PAKISTAN
 
 

Statement

by

Dr. Attiya Inayatullah
Minister for Women Development, Social Welfare & Special Education and Personal Representative of the President of Pakistan

on the occasion of the Special Session of the General Assembly on Children

New York,
10 May 2002

Mr. President,
Pakistan is a child friendly nation; its ownership rests with fifty million children, a vibrant civil society and child empathetic government. On behalf of our delegation, which has all stakeholder representation may I convey how immensely pleased we are to see you preside over this Special Session. You bring to this august office traditional warmth and legendary wisdom of the East and vision of a forwardlooking nation. We are confident that under your able stewardship, this Special Session would achieve its objectives. In that, Mr. President, you will have our full support and cooperation

Mr. President,

2. To you Mr. President and distinguished representatives we bring to this forum the personal greetings of President Parvez Musharraf for the success of the proceedings. Understandably, post nine eleven re-scheduling of the President's earlier planned participation fell through the cracks, on the one hand due to the unprecedented carnage that afflicted Manhattan and the eastern seaboard of USA and on the other, the turbulence that erupted in our own Region. In the eyes of the storm, President Musharrafs choices were between a hard place and a rock Our decisions were taken in national interest & in Pakistan's quest for global peace, particularly in nuclearized South Asia Pakistan re-iterates that it stands firm against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. We condemn the dastardly crimes perpetrated against humanity by willful acts of terrorism which in many troubled parts of the globe has taken thousands of innocent lives and has left many more thousands of children traumatized due to the loss of their parents or dear ones, we share the anguish and grief of the bereaved May the souls of the departed rest in peace.  Aameen.

3. Pakistan's belief in do support to UNICEF is of long standing. The anecdotal evidence of which is that many decades ago when the continuation of UNICEF was under serious question, it was Pakistan's Ambassador to UN who convincingly pleaded on behalf of the children of the world and won a great moral victory whereby on December 1, 1950 the General Assembly gave their blessings to UNICEF with the mandate to help children caught in the silent emergency of poverty, disease and hunger in the world Eyewitnesses say it was an unforgettable day. Our confidence in the then nascent organization and its mandate was well placed UNICEF operations do us proud We wish to acknowledge Carol Bellamy and her team for converting the nightmare of the hideous acts of nine eleven into this dream of a Special Session.

4. Pakistan also has the proud distinction of being one of the six-initiator countries which issued "the first call" for children. The response to the call was indeed momentous. The World Summit on Children held in 1990 was an unprecedented success The Summit adopted a progressive Plan of Action heralding the elevation of the rights of the child to the forefront of the global agenda. This was the first universal effort to prepare a road map for the children of the world. That initiative was also a practical demonstration of our commitment to the cause of children. This commitment, however, had deeper roots that could be traced beyond the World Summit of 1990.

5. Children have always been the focus of our attention. Islam lays down strong religious obligations for the welfare of children and protection of their rights. It is, therefore, no coincidence that welfare of children and the institution of family are accorded a special place in our state policies and constitutional safeguards are also present to protect rights of women and children. Pakistan's commitment at international level to the rights of children came immediately after the independence when we signed and ratified the Night Work of Young Persons (Industry) Convention (Revised) in 1951. However, it was during 1980s that world awoke to the fact that children were not being given the attention they deserved. We took the lead in this and in addition to initiating actions that lead to the World Summit for Children Pakistan is now a proud signatory to all child-related treaties.

The spirit of these covenants will further strengthen our resolve and national endeavours towards the protection and promotion of the rights of children. Endorsement of international instruments and their enforcement including a review of legislation pertaining to children is a main thrust of the government.

6. In addition to the actions at the global level, Pakistan has also been active in raising concerns about children at the South Asian Regional level through the forum of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Special emphasis has also been given to girls of South Asia and 1990 was declared as the Year of the Girl Child followed by 1991 - 2000 decade being designated as the Decade of the Girl Child. Last year, on Pakistan's initiative, a Symposium of SAARC Countries was held to review the key issues still confronting the girls in the region and to share experiences on good practices for promoting girl's rights. The region-specific recommendations of the symposium are now being considered for incorporation into national policies. Recently, during the l1t6 SAARC Summit at Katmandu, the leaders of one fifth of humanity got together to pledge support for children and women and the Convention on Regional Arrangements for Promotion of Child Welfare in South Asia was signed. Its focus being on "redeeming the promises made by [the SAARC countries] to the South Asian Child at the World Summit for Children and at various other national and international conferences and successive SAARC Summits". The South Asian leaders also signed the Convention on Preventing Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution. The ratification of these Conventions is under process. Once ratified these instruments will serve as a veritable watershed for protection and promotion of child rights in South Asia.

7. A decade after the World Summit, we now take stock of what we have achieved, where have we fallen short and what should be done to complete our unfinished agenda The Preparatory Committee has addressed this monumental task After much sweat and toil the outcome document A World Fit for Children does the Chairman and her Bureau proud this could not have been achieved without their viewing it as a labour of love. We applaud it for being forward looking, focused and result oriented We endorse the greater attention given to children requiring special protection, such as, exploited and abused children particularly trafficking & child prostitution which continues to torture the collective conscience of humanity; the many afflicted by armed conflicts which unabatedly kill, maim and displace millions of children and HIV/AIDS which alone has orphaned some 13 million children.

We need not search very hard for our failure to redeem the pledges made ten years ago right here in this UN building. Abject poverty, economic dep, rivation, social exclusion and exploitation are writ large as the impediments that frustrate our aspirations.

9. The situation is not irredeemable. The past decade besides bringing in new challenges has also ushered in unique opportunities made possible by globalization. A World Fit for Children has painstakingly carved out our shared agenda, one that can only be fuelled through sustained and collective effort. World leaders unanimously endorsed this approach in this very hall during the Millennium Summit.

10. Do we have the political will to give a concerted global response to global challenges? The answer cannot but be in the affirmative because we must safeguard our children and there can be no excuse not to care for our children. Above all as Babrial Mistral the Nobel Prize winner said, "many things we need can wait. The child cannot".

Mr. President,

11. We in Pakistan acknowledge that the worst victims of the 21st century are children of families trapped in poverty. President Pervez Musharrafs Government is working on good governance, restoration of democracy and economic revival which regulates foreign borrowing to shed dependency on external creditors. Concurrently, Pakistan is also putting into place a comprehensive reform programme which protects and extends to the vulnerable, inclusive of the child who is a fundamental element in Pakistan's human security agenda.

12. We have embarked on a road to bring into place genuinely democratic system in the country which is sensitive to national priorities and the needs of the under privileged and the down trodden. This is being done through a two-tier process. Firstly we have devolved and decentralized state functions to the lowest administrative units followed by local government elections to allow the local people to become masters of their own destiny. National and provincial elections are scheduled to bring in a democratic structure. Women are being given a higher representation; 33% at the lowest level of government. Measures are also afoot to ensure that the positive and sound policies initiated by the present government are continued into the future and regression back to the mistakes of the past governments is avoided. These developments augur well for the initiatives taken by us. These governance changes will have major impact for the welfare of children and the protection of their rights. An initiative has been taken in Punjab, the largest province of Pakistan to set up district level Commissions for the welfare and development of children. These Commissions will be responsible for taking actions, among others, to follow up at the grass root level the decisions taken by us at the UNSSC. This initiative will be taken forward.

13. Pakistan has also managed to establish a strong NGO sector and we believe that without an active civil society many of our carefully prepared plans will flounder. We have today with us at the Special Session some of the leading NGOs of Pakistan. Dost Foundation, SPARC, Edhi Foundation, Bunyad, FPAP, Pakistan Pediatrics' Association, Action Aid, Save the Children, are doing wonderfully useful work in Pakistan in various areas. The presence of a vibrant NGO sector augurs well for the children of Pakistan.

Mr. President,

14. The momentum generated in the social sectors since the coming into power of the Musharraf Government has allowed us to make progress in a wide spectrum of human rights. The world has never before been in need of peace more than today. Promotion of global peace and harmony is one of the biggest challenges we face now. Government of Pakistan has adopted a policy to create a culture of peace and tolerance in the country. Direct and indirect causes of intolerance are being addressed. The deprived and dispossessed people of the society are being brought in the mainstream through a broad spectrum Poverty Reduction Strategy Programme. Extremist religious groups have been banned. Madrassahs (religious schools) are being reformed and secular education is now being introduced in these institutions. Ministry of Education has already introduced English, Economics, Pakistan Studies and Mathematics at secondary level in 100 Madrassahs. Many schools have already taken up policies to inculcate qualities and spirit of tolerance, empathy and open-mindedness among its pupils.

15. In order to promote a culture of tolerance and peace, Ministries of Education and Law, Justice & Human Rights have launched a project, Human Rights Education and Awareness. Curriculum in this regard has also been developed for elementary classes (I - VIII).

16. Girl child remains the focus of our attention. South Asia has lead in highlighting the need for a special focus on girls globally. The girl child issue was raised during preparations for the 4th World Conference on Women held in Beijing during 1995. As a result, girl child issues were included in Beijing Platform for Action. All SAARC countries have signed and ratified Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

17. Boy Scouts in Balochistan, the least developed province of Pakistan, are running a project to promote and protect children rights to health and sanitation and girls rights for education. This is a unique initiative and we are proud to have a child delegate from this project with us at the Special Session. Pakistan Girl Guide Association has also launched a project called `Girl Guide Shield Project', which provides girls the opportunity to learn self-reliance and foster their self-esteem, helping them think for themselves and become resourceful. Out of approximately 100,000 enrolled Girl Guides, almost 50% have so far benefited from the project. The overall objective of this project is to raise awareness on rights issues and to empower girls to improve their social status, to act as role models and change agents. Similarly Family Planning Association of Pakistan is running the Girl Child Project aimed at improving the lives of girl children and ensuring their rights.

18. Government of Pakistan is fully committed to the welfare and development of children. All possible efforts are being made to formulate and implement relevant policies in collaboration with UN Agencies, International Development Organizations, NGOs, public-private partnerships and the private sector. A brief update of the progress made by Pakistan in furthering the various rights of children enshrined in the CRC is placed below:

CRC Article 40

i. Children in conflict with law have the right to proper treatment under Article 40 of the CRC. We have made significant progress to ensure this basic right. Under our new law, the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance, 2000, juvenile courts have been set up and rules are being finalized. Number of borstal jails is being increased and facilities for free legal aid are in the pipeline. Concerted efforts to provide relief have resulted in the reduction in the number of the juveniles confined in jails. The policy to give amnesty in minor cases has continued. Prosecution has also been withdrawn in cases where trails have been delayed due to no fault of the juvenile accused. We are also happy to report that all the provincial governments are committed to providing special borstal institutions for juvenile convicts, allowing them opportunities for education and recreation and to be away from the harmful influences of jails. Punjab and Sindh Provinces lead in these initiatives with others following closely behind.


ii. CRC Article 27:

Pakistan has succeeded in bringing in a system of electronic registration of births and special cards are being provided to ensure that the right to an identity for every child, conferred by Article 7 of the CRC is realized. This system is to cover the existing population as well as the newborns.
iii. CRC Article 12:
Participation of children in the decisions that affect them is their basic right enshrined in the Article 12 of the CRC. Government has made it a policy to involve children in all official and unofficial consultations to examine and propose policy. An unprecedented workshop of change makers was sponsored with the help of Save the Children Alliance. Similarly the South Asian Girl Child Symposium was held where girl child delegates, from best practice projects from all over the South Asian Region, gathered together to propose policy recommendations on issues that were of concern to them. That was a unique and unprecedented activity of the children, for the children and by the children.


iv. CRC Articles 28 & 29:

a. Education is a basic right protected by Articles 28 and 29 of the CRC. This is one of the most important areas for Pakistan and progress and economic development is predicated on this. Government is taking serious measures to bring in a system that allows for affordable access to universal primary education of good quality. The new Plan of Action has been prepared and the Education Sector Reforms are underway. The Quality Improvement Scheme of the Ministry of Education covers four areas viz. curriculum development, textbooks development, teacher education and training and testing and evaluation. Under this scheme, 58 titles of National Curriculum for class I - VI have been revised and updated. New diploma and bridging courses for teachers have been designed and launched. 245 Master Trainers have been trained and 1000 Master Teachers of Madrassahs have been trained in subjects of Economics, English, Pakistan Studies and Computer Sciences.
b. One distinctive example is Grammar Schools of Rawalpindi where children are being taught about human rights, sustainable development and environment and are being linked to disadvantaged and marginalized sections of society through community welfare projects. Teacher training in Human Rights is being organized nation-wide through the Fazaldad Human Rights Institute in government schools. With the assistance of UNFPA family life education curriculum has been prepared for classes I-VIII and is being continued through inclusion of the Family Life Education Project for classes IX to XII. This involves teacher training aimed at strengthening the family as the basic unit of society, focusing on girls and women and changing the stereotypes of girls and creating gender sensitization leading to a balance between the population and resources of the nation.
c. Affordable access to universal primary education, especially for girls is an important focus area for Pakistan. The primary school enrollment is set to reach 100 percent by 2010 while the female literacy rate is set to increase from 39% presently to 67% by 2011. The adult literacy rate in the same period is projected to reach 78%. Three prominent women educationists have been appointed as Education Ministers by the present government, one at federal level and two in the provinces. They are working hard to bring a positive change in the vital sector of education and things have already started working in the right direction.
viii. CRC Article 24:
a. Access to proper nutrition and health facilities is a basic right under Article 24 of the CRC. This is a major challenge for Pakistan. Focus remains on immunization against the main killer diseases. Continued initiatives have meant improved indicators over the years. Other sustained efforts in the area of health also continue. Basic immunization [0-11 months] coverage against six deadly diseases of children is set to reach 100% by 2010-11 as against 55% now. We have very successfully controlled the prevalence of Polio through regular National Immunization Days. In 1997, there were 1147 confirmed cases of polio in Pakistan, which was 22% of total globally reported cases. Today we are proud to declare that Pakistan will be a polio free country by the next year. Prevalence of other diseases of children is also coming down. Maternal mortality brought down to 180 [per 1000 live births] by 2003-4 from the present, unacceptably high, figure of 380. Infant Mortality Rate is expected to decline from 80 presently to 55 in 2010-11. We aim to make quality health care available to the total population by the year 2010-I1. We are also focusing of reducing the 700,000 deaths each year of children under 5.
b. Use of life saving Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) against diarrhoeal diseases has increased a lot. The rate has improved from 34% in 1987-92 to 97% in 1990-7. Role of breast feeding for child health especially in building immunity against diseases is very well recognized. Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BF-II was introduced by UNICEF and WHO in 1991 in order to promote and support breast feeding. So far, 52 hospitals have been awarded Baby Friendly Status after meeting highest standards with regard to mother care, child care and breast feeding programmes.
c. Malnutrition in children has threatened to mar progress made in other areas. Programs to improve nutritional status of children are under way. Presently only about 55% population has access to iodized salt. This is expected to increase to 75% by 2003-4 and to 100% by 2010-11. Presently 25 % newborns have low birth weight; this is projected to decrease to 12 % by 2010-11. Prevalence of malnutrition among pre-school children is to decrease from 37% to 20% and that in school going children [ages 5-14 years] from 35% to 15% by 2010-11.
d. Recognizing the inter-generational impact of malnutrition on girls, Pakistan has initiated an innovative programme to improve the nutritional status of girl children in primary schools. The Tawana Pakistan Project seeks to provide meals, micronutrients and medicines to half a million girls in primary schools. This project will not only enhance nutritional status of girls but will also lead to increased enrollment of girls in primary schools. This is a sustainable programme, based firmly on family and community support. 20 poorest districts are getting the programme in the first phase.
ix. CRC Article 32:
a. Protection from economic exploitation and hazardous work is a basic right of the child under Article 32 of the CRC. We are pleased to report that government has continued to pursue the policy to eliminate child labour by 2005 for which a National Policy and Plan of Action has been approved.
b. The ILO Convention 182 against the worst forms of child labour has been signed and ratified. Tripartite consultative process has been initiated to bring the laws and policies in compliance by October 2002, when the Convention will come into force. Children are involved in these consultations.
c. In the national plan to combat child labour, the government has established a fund for the education of working children with an initial outlay of Rs. 100 million (around US$ 1.8 million).
d. The awareness of the problem of child labour provided basis for the enactment of the Employment of Children Act 1991 followed by a number of administrative and other initiatives to address the issue of child labour effectively.
e. Pakistan's political and legislative commitment against child labour was more expressly and articulately pronounced in signing ILO-IPEC Memorandum of Understanding on June, 21, 1994. Task Force on Child Labour for monitoring and implementing the Program is active in working for the immediate withdrawal of children from hazardous and exploitative situation and progressive elimination of child labour.
f. A collaborative effort between government, NGOs, and the private sector has resulted in establishment of more than 650 rehabilitation schools for working children all over the country. In the fight against child labour we are making good headway. A proof of Pakistan's efforts came on July, 14, 1999, when the US Deputy Trade Representative testified before a Senate Finance and Trade Subcommittee stating that a total of 37,000 children have been removed from soccer ball stitching and carpet weaving in Pakistan.
x. CRC Articles 34 & 35
Pakistan is proud to have strong cultural and family traditions. These coupled with Islamic societal values ensure that the modern day scourges like street children, commercial sexual abuse and exploitation, child pornography, and child prostitution and trafficking, are kept under control and have not assumed alarming proportions. Most of these evils are related in some way or the other to poverty and destitution. Our poverty reduction programme is directed to address these problems as well. While poverty is undoubtedly one of the major reasons forcing families to put children to work, child labour itself perpetuates poverty as children that start work at an early age compromise their chances of better future earnings. Articles 34 and 35 of the CRC lay down rights of the children in these areas. We have been working with the countries in the South Asian Region to develop strategies and plans of actions to come to terms with commercial sexual abuse and exploitation, child pornography, and child prostitution and trafficking. In this regard ILO Convention 182 against worst forms of child labour has also been signed and ratified. Government has also signed Optional Protocols to the CRC on Sale of Children, Child Pornography and Child Prostitution and Children in Armed Conflict. The SAARC countries have signed the Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children. National consultations to review the policy implications of these new international commitments under these instruments have been held and ratification is under process.
xi. CRC Article 23
Special children have the right to special care and education under Article 23 of the CRC. Through a policy of decentralization, functions are being devolved to the lower, operational tiers in the government to make the working of government's special education infrastructure more efficient. It is anticipated that the working of the institutes for various disabilities will improve, thereby providing better care to the special needs of children challenged by a disability.
xii. CRC Articles 19, 20, 22
We are also conscious of protection issues of children without families, or orphans and of refugee children. Special programmes are underway to ensure support in the short term as well as appropriate policy reform for long term solutions. The country has a rich tradition of providing care to the orphans based on the societal ethos shaped by religious, cultural and social norms. Orphans have a special status among other children due to their vulnerabilities and special needs for protection and development. A large charitable sector in Pakistan is pursuing the best interests of the orphaned children who are not only given awareness about their rights but are also provided maximum opportunities to attain and protect those rights. Edhi Foundation, SOS Children Villages, Kashana e Atfal are some of the best-practice institutions taking care of children without parental support as well as abandoned, destitute and unwanted children. These institutions are well managed with a strong emphasis on wholesome education, personality development and ensuring children's dignity and self-esteem through provision of loge and care. Madrassahs (religious schools) are also running a vast network of free residence schools where children are given only religious education. However, after the recent Madrassah reforms, children living there will also get a wholesome education. Government has conducted a study to determine the best practices in orphan-care and these are now set for replication through appropriate changes in legislation.
19. We have detailed plans in place to efficiently and swiftly take forward and follow up on A World Fit for Children. National level consultations are planned and plans of actions are to be prepared down to the operational levels.

Mr. President,

20. These are only few of the initiatives to give you a flavour of what we have achieved and sustained over the last few years. A lot more has also been done. One area which needs special mention is the Poverty Reduction Strategic Policy that concentrates on improving the quality of life of the people of Pakistan. Establishment of micro credit banks in public and private sector is one big step for poverty alleviation. The poor are also being supported by Zakat Funds, a religious tax. Food Support Programmes have also been launched. Skill development and capacity building are other major targets of poverty reduction initiatives. Pakistan Baitul Mal, a government welfare agency, has set up vocational training schools where poor girls are trained in stitching, knitting, embroidery and cloth-cutting. Recently, these schools have introduced computer courses for girls to equip them better for gainful employment. A Youth Apprenticeship Scheme for the working children & young persons is to be launched by the Ministry of Labour with two elements i.e., training in different trades and informal formal education. This augurs well for the children as in many cases the root causes of abuses suffered by the children can be traced to poverty in the family.

Mr. President,

21. Our convictions are strong and our actions are consistent with our commitments. However the area where we have traditionally been lacking is implementation of the very well conceived plans, programmes and projects. Many a policy has floundered during to lack of resources and; or capacity. We are confident to improve this area. The Government has recently set up the Pakistan National Commission on Human Development and major improvements are expected in a number of areas; especially at the grass root level in terms of capacity of both the government and the NGO sector for improved working.

22. End Decade Review under taken in Pakistan has shown that economic challenges faced during the 1990s decade were the main reason for lower than expected allocations for social sectors. We are confident that we will inshallah be able to improve the economic position situation in the country. However we also look towards the international development partners to play their due role in assisting the developing countries in successful implementation of their plans and programmes. It is but stating the obvious that our aspirations will remain a pipe dream until and unless the developed world, international donor agencies and financial institutions assist developing countries through debt relief measures, increased development assistance, enhanced investments, removal of trade barriers and measures to bridge the digital divide.

23. Mr. President; In May last year, leaders, finance and planning officers, activists and children gathered at Kathmandu Nepal from seven South Asian countries and agreed to what has come to be known as the "Kathmandu Understanding". The first sentence of this agreement reads "We agree that children are the future of our nations...". Similarly earlier this year, at the SAARC Summit, the South Asian countries agreed in the Convention on Regional Arrangements for Promotion of Child Welfare in South Asia that they "shall consider survival, protection, development and participatory rights of the child as a vital pre-requisite for accelerating the process of their peoples, realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms and achieving economic and social development in South Asia".

24. The various initiatives and developments mentioned today demonstrate Pakistan's clear conviction and commitment to the welfare and development of children at national, regional and global levels. We are now fast movA ig from rhetoric to reality and strongly believe that every child on this planet will get her/his rights in a foreseeable future. The Special Session will add impetus to our efforts in this regard.

25. Mr. President, to the young leaders, who as important stakeholders are at last on our delegations, I have a few thoughts:

Mr. President,

26. In conclusion, we shall return home wiser and firmer in our conviction that depriving children, be it their freedom, growth or education, in truth deprives nations of their sense of morality. It is in this spirit that we join the global voice for a qualitative change in the lives of our children, together we can make this world fit for children.

I thank you, Mr. President.