27 October 2004


Press Release

Fifty-ninth General Assembly


42nd & 43rd Meetings (AM & PM)




The General Assembly will launch the International Year for Sport and Physical Education (2005) on 5 November, following the adoption today, without a vote and as orally amended, of a resolution on sport as a means to promote education, health, development and peace.

The Assembly took that action after concluding its joint debate on sport for peace and development and a culture of peace.  Also by the terms of the text, the Assembly stressed the need for all parties to cooperate closely with international sports bodies to elaborate a “code of good practice”.  It also invited governments to accelerate the elaboration of an international anti-doping convention in all sports activities, and asked the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in cooperation with other relevant international and regional bodies, to coordinate the elaboration of such a convention.

Speaking prior to the adoption of the resolution, Israel’s representative said that, not only did sports gauge the limits of human potential, but they could also be used to foster international friendship and harmony, as well as bridge the global seams of friction.  Unfortunately, sport could also be abused and made to serve as a sword as much as a shield.  Perhaps the most important example of the capability of sports to reflect the world came from the Olympic Games.  His only regret was the inability of certain countries to put aside the irrational politics of hate and allow all athletes to compete in the spirit of international harmony and hope, for which the Games were intended.

The United Nations system, noted Suriname’s representative, was best suited to help define and advance the global sport agenda, as well as to make 2005 a significant year for sport and physical education.  The elaboration of an anti-doping convention was a relevant exercise that would result in promoting fair competition.  Enhancing the significance of sport to enable it to make a meaningful contribution to international peace and development required a global partnership with the participation of all, including the sport-related private sector, the International Sport Foundation, and non-governmental and grass-roots organizations.  The United Nations was capable of uniting them all, he added.

Also today, the Assembly discussed progress made in the follow-up to its historic special session on children, held in May 2002, at which delegations from 190 countries adopted the Declaration and Plan of Action entitled “A world fit for children”, committing themselves to a time-bound set of goals for children and young people, with a particular focus on:  promising healthy lives; providing quality education; protecting children against abuse, exploitation and violence; and combating HIV/AIDS.

Speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, the representative of the Netherlands, said the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols provided a comprehensive and normative framework for policies on promoting and protecting children’s rights.  National action plans for children were important instruments that would put mechanisms in place for meaningful partnerships, resource allocation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

He called on States that had not done so to prepare or strengthen such plans.  In doing so, they should cooperate with civil society actors working with children.  It was also important to involve children, as they had a right to be taken into account in matters affecting their own lives.

And while many speakers from the developed countries outlined ambitious national programmes that had been implemented to address the needs of their children, primarily in the areas of health care and education, a large majority of them also pointed to constraints such as lack of resources, inadequate assistance, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, poverty and conflicts, categorically stating that those were all burdensome factors, which impeded the most well-intentioned efforts.

Crystallizing that collective sentiment, China’s representative said the two major obstacles to children’s development were poverty and inadequate resources.  Poverty not only deprived youth of what they needed, but also made it difficult to sustain the gains made.  The mounting threats to the young all arose from poverty.  The lack of resources of developing countries also limited child development.  He hoped the international community would continue to make efforts to support developing countries in that regard.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Togo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Barbados (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Kenya, South Africa, United States, Malaysia, Ecuador, Myanmar, Namibia, Peru, Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Belize, Congo, Kazakhstan, Jamaica, Canada, Syria, Uganda, Viet Nam, India, Eritrea, Nigeria, Iran and Armenia.

The Observers for the Holy See and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also addressed the Assembly today.

In addition, the representatives of Israel and Syria spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 28 October, to consider the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba.


The General Assembly met today to resume its joint debate on sport for peace and development and a culture of peace.  It would also consider follow-up to the outcome of the 2002 special session on children.  (For more details, see Press Release GA/10284 of 26 October.)

Statements on Sport/Culture of Peace

KODJO MENAN (Togo) said the promotion of a culture of peace was still a priority of the international community in the new millennium.  Youth were vital to shaping the future and building freer, fairer and more prosperous societies, and thus necessary for a more peaceful world.  Togo had been striving to maintain a climate of peace and understanding in Africa, particularly in the West African subregion.  Actions undertaken for long-term effect should be consolidated.  In Africa, for example, the gains of the nation State should be consolidated, especially in areas where there had been disruption.  But there were certain pressures exerted on that continent that had spun out of control.  And while there had been an inevitable march towards democratization, social forces, key among them conflicts, had torn at the fabric of those societies and deterred further advances.

For a culture of peace to advance, the efforts to promote it must be expanded in the United Nations, he said.  Social justice and the elimination of poverty was crucial for the maintenance of peace and security within nations.  The elimination of poverty should also be at the heart of the promotion of the culture of peace.  In promoting democracy, African countries still suffered economic difficulties, including sanctions imposed due to “so-called” deficits in democracy, he said.

MARÍA ELENA CHASSOUL (Costa Rica) said that the establishment of the United Nations system, based on universally shared values and objectives, constituted in itself an important step toward the change from a culture of war and violence to a culture of peace and non-violence.  The international instruments adopted under the United Nations auspices and the outcome of its world conferences had helped to enshrine the culture of peace.  The abolishment of war must be pursued as the principal goal of humankind.  That required not only changes in structures and institutions, but also the transformation of cultural roots, so that of a culture of violence and war was replaced by a culture of peace.  Men had used weapons to resolve conflicts for centuries and, unfortunately, the violence that had ruled in human relations and in the events of the last few years confirmed that reality.

The principal areas of action for a culture of peace, she continued, were education, sustainable economic and social development, human rights, equality between men and women, non-violence, and respect and solidarity among all peoples. The elements that characterized a culture of peace included dialogue between cultures; prevention of conflicts; and the consolidation of peace in post-conflict situations, among other things.  All Member States needed to promote and strengthen the culture of peace.  They needed to cooperate with, among others, international organizations, civil society, community leaders, parents, teachers and journalists.  Costa Rica had, more than half a century ago renounced the use of force, and entrusted its security to the multilateral mechanisms for peaceful solutions to conflicts.

EWALD LIMON (Suriname) said that the Secretary-General’s report on sport reiterated the important contribution sport and physical education could make to achieve peace and development, particularly human development.  He believed that sport, peace and development needed to be seen in a greater perspective.  Sport had always been an important factor in bringing people together in peace, and had always been an important means in the bringing up of children in the Surinamese communities.  The Government of Suriname planned to increase its activities in 2005 in the areas of youth and mass sport.  Actions were also being taken to bring sport and recreation closer to the community, especially to the so-called working-class neighbourhoods, the districts and the interior of the country.

The United Nations system, he continued, was best suited to assist in defining and advancing the global sport agenda, and to make 2005 a significant year for sport and physical education.  The elaboration of an anti-doping convention in all sport activities was a relevant exercise that would result in a legal document that should enhance fair competition.  Enhancing the significance of sport to enable a meaningful contribution to international peace and development required a global partnership with the participation of all, including the sport-related private sector, the International Sport Foundation, and non-governmental and grass roots organizations.  The United Nations system was capable of uniting them all, he added.

DAN GILLERMAN (Israel) said sports were powerful.  Not only did they gauge the limits of human potential, but they could also be used to foster international friendship and harmony, as well as bridge the global seams of friction. Unfortunately, sport could also be abused and made to serve as a sword as much as a shield.  For example, the Palestinian Authority continued to use sporting events to present terrorists as role models for youth.  For years, racism and anti-Semitism at European football games had been an increasingly disturbing phenomenon, and did not seem to have abated.  Israel, however, commended the work of organizations that were working to combat those nefarious activities. Particular praise should go to Football against Racism in Europe (FARE).

Perhaps the most important example of the capability of sports to reflect the world came from the Olympic Games, he said, congratulating Greece on a very successful and peaceful twenty-eighth Olympiad.  Israel was proud of its athletes’ performances at the Olympics, and there was a feeling of international brotherhood manifested at this year’s Games.  His only regret was the dismaying inability of certain countries to put aside the irrational politics of hate and allow all athletes to compete in the spirit of international harmony and hope, for which the Games were intended.  Yet, no matter how successful an Olympic Game, it was always a time of sadness for Israel, which cleaved to the memory of the 1972 Games in Munich, when gunmen from the terrorist group Black September, disguised as athletes, killed 11 Israeli athletes, coaches and referees.  That tragedy could not be forgotten, and it was disappointing that the International Olympic Committee had not yet found an appropriate manner in which to officially observe the memory of the fallen Israel.

CLAUDIA PEREZ (Cuba) said that the debt of poor nations, which amounted to $50 billion in 1964, currently stood at $2.6 trillion.  More than 800 million people were suffering from hunger.  The lives of millions of people were also threatened by aggressive plans of the only super-Power, which had entitled itself with the right to launch pre-emptive attacks against 60 or more developing nations.  Fostering an international environment of peace could not be postponed. It was indispensable to defend a culture of peace and non-violence that promoted dialogue among civilizations.  Cuba reiterated its support for multilateralism and the multilateral settlements agreed on, pursuant to the Charter and international law.

She supported the activities carried out by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) within the framework of the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010).  She believed that sport, and the Olympic ideal, would strengthen friendship and fraternity among peoples, and were vital factors in the promotion of peace, development and cooperation among nations.  Cuba’s contributions to that effort were based on a broad ranging programme of international cooperation, which it offered in the form of sports, healthcare and education, by thousands of Cuban specialists and technicians.  All that despite the strict economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed on Cuba by its powerful northern neighbour.

CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Observer for the Holy See, said that, in spite of successes and the various initiatives taken within the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World, the more dominant culture appeared sometimes to trigger cultural reactions against true peace and create suspicions about it.  Similarly, globalization seemed unable to prevent threats to peace because cultural revivalism tended to create walls that separated people from one another.  Cynicism emerged from misunderstandings among people –- the latter was the result of unnecessary barriers.  The concept of security itself had come to create continuing tension between national, international and global interests.

The defence of peace, so often a fragile entity, must be reinforced, he said.  That could be achieved by cultivating, in the minds of people of goodwill, the imperative to become in some way agents of peace.  “They are its architects, its builders and even its bridges”, he said.  Making peace a reality was possible through an education of consciences, which could produce an openness and respect for others.  The devastating effects of conflict usually lasted generations, making reconciliation and any semblance of normal life extremely difficult, if not impossible.  He called for a more energetic commitment to underline the deep links between the promotion of a culture of peace and the strengthening of the disarmament and non-proliferation process.

Action on Draft

General Assembly President Jean Ping (Gabon) informed the Assembly that action on the draft resolution on promotion of cooperation among religions (document A/59/L.15) would be taken at a later date.

The Assembly then adopted, as orally amended and without a vote, the draft resolution on sport as a means to promote education, health, development and peace, contained in document A/59/L.9.

Statements on Children

ARJAN HAMBURGER (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the end of the review of the World Summit for Children showed that progress in creating a better world for children had been unequal.  Millions still lived in abject poverty and were deprived of dignity, education and other essential services that could have offered them opportunities to make a better future.  Poverty eradication was, therefore, at the heart of the Union’s development strategies, which focused on mainstreaming gender and human rights, including those of children.  But while many governments had addressed the four priority areas vis-à-vis children –- basic education, health, water and sanitation, there was a concern that few of the poverty reduction strategies gave significant focus to child protection.

He said the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols provided a comprehensive and normative framework for policies on promoting and protecting child rights, including in crisis situations.  And while welcoming the fact that children’s rights were integrated in the work of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and other relevant organs of the United Nations, he called on all of the Organization’s entities to continue working towards an integrated response.  National action plans for children were important instruments that would put mechanisms in place for meaningful partnerships, resource allocation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.  He called on States that had not done so to prepare or strengthen national action plans.  In doing so, they should cooperate with civil society actors working with children.  It was also important to involve children, as they had a right to be taken into account in matters affecting their own lives.

Education, particularly for girls and women, was central for poverty reduction, sustainable development and the construction of democratic societies, he added, reaffirming the European Union’s strong commitment to the Education for All (EFA) goals and the Millennium Development Goals on achieving universal primary education by 2015 and eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education by 2005.  In that light, he urged all States to take the necessary measures to eliminate obstacles to the full realization of the right to education, with particular emphasis on the girls’ education. 

He also called on all States to pay special attention to the impact of HIV/AIDS on education systems and the role education could play in confronting the pandemic, as well as to take the appropriate measures to reinforce action in that area.  Noting that nearly 14 million children had been orphaned worldwide by HIV/AIDS and that those numbers would double to 25 million by the end of the decade, he stressed that the rights of young people concerning their own sexual and reproductive health were still too frequently ignored or overlooked.

CHRISTOPHER HACKETT (Barbados), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that CARICOM Governments, in fulfilment of their commitment to create a world fit for children, took immediate steps after the 2002 special session on children to formulate a regional strategy.  That led to the endorsement of the CARICOM regional framework for action by the Council of Ministers for Human and Social Development, which provided the basis for the implementation of the regional strategy.  Virtually all CARICOM countries had started the preparation of national plans of action for children, and a few had even completed them, he said.  That indicated that priority issues for children were being reflected in the national planning processes.  There was also a broad consultative process in the development of the national plans of action, involving not only government agencies, but also civil society, international and regional organizations.

The evolution of Caribbean societies was currently at a phase where almost two-thirds of their populations were under the age of 30, he said.  Significant investments had been made in most of the CARICOM countries to ensure that children received a good start to life, with a view to attaining the goals of the Plan of Action.  Efforts also continued in the region to build on lessons learned and shared experience from other countries.  The goal of protection against abuse, exploitation and violence was proving to be more challenging, as incidences in all three areas continued unabated.  For CARICOM countries, the spectre of HIV/AIDS destroying one of the greatest resources, that of their children and youth, was daunting.  There also existed in many countries a weak national statistical capacity, particularly in accessing disaggregated data on the priority areas of the Plan of Action.

ZHANG YISHAN (China) said that, in May 2001, his country had promulgated the National Programme of Action for Children’s Development for the period 2001-2010, which set out goals in four areas –- education, health, legal protection and the environment, which were fully in line with the global goals for children’s development.  But notwithstanding the good beginning in China’s implementation of the National Programme, it still faced a whole range of problems and challenges in the development of its children due to multiple constraints, including the level of socio-economic development.  The development of children in poor regions, for example, was lagging behind and juvenile delinquency was on the rise.  His Government was taking active and effective measures to tackle those problems.

While vigorously developing China’s economy to eradicate poverty and provide a material foundation for the realization of child rights, his Government was also formulating a series of policies of intervention, he said.  Those included the continuation of projects of compulsory education in poor regions; financial aid for needy students; equal schooling opportunities for migrant children; and legal assistance for minors.  He warned that the two major obstacles to children’s development were poverty and inadequate resources.  Poverty not only deprived children of what they needed, but also made it difficult to sustain gains made. The mounting threats to children all arose from poverty.  The lack of resources of developing countries also limited child development.  He hoped the international community would continue to make efforts to support developing countries in that regard.

CATHERINE B. MOGAKA (Kenya) said resolution 2004/148, adopted last April by the Commission on Human Rights, was timely, as it addressed general issues of implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other instruments, such as protection and promotion of the rights of the child, non-discrimination, the prevention and eradication of the sale of children, and child prostitution, among others.  Her government had embarked on a comprehensive programme to implement the Children’s Act passed in March 2002.  That included establishing a family court; declaring free and compulsory primary education; and establishing a national reproductive health programme.  In addition, a national policy on orphaned children would be finalized by the end of the year.  The policy would ensure that orphans were not discriminated against, and that they enjoyed all human rights.

The work of the Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, she continued, had resulted in greater visibility and advocacy on the issue.  A comprehensive body of norms had been put in place to protect children in armed conflict, and the issue of protection of children had been included in various peace accords.  Despite that, many parties to conflicts continued to disregard those standards, often with impunity.  Her delegation welcomed the ongoing mainstreaming of the issue currently taking place in the United Nations and its agencies, and concurred with the appeal of the Special Representative on the need to create a political and social climate to make the abuse of children unacceptable.  She supported the deployment of child protection advisors in peacekeeping missions and the training of peacekeeping personnel in child protection and child rights.

XOLISA MABHONGO (South Africa) said the African Union had presented its common position “Africa Fit for Children”, following the Assembly’s special session.  Since children made up more than half the population of the continent, the African position aptly stated that its future rested on the well-being of its youth.  Children were also at the core of prospects for socio-economic transformation in Africa, and it was only by providing young Africans with health, education and confidence in a bright future that Africa could achieve its development goals.

Although progress had been made to integrate the goals of the special session into national poverty reduction strategies and national plans of action on children in Africa, much remained to be done, he said.  A recent publication, “The Young Face of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD)”, noted that Africa accounted for only 12 per cent of the world’s population, but was home to 43 per cent of the world’s child mortality, 50 per cent of maternal deaths, 70 per cent of people living with HIV/AIDS and a staggering 90 per cent of the world’s AIDS orphans.  Furthermore, Africa’s children were caught up in conflicts and were victims of violence, trafficking and sexual exploitation.  He went on to highlight South Africa’s plan of action and other initiatives aimed at ensuring equal access to quality education, combating child abuse and neglect and addressing the challenges of HIV/AIDS.  The Government would accelerate service delivery to children and strengthen its resolve to do more.

JANE D. HULL (United States) said if the international community aspired to better lives for children, “we must each support our own families and communities at home”.  Protecting children and strengthening families was a core concern in her country.  She then highlighted a number of measures that the United States had taken to enhance the safety and well-being of its children, including those to address child pornography, violent crimes against them and abduction.  At the global level, she said the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) had teamed up with UNICEF, the World Bank, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), developing countries and others to form a new alliance called the Global Survival Partnership.  The collective aim was to improve child health and save millions of children from dying from preventable causes.

Global efforts were critical, she said, if the fight against trafficking in human beings was to be won.  Since 2001, her Government had provided more than $295 million to support anti-trafficking programmes in 120 countries, as well as launched Operation Predator to safeguard children from paedophiles, human traffickers, international sex tourists and internet pornographers.  It had also secured a commitment from the travel and tourism industry to develop a code of conduct to prevent the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism.  The United States was also leading the international campaign to control HIV/AIDS, a pandemic which would today alone kill 8,000 people, including children.  The Emergency Plan would provide $15 billion over five years in a multi-faceted approach.  And not only would that Plan focus on 15 targeted countries in Africa, the Caribbean and Southeast Asia, it also encompassed bilateral agreements with 100 other nations.

TAN KEE KWONG (Malaysia) said that some 30,000 children lost their lives everyday to preventable diseases.  While there were efforts to strengthen partnerships within the international community to increase child survival and promote healthy lives, more needed to be done to achieve targets set out under the Millennium Development Goals.  Malaysia commended the invaluable support and commitment demonstrated by relevant United Nations development agencies in gearing activities to assist and support Member States in implementing policies, plans and programmes as proposed by the Plan of Action.  He urged agencies to continue their efforts in assisting developing nations to establish and strengthen their national capacity and institutions for the protection of the rights of children.  Malaysia had consistently made a decision to set education as the cornerstone of its national agenda.  Its policy was geared to providing basic education for a minimum of nine years, and there was equal access to educational opportunities for both girls and boys.

He went on to say that RM 5.5 billion had been allocated to further develop the health sector.  His nation was constantly upgrading its medical facilities and programmes, and there was a steady decline in maternal and neonatal mortality.  In addition, Malaysia was committed to the concept of “total rehabilitation” for disabled children, since it was first highlighted in 1979.  That entailed a multi-disciplinary approach whereby rehabilitative services for disabled children were provided by the Department of Social Welfare through institutional services.  In the area of child abuse, his nation had developed mechanisms for child protection, care and rehabilitation.  While having identified action against commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking of children as the first of four regional priorities, Malaysia was mindful that that challenge could not be surmounted by any one nation alone.  Malaysia continued to give serious attention to action to combat HIV/AIDS, although the reported cases of HIV infection were relatively small compared to its population.

SILVIA ESPINDOLA (Ecuador) said the special session on children had served to enable and motivate every country towards pursuing actions and processing change on behalf of children.  It was vital now for all governments to proceed from words and promises to concrete plans of action and finally to tangible measures to address serious problems such as discrimination, degradation of the environment, hunger, lack of educational opportunities, the breakdown of families and the spread of disease.  Ecuador had striven to increase investment in the social sphere, particularly towards improving the lives of children.  But Ecuador’s ongoing financial crisis had limited the breadth and scope of its efforts, she said.  Nevertheless, the Government’s commitment to enhancing the lives of Ecuador’s boy and girl children and youths was unwavering, and it would strengthen its resolve to that end.

She reiterated that it was time to face up to the responsibility of finding the right mechanisms to make real changes, particularly since even the most determined efforts could be undermined by financial difficulties.  She suggested that the search for answers should include identifying external resources –- human and material, as well as financial –- particularly for developing countries struggling to meet other international objectives.  Ecuador believed that the Millennium Declaration, agenda 21 and the other recommendations and strategies agreed at the major United Nations conferences held in Rio, Johannesburg and Monterrey, among others, could serve as guides for all who sought to enhance the living conditions of the most vulnerable sectors of society and improve the lives of children worldwide.

U KYAW TINT SWE (Myanmar) said his nation was heartened that three-quarters of the world’s children received routine immunizations, averting an estimated 2.5 million deaths a year.  Yet, his country was shocked to learn that 1.4 million children under five years of age died annually from vaccine-preventable diseases. Myanmar had successfully carried out immunization activities throughout the country.  Full immunization coverage for all infants and pregnant women against tetanus had been achieved since 1990, and more than 90 per cent of Myanmar’s children under the age of five had been immunized with the polio vaccine.  Quality education was also a priority.  In the past six years, 135 tertiary education institutions and more than 40,500 primary and secondary schools, were established, 90 per cent of them in rural areas.

To protect children from sexual exploitation, abuse and trafficking, the National Committee for the Rights of the Child worked closely with the Myanmar National Committee for Women’s Affairs, the Myanmar Women’s Affairs Federation, the Committee for Trafficking in Persons and non-governmental organizations.  His nation had submitted its second report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC).  In many cases, his nation had set national standards higher than its international obligations.  A case in point was recruitment into the armed forces. It was against the law for anyone under 18 to be enlisted.  To ensure that no adolescent fell through any loopholes, the Committee for the Prevention of the Military Recruitment of Underage Children was recently established, and a National Plan of Action, had been put in place.

Myanmar had been successful in carrying out a process of national reconciliation, he added.  As a first step in the transition to democracy, the National Convention held its first session. Those developments would greatly benefit children and future generations.  A peaceful, stable, democratic nation was an integral part of the promise to children.

JULIUS SHIWEVA (Namibia) said his country’s commitment to education was reflected in the amount of financial resources allocated to education each year -- some 25 percent of the national budget.  Great progress had been made in making education effective, compulsory, and accessible to all.  He cited an early childhood policy that included children up to age eight, starting with pre-natal care for mothers.  That policy streamlined the delivery of health, nutrition and educational services in order to improve children’s survival and ability to thrive.  Furthermore, primary education enrolment rates in Namibia were higher for girls than boys.

Poverty and hunger were a cause of concern, he continued.  The other challenge for his Government was the provision of quality education for marginalized groups and those living in extreme poverty.  Access to primary education for those groups was limited by various factors, including availability of schools within reasonable proximity, the required contributions to the school development fund, as well as normal costs associated with attending school.

In addition, he said a combination of recurrent droughts, food insecurity, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and poverty was severely affecting Namibia’s human development.  About one in five pregnant women were infected with HIV and the devastating effect was felt everywhere, especially among children.  The epidemic had already reduced the average lifespan of a newborn Namibian by more than a decade and had resulted in growing numbers of orphans and other vulnerable children.

His Government, in an effort to ensure a coordinated approach to the growing number of orphans and other vulnerable children, had adopted a five-year strategic plan (2001-2006) and the National Policy on Orphans and Vulnerable Children.  He added that international cooperation was needed to augment national efforts.

ROMY TINCOPA (Peru) said her nation considered the well-being of children and adolescents a principal objective for development.  The State was obligated to ensure that they could enjoy their rights.  The eradication of poverty and social inequities was also a priority for Peru.  A national agreement called for the comprehensive protection of children in the first three years of life.  Peru had set in motion a national plan of action for children, which set forth strategies to ensure the rights of children and adolescents throughout their lives.  Deep changes in the lives of children were necessary, as 66.2 per cent of children lived in poverty, and 22.4 per cent lived in extreme poverty.

Those factors had adverse affects, she said, including entering the labour market prematurely, early and unwanted pregnancy and drug addiction, to name a few.  Peru had set key priorities to combat poverty and to reduce social inequities, working in the areas of health, education and participation.  In regard to health, it ensured universal access to health care, including sexual and reproductive health care, and was attacking the problem of HIV/AIDS.  The promotion of education was a way to combat poverty, and Peru guaranteed universal access to education from the basic level to the point where employment was possible.  In the area of participation, Peru promoted the participation of children and adolescents as strategic actors in the nation’s development.  As such, it would continue to tackle issues such as alcohol and drug abuse.

Concerning the difficult situation of child soldiers and the exploitation of children in various forms, she said the Millennium Development Goals did not include specific objectives for protecting children, which made it necessary for governments to treat them as a priority in their national planning.  Peru had made progress with regard to children but much still needed to be done.  It would continue to work with the UNICEF, the UNESCO and others in the United Nations system to that end.

CHAIYONG SATJIPANON (Thailand) said that because children were so vulnerable, it was up to every parent, every society, and every State to ensure their safety, well-being and the full realization of their potential.  For its part, Thailand had fashioned its national strategy on children for 2005 to 2015 on the special session’s outcome document along with some elements addressing the specificities of Thai society.  Hearings on the national plan had been completed recently and a revised version was expected to be submitted to Thailand’s Cabinet of Ministers for approval by the end of the year.  In addition, his country also attached great importance to children’s participation in Government-led decision-making processes on issues that concerned their well-being.  As a result, youths and child-related civil society groups and other like-minded civil actors had participated in the drafting of the national plan.

He went on to give examples of Thailand’s actions on behalf of children in some of the priority areas identified in the outcome of the Assembly’s special session, noting, among other things, that remarkable progress had been achieved in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS.  A national policy had been put in place, and estimates had shown that the number of children born HIV-positive had been cut by nearly 50 per cent by 2003.  But Thailand would not rest on that success, and during last July’s fifteenth International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, the Government had ensured that particular emphasis had been given to the increasingly young and female faces of the victims of the virus, as well as to the severe difficulties facing children living with or orphaned by the disease.

In addition, he drew attention to the Child Protection Act, which came into effect this past March and which stipulated that any child below the age of 18 was protected by the State.  He also touched on Thailand’s strategy to protect children from violence, abuse and exploitation, and stressed the cross-boundary nature of sex tourism, child pornography and trafficking.  With that in mind, national, regional, as well as global efforts, needed to comprehensively address the root causes of those problems such as poverty, dysfunctional family structures and political instability.  They should also aim to tackle the problem from both the demand and supply sides.

DICKY KOMAR (Indonesia) said that the outcome of the Assembly’s 2002 special session served as a framework reference for his Government’s efforts to promote national development planning for children and child rights-based programmes.  On that basis, legislative and administrative measures had been taken and various elements of the society had been involved in the implementation of relevant action plans in order to create a healthy and conducive environment for the development of the country’s children.  The most significant national events in the wake of the special session had been the promulgation of a 2002 Law on Child Protection and the establishment of a National Committee on Child Protection, responsible for monitoring and evaluating the Law’s implementation.

This past July, Indonesia’s President had launched the National Programme for Children in Indonesia 2015, in line with the targets and goals set by the Millennium Declaration.  That initiative covered key issues such as children’s health and nutrition, HIV/AIDS, early childhood care and development, basic nine-year education and child protection.  Turning to the progress being made in other areas, he noted that various policy measures had been taken to address child abuse, and in setting nationwide health targets, such as reducing mother and infant mortality, reducing malnutrition for children under five and, among other things, increasing the number of sanitation facilities and the supply of clean water.

BERNARD GOONETILLEKE (Sri Lanka) said children under the age of 18 constituted approximately 36 percent of Sri Lanka’s population of nearly 20 million.  Literacy rates were over 90 percent for men and women -- testimony of the country’s long commitment to education without gender disparity.  For several decades, healthcare had also been accorded the same level of priority as education, and free services were available to all Sri Lankans.  His country was proud of the consequent low rates of infant, child and maternal mortality and significant reduction in low birth rate.  However, over the years, budgetary allocations for education and healthcare had come under considerable pressure.

One of his country’s greatest challenges in recent years had been the protection of children from the impact of two decades of armed conflict, he said.  Nevertheless, all children living in affected areas were provided with healthcare and educational facilities at the Government’s expense.  Programmes were underway to increase vocational and technical training to school leavers in those conflict areas.  Tragically, Sri Lanka continued to face the problem of recruitment of children, some as young as 10, as armed combatants by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

According to UNICEF reports, he continued, 4,552 child combatants under the age of 18 had been recruited by the LTTE between April 2001 and September 2004.  That was done despite an assurance given by that group in 1998 to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, that it would stop using children under 18 for armed hostilities.  His Government appreciated the role played by UNICEF in relentlessly pursuing the issue of child combatants with the LTTE and making arrangements to rehabilitate children who were released by that group.

STUART W. LESLIE (Belize) said the current increase in the number of children and young people living with and dying from HIV/AIDS posed a great threat to development.  Most of Belize’s children received immunization vaccinations, and there had been a reduction in infant mortality by more than 20 per cent.  Yet there was more to do.  As official development assistance (ODA) decreased, the demands on already limited resources increased exponentially.  He appealed to development partners to support efforts to save children.  Since 1999, the largest portion of Belize’s national budget was allocated to education.  Also, recent laws had been enhanced for the protection of children, making it mandatory to report child abuse and neglect.  Belize was committed to eradicating practices that would harm children.  Among other things, it had ratified the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

HIV/AIDS had ravaged the world, and threatened the development prospects of many nations, he said.  The Caribbean region was the second worst affected region in the world, and Belize had not been exempted from that.  His country had waged an intensive campaign against the pandemic through the provision of care, treatment and prevention programmes, coupled with awareness-raising and educational activities.  With regard to education, he said no efforts should be spared to provide greater opportunities for children.  Belize had established a “National Plan of Action for Children and Adolescents, 2004-2015”, which provided a framework for actions to ensure all children lived in conditions that were favourable to their optimum physical, intellectual, psycho-social and spiritual development.  The world’s future depended on the actions taken today to safeguard the welfare and well-being of children.

LAZARE MAKAYAT-SAFOUESSE (Congo) said today’s debate should lay the groundwork for holding concrete discussions on child-related issues at next year’s mid-term review of the Millennium Development Goals.  A closer look at the report before the Assembly showed that worldwide efforts to develop and enhance children’s capacities faced many challenges, and social services in poor countries remained insufficient.  It was, therefore, necessary to recommit to the priority areas for action identified by the special session:  promotion of healthy lives; provision of quality education; combating HIV/AIDS; and protection from abuse, violence and exploitation.

For its part, Congo had pressed ahead with its efforts to promote the tenets of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, even in the face of difficult circumstances.  It had also elaborated a National Plan of Action on behalf of children as well as a Health Development Plan, both of which contained key elements similar to the priorities highlighted in the Millennium Declaration and the outcome of the Assembly’s special session on children, “A World Fit For Children”.

Overall, he said Congo had been pleased with the efforts of the United Nations in establishing new standards and protections for the welfare of children, particularly those ensnared in armed conflict.  Congo had destroyed thousands of land mines in that regard, and had made the eradication of poverty the cornerstone of its development policy.  It was working with the UNICEF on ways to more comprehensively address nutritional concerns for children under five.  The Government had also placed a priority on strengthening the capacities of health workers in the country.  Congo’s partnership with the UNICEF had been invaluable and had ensured that the nation could avoid many of the dire consequences that accompanied conflict.  Congo was now in the process of repairing school buildings that had been destroyed by the civil war and natural disasters, and the Government was determined to aggressively train new teachers and spur class enrolment.

YERZHAN KH. KAZYKHANOV (Kazakhstan) said the promotion and protection of the rights of the five million children in his country was a very high priority.  Those children had a right to education and were being taken care of according to his country’s national programme that had been implemented between 1998 and 2004.  A national commission had also been set up with the support of non- governmental organizations, and its aim was to address the needs and rights of children.

A number of mechanisms had been identified to roll back poverty and induce socio-economic momentum, he said.  The special session on children had spurred other initiatives to address issues such as orphaned children and those with deviant behaviour.  The birth rate in his country had decreased, as had mortality. Specifically targeted assistance was being provided to over 600,000 children in special categories.  Other issues of concern were the cruel treatment of children and their sexual exploitation.  Efforts to stem those problems were underway, while higher standards of living were being sought.

STAFFORD NEIL (Jamaica) said his country had taken steps to increase prenatal care and delivery services.  The result had been the reduction in infant mortality from 27 per 1,000 in 1990 to 24.5 per 1,000 today.  There had also been a decrease in the maternal mortality rate over the same period, while child immunization coverage had increased to 95 percent.  There was also evidence that great strides had been made in combating malnutrition in children.  The improvement in early childhood education had been steady and within the framework of the Government’s policy of providing universal basic education.  A school feeding programmes to improve nutrition for poor and rural families was another strategy.

As far as administrative mechanisms were concerned, special attention had been paid to institutions to strengthen child protection, he said.  Jamaica’s National Plan of Action for Children was a comprehensive and coordinated framework to promote the rights of the child.  Under its auspices, the Children’s Development Agency was established to meet the nation’s obligations to its children.  As part of that framework, there was an established child specific human rights institution for the protection of children –- the Children’s Advocate -– which was responsible for reviewing the adequacy and effectiveness of the law and practice related to children’s rights; for giving information to children on the function of their advocate; and for assisting and acting on behalf of any child whose rights were infringed.  In addition, the Juvenile Unit of the Police Force supported the Family and Juvenile Courts, while a Victim’s Support Unit had been established to assist child victims of violent crime.

GILBERT LAURIN (Canada) said that while children in Canada were doing well, many challenges remained.  That was why his nation sought to produce a comprehensive national plan that could provide a framework for action on children’s issues for the next decade.  To address priorities, extensive consultations, including some with young people, were undertaken.  Those consultations also included all levels of Government, non-governmental organizations and professional and faith-based organizations.  The plan of action underscored the importance Canada placed on playing a role in helping children worldwide.  Canada continued to implement the Action Plan on Child Protection of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) with its strategic focus on supporting child labourers and children affected by armed conflict.  Canada had promised to double its investment in basic education in Africa by 2005, which meant that it would invest $100 million annually by 2005 to help achieve the goal of universal primary education in Africa.

Other priorities, he said, included the Multilateral Framework on Early Learning and Child Care, under which governments were working to improve access to affordable, quality and regulated early learning and child care programmes and services.  In addition, his nation was taking steps to fight child poverty and promote early development through the National Child Benefit and the Early Childhood Development Agreement.  At the same time, it had undertaken a number of legislative and law enforcement initiatives designed to protect children from exploitation.  Canada was preparing to hold a North American consultation in 2005 with respect to the United Nations Study on Violence against Children.

FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said that, proceeding from the belief that the development of children was an investment in the future, his Government had made the promotion and protection of the rights of children a top priority.  It had set up the Supreme Committee for Children in 1999 with the aim of addressing a broad range of childhood questions, as well as facilitating the promotion and implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Syria’s forward looking national plan –- through 2015 –- covered children with special needs, health care and services for abused children, and healthcare for both girls and boys.  He added that the tenets of the Convention were being integrated into school curriculums, and that a National Childhood Watch had been established to follow up on plans and programmes aimed at protecting children.

In spite of achievements, the Government could not provide for all the country’s children, particularly since thousands were still living under occupation in the Syrian Golan since 1967.  Those children, like their Palestinian brothers and sisters, were subject to Israel’s violations of international norms, as well as its efforts to erase their national identity through, among other things, destruction of educational facilities and books.  Syria hoped that the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, would draw attention to that tragic situation and urge Israel to respect its obligations under international law.

FRANCIS K. BUTAGIRA (Uganda) said his nation had experienced an unsettled period for approximately 10 years due to a number of dictatorial regimes, which had destroyed public infrastructure and the delivery of social services.  As a result, infant mortality rates were high.  Since the National Resistance Movement (NRM) Government took power, however, the country had been rehabilitated, enabling the achievement of targets such as ensuring children’s health and nutrition and lowering infant mortality rates, as well as assuring universal education at the primary level and safe childbirth.  Medical personnel were being trained and safe motherhood was increasingly being implemented.  Interventions in that regard were both family- and community-based. 

To provide quality education, he said Uganda had embarked on a programme of Universal Primary Education, which had led to a rise in enrolment levels from 2.5 million in 1986 to 7.5 million today, as well as an increase of primary school teachers by approximately 30,000.  Under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, Uganda had increased spending on its primary schools thanks to debt rescheduling and forgiveness.  In addition, his nation was embarking on Universal Secondary Education in the near future, and gender biases were being eliminated in school curricula. 

A political commitment at the highest level to combat HIV/AIDS, coupled with openness about the problem, had translated into support for HIV/AIDS programmes and policies, he said.  Awareness campaigns had facilitated informed decision-making, especially among HIV-positive couples.  Uganda was undertaking efforts to protect children against abuse, exploitation and violence in the context of armed conflict.  His Government had been fighting a lone battle to rescue children who had been maimed, abducted, sexually abused and killed by the terrorist organization, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

LE LUONG MINH (Viet Nam) said he was particularly pleased to note that, in many countries, there had been more coordination in the designing or implementation of national plans for children along with other national strategies, especially those aimed at poverty reduction and overall development. From its own experience, Viet Nam considered it important to ensure the cost-effectiveness of such projects, as well as their durability and sustainability.  He also encouraged States to enhance regional cooperation to improve the lives of children.

Nevertheless, he noted, much remained to be done to ensure the safety and well-being of the world’s children, particularly where political instability and armed conflict had slowed efforts to reach the aims of the special session.  Whether it was the lack of long-term funding for vaccines, a shortfall in resources for ensuring safe motherhood and access to drinking water or increasing numbers of HIV/AIDS orphans, the difficulties and challenges facing children today demanded that all States be more vigilant.

The wider United Nations family, along with UNICEF, should be encouraged and supported to make still greater contributions towards sustaining the progress already achieved, he said.  Reflecting on Viet Nam’s efforts to improve the lives of its children –- even in light of some serious impediments and challenges like resource shortfalls, trafficking and exploitation -- he was able to report some encouraging achievements, notably that 100 per cent of the country’s provinces and cities had attained the goal of universal primary education, and that illiteracy had been wiped out nationwide.

P.S. GADHAVI (India) said efforts to alleviate poverty must begin with children.  In fact, economists said that the nutritional status of children under the age of five was the most sensitive indicator of development.  India considered the development of children an important concern and firmly believed that it was the healthy development of children that held the key, and set the limits for, the future development of society.  India had the largest child population in the world, with about 157 million children below the age of six.  Through the Integrated Child Development Services Programme, services were being provided to more than 41 million beneficiaries, comprising more than 34 million children under 6 years of age and more than 7 million pregnant and lactating mothers.

Another major initiative, the National Nutrition Mission, was launched to ensure a holistic and coordinated intervention to combat malnutrition, he said. Under the aegis of that Mission, the Government was providing assistance for a pilot project in 51 districts under which food grains were being provided to families or undernourished adolescent girls and pregnant and lactating women.  In addition, it was designed to reach disadvantaged and low-income groups for effective reduction in disparities.  Education was recognized as a vital component in the development of children.  The Constitution Act (Eighty-Sixth Amendment) was notified on 13 December 2002, making free and compulsory education a fundamental right for all children ages 6-14.  Despite the challenges, India’s achievement vis-à-vis all indicators for children throughout the past decade had been positive.  For example, the infant mortality rate declined from 146 per 1000 live births in 1960 to 80 in 1990 and 70 in 2000.  The prevalence of severe and moderate degrees of malnutrition among children had steadily declined from 1974 to 2000.  Primary school enrolment rates had increased from 38 per cent in 1951 to 80 per cent in 2000.  Lastly, he said, the availability of safe drinking water improved significantly from 68 per cent in 1990 to 78 per cent in 2000.

AHMED TAHIR BADURI (Eritrea) said the report noted the progress made, and the obstacles met, by States in the formulation and consolidation of national plans of action designed to enable them in the implementation of the undertakings made during the Asembly’s special session on children.  However, it also made it clear that no significant achievements had been made during the two years following the summit.  It was also evident that the major problems in implementation were faced by developing States because of the paucity of their resources and the inadequacy of the promised -- but not delivered -- external assistance, on which commitment had been made by the developed States during the summit.

The government of Eritrea, he said had taken in earnest its commitments to achieve the four goals identified by the special session for incorporation in national action plans.  The country’s Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare had been taking action on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and was providing assistance to orphans, support for children with HIV/AIDS, support for street children and young commercial sex workers, and had created educational centres.  Significant successes had been scored in those programmes, including access to health services, the reduction of infant and child mortality, the provision of safe drinking water, reduction of vaccine-preventable diseases of childhood, and the expansion of health care and the kindergarten and elementary school infrastructure.  However, much remained to be improved, he said.

O. A. ASHIRU (Nigeria) said that meeting the goals set for children was crucial for the development of States.  Improvements in Nigeria included the retention of girls in schools, improvements in immunization and efforts to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic.  His Government remained committed to the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and related diseases.  As such, it had established a research institution on HIV/AIDS, and had created additional policies on prevention and treatment.  Nigeria was also working to combat hunger and ensure nutrition for its children.  In addition, the Government was making primary education free and compulsory.

It was regrettable that there were instances of child trafficking, in particular in West Africa, he said.  However, a recent law on trafficking had been passed, which provided for effective communication and exchange of information on that issue.  He was deeply concerned about children in armed conflicts, which posed a challenge to Africa and to the entire international community, and called for their protection.  It was also regrettable that 15 million children had lost parents to AIDS and that 1.4 million children, under the age of five, had died annually to preventable diseases.  Nigeria was committed to solving those issues and requested resources to be able to do so, calling for an increase in the ODA.  He also urged nations to address the issue of heavily indebted countries.

MEHDI DANESH YAZDI (Iran) said that while there had been increasing international debate about where the fight for the protection and promotion of children’s rights was headed, and even with child development concerns attaining greater visibility and receiving top-level commitments at a host of international meetings during the past decade, the overall situation for children in most parts of the world had not improved.  And while the well-being of women, as well as children, had been linked to the survival of societies as a whole, millions of children still lived in poverty, were being forced to work under untenable conditions, or suffered sexual abuse and exploitation.  In addition, trafficked children faced a range of dangers, including violence and harassment or other abuse.  All those bitter facts warned that the world was far from being a better place for children and that much remained to be done before the international community reached its goals in that respect.

Undeniably, the protection and promotion of the rights of children began at home, he said.  Therefore, in order to provide a healthy environment for children’s well-being and growth, all societies needed to support and strengthen the family.  For its part, Iran had allocated a significant part of its national budget to various sectors which in some way affected the lives of children, including in education, health, nutrition, physical training, skills development and research.  Moreover, special attention had been devoted to the less developed parts of the country.  Steps had also been taken to revise the rules of procedure regarding juvenile crime, with a view towards introducing international standards and rules, particularly the tenets of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  To increase public awareness about children’s rights, various workshops had been organized in collaboration with the UNICEF country office in Tehran.

MARINE DAVTYAN (Armenia) said that taking up the challenge of ensuring the right of children to grow in health, peace and dignity was a primary responsibility of national governments.  Despite the difficulties of political and socio-economic transition, aggravated by the influx of refugees and blockade, her Government had kept the problems of children, their well-being and protection constantly under its attention.  She believed that the development of international cooperation and the establishment of effective partnership with all stakeholders were essential in moving the agenda forward at both national and international levels.  She appreciated the continued assistance and support of the UNICEF, donors and non-governmental organizations to national efforts to better the lives of children in Armenia.

She said that a thorough examination of the causes and nature of violence against children would provide a better understanding of how to fight against that evil, and would help in developing more effective national and international policies to redress and prevent that scourge.  The linkages between the document “A World Fit for Children” and the Millennium Declaration were evident:  ensuring the rights and well-being of children today, and bringing up a healthy, educated and socially competent generation was a prerequisite for peace, security and prosperity tomorrow.  Therefore, it was important to fully utilize the potential of “A World Fit for Children” to achieve the overarching goals of poverty eradication and sustainable development.

ROBERT L. BARNES, speaking on behalf of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said that children and young people around the world were the keys to the future.  The Federation believed in the important role that the United Nations system could play in safeguarding the interests of children everywhere, and its message began and ended with the unnecessary violence that was targeted at young people.  The harsh fact was that in many countries, the rights of children were regularly being violated, either directly or indirectly. The starting point for that work seemed to be slipping back every day, and children were now living in a world where violence was commonplace and seen as a normal process for solving problems.  The dramatic and catastrophic effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on children were both under-estimated and under-addressed by a number of governments, the media, and many relevant organizations.

He called for more action and support for the role that national societies played as auxiliaries to governments.  He also called upon all State parties to the Convention of the Rights of the Child to comply with the principles outlined in the Convention, because it was one of the most effective and responsible treaty bodies.  He said that children should also be integrated in the design and implementation of programmes and policies that were of relevance to them.  He added that the Federation looked forward to working with the United Nations and other relevant bodies and organizations to that effect.

Right of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Israel said he regretted having to take the floor to respond to Syria’s earlier statement, in which its representative had exploited today’s debate on an important global issue in order to advance its own narrow agenda.  The Syrian intervention had been particularly puzzling since it was coming just one day after the Israeli Parliament had voted to approve Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan to remove Israeli forces from Gaza and the West Bank in the coming year.  Time and again, Mr. Sharon had said that he supported the establishment of a PalestinianState alongside Israel and would do his utmost to ensure peace.

But the same could not be said for Syria, which was a brutal dictatorship and which continued to occupy a neighboring State –- an occupation with no end in sight, he continued.  Just last week, the Security Council “noted with concern” the continued presence of foreign forces in Lebanon and that armed groups were still operating there.  Indeed, the continued murderous presence of Hezbollah in Lebanon under Syria’s watchful eye was not a coincidence, since Syria was known to foster, harbor and finance any number of terrorist groups and actors –- in violation of the most basic international norms –- in its capital, Damascus.  He urged the Assembly not to forget that scores of Israeli youth had been killed by such terrorists in buses, restaurants and even during religious ceremonies.

He went on to say that the Syrian delegation had expressed sympathy with the plight of Palestinian children.  But why did the hundreds of Israeli children killed or maimed in terrorist attacks deserve less sympathy or attention?  Millions of Arab and Israeli children were growing up in a reality of conflict, hate, violence, incitement and bloodshed.  Those children would design the nature of the coexistence of both sides in the next generation.  The death of any child –- Arab or Israeli - was a tragedy.  The first goal was to ensure that children in the region grew up in a safe environment.  To achieve that, terrorism must stop and those that supported terrorism -- like Syria -- must be held to account and must be granted no immunity from the consequences of their actions.

The representative of Syria said Israel was attempting to obfuscate facts before the Assembly.  Israeli forces in the Syrian Golan had violated the rights of the inhabitants there, oppressed them and deprived them of the fundamental right to life.  According to the briefing last week by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Kieran Prendergast, the Israeli occupation forces had killed more than 3,000 Palestinians, including 300 children, in the past three years.  The latest was the killing of two children while they were in school.  The representative of Israel had attempted to draw the attention of delegates away from the fact that his nation practiced State terrorism in the full sense of the word, killing civilians and destroying houses while owners were still inside, and violating international norms.

He said that Israel’s representative should be the last person to speak about compliance with resolutions.  There were scores of Security Council resolutions calling for Israel’s withdrawal from the territories.  A resolution was recently adopted by the Council on Lebanon.  The international community knew that Syria’s presence in Lebanon was under a bilateral agreement between the two nations to stabilize the situation there, which was created by Israel.  He did not want anyone to be deceived by Israel, who wanted to divert attention away from the occupied Syrian Golan.  Syria would continue to expose Israel’s practices.

The representative of Israel said that, unfortunately, since the outbreak of the terrorist intifada in 2000, Israel had found itself facing a particularly difficult situation, in which terrorist organizations -- many operating on instructions from their headquarters in Damascus –- had made increasing use of children and minors in acts of violence against Israelis.  A growing number of children had been directly involved in carrying out such actions, and the average age of suicide terrorists was becoming ever younger.  Palestinian children had also acted as shields for terrorists, he said.  The cynical use of children as pawns of terror began in the Palestinian education system, where textbooks openly preached hatred against Israel and Israelis.  Television programmes and music videos even urged children to put down their toys and take up the battle against Israelis.  The exploitation and manipulation of children, some as young as seven or eight, was a blatant violation of international law and should be of great concern to the international community.

The representative of Syria said he wanted to explain two points.  The Palestinians in Syria were refugees, who were expelled by force by Israel and could not find refuge except in neighbouring States.  Syria and other ArabStates had received them and provided them with their livelihood.  They were undertaking information activities only, he said.  The representative of Israel was once again attempting to sell his allegations to the international community.  The school curriculum in Syria called for tolerance and coexistence, and did not incite violence.  Israel incited violence by carrying out violence and committing murder.  Those allegations would fool no one.

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*     Reissued to reflect correct headline and opening paragraphs.

For information media. Not an official record.