Third Committee Approves Texts on Commemoration of 15th Anniversary of Beijing Declaration, Technical Assistance for Implementing Terrorism Conventions
Third Committee Approves Texts on Commemoration of 15th Anniversary of Beijing Declaration, Technical Assistance for Implementing Terrorism Conventions
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fourth General Assembly
14th & 15th Meetings (AM & PM)
Third Committee Approves Texts on Commemoration of 15th Anniversary of Beijing
Declaration, Technical Assistance for Implementing Terrorism Conventions
Also Hears Some 45 More Speakers in Continued
Debate on Promotion, Protection of Rights of Children
Taking action for the first time during its current session, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today approved a text recommending that the General Assembly decide to hold a commemorative meeting to mark the fifteenth anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action during the fifty-fourth session of the Commission on the Status of Women in March 2010.
By the terms of the draft decision, which was originally adopted by the Economic and Social Council and approved today without a vote, this commemorative session would coincide with the review by the Commission on the Status of Women of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, as well as the outcomes of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly. That review is intended to emphasize the sharing of experiences and good practices, with a view to overcoming remaining obstacles and new challenges, including those related to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
A second draft text recommended by the Economic and Social Council was also approved without a vote. By that draft resolution, entitled “technical assistance for implementing the international conventions and protocols related to terrorism”, the General Assembly would urge the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to provide technical assistance to Member States in training personnel to execute cooperative mechanisms in combating terrorism.
By further terms of the text, Member States would, in turn, be urged to strengthen international cooperation by concluding bilateral and multilateral treaties on extradition and mutual legal assistance, within the framework of the international conventions and protocols related to terrorism and relevant United Nations resolutions, and in accordance with international law.
As the Committee continued its general discussion on the promotion and protection of the rights of the child during its day-long meeting, speakers underlined the grave challenges facing children around the world, including abuse, prostitution, sexual violence and forced labour.
Affirming her country’s commitment to ending child labour and providing a healthy social environment for every child, Japan’s representative, like several other speakers, welcomed the Secretary-General's report on the status of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which underlined education as a key strategy to combating the child labour problem. Providing children with educational opportunities allowed them to gain a broader array of choices for the future and allowed them a way to escape poverty.
Stressing that each child engaged in child labour was one less child in school, the representative of the United States said too many children continued to live childhoods defined by abuse and work. Noting her country’s commitment to eradicating this exploitative practice, she cited a report released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) last week that illustrated the scope of the challenge and that could aid in finding sustainable solutions.
She further underlined Convention 182 of the International Labour Organization, as well as a recently released report from the United States Labor Department that listed 122 goods made in 58 countries using child and forced labour. It was hoped that list would encourage broad efforts to end this child and forced labour.
Many speakers, however, warned that the multifaceted array of crises around the world -- from the economic and financial crisis to climate change to high food prices and nutritional insecurity -- threatened to make such goals harder to achieve, especially for girls.
The representative of Djibouti said the labour situation in sub-Saharan Africa, where child labour rates were the highest in the world, should serve as a serious “wake-up call” for everyone. In 2010, employment was projected to drop by 9 per cent because of HIV/AIDS. Moreover, the real impact of the economic crisis had not yet been seen, but it seemed likely to push more children into the labour force. Not only would that result in a personal loss for the children in question, but it could also restrict overall growth for African nations. There was, therefore, an urgent need for international aid and technical assistance to stem socio-economic decline in Africa.
As delegations called for an end to the physical and emotional abuse of children worldwide, several speakers focused on ending female genital mutilation and other harmful practices. Switzerland’s delegate said that roughly 3 million women and girls 14 years old and younger risked becoming victims of cutting. Abandonment of that practice, which he said constituted an extreme form of violence and discrimination, required a process of social change that could only be achieved through cooperation between State authorities, Government organizations and relevant civil society groups.
Chile’s representative underscored the Secretary-General’s report on the girl child, which highlighted the crucial role of health systems in overcoming the lack of equity faced by girls. In particular, she said the elimination of female genital mutilation, as well as obstetric fistula, would promote the attainment of Millennium Development Goals 3 and 5.
Also today, the Committee heard the introduction of draft resolutions on trafficking in persons, the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme, the Twelfth Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, international drug control, and including disabled persons in the Millennium Development Goals. The representatives of Belarus, Italy, Brazil, Mexico and the United Republic of Tanzania (also on behalf of the Philippines) introduced the drafts.
The representatives of Saint Kitts and Nevis (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Canada (also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand), Mexico (on behalf of the Rio Group), Liechtenstein, Japan, Colombia, Switzerland, Georgia, China, Norway, Viet Nam, Angola, Russian Federation, Brazil, Sudan, Myanmar, Cuba, Turkey, Libya, Qatar, Thailand, Belarus, Iraq, Algeria, Slovenia, Iceland, Iran, Senegal, Malaysia, United Republic of Tanzania, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bolivia, Republic of Korea, Indonesia, Lebanon and Malawi also participated in the general discussion on children’s rights.
The Permanent Observer of the Holy See also spoke.
The representative of the Russian Federation also spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m., Friday, 16 October, to conclude its discussion on issues relating to the rights of children.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to continue its discussion on the promotion and protection of the rights of the child.
DELANO F. BART ( Saint Kitts and Nevis), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said its members believed more emphasis should be given to creating a nurturing environment for the child from the earliest stages of life. To that end, more investments should be made in pre- and post-natal care for mothers and children, proper nutrition, the eradication of childhood diseases, and greater access to good quality early childhood education. A healthy start in life could not be achieved, however, in the absence of the natural environment of happiness, love and understanding which the family provided. Thus, true promotion of children’s rights required promotion of family rights. Failure to assist and protect the family would hinder the most diligent and well-intentioned efforts.
He said that, in several Caribbean countries, children were provided free health care in public clinics and hospitals. Infant mortality rates were declining and high immunization rates had been achieved. Barring any unforeseen challenges, the Millennium Development Goal on reducing child mortality should be met. Mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS was being prevented and support given to children living with that disease. CARICOM’s 1997 Plan of Action for Early Childhood Education Care and Development continued to guide efforts to strengthen early childhood education. In many countries, a “Roving Caregivers Programme” was reaching at-risk children from birth to three years of age and universal primary education had largely been achieved throughout the Caribbean. It was imperative to take measures to ensure that a disproportionate measure of the burden from the financial and economic crisis was not borne by girls, thereby eroding previous gains.
This year’s resolution on the rights of the child focused on ensuring the child’s right to express his or her own views and to participate, he said. That right was not limited to inviting children to attend events organized by others, but extended to actively engaging and listening to them. Equally important was respect for the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents and extended family members, where applicable. He stressed that Caribbean children had opportunities to participate in radio youth programmes, youth parliaments and national and regional forums, as well as a youth ambassadors programme. Nevertheless, the region’s work had just begun, particularly in addressing the rising incidents of crime and violence children experienced, as both victims and perpetrators, and the increasing alienation of boys within the educational system, among other areas of concern.
KARINA BOUTIN ( Canada), speaking also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand, said the Convention on the Rights of the Child set the standard against which all States could be measured and scrutinized. She hoped universal ratification would soon be achieved and that States would give early consideration to signing and ratifying the Optional Protocols, since ensuring implementation of the resulting obligations was one of the most effective ways to promote and protect children's rights. Her delegation looked forward to participating in the first meeting of the open-ended working group to explore the possibility of elaborating an optional protocol to provide a communications procedure that complemented the Convention's reporting procedure. While she welcomed this year's omnibus resolution on the right of children to express themselves freely in all matters affecting them, she continued to call for new approaches for dealing with the omnibus resolution in order to ensure an open, inclusive debate.
She stressed that the protection of children from violence in all settings of society should be kept at the forefront of national, regional and international agendas on children's rights. Tireless efforts were needed through all stages -- prevention, early detection and response, and recovery -- to tackle this phenomenon. In that regard, she welcomed the appointment of Marta Santos Pais as the Secretary-General's Special Representative on violence against children. She highlighted the Third World Congress against the Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents last November. Also, she welcomed the initiative to develop expert guidelines for the alternative care of children, as well as the latest report from the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.
She said the Security Council's adoption of resolution 1882 (2009) had brought further improvement to the children and armed conflict agenda. Her delegation was also pleased to see the element of accountability brought into the agenda of the Security Council working group. The international community must continue the momentum, including by: taking stronger measures to bring persistent perpetrators to account; strengthening the monitoring and reporting mechanism, with the addition of rape and sexual violence, and killing and maiming of children to the agenda; and adding the remaining three categories of violations outlined in resolution 1612 (2005) to the agenda.
CLAUDE HELLER (Mexico), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, welcomed the appointment of Marta Santos Pais as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on violence against children, expressing regret for the delay in her appointment and voicing hope that work could begin soon. Welcoming the guidelines for the alternative care of children agreed by the Human Rights Council, he said the Rio Group looked forward to its adoption by the General Assembly. The Group was presently working with other members of the Latin American and Caribbean community and the European Union to negotiate the draft omnibus resolution on the rights of the child that introduced a new approach to the issue, without modifying its omnibus character. The resolution would be designed to generate in-depth discussions on new themes and to heighten the attention of States on issues with pending action. It would also provide for the participation of children.
He drew attention to children who were victims of enforced disappearance, calling on Member States to prevent and punish the wrongful removal of children linked to enforced disappearance. States should assist in the search for those children, and to identify the children who were victims of such practices and to return them to their families, in accordance with legal procedures and applicable international agreements. In addition, children should have an active role in school, within families, the community and government institutions. Their points of view should be taken into account in decisions that affected them. Mass media was an important instrument for raising awareness on the situation of children.
He said the Third World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in November 2008, demonstrated the strong commitment of Latin American and Caribbean countries to that cause. A preparatory meeting had been held in Argentina. On both occasions, it had been agreed that children throughout the world were vulnerable to trafficking, sale for sexual exploitation, sale of their organs, the use of their images in pornography and to cybercrime. It was important to take coordinated action against the causes of those crimes, which included insecurity and organized crime. It was particularly important to protect children when they travelled alone, were forced to work, and when in conflict with the law or were “susceptible” to the death penalty. They must be protected in times of humanitarian emergencies, in cases where they were under alternative care, or were in an economic crisis or times of poverty. “By respecting the human rights of children, we are safeguarding our own rights and freedoms,” he said.
GEORG SPARBER ( Liechtenstein) welcomed child participation as the focus of this year’s omnibus resolution and hoped that a substantial consensus could be reached. He said his delegation was “open to the idea” of establishing a communication mechanism on violations of provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Although its establishment involved complex legal and procedural questions, he welcomed the potential of such a mechanism to strengthen the national procedures for children to make their own voices heard. During the drafting of the new Liechtenstein Children and Youth Act, ample opportunity was given for children and youth to contribute their point of view. This act also provided for the appointment of an independent Ombudsman to represent the interests of individual children in circumstances where a child’s personal or sexual integrity, or that of their environment, was affected.
He said that too often, and in too many parts of the world, children could not speak up for themselves, and the protection of their rights crucially depended on the awareness raised by the work of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. Referring to “disturbing” findings of the recent United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report, he said it was “unacceptable” that more than half of all children in detention were neither tried nor sentenced, as nowhere was the fundamental right to a fair trial and the right to habeas corpus more important than in the case of children. States had an obligation to offer a “protected legal environment” for children, with the registering of newborns as a first step, since unregistered children were the most vulnerable to abuses such as trafficking, sexual exploitation and illegal adoption. He called on States to ratify the 1993 Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. He also said that Liechtenstein had withdrawn its reservation to article 7 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adding that recently adopted domestic legislation ensured that stateless children residing in Liechtenstein could acquire Liechtenstein citizenship.
AZUSA SHINOHARA ( Japan) said her country would actively work to make it possible for every child to be able to grow up in a healthy social environment. It was greatly concerned that over 220 million children were currently involved in child labour. More than half of them were involved in its very worst forms, such as sexual exploitation, trafficking and forced labour, including the use of children in armed conflicts. To address it, her delegation welcomed the Secretary-General's report, which underlined education as a key strategy to combating the child labour problem. Providing children with educational opportunities allowed them to gain a broader array of choices for the future and allowed them a way to escape poverty. This idea was consistent with the human security concept, which Japan supported around the world, including in Senegal, where children were liberated from labour through education, vocational training and health care.
She further underlined the international movement on the issue of children's sexual exploitation. Over 3,000 participants attended the Third World Congress on that issue last November in Rio de Janeiro. The rapid development and widespread use of information technology and the Internet had focused increased attention on the issue of child pornography, putting it on the global agenda and making it clear that urgent action was required. Japan was committed to strengthening cooperation in this area on the basis of the Rio Declaration. It also welcomed the unanimous adoption by the Security Council of resolution 1882 (2009). It was important to continue to address this issue and send a strong political message to those who have committed grave violations of children's rights. The entire international community should continue to assist and monitor the resolution's implementation. In closing, she welcomed the fact that the issue of children and armed conflict had been mainstreamed within the United Nations Human Rights forum.
CLAUDIA BLUM (Colombia), associating her delegation with the statement made on behalf of the Rio Group, said her country had experienced internal changes that had positive impacts on human development and children’s welfare. It had progressively recovered a more secure and stable environment through ongoing development and the demobilization of illegal armed groups. Additionally, Colombia’s legal framework had been reformed to better align it with international standards on children’s rights. Public policies on childhood issues had been formulated and were being implemented in development plans at all levels.
She said the Government regarded its Educational Revolution strategy as the key element of its social policy. The national coverage rate for basic education had risen to 100 per cent, from 78 per cent in 2002. For high school, the rate had risen from 57 to 78 per cent. In 2009, 5.5 million children had access to free education. A new campaign was launched in April, with the goal of broadening access to education to children less than six years of age in the poorest sectors. It should benefit 300,000 children in 2009 and reach 400,000 in 2010. Food and nutritional security policies benefited 2.5 million children through various breakfast and community feeding programmes. A conditional cash transfer programme also allowed children to stay in school and provided nutritional support.
Turning to violence against children, she welcomed the appointment of the new Special Representative. Colombia was strengthening its legal frameworks to prevent, combat, prosecute and punish all forms of violence against children. It had accepted, on a voluntary basis, the implementation of the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism referred to in Security Council resolution 1612 (2005). Her delegation recognized the important analysis in the report of the Special Representative for children and armed conflict, but believed that some issues deserved further discussion regarding the cooperation frameworks governing the work of the United Nations and the definitions of international that applied to armed conflict.
JEAN-DANIEL VIGNY ( Switzerland) said the twentieth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child revealed the gaps that existed between commitment and implementation. To that end, his delegation felt the protection and promotion of boys and girls affected by armed conflict was a priority. It welcomed the Security Council's adoption of resolution 1882 (2009). But, if the situation of children in armed conflict was to improve, progress achieved in establishing norms at the international level had to be implemented at the national one. In this, attention must be paid to the fight against impunity, including through sanctions and better communication between the Security Council's relevant sanctions committees and its Working Group on Children in Armed Conflict. Moreover, specific measures for the protection of children were needed in peacekeeping operations, political missions and United Nations peace consolidation missions. The recruitment and reintegration of child victims also required more effort.
He stressed that roughly three million women and girls below the age of 14 faced the risk of becoming victims of female genital mutilation. That practice was clearly linked to inequalities between men and women, and constituted an extreme form of violence and discrimination against women and girls. Abandonment of the practice required a process of social change that resulted in new expectations in families. Migration was making female genital mutilation a bigger subject in Western Europe and the Americas. In Switzerland, a specific norm explicitly making female genital mutilation a crime was currently being prepared. But, the social change towards its elimination could only be achieved through cooperation between State authorities, Government organizations and relevant civil society groups. Refining and complementing the multilateral discussion on the role and approaches of destination countries was important in stimulating the compilation of best practices and providing an important inspiration for standard-setting towards the abandonment and prevention of female genital mutilation.
MAIA SHANIDZE ( Georgia) said the number of children living in State institutions had gone down by half, from 5,000 in 2004, to about 2,300 individuals in 2009. That outcome was thought to be due to effective gate-keeping, the existence of an alternative day care network, and stronger foster families. The Ministry of Healthcare had a well-funded programme that employed hundreds of well-trained social workers all over the country to educate children, families and communities on the needs of socially vulnerable families. Such families also received financial assistance from the State. A Government health insurance programme covered the health care needs of the 2,300 children that remained in State institutions. In the last four years, infant mortality had dropped from 18 per cent to less than 15 per cent. Maternal mortality had fallen almost fourfold.
She said the Russian-Georgian war had taken the lives of hundreds of Georgian citizens, amounting to an “ethnic cleansing” of Tskhinvali/South Ossetia, displacing over 130,000 people. In its evaluation of the situation, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had judged that the displaced persons would not be able to return “in the foreseeable future”. If not for the effort of the Government and foreign donors, including United Nations agencies, they would not have survived the harsh winter. In the two Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia, considered by the Georgian Government to be under illegal military occupation, the occupying forces had blocked humanitarian access and built “border walls” alongside administrative lines. In the Gali district, residents could no longer receive medical services from the neighbouring Zugdidi district, and the Government was particularly concerned about the fate of pregnant women who used to go to Zugdidi Hospital. Children could no longer attend schools in neighbouring districts. Georgian as a language of instruction had been “removed” at a number of public schools in the two regions, while Georgian language textbooks were “hindered”. She said a political settlement to the situation should include the recognition of the right of return of all internally displaced persons and refugees, and their descendants, regardless of ethnicity, to their homes in Georgia, including the two regions.
CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said a recent UNICEF report delivered the good news that the global under-5 mortality rate had decreased steadily over the past two decades. But, statistics also indicated that in the last decade more than 2 million children had been killed in armed conflict; 6 million were left disabled; tens of thousands were mutilated by antipersonnel mines; and over 300,000 were recruited as child soldiers. For too many children, the right to life was denied. Prenatal selection eliminated babies suspected of having disabilities, or being female. Often, children became the first victims of famines and wars, or were maimed by unexploded munitions. Others lacked sufficient food, housing and schooling, or became sick with AIDS, malaria or tuberculosis with no access to medicines. Still others were sold to traffickers, sexually exploited, recruited into irregular armies, uprooted by forced displacements or compelled into disabling work.
To eliminate this violence, he said the State and society must support and enable the family to carry out its proper responsibilities. Civil society also had a role to play and, for its part, the Catholic Church had over 300,000 social, caring and educational institutions working daily to support children. There was an unfortunate tendency to speak in terms of the relationship between the child and the State, while inadvertently minimizing the role of parents. His delegation could not emphasize enough the family’s importance in the life of every child. That role must be accounted for in all legislation. As the General Assembly focused on the right of children to express their views freely in all matters affecting them, it rightly focused on the importance of truly hearing them. In this, it was important to remember the Convention’s affirmation, which calls States parties to “respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents… to provide, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child, appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise of the rights recognized in the Convention.”
BELÉN SAPAG MUÑOZ DE LA PEÑA (Chile), endorsing the statement made on behalf of the Rio Group, noted with particular interest the recommendations contained in the report of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, including that education should be made a priority in emergency and humanitarian planning and assistance. Chile also endorsed the recommendation on the participation of children in peace, and truth, justice and reconciliation processes. In that connection, it welcomed the adoption of Security Council resolution 1882 (2009), which it had co-sponsored, as well as the appointment of Marta Santos Pais as Special Representative on violence against children. Her delegation agreed with the Secretary-General’s report on the girl child, which underscored the crucial role of health systems in overcoming the lack of equity faced by girls. Elimination of female genital mutilation and obstetric fistula would also promote the attainment of Millennium Development Goals 3 and 5.
She went on to say that Chile was making a comprehensive effort on behalf of children and mothers. The country had a system of protection for children, “ Chile is Growing with You”, which covered children from conception to 4 years of age. It provided children with access to services and benefits to meet their needs and support their development. Priority was given to families and the creation of basic conditions to promote children’s all-around development. The number of day care centres had been increased from 700 to over 4,000 since President Michelle Bachelet took office. Chile was also promoting and strengthening a national system for the protection for the rights of vulnerable children and adolescents, and programmes for protecting the rights of abandoned children had also been strengthened.
ZHANG DAN ( China) said the international community should enhance cooperation among its members and take effective measures to eliminate the root causes of the violation of the rights of the child. The Chinese Government called on developed countries to provide financial and technical assistance to developing countries to mitigate the negative impacts of the financial crisis on children. China’s children made up one-fifth of the worlds total population and the Government had set up a comprehensive system of laws and regulations for protecting the rights of the child. Aspects of the legal and regulatory system for protecting children in judicial proceedings were being strengthened. An “assistance mechanism” had been established to protect the rights of children in vulnerable situations, especially girls, to prevent child trafficking. Children at all levels of physical and mental development were being given opportunities to participate in community life.
She said China had consistently fulfilled its treaty obligations in good faith. China had submitted two reports on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and an initial report on the implementation of the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. Its reports had received high evaluations by the Committee on the Rights of the Child. Since February, the Chinese Government had begun preparing its third and fourth combined periodic report on the implementation of the Convention on child rights, with active participation from civil society. The Government had a long history of cooperation with UNICEF in the areas of: health and nutrition; education; child protection and community service; prevention of natural disasters; the development of children in poverty-stricken areas; advocacy and communication; and dissemination of knowledge.
MONA JUUL ( Norway) said efforts over the last 20 years had succeeded in placing children’s rights and needs on the international agenda. Violations were being investigated in many countries for the first time, and children’s Ombudsmen had been established around the world. But, there was still a widespread lack of acceptance of children as rights bearers. Children needed to be treated as competent individuals, with opinions to share. Their participation in both the public and private spheres was important, and there was much to learn from them. In Norway, for example, children over the age of 7, or younger children capable of forming opinions, were consulted when deciding where to live after their parents’ divorce, though decisions were ultimately made by the adults. In light of children’s rights to express their opinion in community and national affairs, the Government had established mechanisms for children’s participation in organizations, institutions and municipalities. There were student councils and coordinating committees in schools, although there were still challenges in encouraging the full participation of youth.
She said the United Nations Study on Violence against Children was “ground-breaking” in its documentation of violence against children in their homes, schools, the street, at work, and in institutions and detention facilities. The Study showed that girls were particularly vulnerable to sexual and physical abuse. Girls were negatively affected by harmful traditions, such as female genital mutilation and child marriage. The Norwegian Government welcomed the appointment of Ms. Santos Pais as Special Representative on violence against children. It had allocated more than $500,000 to support the Office of the Special Representative. To fulfil the mandate of the Special Representative required a sufficient level of financial support, and for that reason, Norway’s Government encouraged all States to contribute to the UNICEF administered trust fund to ensure success.
LAURIE PHIPPS ( United States) stressed that protecting children against abuse and discrimination was a priority for her country. It was also committed to eradicating exploitative child labour and underlined Convention 182 of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in that regard. The United States Department of Labor had allocated over $20 million toward the ILO’s efforts, and as a direct result of its programmes, roughly 1.3 million children had been withdrawn from the child labour situation. The United States Labor Department had recently released a report that listed 122 goods made in 58 countries using child and forced labour, and it hoped to encourage broad efforts to end this child and forced labour. UNICEF had also released a report last week that focused on protecting children from violence and abuse. The information it contained would help the world understand the scope of the challenge and aid in finding sustainable solutions. She further commended UNICEF’s valuable child protection programme, as well as ILO’s work to eliminate child labour.
But, despite progress, she said too many children continued to live childhoods defined by abuse and work. Each child engaged in child labour was one less child in school. The United States was funding a major study on the commercial exploitation of children. Its results were expected in spring 2012 and would provide policy makers with information they could use to fashion better policies. The United States had also developed information packages to educate people in detecting early warning signs of child exploitation. It also provided a list of local and national resources. Recently, the United States office for safe and drug-free schools hosted its annual conference, where, for the first time, a workshop on trafficking and exploitation was held. During it, the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography was frequently referenced, and the United States would soon be submitting its second report on its progress towards that Optional Protocol to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
The United States remained concerned with instances of early forced marriage, she said. It had introduced a resolution on forced marriage and the abduction of the girl child, which suggested specific measures various actors could take to combat this practice. The United States was also deeply committed to protecting children from the scourges of war as outlined in Security Council resolution 1882 (2009) and was further determined to prevent sexual violence against girls as outlined in resolution 1888 (2009). Clearly, more could be done. Domestically, the United States had adopted a Child Soldier Prevention Act, which it was promoting for study by other countries around the world.
BUI THE GIANG ( Viet Nam) said his Government shared the concerns raised by the Secretary-General on child labour, violence against children, discrimination against girls, trafficking in children, and the high number of child victims of HIV/AIDS. While each of those problems required their own set of measures, the overall objective of protection and promoting child rights required that: child rights be incorporated into national legal systems and socio-economic development strategies; education be understood as the most important solution to sustainable protection and promotion of child rights; and health care and society protection schemes be extended to children and improved. Viet Nam’s legal system offered child rights protection. Through the national action plan for children for 2001‑2010 and a five-year socio-economic development plan that incorporated children’s issues, a solid foundation had been created for concrete measures in the interest of children.
He said Viet Nam was experienced in hardship, having undergone foreign rule, and the country had come to realize that investing in education for children was a good investment for the future. Enrolment in primary education stood at 97.5 per cent and secondary education at 85 per cent. Special projects to build child-friendly schools in remote and poor provinces, in cooperation with UNICEF and other partners, had been particularly effective. There were also special projects on education targeted at children with disabilities. But, in the area of health, Viet Nam had had difficulty controlling the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing treatment to HIV positive persons, including children. In 2007, 7 per cent of those who were HIV positive were between 13 and 19 years of age and there were approximately 22,000 AIDS orphans. He said his Government looked forward to greater support from United Nations agencies and international partners in that area.
ISMAEL A. GASPAR MARTINS ( Angola), aligning himself with the Southern African Development Community (SADC), noted with sadness the condition of children in sub-Saharan Africa, of which Angola was a part. In some instances, progress had deteriorated. Half of the out-of-school children were from that region. Approximately 90 per cent of the estimated 2.1 million children living with HIV were also from the region. Recognizing, as well, that armed conflict and other forms of violence had a devastating impact on the condition and future of children, the Government gave its full support to the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.
In Angola, mechanisms had been set up to monitor the implementation of polices, he said. Data was collected by age and sex. Eleven correctional facilities for boys and girls would include technical vocation training centres.
To address challenges posed by the world crises, the Government –- at the Fourth National Children’s Forum in Angola -– increased the number of scholarships for primary school students, thus revising the goals it had set out in 2007.
Believing that tackling malnutrition would contribute to reduced infant and maternal mortality, the Government was prepared to implement significant measures to provide people with better access to primary care and potable water. But, much remained to be done to meet those goals.
NIKOLAY RAKOVSKIY ( Russian Federation) said the issue of child rights was considered a national priority. It was working towards achieving positive socio-economic indicators in terms of birth rate, ensuring the moral and physical health of children, and ensuring that children reached their potential. The country had a federal programme on children. Despite the financial crisis, it was providing monetary support to large families and subsidies for mothers, in an effort to improve the material well-being of children. The country’s birth rate had increased, and child mortality and morbidity rates had gone down. Abandoned children were given assistance through a fund devoted to children in difficult circumstances. To prevent the rise in the number of “social orphans,” the Government was providing assistance to foster families. As part of its efforts to create an inclusive school system, it was working on special programmes in State schools for “difficult children”.
He affirmed the Russian Government’s commitment to uphold international legal norms. It had ratified the Optional Protocol to the child rights convention on children in armed conflict, and was preparing to do the same for the Optional Protocol on child trafficking, prostitution and pornography. The Government agreed with the call to action by the 2008 Third World Congress against Sexual Exploitation of Children on the need to consider any form of sexual exploitation of children a crime, which included recruiting them for sex tourism and internet pornography. The Government had increased the penalties for such crimes against minors. For paedophiles, a new federal law now stipulated that the younger the victim, the longer the sentence. In addition, paedophiles must serve at least three-quarters of their sentence before they could apply for parole and they were subject to stringent monitoring upon release. In response to appeals from civil society, the Russian President had established an office responsible for overseeing child rights, with a broad mandate to monitor State bodies’ implementation of child-related policies.
REGINA CORDEIRO DUNLOP (Brazil), associating her remarks with those made on behalf of the Rio Group, said her country had the largest juvenile population in the Americas with 62 million children and adolescents. The principles set out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child were duly reflected in Brazil’s 1988 constitution, a year before that international instrument’s adoption. Brazil was also the first country to established national legislation, the Statue of the Child and the Adolescent, six months before the Convention’s adoption by the United Nations. It was estimated that the Brazilian statute had inspired at least 15 laws in Latin America.
She said that, in the Brazilian context, the new approach of the Convention triggered a commitment to social inclusions, with a particular focus on a population that had been historically discriminated against. The Government had reduced poverty, guaranteed greater access to education, reduced child mortality and child labour, and developed a new policy and legal framework on sexual exploitation and juvenile justice. Among future challenges, however, Brazil was concerned with the situation of children growing up without parents or caregivers. To this end, it had led a cross-regional Group of Friends in a four-year consultative process that led to the drafting of United Nations Guidelines for the Appropriate Use and Conditions of Alternative Care for Children, which were adopted by consensus in resolution 11/7 of the Human Rights Council in June. Brazil was proposing a draft resolution for the adoption of those guidelines by the General Assembly and she urged all states to support them.
Further underscoring the fight against children’s sexual exploitation, she said Brazil had hosted the Third World Congress against the Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents in November 2008 and the objectives set out in the resulting Rio Declaration and Action Plan would be an important instrument in realizing children’s rights around the world.
SALAH MUBARAK ( Sudan) said the report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict reflected the positive trends in his country in relation to protecting children from armed conflict. The Sudan was committed to cooperating with the Special Representative and a second visit by her office was already planned. The Sudan had recently experienced conflict in the south and in Darfur, because of the intransigence of a rebel movement that refused to come to the negotiating table. The Government had stepped up efforts to enhance cooperation to prevent armed conflict at the national and international level. Among other agreements, the Darfur Peace Agreement of 2006 provided for the protection of children’s rights in a variety of areas. It also sought to combat abuse against children in armed conflict.
Highlighting other areas where the Sudan was working to protect children, he noted the drafting by the National Sudanese Council of a 2008 law on children that improved on existing Sudanese laws and ensured they were aligned with those international instruments the Sudan had signed. Moreover, the Sudan supported the Millennium Development Goals, which were the inspiration for its current five-year strategic plan. The Government was also working with UNICEF and other civil society stakeholders. The committee to combat the kidnapping of women and children, which was set up in the late 1990s, had helped prevent the forced abduction of children into conflict.
He condemned terrorist acts that threatened civilians and children and specifically the attacks in Omdurman, where hundreds of children were affected. The Government had worked to provide protection for those children and was working to allow the remaining children to return to their homes. He expressed disappointment that some people involved in kidnapping children had avoided punishment, even though they were condemned by the system of justice. Finally, the Sudan was prepared to cooperate with all stakeholders to preserve children, but it hoped more support would come from the international community and particularly from donors. Pressure should also be put on the rebel movements to negotiate peace.
UBA HLA AYE ( Myanmar) said that, in his country, the under-5 child mortality rate had declined and the Five Year Strategic Plan for Child Health Development envisioned reducing the rate by two-thirds by 2015. Immunization coverage had been expanded in cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF. Universal Salt Iodization had led to a drop in the goitre rate from 33 per cent in 1994 to 2 per cent in 2006. Through the provision of comprehensive obstetric care and establishment of an infrastructure for basic obstetric care, his country wanted to reduce the maternal mortality rate from 3.16 per 1,000 live births to 0.79 in 2015. Also, concerted efforts had been made to increase access to primary education -- enrolment now stood at 98 per cent -– and to promote the retention rate through a child-centred approach.
He said a National AIDS Committee had been established to effectively control the disease, including through advocacy, awareness raising and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The HIV/AIDS infection rate had fallen from 1.5 per cent in 2000 to 1.3 per cent in 2005. Further, his Government was fully committed to preventing the recruitment of children under 18 years into the armed forces. Underage children found in the military had been discharged. The Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict had visited the country in 2007. As a follow-up to her discussions with senior officials, a working group for a monitoring and reporting mechanism on the prevention of the military recruitment of underage children had been formed. It was mandated to make recommendations, coordinate the visits of the United Nations country team to recruitment centres, and consult the team concerning the establishment of a monitoring and reporting mechanism.
CLAUDIA PEREZ ALVAREZ ( Cuba) said that, as a result of the current economic crisis, many children had been hit by increasing hunger, poverty, inequality and social exclusion. Before the crisis, it was already estimated that 218 million children over the age of 5 years worked, with 126.3 million of them working for low wages, without protection and in fields such as mining and agriculture. Others were victims of trafficking in organs, child pornography and prostitution, violence and exploitation. She stressed that, although the under-five mortality rate had declined by 28 per cent, there was no room for celebration, since the deaths of the vast majority of children who did die could have been prevented. It was a collective responsibility to fight for a world where 20,000 children a day did not starve to death, as they did today, and a world where the 80 million children who could not go to school, finally could.
Noting that Cuba had the lowest infant mortality rate in its history in 2008, she said this result was due to a health care system that was based on the idea of meeting the needs of people with no regard for economic interests. Indeed, the Cuban health care system was characterized by universal and free access; increased human resources training; scientific and technical development for disease control; and social mobilization to promote health. Priority attention was given to children. These achievements had been made, despite the economic, commercial and financial United States blockade. Indeed, Cuban children’s’ hospitals faced serious obstacles when trying to buy needed supplies, including the Elspar drug from Merck and catheters, coils, guides and stents used at the William Soler Children’s Heart Center. As long as policies of international cooperation and solidarity were not applied -- and the few got richer, while millions suffered in poverty -- children were in danger.
RAMIS SEN ( Turkey) said safeguarding and enhancing the well-being of children was one of humanity’s most profound responsibilities. Turkey had established a national holiday devoted to children, one of the first countries in the world to do so. The Government had signed and ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Optional Protocols. It had amended the national law to be in line with the Convention’s provisions, including the labour code, criminal code and code on persons with disabilities, among others. And, because the Turkish Constitution was amended in 2004 -- such that international conventions concerning fundamental rights and freedoms were given supremacy over national legislation -- all relevant laws would have to be interpreted in light of provisions and principles of the Convention.
Turkey was undergoing an intense reform process, he said. In terms of child rights, the Government had established children’s rights committees in all 81 provinces. A children’s rights monitoring committee, comprising eight deputies, was set up last year under the Turkish Grand National Assembly.
NAZEK SHAWISH ( Libya) said her country had established the necessary policies to protect children. Kindergartens had been set up to provide health services and vaccinations. The Senior Council for Children designed policies for children’s well-being. Determined to implement the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it had revised relevant domestic legislation. It considered the prohibition against child labour adopted by the ILO as quite important in protecting children from inhumane labour conditions and other immoral activities.
She stressed that the situation of children remained a concern, due to financial crisis, persistent poverty and ongoing conflict. Together, these challenges increased children’s vulnerability to exploitation and violence, and violations of children’s rights were being seen throughout the world. Millions had been killed and 6 million permanently handicapped, due to armed conflict. Moreover, millions of others had been raped or sexually abused. She appealed to the international community to ensure the return of children to their homes, so they were no longer exploited. She expressed concern for the plight of children under occupation, particularly in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Libya also supported children throughout Africa, who were subject to hunger and armed conflict. The international community must see to the needs of these children and pursue enhanced cooperation, to guarantee that the world really was fit for children.
Introduction of Resolutions
The Committee then broke from its discussion on the rights of the child to hear the introduction of several draft resolutions.
The representative of Belarus introduced the first draft, on further steps to improve the coordination of efforts against trafficking in persons (document A/C.3/64/L.11), which built on previous resolutions on the topic, namely resolutions 61/160 (2006) and 104 (2008). The draft would focus attention on steps to ensure proper implementation of existing plans of action to combat trafficking, outlining specific measures States could take. The authors of the draft had wanted its contents to be clear to people outside the United Nations, and thus its language was specific and logical. It contained provisions on how to assist victims. Aware that there were different points of view on the issue, she nevertheless expressed confidence that the international community would work together on the issue. She said consultations would soon to come to an end, and called on all Governments to actively participate in its drafting.
The representative of Italy introduced the next draft, on strengthening the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme, in particular its technical cooperation capacity (document A/C.3/64/L.12). On the fifteenth anniversary of the adoption of the Naples Declaration and ten years after the adoption of the Palermo Convention, organized crime was still a serious threat. It jeopardized the security of citizens and interfered, and at times superseded, the normal functioning of public institutions. It undermined human rights and altered the functioning of markets, impacting legitimate economic activities. It posed a threat to social stability and put a restraint on economic development. Because of links with other criminal activities, it posed a major threat to international peace and security.
He said the draft highlighted the importance of the fight against transnational crime within the broader context of the United Nations’ agenda on security and pushed for renewed political commitment to the Convention against organized crime. It called for better implementation of the Convention through better cooperation, and would have Members confirm their support for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) technical activities in the field. A new paragraph underlined links between transnational organized crime and other destabilizing factors. Another paragraph would encourage States to support UNODC activities in Somalia and neighbouring countries to establish a law enforcement response to piracy. It would have the Secretary-General convene a special high-level meeting on transnational organized crime in 2010, and a high-level segment at the Conference of States Parties meeting in the same year. He paid tribute to the delegation of Mexico for its assistance in preparing the draft and called on the support of all States.
The representative of Brazil introduced a draft resolution on preparations for the Twelfth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (document A/C.3/64/L.13), saying that meeting would be held in his country from 12-19 April 2010. The Congress was convened every five years since 1955, and promoted novel thinking on complex issues relating to criminal justice. The draft sought to outline additional preparatory steps in the lead up to the event, such as the holding of regional preparatory meetings and on financing matters. He expressed hope that it would be adopted by consensus, without a vote.
The representative of Mexico introduced a draft resolution on International cooperation against the world drug problem (document A/C.3/64/L.15). He said this omnibus text reflected the concerns of the international community on the scourge and its repercussions in different areas of society. Considering that drugs were a complicated and sophisticated problem, the draft confirmed that a sense of shared responsibility and cooperation were required from the global community in the fight to combat drugs. It gave particular consideration to the fifty-second high-level session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, which aimed to develop commitments for States to meet in the face of dynamic changes in that fight. The results achieved during that high-level segment, particularly the adoption of the Political Declaration and its Plan of Action, deserved special attention from the General Assembly and that was reflected in the draft. The process of consultation had begun in a spirit of good will and co-sponsorship was, thus, desired.
The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania, speaking also on behalf of the Philippines, introduced a draft resolution on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the Millennium Development Goals (document A/C.3/64/L.5). She said persons with disabilities made up an estimated 10 per cent of the world’s population, and as such, were a significant group to warrant attention as the world community continued to implement, monitor and evaluate the Millennium Development Goals. Disabled persons were often subjected to multiple or aggravated forms of discrimination and were left largely invisible in the efforts to attain the Goals. The adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities presented an opportunity to redress that invisibility and the draft resolution made recommendations on ensuring that the situation of disabled persons were taken into account in the Goals’ realization. It was intended to complement the previous sessions’ resolution and was tabled to take advantage of current preparations by Governments and the international community for the forthcoming 2010 review of the Goals.
Action on Draft Texts
The Committee then approved, without a vote, the draft decision on Commemoration of the fifteenth anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (document A/C.3/64/L.3), which the Economic and Social Council has recommended for adoption by the General Assembly.
The Committee next turned to the draft resolution on technical assistance for implementing the international conventions and protocols related to terrorism (document A/C.3/64/L.2), which the Economic and Social Council has recommended for adoption by the General Assembly.
The Secretariat informed the Committee that should the General Assembly adopt the resolution, there would be no programme budget implications.
Acting without a vote, the Committee approved the draft resolution.
ALYA AHMED BIN SAIF AL THANI (Qatar) said the Convention on the Rights of the Child was reviewed periodically in her country and the decision had been made to partially withdraw the general reservation placed upon ratification, so that the reservation remained in effect only within the limited scope of two articles. Further, a study had been initiated in preparation for drafting a law that would be the legal mechanism for promoting and protecting children’s rights. Training programmes had been carried out to educate relevant workers on the Convention’s principles and provisions. Teaching manuals contained a simplified version of the Convention’s principles, as linked to the rights of the child under the tolerant Islamic Sharia.
She said her country had been among the first to respond to the call to provide information for the United Nations study on violence against children. The new Special Representative on the issue should continue her important role in shedding light, in an equal manner, on different settings and situations of violence against children. She should also give special attention to forms of violence against children living under foreign occupation. Her country’s Foundation for Child Protection and Women provided protection and support to victims through specially trained staff, including in shelters where free legal services were provided. She also underscored the importance of the work of the Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict.
MARATEE NALITA ANDAMO ( Thailand) said the Government was committed to realizing a world fit for children, and its national agenda for youth contained various measures to promote, protect and develop children’s potential. The Prime Minister had made the elimination of illiteracy one of his Government’s priorities, and as of the beginning of the 2009 academic year, the first 12 years of education were free. Quality education was key to empowering people, especially youth. A cabinet resolution on education for stateless or unregistered persons provided for the right to education at all levels for children without a legal status, enabling them to enrol in public schools. Through an outreach campaign, it was raising awareness about the right to education of stateless children. The Ministry of Education was also operating schools in several remote hill tribe areas. Youth with disabilities would receive education for free, including at the university level.
The Thai Government was of the view that children should be provided a human rights education, she said. The Prime Minister launched the “Human Rights Caravan” in March, which was travelling around the country to raise awareness about human rights among primary school students and their teachers. Interfaith and intercultural dialogue was taking place among youth to enhance mutual understanding. It was encouraging youth participation at the national and international levels; for the third year in a row, there were two youth delegates in Thailand’s delegation. The Government was looking forward to the possibility of negotiating an Optional Protocol that would introduce a communications procedure for violations of the rights of the child. It would support activities of the open-ended working group on an Optional Protocol, slated for December. There were Thai citizens in two United Nations treaty bodies, the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. It was also working on creating a Commission on the Protection and Promoting of the Rights of Women and Children within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
LARISA BELSKAYA ( Belarus) said that, because today’s children were citizens of tomorrow’s world, guaranteeing their rights was an investment in the future. Belarus supported the full implementation of the goals of the World Fit for Children document. It had undertaken a number of domestic efforts in that regard. At the regional level, there were also councils that dealt with children and families. Measures taken when Belarus became independent had led to a threefold decrease in infant mortality, compared to 1991. Today, children with severe diseases received free heath services. Belarus provided financial support for families with children from the birth of the child until he or she was 18 years old. The State also subsidized meals for children, with poor children receiving free food for the first 2 years of their life. Children with special needs, up to the age of 3, received special benefits through a network of centres, while a system had also been developed to integrate them with regular schools, where possible. Orphaned children were also provided with special services, among them a guarantee for their first job. Children who lived in the area affected by the Chernobyl disaster were also provided particular services.
To fully implement international standards, she said the Government of Belarus had drafted a blueprint for juvenile justice. In July 2009, a law granting refugee status to stateless people or foreigners came into force and the children who were given protection under that law had the right to free preschool, secondary school and basic health care, just like any Belorussian child. Belarus was also working to combat trafficking in children. Her delegation hoped that the appointment of Maria Santos Pais as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children would give that issue momentum on the global agenda.
ABDUL KARIM SHWAIKH ( Iraq) said children enjoyed a place of special importance, since they were the building blocks of the future. UNICEF played a valuable role in the socio-economic development of Iraq. The Government had recently held a meeting to discuss a programme of cooperation between it and UNICEF for the period 2009-2010, to promote and protect the rights of women and children. Traditionally, that Agency had worked in an independent manner to improve the services rendered to women and children, even in the face of grave difficulties.
He offered some recommendations and observations to improve the Agency’s work in Iraq. First, he discussed the possibility of re-opening the UNICEF office in Iraq, to boost cooperation with relevant ministries and other bodies. He stressed the pivotal role of the foreign minister in coordinating activities between the Agency and Government ministries. Also, holding workshops in Iraq, rather than abroad, would help reduce expenses. It would useful, as well, if UNICEF would share its plans in Iraq for the next two years, so the two parties could develop an appropriate work strategy. The Agency could benefit from Iraq’s experience, so that the training and workshops offered by UNICEF would be closer to the reality experienced by Iraq’s children. Some courses and workshops, so far, suffered from a lack of good trainers, and the materials used had been below expectation. Some courses had focused on theory and less on practice. Many projects were hastily prepared without giving adequate time for study by relevant ministries. Information on a proposed budget would also be useful.
ABDELGHANI MERABET ( Algeria) said it was regrettable that children continued to suffer from abuse, prostitution, sexual violence and forced labour. According to UNICEF, more than 150 million children from 5 to 14 years of age worked, instead of attending school. An estimated 20 per cent of the victims of all forms of human trade were children. More than 75 million children -- 55 per cent of them girls -- did not receive schooling. This situation could be further poisoned by the financial and economic crisis, if budgets earmarked for promoting the rights of children and the poorest families were cut, thereby worsening an already precarious situation among children in some countries.
He stressed that the international community must react in a coordinated way to secure an environment to implement the goals of the World Fit for Children document. Moreover, it appeared that the Millennium Development Goals might not be met. This was a particularly dismal prospect for African countries and meant that education would remain just an illusion for millions of children. Stressing that development would last only if it gave the adults of tomorrow the means to progress, he said Algeria had adopted the main international instruments supporting children’s rights. Public authorities had included provisions in domestic laws that protected these rights and a national strategy had been in place for over a year now. To combat trafficking in children, the penal code severely punished the sexual abuse of children. State intervention had made it possible to reduce infant mortality and to increase vaccination programmes. The education sector had one of the richest budgets of any sector. Over 8 million children -- or one quarter of the Algerian population -- attended school. This evolution was accompanied by an effort to improve the quality of Algerian education.
SANJA ŠTIGLIC ( Slovenia) said next month’s twentieth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child presented an excellent opportunity to take stock, identify improvements and define challenges ahead. The most ratified convention ever; it triggered the establishment of numerous mechanisms for the protection and promotion of children’s rights. Despite major achievements, challenges remained, as the Convention did not have a communication procedure. It was high time that this instrument received its own complaint mechanism and this year presented a unique opportunity to remedy that shortcoming. More should also be done regarding human rights education, and the participation of children and their access to justice.
In addition to its participation in international organizations and forums, Slovenia’s international activities focused on issues of violence against children, armed conflict, human rights education and the empowerment of children, she said. At a national level, Slovenia held a recent public debate on a draft family code and the Family Violence Prevention Act entered into force in 2008. Last week, to mark the coming Convention anniversary, Slovenia held an international conference on children’s rights and protection against violence, with an aim to bring together officials, experts, non-governmental organizations and children to discuss pertinent topics. Only a consensus and partnership among governments, international organizations and civil society, as well as children at different levels, could ensure children’s rights to a healthy and secure childhood.
GUNNAR PÁLSSON ( Iceland) noted the significant progress made in achieving the Millennium Development Goals relating to education. But, other child-related Goals did not enjoy comparable progress. More than 6 million children died every year of preventable diseases and insufficient neonatal care. Malnutrition was on the rise. Children continued to be recruited by armed groups and groups associated with terrorism and organized crime. Nevertheless, the work of the Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict, in partnership with UNICEF and other United Nations agencies, had led to the release of numerous child soldiers and heightened awareness about the issue.
In line with the Special Representative’s recommendation, the Security Council should consider, as triggers for action, conflicts involving the killing and maiming of children, their rape and other forms of sexual violence, in addition to conflicts involving their recruitment as child soldiers. Steps should be taken to end impunity with regard to such crimes. Other challenges that required the international community’s continued vigilance included: work that damaged the health and development of children; sexual exploitation; trafficking; and corporal punishment.
MOHAMMAD POURNAJAF ( Iran) said his country had prioritized the importance of developing and empowering children to serve society in an optimal manner, with programmes for their strong moral and intellectual development that aimed to involve children in a constructive dialogue for a better understanding and appreciation of diversity and tolerance. Sustainability was the appropriate theme of this year’s international youth day, as it was important to raise awareness among the leaders of the future.
At the same time, he said there was a dearth of information on children, families and migration, which made it difficult to assess the impact on children of international migration. He suggested that an international mechanism be set up to develop and disseminate information on the positive contribution of migration and dispel misinformation that led to a “xenophobic and racist” response in destination countries. Regarding grave violations against children affected by armed conflict, all States should strive to raise awareness and give prominence to the rights and protection of children. The impact of armed conflict on children could not be fully understood without looking at its related effects on women, families and the community support systems. Education played a crucial preventive and rehabilitative part in conflict and post-conflict situations, giving structure to children’s lives and instilling community values.
Cultures are neither homogeneous nor static, he said. Further, the influence of children on culture is more visible than on the economy or politics. Their dynamism could change some of the archaic and harmful aspects of their cultures that older generations considered immutable. “Children are as diverse as their societies,” he said. The key to success in enabling children to promote development was to accept their cultural framework and work in partnership with them.
LEYSA SOW ( Senegal) stressed that children continued to be victims of violence in all forms and deserved special attention from the world community. The Convention on the Rights of the Child outlined clear guidelines for protecting children. Senegal attached special importance to children’s protection and its budgets devoted to children’s issues were on the rise. Strategic partnerships had also been established among the Government, civil society and other organizations like UNICEF. Progress made to date included an increase in children’s participation, which had been remarkable. Children had contributed to the United Nations Study on Violence against Children and they were involved in a coalition of 212 non-governmental organizations that worked for children’s rights.
She said Senegal had developed several documents to guide its efforts in protecting children’s rights. The strategic plan for poverty reduction had an important section on the social protection of vulnerable groups. It dealt broadly with issues affecting children at risk, as well as child labour and the struggle to end violence. Other plans were devoted to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, and Senegal had made sizeable, if ultimately insufficient, gains in that regard. State programmes were also aimed at children who had been forced into labour, particularly in the agriculture and fisheries sectors. Senegal had also joined the global movement “Say Yes to Children”.
TAN LI LUNG ( Malaysia) said the promotion and protection of children’s rights should be among the priorities on every country’s development agenda. Indeed, many problems facing children were closely related to underdevelopment, poverty and conflict, and they could not be solved unless the underlying developmental issues were seriously addressed. To this end, countries should be provided with the required resources and assistance. For its part, Malaysia had formulated a national plan of action on children through concerted and coordinated efforts of various government agencies, civil society and international agencies. It was at the midway point of its second national action plan, which had been formulated by taking into account discussions held with children and their representatives.
He said providing quality education was essential to ensuring that children had the tools needed to further developmental progress. Education had, thus, been given the biggest allocation in Malaysia’s national budget since 1957. Under the current national development plan, more than $12.7 billion, representing 21 per cent of the total annual budget, had been allocated for education and training. The Education Development Master Plan for 2006-2010 outlined initiatives to ensure all students received fair and equal educational opportunities. Children with special needs were also being provided opportunities in special schools and integration programmes. Universal primary education had already been achieved in 1990 and gender parity was attained in 2005.
He said programmes were available to children to prevent, promote and cure diseases. Rehabilitative services were also available, as were pre- and post-natal care services. Infant mortality rates had dropped to 6.3 per 1,000 live births, compared to 74.5 at the time of the country’s independence. Mechanisms for protection and rehabilitation of abused children had been developed through an intersectoral Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect teams at district and State hospitals. Other programmes aimed at preventing child abuse included a 24-hour toll-free hotline to report suspected cases and child activity centres.
MIRIAM J.MWAFFISI (United Republic of Tanzania) said her country aligned itself with the statement given by Namibia on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). As a mark of its commitment to the promotion and protection of the rights of children, Tanzania had ratified a number of international instruments and synergized these with national laws, under the umbrella of a pending bill on the Law of the Child Act 2009. Since the problems faced by children in early childhood fell under numerous sectors, the Government had adopted a holistic approach to ensuring their right to survival, growth, development and protection. Although significant strides had been made to reduce infant mortality through multiple health care measures, this had to reach more people, since mortality and morbidity rates remained very high.
Education was vital to development and scrapping school fees had allowed the Government to attain a 97 per cent enrolment rate and gender parity in primary education, she continued. Overcoming retention and ensuring that those who had enrolled attended school remained a challenge. National Governments and civil society were responsible for protecting children from all forms of violence. Tanzania was looking into its magnitude and ways to overcome it, in a UNICEF supported study. Poverty, bad infrastructure and inadequate human and financial resources still posed obstacles to attaining children’s rights. In conclusion, she said, to promote and protect the rights of children, it was important to build partnerships across society and Government, and to promote democracy, the rule of law and human rights. She also stressed that, to tackle issues affecting children, international cooperation and debt relief were crucial.
WARIF HALABI ( Syria) said her country viewed children as a priority, and had successfully advanced the well-being of children in terms of health, education and welfare protection. Life expectancy for infants had improved significantly, with a decrease in maternal and infant mortality and better coverage for vaccinations. There was also improved coverage of basic health care, as well as emergency services. In terms of education, the Government had embarked on improving the quality of schooling along with the environment in schools. In terms of protection, the Government had drafted a national protection plan for children, having set up a system to protect children from abuse, sexual exploitation and violence. It had a legal framework for protecting all children. It had developed a roadmap containing ideas that would incorporate children’s protection issues into the school curricula.
She said children living under occupation were subject to gross violations of their rights daily, particularly by the Israeli occupier. In the occupied Golan Heights, children lived under difficult conditions, deprived of physical or psychological safety. Israeli mines, laid in 1976 onward, had killed 217 children. Arab-language schools were shut down, while an Israeli curricula and identity had been imposed on them. There were attempts to eliminate all feelings of national belonging among the new generation. Those actions were taking place in a climate of total impunity. She underscored the importance of dealing with children’s issues in a non-discriminatory fashion, particularly by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence against children.
ASEIL ALSHAHAIL ( Saudi Arabia) said her country regarded the child as a pillar of the community and maker of the future at both the national and international level. Saudi Arabia strived to strengthen the family and ensure children’s rights. It did this through care at all levels and by developing all children, as well as their skills. An institution for the gifted had been set up under the auspices of King Abdul Aziz. The Department of Justice was also poised to launch a framework that would manage the marriage of minors and all related issues. It enjoyed the full support of the legal, judicial and academic sectors.
She highlighted, among other pro-child initiatives by the Saudi Arabian Government, the national committee for the child. Chaired by the national director of education, it developed a national strategy for children that helped concerned bodies in the Kingdom provide the care that children needed. It also proposed projects to be implemented by Government authorities and had, among other things, established a database that attempted to modernize aid.
She said Saudi Arabia shared the international community’s concern for the child and had, thus, acceded to a number of international instruments. It had also participated with the Arab League in drafting the Arab Charter for Human Rights, eventually becoming one of the first to sign that document. Saudi Arabia also supported the Rights of the Child in Islam, which had been approved by the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Drawing attention to the torture and killing of Palestinian children in the occupied territories, she said the international community must interfere and protect the rights of these children, according to international conventions.
SAMAR AL-ZIBDEH (Jordan) thanked the Special Representative on Armed Conflict and UNICEF for their work and offered her congratulations to Ms. Santos Pais on her long-awaited appointment as Special Representative on Violence against Children. Progress on children’s rights was possible with enough political will. At the moment, 200 million children were working in violation of their rights. Her Government supported the work of the Global Task Force on Child Labour and Education for All, and was working in cooperation with the ILO on achieving its goals. It had ratified all international conventions and instruments relating to child labour, and its national labour laws were in line with those instruments.
She said the Government was devoted to studying the root causes of child labour, attributable to poverty and lack of education. The financial crisis had seemed to make things worse, especially for girls. Achieving Millennium Development Goal 2, on universal primary education, was one way to stop child labour. The Government had set aside $4.5 billion in 2000 to eliminate illiteracy and to provide everyone with a basic education by 2015. At the moment, education was free at public schools, serving 1 million students. The Government spent about 12 per cent of its budget on education, amounting to 4.1 per cent of the gross national product. There was a strong emphasis on the completion of education for girls, and in closing the gap between the number of boys and girls that completed their education. Queen Rania’s “My School” programme was devoted to improving more than 500 schools. She was also active in an ambitious international campaign, launched in London recently, to promote education worldwide.
INGRID SABJA ( Bolivia) said the international Convention on the Rights of the Child was a “before and after” in the legal treatment of children. The doctrine enshrined all the rights of all children by establishing them as legal entities. Under this theory, important standards were introduced that made it a norm for priority to be given to children. In Bolivia, the code for children was applicable to all children, without exclusion. It introduced the principle of non-discrimination and recognized that children were social subjects of law. Further, the Government had established a national development plan in 2006 that sought to change the vision of social, economic and political development by taking a cross-sectoral approach to children’s rights. But, among the main challenges of the development plan was accelerating reductions in infant mortality. Moreover, 26.5 per cent of children under the age of 5 still suffered from chronic malnutrition. The Government had launched a zero malnutrition plan that focused on the poorest towns. Thousands of children had already been helped and the Government aimed to increase the segment of the childhood population that was serviced by the plan.
She went on to say that the law for universal health care insurance to benefit indigenous populations provided this care by taking a family- and community-centred approach. It also aimed to reduce maternal and child mortality. In other areas, the growth of child labour had a severe impact on education and meant that child development was uneven. Child labour was often a reflection of the situation of parents and, to eliminate this labour, the situation of the employment of their family members had to be targeted. Moreover, minors typically worked early in the morning, so they could then attend school. But, this often resulted in low economic performance and frequently meant they dropped out of school. To address this phenomenon, a stay-in-school subsidy had been set up to give children in State schools subsidies, so they did not drop out.
HONG WOOK-JIN ( Republic of Korea) said during the last 20 years many meaningful improvements had been made in the protection of children’s rights. The world had surely become a better place for children. Yet, the disparity between groups of children needed to be better-addressed. The children of the poor were likely to be suffering food insecurity, malnutrition and lack access to health services, and the impact of a lack of proper nutrition and education in childhood would indelibly remain. She observed that children of the poor were more vulnerable to the crimes of prostitution and drug trafficking. She called for more concerted efforts on the part of the international community and Member States to provide better social protection for these children. Children in armed conflict situations were, because of the complexity of those conflicts, more likely to be the victims of exploitation, and she encouraged Member States to join her country in subscribing to the Paris 2007 commitments and principles.
Another area of grave concern was that of sexual violence against girl children. Referring to the report by the non-governmental organization Save the Children, which contained stories of children being sexually abused by United Nations peacekeepers and international aids workers, she stated it was imperative “to end such horrendous crimes.” Her country recently co-sponsored the Security Council Resolution 1882 (2009) which would act as a trigger for the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism run by Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and UNICEF. Further, in order to enhance its efforts to protect vulnerable children, the Republic of Korea and UNICEF partnered in the Framework Agreement, which was entered into force earlier this month.
GRATA WERDANINGTYAS ( Indonesia), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, noted that 9 million children had lost their lives early last year. Over 200 million suffered impairment due to lack of nutrition and health care. Around 75 million faced numerous challenges in enrolling in primary school. The world needed to respond now to the impacts of the global financial crisis on the well-being of children. Declining or lost incomes were failing to meet household nutritional needs, which were important to child survival. Programmes should be developed to effectively promote good nutrition and combat malnutrition. Also, the international community must recognize that children’s rights were synonymous with the advancement of women; healthy mothers ensured healthy children. Education, the key to wealth creation, was a means for empowering children. But, in the case of children who were powerless, such as children in situations of armed conflict, she called for special attention to ensure that their plight was taken into account.
She said the annual budget for children in Indonesia had increased steadily. Around 20 per cent was devoted to education. Allocations for AIDS had also risen -- in the case of provincial and district budgets, budgets rose by 350 per cent. But, while child mortality had decreased, more needed to be done to promote maternal health and prevent maternal mortality. An Indonesian project called “City for Children” was aimed at creating a positive environment for children, with five cities participating. On safety, police stations in Indonesia were equipped with special units for women and child protection. Every province had a service centre for women and child empowerment. A national action plan was in place to eliminate the exploitation of children for sex.
BRIGITTE TAWK (Lebanon), aligning herself with the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said her country was firmly committed to promoting children’s rights, having ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and initiatives for its implementation. In Lebanon, primary education was mandatory and free for all children up to age 12. Given the synergies between education, health and economic growth, tackling the education crisis was key to unlocking development goals. Lebanon was also committed to improving basic health care and reducing infant and maternal mortality rates. The existing health programme had been scaled-up. At the same time, chronic poverty was the greatest challenge to children’s development, and Lebanon’s social action plan aimed to improve life for poor families, whose children were most at risk of dropping out of school. Also, the Higher Council for Childhood, created in 1994 to coordinate policies between Government ministries and civil society, comparatively studied Lebanese legislation and the Convention, which led to proposals for legislative reform.
Continuing, she said the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child had welcomed Lebanese efforts to promote children’s right to express their views, and, in view of the Convention’s article 12, which called for the right of the child to be heard, Lebanon had offered forums for children to express themselves. Such efforts had made children’s participation a main issue on the public agenda, and it was crucial to boost awareness of participation as an empowering process, especially for underprivileged children. A law on the “protection of children in violation of the law or exposed to danger” addressed the functions of juvenile courts and emphasized education and rehabilitation measures, rather than punishment. Finally, she said that children in rich societies or poor, Western or Eastern, suffered violence at different moments, and no such violence could be justified. War and armed conflict were the utmost threat and children must be protected from such horrors. Lebanese children, notably in the south, were most directly threatened by unexploded ordinances, which would take years to clear. She condemned the killing of all children -– no matter what race, denomination, or nationality.
WARREN GUNDA, Deputy Director for Political Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Malawi, aligning himself with the statement by SADC and the Group of 77 and China, said his country had presented its second periodic report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child in January. Earlier in the month, it ratified the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. In efforts to promote the healthy lives of children, the Government had made huge investments in public health. It was distributing vitamin A and iron supplements to millions of children through the school system. It had a de-worming programme and conducted nutrition education. Malnourished children received “vita-meals”. There was broad immunization coverage among children in Malawi, and they benefited from the distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets.
The Government was focused on improving the quality of education, particularly in the areas of science and technology. Among other things, it was training primary school teachers and had completed the construction of a new teachers college. The Government paid for the school fees of orphans and other vulnerable children, and they also received cash transfers. In addition, Malawi had several projects aimed at protecting children against abuse, exploitation and violence. To discourage the worst forms of child labour, the Government ran programmes to encourage school attendance or to promote entrepreneurial training.
ROBLE OLHAYE ( Djibouti) noted that children were exploited for their labour in various ways, including in the production and distribution of drugs. He also noted that various steps had been taken by the international community to reduce exploitative child labour, in which the ILO had played a key role. Its report of 2006 indicated that child labour had declined around the world by 11 per cent during the 2000-2004 period. The largest decline had been in the area of hazardous work. Much credit for that decline went to Latin American countries, which had invested heavily in education and basic services. But, child labour was highest in the sub-Saharan region, due in part to population growth, but also to the impact of HIV/AIDS, which was forcing children to work out of economic necessity. Working deprived them of education and care.
The labour situation in sub-Saharan Africa should serve as a serious wake-up call for everyone, he said. In 2010, employment was projected to drop by 9 per cent because of HIV/AIDS. The real impact of the economic crisis was still to be seen, compounded by constant conflict. Even more children could be pushed into the labour force, particularly girls, and so opening them up to abuse. The foregone education would not only lead to a personal loss for the children in question, but implied the possibility of reduced growth for African nations. Given the rise in poverty and malnutrition, as a result of the multiple crises, even if Governments could maintain the same level of spending, households would have to take up the rest of the burden. That burden would fall mainly on women and girls. Thus, there was an urgent need for international aid and technical assistance to stem socio-economic decline in Africa. There was a need, as well, to augment the amount of resources and personnel devoted to controlling the flow of arms, which was feeding into the phenomenon of child soldiers.
Right of Reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of the Russian Federation said the statement by Georgia had contained a reworking of the historical events that took place in 2008. That would have an impact on the humanitarian situation. There was an opportunity to objectively point out those who bore responsibility for the tragedy, and thus prevent its recurrence.
By this he meant the recent report by the European Union on the reasons for and the perpetrators of the events of the night of 7 August 2008. The fact-finding mission concluded that the aggression on South Ossetia was borne by the current leaders of Georgia. Thus, Georgia carried out an act of aggression on a peaceful people. The report was available on the internet, but the aggressors of that event were trying to present themselves as victims before the Third Committee and that was completely unacceptable.
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