Dr. Emile Jarjou'i
Head of Delegation of the Observer Delegation of Palestine
on the occasion of the Special Session of the General Assembly on Children
9 May 2002
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is an honor and pleasure to address this UN Special Session on Children on behalf of President Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian people, and especially our children. This Session is convening more than a decade after the World Summit on Children to consider the state of the world's children and to renew and intensify commitments aimed at improving their future well being in all areas of life. As we review the provisions of the Convention and the Declaration on the Rights of the Child, it is evident that many of the world's children continue to be denied many of the rights that are guaranteed by these important international instruments.
Palestinian children do not enjoy many of those rights. Their lives are marked by the systematic denial and violation by Israel, the occupying Power, of even their most basic rights, precluding the true enjoyment of rights to which other children of the world are and should be entitled to. Palestinian children are the only children of the world without a State of their own, living as refugees or under foreign occupation or even both. These realities are cause for deep regret, but they must also be cause for urgent action. Palestinian children have learned that the presence of the CRC. and the Declaration of Child Rights are important, but only if they are implemented.
As adults, we may try to rationalize what is happening and make general statements to the effect that political efforts are underway to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But children are not interested in politics. They want to live, play, go to school, travel and explore their world. But they cannot! In the last 19 months, Israeli military forces that have acted upon the directives of their government have indiscriminately killed hundreds of Palestinian children. These children were killed while they lay asleep in their beds, in the arms of their mothers, while playing and going to school by Israeli military forces.
The killing of these children is non-excusable. These children are not mere numbers that news broadcasters mention at the end of the day. They are our children. They will not be forgotten. These deaths represent a gross violation of their most basic right to life. The violations are numerous. Palestinian children and their families have suffered vast physical destruction caused by the Israeli onslaught. This includes destruction of their homes, schools, play sites, libraries, roads, holy sites and vital infrastructure. Their suffering has been particularly acute in the past month following the continued escalation of the Israeli siege and assaults on Palestinian cities, refugee camps and villages. These areas have been ruined. These invasions and closures have led to complete socio-economic suffocation of the Palestinian people. Over 60% of our children live in poverty now. Hundreds of Palestinian children are still being illegally detained and imprisoned in Israeli prisons and tens of thousands of Palestinian children have had their education disrupted. This has resulted in a dire humanitarian situation, in which hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been denied normal access to basic life necessities, such as food, water and medical care. Thousands of children have been rendered homeless. This is the state in which Palestinian children find themselves today.
Although we still do not exercise sovereignty over our land, this has
not prevented us (the Palestinian National Authority), from not only endorsing
the CRC, but giving high priority to implementing the measures laid out
in the Convention. This commitment has been effectively translated into
the setting up of specialized institutions like the Palestinian High Council
for Childhood and Mother, the Secretariat for the National Plan of Action
for Palestinian Children, and ministries of health, education, social affairs,
youth and sports, culture, information and labor which have developed specific
programs to meet the needs of children through preventive health and medicine,
education, social welfare and assistance, psychosocial health, summer camps
and a host of other rights based, child friendly national programs to benefit
children's well being. A draft Palestinian Child's Rights Charter has been
prepared that incorporates the CRC principles and is presently before the
Palestinian Legislative Council. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics
is actively collecting data and information in order to effectively produce
a data base and monitoring system for children. Unfortunately, these efforts
have been diminished because of the continuing military incursions into
the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem. This should come
as no surprise to those familiar with the needs and rights of children.
Progress is not really feasible and sustainable
when children live under situations of war, occupation and poverty.
As we meet in the next few days, let us all remember that good intentions
are not enough. Palestinian children, like children the world over, have
the right to life, development, an identity, freedom of speech and movement,
education, protection ... protection ... protection! We must translate
our good intentions into good deeds. That is the path to peace. Our children
have a right to be safe and to have their rights met. As such we request
that the following needed actions be taken:
These are the responsibilities of all of us collectively. Let us all work together to see that we meet the challenge.