Fifty-seventh General Assembly
18th & 19th Meetings (AM & PM)
DELEGATIONS IN THIRD COMMITTEE STRESS NEED TO IMPLEMENT PROMISES
TO CREATE ‘WORLD FIT FOR CHILDREN’
As the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) continued its annual debate of issues related to the protection and promotion of the rights of children, many delegations stressed the need to make good on almost 20 years of promises -- beginning with the near-unanimous ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and culminating with the outcome of the General Assembly special session -- to create a "world fit for children".
The representative of Cuba said action to secure children's survival was an urgent imperative because recent figures dramatically showed that currently, the world was not fit for children. More than 100 million children did not go to school, and another 500 million children lived in extreme poverty. The HIV/AIDS pandemic continued to spread, and millions of children were also the victims of child abuse, prostitution and trafficking. A world fit for children would not be possible without a change in the current world economic system, which at present only benefited 20 per cent of the world population, he said.
The representative of Switzerland said achieving children's rights required constructive cooperation of all stakeholders, including governments, civil society, the private sector, and, above all, children themselves. She cautioned that the Action Plan adopted by the special session fell short of the Millennium Declaration's objectives for children in several areas, and while important, it should not be considered to supersede commitments made previously, particularly compliance with the Convention and its Protocols, and the overall achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
The United States had approved ratification of the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, that country's representative announced. President Bush had signed the instruments of ratification which would be deposited shortly. He stressed the importance of the Protocols and said the second Optional Protocol was the first international instrument to define the terms “sale of children, child pornography, and child prostitution”. It also provided tools to improve law enforcement cooperation, helped guarantee the punishment of offenders, and established stronger grounds for States exercising jurisdiction and requesting extradition of offenders.
The representative of Jamaica said every effort must be made to generate the political will and partnership that must define the collective approach to realizing the simple but significant task of creating “a world fit for children”.
It was imperative that the commitments made during the special session were not lost with the passage of time and that next decade become a decade of progress for each and every child.
Following its debate of children’s rights issues, the Committee in the afternoon returned to matters related to the advancement of women, namely the
critical situation of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW). Several delegations stressed the importance of the Institute's work, and that the ultimate decision of its future operations lay in the hands of Member States.
Also today, the Committee heard the introduction of four draft resolutions on social development issues. The representatives of Chile, Senegal, Mongolia and Venezuela (on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries, China and Mexico), respectively, introduced texts on: implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly; promoting youth employment; the United Nations Literacy Decade, and follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing.
Also speaking during the two meetings were the representatives of the Sudan, Afghanistan, Mongolia, Lebanon, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Senegal, El Salvador, Russian Federation, Barbados (on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)), Libya, Malawi, Belarus, Paraguay, Iceland, Indonesia, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Slovenia, Suriname and Thailand.
The representative of Israel exercised the right of reply.
The observer of the Holy See also spoke today.
Speaking during the consideration of the advancement of women and the future operations of INSTRAW were Spain, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Benin, Costa Rica, Argentina and Cuba.
The Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women and the Interim Director for INSTRAW responded to questions raised by Member States concerning the situation of the Institute.
The Committee will reconvene tomorrow at 10 a.m. to continue its consideration of the rights of children.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue consideration of matters related to the promotion and protection of the rights of children, as well as follow-up to the General Assembly special session on children, held last May.
The Committee is also set to hear the introduction of several draft resolutions on social development issues, including questions relating to the world social situation, to youth, ageing, and the family.
There is a draft resolution on promoting youth employment (document A/C.3/57/L.12) by which the General Assembly would encourage Member States to prepare national reviews and action plans on youth employment and to involve youth organizations and young people in the process of the high-level panel of the Secretary-General’s Youth Employment Network.
The Assembly would also invite, within the context of the Youth Employment Network, the International Labour Organization (ILO), in collaboration with the World Bank and other relevant specialized agencies, to assist and support, upon request, the efforts of governments in elaborating national reviews and action plans. The Assembly would request the Secretary-General to report to the next General Assembly session on the resolution’s implementation.
A draft resolution on the United Nations Literacy Decade: education for all (document A/C.3/57/L.13) would have the General Assembly appeal to all governments to reinforce political will, mobilize adequate national resources, develop more inclusive policy-making environments and devise innovative strategies for reaching the poorest and most marginalized groups and for seeking alternative formal and non-formal approaches to learning with a view to achieve the Decade’s goals.
The Assembly would also urge all governments to take the lead in coordinating Decade activities at the national level. The Assembly would also decide that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) must take a coordinating role in stimulating and catalysing international activities, and would request the Secretary-General, in cooperation with the Director-General of UNESCO, to prepare a report on the implementation of the Plan of Action for submission to the General Assembly’s fifty-ninth session.
Under a draft resolution on implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly (document A/C.3/57/L.14), the General Assembly would call for the speedy implementation of the goals and commitments contained in the outcomes of the World Summit for Social Development and the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly. The Assembly would invite the Secretary-General, the Economic and Social Council, the Commission for Social Development, the regional commissions, the relevant specialized agencies, funds and the programmes of the United Nations system and other relevant intergovernmental forums to continue to integrate into their work programmes and give priority attention to the commitments contained in the Copenhagen Declaration and the Programme of Action.
A draft resolution on follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing (A/C.3/57/L.15) would have the General Assembly recognize that the evolving process of global ageing should be integrated within the larger process of
development and call upon governments to promote institutional follow-up to the Madrid Plan of Action, including, as appropriate, the establishment of agencies and national committees on ageing.
The Assembly would also invite the Commission for Social Development to consider integrating the different dimensions of population ageing as contained in the current Plan of Action in its work. Also, the Secretary-General would be requested to allocate sufficient human and financial resources for the programme on ageing, including the establishment of a new professional post, to make it possible for the programme to effectively fulfil its task.
ELTAYEB ABULGASIM (Sudan) said the rights of children had been a priority of the United Nations. This was important because the protection and development of children was necessary to ensure their well-being and that of future generations. Given the consensus on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it was heartening to see that the needs of children could be met. International cooperation was necessary for the protection of children, as well as political will. Due to the widening gap between rich and poor countries, the debt burden, malnutrition and health risks, child protection was a considerable challenge for developing countries, particularly the least developed countries.
In Sudan, several programmes had been undertaken aiming to protect children and promote their rights. All States needed to act to put an end to the suffering of children and respect the Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as international humanitarian law. Concerning child labour, he said urgent action was required. The trafficking of children was also a worrying phenomenon that the international community needed to address. Concluding, he stressed the need for the international community to come to the rescue of Palestinian children.
SICHAN SIV (United States) said the number of children caught in armed conflict or exploited in the sex trade had increased alarmingly. Political conflict, poverty, transnational criminal rings, the growth of the Internet, and improved communications all played a part. Child victims desperately needed the attention of the world. In this connection, the United States had approved ratification of the two optional protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. President Bush had signed the instruments of ratification, and the United States would deposit them shortly.
Each year about a million girls and boys were trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour. Such trafficking was nothing less than a mode of slavery, an unspeakable and unforgivable crime against the most vulnerable members of the global society. The second Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography was the first international instrument to define the terms “sale of children, child pornography, and child prostitution”. It provided tools to improve law enforcement cooperation and to help guarantee that offenders would not go unpunished. It established clearer and stronger grounds for States exercising jurisdiction and requesting extradition of offenders. He stressed that the widest possible acceptance and ratification of these two historic protocols was critical so that they spoke for the entire world community.
MOHAMMAD YUNUS BAZEL (Afghanistan) said the Interim Government of Afghanistan had given priority to alleviating the horrible suffering the country's children had faced as a result of 20 years of protracted war and violence. It had emphasized rebuilding and restructuring the education system and social services for women as well as children. The outcome of the General Assembly's special session on children, "A World Fit for Children", had called for appropriate measures, and in line with that, the Government had recently deposited its instrument of accession to the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
He said Afghanistan was facing many problems and challenges as it emerged from so many years of strife, and the new Government had acknowledged that Afghan children must be raised in the spirit of peace, security and dignity -- all principles expressed in the Charter. Toward that end, the Government was working towards reforming the country's education curricula to remove all language that could lead to intolerance, discrimination or prejudice. Still, many of the plans and programmes that were underway would require resources currently beyond those available. Afghanistan would appeal to the international community for assistance to create an environment fit for children, taking into consideration their higher interests. Assistance was particularly necessary as some 3 million children had returned to school but faced many challenges due to the lack of teachers and school supplies.
PUREVJAV GANSUKH (Mongolia) said he wished to highlight the need to provide quality education, a key factor in creating a world where people could develop their full potential and lead productive lives. He emphasized the importance of the United Nations Literacy Decade, which represented a major worldwide initiative to meet the renewed commitment to education for all. It was important that children themselves actively participated in shaping the world they would inherit. In Mongolia, a significant source for the end-decade review had been a series of “One World Conferences” organized with the active participation of children and adolescent representatives from every corner of Mongolia.
He stressed the importance of improving the legal framework for the promotion and protection of children. Today, Mongolia was party to over
30 international human rights treaties. Last year, Mongolia had signed the two optional protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. National laws had been renewed taking into account the new circumstances in the country, as well as its obligations under the international treaties. He underlined the importance of the law protecting children’s rights, which paid particular attention to the protection of children living under difficult circumstances.
Ms. GROUZX (Switzerland) said achieving children's rights required constructive cooperation of all stakeholders, including governments, civil society, the private sector, and above all, children themselves. She cautioned all actors that the plan of action adopted at the conclusion of the special session should not be considered to supersede commitments that had been made previously, particularly compliance with the Convention and its Protocols, and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
She said Switzerland supported the call for the creation of a special rapporteur on violence against children. That mechanism should be established on the basis of recommendations by the Committee on the Rights of the Child. Any studies undertaken by that rapporteur should assess whether the issue of children and violence was adequately addressed by the relevant United Nations human rights bodies. Switzerland supported the work being done by the Committee, and it was time to take a stand on the direction of the mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children in Armed Conflict, to be carried out in light of the recommendations of the Secretary-General's next report.
LUIS ALBERTO AMOROS NUNEZ (Cuba) said more than 100 million children did not go to school, and another 500 million children lived in extreme poverty. The HIV/AIDS pandemic continued to spread, and child mortality continued to increase sharply. Millions of children were also the victims of child abuse, prostitution, trafficking and were forced into selling their organs. The dramatic nature of these figures showed that the world was indeed not fit for children. It was therefore necessary to change the world economic system, which at present only benefited 20 per cent of the world’s population, and increased official development assistance was needed.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child provided solutions for the protection and promotion of the child and was the most important human rights instrument. In this connection, he stressed the need to resolve armed conflicts of all types in order to ensure a harmonious world in which children could develop. It was also necessary to deal with current disparities in the world. Cuba was undertaking policies to ensure the development of children, through social assistance based on equality of opportunities and justice in distribution of wealth. Despite the economic blockade imposed on Cuba by the United States, Cuba continue to provide education and health services for all children in the country.
SAMI ZEIDAN (Lebanon) said Lebanon was party to the core international instruments aimed at protecting and promoting the rights of children, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Labour Organization’s Convention 182, on prohibition of the worst forms of child labour. Lebanon was committed to child rights and was taking every effort to disseminate and create awareness of the Convention, and integrate its principles into school curricula. Lebanon's Higher Council for Childhood had prepared a legal comparative study of legislation and the Convention, which had resulted in proposals for a series of reforms. His country had also achieved much in the area of child health care, reflected most prominently in the significant decline in infant mortality, improvements in immunization and in increased budgetary allocations for child services. Also landmines posed a particular problem for the children of his country, and the United Nations had estimated that some
400,000 landmines remained.
Lebanon could not forget 18 April 1996, the day the United Nations compound had been targeted by the Israeli army at a time when civilians had been taking refuge there. From the smoking rubble, true scenes of horror had emerged: many women and children were killed, and lay in heaps, decapitated or disemboweled. He was not invoking the incident to upset stomachs or politicize matters. It was important to point out how children on both sides of every conflict fell victim to the mindless actions of grownups. A major case in point was the situation of the children caught in the middle of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Children who resorted to stone-throwing represented a hopeless generation that had not only been robbed of its childhood, but had literally no other way to resist the brutal occupying power. Children did not understand politics but they would grow up and use politics to express their anger toward those that had robbed them of their childhood. So, whoever inflicted pain on those children had plenty to worry about, because in a cruel world, "what goes around comes around". Even children understood that.
ALEXANDRU NICULESCU (Romania) said he would focus on aspects of particular interest to his country in the area of child protection. Last May, the special session on children had adopted a declaration aiming at creating a world fit for children, and implementing it was a high priority for the United Nations, governments and relevant partners. This was why the promotion and protection of the rights of the child was a matter of high concern for Romania. Due to an appalling legacy, especially painful as regards to the condition of children, Romania had had to build from scratch a new legal, regulatory and institutional framework for child protection and development, in accordance with international standards.
While the number of institutionalized children had decreased substantially during the past year, Romania would continue to work towards providing every child in need with an environment as close as possible to a normal family environment. Measures aimed at preventing the abandonment of children and granting aid to families at risk had proved to be a highly efficient social intervention. Widespread poverty was still a major challenge in Romania, and a comprehensive set of measures had been devised to support access of all children to education. As part of a wider programme to enhance the quality of educational services, school supplies were distributed to about 1 million children in primary and secondary school. To encourage attendance, especially by Roma children, a free meal was offered to all children in primary school.
ABDULLATIF SALLAM (Saudi Arabia) said the rights of the child had to be protected by parents and the State. Their rights were based on faith, compassion and charity. The Government stipulated that the State strengthen the family in order to ensure conditions that would create an enabling environment for children. Abortion must not be a part of family planning, but used only as a last resort when a women's life was in danger. And indeed, the health care of Saudi women was a priority for the Government. Among other things, their medical costs were covered and they could not be terminated from employment at any time during pregnancy.
He said Saudi Arabia aimed to ensure that all children would benefit from the promotion of their rights. A National Committee for Children had been created to coordinate all efforts towards the development of the country's children. Saudi Arabia recognized that the main responsibility of childcare fell to parents, and should they pass away, the responsibility fell to relatives. If there were no relatives, then various social services would step in. Saudi Arabia had enhanced its foster care programmes and other initiatives to assist orphans, and ensured free education for all children. Primary education was obligatory, and all school curricula focused on social development. The Government's overall policy aimed to ensure that the country's children lived in safety, which would allow them to develop their creativity. When discussing the promotion and protection of children’s rights, one must also speak of the situation of those living under occupation in the Palestinian territories. The international community must step in to alleviate their suffering.
CHITHAMBARANATHAN MAHENDRAN (Sri Lanka) said Sri Lanka had taken many actions to keep its promise to children. Successive Governments had placed children's needs and children’s rights high on the country’s political agenda -- the right to grow up free of poverty and hunger, to education, to be protected from infectious diseases, to grow up in a clean and healthy environment and the right be safe from the threats of war, abuse, and exploitation. Several decades of sustained commitment to develop health and education services in Sri Lanka had led to: a decline in infant, child and maternal mortality rates; high literacy and school enrolment rates; low birth rates; and the near elimination of immunizable diseases. The Government had ensured free schools as well as university education, free textbooks, school uniforms, and scholarships as well as free health care to ensure that no child was left behind.
One of the greatest challenges in recent times had been the protection of children from the impact of armed conflict. With the cessation of hostilities through the signature of a ceasefire agreement in February this year, the Government of Sri Lanka was now able to focus far greater attention on children in the war-ravaged areas. Poverty was also an underlying case of ill-health and undernourishment. Poverty deprived children of the right to grow to their full physical and mental capacities. Therefore it was essential to ensure that poverty eradication remained at the forefront of global efforts to ensure the protection of children.
RENATO R. MARTINO, Observer for the Holy See, said the pledge to uphold the commitments of the special session, of the Millennium Summit and of the other international conferences of the past decade was easy. But what was difficult and what took time, energy and political will was effectively carrying out those pledges -- changing words into action.
The Catholic Church had been concerned with the promotion and protection of children's rights and the caring for the spiritual and physical well-being of children for centuries, he said. One of the Church's agencies, the Pontifical Society of the Holy Childhood had led the way for some 150 years. The Holy See delegation of the special session last May had listened intently to the interventions made during the debate and pledged to use what it had heard to assist the Holy See in meeting the needs of the world's children. That sort of promise -- turning words into work -- might be the most important result of an international conference.
SAID SHIHAB AHMAD (Iraq) said despite the productive efforts made at the international level to protect and promote the rights of children, it had not been possible to stop the violations and abuses to which children were exposed in several parts of the world. This was particularly due to armed conflict, poverty, an unfair international economic order and foreign debt. Sanctions imposed on countries particularly affected children in poor countries. Iraq had undertaken several activities to ensure the health and happiness of its children. Childhood had occupied an important place in the Iraqi development policies; however, the sanctions and the persistent daily attacks had caused an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.
Children, women and the older people had been deprived of their most basic human rights as a direct consequence of the sanctions and persistent attacks, he said. Children in Iraq now faced malnutrition and slow and painful deaths. How could the recommendations of various international conferences be implemented given Iraq’s situation? Children in Iraq had were experiencing pain, suffering and diseases without much glimmer of hope. How could one convince the children of Iraq that the United Nations could help them, when the United Nations was responsible for the sanctions?
MANKEUR NDIAYE (Senegal) said following the Assembly's special session on children last May, the international community had made clear it was indeed time to create a new world fit for children. The momentum gained at the session must be sustained so that commitments solemnly undertaken would lead to a greater investment in the world's children. While Senegal recognized that the ultimate responsibility of the promotion and protection of the rights of children fell to
States, it was also necessary to build a dynamic partnership at global and regional levels to achieve the noble goals of the special session, as well as the objectives of the Millennium Declaration. The failure of previous programmes on behalf of children was due more to the lack of resources than the lack of political will.
For its part, Senegal had made significant progress to strengthen its plans and programmes at the community level, namely through nutrition, education and health initiatives focused on children under the age of five as well as on pregnant and nursing mothers. Government efforts also included HIV/AIDS strategies and action to lower mother-to-child transmission of that disease, as well as efforts to mitigate the effects of other communicable diseases, which killed thousands of children yearly. Particular attention had been given to children in special circumstances, such as those living on the street and children with disabilities.
The Government had also aimed to ensure parity of access and benefit at all levels between boys and girls. Stressing the importance of following up the outcome of the special session, he announced that the States members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) would meet next month in Dakar to examine the situation of children in the region and to identify ways to speed up implementation of the results of the special session.
CARLOS ENRIQUE GARCIA GONZALEZ (El Salvador) said the Government attached special importance to the implementation of the outcome documents of international conferences. At the national level, a broad discussion on a code for children and adolescents was under way with government and non-government actors. Such a code would harmonize the protection of children and facilitate the code’s legal implementation. In the area of criminal law, the Government was undertaking to ensure that the Constitution complemented the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It was necessary to establish mechanisms to ensure that children’s rights were respected and that the violations of their rights would be punished. El Salvador was firmly committed to cooperate with all actors to protect and promote the rights of children.
He stressed the need for the Government to provide education and health services for children. The Government of El Salvador had, therefore, established a programme called “Young Country” for the social development of the country, with particular focus on the rights of children. El Salvador was committed to the tackling of outstanding challenges and obstacles to the full enjoyment of children’s rights. Of particular importance to El Salvador were the high rates of family and social violence, child abuse and the situation of street children.
Introduction of Drafts
Before beginning its work in the afternoon, the Committee heard the introduction of several draft resolutions on social development issues, including questions relating to the world social situation, to youth, ageing and the family.
The representative of Chile introduced the draft on implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly (document A/C.3/57/L.14), along with a number of corrections to be included in the final text.
Then, the representative of Senegal introduced the draft resolution on promoting youth employment (document A/C.3/57/L.12). The Committee’s Secretary read out several oral corrections that would be included in the final text.
The representative of Mongolia introduced a draft resolution on the United Nations Literacy Decade: education for all (document A/C.3/57/L.13).
The representative of Venezuela, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China and Mexico, introduced the final draft before the Committee on follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing (document A/C.3/57/L.15). The representative of China pointed out some technical errors in the Chinese translation of the text.
Statements on Children’s Rights
VLADIMIR ZHEGLOV (Russian Federation) said the issues surrounding children were a composite of all urgent problems in society, since children embodied the future. He stressed the importance of the outcome document of the special session and the need for national implementation of document so as to achieve a world fit for children. In 2002, emergency and large-scale measures had been undertaken to battle homelessness and the lack of supervision, headed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Homelessness and the lack of supervision of children was a spawning ground for violence and exploitation of children.
A bill had been considered in the Russian Federation aiming to change aspect of criminal justice to do with children’s rights. The visit of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, to the Russian Federation earlier this year demonstrated Russian willingness to focus on the rights of children. In modern-day society, it was essential that governments of all countries made children a priority. It was important to enhance the Convention on the Rights of the Child and ensure its full implementation. The taking care of children ensured a fair and just future, he said.
BETTY ANN RUSSELL (Barbados), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), stressed the importance of the need to support the outcome of the General Assembly special session on children. She highlighted the priority areas of discussion during the important meeting, noting participants had stressed such issues as poverty, health and education. Discussions at the session also underscored the terrible effect of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on children. That was an issue that was particularly important to Caribbean States as, sadly, the region ranked second only to sub-Saharan Africa in infection rates. All experts agreed that prevention was the key to minimize new HIV infections. The regional governments had, therefore, been focusing their efforts on the CARAICOM Health Project, whose aim was to benefit children.
That initiative stressed, among other things, counselling, youth employment, decreasing mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS and strengthening structures to protect the unique situation of orphans. Many programmes were aimed at and included the participation of youth. Others were aimed at training and capacity-building among health workers. There were also awareness-raising programmes to eradicate discrimination against those who suffered from HIV/AIDS. All this was necessary, because studies had shown that almost 60 per cent of the youth were sexually active before the age of 14. The CARICOM would applaud the cooperative efforts of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), which was involved at all levels of the region’s AIDS prevention and awareness-raising activities.
AHMED YAAKOUB GZLLAL (Libya) said it was important to remember that, when discussing important issues concerning the rights of children, there were no children present in the room. Children had no control of their fate or destiny and the challenges that faced them. In that context, it was necessary to think about what had befallen the Palestinian children -- their daily powerlessness and harassment. It was also necessary to think about the situation of children in Africa. What crimes had they committed to deserve poverty, malnutrition and the HIV/AIDS pandemic? The international community still had a long way to go to protect children from conflicts and poverty, particularly in developing countries.
The outcome document of the special session highlighted the need to put children first, and to ensure their access to education and health care. Libya was a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and was considering the two Optional Protocols. The Libyan Government had done its utmost to protect its children, their rights and their well-being. However, the Libyan child had been subjected to the economic sanctions unjustly imposed on Libya. Furthermore, Libyan children had suffered considerably as a result of landmines planted by colonialist countries. The agreed goals and objectives of the outcome document of the special session constituted a significant step; however, action was needed now, or this would become another lost decade.
ISAAC C. LAMBA (Malawi) said the Government of Malawi continued to build on the gains it had made in various child development areas, which included nutrition, water and sanitation, psycho-social care, early learning and child health. Measles, neonatal tetanus and polio were some of the diseases that had been eliminated. The Government’s commitment to the implementation of policies aiming to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates and the effects of HIV/AIDS remained very high. HIV/AIDS had had a devastating impact on the lives of children, and many had been forced into destitution and poverty. Addressing that challenge required collective energies, networking among all stakeholders, and full commitment at the highest policy and decision-making levels.
Education was a basic human right -- a key factor in reducing poverty
and in promoting democracy, tolerance and human and institutional capacity for development. In that regard, the Government of Malawi had consistently increased the share of education in the national budget, prioritizing primary education. With the introduction of free primary school education in 1994, enrolment had increased from 1.9 million to 3.4 million. However, the high enrolment at primary school level had not been matched by the requisite enhancement in teacher training and secondary school facilities. He said those areas required addressing, if the concept of free primary education was to bear fruit.
ANZHELA KORNELIOUK (Belarus) said it was startling that 12 years after the World Summit on Children, there appeared to be more work ahead than ever to ensure the survival of the world’s children. Belarus was especially alarmed by the problems of social orphanhood, exclusion, violence and drug addiction among youth. Belarus was also troubled by the lingering effects of the Chernobyl incident. Today, the victims of that tragedy included over 400,000 minors, some 40,000 of whom were under the age of 14.
Of Belarus’ national initiatives on behalf of children, she said a law on the rights of children and a National Plan of Action had been approved. A Commission on the Rights of Children had been created and now served as the main body which coordinated public policy on children. More programmes and policies were in development, and national programmes and plans were being drafted in line with the outcome of the Assembly’s special session. Belarus welcomed the relevant country programme for 2003-2005 adopted by UNICEF, and hoped that initiative would heighten cooperation between Belarus and the wider United Nations system for the protection of children’s rights.
ELADIO LOIZAGA (Paraguay) said the General Assembly special session on children had demonstrated the high priority given by governments to the protection of children throughout the world. The Government of Paraguay would undertake every action possible to implement the outcome document on a national level. It was only with political will and cooperation that the fate of millions of children could be improved. Paraguay had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as the two Optional Protocols. Both Optional Protocols were a crucial addition to the protection of children. Paraguay was strongly committed to the implementation of the two Protocols at the end of the year.
Matters related to children had earlier been dispersed between various government institutions in Paraguay, he said. There was now a new code, which had brought about the harmonization and centralization of matters related to children. Changes had also been made in the penal system concerning children and adolescents. One aspect of the code aimed towards State intervention to stop child labour and sexual exploitation, as well as providing assistance to victims of such crimes. Paraguay was a young country, since 40 per cent of the population was below 15 years of age. Poverty in Paraguay was, therefore, becoming an issue for younger and younger people. The Government was addressing that situation through programmes on education and health care.
THORSTEINN INGOLFSSON (Iceland) said the Convention on the Rights of the Child must continue to be the cornerstone of the work of the United Nations. States parties must implement the Convention’s provisions and ensure compliance with them at the national level. It was also important to strengthen the monitoring at the international level by enlarging the Committee on the Rights of the Child. When implementing international commitments, Iceland paid particular attention to the rights and empowerment of the girl child. In that regard, it was important to give high priority to education, as well as reproductive health care and services.
The Icelandic Parliament had passed a new Children Protection Act last April. The Act aimed to make child protection more effective and provided new measures, including an obligation by the Minister for Social Affairs to present an action plan on child protection to the Parliament every four years and for municipal authorities to come up with four-year action plans for each elective term. In addition, children who had reached the age of 15 were now considered parties to child-protection cases. He highlighted the need to include the views of children, and it was on that basis that the Icelandic Ombudsman for Children had decided to establish a Youth Net Parliament in 1999. The Ombudsman’s role was to promote better living conditions for children and to safeguard their rights, interests and needs.
AGUNG CAHAYA SUMIRAT (Indonesia) first condemned the terrorist bombing that had killed nearly 200 civilians of all nationalities in Bali over the weekend and expressed sympathy with the families of the victims of that tragedy.
Turning to matters before the Committee, he said unless the international community stepped up its efforts to ensure the promotion and protection of the rights of children, the relevant Millennium Development Goals would not be met. To that end, Indonesia was set to host an Asia-Pacific ministerial meeting in May 2003 and believed that such regional cooperation would contribute to the fulfilment of the action plan adopted at the special session. Indonesia sought to cooperate with its regional and global partners, with respect to sovereignty and in the spirit of multilateralism for the betterment of its own and the world's children.
Indonesia had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and had signed its two Optional Protocols, he said. It was currently developing a national action plan encompassing children’s rights to survival, development and non-discrimination, among other issues. While recognizing that the primary responsibility of protecting and promoting the rights of children rested with individual States, it was clear that the tenets of the Convention did not intend to force nations to go it alone in implementing the Plan of Action. Such implementation should occur within the context of cooperation and support from the international community, and with the understanding that the limited means of poorer countries might be insufficient to implement national activities without such support.
MUN JONG CHOL (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said the establishment of a safer and fuller life for all children was one of the Government’s highest priorities. High importance was being attached to the well-being of children. In his country, children were provided free education and health care; however, following the recent natural disasters in the country, it was difficult to fully attain the goals of the Government. The humanitarian assistance provided to his country had encouraged people to continue to work for the protection and promotion of children.
The outcome document adopted during the General Assembly’s special session on children outlined strategies on the survival, education, health, well-being and protection of children. His Government believed that due attention needed to be given to the implementation of national policies on the rights of children. In addition, legal mechanisms needed to be further strengthened and expanded to provide all vulnerable groups. National economies must be consolidated to provide the material basis for children’s development. However, regional conflicts and the negative effects of globalization continued to cause problems for governments and, by implication, their policies on children’s rights. For the full promotion and protection of the rights of children, international cooperation was a necessity, he said.
O’NEIL FRANCIS (Jamaica) said that to create the conditions necessary to ensure a world truly “fit for children”, it was imperative that the commitments made during the special session were not lost with the passage of time, and that next decade become a decade of progress for each child. Although significant advances had been made in many countries in achieving the goals and objectives of the 1990 World Summit, some 10 million children under the age of five died each year, mostly from preventable diseases and malnutrition. In addition, HIV/AIDS, malnutrition, physical abuse, inadequate hygiene and poor social services remained some of the primary factors continuing to threaten the survival of children.
Governments, in partnership with international organizations, civil society, and all stakeholders must improve their effort to enhance children’s health and education, reduce levels of abuse and place the interest of every child at the forefront of policy-making. Every effort must be made to generate the political will and partnership that must define the collective approach to realizing the simple but significant task of creating “a world fit for children”. He also discussed national initiatives undertaken by his Government to protect and promote the rights of children; the situation of children in armed conflict; sexual exploitation and abuse of children; and the need to focus on children empowerment in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
ROMAN KIRN (Slovenia) said the rights of the child were a priority issue of his Government’s human rights and social development foreign policy. Slovenia was also striving towards the meaningful implementation of the outcome of the special session on children. It was not possible to build a sustainable peace unless children and youth were provided with rehabilitation and hope. With that in mind, Slovenia had decided a few years ago to contribute to the recovery of South-Eastern Europe by establishing an institution to assist war-affected children -- the Regional Centre for the Psycho-social Well-being of Children, "Together". The Centre had been established to contribute to the welfare of children affected by armed conflict, post-war poverty and related issues of regional concern.
As an immediate follow-up measure to the special session, Slovenia had established a Council for Children, composed of representatives of government and non-governmental organizations. The Council’s main objective was to monitor the implementation of children’s rights and to seek new solutions to improve the quality of their lives, especially those that were underprivileged and those with special needs. The Council was also raising public awareness on children’s issues. A special working group had been established to promote the implementation of the Convention in practical terms, for instance, by mobilizing children, teens and adults to participate in awareness-raising campaigns or by establishing cooperation at all levels to prevent social irregularities in the field of children’s rights.
MURIEL M. HELD (Suriname) said the full protection of children and youth, and the promotion of policies targeted to their needs, were of immense importance to her Government. In the period 1991-1992, the Government of Suriname had commissioned a thorough review of Surinamese legislation in relation to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Suriname had drafted a framework for a National Pact of Action in 1997 and a National Youth Policy in 2000. The Constitution of Suriname prohibited any form of discrimination against people, in general, as well as against children. National legislation on gender discrimination had been drafted and had been approved by the Council of Ministers.
Although Suriname was a country rich in natural resources, monetary poverty caused major difficulties for most families in Suriname. Children under the age of 18 years made up about half of the population of 450,000 and were among those most affected by poverty. Therefore, in the poverty reduction strategy of the Government, children were on the priority list. Every child had the right to development, which included the right to education, basic health care and sanitation. Adults had the responsibility and the obligation to create an environment, for now and the future, wherein children could enjoy those rights.
APIRATH VIENRAVI (Thailand) said a world fit for children was a world fit for all. Thailand fully supported the outcome of the special session, and was in the process of translating the commitments made in its outcome document into its national policies and programmes. Currently, the National Youth Bureau, Thailand’s lead agency on issues related to children and youth, was preparing a national agenda on children, while relevant authorities were devising measures in line with the guidelines contained in the outcome document.
In Thailand, he said, new laws had been promulgated and existing laws amended, to facilitate the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention itself had also been translated and widely distributed not only in Thai but also in other languages, including Malay and native hill-tribe tongues.
Health and education were part and parcel of Thailand’s efforts in national socio-economic and human development, he said. The National Plan to Prevent and Control HIV/AIDS included the prevention of mother-to-child transmission and the provision of care for children orphaned and affected by HIV/AIDS. Given their vulnerability, children and youth were also the focus of campaigns against narcotic drugs. Children were the world’s treasures -- human resources for the future. It was everyone’s shared responsibility to ensure that their rights were respected and their well-being promoted.
Right of Reply
The representative of Israel, exercising his right of reply, said certain delegates had taken the liberty of accusing his country of all the evils inflicted on their children. To use children to promote political gains was a transgression and violation for which there was no excuse. The decision to brainwash children, too young to make their own decisions, and use them to explode themselves was a crime.
He stressed that blame must be placed on those who trained them, used them and sent them on suicide missions. Organizations such as the Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Fatah must be blamed -- not the “so called” root causes. Israeli children, with their mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, were targeted each day. The international community must condemn those abhorrent practices, or the phenomenon would spread across the world.
Following its debate of children’s issues, the Committee in the afternoon returned to matters related to the advancement of women, namely, the critical situation of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW).
Delegations had before them the just-issued note of the Secretary-General on the Institute (document A/57/452), which states that INSTRAW -- with total available resources amounting to less than $100,000 for the year –- was unable to forecast long-term plans or make commitments to cooperate with other United Nations entities and partners, despite efforts within the United Nations systems, the decisions of some intergovernmental bodies and support from some Member States. A minimum of $1.4 million would be required to fund the Institute’s activities for 2003.
Further to the report, the steady decline in voluntary contributions and the uncertainty surrounding the future of INSTRAW were key factors behind the difficulties faced in attracting a Director of suitable calibre. An Interim Managing/Director was recruited through the Executive Office of the Economic and Social Council, but it was not believed that filling the vacant Director’s post or even creating the position would resolve the Institute’s financial problems unless donors were willing to contribute additional funds. The report goes on to note that in light of the Institute’s steady downturn, over the years various options for its institutional linkage with other United Nations bodies had been discussed, but no satisfactory solution had been agreed upon.
Having considered options for merger with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) or with the United Nations University, the working group on the future operations of INSTRAW recommended linkage with the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Should the Assembly approve that recommendation, special attention should be given to elaborating the modalities implied in terms such as “liaison” and “linkage” with the Department. Consideration should be given to the revised statute of the Institute and to clarifying the role of Director and the proposed advisory board. The report states that if the Institute were revitalized in an effective way and provided with financial resources commensurate with its mandate, it could make a substantive contribution to the advancement of women within the United Nations system.
INOCENCIO F. ARIAS (Spain), Chairman of the working group on INSTRAW, said that on 12 August the group had submitted its report to the Secretary-general and the President of the General Assembly. That study had highlighted that the most severe problems for the Institute were the lack of leadership and lack of coordination with and isolation from other United Nations entities. Still, what had become clear was that it was important and vital to mandate INSTRAW to continue gender research and training.
The group had ultimately concluded that the only United Nations body with a mandate to undertake research and training of women's issues should be maintained, he said. It was also important to realize that the Institute was Organization's only agency headquartered in Ibero-America. The financial proposals of the Group were an attempt to treat the Institute like other United Nations bodies. Indeed, they were a challenge to put it on footing with other agencies.
PEDRO PADILLA TONOS (Dominican Republic) said that in General Assembly resolution 56/125, which had established the working group, the Secretary-General had been asked to present at the current session a report about the application of the resolution. The Secretary-General had presented, through the Economic and Social Council, not a report as requested, but a note, with information about the execution of the working programme and financial matters and management of INSTRAW, information that did not escape the attention of the working group. A new note by the Secretary-General was now being presented, which, besides being repetitive, did not contribute any new element to the group’s report.
Instead, the Secretary-General had tried to make a critical evaluation, practically limited to financial aspects of INSTRAW, without including the substantive part of restructuring INSTRAW, which would allow it to face the financial difficulties. He stressed that the report of the working group was the basic document for the Committee’s consideration and that it was up to Member States to decide the future of INSTRAW.
LUISA KISLINGER (Venezuela) said, while her delegation appreciated the note of the Secretary-General, discussion about the future of INSTRAW fell within the competence of Member States. The recommendations of the working group had been the outcome of a detailed process and an examination of available options. Those suggestions should be considered in a fair manner.
Even though Venezuela appreciated the recommendations of the Secretary-General, they should be taken as one of the elements to be considered in seeking a resolution to the critical situation of INSTRAW. She asked for clarification of sections of the note that suggested the reorientation of the Gender Awareness Information and Networking System (GAINS) programme.
NICOLE ELISHA (Benin) welcomed the recommendations of the working group. The INSTRAW was a unique and specific body, one of a kind, as it conducted research on women and trained women, she said. It must be able to enjoy the same autonomy as did other bodies, in cooperation with the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, UNIFEM and the United Nations as a whole.
She recommended that the Director of the Institute regain her functions in the Dominican Republic and that the position of Deputy Director be created. She welcomed that suggestion that financial resources be made available from the United Nations budget to support the Institute, in the hope that further contributions from donors would follow. The suggestion to involve Member States in the functioning of the Institute was also welcomed, as it would provide more transparency in its functioning.
DEYANIRA RAMIREZ (Costa Rica) reiterated its support for the Institute -- the only institution within the United Nations devoted to research and training on gender issues, and one of only three of the Organization’s agencies located in the developing world.
ALEXANDRA MARTA AYUSO (Argentina) said she received with surprise the note of the Secretary-General on INSTRAW. In the resolution of the General Assembly, it had decided to convene a working group to study the future work of INSTRAW. Member States had rejected Secretariat support in the elaboration of those recommendations. Without request, the Secretary-General had provided that assessment, which was practically limited to financial limitations.
The Argentine delegation welcomed the working group’s recommendations since they presented a realistic view of the functioning of INSTRAW. The working group recommendations must prevail, she said. Quality research could not be given up only due to budgetary restraints.
ALBERTO AMOROS NUÑEZ (Cuba) said the work being done by INSTRAW was very important. It was the only United Nations agency headquartered in the region, and he hoped that, in due course, adequate and stable funding would be provided to ensure the survival of the Institute.
CAROLYN HANNAN, Director of Division for the Advancement of Women, said GAINS was an innovative project and required specialized expertise. The note stated that more time was needed for INSTRAW to develop such a project.
SAVIRI BUTCHEY, Interim Director of INSTRAW, said at the time of the various audits, GAINS had been at the initial stages of the project. Having completed phases one and two, it was now a question of enhancing the system for the dissemination of further information.
Ms. KISLINGER (Venezuela) said it was her opinion that what GAINS needed was to be enhanced, not reoriented. That was an issue that should be decided by Member States. In the note of the Secretary-General, it appeared as though such reorientation was a given, and that was not the case, particularly as it had not been discussed by Member States.
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