International Organization for Migration
Mrs. Ndioro Ndiaye
Deputy Director General
on the occasion of the Special Session of the General Assembly on Children
10 May 2002
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a distinct honour and privilege for me to address this Special Session on Children of the General Assembly on behalf of the International Organization for Migration. As an international humanitarian organization dealing with vulnerable populations, there is no more heartrending subject than that of the most vulnerable victims of abuse and exploitation in all its tawdry manifestations - children.
This is a subject close to my heart, and because it is, unfortunately, so vast, I should like to limit my comments to two dramatic subjects that affect the daily lives of children: children as victims of war and conflict and children as victims of trafficking.
CHILDREN AS VICTIMS OF ARMED CONFLICT
In countries engaged in armed conflict, millions of children are deliberately targeted and millions more are either transformed into soldiers or forced to serve the combatants. During periods of strife; children are the first victims of displacement, malnutrition, disease and sexual violence. During the '90s, some two million children died because of armed conflict, twenty million were displaced and at any given time, more than 300,000 children were used as combatants. This is the backdrop IOM keeps in mind when developing and carrying out post conflict interventions and demobilization programmes. Allow me to cite a few examples:
In Angola, between 1994 and 1996, IOM placed special emphasis in its demobilization activities on the needs of child soldiers, assisting 360 minors from the Angolan armed forces and another 4,724 child combatants from UNITA to return home safely and reintegrate into civilian society. In Cambodia, from 1994 onwards, IOM coordinated the psychosocial rehabilitation of children and adolescents in rural communities with high concentrations of IDPs who have been exposed to intense civil strife over the past two decades. In Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Kosovo, IOM arranged the medical evacuation of children for medical treatment abroad when local health care was no longer available. And most recently, in Colombia, IOM continues its efforts to improve and expand existing local infrastructures and set up a network of decentralized organizations to respond to the needs of just-released child soldiers.
In brief, IOM activities, services and interventions helping children in armed conflict are:
. Provision of emergency relief assistance to demobilized child combatants and their families, as well as the provision of educational support, training and access to proper health care system.Although progress has been made and there are some positive and encouraging signs that more adequate measures for helping children in armed conflict have been taken at the local, regional and international levels by the UN system, NGOs, governments and international organizations, it is nonetheless clear that much remains to be done. The task is daunting, even with all of our efforts combined. IOM stands ready to do its part, with those resources it has, to contribute to immediate cessation of the use and abuse of children in armed conflicts while remaining deeply committed to those who continue to be so victimized.
. Provision of special kits, including toys, aiming at returning to them a piece of their lost childhood.
. Arranging for the voluntary return of war-affected children under IOM's family reunification programme in coordination with various governmental and non-governmental partners.
. Development and implementation of post-conflict family and child support programmes through psychosocial rehabilitation services.
. Coordination for the rehabilitation of war-wounded children, and organization of medical evacuation for medical treatment abroad when local health care is no longer available due to armed conflict.
Mr. President, allow me now to turn briefly to the issue of
CHILDREN AS VICTIMS OF TRAFFICKING
As in all forms of trafficking of human beings, economics is the primary cause of the trafficking of children, as they represent the most vulnerable economic force to be exploited. Children are trafficked for labour, for criminal work, to participate in armed conflicts, for adoption, marriage, and sexual exploitation. The basic human rights of trafficked children are thus violated and most of them live in virtual bondage.
The exact number of trafficked people remains unknown. In Asia alone, it is estimated that over the past 30 years, 30 million women and children have been trafficked for sexual exploitation. Each year, between 57,000 Nepalese girls are trafficked to India. In 1997, China's Public Security Bureau reported 6,000 cases of trafficked children. In Guatemala, some 1-1,500 babies are trafficked abroad every year for adoption by foreign couples in North America and Europe, according to UNICEF estimates. Asian and Eastern European girls, as young as 13, are trafficked as 'mail-order brides'. In West and Central Africa, 'large numbers of children are trafficked for domestic work, sexual exploitation, to work in shops or on farms, or to be scavengers and street hawkers.
International Organization for Migration Policy
IOM applies the UN definition of trafficking as stated in the Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.
IOM's objective is to curtail migrant trafficking, with a particular attention to children, and to protect the rights of those caught up in the practice.
IOM Experience in Assisting and Protecting Children
IOM has extensive experience in devising and carrying out activities which aim to prevent trafficking, and also in assisting and protecting the victims. It does this through:
To help prevent trafficking, IOM organizes seminars and international dialogues and, to raise awareness, shares its experience among various stakeholders; research is conducted and the results are disseminated; policies and measures are coordinated and harmonized; and networks are created to deal with the issue. IOM provides training to increase the capacity of governmental and other institutions to counteract trafficking. In addition, we have implemented numerous mass information campaigns in countries of origin in an effort to make potential migrants aware of the risks of irregular migration and trafficking.
Assistance and Protection
IOM also provides legal and medical counselling and assistance to trafficked children in transit and receiving countries. In cooperation with NGOs and/or Ministries of Health and other concerned parties, we seek to address the health care needs of trafficked migrants while offering voluntary return and reintegration assistance that is tailored to the individual situation of the children. Moreover, support solutions for children who cannot go back to their own families are identified. IOM is currently assisting some 500 trafficked children per year under its various counter-trafficking projects.
As so poignantly depicted in the Declaration and Plan of Action of the Pan-African Forum for Children 'Africa Fit for Children', "Today's investment in children is tomorrow's peace, stability, security, democracy and sustainable development". Let us all make sure the world's children can live in dignity, health and happiness, to guarantee their, and our, "tomorrow".
Thank you, Mr. President.