Third Committee Approves Text on ‘Bangkok Rules’ for Treatment of Female Prisoners; One of Four Criminal Justice Resolutions Recommended to General Assembly
Third Committee Approves Text on ‘Bangkok Rules’ for Treatment of Female Prisoners; One of Four Criminal Justice Resolutions Recommended to General Assembly
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fifth General Assembly
14th & 15th Meetings (AM & PM)
Third Committee Approves Text on ‘Bangkok Rules’ for Treatment of Female Prisoners;
One of Four Criminal Justice Resolutions Recommended to General Assembly
Other Texts Address Drug Office, Crime Congress, Updated Model Strategies;
Also Hears 28 More Speakers in Continued Debate on Protection of Child Rights
Taking action for the first time during its current session, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today approved a text recommending to the General Assembly the adoption of a resolution setting out United Nations standards for the treatment of women prisoners and non-custodial measures for women offenders, also known as the “Bangkok Rules”.
The text – originally adopted by the Economic and Social Council and approved today without a vote alongside three other draft resolutions – includes 70 rules intended to improve the treatment of women prisoners, and follow-up on the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners adopted in 1955. Included is an annex that addresses such issues as gender-sensitive prisoner classification and security risk assessments, gender-specific health-care services, treatment of children living with their mothers in prison, the specific safety concerns of women prisoners, and the development of pre- and post-release programmes that take into account the stigmatization and discrimination that women face once released from prison.
Other texts adopted today addressed changes to the strategic framework of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), updated Model Strategies aimed at strengthening the crime prevention and criminal justice response to violence against women, and the results of the twelfth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, held in Salvador, Brazil, from 12 to 19 April this year. The latter would have the General Assembly ask the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice to establish “an open-ended intergovernmental group” to look into cybercrime and to propose national and international legal responses to the problem.
In other business, the Committee concluded its discussion on the advancement of women, before resuming its debate on promotion and protection of the rights of children. Charles Radcliffe, Chief, Global Issues Section, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), led off the child rights discussion by saying that there was near-universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and appealed for the same high-level of ratification for its Optional Protocols on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.
Representatives from five Member States, and seven concerned organizations, spoke at the conclusion of the debate on the advancement of women; they were followed by representatives of 27 Member States and 1 observer who spoke on the rights of children. The representative of Brazil was one of many who expressed concern about violence against children, saying it remained widespread, largely hidden and often condoned by society. The representative of Namibia, on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), spoke of the impact of HIV/AIDS on children and the lack of adequate social and economic safety nets for orphans and vulnerable children.
The representative of Switzerland underlined the need for the deployment of child protection expertise in United Nations peacekeeping operations, while the rights of children under occupation were mentioned by the representatives of Qatar, Libya and Pakistan. Their counterpart from Israel described programmes aimed at bringing Arab and Jewish youth together.
The representatives of Botswana, Burkina Faso, Serbia, Lesotho and Liberia spoke during the debate on the advancement of women, as did observers from the International Organization for Migration, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Labour Organization.
The representatives of Italy, Mexico and Malawi spoke during the introduction of draft resolutions on crime prevention and criminal justice and international drug control, and their counterpart from Pakistan spoke during the adoption of texts.
Also speaking during the discussion of the rights of children were the representatives of Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), Barbados (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Chile (on behalf of the Rio Group), Canada (on behalf of Australia and New Zealand), Liechtenstein, Egypt, Jordan, China, Sudan, Cuba, Russian Federation, Viet Nam, Iran, the United States, Japan, Nicaragua, Thailand, Republic of Korea, Norway and Malaysia.
The Observer of the Holy See also spoke on the rights of children.
The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Friday, 15 October, to continue its discussion on the rights of children.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to complete its discussion on the advancement of women and to continue its discussion on the rights of children. It is also expected to take action on draft texts concerning the advancement of women and international drug control. (For more information, please see Press Releases GA/SHC/3977 and GA/SHC/3979.)
Statements on Advancement of Women
RAPULA KEGOPILWE (Botswana), noting that his country attached great importance to the advancement and empowerment of women, said that Botswana was committed to the Beijing Platform for Action and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women . He said his country had carried out a continuous process of reforming laws that had a negative impact on the status of women, in order to achieve gender equality. Botswana also developed a number of gender responsive national instruments to guide its efforts, including adoption of the Policy on Women in Development, the National Gender Programme Framework, an Advocacy and Social Mobilization Strategy of the National Gender Programme Framework and Vision 2016. While the current financial, economic, food and energy crisis, as well as the continuing discriminatory practices against women, hindered the process of achieving gender equality, Botswana had made strides in ensuring equal access to education and health-care.
“We have succeeded in effectively erasing major gender disparities within both the primary and secondary education systems,” he said. Another noteworthy achievement that demonstrated acceptance of the ability of women in careers that were previously dominated by men was the first recruitment of women into the National Army in 2008 — “a milestone in the history of the nation.” However, Botswana still faced many challenges, including infant and maternal health issues, such as HIV and AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. Combating violence against women and girls also remained a challenge. Botswana welcomed the establishment of UN Women, believing it would bring an important paradigm shift in work in the area of gender equality and the empowerment of women. The country reiterated its unwavering commitment to the promotion of equal rights and to doing its part regarding common agreements and goals set.
MARCELINE TIENDREBEOGO ( Burkina Faso), welcoming the outcome of the Summit last month on the Millennium Development Goals, said that progress on all the Goals would not be possible without progress on the third Goal, gender equality. Her country had adopted, on 8 July 2009, a National Gender Policy, a key part of its implementation of the Beijing Declaration. It served as a reference point for all those working towards equality between men and women in the country. To put that Policy into practice, an Action Plan for 2011-2013 had been drawn up worth 5.85 billion CFA francs. A law had also been adopted on 16 April 2009 fixing a 30 per cent quota in legislative and municipal elections, contributing to a better representation of women in political life.
Efforts have been undertaken to address literacy among women, with the ministries responsible for the advancement of women and literacy participating in a joint programme that has been enjoying a high success rate. A joint programme has also been launched to address violence against women; the assistance of United Nations agencies and bilateral partners on that issue was appreciated. Training and awareness-raising campaigns had been undertaken. On the occasion this year of the fiftieth anniversary of independence, a national forum of women was organized on the theme of women’s role in building the country. While progress on the advancement of women has been heartening, there remained a long road ahead, with difficulties and constraints owing to sociocultural factors and a lack of resources.
MARINA IVANOVIC ( Serbia) said recent developments in her country included establishing a clear overall policy and the adoption of a legislative framework for promoting the rights of women and gender equality. The Law on Gender Equality entered into force last year, and, in cooperation with United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy was in the process of implementing a project aimed at implementing that law.
Serbia’s National Strategy for the Advancement of Women and the Promotion of Gender Equality and the Action Plan for its implementation were also adopted, in February 2009 and August 2010 respectively. By adopting the Family Law in 2005, Serbia had undertaken to lay the systematic foundations to address violence against women, she said. The Law on Gender Equality provided for special measures and programmes for victims of domestic violence, including the provision of shelters and social, legal and other assistance. As a country of the region that went through a period of conflicts and intolerance in the recent past, Serbia recognized the significance and was fully committed to the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325, including submitting a National Action Plan for Government adoption.
MOTLATSI RAMAFOLE ( Lesotho), while acknowledging that progress had been made towards gender equality, highlighted challenges, such as violence against women and hardships caused by the effects of the global economic crisis. It was unfortunate that the least progress had been seen in meeting Millennium Development Goal 5, on reducing maternal mortality, which remained at an alarmingly high rate, particularly in developing countries. To address health challenges, one of Lesotho’s main concerns, the Government had put into place national health plans and reproductive health policies focusing on safe motherhood, family planning services and the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and AIDS. The Government had also promoted legislation and measures aimed at empowering women and putting safeguards for protection in place, such as the Sexual Offences Act of 2003, the Child and Gender Protection Unit with the police service and a One-Stop Centre that supported survivors of gender-based violence.
As human trafficking was another concern for Lesotho, the Government had supported the United Nations protocol and national plan concerning the problem, he said. Regarding the increase in women’s participation in decision-making, Lesotho’s Local Government Election Amendment Act stipulated that 30 per cent of local government councillors be women, and the Government had developed the Gender and Development Policy in 2003 to empower women in politics. Lesotho welcomed the establishment of UN Women and called on Member States who would be elected to the Board to ensure that they protect the rights of women and girls worldwide.
MARJON V. KAMARA ( Liberia) regretted the uneven application of gender equality programmes. Many gaps and challenges remained. Women across the globe still faced serious obstacles to full enjoyment of their rights. At both national and global levels, women’s participation in decision-making was low, and their participation at peace negotiations was marginal. They still outnumbered men among the world’s poor, and remained concentrated in vulnerable and low-paid jobs, with no social protection. Two thirds of illiterate adults were women, a proportion that had not changed in 20 years, and in many countries, maternal mortality remained unacceptably high.
In Liberia, the full participation of women in all aspects of national life has been assigned a high priority by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, she said. Progressive polices have been put into place, including a National Gender Policy and a National Gender-based Violence Plan of Action. A Civil Service Code of Conduct was being drafted that would include provisions to eradicate gender inequalities in the private sector. More women were being appointed to ministerial and key managerial positions, and the education of girls had been prioritized. Partnership had played a pivotal role in the progress that Liberia has made vis-à-vis the promotion of women’s rights, contributing to the award it had received from the Millennium Development Goals Award Committee for progress on the third Goal. Liberia urged its partners to stay the course in the ongoing struggle for gender equality.
MICHELLE KLEIN SOLOMON, Permanent Observer of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), pointed out that nearly half of the 214 million migrants in the world today were women. While labour migration could benefit women through economic, as well as socio-cultural empowerment, migrating women were also at a much higher risk of exploitation and abuse. Consequently, there was a clear continued need to raise the awareness of aspiring migrants and vulnerable groups in origin countries to safe migration options, the risks of irregular migration, and mechanisms available to ensure protection of their rights in countries of transit and destination. Due to their dual vulnerability as migrants and women, women were still disproportionately affected by a range of risks. During every stage of their migratory experience, women migrants were often more exposed to human rights violations, in comparison to their male counterparts.
Continuing, she pointed out that women migrant workers in irregular status were particularly vulnerable to harassment, intimidation or threats, as well as economic and sexual exploitation, including trafficking and racial discrimination. For that reason, it was important to remember that fighting human trafficking was also a labour market question, since it was the tension between the intense demand for labour and services on the one hand, coupled with too few legal migration channels, on the other, that created opportunities for intermediaries, such as human traffickers. She noted that IOM managed and operated a global human trafficking database with over 15,000 trafficking cases recorded. Building on that expertise, and experience it had developed in the field, the organization was currently strengthening its data collection and the analysis capacity of interested Governments and non-governmental organizations, with the overall objective of harmonizing approaches. Examples of that were the recent guidelines developed for the European Union on Human Trafficking and cooperation with other actors on development of indicators. IOM was also implementing similar evidence-enhancing work in Latin America, the Middle East, Asia and Africa, she added.
MEHMET KALYONCU, of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), drew attention to the fact that some of the OIC member States were among those who made the most progress towards attaining the Millennium Development Goals related to the development of women. Indeed, the OIC Ten-Year Program of Action had become the blueprint of OIC reform to tackle the challenges of the twenty-first century. In line with the vision of Action Programme, he noted that women were appointed to various departments of the OIC General Secretariat.
He said the first OIC Ministerial Conference on Women’s Role in the Development of OIC Member States, held in 2006, provided an excellent opportunity to coordinate on strategies, standards, programmes and goals to advance the status of women. Issues addressed by the Conference included women’s participation in the labour market and political process; access to education; and the elimination of gender inequality and violence against women. In the wake of the Conference, the OIC Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women was adopted in Cairo, also known as the “Cairo Plan of Action for Women”. The OIC had also finalized the procedure for establishing the Organization of Women’s Development in the OIC Member States, which would be based in Cairo, Egypt. He concluded his statement by stating that the OIC General Secretariat was looking forward to working closely with UN Women.
ANDA FILIP, Inter-Parliamentary Union, said the Union’s strategy for ending violence against women was premised on the view that the political leadership of parliaments could drive change. They not only passed laws, but used their oversight function to monitor enforcement, gauging the effectiveness of measures against a set of objectives and standards. The tools at their disposal included the power to make budget allocations and set up committees. In the area of countering gender-based violence, she said three regional seminars had been held for European, Latin American and Arab parliaments. For the Arab parliaments, the priority had been to legislate on violence against women, including by criminalizing acts of violence and providing for preventive measures and assistance to victims. For Europeans, the priority had been on the situation and needs of migrant women. Latin Americans had focused on mechanisms to ensure effective enforcement of laws to counter violence against women.
At the national level, she said the Union provided technical assistance, notably to parliaments seized with bills on violence against women or those drafting relevant laws. The Union’s activities were often conducted in close collaboration with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (UNDAW), as part of a wider process to ensure enforcement of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women convention. Finally, the new United Nations initiative for gender equality was welcome. It sent a powerful message about women’s rights in the world.
Mr. YOUNG, representing the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said, despite gains, much remained to be done to enhance the protection of and conditions for women. ICRC had decided a decade ago to emphasize across all its programmes and operational activities the particular respect and protection accorded to women and girls by international humanitarian law. To heighten its response to promoting the well-being of women, the ICRC had developed a multidimensional approach to identify and address the specific vulnerabilities of women and girls in conflict and other situations of violence.
An urgent theme when considering women’s needs during conflict, was prevention. While it was imperative that the international community reacted to sexual violence as to any other war crime, it was also essential that Member States resolutely engaged in preventing sexual violence. For its part, the ICRC worked to prevent sexual violence through, among others, awareness-raising activities. Through the promotion of international humanitarian law, the ICRC pressed actively all parties to an armed conflict to respect the categorical prohibition of all forms of violence against women. The ICRC could not stress enough the destabilizing effect sexual violence could have on a society when used as a war tactic. The ICRC urged United Nations Member States, as States Parties to the Geneva Conventions and other treaties, to include in their national legislation provisions for better respect of women and girls at all times, particularly during times of conflict. Rape was preventable. That must be recognized, and determined action had to be taken.
ANNE CHRISTENSEN, of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), noting that women were disproportionately affected by challenges, such as the economic crisis, poverty and natural disasters, focused on the levels of violence that women continued to face. Because violence against women was a common feature of emergency situations, IFRC worked to ensure that it incorporated violence prevention, mitigation and response strategies into its emergency-response programming. For example, in Haiti, IFRC had a representative there specialized in gender-based violence and in the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse to create safe environments for beneficiaries. IFRC built gender considerations into all areas of its work, including water and sanitation, health and shelter, and provided counselling to prevent violence in communities and families. However, much more was needed to protect women in vulnerable situations, and Governments, donors and humanitarian providers had to ensure a holistically integrated response in combating violence against women.
Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies around the world promoted programmes that changed mindsets, challenged gender stereotypes, built self-esteem and taught non-violent communication and conflict management, she said. Innovative programmes such as “Ten Steps to Creating Safe Environments” and “Youth as Agents of Behavioral Change” reached individuals in their formative years. IFRC was also currently finalizing a global violence strategy to guide and enhance its work in the area of violence prevention. To address underlying causes of vulnerability, IFRC put forward a two-fold approach to supporting women by enhancing volunteerism. First, women volunteers were the best versed in providing humanitarian assistance to their communities, and, second, when engaged, women more easily found support systems that helped them build confidence to solve their problems. Women volunteers had provided malaria bed-nets in Kenya, provided psychosocial support in Finland and engaged in disaster management in Bangladesh.
LILA HANITRA RATSIFANDRIHAMANANA, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said that FAO’s new strategic framework adopted in November 2009 identified gender equality as one of the Organization’s key objectives for the next 10 years, to be mainstreamed in all of its programmes for agriculture and rural development. FAO’s report on the State of Food and Agriculture, to be released next year, would have women and agriculture as its focus. Noting the FAO’s latest estimates of 925 million hungry people worldwide, she said the focus should be on investment in agriculture in developing countries, so that they could produce food. Further, no initiative to address the problem of food insecurity could succeed without taking into account gender equality, as women made up 51 per cent of the agricultural force globally. The role of women farmers was still largely unrecognized and the design of development policies continued to incorrectly assume that farmers and rural workers were mainly men. Because property grabbing from women and children was also common, evidence suggested that strengthening women’s land rights could significantly increase income and families’ welfare.
“Not taking gender issues into account may result in projects that are technically successful, but that negatively affect both women and children and augment social and economic stratification,” she said. FAO was currently undertaking a gender audit, in collaboration with UNIFEM — now a part of UN Women — which would offer recommendations on strengthening FAO’s capabilities to promote gender equality in its work and developing an accountability framework for ensuring responsiveness. A gender evaluation was also led by FAO’s internal, but independent Office of Evaluation to review progress on gender at the technical and programme level. FAO also welcomed the creation of UN Women and looked forward to working with it.
ELENA GASTALDO, of the International Labour Organization (ILO), said that the most contemporary and comprehensive contribution of her organization to the advancement of gender equality and the empowerment of women was the international Labour Conference Resolution on Gender Equality at the Heart of Decent Work, which was adopted unanimously by representatives of Governments, employers and workers in June 2009. That resolution called upon the ILO to promote gender equality as a cross-cutting issue in all four strategic objectives of the Decent Work Agenda. The topics examined in that resolution included equal remuneration for women and men for work of equal value, work-family reconciliation measures, the need to increase the share of women participating in social dialogue and women’s entrepreneurship development. It also highlighted the role Governments, employers and workers’ organizations had to play in achieving gender equality in the world of work.
She announced that the ILO would release the second edition of the Global Village Report in December. That report provided an overview of the short-term impact of the crisis of wages in different regions across the world. The new edition would pay special attention to low-pay work, it determinants and its implications for poverty and employment mobility. Low-pay work was a concern, because it increased the risk of poverty, even though not all low-paid workers were poor, and often became a trap instead of a stepping stone towards better-paid jobs. Women were disproportionately represented among low-wage workers. The report would highlight that sex discrimination in wage structures and wage determination systems and the undervaluation of female-dominated occupations, such as domestic work, were an important cause of low-pay work. It would also argue that minimum wage policies, along with a judicious use of in-work benefits, such as tax credits and lump-sum payments, could contribute to curbing low-pay work and improve the condition of women in the world of work.
Introduction of Report
CHARLES RADCLIFFE, Chief, Global Issues Section, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), on behalf of Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, then introduced the report of the Secretary-General on the Status of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (document A/65/206). The status of ratifications of the Convention and its two Optional Protocols continues to increase steadily, he said. The Convention was close to universal ratification with 193 States parties, while the Optional Protocols on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography had 139 and 141 States, respectively. He called for universal ratification of the two Optional Protocols by 2012, the tenth anniversary of their entering into force. Ratification was only a first step towards effective implementation, however, and in that regard, the Option Protocols would require the adoption of specific penal provisions.
JAN GRAULS ( Belgium), on behalf of the European Union, recalled that the Convention on the Rights of the Child was “the most universally ratified human rights treaty to date”. Together with its two Optional Protocols, it was the standard for the promotion and protection of the rights of the child. Substantial progress had been made towards implementation, but there remained persistent struggles, as well as emerging challenges, including child poverty, lack of education, female genital mutilation and cutting, and the loss of parents to HIV and AIDS. More than 22,000 children under the age of five died every day, and at any given time, more than 300,000 children were involved in armed conflicts. The Convention was key to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, which affected children in direct or indirect ways.
The Convention and its Optional Protocols formed the core of the external action of the European Union on the rights of the child; specific provisions on the children had also been incorporated into the Lisbon Treaty. The European Union called upon those States with any reservations to withdraw them, and for those who have yet to sign, ratify and implement the Optional Protocols to do so, for they should enjoy the same universality as the Convention itself. It was the responsibility of the State to promote and protect the rights of children; to that end, the European Union had given financial support to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for the creation of a “toolkit” to assist with implementation. The European Union urged States to step up efforts to combat abuse against children, including trafficking, to penalize all forms of sexual exploitation of children; and to prosecute offenders and address the needs of victims. It also emphasized the Convention’s “unequivocal prohibition” of the imposition of capital punishment for offences committed by those under 18 years of age.
Combating the economic exploitation of children and eliminating the worst forms of child labour by 2016 were priorities for the European Union, he said. It also attached particular importance to violence against children, which in many cases was hidden and socially sanctioned. Closer collaboration and cooperation at the global, regional and local levels was urgently needed to move that issue forward. An increasingly significant challenge was posed by violence in electronic media. On the plight of boys and girls in conflict zones, the European Union was reviewing how it implemented its guidelines on children in armed conflict to bring them in line with European and international developments. Among the initiatives being discussed within the European Union to strengthen child protection and participation were legally-binding directives on child sexual exploitation and trafficking in human beings. The European Union stood ready to work with the United Nations to deliver on promises for a better future for children.
JOSEPH GODDARD (Barbados), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that the 14 Member States reaffirmed their unwavering support for the Convention on the Rights of the Child and that the presentation of candidatures by Haiti and Suriname for the upcoming elections to the Committee on the Rights of the Child indicated CARICOM’s level of commitment. CARICOM welcomed international efforts to combat problems facing children, including forced labour, sexual abuse and exploitation and trafficking, and welcomed the recent adoption of the Global Plan of Action on Trafficking in Persons. Discussing progress made in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, he commended the increased rate of net enrolment of children in primary school and the fact that almost all regions had attained gender parity in primary education, and noted the modest annual decline of 1.5 per cent in the under-five mortality rate.
Regarding health, CARICOM faced a growing challenge in the increased levels of obesity among its children, and thanked the United Nations for support in the adoption of a resolution on the “Prevention and control of non-communicable diseases” and for strategies outlining key areas for action on the ground. Noting that the provision of early care and education was crucial to a child’s development, CARICOM expressed pleasure to be playing a role in negotiations on the annual omnibus resolution on the Rights of the Child, which focused this year on implementing child rights in early childhood. In all CARICOM countries, the State provided pre- and post-natal health services, immunization and initial growth monitoring, either free or for a subsidized fee. To reach the most marginalized children, the Roving Caregivers Programme, a pilot home-visitation initiative that reached children from birth to 3 years of age who are most at risk and offered parents information on health and safety, was operating in seven CARICOM States. At the regional level, heads of Government adopted in 1997 the CARICOM Plan of Action for Early Childhood Education, Care and Development, and the Council for Human and Social Development of CARICOM prioritized in 2008 the harmonization of legal frameworks for children and of standards for early childhood development services.
Despite progress, challenges remained in the pace of adoption of formal early childhood policies, and it was important to keep in mind the regional context and fiscal constraints that CARICOM Governments were facing, he said. The impacts of climate change had also affected early childhood care, including: Hurricane Ivan’s destruction of 36 per cent of day-care centres and 45 per cent of preschools in Grenada in 2004; a severe drought in the region that restricted water use and affected childcare and education centres in 2010; and the earthquake in Haiti in January 2010 that created a crisis situation for 800,000 children and their families. CARICOM urged Member States and the donor community to intensify efforts to deliver on their commitments and pledges, stating that enhanced international cooperation would be needed to achieve full realization of the rights of children.
OCTAVIO ERRÁZURIZ (Chile), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said that the Group firmly believed that addressing the protection, promotion and fulfilment of children’s rights in early childhood would also give States the opportunity to focus on the first years after birth as an essential stage for development and helping children to achieve full integration into society. The development of potentials during early childhood was of vital importance, since the children would become key actors in their societies’ future. It was necessary to address the vulnerabilities of children in early childhood, and their basic needs should be fulfilled as a matter of priority. The integration and mainstreaming of early childhood in national development policies and programmes would enable the international community to better understand and address that vital period in the development of children.
He said that it was in the field of the rights of the child that the interdependence of all human rights could be observed with greater clarity, because without protecting children in their early childhood and guaranteeing, in particular, their right to health, food and education, many of the aspirations of the people, including girls and boys, would be left pending. The right to development was at the core of a holistic approach. The Group also called on all Member States to take necessary measures to prevent and punish the wrongful removal of children linked to enforced disappearance and to cooperate and assist to search for and identify children who had been victims of such practices. Such children should be returned to their families of origin in accordance with legal procedures and applicable international agreements.
Eight years after the international community agreed upon “A world fit for children” as the product of the special session for children, that document remained valid, since it had yet to achieve its ultimate goal of the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights for all girls and boys of the world, he said. All Latin American and Caribbean countries had made an unreserved commitment to respect and protect all the human rights of the child. They believed that the enjoyment of such rights and freedoms, without discrimination of any kind, would become a reality through the implementation of appropriate measures and with the application of the fullest of resources and efforts. International cooperation and promotion of development by all countries could be a significant element in promoting child participation and enhancing national policies for the welfare of children and adolescents.
WILFRIED I. EMVULA (Namibia), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), expressed concern for the millions of children worldwide who continued to live in poverty, hunger and disease — while facing violence and exploitation. Noting the lack of adequate social and economic safety nets for orphans and vulnerable children, he affirmed the Community’s commitment to the full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. SADC Member States, he stated, have introduced specific programmes in their national development plans and poverty reduction strategies to address the main challenges facing children, with emphasis on the health and education sectors.
The SADC region was still experiencing, he said, a high burden of major communicable diseases — particularly HIV/AIDS. The Community continued to adopt and monitor important documents, such as the Maseru Declaration, the multi-sectoral HIV and AIDS strategic framework for action, and the SADC model law on HIV and AIDS. He noted that important progress had been recorded on the implementation of the five year business plan (2004-2009) to operationalize the strategic framework. Concerning education, most SADC countries had integrated the provision of basic education into their national development plans, with concrete national education plans to achieve universal primary education. He was pleased to report that most countries would achieve gender parity in education by 2015. He concluded his statement by calling upon Member States to take measures to scale up global efforts to control the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons, emphasizing that they claimed millions of victims in Africa — many of whom were children.
MEAGHAN SUNDERLAND ( Canada) spoke on behalf of Canada, Australia and New Zealand, reiterating their hope for universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and urging States to give early consideration to signing and ratifying the Convention’s first and second Optional Protocols. She recognized the work of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF, and civil society to assist in the implementation of the obligations undertaken by States parties to the Convention. She said protecting children from violence must be at the forefront of the international agenda and tireless efforts were needed through all stages of prevention, early detection and response. She looked forward to the ongoing work of Ms. Santos Pais, and praised her exceptional skills and enduring commitment. She also commended Ms. Coomaraswamy for her leadership and dedication to the issue.
She reaffirmed support for the Paris Commitments and Paris Principles on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups and called on all States who had not yet done so to express their support. She highlighted the latest Secretary-General’s report examining the most persistent perpetrators of grave violations against children, which included the enhanced reporting on incidents of rape and sexual violence against children in situations of conflict. In that context, she expressed hope that the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism’s additional emphasis on rape and sexual violence would result in a marked reduction of those incidences and an increase in the overall protection of children’s rights.
JEAN-DANIEL VIGNY ( Switzerland) said on the subject of violence against children, his country welcomed the Special Representative’s commitment to reach out to children in meetings and expert discussions at global, regional and national levels, and her approach of setting clear priorities. He encouraged Governments to adopt action-oriented national strategies aimed at fostering collaboration at the international level, and suggested four main pillars for such strategies: prevention, awareness-raising, protection and the fight against violence and abuses.
Turning to children in armed conflicts, he said it was notable that most mandates for United Nations peacekeeping and political missions included references to child protection as a mandate priority. However, the effective implementation of the respective directive depended on the deployment of the requisite child protection expertise. Particular attention must also be paid to the question of the fight against impunity, which required action at the national level, through local judicial bodies on the basis of national legislation. He welcomed the Campaign on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, and appealed to all States that had not yet done so to ratify the protocol.
SWEN DORNIG ( Liechtenstein) welcomed the focus on early childhood and said care and education in the first seven years of life were most important, because they had a direct impact on social and health prospects throughout life. Implementation of the Convention was not just a matter of resources, but of recognizing children as active participants in their development and not mere recipients of care and teaching. His country had adopted a Children and Youth Act that had gone into force in February. Under the law, children now had a right to be heard in decisions that affected them, to the extent of their ability to express opinions. An Ombudsman had been appointed to, among other tasks, monitor implementation of the Child’s Rights Convention.
He said armed conflicts were a main source of violations of the rights of the child and he reiterated support to the Special Representative on that issue. Systematic attacks on students and teachers, as well as school buildings, were among the most heinous violations, perpetrated by State and non-State actors. The Security Council had a particular responsibility to promote the protection of children from such violations. The Council was to be commended for adopting resolution 1882 that expanded the trigger for the Mechanism to include parties who committed rape and maimed children. However, all six grave violations of children’s rights should be included in the trigger for the Mechanism. The current differential treatment was difficult to square with the universality and interdependence of human rights and with the principles of international humanitarian law.
MAGED ABDELAZIZ ( Egypt) noted that 2010 marked the twentieth anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention on the rights of the child and said his country had been among the first 20 to ratify it and had played an important role in its negotiations. Since then, gains had been made and failures had occurred in advancing the situation of children. The challenges of poverty, hunger and high rate of mortality had been exacerbated by the global economic crisis and the crises in food and energy, organized crime, terrorism and the proliferation of weapons. In light of that, the United Nations must play a central role in promoting and protecting the rights of the child around the world.
He said his country had launched its First Decade for the Egyptian Child in 1989. Achievements during the second decade included the 2006 declaration of Egypt as polio free. Achievements had also been made with regard to a girls’ education initiative and a national female genital mutilation campaign, a children budgeting initiative, and an anti-trafficking in children Unit. Among others, a hotline had been set up to raise awareness about the trafficking phenomenon and to receive reports about underage marriages. It also conducted capacity-building training workshops for targeted groups involved with children, including physicians, religious leaders and immigration officials.
Mr. AL-AQEEL ( Jordan) described the legislation that his country, a signatory to the Convention and both Optional Protocols, had put into place to protect children and ensure their needs. They included laws which criminalized trafficking in children and the use of information networks to spread child pornography. Legislation against domestic violence referred to the protection of children from that form of violence. Legislation was currently being drafted to ensure a better quality of protection for children; ultimately, Jordan would have a single law that would address the rights of the child from all fronts.
A national strategy to address child labour was in place in Jordan, while Queen Rania Al Abdullah had undertaken a number of steps relating to the rights of children, particularly in regards to education. Jordan would be presenting its first reports on implementation of the Optional Protocols by the end of this year. Jordan was committed to doing all it could to respect the rights of the child; a good education and safe environment for children was the best way to bring up a new generation that would play its part in society for the welfare of all.
Introduction of Draft Resolutions
The Committee then broke from its discussion on the rights of the child to hear the introduction of draft resolutions on crime prevention and criminal justice and international drug control.
The representative of Italy introduced a draft resolution entitled Strengthening the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme, in particular its technical cooperation capacity (document A/C.3/65/L.15), stating that transnational organized crime represented a growing challenge for all States, as it jeopardized security, undermined respect for human rights, obstructed the organization of safe societies and prevented the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. A stronger global response was needed, and this draft resolution included unprecedented instruments to that end, including the issue of mutual legal assistance. The resolution had three main purposes: to highlight the importance of the fight against transnational crime and provide greater visibly to this issue within the United Nations’ agenda; to promote the universality and better implementation of the convention and its additional protocols, strengthening international cooperation; and to confirm the membership’s support to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s technical assistance activities in this field.
The text made some updates and innovations to last year’s resolution, including: new paragraphs that linked transnational crime and the impact they had on the development of stable societies and the achievement of the Goals; new language on initiatives and achievements, such as high-level meetings on transnational crime, including the one in Palermo, and the adoption of a global plan of action on human trafficking; an operative paragraph that anticipated the successful outcome of the meeting of States’ parties, soon to be held in Vienna; and operative paragraph 30, taking into consideration the overall financial situation and the needs of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Italy noted that they were counting on the widest support of the membership. The following countries joined as sponsors: Guatemala; Chile; Uruguay; and El Salvador.
The representative of Mexico then introduced a draft resolution on International cooperation against the world drug problem (document A/C.3/65/L.16), stating that drug trafficking was a complicated business that required international cooperation to combat. Delegates had expressed concern that combating drugs was not the sole responsibility of any one region, but a global phenomenon. The draft resolution restated the importance of international cooperation in combating drugs, and established the link between the trafficking of drugs and other crimes, including the trafficking of arms, money-laundering, and corruption. The draft resolution provided updates to the resolution from the 64th Session, which was a political plan of action to counter the problem of drugs.
Reflecting international consensus of the need to combat drugs, L.16 took a step forward and invited Member States to abide by the plan of action and consider mechanisms to ensure that the impact of drugs continued to be countered. It incorporated new paragraphs, emphasizing the need to engage in international cooperation to combat the increase of unlawful drugs and new substances. Attention was also paid to the importance of preventive programmes against HIV in a manner that tied into the drug issue. While acknowledging the importance of the availability of drugs from the medical point of view, it called for guidelines to monitor those drugs. Information exchanges also had to be established to monitor trends, and larger budgets had to be allocated for the United Nations bodies seeking to counter drugs. Additionally, it was important to acknowledge efforts by Governments entering into conventions, like the Palermo convention, and to encourage their ratification. Mexico also expressed gratitude for co-sponsorship that countries saw fit to offer. The following countries joined as sponsors: Uruguay; Algeria; and El Salvador.
It was then the turn of the representative of Malawi to introduce a draft resolution on the United Nations African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (document A/C.3/65/L.14), stating that it was not a new resolution and was presented by the African Group every year to prevent crime and better deal with the treatment of offenders. The draft resolution was the same as last year’s, except for a few technical updates, mainly in reference to the Secretary-General in the opening paragraphs and to the request in the operating paragraph that the Secretary-General provide a report at the 65th Session.
Action on Texts
Turning to the Declaration on the occasion of the fifteenth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women (A/C.3/65/L.7), transmitted by the Economic and Social Council to the General Assembly for its endorsement, the Chair said that a draft resolution on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action being facilitated by the Vice-Chair contained provisions that endorsed the Declaration. It was, therefore, recommended that the document not be acted upon, pending the adoption of the final text of the draft resolution on the Beijing Declaration, so as to avoid duplication in the General Assembly.
The Committee adopted that proposal without a vote.
The Committee adopted, without a vote, the draft resolution on Realignment of the functions of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and changes to the strategic framework (A/C.3/65/L.13), which merged two decisions transmitted from the Economic and Social Council on the same topic (documents A/C.3/65/L.2 and A/C.3/65/L.3). The Secretary explained that its adoption would not entail any appropriation under the programme budget for 2010-2011, and the two decisions from the Economic and Social Council were withdrawn.
By the text, the Assembly would take note of the report of the Executive Director of the Office on the changes required to the strategic framework and the implications for the Office, as well as the establishment of an independent evaluation unit and the sustainability of the Strategic Planning Unit. Further, it recalls the need for adequate funding for an independent evaluation unit and urges the Secretariat to swiftly commence with the establishment of the unit without delay. It also urges the Executive Director to submit a proposed budget for 2012-2013 that “appropriately reflects the financial needs of the Office” and requests the Secretary-General to devote “due attention to the resource requirements” for meeting the mandates entrusted to the Office in his programme budget for the same biennium.
The Committee then adopted, again without a vote, a draft resolution on Strengthening crime prevention and criminal justice responses to violence against women (document A/C.3/65/L.4), which the Economic and Social Council has recommended for adoption by the General Assembly. The Secretary explained that its adoption would not entail any programme budget implications for 2010-2011. The representative of Pakistan said the draft resolution did not imply any new mandate for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, adding that his country would work on updated strategies annexed to the draft resolution in line with national laws.
By the text, the General Assembly would adopt the guidelines in the updated Model Strategies and Practical Measures on the Elimination of Violence against Women in the Field of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, which was reviewed by an expert meeting in Bangkok 23-25 March 2009 and is annexed to the resolution. In 20 pages, it covers such areas as criminal law, criminal procedures, crime prevention measures and international cooperation.
The draft resolution on United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules) (document A/C.3/65/L.5), adopted by the Economic and Social Council on 22 July, was adopted without a vote. The Secretary again stated that its adoption would entail no programme budget implications for 2010-2011. The representative of Pakistan welcomed the adoption of the draft resolution, saying his country had been engaged in the negotiations of the Rules. His Government had taken numerous steps with regards to the human rights of women, including female offenders, and it would continue to do so.
By this text, the General Assembly would adopt the Rules, which were developed at an expert group meeting in Bangkok 23-26 November 2009 and are annexed to the resolution. The 70 rules, intended to improve the treatment of women prisoners, cover such issues as the implementation of gender-sensitive prisoner classification and security risk assessments, the provision of gender-specific health-care services, guidance on the treatment of children living with their mothers in prison, the specific safety concerns of women prisoners, the development of pre- and post-release programmes that take into account the stigmatization and discrimination that women face once released from prison. These are considered issues that did not receive sufficient attention in the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners adopted in 1955.
Finally, the Committee adopted, without a vote, a draft resolution entitled Twelfth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (document A/C.3/65/L.6), also recommended for adoption by the Economic and Social Council. Once again, the Secretary said that adoption would entail no programme budget implications for 2010-2011.
The text would have the Assembly express its satisfaction with the results achieved at the Congress, including the Salvador Declaration on Comprehensive Strategies for Global Challenges: Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Systems and Their Development in a Changing World, which is included as an annex.
The Assembly would endorse the Declaration and, among others, request the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice to establish an open-ended intergovernmental expert group, to be convened before the twentieth session of the Commission, to conduct a comprehensive study on the problem of cybercrime. It further requests the Commission to establish an expert group, to be convened between the twentieth and twenty-first sessions, to exchange information on best practices, on the revision of existing United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the treatment of prisoners, so they reflect recent advances in correctional science. The groups are requested to report to the Commission on their progress.
The Committee then resumed its discussion on the promotion and protection of the rights of children.
ZHANG DAN ( China) was pleased to note that, thanks to the continuous efforts of the international community, national Governments and civil society, further progress was achieved in the promotion and protection of the rights of the child. The Chinese delegation expressed its appreciation to the relevant United Nations agencies, Governments and civil society for their efforts. At the same time, in many parts of the world, the life and health of children continued to suffer and their rights continued to be violated because of poverty, hunger, disease, disasters, child labour, drugs, sexual exploitation, war and conflicts. The global cause of protecting the rights of the child faced many challenges. Following the principle of “children first,” the Chinese Government implemented development strategies that put children as a priority and worked to ensure children’s right to life, development, protection and participation. Over the years, China had been working to improve its legislation on the protection of the rights of the child, and had set up a rather comprehensive legal system.
The Chinese Government attached great importance to the significant role of international human rights instruments in promoting and protecting the rights of the child, and acceded to a series of international treaties aimed at protecting the rights of the child. In addition, the Chinese Government long carried out effective cooperation with UNICEF and other international agencies. Positive results had been achieved in the implementation of projects for children’s development, such as advocacy for knowledge about children, policy development, health and nutrition, education, child protection and community service, combating HIV/AIDS, and disaster prevention. In conclusion, China was a developing country with a huge child population. The Chinese Government recognized that it still had a long way to go before enabling children to fully enjoy all their rights.
HASSAN ALI HASSAN ( Sudan) said all forms of violence against children were unacceptable and unforgivable. Sudan’s traditions and laws were “crystal clear” on the importance of health, social protections and accountability, particularly when it came to the rights of children. A 2010 Child Act had been adopted last year and had come into effect early this year. Special attention had been placed on addressing the needs of children in the conflict area of West Sudan, in cooperation with the United Nations Mission in Darfur and UNICEF. Monitoring units had been established within the police and armed forces to secure children from being recruited, as to provide them with care and protection, including through counselling units.
He said that positive bilateral developments in Sudanese-Chadian relations had impacted positively on the security situation in the region. Hundreds of children had been pardoned by presidential decree and had either returned to homes, or had been housed in rehabilitation centres. As had been emphasized at the 24 September United Nations high-level meeting on Sudan, the Government was fully committed to achieving peace in Darfur, including by negotiating with rebel groups and implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. However, since UNICEF was having difficulty with financing activities in Sudan, the international community and donors were being asked to provide financial support to UNICEF for its work in Africa on an “urgent” basis. Finally, of particular concern were violations committed against children in conflict areas, particularly in the guise of providing humanitarian assistance, as had occurred in 2008 with Darfurian refugees in East Chad.
LISANDRA ASTIASARÁN (Cuba) said that, as a result of the current economic crisis, millions of children were hit by an increase of hunger, poverty, inequality and social exclusion, and that even before the crisis, it was estimated that almost 218 million children over 5 years of age worked, with 126.3 million of them working for low wages and without protection. Despite UNICEF data showing a one-third decline in the under-five mortality rate, there was no reason to celebrate, because that still meant that about 22,000 children died every day in our world. She also noted her country’s concern about climate change, as UNICEF estimated that, in the next 10 years, 175 million children would suffer the consequences of weather-related disasters every year.
Stating that the international community needed to act without further delay, she said, “Fifty-two years after the establishment in Cuba of a more just and equitable social system for all, in 2009 our country had an infant mortality rate of 4.8 per 1,000 live births, the lowest in Latin America and among the lowest in the world.” She noted that the result had been achieved due to a public health-care system without commercial interests and based on universal access that was free of charge, giving priority attention to mothers and children. Cuba also said that it had the highest percentage of teachers and instructors per inhabitant, guaranteeing access by 100 per cent of its children to schools and day-care centres, free of charge. Those achievements were attained despite the blockade imposed by the United States for over half a century, which caused losses in the Cuban health sector of $15.2 million from May 2009 to April 2010. For example, the William Soler Pediatric Hospital’s Cardiology Center, included since 2007 by the United States Department of the Treasury in the category of “ Rejected Hospital”, was denied the sale of products needed for the treatment of children. Stating that Cuban children were innocent victims of the United States Government blockade, she said, “As long as policies where international cooperation and solidarity prevail are not applied, and a few get richer while millions suffer poverty, our children and the future of humankind are in danger.”
DANA KURSH ( Israel) said her country was working towards achievement of the 2010 Goals with regard to children by focusing on the areas of health, education and protection. Community-based clinics had been established and had been successful in reducing maternal mortality and increasing child wellness. The model had been replicated and customized to the needs of Africa countries and had recently been expanded in Ghana, to provide training and specialized services to improve care for newborns and ultimately reduce neonatal mortality.
She said providing quality education depended mainly on the quality of teachers, and a joint statement by four agencies described a “grim” situation for teachers in the world, which was valid for teachers in Israel. Her country had embarked on a five-year reform plan and a pilot programme had led to the retraining of 320 former high-tech professionals to serve as new teachers in the current school year. Best practices were shared with teachers around the globe and numerous collaborative ventures were undertaken. In November, for example, Israel would host a programme in cooperation with the Organization of American States (OAS) that would focus on strategies for keeping youths from dropping out of school. Finally, in the area of protection, she said a number of disturbing incidents of domestic violence involving children had come to public attention lately. That had prompted relevant Government bodies to improve their coordination and ensure timely exchanges of critical information. The goal was to flag situations requiring intervention before tragedies occurred. The non-governmental organization (NGO) community had been very active in the implementation of child protection measures alongside Government agencies such as the National Council for the Child and the Child Victim Assistance Programme. Programmes were also aimed at bringing Arab and Jewish youth together, with the aim of creating young leaders committed to the value of coexistence.
NIKOLAY RAKOVSKIY ( Russian Federation) said the international community had a long road ahead of it before it could establish a world fit for children. The Convention on the Rights of the Child remained a fundamental instrument for the protection of children, while the final document of the twenty-seventh special session of the General Assembly on children served as a guide for action. Coordination of the fourth periodic report on implementation of the Convention was currently underway in his country, a signatory to the first Optional Protocol that was in the process of discussing accession to the second Optional Protocol.
Ensuring the rights of children was a constant focus of attention for his Government’s leadership, he said. For several years, a Governmental commission had been looking into minors and their rights, meeting in various places so as to acquaint itself with children’s issues in the field. A recently launched Internet portal, called “Towards a Russian without Cruelty to Children”, was a large-scale project that had the support of the President, actors, writers and others. A children’s support hotline was being rolled out across the country. Children’s issues were a priority for his country’s leadership, which supported international efforts to ensure the dignity and fulfilment of children.
ALAN SELLOS ( Brazil), associating with the statement made on behalf of the Rio Group, said the implementation of legal provisions enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child remained elusive. It was disturbing that violence against children remained widespread, largely hidden and still often condoned by society. Global adherence to the Optional Protocols would be an important first step to reverse that trend, he said. In that regard, he urged all Member States who had not yet done so to ratify the Convention and its two Optional Protocols. Brazil strongly supported the Human Right Council’s ongoing work towards the elaboration of a third Protocol to the Convention, with a view to establishing a communications procedure for victims of violations.
He went on to note that the promotion and protection of the rights of the child were enshrined in his country’s legal system, as it was one of the first Member States to adopt a specific set of legislation in line with the Convention’s provisions. Highlighting Government policies and legislation in the areas of violence and sexual crimes against children and youth, he said President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva had submitted a draft piece of legislation to the National Congress aiming to penalize those that inflicted corporal punishment on children as a means of pedagogical discipline. Cooperation with neighbouring countries, especially in the context of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), had helped in addressing child rights issues. It was particularly helpful in addressing sexual violence and exploitation, a set of problems which by nature tended to transcend national boundaries.
HOANG THI THANH NGA ( Viet Nam), while welcoming the progress made in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, expressed her deep concern for the 10,000 children under five years of age who died “each and every day” and for the more than 1 million children left motherless every year. The slow growth of primary level schooling for all children by 2015 was troubling, as well as the fact that, in many regions around the world, children were being trafficked, used as labour, or killed and injured. She stressed that strategies, agendas and development policies on national, regional and international levels, as well as within the United Nations agencies and bodies, needed to incorporate the protection and promotion of children’s’ rights. Continuing, she said that concrete steps and measures towards improving the health of children, from country-led health plans to the newly launched “Global Strategy for Women and Children’s Health” was essential and that investments should be sustained for the development of strong health systems. To that end, she called for developed countries to honour their commitments of long-term financial assistance, without conditionality, to developing countries.
On a national level, among other successful efforts, 25 per cent of the entire national budget had been invested in the social sector, resulting in more than 90 per cent of children under the age of six having access to free health-care programmes. The under-five child mortality rate had been halved, from 58 per cent in 1990 to 24.5 per cent in 2009 and her country planned to reduce the infant mortality rate to 14.8 per cent, ahead of the 2015 schedule. The issue of existing disparities in socio-economic development between rural areas and urban areas in her country called for her Government to invest better expertise and resources in children’s health and educational development. In addressing that, international cooperation and assistance played a key role and she looked forward to the continued support.
Ms. ABDOLMALEKI ( Iran) said that this year marked the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. She was pleased to note that Iran had signed this Optional Protocol in September 2010. Protection of the child was a basic policy of Iran, emanating from the lofty principles of the country’s religion and culture. Since the special session of the United Nations General Assembly on children in 2002, Iran had taken a number of steps in line with the outcome document, “A World Fit for Children,” as well as the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In the area of promoting healthy lives for children, Iran extended public health preventive services through establishing an extensive primary health care network. As a result, child and maternal mortality rates fell significantly, and life expectancy at birth rose remarkably. The mortality rate for under 5 years of age approached the level of total elimination. Immunization coverage was over 90 per cent and polio was almost eliminated. Over 85 per cent of the population had access to health services, and 90 per cent of births were attended by trained health personnel. In recent years, the Bureau of Children in the Ministry of Health and Medical Education initiated programmes for planning and leading the activities on childcare and vaccination. Establishing private pre-elementary school centres in cities and villages had been encouraged by the Government in recent years. To that end, the Government provided interest-free loans from public resources to the private sector. With regard to forced marriages, the Government envisaged certain cultural programmes to prevent such marriages. In conclusion, children were the most precious assets of each society.
CAROL FULP (United States), welcoming the opportunity to discuss issues facing children, said many gains had been made, but that it was unacceptable that children still lived in fear of violence, abuse, and exploitation. The United States was proud of its record of protecting children and would work with the international community to strengthen its efforts. The United States promoted programmes on all levels to prevent child pornography, commercial sex, forced child labour, and to promote access to health care, foster care, and education. President Barack Obama had signed into law the Children's Health Insurance Reauthorization Act of 2009, which provided resources for child-related programmes covering 11 million children, of whom 4 million were previously uninsured. The United States appreciated the need for early childhood development efforts, and President Obama was committed to providing support to children in order to help them succeed. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 invested $5 billion for early childhood programmes such as Head Start, childcare, and programmes for children with disabilities.
The United States viewed UNICEF as a key partner and supported its initiatives to protect children and to advocate on behalf of their rights. The Government appreciated UNICEF’s actions on behalf of children in emergency situations and its work in achieving the Millennium Development Goals related to education, particularly the elimination of gender disparity in education. As an expression of its support, the United States was proud to be the largest donor to UNICEF last year, providing $130 million to UNICEF’s core funding and an additional $170 million in non-core funding, including contributions to emergency appeals and to worldwide immunization efforts. The United States was committed to providing equal education opportunities to all children, regardless of their race, gender, or disability. The United States used educational programmes to ensure that federal dollars assisted underprivileged students, and took steps to ensure that students with disabilities and students of colour received assistance. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act required public schools to make available to all eligible children with disabilities a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment appropriate to their needs. The United States looked forward to working with the international community to improve the well-being of children around the world.
AZUSA SHINOHARA ( Japan) said that, with globalization, the situation of children in many parts of the world had worsened, in the face of such factors as social inequity, infectious diseases, and the world financial and economic crisis. It was for that reason that the General Assembly, at its sixty-fourth session, had adopted a resolution on the rights of children that focused on their right to express their views freely and called for international cooperation to ensure the well-being of children. Education was a right to be equally enjoyed by all; it played a vital role in reducing poverty, improving health and contributing to world peace. To that end, Japan had announced a new economic cooperation policy; it would also be extending $3.5 billion in education assistance over five years from 2011. Through a basic education assistance model called “School for All”, Japan would be helping to provide a quality educational environment for at least 7 million children.
The most vulnerable members of any society were children caught amidst armed conflict, she said. Progress had been made in reducing the number of child soldiers, but the broader situation remained critical and it was hoped that more countries would become State parties to the Optional Protocol relating to children and conflict. The international community had to work as one to bring those who have violated the rights of children in conflict situations to justice, and Japan was deeply concerned by attacks which targeted schools, teachers and students. More efforts were also needed to reduce neonatal and child mortality; to that end, Japan was providing assistance of $5 billion over five years from 2011, enabling the lives of 11.3 million children to be saved.
MOHAMMED AL-MUSLEM ( Qatar) said that his country attached great interest to the rights of the child on all levels, and that Qatar’s participation in promoting the rights of the child was one of the principles of its Constitution. Noting Qatar’s laws relating to the rights of the child, he said that Law 21 stipulated that the family was the basic cell of society and that protection should be provided to children, mothers and older persons. Article 22 of the Constitution protected children against corruption, allowed for the development of their potential and guaranteed education for children. The 2004 Penal Code punished all violations of children’s rights, including sexual exploitation, child pornography, and forced labour. The labour law of 2004 guaranteed the rights of workers and dealt with child labour. Law 22 concerned the participation of women and children in camel races. Qatar had also ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Optional Protocols.
Additionally, Qatar had set up institutions to protect children’s rights on the governmental and non-governmental level, he said. A supreme council for the family gave attention to reconciling national practices with the conventions that Qatar had signed concerning human rights. Qatar had adopted Law 18 at the non-governmental level and set up an institution for the protection of children. Qatar had set up agencies and institutions, such as shelters for women who were victims of violence, in order to provide social and psychological rehabilitation. Awareness-raising and capacity-building was developed through the organization of workshops and trainings to protect kids and families. Targeting children in schools, Qatar had worked to familiarize all those working with children on the rights of the child. Qatar was also deeply concerned with the situation of children living under foreign occupation and the violation of their rights, particularly Palestinian children who were denied the right to health and education by Israel.
SUAAD ANBAR (Libya), emphasizing the country’s commitments to conventions it had signed, said it sought to ensure full respect for the rights of children, including the providing a quality education for children and combating abuse, violence, HIV and AIDS. Libya had developed legislation in keeping with international treaties, such as the prohibition of child labour. Libya’s health situation concerning children had improved, and the country had implemented a programme of vaccinations that achieved 95 per cent coverage. The country had also eliminated polio, neonatal tetanus and measles, and infant mortality had declined to 17.6 per 1,000. Additionally, national laws guaranteed the rights of children to education, and the country’s law on education stated that all children were entitled to an education that was compulsory and free.
The representative stated that it remained aware of the impact of the international financial crisis on developing economies, particular sub-Saharan countries, in the realization of the Millennium Development Goals, such as reducing infant mortality and combating HIV and AIDS. Children in the region were recruited by force and subjected to physical violence by the militias, and trafficking constituted a breach of their rights. Libya urged the international community and donors to provide the necessary assistance to children in Africa in order to guarantee a future without disease, hunger and ignorance. Additionally, Libya spoke about the inhuman situation of the Palestinian people and the grave violation of the rights of Palestinian children by Israeli authorities. Physical and psychological violence, as well as deprivation of drinking water and food, undermined the Palestinians’ essential right to life and peace.
MUHHAMAD SIDDIQUE ( Pakistan) said that, despite the progress that has been made, children remain vulnerable, including those living under foreign occupation whose vulnerabilities have increased as a result of multiple violations of their human rights. The unprecedented floods in Pakistan in late July of this year had affected 20 million people, with children making up a significant proportion of that number. Reconstruction would be long-term task and the Government was taking steps to assist children in flood-stricken areas.
Pakistan laid great emphasis on fulfilling its international commitments on all human rights, including the rights of children, he said. Several measures had been taken. For instance, a national commission for children’s welfare had been established to promote the Convention on the Rights of the Child, assess the impact of constitutional, legal and administrative measures on the development of children, and make recommendations. A child complaint cell functioned at the federal level, and a child protection bill, drafted in consultation with all stakeholders, including civil society, would be soon going to Parliament. Initiatives had also been taken regarding children with disabilities and banning the trafficking of children. As 2015 draws near, international cooperation would be required in order to overcome the obstacles that lay ahead, including migration and climate change.
MARÍA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO ( Nicaragua) said the State, family, community and society all shared responsibility for the rights of children, who were social subjects and participants in their changing environment. In Nicaragua, where about half the population was under the age of 18, the Government had established strategies and lines of action to improve the welfare of children. A programme called “Love” had aimed to improve the conditions of vulnerable children, while other programmes addressed nutrition, sports, recreation and credits for mothers. In education, there had been an emphasis on eradicating illiteracy and on extending universal education.
In terms of health care, she said her country has made efforts to reduce neonatal mortality and improve food security, with child malnutrition reduced to 19.6 per cent in 2009, food stamps distributed to 80,000 families between 2007 and 2009, and about 1 million children expected to benefit from school meals this year. Designated “health days” had seen the distribution of vitamin A supplements to youngsters. A campaign to encourage the registration of children, called “My Name is My Right”, has seen an increase in the number of children on the civil register, and the Government had been active in eliminating child labour and exploitation.
SARUN HAETANURAK ( Thailand) said his country attached great importance to the promotion and protection of children’s rights, noting that it was a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in addition to other human rights instruments, including ILO and The Hague Conventions. Thailand had also enacted legislation to protect the rights of children, including the National Agenda for Children and Youth, a programme that promoted quality of life, and other children’s issues.
Turning to the Millennium Goals, he said his country had achieved universal primary education and eliminated gender disparity in education. In an effort to achieve universal secondary education by 2015, Thailand would provide free education for the first 15 years, not 12, and had now turned its focus towards early childhood education. Further, its Persons with Disabilities Education Act reaffirmed the right of disabled persons to education, and Thailand’s 2008 Civil Registration Act provided all children born in the country, including displaced and stateless children, the right to birth registration, which entitled them to basic health services and education. The Thai Government had also established Children and Youth Councils at the national, provincial and district levels, which served as channels for listening to children’s opinions and ensured their participation in decision-making and policymaking efforts. In closing, he said Thailand reaffirmed its commitment to “join hands” with the international community to make “A World Fit for Children”.
FRANCIS CHULLIKATT, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said children continued to be victims of grave violations in situations of conflict around the world and it was deplorable that the climate of impunity, with respect to perpetrators, seemed to increase. The Special Representative’s report highlighted the fact that children were more vulnerable in situations where new war tactics were being used. As many as 250,000 children worldwide were being used as soldiers, forced to kill their neighbours and sometimes their parents. Such heinous acts pointed to the need for all parties concerned to make concrete protection commitments and action plans to address such grave violations against children and adolescents. States must facilitate dialogue among parties.
For its part, the Catholic Church had partnered with the United Nations in combating the use of children as combatants through various structures operating in conflict zones, he said. Numerous national, regional and international initiatives had seen success in preventing other violations of children’s dignity, and recommendations by the Special Representative for Governments to enact strong legislation, facilitate data collection and undertake an integrated approach in which laws, policies and services guaranteed victims’ protection, could go a long way to ending violence against children and adolescents. In that context, he urged Governments to support the family and work together to bring an end to all forms of violence against children. He also encouraged States, United Nations agencies and civil society to ensure love, care and assistance to those affected by such abuse.
Ms. CHO HYUNGHWA ( Republic of Korea) said that progress had been made regarding the rights of the child, but the principle of the right to be heard required more attention. The views and voices of young children around the world had to be understood and heard, even before they were able to communicate through spoken language. Although the right to be heard was not well-identified, the international community had tried to provide forums where children could be heard, and her Government appreciated that the report of the Secretary-General on violence against children and of the Special Rapporteur on child pornography had encouraged the participation of children. With regard to methods concerning the right to be heard, her country had established youth participation committees and youth steering committees. Because such forums were useful only when the right to education was guaranteed, her country promoted and was close to achieving universal primary education.
The representative also discussed juvenile justice, stating that children affected by crimes needed proper protection, and that their successful rehabilitation was crucial for the future. Her Government’s policy on children who were criminal offenders focused on prevention and reintegration more than punishment. During the revision of the country’s juvenile act, alternative education for children and their guardians was initiated, in order to emphasize the importance of providing a nurturing environment for juveniles. It was every nation’s obligation to provide a proper environment, where children could be raised as healthy members of society.
TINE MORCH SMITH (Norway) said that last month, at the High-level Plenary on the Millennium Development Goals, there was discussion on how to accelerate progress with regard to gender equality, education, health, environmental protection and the overriding goal of breaking the chains of poverty. Each and every one of those goals was relevant today when focusing on the legal protection societies extended to the most vulnerable citizens, the children. Promoting the rights of the child was an integral part of endeavours to ensure a healthy upbringing, equal educational opportunities and protection from want and violence, so that every person could live in dignity, pursue happiness and well-being and truly harness his or her potential. Promoting the rights of the child must be part of a sound macroeconomic policy. She said that the goals could only be achieved by respecting and fulfilling the human rights standards of equality and non-discrimination.
UNICEF recently launched an important evidence-based study, which said that there was tremendous potential and cost-effectiveness in an equity-focused approach to child survival and development. In other words, it was cost-effective to invest more aid in the poorest and more marginalized areas. As the second largest donor to UNICEF, Norway warmly welcomed that report. She urged countries to show leadership and increase national investments in social sectors. Moving on to other issues, she noted that violence was still a harsh reality for millions of children around the world, with devastating consequences for children’s physical and emotional health. In a global perspective, girls were particularly vulnerable, and special attention was required to eliminate harmful traditional attitudes and practices. As a final point, she noted that Professor Kirsten Sandberg was a candidate for the upcoming election to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. Norway was convinced that Professor Sandberg would make a valuable contribution to the work of the Committee, and would greatly appreciate the support of all States parties.
MOHD FAREED ZAKARIA ( Malaysia) said it was Malaysia’s belief that protection of the rights of children must be among the priorities of every country’s development agenda. While serious efforts must be taken at the national level by every State to ensure children were protected, many problems faced by children in developing countries were closely related to underdevelopment, poverty and conflict. Those could not be solved unless the underlying developmental issues were seriously addressed and the countries concerned provided with the required resources. In terms of its own policies, the Government was amending the Child Act 2001, to ensure it followed four principles: non-discrimination; the best interest of the child; the right to life; survival; and respect for the views of the child.
Several proposed amendments were: to repeal the corporal punishment sentence by replacing it with community service for certain offences; to insert a section pertaining to the power of an “authorized person” to take care of a child in need of care and protection under temporary custody; to increase the penalty of the offence relating to abuse, neglect, abandonment; and to increase the penalty of the offence relating to procure any child for the purposes of begging, or other illegal activities. Parallel to the legal process that were being undertaken, policies were being improved, and included the National Policy on Children and Plan of Action, which set out a broad framework of actions and measures to be undertaken by the Government. In addition, the National Policy on Reproductive and Social Health Education was formulated, with the recognition that reproductive and social health education was the basis for the development of a knowledgeable and informed society. In conclusion, Malaysia reaffirmed its strong commitment to the efforts in protecting and promoting the rights of children, and noted it was a priority.
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