SOCIAL COMMITTEE IS TOLD OF ADVANCES IN PROTECTION OF CHILDREN IN ARMED CONFLICT, BUT MAJOR CHALLENGES SAID TO REMAIN

11 October 2002
GA/SHC/3699

SOCIAL COMMITTEE IS TOLD OF ADVANCES IN PROTECTION OF CHILDREN IN ARMED CONFLICT, BUT MAJOR CHALLENGES SAID TO REMAIN

11/10/2002
Press ReleaseGA/SHC/3699

Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Third Committee

17th Meeting (PM)

SOCIAL COMMITTEE IS TOLD OF ADVANCES IN PROTECTION OF CHILDREN

IN ARMED CONFLICT, BUT MAJOR CHALLENGES SAID TO REMAIN

Annual Review Begins of Promotion of Children’s Rights; Efforts

To Check Abuses, Prevent Exploitation, Improve Conditions are Discussed

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict this afternoon told members of the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian Cultural) that the entry into force of the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court, were highpoints in a year that had marked notable progress in the protection of children in armed conflict. 

Opening the Committee's annual consideration of matters related to the promotion and protection of the rights of children, Olara Otunnu said the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict had entered into force last February and set the age limit for direct participation in hostilities and compulsory recruitment at 18, and had prohibited armed groups from recruiting, under any circumstances, persons under the age of 18 or the targeting of children as a strategy of conflict.

In addition, this year of progress had been marked by the Security Council's adoption of resolution 1379 which, for the first time, called for the Secretary-General to attach to his next report on children in armed conflict a list of parties to armed conflict that recruited or used children in violation of international law.  Looking ahead, however, there were still some major challenges, including the need to enhance the monitoring and reporting on the compliance of parties in conflict with international standards.

Kul Gautam, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said the General Assembly's special session on children, held last May, underscored that the great problems of the day -- poverty, underdevelopment, violence, discrimination and injustice -- could not be solved effectively until the needs and rights of children were placed at the center of national development and international cooperation

Briefing the Committee on activities throughout the United Nations system on behalf of children during the past year, Elsa Stamatopoulou, Deputy to the Director of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted that along with the Assembly’s special session another major event had taken place last year -- the Second World Congress against the Commercial Exploitation of Children in

Okinawa, Japan, last December.  She said 41 States had already ratified or acceded to the Optional Protocols and more than 100 had signed them.

When delegates took the floor in their national capacities, many this afternoon expressed grave concern at evidence of large-scale trafficking of young girls, the effects of deepening poverty in many regions of the world on effects to promote and protect the rights of children, and the need for enhanced national and international efforts to combat the ravages of HIV/AIDS and other diseases.  Two speakers –- the representatives of Denmark (on behalf of the European Union) and Norway -- drew attention to another matter of great concern, namely the use of the death penalty as a punishment for children, and urged all States that had not done so to abolish it.

Participating in an interactive dialogue with the United Nations officials earlier in the meeting were the representatives of Afghanistan, Syria, Austria, Cuba, Switzerland, Israel, Senegal, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Suriname.

The observer for Palestine also participated in that discussion.

Statements were also made by the representatives of China, Brazil (on behalf of the Southern Common Market, MERCOSUR), Costa Rica (on behalf of the Rio Group), Mexico, Iran, Peru, Qatar and Namibia (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community, SADC).

The Committee will meet again on Monday, 15 October, at 10 a.m. to continue its consideration of issues related to the protection of the rights of children.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this afternoon to begin its annual consideration of matters related to the promotion and protection of the rights of children, including follow-up to the outcome of the special session of the General Assembly on children, held earlier this year.

To guide its overall discussions, the Committee has before it the report of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (document A/57/41 and Corr. 1), which details the work of Committee at its 2002 session and presents the conclusions and recommendations adopted at its twenty-fourth through twenty-ninth sessions.  The report goes on to highlight the Committee's membership and organization of work, and guidelines for the submission of reports from States parties on their compliance with the convention on the Rights of the Child.

The report also provides an update on the status of the Convention and its two Optional Protocols.  It states that as at February 2002, the first protocol -- on the involvement of children in armed conflict -- had been ratified or acceded to by 13 States parties and signed by 94 States.  It entered into force on 12 February 2002.  The second Optional Protocol -- on child prostitution and pornography -- had been ratified or acceded to by 16 States parties and signed by 94 States.  It entered into force on 18 January 2002.

Also before the Committee is Secretary-General's report on the protection of children in armed conflict (document A/57/402), which covers the activities of the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the matter, Olara Otunnu.  The report states that the need to address impunity, and to bring to justice those responsible for violations of the rights of children in situations of armed conflict, continued to occupy the Office.  It was also a key component of any comprehensive effort to strengthen and enhance adherence to international norms and standards for the protection of children.

According to the report, the Office of the Special Representative has contributed to the overall efforts to provide concrete, child-centered guidance during the development of truth commissions and war tribunals.  It had been working with the United Nations Legal Affairs Office, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL). The report also highlights the Special Representative's country visits during the past year, which included Northern Ireland, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Angola, Russian Federation and Afghanistan. 

The Committee also has a report of the Secretary-General on the status of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (document A/57/295) containing information on the status and implementation of the Convention.  The report states that as of 2 July 2002, the Convention had been ratified or acceded to by 191 States.  In addition, two States had signed the Convention.

There is also a letter dated 22 August 2002 from the Charge d’affaires of the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document A/57/350) containing information about the Koizumi Initiative (Concrete Actions of the Japanese Government to be taken for Sustainable Development -- Towards Global Sharing) which was announced in Tokyo in August of this year.

Introductory Statements

OLARA OTUNNU, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, said the last twelve months had witnessed particularly remarkable progress in the protection of children in armed conflict.  Among the highlights was the entry into force of the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court.  In addition, for the first time the Security Council had agreed to receive a list that named the names of those countries and groups which used children in armed conflict.  He added that the institution of child protection advisors had also been a remarkable development of the last few years.

He said his Office had been promoting national institutions for the rehabilitation of children who had been used in armed conflict.  In the context of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), his Office had suggested a child protection unit, and this was now a reality.  Concerning the special session on children, he said that child protection was now integrated in most legal instruments.

Mr. Otunnu told the Committee about his missions during the last year.  In Northern Ireland, he said, he had been pleased that the participation of young people in the peace process was being consolidated.  But he remained concerned that the practice of punishment beatings, as well as segregation along sectarian lines, continued.  He was pleased that the Government of Guatemala had signed the two Optional Protocols, but remained concerned that the implementation of commitments to do with children had not been acted upon.  In Ethiopia and Eritrea, he had noted that there was no evidence of systematic use of children by either side.  However, the situation of landmines needed to be addressed, as well as the resettlement of displaced populations. 

In Angola, the war had come to an end and the Government had ratified the Ottawa Convention on landmines.  In the Russian Federation and Chechnya, the voluntary return of internally displaced people was under way.  However, the use of children to plant landmines must end.  His visit to Afghanistan had been most heart-warming but he had been shocked at the levels of malnutrition and widespread poverty.

Looking ahead, he said the international community had come a long way but there were still five major challenges.  One, the progress made needed to be made better known.  Second, enough had not been done to monitor and report on the compliance of parties in conflict with international standards.  Thirdly, there was a need to strengthen civil society for the protection of children affected by conflict.  Fourthly, although there had been considerable progress, more needed to be done to consolidate the institution of protection of children.  And finally, it was important to enrol children in the protection of other children, and make them part of the movement for the protection of children caught up in armed conflicts.

ELSA STAMATOPOULOU, Deputy to the Director of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, briefed the Committee on activities throughout the United Nations system on behalf of children during the past year.  In her introduction of various reports before the Committee, she said that two major events had taken place last year -- the Second World Congress against the Commercial Exploitation of Children in Okinawa, Japan, last December, and the General Assembly’s special session on children last May.

After highlighting the work of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, she noted that body had adopted reporting guidelines for the two protocols of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in early 2002.  The Committee had also adopted a “general comment” this year on the role of national human rights institutions in promoting and protecting child rights.

She said 41 States had already ratified or acceded to those two protocols and more than 100 had signed them, just two years after their adoption by the Assembly.   The special rapporteur on the sale of children and child pornography had recently completed a visit to South Africa -- 16 to 27 September -- and would visit France in November.  On the Assembly's special session, she said her office would support the implementation of the principles outlined in "A World Fit For Children", the important document resulting from the session.  It would focus its efforts particularly on human rights education, administration of juvenile justice and trafficking and sale in children.

KUL C. GAUTAM, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), addressed the committee on the General Assembly’s special session on children, held last May.  He said it had indeed been an extraordinary gathering of world leaders and children's rights activists.  It had reminded all that the great problems of the day -- poverty and underdevelopment, war and violence, discrimination and injustice -- could not be solved effectively until the needs and rights of children were placed at the very center of national development and international cooperation.  If the world was to have any chance of achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and build on the foundations for sustainable development, children should not just be part of the global development agenda, they must be at the heart of all efforts for peace and security, growth and development, human rights and social justice.

He said the outcome document adopted by the special session, "A World Fit for Children", sought to create a child-friendly world, by putting children's physical, social, emotional and spiritual development at the forefront of global priorities.  Governments had agreed to work with their partners to prepare specific plans for action by the end of 2003 to reduce poverty and promote healthy lives, as well as to protect children against abuse, exploitation and violence, and to combat HIV/AIDS.  He reported that several countries in the Asia-Pacific and Latin American and Caribbean regions had already prepared national programmes to implement the goals and strategies of the special session.  In that spirit, UNICEF would encourage all governments to accelerate preparation of follow-up plans in their countries.

He said UNICEF would also look to donors and members of the wider international community to provide strategic support to address the situation of children in the least developed countries, low-income countries and countries in transition.  For its part, UNICEF had been working with its partners to ensure that countries in sub-Saharan Africa give high priority to the needs of children in the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) initiative.  He added that protecting children from the ravages of the HIV/AIDS virus and armed conflicts would be one of the best defensive shields that could be provided for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

He said the Committee could count on UNICEF to work with its partners, sister United Nations agencies, the Secretary-General and the wider United Nations family, to ensure a solid base for guiding the Organization's work to create a world truly fit for children.

Interactive Dialogue

In a subsequent segment of interactive dialogue, the representative of Afghanistan said Mr. Otunnu had engaged in a series of bilateral meetings during his visit in Afghanistan and that his reports correctly reflected the needs of Afghanistan.  The representative said he supported and endorsed the report, and the recommendations made with regards to the protection of children affected by the war in Afghanistan.

The representative of Syria said he regretted that the report of Mr. Otunnu, as in previous years, had not mentioned children under foreign occupation.  She felt there was a trend to ignore this topic.  It was important to be just and fair, and avoid selectivity on the protection of children. 

In his capacity as Chairman of the Human Security Network, the representative of Austria said the Network aimed to protect children from being used in armed conflicts and to end impunity for such crimes.  He asked what were the most effective methods to strengthen monitoring, and how the protection of children in armed conflict could be further incorporated in all of the United Nations work, with particular focus on young girls.

The Special Representative, OLARA OTUNNU, responded by saying that what he had seen in Afghanistan had been very moving.  The Afghan people had the resilience to "make it", but would need a helping hand from the international community.  

Concerning the Syrian intervention, Mr. Otunnu said the reports were on what had been done in the last twelve months and on the countries he had visited.  He had not visited the occupied territories, even though he hoped to do so in the future, given that the modalities be put in place. 

In response to Austria, he said there was no single more important or pressing need than to better organise monitoring.  The instruments needed for monitoring were the relevant parts of the Convention, Geneva Convention, optional protocols, and specific provisions in peace accords, as well as the targeted measures of the Security Council.  Reporting and monitoring was needed to put countries on the defensive, and to let them know that they were being watched and judged by the international community. 

Mr. GAUTAM, of UNICEF, said that all in the United Nations were proud of the revival in Afghanistan.  With regard to Syria, he stressed that the United Nations as a whole had spoken out about what was going on in the occupied territories.  Concerning the protection of girls in armed conflict, he stressed that they were disproportionately disadvantaged.  The United Nations Children's Fund, he said, was totally committed to the protection of girls. 

Ms STAMATOPOULOU of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed satisfaction that human rights education was a focus of Austria's chairmanship of the Network.  Through the capacity of the Network, awareness among governmental or non-governmental actors could be spread. 

Mr Otunnu added, in relation to the situation of girls, that their rights were of a particular concern to his Office, and that special attention was given to girls used as child soldiers.  The astronomical spread of HIV/AIDS in the "corridors of conflict" was also being looked into.

Opening the second round of questions, the representative of Cuba said that it appeared that the Security Council had taken a firm stance on the situation of children in armed conflict.  He wondered if the presenters had any suggestions to increase the activities of the General Assembly on such matters, since it had the basic role for the protection of the rights of the child.  So, there may be some pragmatic suggestions to enhance the Assembly’s actions in that regard.

The representative of Switzerland wondered if more efforts were under way to address measures to prevent the recruitment of children in armed conflict.  She also asked about the significance of the list being prepared for the Security Council on recruitment of child soldiers under its resolution 1379 (2001).

The observer for Palestine said her delegation was looking forward to working out a modality to monitor the situation of children living under occupation.  Saying that the situation of children in the Palestinian occupied territories was particularly grave, she urged the Special Representative to visit that area.

Responding to those concerns, Ms. STAMATOPOULOU said she believed that a very creative dialogue had begun between the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the General Assembly.  She said her Office had sent letters to parties to the Convention to appeal to those States that had not ratified the amendment to article 43.2 of the Convention, raising the membership of the Committee from 10 to 18.

Mr. GAUTAM said UNICEF was pleased that the situation had been raised from being considered a "soft" issue to being the focus of debate in the Security Council and the Assembly.  He trusted that follow-up of the special session would be deliberated by the plenary of the Assembly, particularly on the relationship of children's issues to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Mr. OTUNNU said a large part of the work of his Office belonged squarely in the province of the Assembly.  He had been one of those who had supported the Committee's dialogue.  Naturally, because his mandate included specificities on security and peace, some portion of his work came under the purview of the Security Council.  At any rate, he hoped that the overlap would provide an opportunity for greater cooperation between both bodies.

He said the significance of the list of names of those involved in the recruitment and use of child soldiers was that it would send a very important signal, and provide legitimacy on the issue of reporting and monitoring and to the "naming of names".  It could not be a substitute, however, for discussions on better monitoring modalities.  For instance, the list would not contain information on issues such as the impact of war on children or sexual exploitation of girls in conflict situations.  But none of that mattered if the list was seen as a political tool to address relevant issues outside the Security Council.  He said that he was aware of the grave situation of the children living in the Palestinian occupied territories and was cognizant of efforts under way to address their plight.

The representative of Israel responded to the statements of Palestine and Syria on children being killed and injured in armed conflict, and said it was the Palestinian side that had initiated the violence and terror.  Following the remarks of Mr. Otunnu, Israel called for him to look into children being used for suicide-attacks.

A special ECOWAS session would be held in December on the protection of children in West Africa, said the representative of Senegal.  He asked where UNICEF stood on the preparation of the session.

The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said children were the victims of armed conflict.  He referred to the use of children in illegal exploitation of natural resources.

The children of the world had dedicated representatives among the speakers this afternoon, said the representative of Suriname.  She also stressed the need for human rights education.

Mr. OTUNNU took note of the statements of Israel, Senegal and Suriname.  Concerning the statement made by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said he was pleased about the movement towards a more generalised peace, but disturbed about the continuation of massacres.  Concerning the exploitation of children, he said priorities for his Office were the use of children as child soldiers, children being sexually exploited, and the use of use of young people in illicit plundering.  He had sought to ensure that this aspect would not be neglected in the report.

Mr. GAUTAM responded to Israel and said education for peace and tolerance had been part of the agenda of the special session on children.  He added that UNICEF summer camps in the occupied territories focused on play and non-violence.  The understanding of human rights began with children’s rights.  Concerning the session of ECOWAS, he said a review system was a good idea and UNICEF would be participating in the summit.

Ms STAMATOPOULOU said human rights education was important.  Her office had a holistic view on human rights education, and was working towards this goal in cooperation with non-governmental organizations, civil society and other United Nations agencies.

Statements

ELLEN MARGRETHE LOJ (Denmark), speaking for the European Union, said reproductive health for development was crucial.  The Development Ministers of the European Union had underlined in May that reproductive sexual and health care, services and education were crucial elements in the fight against poverty, and hence essential elements in reaching the goals and targets set by international conferences.  The European Union attached great importance to the activities of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) as a major contribution to reproductive health and rights issues.  The Fund had the European Union’s strong support and deserved the support of all Governments to pursue its activities -- thereby contributing to reaching the Millennium Development Goals, particularly those related to HIV/AIDS, and maternal and child mortality. 

At the Assembly's special session on children, the European Union made a special appeal to those countries which retained the death penalty for juvenile offenders who were under 18 at the time the crime was committed.  It was important to bear in mind that the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which had almost universal adherence, unreservedly prohibited the application of capital punishment for offences committed by persons below 18 years of age.  It remained a key priority of the European Union to work towards the abolition of the death penalty.

Poverty was the root cause of most infringements of children’s rights, she said.  Bearing in mind that the realisation of the economic, social and cultural rights of children was of crucial importance for their development, poverty eradication must remain at the forefront of efforts.  The European Union called on the international community to strengthen efforts to combat poverty.  Education was both a human right and a key factor in reducing poverty.  The education of girls especially was essential to ensure the eradication of poverty, as well as the advancement of women’s human rights. 

ARNI HOLE, Director General of Norway's Ministry of Children and Family Affairs, said every child was unique in its resources and capabilities, and therefore all States should prepare grounds for every child to prosper according to those resources.  Several recent developments and initiatives had significantly strengthened the international child protection framework.  Among those had been the entry into force of the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court, which provided the international community with an opportunity to eliminate impunity for crimes against children, and to make offenders accountable for universally recognized crimes against humanity -- conscription of under-aged children in armed forces, and targeting children as a strategy of conflict.

The entry into force of the two optional protocols of the Convention on the Rights of the Child had also been positive developments.  However, even in the light of such advancements millions of children still did not have much reason for optimism.  The international community needed to come to terms with gaps in the normative framework and in the implementation of that framework.  Matters related to the protection of children in armed conflict must continue to be deliberated in the Security Council.  Further, Norway would express its grave concern at evidence of large-scale trafficking of young girls and asked for consolidated action in order to protect children from that abhorrent business.  Norway would also draw attention to another matter of great concern, namely the use of the death penalty as a punishment for children.  Norway would urge all States that had not done so to give their children a second chance by abolishing the death penalty. 

GUO YANG (China) said the rights of the child were still being violated in various ways in the world today, and cited the negative impacts of armed conflicts on children, sexual violation and exploitation of children, child labor and the devastating impact of drugs and the HIV/AIDS pandemic on children.  As a most populous country, China also had a large population of children.  In order to fulfil its commitment to promote and protect the rights of the child, the Chinese Government issued in 1992 the outline of a Programme for the Development of Children in China in the 1990s, which had set forth forty-nine targets.  The targets included the reduction of child mortality, promotion of universal primary education and protection of children in difficult situations.  These targets had largely been achieved by 2002 and a new outline was being issued for the next decade. 

At present, China was working on its second national report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child and was seeking opinions and recommendations from the Committee and from its own judicial departments and domestic non-governmental organizations.  China would submit the report to the Committee soon.

MARIA LUIZA RIBIERO VIOTTI (Brazil) speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), and associated countries Bolivia and Chile, said the full protection of children and adolescents and the promotion of relevant policies were at the heart of the MERCOSUR Social Commitment.  The MERCOSUR member countries had collectively decided to give priority action to the special needs of children and youth in situations of violence, sexual abuse, child labour, early pregnancy, drug abuse and crime.  Still the countries of the region continued to strive to reduce the high levels of poverty that lingered in the region and particularly affected children and adolescents.

He said the MERCOSUR reaffirmed its commitment to ensure the right to basic education and to consolidate access to secondary education, as well as technical and vocational training.  All were tools for social and economic mobility and key elements in overcoming poverty.  Those countries were also committed to upgrading the quality of education through teacher training, the use of information technologies and improved efficiency in the allocation of public funds.  On the other hand, the wide ethnic and cultural diversity of the regions' societies meant bilingual education must be provided to indigenous children.  In the provision of health services, public policies would focus on reducing maternal and infant mortality rates, the impact of early pregnancies, the high incidences of preventable diseases and the effect of HIV/AIDS.

DEYANIRA RAMIREZ (Costa Rica), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said even though the international community had almost unanimously accepted the terms of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, millions of children were still threatened by illness, ignorance, poverty, exploitation, discrimination and violence.  Every year 10 million children died due mostly to easily preventable diseases, 100 million, most of them girls, had no access to schools and 150 million saw their future development jeopardized by malnutrition, violence, trafficking, and child labour.  That painful reality was not caused by the lack of national policies or concrete commitments at the international level, but essentially by the lack of resources devoted to children and the absence of political will.

The Rio Group, he said, called upon all nations to take advantage of the momentum created by the special session and revitalize action nationally, and internationally to create a better world for children.  Resources were needed, either through the reassignment of resources available internally or through greater cooperation and international assistance, in order to add action to words. 

She emphasized that children and adolescents were not asking for just paper commitments, but for real ones.  For that reason, it was important not to lose oneself in questions of form and procedure.  Instead, it was important to provide sufficient human and financial resources and to reflect the commitments of the special session in new public policies.  It was particularly important to create and assign national institutions to the implementation of the plan of action adopted during the special session.

CLAUDIA VELASCO OSORIO (Mexico), said the Government of President Fox attached high priority to the protection of the rights of children and adolescents.  There were some 33 million persons in Mexico below the age of 14.  Particular attention was given to addressing the unique needs of children, particularly relating to violence, addiction, family breakdown and other problems. The country's National Plan for 2001-2006 gave priority to education and health. It had established inter-sectoral education programmes to improve the health of children aged from four to 15, with emphasis on urban and low income children. Mexico had also elaborated a law for the protection of the rights of children and had crafted a National Council which governed all action on their behalf.

She said Mexico had also initiated policies aimed at protecting children living on the streets.  Mexico had hosted the first international summit on children in 1990, and incorporated the goals of the meeting into its national policies.  Of the 26 priorities highlighted at that meeting,  20 had been achieved satisfactorily in Mexico by 2001.  Likewise the outcome of the Assembly’s special session on children was being integrated into Mexico's domestic policies.

FARHAD MAMDOUHI (Iran) said it was noteworthy to mention that the existing problems related to children were somewhat different from those in the past, in terms of their nature, scope and cause.  Therefore visions, strategies and goals must be updated in accordance with the current situation, and recent challenges at the international level.  Protection of children who were the civilian targets in times of war or armed conflicts, especially the children in territories under foreign occupation, needed to be given prominence.  He spoke of the situation of Palestinian children in the occupied territories and said the international community could not remain indifferent to “this travesty of justice and humanity”.  The international community must be serious in bringing to justice all those who committed war crimes, particularly against children.

He said Iran’s development strategy and policy plans were being reoriented towards a “people-centered” human development approach.  The quality of life of children had emerged as a new focus of concern.  Despite unfavourable external factors -- economic hardship, hosting two million refugees -- a considerable portion of Iran’s total public expenditure had been allocated to the development of children.

ALFREDO CHUQUIHUARA (Peru) said the situation of children in a country was an indicator of the progress of that country and its future.  Likewise, investment in children reflected a country's readiness to maintain sustained development.  He said Peru's policies contained guidelines consistent with children's rights perspectives, ensuring the highest possible levels of physical and mental health, taking into account the multi-cultural nature of the country.  Indeed, Peru considered children and adolescents as key agents of development.  There was a clear commitment to the struggle against poverty and the application of mechanisms that would guarantee the social, political and economic advancement of children.

He said the country's National Plan of Action 2002-2010 was based on the notion that equality of opportunity must begin with children.  It contained a range of objectives specific to the children of Peru, whose lives continued to be characterized by inequality.  He said poverty and social exclusion were but two of the main challenges that children and adolescents faced.  Those social ills often led them into early labour, early and undesired pregnancies, drug addiction and alcoholism.

With that in mind, he went on, Peru was working in the areas of health, education and participation.  Priority was given to children living in poor and low-income areas.  Children must be seen as the driving force for change.  It was time for the international community to move from statements to action on behalf of the world's children.

Ms ALIPHANI (Qatar) said they were meeting just a few months after the Assembly's special session, a historic moment for the rights of the child.  Qatar had participated in the session with a high-level delegation that had emphasized the need for a world worthy for a child, and the importance of the family for the healthy development of the child.  Qatar hoped that an international consensus would be used to review the situation of children in the world. 

She said Qatar had fulfilled its international and national commitments concerned with children; a first report on the application of the Convention on the Rights of the Child had been submitted to the Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva.  The Committee had expressed its appreciation for Qatar’s generosity in financial assistance to programmes and projects for children in developing countries. 

Qatar had also enacted various national legal instruments, such as a law on children which served as a legal reference to the rights of the child.  A law on child labour had also been enacted, she said, and noted that Qatar had signed the two Optional Protocols of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

She stressed the unacceptability of the sufferings of Palestinian children under foreign occupation and Iraqi children as a result of sanctions. 

MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia), speaking for the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said the Community had a history of dealing with situations of armed conflicts.  Some of its Member States had been severely affected by conflicts which had negatively impacted upon the lives of their children.  Millions had been killed in conflicts over the past decade.  Many children had been made orphans and some had been displaced by war, both internally and in neighboring countries.  A significant number of children had been seriously injured and some were permanently disabled, very often by anti-personnel landmines. 

Although there had been increased attention in recent years to the problem of child soldiers, most of them remained, invisible to the world.  They had often been forced to become fighters, human shields, spies, porters and sex slaves.  The use of light weapons and small arms in armed conflicts had made it easier for combatants to exploit children and recruit them as soldiers.  While many died in battle, large numbers suffered deep emotional scars that could lead to a continuing cycle of violence.  The member States of the SADC strongly condemned the recruitment of children as soldiers, and considered such actions a crime against humanity, for which those responsible must be brought to justice. 

The member States of the SADC had made significant gains in promoting the welfare of children, but were faced with new and more daunting challenges.  The current drought situation was but one of them.  An estimated 14.4 million people, of whom the majority were children, were threatened by starvation.  This crisis had been compounded by other factors such as widespread poverty and the devastating effect of HIV/AIDS.  To enable their countries to address the pandemic

effectively, additional resources and affordable life-prolonging drugs must be made available.

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For information media. Not an official record.