|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fifth General Assembly
16th & 17th Meetings (AM & PM)
Third Committee Speakers Describe Wide Range of Ways — from Reintegration of Child
Soldiers to Rural Schools-on-Wheels — Countries Promote Child Rights
Hears from 49 Speakers on Third Day of Debate;
Nigeria : ‘Investment in Children Is the Best Investment a Government Can Make’
From the reintegration of child soldiers to rural schools-on-wheels and the daily recital of a national pledge, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) was told today of the many ways in which Member States have been promoting and protecting the rights of children, in light of their respective socio-economic and cultural situations.
Representatives from 48 countries and one observer took the floor during a full-day discussion on the rights of children, two days after Anthony Lake, the new director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), used his address to the Committee to appeal to the global community to reach the neediest children in their critical early years with adequate nutrition and protection.
“Investment in children is the best investment a government can make,” the representative of Nigeria said, after her counterpart from Colombia said her country aimed to provide a better life for all children — a strategy called “the right to happiness” — and urged the international community to support national efforts to “make boys and girls happy”.
The representative of Burundi said that, in the aftermath of civil war, her country had made the demobilization of child soldiers and their reintegration into their families a priority, with a national strategy to that end adopted by the Government. Several other delegations from Africa referred to their efforts to halt and push back the spread of HIV/AIDS, with the representative of Swaziland noting how the illness had been responsible for a surge in orphans and vulnerable children.
The critical value of education came up many times, with the representative of Kenya describing how her country has been reaching out to children in semi-arid and arid areas with mobile schools. More children in Kenya were being encouraged to attend boarding schools as well, while the representative of India explained that a quarter of the places in private schools were reserved for youngsters from poor families. In the area of nutrition, his counterpart from Bolivia noted how quinoa, an Andean herb with seeds rich in nutrients and calories, was being used to better feed young people.
The representative of Afghanistan spoke at length on the impact of 30 years of war on his country’s children. They had suffered serious injuries, disabilities, hunger, dehydration, lack of medical care and death, yet “the resilience of the children of Afghanistan shines through”. His counterpart from Iraq said that, after years of war and dictatorship, the country has been making headway since 2007 in the rebuilding of schools and health services, and in attending to the special needs of children left disabled by explosive devices. The representative of Singapore, meanwhile, described how his country had worked to make their infant mortality rate one of the lowest in the world and explained how youngsters there were taught the importance of understanding and respect for diversity. To that end, they were required to take the national pledge every day to be “one united people, regardless of race, language or religion…”.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Venezuela, Algeria, Indonesia, Honduras, Yemen, Belarus, Zimbabwe, Ukraine, Ghana, Haiti, Maldives, Bhutan, Lesotho, Congo, United Arab Emirates, Slovenia, Monaco, Jamaica, Eritrea, Iceland, Bangladesh, Georgia, Uruguay, Cameroon, Oman, Zambia, Costa Rica, Turkey, Syria, Montenegro, Slovakia, Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia and Serbia.
The Observer of Palestine also spoke.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Monday, 18 October, to conclude its discussion of the rights of children, and to begin its discussion of indigenous issues and the Second International Decade of World’s Indigenous People.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its debate on the rights of children. For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/3979.
JULIET GICHERU ( Kenya) said that her country has long recognized that its future lay with the well-being of its children and youth, who made up about 65 per cent of the population. Since the adoption of “A World Fit for Children,” it had remained committed to attaining time-bound goals for young people. Spending on the social services has substantially increased in recent years, allowing the expansion of immunization programmes, free medical care for expectant mothers and children under 5 years of age, free treatment for malaria and tuberculosis, and free provisions of anti-retroviral drugs and vitamin A. There had also been a national campaign to promote the use of insecticide-treated nets, while an initiative called “Malezi Bora” (Proper Upbringing), supported by the United Nations system, promoted maternal and child health and reduced malnutrition. Such efforts had been bearing fruit, with child mortality on the decline, more street children rescued and rehabilitated, and a cash transfer programme established for families caring for orphans and vulnerable children.
The most dramatic success in Kenya in terms of meeting the second of the Millennium Development Goals had been in education. Unprecedented numbers of children were in school following the abolition of tuition in primary and secondary education, and mobile schools had been established for children from pastoralist communities living in arid and semi-arid parts of Kenya. More children were being encouraged to attend boarding schools. Child mortality in Kenya was still high, despite Government efforts, due to challenges related to access, personnel, workload and tools. A free 24-hour children’s hotline had been instituted for the reporting of any violation of children’s rights and Kenya’s new Constitution specifically guarantees free education, basic nutrition, shelter, health care, and parental care and protection for children.
JORGE VALERO ( Venezuela), stating that poverty, inequality and social exclusion affected the spiritual development of boys and girls, said that the fundamental policies of Venezuela were focused on the rights of the child. Venezuela had approved legislation, in keeping with the precepts of the United Nations, that was based on equal conditions and non-discrimination for children, whether they be of Venezuelan nationality or not. With a view of strengthening the State’s role, the national council for the rights of boys, girls, and adolescents was created. The committee for the social protection of boys, girls and adolescents also oversaw public management in those sectors. Venezuela’s national-socialist strategic plan implemented social missions and programmes to protect the rights of boys, girls and adolescents. For example, a neighbourhood programme called “Boys and Girls of the Barrio” addressed the provision of comprehensive assistance to the most vulnerable boys and girls, including those with disabilities. Freedom of association, the expression of opinions and the right to be heard were also guaranteed in Venezuela.
Innovative programmes were put into place to guarantee comprehensive education resulting in high rates of child attendance and completion of school, he said. The economic and social development plan for 2007 to 2013 also guaranteed ongoing state policies in those sectors. Despite the fact that Venezuela had not been spared the perverse effects of the global economic crisis, more Venezuelan women enjoyed better conditions, and social investment had become a national strategy to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Achievements in Venezuela were quantifiable, and comprehensive care for boys and girls was part of that programme. Sixty per cent of state revenues in 1999 to 2009 were earmarked for social investment, and the country was making progress towards a universal social security system. Infant mortality had been reduced by 28 per cent. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Venezuela was also one of five countries in the world with the highest university education rate.
FALIH HILMI ( Iraq) said terrorist acts have had a serious impact on children and society in general in Iraq, which had a heritage of dictatorship and war. Much had to be done with regard to children’s education and health. Rates of malnutrition had been high, a situation made worse by poverty. Because of the security situation, children had not been able to attend school and adolescents lacked skills. There has been some improvement since 2007, however, with the rehabilitation of hundreds of schools and health services and the launch of pilot schemes to correct the situation. In the social services, special attention had been given to children who needed psychological help and to those left disabled by explosive devices; help was also available for orphans, street children, children who ran afoul of the law and those who married at a very young age.
International instruments were the benchmark for the protection of children in Iraq, where society had suffered greatly from many years of terrorism, he said. At the Government level, the labour ministry has created a special project aimed at disabled children and orphans throughout the country. Education for children was emphasized, together with their intellectual development, and projects had been initiated to encourage children to reject violence and to promote an ethos of peace. The Government was grateful to all international and humanitarian organizations that had helped Iraq to deal with the heavy responsibility on its shoulders.
MOURAD BENMEHIDI ( Algeria) recalled that children were the first to be subjected, in a disproportionate way, to the effects of socio-economic instability, violence in all its forms and exploitation. Without concrete and rigorous action, the rights of children, who represented a fragile social category, were likely to be compromised, particularly in African countries. Algeria was party to the main international instruments regarding the rights of children, including Convention 182 of the International Labour Organization concerning the prohibition of the worst forms of child labour. National strategies on the family, childhood and violence against children had been adopted in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Algeria had been combating child labour and the exploitation of children for prostitution, as well as the use of information technology enabling the diffusion of pornographic scenes featuring children. In that regard, severe sanctions were set down in the penal code for the rape and sexual abuse of children, as well as exploitation of children by prostitution rings. Algeria had seen a reduction in infant mortality from 34.7 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2002 to 25.5 per 1,000 in 2009, and non-discriminatory, free and mandatory education for children up to the age of 16 was a priority for the government. The rate of enrolment in school for this year was 97.96 per cent, with more than 8 million children attending classes. Specific measures for school transportation, school meals and subsidized school textbooks had also been taken, and the President has decreed a 50 per cent increase in school allowances.
BONANZA TAIHITU ( Indonesia) noted the positive adherence to the Convention on the Rights of the Child around the globe had not been without challenges — “There had been successes and failures.” Nevertheless, he had every confidence the promotion and protection of the rights of the child would continue to be strengthened and gain momentum. Indonesia shared the view reflected in the Secretary-General’s report that the quality of the earliest relationships and care was crucially important for children’s survival and their development, and the Millennium Development Goals were also an important avenue to promote children’s rights.
The State needed to provide assistance to family members and other caregivers — family was the cornerstone of Indonesian society and the best means to ensure children’s rights. The Government recognized poverty diminished the opportunity to exercise the rights of individuals in the family, and was using community-based approaches in microcredit, health and education to realize equal development. Indonesia was also crafting a national plan of action to eliminate violence against children and was taking measures to eliminate the worst forms of child labour and combat child trafficking. He urged closer cooperation between the United Nations system and the regional mechanism related to child issues, saying Indonesia remained committed to the fulfilment of the Rights of the Child.
INGRID SABJA DAZA ( Bolivia) said her country had come a long way since it adopted a new law on the rights of its children and adolescents. Boys, girls and adolescents were subjects with rights, not objects of compassion, exploitation and repression. According to a report from UNICEF, Bolivia had made important progress in promoting and protecting the rights of children and adolescents, but poverty conspired to make that progress look less than significant. The new Constitution contained 120 articles that enshrined the full range of rights of children and adolescents, following on the development plan of 2006 that proposed a development model that envisioned a participation-based social state.
The main challenges vis-à-vis children were to reduce infant mortality and malnutrition, she said. To address malnutrition, factories had been processing quinoa, which was high in nutrients and calories. Universal health care had been extended to indigenous peoples in rural areas in a way that respected their culture. Child labour was often the result of unemployment among their parents; minors usually went to work in the morning so as to go to school later in the day, but academic performance suffered and the children eventually dropped out. Forced labour and child exploitation was, thus, prohibited in the Constitution. Human rights could not be protected if children were not protected; it was a matter of safeguarding everyone’s rights and freedoms.
MARY E. FLORES ( Honduras) said despite achievements and comforting advances regarding the empowerment of women throughout the world, the void of relegation, marginalization and vulnerability continued to run deep in Honduras. “The distance separating the horizon of hope of a poor Honduran peasant woman who lives on a mountain, alone” with many children to raise and educate, was enormously disparate from the urban professional woman that enjoyed the privileges of modernism — almost like the “atrocious gap” between the impoverishment “in our barefooted nations” contrasted with the abundance of the rich and developed nations. For that reason, “as we continue this struggle for the equity that is still incomplete”, she thought of those women who, due to their precarious living conditions, did not even know the meaning of that term. She was thinking of the dry cracked hands and sun-toasted faces of peasant women abandoned by their insensitive husbands; women heads of households who supported their families by working long hours in factories; and fellow countrywomen milling corn and “putting tortillas in their adobe ovens” living in miserable shanties that would be washed away in the first flood. She was full of admiration for all those “heroic fighters” against adversity, those poor mothers who, as a poet of her homeland had written, “had no other cradle than the cradle of their arms — which is the cradle of the poor — the warmest of all cradles”.
She went on to say that she shared those same feelings for the “intelligent, noble and starry-eyed children” of her homeland, whose parents struggled to give them a good education that was denied to them by poverty and misfortune. While many children had lofty aspirations to become doctors, teachers or astronauts, many children in Honduras were left only to dream. When asked what they wanted to be when they grow up, they often would respond, “I will grow corn like my dad,” or “I’m going to wash and iron clothes, like my mom,” she said. There was no work that was not dignified, but the future of Honduran children must transcend the possibilities of the limited context in which they live. In closing, she said great achievements were not possible if the goals were not mountains. “And our challenge, for which we must strive every day, is the reason our children may dream of great things.”
WAHEED AL-SHAMI ( Yemen) said that the objective of a world fit for children had not yet been met because of obstacles such as poverty, disease, war and violence, which had been exacerbated by the world’s economic, food, energy and climate crises. Noting numerous international conventions that the Government had signed regarding issues from labour to the disabled, Yemen discussed its legislation relevant to children, such as the law on the rights of the child, which were in line with international obligations. Institutional mechanisms, such as the supreme council for motherhood and childhood, had been established, and a number of governmental departments were concerned with children. Yemen had also launched a national strategy in 2007 on children and youth. Despite limited resources, Yemen had accomplished much to enhance the rights of the child, including declaring the country free from polio in 2008, decreasing the prevalence of measles from 500 to 2 cases in 2000, adopting social protection strategies for the most vulnerable and developing a national action plan to prevent child labour and trafficking of children.
Believing in the importance of allowing kids to express their concerns, Yemen also expressed support for the idea of having a “parliament for children”, because it would raise a new generation that promoted democracy and allowed children to discuss their concerns and requirements from the Government. Yemen welcomed such recent developments in the United Nations as the adoption of the convention on human trafficking and the global strategy on women’s and children’s health, as well as the launching of two optional protocols on the rights of the child. It supported all the efforts exerted by international partners to provide a better life for children, as concerted national and international efforts were necessary to improve conditions. Additionally, Yemen noted that it was unfortunate that Arab children remained under the yoke of Israeli occupation and that their basic rights were being violated, stating that it was due time for the international community to put an end to the occupation of children, so that they could live in peace.
CLAUDIA BLUM ( Colombia) associated with the statement delivered by Chile on behalf of the Rio Group and said, as a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols, Colombia recognized the value of those international instruments and had incorporated them into domestic laws. “Investing in children, and particularly in their early childhood, is crucial for achieving the Millennium Development Goals and for the strategies to accelerate their fulfilment,” she said. There had been significant advancement in child schooling in the poorest countries as well as reductions to infant mortality, but global action was needed on child malnutrition and issues related to maternal and child health.
For equity and social inclusion, Colombia had given priority to efforts on early childhood rights to adequate nutrition, education, health and protection. The Government had made significant progress in its goal to achieve integral development of all Colombian children from gestation to age 6, aiming to provide a better life for all children. “We have developed a strategy called ‘the right to happiness,’” she said. “All Colombian institutions are working to provide a differentiated and privileged attention to the most vulnerable populations.” She described her country’s education strategies, which had achieved full coverage in basic education, both primary and secondary, paying particular attention to vulnerable populations. Colombia had also fought, through law and policy, the commercial sexual exploitation of children and implemented a policy to prevent the forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict. The Government had provided protection to 4,200 children removed from illegal armed groups. She added it was also the duty of the international community to support national efforts to make all girls and boys happy, as working in favour of young children strengthened democracy. The United Nations had to promote cooperation among States to meet goals for childhood set out by this Assembly, she said.
ZOYA KOLONTAI ( Belarus) said that many of the aims that had been set forth regarding the rights of the child were still ambitious plans, as the economic crisis had exacerbated such world problems as forced migration and climate change, creating serous problems for development. Belarus supported the international community’s efforts to protect children and had undertaken various obligations for itself. Its fourth presidential programme regarding children until 2015 included provisions intended to promote the intellectual and spiritual development of children and their adaptation to life in modern society. Promoting dignified childhoods was necessary for the development of Belarus, in both the short and long term.
The elimination of poverty and hunger had been attained in Belarus, which was a major achievement, she continued. All children were guaranteed a primary school education, as well as access to free education in state institutions at the primary and secondary levels. Because the welfare of a nation was determined by the health of the nation, Belarus welcomed the United Nations strategy to protect the health of women and children. The improvement of children’s health lay at the base of Belarus’ policies and was a priority. Hoping to become a country with a low infant mortality rate, Belarus now had the rate of 6 per 1,000, and improvement in the mortality rate was helped by a wide network of hospitals and doctors. Belarus also welcomed efforts of the Special Representative dealing with child protestation and pornography.
The Government has sent an invitation for United Nations representatives to visit Belarus and hoped to solve topical problems at the international and national level relating to the global plan of action on trafficking. Additionally, she supported efforts by UNICEF to address such issues as child nutrition and access to clean water and sanitation, stating that it was important to attract resources for the implementation of those projects, including those in her own country.
C. CHIPAZIWA ( Zimbabwe) called for scaling up implementation of effective measures to eliminate the root causes of the abuse of children’s rights. To that end, he urged development partners to provide developing nations with financial and technical assistance to create a world fit for healthy children. For its part, Zimbabwe had put in place a framework to legally and socially protect children, adopting the Sexual Offences Act, which provided protection for child victims of sexual abuse and trafficking in women and children, and a national programme for orphans and vulnerable children. Internationally, his Government was party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, The Hague Convention on Protection and Cooperation in Respect on Inter-country Adoption and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of Children.
Recalling that investment in children was the basis for equitable socio-economic development, he said he was aware that some customary practices had resulted in Zimbabwe’s children being relegated to “back-bencher” status in matters affecting them, which impeded full realization of their rights. Thus, the Government had supported the creation of children’s forums, such as the Children’s Parliament, and youth associations that tapped into children’s thoughts on important issues that concerned them. He expressed concern at Zimbabwe’s regression in realizing health-related Millennium Goals, including combating maternal and child mortality. Zimbabwe was determined to scale up its responses to regain momentum. With help from its partners, Zimbabwe had reduced HIV/AIDS prevalence. It also had the highest literacy rate in Africa. In closing, he called for the lifting of sanctions imposed a decade ago, which would go a long way in helping the country reach the Goals.
STEVEN TAY ( Singapore) said his country was fully committed to fulfilling its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, promoting the interests and welfare of its children through an extensive series of laws. This year it would accede to The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspect of International Child Abduction in recognition of the need to protect children from wrongful removal and retention after the dissolution of cross-border marriages. Singapore had also allocated increasing amounts to improve preventive aspects of child health-care. As a father he was happy to share the good result. In the 1960s, the infant mortality rate had been 3 deaths out of every 1000 live births. Today, the rate was 2.2 per 1000, one of the lowest in the world. But he said it would continue to work at improving the survival rate of its “very precious resources”. Singapore’s ability-driven education system had reduced drop-out rates and did well by most international comparisons by emphasizing learning at a child’s own pace and ability.
“Our children today mix freely and happily with each other,” he said. “In school, they are taught that this state of affairs should not be taken for granted.” They learned the importance of understanding and respecting different races, cultures and religion. Every day, schoolchildren said the national pledge, where they undertake to be “one united people, regardless of race, language or religion, to build a democratic society, based on justice and equality, so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation.” When Singapore hosted the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in August, it took the opportunity to encourage racial and religious harmony when its students set culture booths at the Olympic Village for every participating country.
OLHA KAVUN ( Ukraine) said her Government paid particular attention to the promotion of the rights of children, considering it a matter of national strategic priority. Ukraine continued its trend of aligning national legislation with the provisions of international instruments, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the country’s implementation of a National Action Plan until 2016 was on track. In accordance with the State Program on the Reproductive Health of the Nation for the period until 2015, programmes on breastfeeding support and modern perinatal technologies had been introduced. As a result, infant mortality decreased from 14.7 per 1,000 live births to 9.4 in 2009. Ukraine had implemented measures aimed at improving the health of children, and, in 2009, mandatory medical preventive examinations covered 98 per cent of the total child population. A comprehensive approach was taken to the problem of vertical transmission of HIV in Ukraine, reducing the risk of HIV transmission from mother to child from 40 per cent for children born in 2001 to 6.2 per cent for children born in 2007.
Despite substantial progress, Ukraine still faced challenges, she said. Among the main priorities for the future were increasing the level of medical care, combating HIV/AIDS, ensuring access to quality education, preventing homelessness and neglect of children, protecting the rights of orphans and children deprived of prenatal care, developing social services for children and strengthening cooperation with non-governmental organizations. Ukraine expressed its commitment to cooperating with United Nations bodies such as UNICEF, the International Organization for Migration, and the International Labour Organization (ILO) to protect childhood and motherhood. The Government welcomed the decision of the Executive Board of UNICEF to extend for one year the programme of cooperation between Ukraine and UNICEF for 2006-2010, stating that, among many issues, it hoped to address problems relating to the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster. Noting that promoting children’s rights was determined as one of the priorities of the Ukrainian presidency, she said that Ukraine was planning to host an international conference on protecting children from all forms of violence in November 2011, in Kiev.
NADINE MUHIMPUNDU ( Burundi) said that, in the difficult context of emerging from conflict, her Government had been giving priority to the demobilization of child soldiers and their reintegration into their families. There were no more child soldiers in Burundi and, in order to best return them to social life, a national strategy for the reintegration of persons affected by the conflict had been adopted by the Government. A national policy and plan of action for orphans and other vulnerable children, put into effect four years ago, was being revised with a view to building on its strengths, with UNICEF participating in the dialogue.
Positive effects had resulted from the decision taken by the Government five years ago to provide primary education at no charge. The rate of registration in primary education now stood at 92 per cent, compared with 36 per cent in 2005, while disparities between boys and girls in primary and secondary education were diminishing. Much had been contributed by the public in terms of building school infrastructure. Noticing delays in parents registering their children, the interior ministry had launched a pilot project in three provinces to encourage them to do so, without making them pay fines. With the appearance of street children in the wake of the country’s armed conflict and ensuing economic situation, a committee has been established to look into the problem in depth, in order to develop solutions.
LESLIE CHRISTIAN ( Ghana) said that today, Ghana had some of the most progressive policies and legislation in Africa to realize the rights of children. Net primary school enrolment was among the highest on the continent at 89 percent, while child mortality had dropped by 30 percent, stimulated by investment in the expansion of effective health-care services that focused on the top childhood killers such as diarrhoea, malaria, measles and malnutrition. However, recent statistics suggested that maternal and child malnutrition contributed to more than a third of child deaths worldwide. Additionally, 28 percent of the population still lived in poverty with inadequate access to health care, nutrition, education and protection, while the maternal mortality rate remained unacceptably high. However, the Government was determined to invest in social development and achieve results for children, and in that way had a real chance of meeting key targets of the Millennium Development Goals.
Measures taken to tackle issues of the protection and promotion of children’s rights included the establishment of Community Child Protection Committees; a Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) policy; Skills Training and Employment Placement (STEP) policy; Street Children component of the Community-based Poverty Reduction Project; the Adolescent Reproductive Health Policy; National Policy Guidelines on Orphans and other Children made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS; and a National HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) policy. Naturally, he said that adequate resources needed to be allocated to implement Government policies, improve health-care provisions to reduce the high rate of neonatal deaths, contain the HIV/AIDS epidemic, increase birth registration in rural areas, improve the capacity and coordination of implementing partners, provide leisure and recreation for children, and increase retention and completion rates for primary education. While significant progress had been made, substantial improvements still needed to be made by stakeholders at all levels, development partners, organizations, Governments and civil society. The rights of the child strongly hinged on the capacities and resources available to the major caregivers of the child.
MARIE FRANÇOISE BERNADEL ( Haiti) said that, according to new statistics from the International Labour Bureau, the number of “economically active” children under the age of 14 has, since the end of the 1990s, oscillated between 176 million and 211 million. The persistence of poverty was the principal reason why child labour continued. By working in the fields or in small jobs in the informal sector, they had contributed to the subsistence of their families. In some countries lacking social protection, their wages helped to buffer their families against the loss of an adult’s job, the departure of the head of the household, a poor harvest, a natural disaster or the onslaught of illness.
More than half the population of Haiti was under the age of 21, and 12 per cent were under the age of 5, she said. Education was key to their future, particularly after the devastating earthquake that seriously damaged nearly 80 per cent of schools in the capital Port-au-Prince and nearby towns. Priority was being given to professional and technical training, and the government was also working to restore public order in shantytowns, where groups of young people had been involved in reprehensible acts resulting in unemployment and the disintegration of families. Training, participation and action were the three pillars of Haiti’s efforts to improve the socio-economic situation of young people in the context of the Millennium Development Goals.
ABDUL GHAFOOR MOHAMED ( Maldives) said that young people comprised some 45 per cent of the population in his country’s capital city alone, and educational and social facilities were inadequate. To deal with the resulting threat of substance abuse, the country had collaborated with UNICEF and other partners to launch drug-awareness campaigns and began work with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on a technical cooperation project on the issue. The country had also made great strides in reducing child mortality and was taking steps to address child abuse and neglect. Much remained to be done, however, in the areas of awareness, prevention, treatment and legal response in problems faced by children, and the country would continue working with its partners on them.
The answers to all such problems, he said, lay “in the pens of policymakers, the guidance of teachers and mentors, the remedies of our health and social institutions and the security and nurturing provided by the family”. All those mainstays of child development and protection, therefore, required support. A party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols, Maldives was helping to lead negotiations on a new protocol that would provide a communications mechanism to enable children to air their grievances, in order for their rights to have real significance. In addition, he noted that his country was extremely vulnerable to climate change, saying that “the costs endured by this phenomenon will surely continue to deprive our children of their basic rights”.
SANGYE CHEWANG ( Bhutan) said that since the inception of its development endeavours in the 1960s, the rights of children remained at the core of Bhutan’s development philosophy, with many of the goals translated into policies and programmes. Bhutan was among the first countries to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Child in 1990, as well as two of the optional protocols on the Sale of Children Prostitution and Child Pornography and the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. Since that time, significant progress regarding the protection of children had been made in Bhutan’s legislature. For example, the Child Care and Protection Bill and the Adoption Bill, which were expected to be adopted during the Parliament’s upcoming winter session, he said.
Turning to education, he said the Bhutan’s Constitution guaranteed the right to free education, up to high school, for all children. Further, its Penal Code and Civil and Criminal Procedure Code protected a child’s right to privacy during trials. Regarding progress on its Millennium Goals, Bhutan was on track to achieve universal primary education by 2015 and was making strides in its efforts to reduce child mortality by two thirds. In addition, the Bhutan Government had signed the United Nations Convention in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and was working on special education programmes to integrate disabled children into the school system. Further, the National Commission for Women and Children had organized training programmes that targeted children, including youth leadership training, among other programmes. In closing, he said Bhutan has much to be proud of but faced many challenges. He called on the international community for its continued support and assistance so that his country could pursue further development programmes focused on protecting the rights of children.
YOUSEF N. ZEIDAN, Observer of Palestine, stated that it was regrettable that millions of children continued to be denied the most basic of human rights that were essential for their survival, well-being and development. Such was the case of the children of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Those children had been impacted by serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law committed by Israel, robbing them of any sense of safety and security. The Israeli assault on the Occupied Gaza Strip during December 2008 and January 2009 resulted in the deaths of over 350 Palestinian children and the injury of 1,800 more. Destruction of infrastructure included 18 schools and nearly half of the health facilities. Among the devastating consequences, 40,000 Palestinian children were prevented from enrolling in United Nations schools this year, he added, due to the ban on building materials for school construction. Moreover, the blockade had resulted in a dire humanitarian crisis with dozens of children dying while waiting for Israeli travel permits to seek life-saving medical treatment. He described a recent incident in which a 5-year-old with respiratory complications died because the occupying Power would not allow him to transfer from Gaza to an Israeli hospital.
Turning to the Occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, he drew attention to home demolitions and evictions by Israeli occupying forces, rendering children homeless. Those children also lived in fear of being attacked by the same forces or illegal Israeli settlers who were “heavily armed with total impunity” to kill. Just a few days ago, he recalled, the world watched in horror as an Israeli settler used his car to run over two young Palestinian boys. “When will the time come” for the international community to bring an end to Israeli violations? he asked. Israel — the occupying power — had to end its occupation and allow the Palestinian people, including the children, to realize their inalienable rights.
ZAHIR TANIN ( Afghanistan) said his country faced challenges protecting the rights of children because of 30 years of war, destruction and terrorism. Not only did the children of Afghanistan confront serious injuries, disabilities, hunger, dehydration, lack of medical care and even death, they also faced the detrimental psychological effects of growing up in wartime. “Despite all this, the resilience of the children of Afghanistan shines through,” he said. School enrolment increased 71 per cent this year, and around 37 per cent of the 7 million Afghan students were girls a decade after, under Taliban rule, none were allowed to go to school or work. Basic health-care in Afghanistan had also increased. However, it still had one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world and 50 per cent of its children remained underweight and under-nourished, he said.
Children’s rights and well-being were inextricably linked to security, he said, and disrupting access to school had been a major element of the Taliban strategy. “Just a few months ago, deadly nerve gases were released in Afghan schools, poisoning hundreds of innocent students and teachers, and targeting girls. We believe the Taliban are responsible for these horrendous attacks,” he said. In a war-torn country, a major impediment to protecting children’s rights was the challenge of enforcing the rule of law, he added; fighting such issues as impunity, acts of violence or sexual abuse took time and needed the support of the international community to maintain security throughout the process. He reaffirmed his country’s commitment to creating an environment in which all children could realize their human potential.
PALESA LIPHOTO (Lesotho), aligning with the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said her country had left no stone unturned in its efforts to promote and protect children’s rights, especially as the Convention on the Rights of the Child was now part of domestic legislation. The Children’s Protection Act recognized anyone below age 18 as a child and recognized restorative justice, as opposed to harsh prison sentences, for children in conflict with the law. In addition, Parliament was currently debating the Children’s Protection and Welfare Bill, which aimed to improve the child justice system and drew inspiration from the Convention. It protected different categories of orphans and vulnerable children, encompassing children’s rights to family property and foster care, among other things.
Further, the Government had enacted the 2003 Sexual Offences Act, she said, and put in place a Child and Gender Protection Unit in all police forces to respond to charges of violence against children. Also, as many children had been orphaned due to Lesotho’s high HIV/AIDS incidence, the Government paid school fees for those children, providing monthly grants and food packages. The National AIDS Commission was mandated to ensure that those affected by the pandemic received support. As for education, she said children’s enrolment and completion rates had improved, especially in primary schools, while gender parity in accessing primary education had reached 82 per cent for girls and 75 per cent for boys. While sustaining the Education Act 2010, which provided free and compulsory education, was a challenge, the Government was optimistic about extending it to the secondary level. She also urged concerted efforts to eliminate the scourges of human trafficking, to which children remained vulnerable.
ZWELETHU MNISI (Swaziland), aligning with the SADC, said the “Tinkhundla Fit For Children” programme aimed to pioneer a range of measures to care for all children, including those orphaned and vulnerable. It was rooted in Swazi culture and required communities to care for children regardless of their status. Recognizing the right to equal, non-discriminatory education, he said the Government was in the final stages of implementing “free primary education” and carrying out the concept of “affordable education”, which aimed at realizing Millennium Goal 2 (universal education). Gender parity had been reached at the primary school level. The family was the fundamental group unit and its role could not be underestimated in a child’s development.
Among the most visible challenges was the dramatic increase in the number of orphans and vulnerable children, he said, a situation due mainly to poverty and HIV/AIDS prevalence, but exacerbated by the global crises in food and energy, among others. A new phenomenon of child-headed households had emerged, due to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and to counter its rapid increase, the National Emergency Response Council on HIV and AIDS had launched initiatives founded on traditional Swazi practices, such as “ka-Gogo” (Grandmother) Social Centres and Neighbourhood Care Points, to coordinate and distribute food in areas affected by drought and food insecurity. Also, the King unequivocally condemned all forms of violence against children and was strengthening legislation in that regard. The “Lihlombe Lekukhalela” (A Shoulder to Cry on) programme was designed to educate communities about a child’s right to protection from all forms of violence. He also condemned in the strongest possible terms human trafficking, child slavery and child prostitution.
ANNICK NZOUNZA LEKAKA ( Congo) said that opportunities needed to be provided for children to develop normally, as millions of children lived in poverty. Adequate progress required stronger commitments. The rights of children could only be achieved if people were put at the centre of programming. Congo, as a party to international conventions and regional charters, spared no effort in improving children’s rights with policies targeted at health, education and social protection of the most vulnerable. The country partnered with UNICEF to enhance child protection. It also adopted a law in 2010 that concerned the protection of children, outlining rights and duties. Measures regarding violence and mistreatment were proposed.
However, it had to be acknowledged that more efforts were required. Trafficking was a threat to the child and values of society. Particularly in Central and West Africa, girls were victims of being used as cheap labour, child soldiers, or for prostitution. Since 2004, the Government had started a programme in Pointe Noir, which was home to a large number of foreigners, where trafficking prospered. To deal with that situation, a plan of action for 2007-2008 was implemented through a triparty agreement, including Government representatives and UNICEF. Evaluation resulted in a new plan to extend action, with a view to reintegrating children who were victims of the scourge. Congo was also collaborating with Togo and Gabon, as well, and had entered into an agreement to provide a multilateral framework for combating trafficking in the country. Congo agreed with United Nations reports that emphasis should be on prevention of trafficking. Only ongoing determination and focus on the part of the international community on the rights of children could lead to long-lasting change.
ABDULLAH AL GIHUFLI ( United Arab Emirates) confirmed the country’s determination to support efforts by the United Nations and various agencies concerned with providing children their basic rights, particularly in the face of challenges that had multiplied because of the world economic crisis. His country had applied international and national standards to promote the growth and survival of children, coordinating with local efforts in that regard. The State had ratified international conventions regarding the rights of the child, child labour, minimum age for work, rights of people with disabilities, and discrimination against women. It had enacted laws and regulations, and established national mechanisms concerning children in light of the international conventions concerned. For example, it had adopted a law on human trafficking, as well as a law on the disabled, which provided a general framework to help prepare families to carry out their roles and shoulder responsibilities.
Work was under way to help the authorities end violations of the rights of the child, to consider the issue in all national programmes and schemes, and to allocate independent resources, he said. The Special Rapporteur of the United Nations on trafficking had also visited the United Arab Emirates in October 2009, and the State welcomed proposals to achieve further progress. His country had also improved indicators associated with children’s health, and was increasing access to education. The infant mortality rate in the country was 8.6 per 1,000 live births, and 94 per cent of children were vaccinated in the first year of the life. Not a single case of polio had been registered in the country since 1990. The number of underweight children below the age of 5 had reached the lowest level internationally. The right to education was among the main priorities in the United Arab Emirates, and it had extended its resources to help with education initiatives in poor countries, providing, for example, school supplies for millions of children in other areas. Also children under occupation were deprived of their rights, such as the Palestinian children under occupation, who suffered from a lack of access to main basic rights like food, shelter, and security.
SIMONA LESKOVAR ( Slovenia) aligned with the statement by Belgium on behalf of the European Union. When it came to realizing children’s rights, achievement of the Millennium Development Goals was of the utmost importance – all the Goals had an impact on a child’s present and future, she said. Slovenia fully supported the work of UNICEF and its partners in reaching the most vulnerable. Many other relevant United Nations mechanisms important for the full implementation of the Convention, its two Optional Protocols and other instruments, had been established over the past two decades, and had the full support of Slovenia. Protection of children’s rights was a priority in Slovenian foreign policy; violence, present in every corner of the world and often hidden, had a strong and long-lasting impact on children’s development, health and learning capabilities.
For child victims of armed conflict, urgent cooperation in the fields of human rights, development cooperation and security policy was needed, she said. The fight against impunity was of significant importance when tackling the issue of children and armed conflict. The Convention on the Rights of the Child had provided children their rights, but it was the only core international human rights instrument without a communication procedure. In that respect, Slovenia warmly welcomed developments in the Human Rights Council during the past few years that were leading to establishing one. There was still a long way to ensure children full enjoyment of their rights, and the main responsibility lay in hands of Government, with full cooperation of the international community and civil society.
VALÉRIE BRUELL-MELCHIOR ( Monaco) said the environment in which a child grew up was a determining factor. The fight against poverty, the living conditions and education of the mother, nutrition, access to health and quality primary education were all essential factors for success. International cooperation favouring the protection of children was a priority for the Principality, whose programmes to address hunger, malnutrition, polio, HIV/AIDS, malaria and bilharzia had assisted thousands of children in partner countries. Such programmes targeted the most disadvantaged, notably in rural areas, and recognized the special needs of disabled children. In education, Monaco had been involved in the building and renovation of schools and nurseries, and in training and housing teachers.
Physical and psychological violence left indelible scars which a child would carry into adult life, she said. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children could count on Monaco’s continued support for the strategic programme that she has put into place. The criminal code of Monaco had been strengthened, so as to criminalize all forms of violence, sexual exploitation, prostitution involving children and child pornography. In November 2011, Monaco would be hosting a conference under the auspices of the Council of Europe on the theme “To build a Europe for and with children”. Regarding children in conflict situations, Monaco attached great importance to promoting the notion of “schools as zones of peace” during periods of conflict and to the provision of education in emergency situations.
RAYMOND WOLFE (Jamaica), associating his statement with those made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, the Rio Group and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), looked forward to a consensus adoption of this year’s resolution on the rights of the child, with its focus on early childhood. He expressed serious concern over the sobering prospects for the world’s children as depicted in the Secretary-General’s report, as well as the report of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and reports on the plight of children in armed conflict. In regard to the latter, he announced the intention of his Government to formally endorse and support the Paris Commitments and Principles relating to children associated with armed groups.
He said that his country, in which children currently made up around 34 per cent of the population, had made significant progress in child-relevant Millennium Development Goals. Acknowledging that it was deemed lagging in the reduction of child and maternal mortality, he explained that it was partly because the country already had comparatively low rates. Further gains were mainly dependent on increased financial, technological and human resources, which were scarcer during the current global recession. Despite those challenges, he said Jamaica remained resolute in its commitment to improve the lives of its children, having implemented a wide-ranging policy to counter violence against them. Globally, a comprehensive, intensified approach to the implementation and outcomes of international conferences on socio-economic development was needed.
AMANUEL GIORGIO ( Eritrea), recalling his country’s signature and ratification of the Convention and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of Children, said the Government was also up to date in its reporting of obligations to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. With its long-standing policy to reduce poverty through rapid economic growth and ensuring food security, the Government had drawn up a food security strategy, with therapeutic feeding centres set up at hospitals that had helped reverse the rate of underweight children. Child and maternal health also had been a focus of the public healthcare system, with the launch of the early-childhood development programme to manage childhood illnesses. Under-5 mortality, infant mortality and maternal mortality rates had dropped between 1993 and 2010.
Turning to education, he said children of Eritrea’s nine ethnic groups were instructed in their mother tongue at the primary school level and, since independence, substantial resources had been put towards increasing access and improving the quality of education, from preschool through grade 12. However, only 56.2 per cent of all school-age children were now enrolled in school and the Government was working with UNICEF to increase attendance, especially in nomadic communities. To protect children against abuse, Eritrea also had banned female genital mutilation and had drawn up a national action plan to implement that ban. Another action plan combated children’s commercial exploitation. All State and non-State actors must ensure children were not recruited or victimized in armed conflict, and to that end, Eritrea had endorsed the Paris Commitment.
MARÍA MJÖLL JÓNSDÓTTIR ( Iceland) said that children’s well-being was a major concern for her Government. Through bilateral development cooperation, the construction of schools for poor and marginalized rural children had been complemented by adult literacy projects. The gains of empowering adults to support their children in developing countries had been evident as enrolment and primary school retention rates had increased noticeably. Iceland welcomed the enhanced emphasis placed by UNICEF on reaching out to the most vulnerable children, and thus, those children remained a trusted partner in Iceland’s development assistance. Serving for the first time on UNICEF’s Executive Board, Iceland was more aware than ever of the colossal tasks that remained. She said there was no need to recite statistics; plainly, too many children were not going to school, and too many were under-nourished and needlessly dying, and thus, collective efforts must be stepped up.
Global health was at the core of the Millennium Development Goals, as were efforts to advance the fundamental human rights of women and children, including universal access to health care and equal opportunities to health and life. Iceland welcomed the initiative taken by the Secretary-General in formulating the Global Strategy on Women’s and Children’s Health. That global effort should identify policy changes needed to improve health. Continuing, she said that the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children had outlined before the Committee the need for countries to develop a comprehensive strategy and introduce legislative improvements to address the often hidden and socially accepted violence against children. Iceland was deeply concerned with the persistent phenomena of the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and the closely related issue of trafficking in children. In conclusion, she said that while much had been achieved in the 30 years since the Convention had entered into force, major gaps remained in its implementation.
IQBAL AHMED ( Bangladesh) said the 54 articles on the Child Rights Convention sought to ensure the well-being of all children and protect them against all forms of exploitation, discrimination, neglect and abuse. The rights recognized included health, education, the relationship between children and parents, civil rights and so on. As one of the treaty’s early ratifying States, Bangladesh was committed to promoting the best interests of the child. As a follow-up to the Convention, the Government had quickly formulated the National Plan of Action for Children. Subsequently, the National Children Policy was drawn up in 1994. The current third National Plan of Action (2005-2010) reflected the goals and objectives of “a world fit for children.”
Responsibility for the promotion and protection of children’s rights rested with Governments, as well as individuals who were involved with children in any way. That included parents, grandparents, older brothers, sisters, and teachers, among others. The rights of the child could best be protected by imparting education and promoting access to health care. Accordingly, he said that in Bangladesh, education and health sectors received significant budget allocation with a focus on children. In addition, Bangladesh had made progress in reducing child mortality and malnutrition. Disparities between boys and girls in most social indicators had also been reduced and in some cases eliminated — for instance, in primary and secondary school enrolment. Over the years, the Government had enacted stringent legislative acts to protect children, in particular, girls from all forms of abuse. He added that Government collaboration with the private sector and civil society had resulted in notable improvements in the overall situation of children in the country.
NELI SHIOLASHVILI ( Georgia) said her country’s Government had been working to create a favourable environment for social inclusion and children’s development. It created the Action Plan on Child Welfare and several institutional initiatives to harmonize national legislation with international standards. The number of children in institutions had dropped from 5,000 in 2004 to 1,000 this year. Gatekeeping, foster care and reuniting children with their biological relatives had been effective ways to reintegrate children into society. The Government had supported creation of alternative childcare networks, non-governmental organizations and facilities run by parent associations. It had trained 200 social and childcare workers and funded some of their activities. It was tackling existing child welfare challenges by improving the coverage and quality of community services, particularly for disabled children, registering and providing services for street children, and reforming the child welfare system.
Georgia’s child referral procedure, put in place two years ago, was effective in protecting children from all forms of violence, she said. In that regard, support from UNICEF and the European Union had been very valuable. Georgia’s Government had recently endorsed the Paris Commitments to prevent the use of children in armed conflict. Georgia was a State party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention’s Optional Protocol on children in armed conflict entered into force in Georgia last month. While addressing the rights of children, she wanted to draw attention to the vulnerable displaced families and their children. Thousands of families with children were forced to leave their homes during the August 2008 foreign military aggression and consecutive occupation of Georgia – more than 400,000 internally displaced persons. Children suffered the most from occupation, including hindered access to health care, denial of the right to education, forced conscription and forced labour.
GABRIELA ORTIGOSA (Uruguay), calling on all States to achieve universal ratification of the Convention and its optional protocols, said that children made up the most vulnerable segments of society and that policies had to be established to protect them. Children had a right to be heard and to receive answers to their questions when decisions were made that affected their lives. They should be able to go to court to demand due process in defence of their rights. Uruguay had been working hard in promoting children’s rights, establishing an honorary advisory council made up of representatives of Government and civil society, so the State would be able to better discharge its functions, examine budgetary items and generate new proposals. A particularly interesting subject in Uruguay was the “infantilization of poverty” — the fact that more than 60 per cent of individuals in the country below 18 years of age were also below the poverty level. Uruguay had begun to address that problem and had reduced that statistic by more than 10 per cent. It had begun to work on an integrated system, focusing on both early childhood and the most vulnerable groups, and reducing disparities.
When addressing the Millennium Development Goals, her country had included children’s issues, such as making primary and secondary education universal and improving maternal help. She also expressed concern about the sexual exploitation of boys, girls and adolescents, trafficking, pornography, and other flagrant exploitation of human rights. An asymmetrical use of power existed concerning child labour, the lack of education and family violence. Eradication of such problems required institutional coordination and joint work, as they went beyond the abilities of a single institution. Her Government also reiterated concern about violence, exploitation and abuse regarding children, lamenting that they continued to exist and underlining that they must be prevented. She also said that children’s rights during early childhood — which was an essential stage in the development of a child — must be ensured for the future success of societies.
ADOLPHE MINKOA SHE ( Cameroon) said it was a sad reality that the situation of children remained a matter of great concern in many parts of the world, particularly in Africa, due to social and economic constraints, natural disasters, armed conflict and humanitarian crises, as well as the exploitation of child labour, illness, hunger and illiteracy. The gravity of the challenge in developing countries was set out in the statistics provided in the Secretary-General’s reports. Halting and reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS was a matter of public health and human rights. More than ever, there needed to be action.
Cameroon, which this year presented its second periodic report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, adopted in 2009 a national policy on the development of children up to the age of eight, clearly defining the steps that needed to be taken by 2012 in priority areas. In terms of health-care, the accent was on the health of mother and child, better nutrition and food security, testing for illnesses and rehabilitation of children with physical or learning disabilities. Prevention and access to treatment were the highlights of the second phase of a strategic plan of action to combat HIV/AIDS, with greater awareness-building among young people. Cameroon has also put a special accent on paediatric care, adding iodine to salt to prevent goitre, and systematically distributing vitamin A to children.
Ms. AL-YAHYAI (Oman) said her country was a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but those rights had always been safeguarded in the country, even before the Convention was developed. Taking every possible measure to implement the principles of the Convention, Oman was a partner with UNICEF and supported the financing of its programmes. It was linked with other programmes and United Nations agencies dealing with the rights of the child. Her country had also ratified relevant protocols on organized crime and the illicit trafficking of women and children and child labour. The Government praised the handling of healthcare in the country, noting a decrease in infant mortality and coverage for chronic diseases. Free education existed for all children as of 6 years of age, and dropout rates had been reduced.
Because the cornerstone of any society was the full development of children, she said, Oman had promoted a wide range of activities to develop the practical capacities of children. A website had been established where children could express their views, and an annual meeting of children took place in Oman. Training was organized for staff dealing with children, including training in the development of curricula for children. A museum concerning childhood existed in Oman. Additionally, regarding disabled children, the Government drew attention to their rights and made advanced services and facilities available to them, so they could integrate into society. Attempting to ensure that proper assistance was given to disabled children, Oman supported a specialized research institute concerning children, which also studied and researched the care of those with disabilities.
ANNA MUBUKWANU-SIBANZE, Senior Social Welfare Officer, Ministry of Community Development and Social Services of Zambia, aligned with the SADC, said that, as a State party to the Convention, Zambia was committed to implementing legislative, administrative and other measures to protect and promote children’s rights. To ensure children’s survival, the Government had worked tirelessly to prevent malaria, the main cause of morbidity and mortality in women, as well as children under 5 years of age. Efforts, such as increased delivery of insecticide-treated mosquito nets, had helped decrease malaria deaths among all ages by 66 per cent. Campaigns against measles, polio and other communicable diseases also had been launched. With 1 in 10 new HIV/AIDS infections occurring in children aged 0 to 14 years, the Government had set up facilities for preventing mother-to-child transmission and administering anti-retroviral therapy in all 73 districts, but more efforts were needed.
To protect children from sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking, Zambia had drafted a 2010 anti-gender-based violence bill, he said, which was now before Parliament. The Government also had submitted to Parliament an amendment to the penal code, containing provisions to criminalize the sharing of pornographic material to children, among others. The Anti-Human Trafficking Act recognized the need for international cooperation to end that heinous crime, and he welcomed the creation of the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims to be launched later this year. As an administrative measure, Zambia had set up the Child Protection Unit with trained police officers who worked nationwide. To improve the quality of and access to education, the Government had recruited 5,000 teachers. The public welfare assistance scheme was among the measures being used to improve children’s well-being.
ULIBARRI BILBOA ( Costa Rica), calling for the universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, said that a great deal must be done before achieving a world fit for children, although there had been encouraging progress towards that end. The Government said that investing in early childhood was an essential ethical commitment, and that a long-term impact and difference could be achieved by investing in the youngest persons. A universal registry of births had to be achieved not only to guarantee children’s identities, but to promote compliance with a child’s right to know his or her parents and to be taken care of by them. Identification of fathers would make it possible for children to receive the resources they needed. Fostering responsible paternity was a key principle in the development of children. In Costa Rica, since the adoption of a paternity law in 2001, the percentage of births with unknown parents dropped to 8 per cent. Of petitions by mothers to have paternal recognition, almost 50 per cent were accepted by fathers, and of those who went for DNA testing, half were positive.
He went on to say that Costa Rica promoted support for families, particularly the most vulnerable and those headed by working mothers, so that they would have options in caring for their children. The country also ensured access to quality education, including education about human rights and the rights of the child. Regarding violence against children, he believed a broad strategy was needed, and had adopted corporal punishment as described in its legislation. The country also convened a regional meeting in 2009 on the functioning of parliaments in the elimination of violence against children, and called for the organization of national debates on this issue. The youngest children were particularly at risk of suffering irreversible emotional and physical damage from violence. Costa Rica supported recommendations to fight child prostitution and pornography, as well as international cooperation against trafficking of children. Regarding children and armed conflict, Costa Rica also applauded the growing interest of the Security Council in this initiative.
GIORIA EZEZIKA ( Nigeria) said that her country had enacted the Child’s Rights Act on 31 July 2003, which domesticated into national legislation the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Union Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. To facilitate the realization of the rights recognized in the Convention and the Nigerian Child’s Rights Act (2003), a National Child Policy was approved in 2007. As a response to the growing number of orphans and vulnerable children in Nigeria – from accidents, emergencies, and epidemics such as malaria and HIV/AIDS – a national plan of action on orphans and vulnerable children was launched, also in 2007.
She went on to say that, while Nigeria had made steady progress in primary school enrolment, girls still accounted for more than half of the nation’s out-of-school children. Because education was a basic human right, various intervention strategies had been put in place to enhance the status of girls. Special schools, programmes, and colleges were being designated to assist with girls’ literacy. Other measures included recruitment of more female teachers from catchment communities, establishment of female education boards, and reducing or removing school costs, among others. Other measures to assist and protect children included the Nigerian Children’s Parliament, through which children could influence policy; the Infant/Child Mortality Reduction Program, through which the Nigerian Government had adopted the Integral Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Strategy to reduce childhood morbidity and maternal mortality; and the ratification of two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict and the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography. Yet, despite many efforts, high infant and maternal mortality rates remained a great concern to Nigeria, which remained committed to the work of UNICEF and other international partners to find acceptable and sustainable ways of addressing those challenges.
FAZLI ÇORMAN ( Turkey) noted that his country was a party to the Convention and its two Optional Protocols. In that regard, Turkey had undertaken a comprehensive review of its domestic legal framework and amended parts of its civil, labour, criminal, criminal procedure, and child protection codes, among others, in line with the Convention’s provisions. Human rights and fundamental freedoms had also been further expanded as a result of the adoption of a constitutional reform package this past September. Moreover, the protection of the rights of the child was now provided on a constitutional basis with an amendment to Article 41 of Turkey’s Constitution entitled “Protection of the Family and Children’s Rights”.
That amendment, he said, guaranteed children the right to access adequate protection and care, as well as the right to establish and maintain a personal relationship with his or her parents. He pointed out that the principle of “the best interest of the child” — an umbrella right of the Convention — had been granted on a constitutional basis, as well. As Turkey believed it was a State’s constitutional duty to protect children from all forms of abuse, his country had integrated certain rights contained in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Council of Europe Convention on the Exercise of Children’s Rights and similar international instruments into its Constitution. Finally, he noted that Turkey celebrated Children’s Day annually on 23 April, which marked the inauguration of Turkish Parliament in 1920.
MONIA ALSALEH ( Syria) said that in recent years, early childhood care had been a focus for the Government, especially as outlined in a national advancement programme, and relevant efforts had been translated into national programmes and plans of action. Committees had been established and a “new culture of action” had been entrenched, as had been seen at the Damascus meeting on the protection of children and in the establishment of the first regional centre for the Special Olympics in the Middle East. Moreover, Syria had jointly hosted, with the regional UNESCO office, the Regional Arab Conference on Early Childhood Care, held from 20 to 23 September, which represented a “quantum leap” in elaborating visions. To promote new thought and an integrated vision for work in that field, that Conference raised unprecedented issues, including on better preparation of children from home to kindergarten and from kindergarten to regular school.
Also, a regional framework for action on integrating sectors concerned with early childhood had been developed, she continued. From 27 to 29 July, Syria hosted the Conference on Arab Adolescence to evaluate the second Plan of Action for Childhood, organized around four themes, including development and capacity-building. On other matters, she said Israeli occupation had gravely impacted children in the occupied Syrian Golan. She said that Israel worked to undermine Arab identity by imposing education curricula and neglecting health and education services. The international community was obliged to condemn such violations, which were punishable under international law, and insist on dispatching committees to monitor people’s suffering. Media reports of Israel’s grave violations against children’s rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory were “disgraceful” and she urged standing up against such actions.
MILORAD ŠĆEPANOVIĆ ( Montenegro) strongly supported efforts of different United Nations mandate-holders in encouraging universal ratification of the two Optional Protocols to the Child Rights Convention. Montenegro had recently presented to the Committee on the Rights of the Child reports on its implementation of the treaty and its Protocols. Also, in March 2010, the Government signed a new country programme action plan with UNICEF for the 2010-2011 period, which would help reform child protection and social inclusion. Resulting from that cooperation was the preparation of the Situation Analysis of Women and Children in Montenegro, which identified human, financial and organizational capacities needed for fulfilling children’s rights. Reiterating full support to the Paris Commitments and Paris Principles on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups, he said children’s protection was among the Government’s priorities.
Montenegro would improve efforts to develop the systems, national capacities and State and local institutions to fulfil children’s rights. Also, education reform at all levels was directed towards the achievement of quality education for all, and the new education system was designed to address individual needs, especially those of socially vulnerable groups. To that end, the Strategy for the Development of Pre-school Education for the 2010-2015 period was underway, which would define options for increasing preschool coverage. In the area of elementary education, the goal was to cover all children from marginalized groups, especially those with special needs, to eliminate drop-out. Social inclusion was among the three pillars of the “One UN” programme that had been adopted for the 2010-2015 period. Strengthening national capacities, improving solutions for development problems and adopting the highest European standards in child protection were fundamental principles of Government policies.
MILOŠ KOTEREC ( Slovakia), aligning with the European Union, encouraged all States that had not done so to ratify or accede to the Convention and the Protocols, with full and unconditional application. There was ample evidence from the reporting process under the Convention that the rights of millions of children were not being respected and legal obligations were not being fulfilled. The lack of a communications procedure for the Convention, the only international human rights treaty that lacked one, weakened its effective implementation. While children could use mechanisms established under other international treaties to pursue some rights, those instruments did not cover the range of children’s rights set out in the Convention. A communications procedure would allow children’s issues to be considered by “their” Committee on the Rights of the Child.
Recalling that Slovakia was a main sponsor of the resolution by which the Human Rights Council established an Open-ended Working Group to explore the elaboration of an optional protocol that provided a communications procedure, he said the Council, in March, decided to extend that Working Group’s mandate, requesting it to elaborate such an optional protocol. The Chairman of the Working Group was also requested to propose a draft of optional protocol. The draft’s English version was circulated to all States in August and should soon be available in all official United Nations languages. Fully supporting the work done thus far by the Chairperson-Rapporteur, he expressed hope the Working Group would successfully fulfil its important mandate. He also encouraged States to participate in the elaboration of the new optional protocol.
GHAZI JOMAA (Tunisia) said children, as citizens of tomorrow and builders of the future of his country, occupied a privileged place in the integral development approach initiated by President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. A resolutely modernist route was being taken by Tunisia to protect children from all forms of threats, favour their optimal interests, and make them aware of the need to respect the values of solidarity. Tunisia was proud to be the fifth country in the world to promulgate a code for the protection of children. It went into effect in 1995 and enriched its national system of human rights. The country had also established a Superior Council, dedicated to examining State policy on children.
Ninety-nine per cent of children in Tunisia over the age of 6 were in school and 97 per cent of children had been vaccinated, he said. The psychological health of children had been strengthened by counselling facilities in schools. A Youth Parliament was established in 2002, followed three years later by children’s municipal councils and parliamentary youth clubs, to instil a culture of democracy and human rights, to promote the values of solidarity, tolerance and openness, to inculcate the values of solidarity and tolerance and to encourage participation in all aspects of public life.
OROKIA TIENDRÉBÉOGO (Burkina Faso), drawing attention to her country’s legal arsenal and institutional arrangements that existed to help fulfil children’s rights, said that such resources helped coordinate actions with the open involvement of civil society and other partners. Despite such efforts, challenges lay ahead: half of school-aged children lacked access to school, and many were victims of abuse, trafficking and the impacts of poverty, hunger and various diseases, such as malaria. That situation painted a sombre picture, especially amid the huge and increasing impact of HIV/AIDS on the number of orphans. School enrolment had improved in recent years, but much remained to be done in the area of education in order to achieve universal schooling by 2015. In 2006, 39.3 per cent of children did not have access to schools. Endemic disease, diarrhoea and low vaccination rates were among the reasons for infant mortality.
Many children also faced trafficking in persons, early marriage and problems in accessing health services, which restricted fundamental rights as enshrined in the Convention. Challenges in child protection must be seen as a developmental question, she said, with each child considered not as a passive individual but as a “productive entity”. In 2009, a strategic framework was adopted for the promotion of the child, covering the years until 2017, which emphasized the legal protection of children through enhanced local governance; access for children and mothers to basic education, health and reproductive services in the poorest areas of the country; and opportunities for economic integration of children and mothers through access to gainful employment. She expressed hope that the Secretary-General’s recommendations would be translated into concrete actions.
VICTORIA M. SULIMANI (Sierra Leone) said because of its strong belief in the inherent right of every child to be protected from all forms of violence, exploitation and abuse, her Government had established Sexual and Gender Based Violence Committees throughout the country to ensure adherence to all legislation relating to child rights issues, among them, the Child Rights Act. That Act, which was a domestication of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, had presented Sierra Leone with the unique opportunity to make a number of its laws and policies more aligned with international standards. She said the Government’s commitment to its child protection system was evident throughout the country, including with the setting up of the Child Welfare Committee with mandates to prevent and respond to all cases of child abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence.
In partnership with UNICEF, Sierra Leone had developed a referral protocol and two pilot safe houses to address health, psycho-social, security and legal needs of child victims or survivors. The Government had also, with the support of its partners, undertaken the mapping of Sexual and Gender Based Violence Committee service providers across the country to monitor and ascertain their effectiveness. On girls’ education, she said that in order to support affirmative action for those children’s education and ensure that services were provided without discrimination, “grants-in-aid” were now being awarded to all female and disabled students who gained admission to tertiary institutions to pursue higher education. Admitting that child trafficking was fast becoming a problem in the subregion, she stated that having experienced first-hand violence and abuse against its children during the nearly 11-year rebel war, Sierra Leone had adopted more stringent measures to protect children from all forms of child exploitation, including through setting up a task force against human trafficking. She lamented however, that in spite of those achievements, the country continued to face challenges. In that regard, there was need to improve on Sierra Leone’s health and education facilities which she said were inadequate especially in the remote areas.
JEREMIAH MURONGWANA ( South Africa) said that there were several challenges confronting the rights of children, namely through violence; the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography; and children and armed conflict. It could not be denied that violence against children was a harsh reality for millions of children around the world, and the international community agreed that a protective legislative framework was needed to guarantee the protection of the rights of children and criminalize offences against them. In order to guarantee the effective and efficient protection of all children who were victims or at risk of sale, as well as sexual exploitation, new approaches must be adopted that were informed by objective realities and the complexities of the phenomena. To combat those practices, the international community needed to develop and implement sustainable and context-specific strategies for the prevention of the sale of children and for their protection.
Armed conflict also had a devastating effect on children in many regions of the world, and the provisions of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and other international instruments provided guidelines on how to address the protection of children in armed conflict. For its part, South Africa was dedicated to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, particularly Goal 2. He expressed thanks to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for partnering with other world leaders in signing the 1 Goal campaign initiated by President Jacob Zuma before the beginning of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, by which they agreed to work towards a breakthrough on global education funding. That initiative was intent on assisting children from poor backgrounds, and took into account that the right to education could only be fully realized in a progressive manner taking into account the State’s capacity to provide funding. Additionally, to address its “peculiar” challenges with respect to the rights of children, South Africa had established a Ministry for Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities.
PALITHA T. B. KOHONA ( Sri Lanka) said that, while progress had been made in some key areas such as the promotion of healthy lives, education, and protection against exploitation, much remained to be accomplished. The international community needed to act with a sense of urgency to halt the over 4 million deaths of children under the age of 5 in Sub-Saharan Africa alone. However there was a success story to be found in Sri Lanka, which reflected the determination of a nation to address social issues, while successfully prevailing in a long and drawn-out conflict against terrorism.
Since the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child two decades ago, Sri Lanka had undertaken concerted measures to implement its provisions on a priority basis. The aim was to ensure that all children had equal access to the full range of opportunities to maximize their potential, and provide them with a safe, secure, and protective environment during every stage of their development. Additionally, Sri Lanka had been among the first Member States to voluntarily set up a National Task Force in accordance with United Nations Security Council resolutions 1539 and 1612, to monitor and report on child conscription for armed conflict, and had instituted a “zero tolerance” policy in that regard. A comprehensive rehabilitation program had also begun for former child combatants. Some of Sri Lanka’s other contributions included providing books, uniforms and a midday meal; improving literacy, school attendance, and gender ratio; access to computers; and free health care “from birth to death”. Having described various national measures, he said that UNICEF had correctly identified the importance by ensuring solid early childhood care and education, in order to make a pertinent difference in the life of a child.
ABEBAW FELLEKE ( Ethiopia) said his Government had made a priority of improving all aspects of children’s lives. It had collaborated with other stakeholders to implement basic healthcare and education, and to ensure protection for those orphaned by HIV/AIDS, while signing major international Conventions aimed at protecting the rights of children. Ethiopia’s Constitution also devoted provisions that articulated their rights, while the Government had established a new Ministry of Women and Child and Youth to coordinate other Ministries’ application of child rights. The country’s education, health and cultural policies were instrumental in promoting the rights of children.
Ethiopia had made remarkable achievements in maternal and child health, launching immunization campaigns against the six major deadly diseases to reduce the infant mortality and the under-5 mortality rate. A quarter of its Federal budget went to education — in recognition of its key role to economic and social development — and primary enrolment was expected to reach 100 per cent before the 2015 Millennium Goals deadline, he said. It was critical to pursue holistic strategies against children’s many misfortunes, but also prudent to directly deal with problems related to orphans, children in single-parent households and children not living with their biological parents. Despite relentless work, helping children lacked financial resources, capacity in institutions, and public awareness of child rights.
MARINA IVANOVIĆ ( Serbia) said that, as a State party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and both its Optional Protocols, Serbia was fully committed to fulfilling its obligations under these instruments through the incorporation in national legislation. In May 2010, Serbia presented its initial reports on the implementation of the Optional Protocols. Aware of the problem of children involved in armed conflict, Serbia endorsed the Paris Commitments and Principles. Additionally, Serbia had a long history of cooperation with UNICEF, recognizing the importance of its engagement in the country and worldwide, and, this year, the Executive Board of UNICEF adopted the Country Programme document for Serbia for the period 2011 to 2015. While there were positive developments in the fields of health, education, reform of social services and the juvenile justice system, more needed to be done regarding social inclusion of vulnerable children and overcoming disparities related to the poor, the Roma, rural and disabled children.
At the institutional level, Serbia had developed a comprehensive national system regarding children’s rights, establishing the Council on the Rights of the Child and the Working Group for Children’s Rights of the National Assembly, and tasking the Ombudsman with promoting those rights, she said. The National Plan of Action for Children for the period 2004 to 2015, devised by the Council on the Rights of the Child, was the strategic document that defined the overall policy of the country towards children. The General Protocol for the Protection of Children against Abuse and Neglect, adopted in 2005, aimed at creating an effective multisectoral network for a coordinated procedure for protecting children, and special protocols had been adopted for the institutions of social protection, health and educational institutions, and the police and judiciary. The National Strategy for the Prevention and Protection of Children against Violence, adopted in 2008, provided for the achievement of two goals: development of a safe environment in which children’s rights to be protected from violence will be ensured, and the establishment of a national system of child protection against abuse, neglect and exploitation.
SHRI HAMDULLAH SAYEED, Member of Parliament of India, said his country was committed to meeting the goals of “A World Fit for Children” and the related Millennium Goals. Children below the age of 18 made up 44 per cent of India’s population. In that context, his country had been “relentless” in efforts to provide its youth with the highest possible standards in education, welfare and development. The Integrated Child Development Services Scheme — the Government’s flagship programme for children — was one of the world’s largest and most unique programmes for early childhood care and education, he noted. More than 71.8 million children and 15.7 million pregnant and lactating mothers had benefited from that initiative last year alone. He went on to highlight the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, brought into force this past April, as India’s most notable progress with regard to child development.
Through that Act, the right of all children to obtain free and compulsory education for eight years of elementary schooling until the age of 14 was now inalienable. The Act also required all private schools to reserve 25 per cent of seats for children of poor families, and also provided for special training of school dropouts. Continuing, he noted that the Government had increased education spending, allocating 6 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) from 2007 to 2012. There were a number of initiatives to enhance the status of the girl child, including “National Girl Child Day” on 24 January. Cognizant of the need to prevent children from engaging in hard labour to the detriment of their education, India had enforced an act which banned the employment of children younger than 14 years old, he said. Furthermore, the Government had set up a National Commission for Protection of Children’s Rights in 2007 to ensure a speedy trial of offenders violating the rights of children.
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