that conflict to respect the rights of children and adhere to the rule of law. The life of every child, no matter his or her nationality, was precious. It was the responsibility of the nations of the region to ensure that they had a prosperous, safe and nurturing present and future. There was no interest of higher importance. The protection of children was a cause that could bring those countries together and heal the rifts in the region. In an example of how the welfare of children crossed political boundaries, three Israeli doctors recently travelled to Jordan on behalf of Save a Child’s Heart –- an Israeli humanitarian organization –- to treat Iraqi children. That organization had treated more than 1,700 children, including many Arabs, Palestinians, Jordanians and Iraqis.
AVSHALOM ZAUDI, an Israeli youth delegate, who accompanied Mr. Kadman, made a presentation on the consequences of skimping on services for children.
AMPARO MARZAL, General Director for Family and Children of Spain, said that in the past few years, her country had undertaken a great deal of legislative, social and cultural initiatives that had contributed to the efforts to call attention to the needs of children and adolescents as rightful citizens. The progress in policy-making and development had facilitated the insertion of the principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child into national legislation. Spain’s commitment had allowed it to identify new objectives, through the development and adoption of a National Strategic Plan for Children and Adolescents (2006-2009). That plan had been agreed to by all public administrations, non-governmental organizations and other parties.
In the coming years, Spain’s main concern would be to promote knowledge and action, and to evaluate the implementation of the rights of boys and girls, she continued. For that purpose, Spain would rely on a permanent body in charge of the follow-up of social policies affecting children, the Children’s Observatory. The main objective of the Observatory was to create an information system to identify the actual situation of the child population and, thus, develop actions aimed at improving the quality of life of children. Spain carried out programmes aimed at prevention and eradication of child abuse, conciliation of family and work life, support to families in difficult situations, and assistance to unaided foreign children.
She added that Spain was strengthening a culture of children’s societal participation in children-related issues through group action, the establishment of communication channels, and development of methods of programme financing through funding by the Department of Labour and Social Affairs. Spain had become an immigrant-receiving country and, increasingly, a place where a great variety of cultures lived together. That situation influenced the attitude of public action in favour of children. The commitment to guarantee the best possible quality life for boys and girls, regardless of their personal family and social circumstances, had been manifested in the recognition of the right to equal opportunities in education, health and social services for all foreign children living in Spain.
ELVIRA FORERO HERNANDEZ, Director-General of the Institute for Family Welfare of Colombia, reaffirmed the commitment to build a world fit for children, reiterating that children’s rights were a national priority. Indeed, their rights prevailed over those of others, a fact established by her country’s Constitution, which stated that the family, society and the State had the duty to protect them from exploitation, among other things.
The adoption of laws and polices had strengthened regulatory frameworks and institutions responsible for children’s development. The Childhood and Adolescence Law recognized children as rights holders, and Colombia sought to guarantee their development in a safe and protected environment. A particular emphasis had been given to such areas as identity, health care, nutrition and full vaccination. Also, the National Development Plan for the 2006-2010 period included strategies for improving childcare, especially in early childhood. The Government had doubled the budget of the Institute for Family Welfare, which, along with other initiatives, was encouraging, given that economic growth had progressed at 6 per cent annually. In education, the Government hoped to provide early education to 400,000 children under the age of five.
The Government, with other national and international bodies, had implemented programmes to care for children recruited by armed groups, all of which had been formulated with a gender perspective, and had incorporated related social programmes, which focused on high-risk municipalities. Last December, the Government had established an intersectoral group to prevent children’s recruitment into illegally organized groups. Under the Plan for Children and Youth for 2007-2017, Colombia planned for children to have adequate living conditions, and called upon States to provide support for its national policies. Willingness of donor countries would be decisive for full implementation of policies designed to guarantee children’s rights, and she appealed to States to help children, the most vulnerable segment of the population.
JOSE GREGORIO OSPINO, a young participant who did not have parents, then concluded her statement, saying Colombia was an inclusive nation, and the cooperative work of adults and youth was important. It was a fundamental step to preserve an environment of happiness, love and understanding that would help realize the dreams of all youth and adolescents throughout the world.
GÜNTER NOOKE, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid of Germany, said that his country had introduced a national action plan “For a Germany fit for children 2005-2010”, which aimed to establish child and youth policy as a field of politics in its own right. The plan contained around 170 measures to be implemented by 2010 in the areas of creating equal opportunities through education, non-violent upbringing, promoting a healthy life and environment, participation of children and young people, developing an adequate standard of living for children, and international commitments. In developing the plan, the Government had worked closely with key players from politics and civil society. Legislative action had been taken in recent years against violence in bringing up children, and laws had been promulgated on parental leave and child credit, along with the Youth Protection Act.
The Government’s other initiatives included a capital investment programme to build up all-day schooling in Germany, and a campaign to identify risks and prevent threats to children’s well-being. In April this year, the country’s national, state and local governments had agreed to increase the number of childcare places for children under the age of three, from 285,000 at present to 750,000 by 2013. Children and young people had participated in the development and implementation of the national action plan, and the results were reflected in a children and youth report complementing the plan. Germany also continued to support initiatives at the regional and international levels, and in international human rights forums, to make children’s rights a priority in international policies and decision-making. This year, Germany had proposed the development of new European Union guidelines on the rights of the child. That project had been successfully concluded two days ago, with the adoption of the guidelines by the European Union Council.
BUDI BOWOLEKSONO, Deputy Director-General for Multilateral Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, said the Secretary-General’s report had emphasized that serious challenges persisted in all priority areas. Since adopting the Declaration and the Plan of Action, Indonesia had pursued actions at the highest political level possible through the National Programme for Indonesian Children 2015. He described progress in various areas, saying compulsory education was required to age 13, and work was underway to increase enrolment at the secondary level. Child labour legislation was also designed to prevent premature entry into the workforce.
On health issues, he said the aim was to reduce infant mortality and maternal mortality rates each by one third of their 2001 levels. HIV/AIDS prevention was being mainstreamed in the national education curriculum, and adolescents were being empowered to safeguard themselves from the disease. Care was being taken to protect children who had become orphans due to natural disaster, and Indonesia strongly supported their reunification with the closest of kin.
On children in conflict situations, he urged maximum pressure to ensure that children were not abused in that manner, as there must be no child soldiers anywhere. Further the climate change meeting in Bali would have an important bearing on children’s future. The continued financing for development, capacity-building and technology transfer were essential to helping countries tackle issues affecting children. Indonesia was determined to ensure the increased well-being of its children, who were the nation’s “most precious resource”.
DILOROM MIRSAIDOVA, Head of the Department of Youth Affairs, Sport and Tourism of the Office of the President of Tajikistan, said that State support for families and children was among her Government’s highest priorities. However, civil conflict and its consequences had negatively affected the situation of families and children in the country. Some 2.8 million of the country’s 7 million people were under the age of 18. Additional difficulties were created by Tajikistan’s high birth rates and labour migration abroad. Nevertheless, the country’s achievements were evident, as much had been done to solve its socio-economic problems. Social protection of children was no exception.
Social sector reforms had been implemented in the country since the end of the 1990s, with greater budget allocations devoted to the relevant sectors, she continued. The situations of children with special needs and orphans were at the centre of the Government’s attention. Among Tajikistan’s efforts, she mentioned the elaboration of the poverty reduction strategy for 2007-2009 and the adoption of the national plan of action for children for 2003-2010. A National Commission on the Rights of the Child had been established in 2001, with support from UNICEF. Prepared in 2006, the country’s second report on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child reflected Tajikistan’s significant achievements and outlined its plans for the future.
The Government had also elaborated a public health strategy and a family planning programme, which covered maternal and child health, she continued. Among the Government’s other efforts, she outlined the establishment of a centre for children’s diseases, immunization programmes, and the adoption of laws and a strategy on reproductive health and rights, as well as measures to combat HIV/AIDS. Basic education was free and mandatory in Tajikistan. The national concept of education envisioned a comprehensive reform in that area. Parent-teacher associations were being set up in the country, and subsidies had been introduced for students from poor families. A recent national study on the nature and scale of child labour had been broadly discussed in the country. Within the framework of those efforts, the country in 2005 had joined the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention on heavy forms of child labour.
FRANÇOISE TAPSOBA, General Secretary of the Ministry of Social Action and National Solidarity of Burkina Faso, said efforts had been made to align national programmes with the world fit for children agenda. She noted various initiatives that had been implemented, among them: the 10-year plan for education; the national plan for health (2001-2010); the national framework to combat HIV/AIDS for the 2001-2005 and 2006-2010 periods; and the 2006-2010 national action plan for the survival, protection and protection of the child. Other initiatives allowed the Government and its development partners to monitor progress towards achieving a world fit for children. Such efforts included a periodic survey on multiple indicators of health, education, and access to water, and the annual survey on indicators of well-being. Further, impact studies were being systematically planned. However, all such actions had been limited by a lack of funding. Despite that difficult situation, her country was hopeful, and the 2006-2010 period would be focused on children.
All citizens had the right to education, and school was mandatory to age 16, she explained. In terms of health, efforts had been made reduce maternal and child mortality rates, as well as malnutrition among children under the age of five. Measures to improve access to safe drinking water had also been pursued. Regarding protection, emphasis would be placed on the creation of secondary administrative centres in villages, which would provide free birth registrations. She also noted the implementation of a communication plan to combat early marriage and child trafficking. A national policy of social action had been created, targeting vulnerable groups in particular. In closing, she thanked, among others, UNICEF for its determination and activities, which had made it possible for her country to contribute to a midterm review report.
VICTOR GIORGI, President, Institution for Children and Adolescents, Uruguay, said that he would begin by yielding the microphone for two youth delegates from his country.
Mr. OLIVERA, the first youth delegate, said that children in difficult situations in his country often had to work and beg, and were unable to study. They were often mistreated not only by their parents, but also by society at large, and were rejected by some educational institutions. When they committed offences, and if they did not live in the capital city, they were often taken away from their families and friends. In that regard, every enterprise coming to do business in his country should undertake to make space available for jobs for young people who had no other opportunities.
Ms. LUZARDO, the second youth delegate, appealed to other young people not to turn to drugs, as that carried risks and was not a solution to their problems. To address the problem of drugs, she proposed that schools should have available more information on all drugs in existence and their consequences. There should also be more centres to deal with the problem of drugs.
Mr. GIORGI said that the past 18 years had been regressive with regard to wealth distribution, and that had had a negative impact on children and had made the world more fragile. There had been a deterioration in the rights of children, despite the progress that had been made in recent years. In 2004, 55 per cent of children in Uruguay lived below the poverty line. Two years later, that number had gone down by 10 per cent, to 45 per cent. The country was now developing a fairness plan, which it would start implementing in January. That plan embodied such activities as increases in the funds allocated to families for the care of children. It was hoped that the plan would lead to a reduction in poverty. Uruguay had also moved on the interdiction of sexual exploitation of children with a series of actions taken this year.
Mr. Giorgi reconfirmed Uruguay’s commitment to ensuring that the protection of the rights of children and adolescents would become a reality, and said that it was the responsibility of every State to continue to work for a world fit for children, which would be a better world for all.
ESPERANZA CABRAL, Minister of Social Welfare and Development of the Philippines, presented the conclusions of the first round table on “promoting healthy lives and combating HIV and AIDS”, noting that good progress had been made in reducing child mortality in the five years since the 2002 special session on children. For the first time, the number of children dying before their fifth birthday had fallen below 10 million to 9.7 million, marking an important milestone in child survival. More than 10 million 15- to 24-year-olds were currently living with HIV, and about 15 million children worldwide had lost one or both parents to AIDS. The round-table discussions highlighted lessons learned, challenges ahead, and strategies required to fulfil commitments made.
Child delegates had requested more coordinated efforts to accelerate the reduction of high under-five mortality rates, and had asked delegates to indicate how countries would ensure that pharmaceutical companies provided sufficient vaccines and medicines throughout the world, including the development of a drug against HIV. They had also asked for specific information on progress by countries in improving paediatric HIV treatment. In addition, they drew attention to a resurgence of polio and the long-term implications of climate change on the well-being of children. Others cited great progress in increasing coverage of health and nutrition interventions, but noted the lack of financial resources, skilled human capacity, and functional public systems. Gender inequality, stigma and discrimination were also barriers to effective health and HIV responses. In addition, medicines, diagnostics and other HIV-related commodities were still not widely accessible. Participants emphasized the need for multidisciplinary coordinated responses involving national and international partners, along with a plan that matched national priorities.
She said participants stressed that prevention interventions with and for young people were a key priority for the future as antiretroviral treatment could not be sustained in the long-term. Youth delegates had stressed that they had the capacity to participate and fulfil their responsibilities in the HIV/AIDS response. In the long term, predictable financing through the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, from bilaterals and through national development instruments such as poverty reduction strategies, would be important to sustain the response.
Summing up Round Table II on “providing universal quality education as a key to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and the first line of protection against abuse, exploitation and violence against children”, Co-Chair CECILIA LANDERRECHE GOMEZ MORIN, Minister, Head of the National System for Integral Family Development of Mexico, said that child delegates had driven the discussions and had requested responses to several questions, including what Governments were doing to eliminate discrimination and promote quality education for those in poor and marginalized families; what was being done to make quality education a reality for all children; how to ensure quality education by addressing issues such as overcrowding, lack of adequate materials and teaching tools; and ways to boost and monitor teacher training.
She said most participants agreed that ensuring that all children had access to education remained urgent, and many expressed the need to deal with disparities among children, and to make sure that excluded groups were included in education plans, policies and budget allocations. That would entail, among other things, paying more attention to gender issues and the situation of girls in schools, as well as to other pressing issues such as child labour; rural children; indigenous, ethnic and minority groups; and children impacted by HIV and AIDS. She said that several speakers gave examples of strategies and programmes aimed at promoting education for all, and stressed that such programmes aimed not only to empower children, but also bolstered national efforts to attain internationally agreed development goals.
Participants also highlighted the need for all stakeholders to work together on children’s education, and stressed that public-private partnerships were critical to that end. Further, some speakers highlighted the Education for All Fast-Track Initiative (EFA-FTI) as an important example of cooperation between Governments, donors and others to ensure strong sector plans and international resources to countries committed to achieving universal primary education. Among the other issues raised during the discussion, speakers emphasized the importance of coordinating national and regional efforts to strengthen child protection systems. They also noted that educating children about their rights would help protect them for exploitation and abuse.
SIRA ASTOUR, Chairperson of the Family Commission of Syria, said her country had made great strides to improve conditions of children. In the field of health, the rate of child mortality for children under age five had dropped from over 40 per thousand to 19.3 per thousand, while maternal mortality rates had also decreased, indicating the effectiveness of health policies. The immunization rate had increased along with health education, which also grew. In addition, 96.7 per cent of children were enrolled in primary schools, an indicator that Syria was close to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Gender equality in primary education was also a reality. The Government had raised the minimum age of labour to 15 years old, and had adopted the first national policy for children, targeting working children, street children and those requiring special care. A national plan was under consideration.
Regarding Syrian children living under Israeli occupation, there were special concerns, including landmines, the removal of Syrian syllabi in occupied Golan schools, and access by humanitarian organizations to children in this area. In addition, the massive influx of Iraqi refugees was a concern, including the thousands of child refugees. Syria had done its best to integrate Iraqi child refugees into schools to provide them with an education. In total, there were almost 1 million child refugees, including Palestinian children, and that was an issue that must be addressed.
PUNYA PRASAD NEUPANE, Secretary, Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare of Nepal, said that his country attached great importance to the work of the United Nations, particularly UNICEF, in the protection and development of children. Nepal appreciated the role of UNICEF’s country and regional offices, in implementing and coordinating programmes for children. There had been significant momentum in the protection of the rights of children in his country, especially after the signing of a Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Government and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) in November 2006. That had created a good atmosphere for realizing the rights of children from traditionally marginalized communities such as Dalits, indigenous communities, and poor families living in rural areas. Protection of the rights of children had been reflected in several recently introduced legislative and administrative measures and development programmes.
Nepal’s interim Constitution included children’s rights as a major State responsibility, he said. The Children Act, 1992, provided measures and safeguards for children’s rights. Provisions against child labour and child trafficking had also been included in national policies and laws. Additionally, in order to stop the trafficking of women and children, a human Trafficking Control Act had been enacted. The Government was committed to protecting the rights of children, including those affected by armed conflict. In that regard, it was implementing the recommendations of the Security Council working group. In accordance with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, children found to have been recruited as combatants would be released and rehabilitated back into their families and societies. Nepal was working with the United Nations in the field to develop programmes for their rehabilitation and reintegration.
He added that Nepal attached high priority to the implementation of the plan of action of “A World Fit for Children”. Accordingly, it had adopted a comprehensive national plan of action for the period 2004-2014 which sought to improve the quality of life of children by promoting a child-friendly environment, providing qualitative and free education, and eliminating all forms of exploitation, abuse and discrimination against them. His country had submitted its national progress report on the “Plus 5” review of the “A World Fit For Children Plan of Action”. A national action plan on education for all was also being implemented, focusing on vulnerable and disadvantaged children. It aimed to ensure free and compulsory primary education for all children, particularly girls, by 2015.
KHALID ABDULRAHMAN MOHAMED ISHAQ, Directorate of Childhood Development of Bahrain, said that a healthy childhood was the key to development and the creation of a better future for all. With that in mind, Bahrain had signed a host of instruments on the protection and promotion of the rights of children and had carried out several national programmes to improve children’s welfare on all levels, including legal, cultural and economic. Bahrain had also promoted special programmes to protect children, including foster families and the creation of the Bahrain Centre for the Protection of the Child.
His country had also made great strides in the area of education, and it was now ranked first among all Arab countries in achieving the United Nations-backed goal of education for all. Turning to health issues, he said his Government was actively working to raise the awareness of everyone about HIV and AIDS and had targeted major programmes at the most vulnerable sectors, including pregnant women, drug abusers and youth. The Government also had several initiatives aimed at boosting education for needy families and children.
MAUD de BOER-BUQUICCHIO, Deputy Secretary-General of the observer delegation of the Council of Europe, said her organization was an intergovernmental human rights body that promoted and monitored the commitments of its 47 member States to the protection of children’s rights. Last year, the Council had launched a pan-European programme “Building a Europe for and with Children”, which was a solid platform for the implementation of the recommendations of the United Nations Study on Violence against Children in Europe. The Council had taken concrete measures to promote children’s rights and to eradicate all forms of violence against them.
She said that, since 2002, the Council had set new and far-reaching standards, such as a convention on contact concerning children, which gave children a voice in family matters that related to them. It had also adopted an instrument against human trafficking and another on the protection of children against sexual exploitation, which specifically criminalized certain offences and addressed issues such as sexual tourism. All those treaties were open to non-European States too, she said, encouraging the wider Assembly to consider accession to them. The Council was also developing new policy areas to address, among others, violence in the media, schools and institutions, as well as in families, and the protection of vulnerable children such as migrants, street children, Roma children and children with disabilities, she added.
HJALMAR HANNESSON ( Iceland) reaffirmed Iceland’s strong commitment to fully implement the Declaration and action plan of “A World Fit for Children” and to implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two optional protocols, which it had already ratified. He underscored the importance of close cooperation between the United Nations, Governments and civil society in the promotion and protection of children’s human rights. Violence against children continued worldwide. The study submitted last year by the expert on violence against children identified areas where Member States must take concrete action. No form of violence could be justified and the international community must prevent, eliminate and respond to all violence against children. He greatly emphasized the need to prohibit all forms of violence against children, including corporal punishment. Violence against children had a gender dimension. Girls were by far more vulnerable, particularly as victims of sexual violence.
The newly appointed Special Representative on Violence against Children should act as a high profile and independent global advocate for preventing and eliminating all such forms of violence. He expressed concern over the serious problem of children in armed conflict and urged all States to step up efforts to ensure the safety and security of children living in conflict areas. He fully supported the notion that conflict prevention and promotion of peace and security were the best way to protect children’s rights.
In 2002 and 2003, Iceland completely revised its laws on children and child protection. This year, its Parliament approved the Icelandic National Plan of Action to improve the situation of children, young persons and their families. An inter-ministerial coordinating body was responsible for implementing that action plan, which aimed to improve the financial position of families with children, offer preventative measures to improve children’s health and well-being and measures to benefit children in need of special protection, such as children with immigrant parents, special health concerns, drug addiction, as well as boys and girls who were victims of sexual abuse. In December, the Government introduced a comprehensive school policy and bill to ensure the right of children in pre-, primary and secondary schools to develop to their full potential and prepare for responsible life in a free society in the spirit of tolerance, peace and equality.
ABDULLATIF SALLAM ( Saudi Arabia) said children were the pillar of society and the hope of the future. In 1996, his country acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and had contributed to United Nations efforts to enhance children’s rights at the regional and international levels. It had also participated in drafting many regional instruments and conventions on children’s rights, the rights of the child in the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and guidelines to disseminate human rights concepts in school curricula. The Saudi Constitution guaranteed the rights of children. The Government Statute stipulated that the family was the nucleus and that children were brought up to observe the Islamic faith and cherish their homeland. The family was of paramount importance. Orphans were raised in shelters and homes in accordance with Islamic values.
The Ministry of Health had started the “a doctor for each family” campaign to ensure adequate primary medical care for all families. The Government was also working to take care of the needs of HIV and AIDS victims. In 2006, a total of 11,510 people had HIV or AIDS, including 190 new cases. There were three specialized treatment centres to assist HIV and AIDS victims. A national committee on children coordinated governmental and non-governmental efforts on children’s issues. Legislators were now working on a bill that would protect children from physical, sexual and psychological abuse. Further, Saudi Arabia had launched public information campaigns to raise awareness of children’s issues and had 24-hour hotlines to address child crisis situations. The Saudi Association for Human Rights also fielded complaints on violations of children’s rights.
GERHARD PFANZELTER ( Austria) said that, in the wake of the 2002 special session, Austria had involved some 20,000 children, experts, non-governmental organization and public authorities in developing a national action plan for a child-friendly Austria. That plan had been issued in 2004, and had drawn on the principles set on in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as in the outcome of the 2002 special session. It had also led to the creation of four working groups to develop a comprehensive framework document in that regard. Over the past three years, that plan had, among other things, fostered a coordinated Austrian policy integrating the Convention, focused on the areas of education, health and sustainable development, and issued reports on the realization of more than 200 child-targeted projects.
As for Austria’s national efforts, he said his Government was committed to its child-friendly policy, as reflected in its national legislation on development cooperation. Full emphasis had been given to children’s participation and to children affected by armed conflict. The Government had also launched some bilateral projects aimed at rehabilitating and reintegrating former child soldiers. Here, he stressed that all peacekeepers must be cognizant of children’s rights and needs in both conflict and post-conflict situations. His Government was making sure that all Austrian peacekeepers were trained in child rights and child protection.
MUHAMMAD ALI SORCAR ( Bangladesh) said his country had intensified national efforts to implement all the agreed-upon commitments, with some failures, a lot of difficulties and some notable successes. Bangladesh had increased collaboration with development partners, and the Government’s relationship with non-governmental organizations and civil society was stronger than ever. As a result, the country saw significant improvements in social and health indicators for children, including reductions in under-five mortality rates, infant, as well as maternal mortality ratios and school dropout figures, in addition to notable improvements in immunization, sanitation and access to safe drinking water. The disparity between boys and girls had been eliminated, and the gender gap in primary and secondary school enrolment had been reversed, with girls now constituting 51 per cent of enrolments at the primary level.
Bangladesh had reviewed its domestic legislation and enacted stringent measures to protect children, especially girls, from all forms of abuse, exploitation, violence, trafficking and discrimination. A 2006 labour law provided for the elimination of hazardous and exploitative forms of child labour, while the Government had just established the National Human Rights Commission.
Despite those gains, however, major challenges persisted, with poverty and recurring natural disasters being stumbling blocks. One recent cyclone last month devastated the lives of millions and wiped out considerable progress made in poverty eradication in affected areas. International assistance was less than had been assured, and still less when compared to the commitment shown by the Government and the progress it had achieved. Unless significant new inflows of resources were injected into the system, it would be difficult to sustain progress and arrive at the Millennium Development Goals. That situation was not unique to Bangladesh, but reflected a global culture where commitments and pledges by the international community were often not fully honoured. As an individual delegation and as the current Chair of the Group of Least Developed Countries, he called on all development partners to honour their pledges. The occasion should be seized to renew political commitment at national and international levels, to invest more in children and to provide a better future for posterity.
JORGE VOTO-BERNALES ( Peru) said that after the 2002 special session on children, and in line with the tenets of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the international community had ready guidelines to ensure better lives for children in priority areas such as health care and education, among others. Peru considered providing better lives and livelihoods for its youth and adolescents a prime goal of development. It was carrying out its commitment to children through a national policy on infancy and adolescents (2002-2010), aimed mainly at protecting and promoting children’s rights, as well as bringing about structural changes “in a society which was still one of broad social inequalities”. In the field of education, Peru was committed to providing education for all youth and adolescents and was equally committed to eradicating illiteracy.
He said that Peru had also promoted bilingual education in rural areas. It was also committed to ending infant malnutrition and battling HIV and AIDS, as well as other communicable disease. Peru viewed children as active partners in their own development, and the Government had sought out their expertise when dealing with matters such as child violence and abuse, as well as environmental protection. Peru had made some headway towards implementing its obligations under the 2002 special session declaration, as well as the Millennium Development Goals. At the same time, his country was aware that much remained to be done. Peru was not only concerned about its own children, it was also concerned by boys and girls all over the world whose rights and very lives were threatened by armed conflict. Finally, he stressed that the current commemorative meeting must send a clear message to the world and, to that end, Peru would support the consensus declaration slated to be adopted at the end of the session.
RODRIGO MALMIERCA DIAZ ( Cuba) said unprecedented challenges remained to create a suitable world for children. The main obstacle was the eradication of poverty, which was due to the unjust current economic international order in which children were threatened by wars, preventable diseases, hunger, inequalities, climate change, a lack of resources and underdevelopment in most of the world. Lack of political will for cooperation, coercive unilateral measures imposed by some Powers and excessive influence exerted by rich countries in international transactions, including economic and trade relations, prevented the achievement of a safe environment for children.
Underdevelopment, poverty, hunger and marginalization escalated as a consequence of globalization, he said. As a result, each year 10 million children died, most from preventable diseases, and 10 million children under one-year old and 40 million pregnant women lacked immunization services. Currently, 125 million boys and girls under five years old lived in households using non-potable sources of water, 218 million over five were forced to work, and 300,000 children were involved in armed conflicts. If those ills continued, objectives set in 2002 and subsequently the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals for 2015 would be seriously compromised.
Cuba, a small island blockaded and besieged by the United States Government for almost 50 years, had achieved benefits, including one of the lowest child mortality rates in the world at 5.3 per thousand, he said. All children in his country were guaranteed free education, and the country had a 99.6 per cent literacy rate. The Revolution’s educational programmes were guaranteed in the most far-off places. Those achievements stemmed from the Government’s political will to ensure children’s happiness despite the serious consequences for Cuban children of the economic, commercial and financial blockade that the United States had imposed unilaterally, illegally and in a manner contrary to international law. As long as the international community did not stop the ills affecting children, and if policies for international cooperation and human solidarity were not implemented, and as long as a few got rich and millions suffered in poverty, children and the human species were endangered. Humanity must advance towards more just societies.
HABIB MANSOUR ( Tunisia) said the situation of children was not moving forward fast enough, and there was a risk of certain areas falling behind. In a country where human resources were its main resource, the Government of Tunisia had adopted a principle of education for all. State efforts had, since 2002, reinforced achievements by diversifying services for children. Protection of children against violence, raising their awareness about the dangers of AIDS and an improved school system had together offered children a healthy context in which they could live. Several laws were promulgated through an institutional plan on behalf of the rights of the child. In addition, Child-Info, a database established with UNICEF, had been set up.
An exchange of views and experiences was beneficial for all Member States and was essential to speed up the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, he said. A parliament for children was established in 2002 and municipal councils for them had become necessary for public authorities to understand the issues and adapt strategies that considered boys and girls. The State allocated 16 per cent of the budget for basic education and 5 per cent from its gross national product also went towards education. Plans of action contributed to early education, culture and leisure areas. Developments in information technologies had advanced, with Tunisia hosting the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society. His Government had also increased Internet access by establishing clubs, and had launched digital education classes for thousands of children. Children with disabilities had been served by appropriate pedagogical approaches. The achievement of a world worthy of children was within reach, but required the world to take the necessary efforts to make this a reality.
PRASAD KARIYAWASAM ( Sri Lanka) said, since independence, his country’s successive Governments had consistently accorded priority to investing in a better future for children, with sound policies and legal measures introduced to promote and protect their rights. A free education and public health system were introduced, and Sri Lanka continued to record considerable progress in social development despite being a lower middle-income country.
Sri Lanka had already met its Millennium Development Goals for primary education, school gender parity and reproductive health services, and was on track to reaching the target of universal primary education well before 2015. Child and maternal mortality rates were low, immunization coverage had been sustained at 80 per cent, while 96 per cent of births had occurred in health institutions.
Despite its efforts, in cooperation with the international community including UNICEF, Sri Lanka was faced with formidable challenges arising from an unbridled violent campaign by a terrorist group. Forced recruitment of children by this group was a major concern, along with the disruptions that had led to the displacement of children and their families which triggered malnutrition, low birth weight and anaemia, along with widening regional disparities in access to education and health. The Government was addressing those issues, committing to a zero-tolerance policy on child recruitment, and helping reintegrate former child combatants. That task had become more challenging as it entailed ensuring safety and a range of social services for those children, as well as for populations living in conflict areas. Although the Government had launched initiatives, it needed support from the international donor community to reach its objectives. A safe world for children could only be created through partnerships with all stakeholders all over the world.
RICHARD BRISBANE ( United States) said the United States Government continued to be the leading financial donor to the global polio-eradication effort, contributing more than $1.3 billion since 1988, nearly 30 per cent of global funds to eradicate the disease. His country’s financial commitment remained constant at $132 million in fiscal years 2006 and 2007. He encouraged donors to contribute generously to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Significant gains had been made to eradicate polio worldwide, notably in Nigeria and Afghanistan. Experience elsewhere showed that the key to eradication was strong political will and effective national strategies. Polio eradication and malaria prevention, as well as control, were key foreign policy objectives of the United States. In 2005, the United States President signed the Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act, which addressed the water needs of the world’s most vulnerable populations -- a main priority of UNICEF.
In fiscal year 2007, the United States gave $590 million in the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funding to support basic education in more than 50 countries, more than double the number in 2002, he said. Increased school enrolment and literacy rates were a top priority. While the number of children not in school worldwide had dropped 37 per cent to 72 million in 2007, further gains could be made by targeting mothers’ literacy, as 75 per cent of mothers of child dropouts were illiterate. Increasing literacy among mothers could boost girls’ primary education rates in particular. In 2007, the United States gave $39 million to joint appeal of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and UNICEF to provide education opportunities for Iraqi children in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt.
Protecting children against abuse was critical, he said. An estimated 1.8 million to 2 million children were currently exploited in the global commercial sex trade. Many studies, including a recent United Nations study on violence against children, suggested that child sexual exploitation was increasing. The National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children had reported that the average age of victims of child pornography was getting younger, while the sexual acts were becoming more violent. Children were also trafficked into debt bondage, forced labour and armed conflict. The international community should ensure that domestic laws prohibited and punished child trafficking. Predators must not exploit legal loopholes or lax law enforcement. Partnerships must be forged both at home and abroad to end child trafficking. The United States had also partnered with UNICEF to fight HIV and AIDS through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. In 2007, some 2.5 million children under the age of 15 lived with HIV, and a million more who had been orphaned were increasingly vulnerable to HIV and AIDS. Prevention in trafficking children contributed to HIV and AIDS prevention.
YUKIO TAKASU ( Japan) said that there were places in the world where children’s rights were under threat from poverty, disease, child soldiering, sexual exploitation, child labour and discrimination. With that in mind, Japan was committed to strengthening international cooperation and ensuring that every child was able to enjoy the right to live in a safe, non-discriminatory and nurturing environment. Education was the cornerstone of efforts to empower children and build a foundation for national development. All children, especially girls, must be given a chance to complete at least primary education, he said, adding that human security focused on human-centred development by protecting children from threats and insecurities. It also empowered them to fully develop their abilities and potential. Indeed, a human-security perspective was crucial in advancing the cause of ensuring the well-being of children, he added.
He went on to say that children were exposed to many forms of violence in their daily lives. They were also vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. To protect them from such violence and predation, adults had the responsibility to listen to their concerns and take action to mitigate any damage that might be done. In Japan, the Child Abuse Prevention Law had been adopted seven years ago and had been strengthened and revised since then. He also called for cooperation to tackle commercial sexual exploitation of children.
BAKI ILKIN (Turkey) said his country had a vast youth population of some 22 million and that his Government believed that investing in their future was an investment in the future of the country. He said that Turkey was a signatory of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two optional protocols and, just this past October, had signed the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. That latter treaty was especially important because it was the first such instrument to criminalize sexual abuse, which was one of the most damaging offences to children’s physical and mental dignity. In addition, Turkey had undertaken a comprehensive review of its domestic legal framework and had amended relevant sections of its Civil Code, Child Protection Code and its Code on Persons with Disabilities.
Turning to the priority areas for action outlined in the “A World Fit for Children Declaration”, he said Turkey had worked hard to significantly reduce infant and under-five mortality, as well as maternal mortality, rates. Also, progress had been made in ensuring access to affordable pre- and post-natal health services. Among other advancements, he said that an amendment to the country’s social security system last year had granted all children the right to receive treatment, consultation and support services from relevant medical and social agencies. In the area of education, the Turkish Education Ministry and UNICEF had joined forces to launch the “Let’s Go to School, Girls!” campaign, which had led to the enrolment of nearly 230,000 girls in primary education programmes between 2003 and 2006.
GILLES NOGHÈS ( Monaco) said, with the Millennium Declaration putting human beings at the centre of development, children remained the most vulnerable. All were not guaranteed a satisfactory start in life, and it was deplorable that 143 million children under age five suffered from malnutrition and that access of quality education had not been achieved.
Measuring progress was a means to render certain phenomena transparent. The question of violence against children persisted and needed attention. The adoption of concrete measures in social, legal, political and environmental areas, taking into account the impact of climate change, must translate in a manner that took children into account, he said.
Those commitments constituted moral responsibility, and the principle of universal solidarity guided Monaco to pursue its own principles. His country had signed international conventions on children and taken positions in the legal domain. Draft laws on crimes against children would be submitted to the next parliamentary session. Health issues, water treatment and delivery of grain to countries affected by famine were among his country’s efforts to show support. The country was also engaged in programmes to address HIV and AIDS and in prevention initiatives, particularly to protect children from paedophiles, violence, mistreatment and prostitution. Without political will and determination, it was impossible to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Meanwhile, millions of children worldwide were waiting for promises to be kept.
ZORAN LONCAR, Minister of Education of Serbia, said his country had taken numerous legal, political, economic measures to improve the situation of its children since the country’s political and economic crisis during the 1990s. “A World Fit for Children” was a useful framework for various strategies, particularly the National Action Plan for Children, which had been coordinated by the Council for the Rights of the Child. The 2004 National Action Plan for Children aimed to create more favourable living conditions for them, for their growth and social inclusion, and was based on the four basic principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, namely, the right to life, survival and development, the best interests of the child, non-discrimination and participation.
Serbia had also adopted several strategic documents, laws and by-laws against child abuse, child exploitation, human trafficking and discrimination, as well as on the rights of children and adults with disabilities, he said. The Special Protocol on the Procedure of Police Officers in the Protection of Minors from Abuse and Neglect and the Special Protocol for the Protection of Children in Institutions of Social Protection from Abuse and Neglect had been adopted. This year, the Special Protocol for the Protection of Children and Students from Violence, Abuse and Neglect in Educational-Correctional Institutions was adopted. Last year, the Parliamentary Subcommittee on the Protection of Children helped stage a presentation of the United Nations study “Violence against Children” for stakeholders nationwide. The “School without Violence” project was implemented in 101Serbian schools.
Further, Serbia had adopted several documents defining the strategic direction of its social development that affected children, he said. They included the 2003 Strategy for the Reduction of Poverty, the 2006 Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking, which addressed the sexual exploitation of children, the 2005 Strategy of Social Protection Development, the Strategy of Family Accommodation Development, which aimed to accommodate children without parental care in foster families, the 2002 National Strategy to Deal with Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons, the 2005 National Strategy to Combat HIV/AIDS, and the 2006 Strategy of Health Development of the Young People in the Republic of Serbia. The Family Law, Law on Underage Perpetrators of Criminal Offences and Legal Protection of Minors in Criminal Matters, as well as the Law on the Basic System of Upbringing and Education, were also intended to improve the status and rights of children. Still, problems remained, including the need to increase pre-school attendance, particularly among children in poor, rural areas, and to reduce the school dropout rate.
NASSIR BIN ABDEL-AZIZ AL-NASSER ( Qatar) said his Government was committed to promoting and protecting the right of children at home and around the world, where millions of children were threatened by disease and conflict or lived under occupation. His country’s Constitution protected the rights of children, and his Government was devoted to protecting and promoting the rights of all family groups. Qatar was also implementing its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Optional Protocols. It had also elaborated laws that prohibited the participation of children in camel racing and set out the types of jobs from which children world be prohibited from holding. He added that Qatar was also dedicated to ensuring the education of all its children.
At the same time, the Government was aware that much remained to be done to meet the objectives that had been set at the 2002 special session. Developing countries were still very far from meeting many targets for children because of a lack of resources. One of the target areas of the 2002 declaration that required stepped up international and regional efforts was education, particularly of girls and of children trapped in conflict areas. It was also necessary to pay special attention to children with disabilities. In that regard, Qatar had set up a framework for their care. It was not possible to talks about children without also stressing the rights and duties of families. Indeed, the family unit should be strengthened. Children should also be protected from the horrors of conflict and the yoke of foreign occupation.
ROBERT HILL ( Australia) noted considerable progress in the past five years, but said challenges still remained to create a world fit for children. More than half the children in the developing world continued to live without access to basic services, commodities and the protection necessary to survive and develop. His country had invested significant resources to help strengthen and support Australian families and children, working hard to implement the “A World Fit for Children” strategy domestically and within the region. Australia’s children and young people generally had good health by world standards, with low morbidity and mortality rates, free education and strong educational attainment. His country was committed to working with United Nations partners to ensure that such high standards became a reality for children and young people worldwide. Indigenous children, in particular, were not benefiting, as well as the rest of the Australian population, from some key health, education and well-being measures. The Australian Government put emphasis on improving outcomes for aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to ensure accessibility to education and health for all of the country’s indigenous groups.
Australia also actively supported and promoted the well-being of children globally through its aid programme, he said. It worked closely with other Governments and international organizations to advance the health and education of children in developing countries, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. UNICEF was a particularly important partner in Australia’s efforts to achieve a world fit for children. The agency’s strategic priorities aligned with many of the objectives of the Australian aid programme, including maternal and child health, basic education, HIV and AIDS, child protection and humanitarian assistance. In 2006, Australia gave UNICEF more than $60 million.
Australia also worked to mitigate the effects of HIV and AIDS on young people and children in developing countries through awareness-raising and treatment, care and support for children living with or affected by HIV and AIDS, he said. Through measures to combat child trafficking and action to mitigate the impact of conflict on children in the region, Australia was working to achieve a world where children were safe and protected. Advancing gender equality was also a core principle underpinning the country’s efforts. His country supported the same access for boys and girls to basic social services and programmes to address their specific protection needs.
VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said that, following the 2002 special session on children, children were being treated for the first time as individuals with specific rights. Yet, it was too soon to say that the aims and tasks of the session’s outcome document had been achieved. Indeed, children remained a vulnerable part of the population and continued to be targets in armed conflict and in terrorist attacks.
Saying there was no more noble a cause than to free children from fear, he stressed that their well-being should be the focus of society. This was a key area of social policy in Russia and, in accordance with the goals of the special session, his country had created a policy, “Children of Russia 2007-2010”, which had subprogrammes aimed at furthering their well-being. To that end, a governmental commission on protecting minors was holding seminars throughout the country. The first children’s television channel had also been started. Turning to the larger area of the family, he noted that the President had declared 2008 the year of the family to strengthen Russian families.
He commended the work of UNICEF under its head, Ann Veneman. He stressed that it was important to avoid duplicated work in that policy area. He also condemned violence against children. Finally, he said it was a “vital necessity” to enhance the effectiveness of mechanisms aimed at improving the situation of children throughout the world, so that they would not know any want, fear or violence. He wished all those being born a peaceful and happy childhood.
MONA SAMIR KAMAL, Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States, highlighted efforts undertaken in the Arab States to implement the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Children. She said resolutions had been adopted to emphasize the rights of Arab children, and Arab youth had engaged in several activities in the context of the 2002 special session. During a 2004 meeting on the document “A World Fit For Children”, measures were taken that took the special circumstances of the Arab world into account. Most member States of the League had favourably responded to a request to implement the provisions of the document.
She said that, in 2008, a meeting would be held to assist attainment of the document’s goals. The rights of children had been guaranteed at the national and regional levels. Advisory councils on children had been established to ensure that children would be involved in discussing problems concerning them, and a children’s parliament had been established and had met in 2005. Round tables had looked at problems of street children and child labour. States had also made efforts to halt violence against children, a subject that had also been addressed by a regional conference. She welcomed the Third Committee resolution on violence against children.
In conclusion, she said that what was being done today would have an impact on the future of the children. Tolerance was necessary to ensure that the world would be a better place. Aware of the impact war in the Arab world would have on children, she called for the immediate release of women, men and children in Israeli prisons. She also called for a broad condemnation of attempts to take children out of Darfur and Chad, in flagrant violations of the rights of the child.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER ( Liechtenstein) said progress in achieving a world fit for children was mixed, and he was concerned by the “stark discrepancy” that existed between international norms and standards on children’s rights, and their weak implementation. The Convention on the Rights of the Child had the highest number of State parties of any international treaty in history, yet States had failed to protect children’s most basic rights. Beyond that, children’s rights were actively being violated as they suffered physical and psychological cruelty at home, were being dragged into armed conflict, and trafficked or sexually abused.
Full respect for children’s physical and psychological integrity must be a universally applied rule of civilization, and he welcomed regional initiatives aimed at promoting universal standards. He stressed that, despite progress made under the leadership of the Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict, more must be done to bridge the large implementation gap in that field.
Liechtenstein attached great importance to children’s well-being locally, nationally and internationally, he continued. Priorities for the long-term welfare for children and young people focused on support for families, including through financial measures; recreation; and quality of life, among other areas. Those pillars were complemented by short- and medium-term goals, formulated when new problems arose. On children’s participation, Liechtenstein was developing a new Youth Act, which was influenced by the Convention. To fully implement the Declaration and the Plan of Action, States must scale up their response to the remaining challenges, and Liechtenstein was committed to increasing partnerships in that regard. The Government also planned to reach an official development assistance percentage of 0.6 per cent next year.
KHALAF BU DHAIR ( Kuwait) said the family, as the first place where the human personality formed, was the core component of society and the most important pillar in achieving social welfare. His country was directing much of its resources and wealth to providing the best possible environment for children and women. It was among the first States to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991 and had also signed the Protocol banning and punishing human trafficking. Kuwait’s Constitution stipulated that the family was the core of society and protected motherhood and childhood under this umbrella. As a result, Kuwait had achieved substantial progress in providing social services for children during the past four decades and had become a model to be followed by States in the region.
In fact, he said children’s health care was considered among the best in the world and its infant mortality rate was among the lowest in the region. Kuwait had built a special children’s clinic named “The Health Child Clinic”, which provided a full medical examination at every visit, in addition to providing immunizations, parental instruction and other services aimed at children’s psychological health. Kuwait had also made education free and paid a great deal of attention to those with special needs, providing them with the best services, either at special centres or in special schools. Indeed, so keen was Kuwait to provide comprehensive care for women and children with special needs socially, physically and psychologically, it had become a pioneer in promoting social development, advancing the role of women in society, protecting youth and avoiding violence.
Although his country’s accomplishments were great, he said its aspirations were greater. Kuwait would endeavour to provide the right environment for a world fit for children in every social and educational field and by providing health care and education. It would also aid the family. In addition, it would extend those efforts to those in need in other countries, he added. That included providing clothing to Palestinian children in the West Bank, and, in the next week, Kuwait would present thousands of food items to the poor and needy among the Palestinian people.
ROSEMARY BANKS ( New Zealand) did not deliver her prepared statement. She gave the floor to the youth representative, TE KEREI MOKA, who addressed the Assembly.
He said that he was one of seven children. His mother was blind and his father in prison. He said he had had no time to kick a ball or swing on a swing, but he had done his best to ensure his family’s happiness. He had been forced to grow up at an early age, and had observed life from another angle. As time passed, he became aware that he was in a position to make a difference, and felt that the world was slowly making progress in changing the way things were viewed. He called on delegates to “think with our thinking caps on” to ensure that children could succeed in education, and support efforts to allow their attendance. He realized there were many obligations to face to ensure that happened. However, “if we take it step by step, we will prevail”. Good things did take time. To all young people, he said: “Educate yourselves in ways you never thought possible, and endeavour to make the world around you a happier one. If you want it, then take it, and don’t you dare let anyone else tell you otherwise.”
ABDALMAHMOOD ABDALHALEEM MOHAMAD (Sudan), associating himself with Ghana’s statement on behalf of the African Group, said it was a time to redouble efforts to achieve the goals set out in the “A World Fit for Children” agenda. The 2002 session at which it was adopted had committed States to promoting health services, education and protecting children against exploitation and violence, and combating HIV/AIDS.
Those four areas were “part and parcel” of the Millennium Declaration, and Sudan had prepared a national document entitled Sudan Fit For Children, which laid out the measures passed. Describing Sudan’s 2007-2012 plan, he referred to various efforts, including ratification of the Convention and the Optional Protocol, International Labour Organization Convention 138 and the African Covenant on the Rights of the Child. In 2004, the Sudan had drafted a law on children, which was intended to fill in the gaps in governmental practice.
He explained that Sudan’s central plans contained targets enunciated in the Millennium Declaration and the A World Fit for Children agendas. His country had created a plan to address violence against children, and another to reintegrate street children into society, which aimed to promote care for those children through adoption. Moreover, the Sudan had created a disarmament committee, which covered children affected by armed conflict. On health, he said the Sudan had made progress between 2002-2006. On education, the enrolment rate had increased at all levels of education. To protect children, especially street kids, the Government had created high-level commissions to combat that phenomenon. He hoped Sudan’s partnership with United Nations agencies would be strengthened, in order to guarantee a bright future for its children.
Regarding kidnapped children in Darfur, he said that was a violation of international law, and such behaviour should be condemned. Steps should be taken against the organization involved.
NDEYE LISSA DIOP NDIAYE ( Senegal) said that five years after the 2002 special session on children, it was appropriate to check the balance sheet. Her country had implemented the outcome document from this session, making progress despite the challenges of limited resources. Indeed, Senegal had tried to provide all children with education, protect them against mistreatment and combat HIV/AIDS. Above and beyond legal reforms to combat all violence against children, including early marriage and female genital mutilation, it had targeted policies to secure children’s rights. It had also made progress in combating child labour and the trafficking of children and was establishing a national framework to combat those phenomena. In terms of education, it had increased the number of children in day care and who were enrolled in school. Senegal had recently made school attendance mandatory for those 16 and younger. The Government, with partners such as the World Food Programme (WFP), had improved water sanitation and nutrition, which had, in turn, resulted in keeping children in school.
The survival rates of children and infants had increased and greater numbers of children were receiving immunizations, she said. Her country was combating HIV/AIDS rates through a national programme that used a holistic policy and a decentralized approach. Overall, Senegal had used partnerships in its efforts to implement the goals of “A World Fit for Children”. Awareness had also been raised in all sectors of society through a multitude of groups and organizations at all levels of government, civil society and communities. Local actors had participated to good effect, making decentralization all the more successful. Legal reforms had also contributed to those efforts.
JEAN-MARIE EHOUZOU (Benin), associating himself fully with Ghana’s statement on behalf of the African Group, said numerous studies and programmes had been undertaken to bring national legislation in line with ratified international instruments. The family code was adopted, and laws on trafficking, female genital mutilation and HIV/AIDS had been promulgated. Efforts had been made to ensure that all children developed in an environment that enabled them to live in peace, dignity and security.
On health issues, he said a telethon had been organized to get medicated mosquito nets to pregnant women. Also, anti-retroviral medicine had been made available for free. On education, Benin had developed a 10-year plan. A “girl by girl” programme had been developed with the World Food Programme and UNICEF, and the Government emphasized combating trafficking. Since 2005, Benin had held a Children’s Parliament.
Despite such efforts, the national context had been marked by trafficking and violence in all its forms, including ritual infanticide. Numerous challenges remained, poverty and a high infant mortality rate among them. The challenge was to provide a framework to boost the Government’s capacity and to create synergies between various coordinating committees, and to streamline actions among partners and stakeholders.
Benin was working to establish policies based on an intra-sectoral approach, which included the reintegration of vulnerable children to society. The country’s growth strategy had been developed in line with the Millennium Development Goals. It was essential to speed progress towards achieving the Goals, which would require more resources for programmes and policies relating to children. The Health Ministry’s budget -– as a percentage of the national budget -- would increase to 15 per cent between now and 2010. A multidisciplinary set of actions must now be implemented with all financial and technical partners, to ensure that the world would be fit for children by 2015.
MAJDI RAMADAN, Counsellor of Lebanon, said his country’s commitment to promoting and protecting the rights of children was unwavering, and its commitment to creating a world fit for children was based on the principles of democracy, equality, peace and respect for human life. Preventing and responding to violence against children was a priority for Lebanon this year. Despite the fact that 95 per cent of the population had access to basic health services, the mortality rate for infants and children under age five had not significantly improved since 1996. His Government had focused on developing more effective reproductive health information systems to improve coordination and strengthen decentralization. The national reproductive health programme emphasized the provision of quality services within primary health-care systems.
As there were regional disparities in key reproductive health indicators, the programme also supported 10 centres of excellence for referral services and focused on underserved areas. Lebanon had improved the collection and analysis of data on children.
On education, he said all girls and boys had access to complete primary and secondary education, and no gender disparities existed. Such progress had been disrupted by the Israel-Lebanon war last year. On protecting children from harm and exploitation, he said legal reforms had been comprehensive in covering violence against children. Lebanon had established a special committee to consider amending the juvenile justice laws, including through raising the age of criminal responsibility. A national campaign “Their rights and our duties”, launched last year, covered such issues as replacing corporal punishment with positive non-violent forms of discipline.
The General Assembly had played a leading role in creating an Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, based on the in-depth study of Professor Paulo Sergio Pinhero, and Lebanon supported the study’s conclusions. On children’s protection, he said threats to children’s right to life were the ultimate form of violence against them, and they must be protected from the horrors of armed conflict. On children’s participation, he said, in 1996, Lebanon had established the first children’s parliament. Initiatives to integrate children’s rights into school curricula had been established; however their impact had not yet been assessed. The biggest risk to children’s lives in south Lebanon was from unexploded ordnances, which would take months to clear. Lebanon condemned the killing of children from all races and nationalities, whether Arab or Israeli, and looked forward to a day when children –- whether from Lebanon, Palestine or Israel -- could live together in peace.
PAUL KAVANAGH (Ireland), aligning himself with the statement made on behalf of the European Union, said that, in his country, a national children’s strategy had been published in 2000 entitled “Our Children – Their Lives”, which was rooted in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It was a cross-sectoral response to improving children’s lives and had been developed with the assistance of non-governmental organizations. The strategy centred on young people and was family-and community-oriented. The National Children’s Office had been established to drive the strategy’s implementation forward and to ensure coordination of services for children. The Office of the Ombudsman for Children had been established in 2002. In addition, the Office of the Minister for Children was established in 2005 by the Government to build upon existing activities and to bring greater coherence to policymaking. A referendum in 2008 would seek to enshrine principles relating to the rights of the child in the Irish Constitution.
He said that, despite progress, significant challenges remained. Many children were affected by HIV/AIDS and were victims of discrimination, poverty, exclusion, exploitation, violence and abuse. Millions of children continued to die from preventable causes, including from child labour and involvement in armed conflict. He welcomed the Third Committee’s decision to request a Special Representative on Violence against Children. The protection of children in relation to the use of the Internet and other information and communications technologies was of growing importance and urgency. New technologies could be enormously beneficial for education, but it was vital to ensure that the rights of children, including the right to be protected from sexual abuse and exploitation, were fully respected and guaranteed.
ABDULLAH M. ALSAIDI ( Yemen) said that in the document “A World Fit for Children”, Governments had committed themselves to the cause of children. However, results had not been commensurate with the hopes and expectations that the 2002 special session had raised. The rights of the child were an integral part of the precepts of Islam. Yemen was one of the first countries to accede to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as to its Optional Protocol. It had also ratified a series of conventions, including on the minimum age for work and on the worst forms of child labour. International commitments were reflected in national legislation. The issue of children had pride of place in all development strategies.
NADA AL SHARAE, spokesperson for the Yemeni Children’s Parliament, said her country, with the cooperation of an active civil society, was working to ensure optimal protection of children. The Children’s Parliament had done pioneering work and tried to ensure that the next generation would be educated in the principles of democracy. Expressing appreciation for the efforts of international partners such as UNICEF, she emphasized the necessity to redouble international efforts to improve the living conditions around the world. Arab children living under Israeli occupation were suffering from, among other things, blockades and the denial of their human rights. She, therefore, called on the international community to put an end to the occupation by Israel.
GIADALLA A. ETTALHI ( Libya) said his country had put policies in place to provide for children. It had also set up health-care centres to provide health services to children and mothers and sought to promote child-health and welfare benefits. It was a party to the protocols prohibiting child prostitution and protecting children against violence.
He said that, while the Convention on the Rights of the Child was the most ratified human rights instrument, the world still witnessed gross human rights violations against children. They had been killed and harmed due to conflict; indeed, tens of thousands of girls were subjected to rape and sexual violence, and thousands of children were conscripted to become child soldiers. Noting that many children had been displaced from their countries and families by warfare, he called on the international community to work for the return of those children, lest they be exploited. He specifically condemned the recent events regarding children in Chad and called on authorities to punish those who exploited children under cover of charitable acts.
His delegation condemned also the inhuman and degrading treatment by policemen -- which, citing studies, he said had increased. He further condemned child labour in which children were forced to work in ways that harmed their health and, sometimes, claimed their lives. States should impose severe punishments on criminals to protect children. He also condemned the phenomenon of stray children, which would create a climate of delinquency in which children would be forced into situations of begging and criminality. Governments should provide shelter and rehabilitation for those stray children.
He expressed grave concern over children who were under the yoke of an occupation, mentioning particularly the suffering of the children of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. In light of that, he highlighted the suffering of child prisoners in Israeli prisons. He also underlined the plight of African children who suffered not only from conflict as child soldiers, but also from the high prevalence of diseases and insufficient health services.
MOHAMMAD KHAZAEE ( Iran) said the document “A World Fit for Children” had set out four goals on health, education, protection against abuse, and combating HIV/AIDS Promotion of healthy lives for children ranked first. However, child death was still at an alarming high level, and the link between child death and poverty was indisputable. Despite the fact that governments had reaffirmed their vow to break the cycle of poverty within a single generation, extreme poverty continued unabated. To fulfil the rights of children, Governments and international institutions needed to step up their level of investment in various aspects of children’s rights. More than 1.5 billion children lived in 42 countries affected by violence and conflict. Of the 14.2 million refugees worldwide, 41 per cent are believed to be children. Children were the initial victims of war, occupation and armed conflict.
He said the rights of children were not fully protected unless the family foundation was protected and supported. Family was the basic unit of society and was entitled to receive comprehensive protection and support. The primary responsibility for the protection, upbringing and development of children rested with the family. He then went on to describe his Government’s activities relating to the outcome document of the 2002 special session, including accession to the Optional Protocol to the Convention regarding the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. Also, child and maternal mortality rates had fallen significantly. Immunization coverage was over 90 per cent and polio was almost eliminated. He also described several educational initiatives and concluded by expressing the hope that the current session would boost the efforts of Member States in implementing the goals for children.
ALEXEI TULBURE (Moldova), describing national measures to make the world, indeed, as one fit for children, said his country’s National Programme on Promoting Quality Perinatal Services aimed to reduce maternal mortality and perinatal mortality to 30 per cent. The 2006 National Health Policy and the 2005 National Reproductive Health Strategy focused on adolescents and young people. Over the last five years, the Government had developed a national strategy for education for all, including special provisions for children with learning difficulties. His country also paid special attention to computerization in the educational system, vocational secondary and post-secondary education, and higher and post-graduate education.
He said that, as for protection against abuse, exploitation and violence, his country had developed the National Strategy on Child and Family Protection in 2003. Also, the 2005 National Reproductive Health Strategy aimed at preventing and managing family violence and sexual abuse. A national plan of action to combat violence against children had been developed and was being implemented. Parliament had adopted a law on preventing and combating violence in the family. The 2006-2010 National Programme on Prevention and Control of HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections included priority activities and strategies for protecting and ensuring children’s best interest. His country also participated in the Council of Europe programme “Building a Europe for and with children”.
DAW PENJO ( Bhutan) said that for developing countries -- especially the least developed countries –- achieving the goals of the special session for children continued to be demanding. While it was essential that developing countries retained responsibility for their own development, national efforts should continue to receive strong support from the international community to address those issues that particularly contributed to children’s vulnerability. Believing that its future lay in the hands of its children, his country had consistently invested in a better future by creating a protective environment for them. Thus, health and education continued to receive the highest share of Bhutan’s national budget.
He said that, although difficult terrain hindered the expansion of its health-care system, his country had established well-integrated primary health-care system to a degree where 90 per cent of its population had access to basic health services. Infant mortality had declined and Bhutan was on track to meeting the fourth Millennium Development Goal. Bhutanese children also enjoyed free basic education through tenth grade, and the country was expected to achieve universal primary education well before 2015.
While a number of laws already existed to protect children’s rights, those rights would be further guaranteed under the draft constitution, which would be enacted in 2008, he said. In addition, a National Commission for Women and Children had also been established in 2004 to coordinate and monitor activities related to women and child rights and to provide a forum for receiving and investigating reports of violations of those rights. Further, the Labour and Employment Act had been enacted in 2006 and provided for the protection of children against the worst forms of child labour. Committees comprised of representatives from different sectors of society were drawing up policies on HIV/AIDS and substance abuse, with a particular focus on adolescents and children.
Noting that globalization and modernization were presenting serious challenges to Bhutan’s natural environment, cultural heritage, and its social fabric and value systems, he said his country was pursuing a development course that worked to balance material growth and spiritual nourishment. It had defined the goal and purpose of achieving “Gross National Happiness”, and was convinced that nurturing children along that development path would enhance their well-being, along with that of humanity.
ATOKI ILEKA (Democratic Republic of the Congo), aligning himself with the statement of the African Union, said significant progress had been made in the promotion and protection of the rights of children, but significant challenges remained in the areas of HIV/AIDS, armed conflicts, the phenomenon of child soldiers, trafficking in children and child labour, and in particular in the area of poverty. Despite difficulties evolving from the 10-year-old armed conflict, his country had invested in the future of its children, in particular through disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes for child soldiers. More than 30,000 children had been disarmed, demobilized and reinserted into family life. Vaccination programmes and educational programmes had also been successful.
In view of the tremendous tasks remaining, his country sought increased and consistent assistance from its traditional partners, so that all Congolese children could live in a world that was fit for them. He drew attention to the enormous suffering of the children living in North Kivu, who were victims of a senseless armed aggression. He asked the international community for assistance not only in putting an end to the conflict, but also in raising awareness among local communities of the rights of women and children and in ensuring access for health care, among other things. The great need of children who had suffered from abuse reflected the breakdown of cultural norms regarding family life and social stability. Robust partnerships at the national, regional and international levels were necessary to promote the survival and protection of the child. The future of the Democratic Republic of the Congo depended on its children. To invest in children would ensure peace, stability, democracy and sustainable development for present and future generations.
OLIVE CHIKANKHENI, Principal Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development of Malawi, aligning herself with Ghana’s statement on behalf of the African Union, said her country had made considerable efforts to promote healthy lives for children and, between 2000 and 2006, had reduced the infant and children under-five mortality rates. Immunization coverage had increased to over 80 per cent. To prevent malaria, the Government had distributed insecticide-treated nets and, under a policy to manage childhood illnesses, used an integrated approach to improve the supply of essential drugs. Further, Malawi had increased efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV through voluntary counselling and testing, and by providing anti-retroviral drugs. The National Plan of Action for Orphans and Other Vulnerable Children promoted the well-being of children impacted by the disease. An early childhood development policy aimed to develop children’s cognitive, social, physical and psycho-social well-being.
She said Malawi had taken steps to address gaps in the existing legal framework to align it with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, noting that the Constitution was currently under review. Further, a child-care protection and justice bill broadly covered children’s rights to participate in matters that affected their well-being, and the Government was drafting a bill on trafficking in persons to reduce the high trafficking rate among children. The Government also encouraged participation through the Children’s Parliament. Regarding education, Malawi’s education policy aimed to eliminate inequality and discrimination in schools. Malawi’s challenges included gender inequality, inadequate funding to implement children’s programmes and inadequate institutional and human capacity. Nonetheless, she reiterated Malawi’s commitment to building a world fit for children, and stressed the importance of international cooperation.
CAMILLO M. GONSALVES (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), aligning himself with the statement made on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that a world fit for children must begin with a world fit, in all aspects, for people, progress, prosperity and peace. In that context, the critical interrelations between the rights of children and the myriad developmental obligation of Member States should also be considered. If judged by the benchmarks of the Millennium Development Goals, his country was, in many respects, a nation fit for children. Infant mortality continued its downward trend. Comprehensive programmes to combat HIV/AIDS and mother-child transmission of the disease had been instituted. Literacy and primary school attendance rates were robust, and, thankfully, no wars threatened the nation or region.
He called for attention to “the international blind spot” that existed with respect to the children of Taiwan. The interests of 4 million children under the age of 14 living in Taiwan were not represented in the Assembly, the World Health Organization (WHO) or any other United Nations body. It seemed that the international community was capable of fashioning ways to recognize Taiwan’s economic might, through the World Trade Organization, but was unable to apply similar ingenuity to the issue of its children.
He said the tenth objective of the “A World Fit for Children” was to “protect the Earth for children”. The world had arrived at a critical point where the commitment to that objective was being tested. The children of his country had escaped the horrors of war in the 200-plus years since European conquest and settlement, but the peace-loving citizens of the region were now awash in the “swelling tide” of illicit small arms that accompanied the narcotics trade. Youths were increasingly on the giving and receiving ends of gun violence. An effective supply-side prohibition on the traffic in small arms was critical to the future of children.
KYAW TINT SWE (Myanmar), recalling that Governments at the 2002 special session had committed to time-bound goals in four priority areas, said the mid-decade since that time had arrived, as had the mid-point for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. He noted with satisfaction the declining number of children dying before their fifth birthday, saying educational opportunities had improved and HIV/AIDS medication was more widely available. Notwithstanding that, other issues required attention: poverty persisted, and the flow of official development assistance had fallen short of what was needed to achieve the Goals. He urged developed partners to fulfil their commitments to provide 0.7 per cent of gross national product as official development assistance to developing countries.
For its part, Myanmar had become a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, and was implementing a national plan of action for children, which contained strategies in the four areas of health and nutrition, water and sanitation, education and early childhood care, and child protection. In the last five years, the infant mortality rate had fallen and maternal health had made progress. Among its cooperation efforts on health issues, he noted the creation of technical strategic groups for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria with United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations. To provide clean water, the Government placed top priority on supplying to three divisions in the dry zone in the country’s central region.
On education, he said the gender disparity in primary and secondary education was near zero, and Myanmar’s national plan on the issue gave equal access to all children. The youth literacy rate was 94.5 per cent. Net enrolment in primary education had increased sharply between 2000 and 2005, and the Government was focusing on teacher training. In closing, he said Myanmar was determined to work with the global community to build a world fit for children.
* *** *For information media • not an official record