CONDITIONS OF PEACE, SECURITY ESSENTIAL FOR CHILDREN’S PHYSICAL HEALTH, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD

16 October 2002
GA/SHC/3702

CONDITIONS OF PEACE, SECURITY ESSENTIAL FOR CHILDREN’S PHYSICAL HEALTH, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD

16/10/2002
Press ReleaseGA/SHC/3702

Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Third Committee

21st Meeting (AM)

CONDITIONS OF PEACE, SECURITY ESSENTIAL FOR CHILDREN’S

PHYSICAL HEALTH, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD

Committee Concludes Discussion of Children’s

Issues; Will Consider Indigenous People Tomorrow

Delegations expressed grave concern for the physical health and psychological well-being of children as a result of war, civil strife and occupation, as the General Assembly’s Third Committee (Humanitarian, Social, Cultural) this morning concluded its consideration of the rights of children. 

 Today, more than 300,000 children served as canon fodder in conflicts they did not even understand, said the representative of Cameroon, as he reminded the Committee that the rights of children were severely threatened and violated during armed conflicts.  The number of children affected by armed conflict was shocking, he said.  Since 1990, two million children had been killed, six million had been hurt or disabled, and ten million children had been traumatized by either the loss of parents or sexual exploitation during armed conflicts.

In armed conflicts of recent years, children had been the targets of violence and, even more unacceptably, as perpetrators of violence, said the representative of Malaysia.  He stressed that strategies to protect children in armed conflicts must be all encompassing, ensuring their physical security as well as legal protection under international law.  There must be no leniency in dealing with crimes perpetrated on innocent children; yet, it was necessary to deal humanely with children who had been manipulated by unscrupulous adults to participate in the perpetration of atrocities during conflicts.

The observer of Palestine highlighted the plight of Palestinian children -- children who had only known a life under brutal occupation.  Only the constant denial and violation of human rights had marked the life of Palestinian children, she said.  They had suffered killings, injuries, raids, and destruction, and a recent study had revealed that 68 per cent of Palestinian children suffered from psychological trauma, resulting in anxiety, fear, nightmares, anger and depression.  The world of Palestinian children today -- that of life under occupation -- could in no way be reconciled with the ideal of a world fit for children.  

21st Meeting (AM)

The death of any child -- Palestinian or Israeli -- was a terrible tragedy,

said the representative of Israel.  Children must be kept out of conflicts -- they should not be targets or victims.  They must be taught the language of peace and the language of life, not the language of death.  Unfortunately, certain speakers on this issue demonstrated exactly the opposite -- using the language of conflict and cynicism, and implying that there was no hope for the children of the region.   Israel called on its neighbour countries to cooperate in order to create a Middle East “Fit for Children”, end the planting of seeds of hate, and start sowing the seeds of peace. 

Also speaking this afternoon were the representatives of Tunisia, Bahrain, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Malaysia (on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN)), United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Andorra, Singapore, Madagascar, Mozambique, Syria, Egypt, Cyprus, Eritrea, Croatia, Nigeria, Gambia and Angola.

The representative of the Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also spoke this morning.

Exercising their right to reply this morning were the representative of Israel and the observer of Palestine.

The Committee will meet tomorrow at 10 a.m. to begin its consideration of indigenous people.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) met this morning to continue its consideration of items related to the protection and promotion of the rights of children, including follow-up to the General Assembly special session on children held last May.

For further background see Press Release GA/SHC/3699 of 11 October.

Statements

ALI CHERIF (Tunisia) said that despite the tireless efforts made on international and national levels, the situation of children across the world was a source of concern, particularly in Africa.  The continuation of armed conflicts, the ravages of HIV/AIDS, poverty, and exploitation remained serious obstacles to respecting the rights of children.  There was a need to right the situation by mobilizing all parties involved.  Regarding children in armed conflicts it was necessary to strengthen legal instruments, and he urged States that had not done so to ratify the First Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  It was important to strengthen the role of United Nations operations in the field in order to protect children and their rights.

In Tunisia, initiatives had been undertaken through a Code on the Protection of Children, he said.  The Government had established an institution for training and research.  Furthermore, dialogue with children was encouraged by the Government through various fora, aiming to inculcate a sense of responsibility in children.  Today, 20 per cent of the national budget was dedicated to training and education which had made a 99 per cent school enrolment possible. 

MOHAMMED SALEH (Bahrain) said that while the Convention on the Rights of the Child provided a blueprint for the protection and promotion of children's rights, much remained to be done.  The new decade should be marked by strenuous efforts to implement international obligations, and the best way to ensure those rights were protected was to promote them within the broader framework of overall human rights initiatives.  It was also necessary to work toward the eradication of poverty.

Much of what had been elaborated in international instruments was already reflected in Bahrain’s Constitution and laws, he said.  Its Council of Ministers had adopted a decree to establish a National Committee for Children which governed the activities of all institutions that addressed issues concerning children and youth.  A relevant law on the Rights of the Family had also been adopted in 2000.  Other legislation covered the health of adolescents and children with disabilities.

Heads of State and Government at the Millennium Summit had pledged to address the tragic situation of children in armed conflict, he said.  In that regard, Bahrain would draw attention to the unprecedented suffering of the women, elderly persons, as well as children living in the Palestinian occupied territories.  Indeed, the occupation itself was a violation of human rights, as well as the Fourth Geneva Convention.  The international community should spare no efforts to bring an end to the occupation and secure a better future for all the children of the region.

ETSEGENET G/MESKEL (Ethiopia) said the principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child provided a vision for children to live in a stable society with ample opportunities to develop their talents and rights.  However, the current state of affairs, particularly the serious implications of international terrorism, globalization, the HIV virus, environmental degradation and the unpredictability of the world financial markets had made Government less conducive to the survival and development of children.  In the area of health, the Ethiopian Government had adopted a preventive primary health care approach which gave special attention to the health needs of the family, particularly women and children.

A school health programme on HIV/AIDS had been integrated into the school curriculum.  A child-to-child learning strategy had been introduced in schools through which children were taught about the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the prevention of basic diseases like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and polio.  The education policy allowed free primary education in different native languages.  Several strategies were now being implemented to increase the enrolment rate and to decrease the drop out rate for children, especially girls.  She was happy to note that there was a significant improvement in the primary school enrolment ratio for girls.

KYAW WIN (Myanmar) said important things had been achieved since the World Summit for Children in 1990, and the international community had reaffirmed its dedication to the Convention on the Rights of the Child at the Assembly's special session last May.  For its part, Myanmar had formulated and implemented a series of domestic initiatives to ensure the safety of children.  All those efforts were overseen by the National Committee on the Rights of the Child.  Since one of the root causes of poverty was education, one of the country's major initiatives had been to elaborate a 30-year national education promotion programme.  Since the 1999-2000 academic year, enrolment stood at 91 per cent.  In May, a nationwide school enrolment programme had been launched to bolster those numbers, and

1.2 million children had registered for kindergarten classes.

To maintain that momentum, Myanmar was working with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on a number of other projects.  He said the children most vulnerable to exploitation and abuse were those in special circumstances, such as orphans or street children.  The National Plan of Action adopted in 1990 gave appropriate protections to and promoted the standard of living of those children by providing, among other things, academic and vocational training as well as other education activities.  The Committee on the Rights of the Child was actively working with Myanmar, as well as other countries in the region, to address the issue of trafficking in women and children.  Myanmar was also cooperating at the regional level to prevent transnational trafficking in women and children and to prevent the use of such persons in transnational organized drug trafficking.

HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said a world fit for children, as described in the final outcome document on the special session on children, was one in which all children received the best possible start in life, had access to quality education, and had ample opportunities to develop their individual capacities in a safe and supportive environment.  National programmes of action must be formulated, detailing policies to be put in place, as well as strategies, activities, target groups, monitoring indicators and expected output goals.  Programmes must also address child and maternal health, nutrition, accessibility and quality of healthy services, basic education and literacy, children in difficult circumstance, the role of women and family, and mass media.

He stressed that the national programme of action must be a collaborative effort between government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), international organizations and the private sector, to ensure effective implementation of its goals.  Macroeconomic policies, while targeted for economic and infrastructural growth, must also recognize the need to give priority to the human development factor which would inevitably include increasing educational opportunities, better nutrition and health care, as well as strengthening the family institution to endure the security and safety of children.

ASEAN attached great importance to the protection and well-being of children, as an overwhelming proportion of the population of 500 million compromised young people.  ASEAN had addressed the issue of the promotion and protection of children at the highest level, and had placed it at the forefront of cooperation in economic and social development.  Among other things, ASEAN had agreed to address the issue of child abuse, neglect and exploitation, including child prostitution, child labour, and street children and abandoned children.  At the same time, plans had been put in place to provide alternative family care arrangements for the victims of child abuse, neglect and exploitation, as well as to address the special needs of children with disabilities.

SALIM AHMED AL-NAQBI (United Arab Emirates) said that while many international efforts had been extended to secure a better future for the world's children, millions still suffered from abject poverty, hunger, and a raft of deadly infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis and malaria.  Further, some 15 million children in the developing world had been orphaned by the ravages of the AIDS virus, and millions more had been robbed of their childhoods through forced conscription in armed forces or early child labour.  The harsh everyday realities that many children faced were clearly contrary to the Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as other international instruments created on children's behalf.  The United Arab Emirates was deeply concerned by the situation the child victims of wars and foreign occupation.  It would call on international bodies and humanitarian agencies to spare no effort to alleviate the suffering of such children. 

Particular attention should be drawn to the situation of the children in the Palestinian occupied territories, who suffered daily flagrant violations of their rights at the hands of Israeli forces.  The United Arab Emirates insisted that the United Nations and, particularly the Security Council, should spare no effort to bring about an end to the Israeli occupation and to ensure that Israel ceased its indiscriminate treatment of the people in the territories and abided by international laws, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Turning to domestic initiatives on behalf of children, he said his own Government had accorded special attention to all stages of childhood.  In that regard, its policies focused on a mother's maternal health as well as the health of children and adolescents.  The State had established medical centres for children throughout the country and had placed medical units in every school.  Education was free, and the Government encouraged the development of students in specific fields such as art and science.

NADYA RASHEED, Observer of Palestine, said the international community had expressed deep concern about, and given considerable attention to, the plight of Palestinian children -- children who had only known a life under brutal occupation.  This life had been marked by the constant denial and violation by Israel of even the most basic of human rights. 

Palestinian children had suffered killings, injuries, raids, destruction and detention at the hands of the Israeli occupying forces.  They had been denied education with the repeated closure of their schools and denied access to proper medical care.  Palestinian children had suffered both physical and psychological trauma as a result of the incessant violent military assaults, human rights abuses, home demolitions, and land confiscation and destruction.

In addition, Palestinian children, who constituted 53 per cent of the population, had also extensively suffered injuries as a result of the excessive and indiscriminate force used by the occupying forces.  Moreover, studies had revealed that Israel’s oppressive measures had caused psychological trauma in more than 68 per cent of Palestinian children, resulting in anxiety, fear, nightmares, anger and depression.  Palestinian children needed to be free and to live peacefully in their own independent State, enjoying all of the rights to which they as humans were entitled.  The world of Palestinian children today -- that of life under occupation -- could in no way be reconciled with the ideal of a world fit for children.  

CATHERINE MAHOUVE SAME (Cameroon) said the persistence of poverty, unacceptable socio-economic conditions in an increasingly globalized world, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, natural disasters, illiteracy, hunger, armed conflicts and the absence of legal protection for children, were the main obstacles to the realization of children’s rights.  Today, more than 300,000 children served as canon fodder in conflicts they did not understand.  Since 1990, two million children had been killed during armed conflicts; six million had been hurt and maimed; and ten million children had been traumatized by the loss of parents and sexual exploitation.  In this connection, she stressed the important work of Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, who continued to raise awareness about that problem.

She stressed that despite the difficult situation in Cameroon, the Government believed that education was key in the realization of children’s fundamental rights.  Since September 2000, primary education was free in Cameroon, including for refugee children.  Cameroon’s plan of action had given priority to childhood; basic education for all; provision of drinkable water; improvement of sanitation; protection of vulnerable children and the fight against HIV/AIDS.

NAWAF N.M. AL-ENEZI (Kuwait) said children were the future of nations; therefore, if the international community wanted a more prosperous and tolerant world, there was a need to build a society based on the promotion and protection of human rights and dignity, as well as children's rights.  Kuwait's dedication to children was based on principles enshrined in its Constitution, which promoted the primacy of the family.  The Arab world devoted 1 October every year to the celebration of children.  Since children made up more than half of Kuwaiti society, a large number of programmes had been established on their behalf.  Education was free for all.  Particular attention was also given to children with disabilities.

He said the challenges facing children in armed conflict were a threat to peace and international security.  Kuwait was concerned at the lack of deterrence measures for those who committed crimes against children.  Indeed, the many children of Kuwait had been victims of such crimes -- suffering violations of their human rights as well as the loss of their parents during conflict.  The future of many children was tenuous in that regard, particularly as the fate of hundreds of Kuwait prisoners was unknown.  Attention should also be drawn to the situation of Palestinian children suffering daily violations of their human rights at the hands of Israeli forces in the occupied territories.  It was time for the international community to take every effort to ensure that the noble objectives of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as the outcome of the Assembly's special session on children, were implemented for the benefit of all children and youth.

JELENA PIA-COMELLA (Andorra) said the fight against poverty among children needed to be addressed since it led to other obstacles in the realization of children’s rights.  Poverty was a multi-faceted phenomenon, and anti-poverty strategies needed to focus on the education and health of children.  It was crucial that the levels of investment in education and health remained strong and consistent.  In this connection, she hoped that the targets agreed upon during the special session on children, concerning education and health, would be met.  It was also important to focus on the education of girls.  If girls’ education was strengthened, their awareness of their rights would increase.  Their access to education was also synonymous with human capital investment, which would later make it possible to break the vicious circle of poverty. 

Another source of concern for her Government was the continuing exploitation of children.  Nothing could justify the exploitation of children at work, trafficking, sexual exploitation and their participation in armed conflicts.  She stressed that national human rights institutions played an important role in the protection of children from such ills.

JO-PHIE TANG (Singapore) said that since the 1990 world Summit on Children, millions of lives had been saved; millions were in school; and  more children than ever were participating in decision-making.  But even in light of those positive changes, it was important not to lose sight of the critical challenges that remained.  Tens of millions of children continued to die of preventable diseases; did not have access to education; or suffered from all forms of abuse, violence and exploitation.  "We are still a long way away from creating a world fit for children", she said.  It was incumbent upon the international community to ensure the implementation of the outcome of the Assembly's special session, namely targets set for child health, education and protection.  Achieving those goals was imperative.  Indeed, a completed education should not be met with unemployment.  Medical advances that prolonged and saved lives by reducing infant mortality should not be erased by war and strife.

Singapore realized that on the shoulders of its children was the duty to ensure the country's continued economic and social progress.  The protection and promotion of those children was therefore a priority.  She said protection of children was vital because Singapore was not endowed with natural resources or an abundance of land and people.  Children were indeed Singapore's greatest asset.  Four key pillars underpinned the promotion and protection of their rights, including good laws, a strong family network, a comprehensive health care system, and a strong education system.  She was pleased to report that Singapore had met the child heath goals set at the 1990 Children's Summit.  The country's infant mortality rate had been halved and a Compulsory Education Bill had been enacted in 200 to ensure that children received at least six years of primary education.

GARY KOREN (Israel) said Israel’s executive, judicial and parliamentary branches of Government had been working closely with NGOs, and with children themselves, to take comprehensive steps towards the implementation of international instruments and agreements for the protection of children’s rights.  One of the most critical and important elements in the long-term protection of the rights of the child was education, for a culture of peace and tolerance.  This was particularly true in his region.  If the region was to ever live in peace and security, it was imperative that peace not be ensured merely by treaties, but also by the deep understanding of the peoples themselves of the need to respect and appreciate each other.  In this respect, ongoing efforts to bring Israeli and Palestinian children together through youth projects, seminars and summer camps were of prime importance. 

The death of any child, Palestinian or Israeli, was a terrible tragedy.  Children must be kept out of conflicts -- they should not be targets or victims.  They must be taught the language of peace and the language of life, not the language of death.  Unfortunately, certain speakers on this issue demonstrated exactly the opposite -- using the language of conflict and cynicism, and implying that there was no hope for the children of the region.   Israel called on its neighbour countries to cooperate in order to create a Middle East “Fit for Children”, end the planting of seeds of hate, and start sowing the seeds of peace. 

HELENA RAJAONARIVELO (Madagascar) said the international community must take the most firm and effective measures to combat all forms of abuse, violence and exploitation of children.  Madagascar reaffirmed its commitment to take medium- and long-term measures to address the scourges that affected children.  It also reiterated its appeal for adequate resources, so that in the short-term, initial progress could be made on certain objectives of the Millennium Declaration and the outcome of the special session in specific areas, such as preventing exploitation, combating HIV/AIDS and reversing malnutrition trends.  For its part, Madagascar had established various relevant legislative measures.  A bill against domestic violence as well as another against the rape of children had been sent to the National Assembly.  She added that adoption laws were also being reformed or elaborated.

MURADE ISAAC MURARGY (Mozambique) said the successful implementation of the Plan of Action of the First World Summit for Children would require a sense of commitment, collective responsibility and strong political will, in which the pursuit of an effective pattern of a result oriented international cooperation must be at centre stage.  The least developed countries with economies and meager resources were facing major challenges in the implementation of socio-economic strategic plans for development, and he urged developed partners to increase their financial support to the lest developing countries, especially in areas related to the well-being of children. 

To ensure that by 2015, children had access to full primary education, Mozambique was working towards increasing, by more than 50 per cent, the number of basic primary schools.  Furthermore, the Government was aiming towards boys and girls sharing an equal 50 per cent each of the vacant places for enrolment.  For families with lower income rates, the Government was subsidizing school supplies, thus guaranteeing that poor children had access to basic education.  The Government was also engaged in reversing the current enrolment rate of girls, which was lower than boys, due to stereotypes and the impact of HIV/AIDS -- constituting an additional challenge to the Government’s efforts towards providing adequate health care for children.    

RANIA AL HAJ ALI (Syria) said her country had in place a comprehensive framework for the protection of its children, mainly as a result of national plans and their implementation and consistent follow-up.  Syria's President had attached great importance to following the progress of programmes and activities for children in both urban an rural communities.  A national conference on children was planned for the end of the year to elaborate a National Plan of Action for Children.  Syria had also approved the signing of the two Optional Protocols of the Convention.  The country's health policy ensured that child care was provided even in the most remote areas.  At the same time, another health care programme targeted cities and urban areas.  Health care and compulsory education were provided free for all.  The Ministry of education was undertaking a number of reforms, particularly in the area of human rights education.

She said that Syria hoped the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu would be allowed to effectively discharge his mandate, particularly regarding the situation of the children who suffered daily at the hands of Israeli occupation. Palestinian children fell victim to all forms of abuse and violations of the human rights. She hoped that issues concerning all children were addressed without selectivity or discrimination in order to ensure a better future for all humankind.

MAI TAHA MOHAMED KHALIL (Egypt) praised the outstanding efforts of Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu.  However, she had hoped that he would have referred to the situation of children in the occupied Palestinian terrorities.  The suffering of the Palestinian child was unimaginable.  Palestinian children were deprived of their most basic human rights.  They were barred from having a bright future since Israel had closed Palestinian schools.  She referred to the report of Israel to the Committee on the Rights of Child, where the Committee had expressed its concern regarding to the situation of Palestinian children and their subjection to torture at detention centers.  In addition, the Committee had been concerned about the deterioration of health services in Palestine, and called for the full commitment of the Israeli Government to the Geneva Convention. 

Egypt had placed the situation of children at a priority level, she said.  On the international level, Egypt had participated actively in the special session on children, and had acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as to the Two Optional Protocols.  On the national level, the Government had undertaken initiatives in the economic, social and cultural fields, as well as in education and health.  Special attention was being paid to children from vulnerable groups and in vulnerable situations.   

PENELOPE EROTOKRITOU (Cyprus) said Cyprus was a small country with a child-centred society and a strong family tradition.  It had developed a strong legislative framework to secure children's well-being and stood ready to ensure a world fit for children.  The national legal framework was consistently being reviewed to insure that laws were in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the relevant objectives of the European Union.  Education, children with special needs and health issues were given priority consideration.  To that end, Cyprus had established a Central Monitoring Committee, which, in cooperation with NGOs, had engaged in numerous initiatives to increase public awareness on children’s rights.  Joint NGOs and local council initiatives had been very successful; indeed 50 percent of state grants for children's programmes were administered through civil society organizations.

She said it was regrettable that continued Turkish occupation of one-third of the island had prevented her Government from applying the provisions of its Action Plan for Children to youth and adolescents living there.  Special attention should be given to the Greek-Cypriot children living in the occupied area who were obliged, as soon as they finished elementary school, to leave their families to continue their education.  The only other choice they had was to stay with their families and be deprived of an education.  That was a difficult choice that no child should be forced to make.  A world fit for children required the eradication of all forms of discrimination affecting children and the creation of an environment conducive to the children's material well-being and spiritual development.

AHMED TAHIR BADURI (Eritrea) said over the past decade since Eritrea’s independence, the net enrollment of children and the retention of girls in schools had increased.  However, despite that positive development, attempting to provide universalized and quality education within the primary and middle school system, particularly to children and girls living in remote areas, remained a challenge.  In response, the Government, in its latest cabinet meeting, had decided to embark on a major expansion and revitalization of its national education system.  Eritrea attached great importance to children under difficult circumstances who suffered, among other things, from disability, displacement, loss of and separation from parents, and exposure to landmines and unexploded ordnance.

Eritrea had developed a five-year plan of action that would help respond to the needs of all children.  The plan would need the continued financial and technical support of the international community since Eritrea was facing severe food shortages, likely to affect 1.4 million people.  Unfortunately, the direct link between severe food shortages and the survival and development of children needed no elaboration. 

DUBRAVKA SIMONOVIC (Croatia) said the new global agenda for children underlined the necessity for renewed political will, and the allocation of additional resources in providing children with healthy lives, quality education, and protection from abuse, exploitation, violence, armed conflict, child labour, trafficking and sexual exploitation.  Croatia had recently submitted its second report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.  The report gave information on new laws and amendments of Croatian legislation, which had been adopted in order to harmonize national laws with the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  In this context, a new Family Act was being drafted. 

One of the recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child had encouraged Croatia to consider establishing a special independent monitoring body that would deal with the rights of the child.  Following this recommendation, the Croatian Parliament was currently reviewing the draft Law on Ombudsperson for Children.  The task of the ombudsperson for children would be to protect, monitor and promote the rights and interests of children, she said. 

ENCHO GOSPODINOV, Observer for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said during the decade since the World Summit on Children, it had become clear that it was time for global actors to reinforce their strategies and update their approaches for the promotion and protection of children's rights.  One of the forces driving the need for such changes was the realization of the magnitude of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and its impact on the children of all societies.  Nowhere were the horrors of that impact more clearly seen than in southern Africa, which was currently facing a sever food crisis.  Indeed, when the IFRC had examined that food crisis closely, it had realized that HIV/AIDS was a major underlying cause of that crisis and perhaps other difficulties faced by people in the region.

The impact of the pandemic on young people had been particularly severe, he continued, as it cause the loss of parents, or made children drop out of school to work or care for siblings.  The disease also led to discrimination and marginalization.  To counter this, the IFRC  was increasing its support to national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to help build their capacities to intervene through, for example, HIV/AIDS awareness-raising programmes through youth networks, or targeted food distribution for those made vulnerable by the virus.

He said the IFRC believed in action, and more than ever before, its national branches were assisting victims of natural disasters and other vulnerable populations.  Children made up a large portion of those in need.  Therefore, the protection and welfare of children must be an integral priority in humanitarian assistance and disaster preparedness strategies.  Similarly, in rehabilitation efforts, the psycho-social aspects of recovery of the victims of disaster or conflict -- including tracing and re-uniting families -- were increasingly being emphasized.

KATYEN C. JACKDEEN (Nigeria) said the consideration of this item was an opportunity to review progress made in implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Two Optional Protocols.  The Government of Nigeria had signed and ratified these important instruments for the protection of children’s rights.  Women and children were at the forefront of the Government’s attention as it aimed to create a peaceful environment for children.  Despite the growing concern about the human rights of children, their vulnerability continued to deepen.  In many different ways, they remained the victims of poverty, armed conflict, the negative aspects of globalization and harmful practices.  In Nigeria, over 70 per cent of the population lived below the poverty line, preventing children from receiving adequate education and health care.

Preventable diseases continued to take children’s lives, often before the age of five years of age.  The spread of HIV/AIDS further exacerbated their suffering, she said.  The use of children in armed conflicts, sexual exploitation and child labour remained obstacles to the realization of children’s rights.  The Nigerian government had undertaken a study on the rights of women and children in Nigeria, and its outcome provided a basis for further initiatives and strategies in the country.  However, national efforts alone were not sufficient to achieve desired results.  Meaningful international cooperation and partnership was required.

RASTAM MOHD. ISA (Malaysia) said in a global economy of $ 30 trillion, children were still offering up their labour in return for a fighting chance to feed their family members.  The convenient but impractical solution to the problem would be to make child labour illegal.  A more viable approach would be to create an enabling national and international environment and find a lasting solution towards a sustainable economy that would result in these children going to school, rather than eking out a living on the streets. 

He was concerned that in armed conflicts of recent years, children had been the targets of violence and, even more unacceptable, had been perpetrators of violence.  The protection of children in armed conflict must be all-encompassing.  Children must be assured of their physical security and be provided with legal protection under international law.  As proven time and again in conflict situations, women and children were often targeted with impunity.  

Unacceptably high numbers of children had been forced to take part in armed conflicts as soldiers or sex slaves, clearly in violation of their rights.  There must be no leniency in dealing with crimes perpetrated on innocent children.  At the same time, it was necessary to deal humanely with children who had been manipulated by unscrupulous adults to participate in the perpetration of atrocities during conflicts.

LAMIN FAATI (Gambia) said his country had signed the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and would take steps to finally ratify them in the near future.  Gambia was deeply committed to creating a child-friendly nation.  The notion of acting in the best interest of children was a constitutional imperative.  The Global Movement for Children was a committee that had been created to address the issue of children at the international level.  The Government had launched a number of initiatives and programmes to address the situation of children, including the Participatory Health, Population and Nutrition Project, the National Disability Survey and the HIV/AIDS Rapid Response Project.  Those interventions were designed to address the critical needs of children in areas such as integrated early childhood development, immunization, girls education and fighting AIDS. 

Critical to Gambia's success was how successful the country was in addressing the effects of poverty and underdevelopment.  In that regard it had also been working toward the timely implementation of its Poverty Reduction Strategy paper (PRSP).  Gambia also placed a special interest in the situation of the girl child.  The Scholarship Trust Fund had been created to specifically ensure free education for every girl.  That initiative was meant to address the issues of access, retention and performance.

ANTONIO LEAL CORDEIRO (Angola) said the promotion and protection of children's rights was especially important for Angola, not only due to the psychological effects that 35 years of civil war caused on children, but also because Angola recognized that children represented the most important asset whose future required protection and nourishment.  A full generation of Angolans had been born and raised under war and emergencies, in extremely difficult conditions, where more than 100,000 children had been separated from their families.  Many had witnessed the death of family members and others; more than four million people had been displaced; and sixty thousand orphans had emerged.

He said that recent access to areas and communities affected by the war, after the April 2002 ceasefire between the Government and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), had revealed the real and dramatic dimension of the effect of war on women and children.  Aware of its responsibilities, the Angolan Government had adopted and was implementing a broad programme, which incorporated access to basic services, from birth certificates to education, basic health care, vaccination and access to clean water.  Despite all of the efforts and resources employed by the Government, the complete and adequate implementation of this programme could only achieved with support of the international community.

Statements in Right of Reply

In exercise of the right of reply, the observer of Palestine said her delegation had listened carefully to the statement of the Israeli delegation, particularly the segments which had called for peace over continued violence in the region.  But in order for the children of the Palestinian territories to live in peace rather than in constant fear, the occupation must end.  The Israeli delegation's racist statement that Palestinian children were sent out to be killed was highly regrettable.  Palestinians did not teach their children violence or hate.  Palestinian parents wanted what all parents wanted:  for their children to live and security in peace.

And as for Palestinian youth responding to Israeli incursions by throwing rocks, she said history had never witnessed anyone welcoming occupation with open arms.  The Israeli representative had said all the people of the region must live in peace, but first things first:  end the occupation.

In reply, the representative of Israel said during the last two days, the Committee had heard from various delegations the myriad social ills affecting the world's youth.  They had underscored that the number of children affected by poverty, poor health, conflict and lack of access to basic necessities and education was indeed in the millions.  Nevertheless, it appeared that that the intent of some delegations was to divert the discussion to only one issue.  There had been an obvious attempt to hijack the agenda of the Committee.  He pointed out that the deaths that had occurred in the heat of battle were unfortunate.

Israel regretted that innocent Palestinian children had been hit in the midst of fighting while his country exercised its right to self defence.  He stressed however, that the Israeli children and youth that had been killed during the many years of the conflict had been targeted because they were Jews and Israelis.  The Palestinian side should stop its murderous activities and incitement, and revert to dialogue.  The end of occupation would not come through terror.  Israel would not succumb to terrorist activities.  The only way to achieve a settlement was through peaceful negotiation.

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For information media. Not an official record.