Dr. Salma S. Adbuljabar
Your Excellencies, Heads of States and Governments,
More than a decade ago, a big summit meeting devoted to children was convened at the United Nations Headquarters by heads of states and governments. During that summit, heads of states and governments discussed frankly and honestly their responsibilities towards children. They promised that they would place children's interests before any other concerns, and at the end of that important event, they agreed on specific objectives, all of which were related to children's survival, health, nutrition, education, and protection.
There is no doubt that members of International Community have taken in differentiated degrees many steps to improve conditions of children. The majority of states have put in place national plans. Civil Society Organizations have played an effective role in many areas: identifying obstacles impeding the implementation of the right of the child, introducing proposals aimed at changing existing negative stereotype norms and drawing attention to the dangers that threaten the well-being of children, in particular those children living in dire conditions: conditions that threaten their lives, health, physical and mental development and well-being.
We must confess, Mr. President, that despite all the attention given to children in official statements, the achievements did not rise to the hopes and aspirations of us all. The gap between the official commitments and the achievements on the ground is still great. The exploitation of children and their rights are still manifest: violence, discrimination, abuse physical and psychological and depravation from basic services and necessities. Children are still exposed, more than other groups in society, to the destructive impact of wars, conflicts and economic sanctions, among other dangers.
A clear evidence of that is what we witness on a daily basis in Occupied Palestine, where the occupying Israeli forces commit indiscriminate killing of children, impeding access of the injured among them to urgent humanitarian assistance such as food and medicine, the destruction of civil infrastructures, homes on their inhabitants as well as the detention and torture of children, and the killing of their relatives in front of them. In flagrant violations and disregard of the principles of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Instruments including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Protocols. We call on the International Community to shoulder its responsibilities to stop these crimes against children of Palestine recognizing that the rights of the children of the world are indivisible.
Confronted with these violations of the Right of the Child, there is an urging need for a serious new and comprehensive plan of action for the preservation of the children rights.
With much pride we can say that the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya is making unparalleled progress in the protection and development of children. These achievements are inspired by the principles of our revolution, which formulated a social philosophy whose aim is to achieve man's welfare and happiness. They were also inspired by the Green Book which set up important principles and axioms such as "a child should be raised by his mother", "a child's natural protection can only be provided by the umbrella of motherhood", and "the family is both the child's cradle and his/her social umbrella". Furthermore, we are guided by the "Great Green Charter for Human Rights in the Era of the Masses" which stipulates that the JAY society (the society of the masses) guarantees both child and mother care. It also states that depriving children from their mothers, or mothers from their children, are unjust and coercive acts. Moreover, the charter emphasizes that for the child to be raised in the bosom of a united family is a sacred human right, as is the enjoyment of motherhood and natural breast feeding. Equally sacred is the fact that learning and knowledge must be a natural right for every human being.
These maxims and principles have been embodied in our legislation's: The Penal Code provides the necessary protection for embryos. Articles (390) and (395) of the Penal Code prohibit acts of abortion. Article (373) of the said code imposes severe punishment for crimes such as killing an illegitimate child for the protection of honor. Current legislation also provides for making the work conditions suitable to the needs of pregnant women, and for post-natal care of women, in order to safeguard the right of the child to life. Furthermore, in application of the axiom that "the JAMAHIRY Society is the guardian of those who have no guardians", there is in place a law called "The Basic Salary Law", which provides for the payment of a monthly grant to some categories of the population, including children. There is also law number 13, for 1980, which guarantees shelter, treatment and education for vulnerable groups with no means of income. Our legislation's, including law (95) for 1975, stipulate that primary education is compulsory for all children, girls and boys, to be provided free of charge. Any parent who prevents his/her children from joining school is subject to punishment by law.
We have in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya put in place a concrete plan of action for the development of the educational system which takes into consideration the requirements of our time, a system that takes into account the advances in information and communication technologies to insure our full participation and involvement in the new millennium.
We have many legislation's that protect children against the various forms of discrimination. Under the Constitutional Declaration issued in 1969, all Libyans are equal before the law. Law number (20) for 1991, concerning the Reinforcement of Freedom, states that all Libyan citizens, male or female, are free and enjoy equal rights. Libyan legislation, and currently applied laws, guarantee the right of children to expression, thinking, invention and creativity. There is no law, or social restriction, in Libya that prohibits girls from choosing any educational or vocational field. There are hundreds of girls enrolled in the Police force and the Army. Law number (5) for 1997 criminalizes the abuse of children. Article (398) of the Penal Code makes abuse of children by battering, torture or infliction of harm, an offense punishable by imprisonment. Moreover, we have made considerable progress in the field of child's health. The rate of coverage for all required vaccinations has reached 100%. Several diseases such as poliomyelitis have been eradicated. The statistics derived from the Arab Libyan Survey of Mother and Child Health for 1995 - 2000, indicate that the rate of malnutrition in Libya is lower than in the other Arab countries. The rate of malnourished children was only 4.7%. The rate of extremely underweight children does not exceed 2.7%.
Libya was among the first states that signed and ratified, without any
reservations, the convention on the Rights of the Child. In implementation
of the provisions of that convention, we have formed a National Committee
"The Higher Committee for Childhood", and we are submitting the required
national reports. We also are among the first countries in Africa to have
ratified the African Children's Charter. Libya is also a party to convention
(182), which was adopted by ILO aimed at the eradication of the worst forms
of child labor, and our laws prohibit the employment of children under
the age of 15. My country has signed at the fifty-sixth Session of
the General assembly the United Nations Convention against Transitional
Organized Crime along with its three protocols namely:
The competent authorities in Libya are also studying the two protocols to the Convention of the Rights of the Child: the involvement of children in armed conflicts and child trafficking and prostitution, with a view to acceding to them.
As we highlight to this forum our achievements in the area of child survival, development and protection, this Assembly should be aware of the fact that Libyan children have suffered considerably as hundreds of them died in road accidents because of the embargo on Air Travel imposed on our country, as a part of the unjust sanctions forced on us for more than seven years. Many Libyan children also lost their lives and many others still suffer from injuries because of the explosion of land mines planted during World War II. Some children lost limbs because of a mine exploding while they were tending to their sheep, or playing around their tents. Three years ago, 400 Libyan families suffered from a devastating tragedy: their children, 2 to 14 months of age, were deliberately injected with the Aids virus, leading to the death of a big number of them. The case is being adjucated by the Libyan courts, which will determine impartially and equitably who committed this hideous crime, who the instigators were, and what evil motives stood behind their act.
We welcome the convening of this session for it provides us with the opportunity to review what has been achieved at the national and the international level, for the protection of children. It also avails us of an historical opportunity to reaffirm our commitments and devise new plans which would ensure a brighter future for our children. We think that the most important item these plans should include is the provision of primary health care, and the essential and appropriate health facilities. It is totally unacceptable that 10 million children die annually because of diseases that can be protected against by preventive measures, raising the awareness and the provision of affordable medicines. Measures proven to be effective in combating malnutrition and the eradication of AIDS must be intensified through the establishment of centers for prevention and treatment, as well as making available more effective and less costly medicines and drugs. Special assistance should also be given to children orphaned because of AIDS. Furthermore, specific strategies with a fixed time frame, should be set up to facilitate school enrollment for children, whose numbers exceed at present 100 million, mostly girls. In these two fields, we call for giving top priority to the African continent in which the percentage of children not enrolled in schools constitutes 40% of children out of school all over the world. The percentage of HIV infected persons in the continent is 70% of the world rate of infection, and 90% of children orphaned by this epidemic are found in Africa. We in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, out of our belief in defending the right of African children and African people to health and well being, have declared in a statement made by the Leader of the Revolution in the Abuja summit held last year, the establishment of the African Research Center for Disease Control. The largest share of the costs will be shouldered by Libya. This is meant to be an initiative that may move conscientious people to contribute to the success of this institution, or to emulate its example, so that efforts may be united in waging humanity battle against fatal diseases.
Assistance and resources must also be provided to countries affected by mines and other war relics to which innocent children fall victim. We stress that no plan or programme can be successful without resources. It is, therefore, necessary in order to ensure healthy life, quality education and the protection of children from diseases, to provide adequate resources, both on the national and international levels. In this respect, we call for the allocation of more resources for children in national budgets. International financial institutions should also give priority to expenditure on children protection programmes in the resources they apportion to development. We stress, furthermore, the importance of an expeditious solution to the predicament of external debts that burden certain countries, and obstruct their efforts that aim at protecting children and sustaining their growth. We call also for the implementation of policies, which espouse exemption from customs duties and the quota system for the exports of the developing, and the least developed countries, in order to support these countries' efforts to implement plans of action for the benefit of children.
Finally, Mr. President, We are aware of the fact that there are many issues that deserve priority. However, nothing could be more vital than the survival of our children. Let us, therefore, grant this issue an utmost priority. Children are the pillars of the future and the pivot of progress for all societies, any time and anywhere.
Thank you for your attention.