|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Secretary-General Says ‘Sad Truth’ Too Many Children Today Suffer Appalling Abuse;
World Must Remember Each Child Has Right to Grow Up Free From Fear, Exploitation
Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the tenth anniversary of the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in New York, 25 May:
It is a great pleasure to be here today.
I thank Mr. Lake for his kind introduction.
This is my first visit to UNICEF House since he took up his duties.
We are privileged to have such an experienced statesman at the helm.
Childhood is a time of innocence and learning, a time for building character and finding a safe route to adulthood.
At least, it should be.
But the sad truth is that too many children in today’s world suffer appalling abuse.
They deserve protection. It is their right.
Ten years ago today, the Convention on the Rights of the Child was strengthened to protect children from all forms of violence.
Two Optional Protocols provide a moral and legal shield for children vulnerable to prostitution and child pornography and those caught up in armed conflict.
Two thirds of all Member States have endorsed these instruments.
On this tenth anniversary of their adoption, I urge all countries to ratify them within the next two years.
In our quest for justice, their value is plain.
Just three months ago, under United Nations supervision, the Maoist army in Nepal released more than 2,000 soldiers who had been recruited as children.
In Côte d’Ivoire, too, the United Nations has helped to liberate children from the ranks of armed groups.
And in The Hague, the International Criminal Court is prosecuting former Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga for war crimes against children.
National legislation is keeping pace. Fewer and fewer States now permit children to join the armed forces.
My latest report on children and armed conflict urges the Security Council to consider tough measures on those states and insurgent groups that still recruit children.
It lists the most persistent violators and names State and non-State parties to conflict who have killed and maimed and used sexual violence against children.
We are moving in the right direction to protect children in war.
We are also seeing more countries reforming legislation and criminalizing the sale of children, child prostitution, child pornography and the sexual exploitation of children.
Child-help telephone lines in more than 150 countries are providing professional counselling and support to victims and their families.
United Nations Guidelines are helping to protect child victims and witnesses of crime.
And international cooperation is helping to dismantle paedophile networks, remove child pornography from the Internet, and protect children from sexual exploitation by tourists.
Nonetheless, much remains to be done.
In too many places, children are seen as commodities, in too many instances they are treated as criminals instead of being protected as victims, and there are too many conflicts where children are used as soldiers, spies or human shields.
On this tenth anniversary, let us remember that each child has the right to grow up free of fear and exploitation.
Conscience demands nothing less.
There is a global chorus demanding protection for all children.
Let us add our voices, and not rest until all children are safe.
They are our children.
The organization you now lead has a long and proud history of working to ensure children everywhere can thrive.
Today’s event focuses on just some of the many grave issues that are now on your agenda.
I wish you every success and look forward to working with you.
Thank you very much for your commitment and support.
* *** *