|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
17th & 18th Meetings (AM & PM)
In Third Committee Member States Detail National Steps to Safeguard, Nurture
Children, Call for More Support to ‘The Most Vulnerable of the Vulnerables’
Some 50 speakers take floor on third day of continued debate on child rights;
Efforts focus on education, health care, legal regimes to end violence, abuse
Rounding out a three-day discussion on the promotion and protection of the rights of the child, members of the Third Committee (Social, Cultural and Humanitarian) detailed national initiatives to safeguard and nurture their future generations, while calling for further assistance and support to “the most vulnerable of the vulnerables”.
More than 50 speakers from State delegations and an observer mission took the floor to debate children’s rights two days after Anthony Lake, the executive director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) called for urgent action to end the marginalization of the world’s forgotten children — namely girls, children with disabilities and the most isolated and impoverished youth.
To that end, speakers throughout the day-long debate highlighted initiatives from countries of every size, region and level of social and economic development that aim to bolster the basic rights of children to health, education and a life free from violence. Delegations pointed to specific policies to foster wider access for girls and disabled children to schools and basic health services, as well as counselling. They also outlined newly enacted anti-trafficking laws and the establishment of help lines and shelters for child victims of domestic violence.
Among others outlining their national progress, the representative of Niger said her countryhad reformed its child protection system, including by providing prenatal medical care and child care from birth to age 5 free of charge, expanding social services for children with disabilities, and increasing education funding. But despite devoting substantial resources to children, Niger still had significant work to do to further protect children, she said.
To zero in on outstanding issues, Indonesia’s delegate said institutional and legislative frameworks, as well as legal sectors, should be strengthened, while a comprehensive approach that involved all stakeholders, including children themselves, should be promoted. Noting that children’s well-being was closely tied to efforts to promote women’s rights and gender equality, he said Governments must continue to invest in children to ensure their productivity for decades to come.
Expressing alarm at the hundreds of thousands of children dragged into war and conflict and the millions more who suffered violence, abuse and exploitation on a daily basis, delegations emphasized the need for practical mechanisms to curb such mistreatment. “These are issues of concern and warrant the adoption and implementation of a protective legislative framework that guarantees the protection of the rights of children and criminalizes such offences,” the Director of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Vulnerable Groups of South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation said.
Costa Rica’s representative said violence against children must be addressed in the context of emerging challenges posed by drug trafficking and organized crime in Central America. He stressed that any system seeking to protect children from violence must account for the vulnerabilities of all children, including those with disabilities.
Emphatically underlining the link between child-related issues and the development agenda, Malaysia’s representative said many of the problems facing children in developing countries were closely related to under-development, poverty and conflict. Those problems could not be solved, he argued, unless the underlying development issues were seriously addressed and developing countries were provided with the required resources and assistance.
To that end, a number of delegates highlighted links between poverty and child labour, with some stressing that national development plans must include a focus on children. Others called for greater emphasis on providing a quality education to ensure that children had the tools necessary to further their development.
As one of the world’s biggest cocoa producers, the representative of Côte d’Ivoire called particular attention to the use of child labour in cocoa production, saying that while his country was working to end that practice, it was a symptom of poverty and social inequality. “Combating poverty is the best way of reducing and eliminating the worst forms of child labour in Côte d’Ivoire”, he said, noting that, among other things, schools and community health centres were being built in cocoa-producing areas, while alternative income-generating activities were also being created.
Among several youth delegates taking the floor today, the youth representative of the Republic of Korea said one measure of success of efforts to better realize children’s rights would be the degree to which they encouraged the younger generation’s involvement in planning and implementing national action. Real change happened at the local level, where reality met the real energy-creators, the youth, she said.
Testifying to the ability of youth to change Government policies, Tunisia’s representative young Tunisians were the ones who successfully protested responsibly for their rights and democracy earlier this year. They broke down the wall of silence and despair, which had prevented them from dreaming of, much less enjoying, their most basic rights. Today, all ages would work together to build a balanced society in Tunisia, he said.
Also participating in the discussion today were delegates from the Republic of Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Myanmar, Iraq, Bolivia, Oman, Lebanon, Mozambique, Singapore, Jordan, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, Haiti, Kuwait, Mauritania, Morocco, Monaco, Sierra Leone, Germany, Swaziland, Botswana, Angola, Iceland, Trinidad and Tobago, United Republic of Tanzania, San Marino, Viet Nam, Burkina Faso, Montenegro, Ethiopia, Maldives, Nepal, Serbia, Eritrea, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Djibouti, Philippines, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Iran and Timor-Leste.
An observer from the Holy See also spoke, as did a youth delegate from Azerbaijan.
The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Monday, 17 October, to conclude its debate on children’s rights before beginning its discussion on the rights of indigenous peoples.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its discussion on the promotion and protection of the rights of children. (For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/4010.)
JUNG JIN HO ( Republic of Korea) said his country shared growing concern over the inequity facing children around the world. Regional and local disparities in health, including child mortality and fight against diseases, had not been properly addressed. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had helped address that issue, but there needed to be further assistance and support to “the most vulnerable of the vulnerables”. The Republic of Korea had strengthened its efforts to address those needs, particularly with its Act on the Welfare of Children with Disabilities, which focused on the right to education of the most vulnerable.
PU-REUM YIM, youth representative of the Republic of Korea, said a measure of success of these efforts would be the degree to which they encouraged the younger generation’s involvement in the planning and implementation of national actions. Real change happened at the local level, where reality met the real energy-creators, the youth, she said. National and local Governments, as well as regional institutions, must encourage the youth, while non-governmental organizations must recruit them, taking their needs and ideas into account and fully bringing out their potential.
SAEED AL SIRI ( United Arab Emirates) said the challenges facing the United Nations in protecting and promoting children’s rights were doubled after the recent global crises and his Government would continue supporting the Organization, in that regard. Aware that the children of today were the men and women of the future, his Government was coordinating domestic policy with international initiatives. It had ratified a number of child-focused conventions, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Labour Organization Minimum Age Convention, among others. It had also signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and had enacted laws and set up institutional machinery to ensure the care of children under those frameworks, including laws on combating trafficking in persons. Work was ongoing to develop a law for children that would be an instrument to help care for children and to guide all national programmes.
He said that, in terms of education, the Emirates were providing free education, while further developing the quality of the schooling provided. Mortality rates for children under 5 years of age had decreased by 60 per cent, and no cases of diphtheria or polio had been recorded in the last two decades. Special centres for juvenile delinquents had been established to provide training and social orientation. His Government was keen on contributing to helping developing countries meet the basic needs of children, as many of its institutions were giving and providing assistance, including to the Horn of Africa and particularly by providing food aid to Somalia. Concluding, he also underlined the need to help Palestinian children.
OTHMAN JERANDI ( Tunisia), aligning with the statement of the African Group, said implementation of those reports would only be possible if everyone worked together at the national, regional and international levels. Tunisia had always resolved to provide the best conditions in which children could flourish; a balanced childhood was the best way toward sustainable development and continued progress. The country had already achieved education for all, and young Tunisians were the ones who successfully protested responsibly for their rights and democracy earlier this year. They broke down the wall of silence and despair, which had prevented them from dreaming of their most basic rights. Today, all ages would work together to build a balanced society in Tunisia, he said.
In the new phase, Tunisia would protect and promote everything achieved for vulnerable categories in the country, including children. Accordingly, a comprehensive law had recently been drawn up to ensure children enjoyed all their rights and were protected from violence and exclusion. Protecting children had always been an aim in Tunisia. It had given them the opportunity to express views and contribute to family and life, as well as setting up a children’s parliament and municipal children’s councils. It had also set up family judges and children’s judges. Those initiatives promoted the well-being of children, as the best possible way to build a tolerant and responsible society. Tolerance and dialogue were two values that societies must teach, so they became part of the collective foundation for the future, he said.
GOBALAKRISHNAN NAGAPAN, Member of Parliament of Malaysia, associating with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), stressed that the promotion and protection of children’s rights must be among the priorities of every country’s development agenda. Many problems faced by children in developing countries were closely related to under-development, poverty and conflict, but could not be solved unless the underlying development issues were seriously addressed, and the countries concerned were provided with the required resources and assistance. Outlining Malaysia accessions to a number of children-related Conventions and protocols, he noted that the country’s Child Act of 2001 provided care, protection and rehabilitation of children without discrimination as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, social origin or physical, mental or emotional disabilities. Further, a National Policy and its Plan of Action, as well as a National Child Protection Policy and Plan of Action had been enacted.
He went on to note Government efforts to protect the rights of vulnerable children through shelter homes for neglected, abused, abandoned and orphaned children. Emphasis was also placed on providing a quality education to ensure that children had the tools necessary to further their development. As such, since 1957, education and training had consistently received the State’s biggest budget allocation, averaging approximately a quarter of the total annual budget. In 2012, it would receive $16 billion. In addition to domestic initiatives, Malaysia had hosted the inaugural First Ladies Summit in October 2010, which adopted a declaration on “A Child Today, A Leader Tomorrow”.
THANT SIN (Myanmar) aligning with ASEAN, recalled that his Government acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991 and, two years later, adopted its own Child Law in line with that international instrument. A national committee and other working committees on the rights of the child were formed to implement the Convention. Currently, Myanmar was implementing its National Plan of Action for Children (2006-2015), which focused on health and nutrition, water and sanitation, education and child development and child protection. Myanmar had also submitted it third and fourth combined periodic report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, and it would be considered in January 2012.
Underlining the Government’s commitment that no child under the age of 18 could be recruited for military service, he stressed that the country’s armed forces were voluntary. No draft system or forced conscription applied. New recruits verified to be underage were discharged and returned to their parents or guardians. Punitive action was taken against recruiters who contravened requirement regulations. He said the international community must cooperate to find a durable solution to the problems of child prostitution, child pornography and sale of children. The Government believed that a long-term investment in children was the most effective way to bring about the nation’s further prosperity, peace and development.
FRANCIS ASSISI CHULLIKATT, observer of the Holy See, said Member States must take all appropriate measures to prevent the abduction, sale, or trafficking of children to protect them from sexual exploitation. The complexity of the problem required effective preventive measures that involved children, their parents, the family and the community. Preventive measures should address socio-economic factors through such measures as ensuring all children were immediately registered for free at birth, and providing children at risk and their families food, housing, education and healthcare.
Education and raising awareness were also important, and family and parents played an essential role as first providers of ethical values, he said. States were obliged to respect and protect the important role of parents, so children could develop in a healthy environment. “Through development of sound laws and policies, States can make even greater strides in fostering the protection and promotion of the rights of all children everywhere”, he said.
MUHAMMED HASSAN AL-MOSSAWY ( Iraq) said all possible actions were being taken at all levels of Government to protect children and solve family problems, which were often the cause of obstacles to promoting their rights. The Government hoped to soon issue a new group of laws to be voted on by Parliament. Those included a bill for children’s care, which had received a first reading in Parliament’s committees of women and family, and of security and defence. Another bill banned the import of armed toys or fireworks for children, while a third concerned those with special needs. Both had received first readings by relevant committees. An organization for children’s welfare had been set up under the direct sponsorship of the Prime Minister. It consisted of representatives of all relevant ministries, as well as civil society and other experts, and aimed to guide the creation of different children’s programmes, while also coordinating their implementation.
Continuing, he said schools for the talented were being set up, as was a children’s parliament. The National Institute of Human Rights had formed friends of human rights groups in more than 400 Iraqi schools, through direct and free elections. Those groups fell under the sponsorship of the ministers of human rights and education and sought to raise discussions on: the value of peace and the negative effects of armed conflict; the rejection of extremism and violence; the principles of human rights and the rights of all individuals, irrespective of their politics, religion and ethnicity; and the benefits of political diversity, among others. In addition, an initial draft report relating to the implementation of the Optional Protocol on Children in Armed conflict had been adopted.
RAFAEL ARCHONDO ( Bolivia) said his country’s education reforms intended to meet the needs of children and adults who needed special attention. The country adhered to the principles in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Government had, since 2006, implemented a national development plan that introduced a participative and inter-sectoral model for economic development that tackled child malnutrition, poverty and violence. It had successfully lowered malnutrition and infant mortality rates, and intended to reduce to zero chronic malnutrition for children under age 2 and reduce to less than 5 per cent the level of children with iodine deficiencies. Bolivia was also promoting the production of quinoa and citrus fruit for better child nutrition.
But, increased child labour had an impact on formal education and health, he said. That problem was mostly caused by poverty, the low education of parents, and abandonment or the break up of families. Bolivia’s constitution prohibited forced labour and child exploitation, and the Government used vouchers to encourage children to attend school, which where paid out at the beginning of the year. Bolivia believed that by respecting children and protecting their rights, the country was preserving its own rights and future.
OTHMAN AL-BALUSMI ( Oman) said children were still deprived of many rights in many parts of the world. Even in the twenty-first century, innocent children were not spared and suffered from abuse, hard work and conflict. The Omani Government hoped the international community would provide the necessary support for children around the world. For its part, Oman had acceded to the Child Rights Convention in 1996. It had also ratified that treaty’s two Optional Protocols. Efforts made by Oman to fulfil its obligations under those instruments had been commended internationally.
The Government also paid close attention to children’s health and education, taking steps to provide basic services, he said. It was also focusing on the situation of orphans. Among other things, its efforts had reduced the number of school dropouts. Children’s scientific talents were also being enhanced through the provision of specialized training in scientific knowledge. The needs of children with disabilities were also a particular focus. Oman’s Government gave children great attention, in the hope those efforts allowed them to become human beings capable of building a bright future.
BRIGITTE TAWK ( Lebanon) said her country’s parliament recently cancelled honour crimes, by striking down an article that alleviated penalties for those who committed such crimes. There was also a bill before parliament that raised the age for free and mandatory education from 12 to 15 years. It was regrettable that violence affected children around the world, and it was encouraging that the Organization was helping coordinate efforts against such abuses. At the national level, Lebanon’s law had recently specified penalties for those who committed crimes against children. The Government had also established a committee to protect children, which created a national programme that would establish a hotline and promote their protection. The Government was also employing psychologists to help treat abused children and reintegrate them into society.
But, there still needed to be more effort to create mechanisms that would observe and implement those laws. She said Laws could not be effective unless they were part of a wider process that involved Government and civil society. To reduce the gap between law and practice in Lebanon, there were programmes to raise awareness and train families and civil society members, and involving children, as well, so they could give their own proposals in the process. Children in conflict-affected States were much less likely to attend school and twice as likely to die before the age of 5. In that regard, cluster bombs planted by Israel in 2006 during its aggression against Lebanon were a danger to its children, and had, thus far, injured 102 of them. In August 2011, Lebanon ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions, she said.
CLAUDINAH RAMOSEPELE, Director, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Vulnerable Groups, Department of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, aligning with the Group of 77 developing countries, the African Group and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), attached great importance to the promotion and protection of children’s rights. The 2008 South African Child Justice Act established a system — outside the criminal justice system — that dealt with children accused of committing a criminal offence. It was based on the child’s circumstance and the nature of the offence. Other social policies focused on advancing children’s well-being in the fields of health and education.
Stressing that more must be done to ensure that all children were raised in safe environments, she said violence against children and child abuse, especially against the girl child, were harsh realities facing millions around the world. “These are issues of concern and warrant the adoption and implementation of a protective legislative framework that guarantees the protection of the rights of children and criminalizes such offences”, she said. Strengthening child protection should be a priority for Governments. On that point, she said South Africa’s Ministry for Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities advanced equitable access to development opportunities by those groups. Also, international partnerships were vital to children’s rights protection and she urged efforts be taken to bridge the gap between political intention and action.
EDUARDO ULIBARRI ( Costa Rica), aligning with the Rio Group, said an invitation should be extended to the Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child for a dedicated exchange with the General Assembly. His Government welcomed the campaign on the universal ratification of the Child Rights Convention, as well as the adoption by the Human Rights Council of a draft third optional protocol. Saying a particular focus on the most marginalized children was needed, he welcomed the emphasis on children with disabilities in the annual resolution on children’s’ rights. He stressed that it must remain a comprehensive text dealing with all substantive issues. Further, discrimination against children with disabilities must be prohibited and their full rights and participation emphasized. Children with disabilities had a right to have access to education and social services as close as possible to where they lived. Better data collection was also needed.
Noting that his country remained disturbed by the difficult situation of children around the world, he stressed that children be acknowledged as a key factor in achieving gender equality. To that end, child marriage and forced marriage must be tackled. The impact of violence on children must also be addressed, particularly in the context of emerging challenges posed by drug trafficking and organized crime in Central America. Positive discipline should replace the use of violence against children. Mechanisms for addressing violence, especially violence against children, must be designed in ways that addressed the vulnerabilities of all children, including those with disabilities. International cooperation with the human rights mechanisms must be strengthened, especially in relation to children’s rights.
ANTÓNIO GUMENDE ( Mozambique), aligning with the statements of the African Group and SADC, said realization of children’s rights was integral to his country’s development process. Those rights and needs were highlighted in its new programme of action for poverty reduction, which included commitments in such areas as health, education, sanitation and HIV and AIDS treatment. Mozambique was also committed to improving social protection to the most vulnerable children, including those who had been abandoned, lived in absolute poverty, were victims of abuse, orphans or had disabilities.
Mozambique was also undergoing legislative reform in line with its international commitments to promote and protect children’s rights, he said. Despite those efforts, there were still great challenges to be faced in attempting to deliver a world fit for children. It was urgent to reinforce commitments regarding the Millennium Development Goals and take action now. Mozambique joined the calls for a global political commitment to foster more equitable and balanced economic and social progress.
ERNEST PHOON (Singapore), aligning his statement with that made by the representative of Malaysia on behalf of the ASEAN States, noted at the outset that Singapore was a country that lacked any natural resources other than its people. For that reason, it placed great importance on nurturing human talent. Singapore had presented its second and third periodic reports on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 2011, he said, going on to describe some of the aspects of Singapore’s national policies and programmes on children. In December 2010, the country had acceded to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which aimed to protect children from the undesirable effects of trans-border parental abduction and retention. It had also introduced national legislation to give effect to the Convention. In addition, Singapore’s Children and Young Persons Act was also amended to enhance the welfare of children in residential care.
Singapore strove to provide its children with quality and affordable health care, he continued, noting that its infant and under-5 mortality rates were among the lowest in the world. The country allocated 20 per cent of is annual Government budget to schools. Its overall literacy rate was 96 per cent, and more than 92 per cent of each primary school cohort completed primary education and went on to secondary and post-secondary schools; it had also set up specialized schools for the different strengths and needs of students, as well as 20 special schools for children with disabilities. Singapore had a national “Enabling Master Plan” in place to ensure that children with disabilities received appropriate medical care, education and social support. In addition, its early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children provided social, educational and therapy services for special needs children from birth to 6 years old. Singapore’s “Many Helping Hands” approach reached out to educate the public on child protection and abuse, and each child protection case was handled with the best interests of the child in mind.
OMAR MOHAMMAD ABABNEH (Jordan), noting that children represented about 46.2 per cent of his country’s population, said the Government maintained a number of programmes to protect and promote children’s rights. The law on personal status gave great attention to those of unknown identity, affording them care and rights. Laws had been hardened to punish those using the Internet for child pornography. Other laws penalized human trafficking and protected children from domestic violence. In that context, he stressed that Jordan had completed a draft law on children to implement the Child Rights Convention. By centralizing the country’s laws on children’s issues, it was intended to result in a qualitative transformation. He further noted that the age of work was now 16, and 18 for dangerous work. Children were protected against exploitation and forced work. Other projects provided education from early childhood.
Jordan had ratified the two Optional Protocols to the Child Rights Convention, he said. This year, it had also submitted its first two reports to the Committee overseeing that Convention’s national implementation. Jordan had recently participated in a conference regarding the protection of children from domestic abuse. Voicing support for the work of Special Representative on Violence against Children, Marta Santos Pais, he stressed the need to renew her mandate. Finally, his delegation emphasized that “those about whom we meet and talk today are our children and grandchildren. Let use work together for their benefit.”
YUSRA KHAN ( Indonesia) said children’s issues had increasingly become part of the world’s universal human rights governance, but his country shared the assessment that there were still too many children left behind. Institutional and legislative frameworks, as well as legal sectors, should be strengthened, while a comprehensive approach that involved all stakeholders, including children themselves, should also be promoted. The well-being of a child was also closely tied to efforts to promote women’s rights, and Governments must continue to invest in children to ensure their well-being and productivity for decades to come. Indonesia was working to improve its responses in all those areas.
His Government, under law, also guaranteed the rights of children with disabilities, and had formulated policies and helped bring visibility to their situation by introducing a system of statistics on the issue. To help families recognize and develop the potential of children with disabilities, the Government had been providing childcare for them and developed a mobile “Social Rehabilitation Service Unit Programme” to provide services outside facilities. Learning from its past of conflict and social unrest, Indonesia now guaranteed the rights of children in such situations through special procedures, which reunited those separated from families and communities; gave school access to non-governmental organizations to assist healing and counselling; and provided social protection homes, or foster homes.
HANNA PROROK ( Ukraine), aligning with the statement of the European Union, said child welfare was a strategic national priority. Her Government was fully devoted to eradicating all forms of violence, including discrimination against children, child labour, child trafficking, child prostitution and child pornography. Promoting children’s rights was one of the priorities for Ukraine. While chairing the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, it aimed to promote a multidisciplinary and multi-stakeholder approach to violence. Another urgent task was the formation of a child-friendly health care system, and the new Council of Europe strategy for the rights of the child had also been developed under Ukraine’s chairmanship.
Ukraine enjoyed good cooperation with UNICEF which increasingly played an important role in supporting children in need through development of substantial health, nutrition, education and protection programmes. The country had made substantial progress on a number of issues, but there were still challenges. The main priorities for the future were multidimensional and included: fighting HIV/AIDS, minimizing the impact of the Chernobyl disaster for children; protecting the right of orphans and those deprived of parental care; developing social services; and resolving the problem of violence and trafficking of children.
ABDULMOHSEN BINKHOTHAILA ( Saudi Arabia), quoting his country’s statute, said the State was keen “to strengthen family bonds, to maintain its Arab and Islamic values, to nurture its members and to create appropriate conditions for the development of their talents and abilities”. Children’s rights were guaranteed in the statute and all possible efforts were employed to ensure that every child enjoyed all of their rights. The National Committee on Childhood was established in 1979 to coordinate all efforts aimed at providing children with health care, education, recreation, social development and technical advancement. It developed strategies that guide all respective bodies in supporting Saudi children. Kindergarten was a particular focus and a high-level supervisory committee was formed to develop and implement a major plan to expand kindergarten care. Special curricula had been created and a centre for early childhood development mandated to prepare studies about childhood.
He further noted that the Government had developed strategies to reduce child and infant mortality levels, maintain high levels of immunization for children, and assist children with mental illness and provide healthcare and rehabilitation to disabled children. Health units in schools were also being established and supported. National laws strictly forbade child abuse and other violence against children and seminars and workshops had been held to educate communities. Plans were underway to form a national committee to formulate a comprehensive national strategy to combat violence in all its forms. The Ministry of Health participated every year in the activities of the World Mental Health Day to raise awareness about children’s mental health.
Marie Françoise Bernadel ( Haiti), aligning with the statement by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said education had always been a problem in her country, primarily because of lack of infrastructure and programmes. Children in rural areas had been most affected. Almost 80 per cent of education was private, while only 49 per cent of girls and 51 per cent of boys went to school. To address that problem, the Government had enacted a new plan that taxed remittances to Haiti to bring free school transport. Today, there was $28 million in that fund for education, and some friendly countries had also begun to contribute.
In the recovery from Haiti’s devastating earthquake, schools had been officially reopened for the 2011-2012 academic year, and the vision for free education for all Haitian children was beginning to take form, with 772,000 children receiving education this year. Despite enormous challenges, the opening of schools was a symbol of hope that could bring a semblance of normal life, trust and safety. However, education for all meant you needed good teachers, and they needed to be encouraged to be positive models for boys and girls in all areas. In that regard, Haiti’s Government welcomed the celebration of World Teacher’s Day on 5 October. In conclusion, she said, Haiti was politically resolved to live up to its commitments on the Rights of the Child and realized it needed to step up efforts to realize the Millennium Development Goals.
MAIMOUNA ANGO ( Niger) said the national system for protecting children had been reformed as a matter of priority. Policies adopted in 1999 had been revised, with a view to adapting them to current conditions. An instrument for guidance on children in vulnerable situations was being developed. Prenatal medical care and child care from birth to age 5 was now provided free of charge. Niger’s Health Development Plan for 2005-2010 aimed at reducing infant and maternal mortality. Vaccination programmes had been expanded, while another programme addressed the situation of children who had been left orphaned because of HIV/AIDS, as well as mother-to-child transmission. Social services provided care for children with disabilities. Education funding had been increased, resulting in greater parity in attendance rates between boys and girls and between urban and rural areas. The Government was working to achieve the Millennium Development Goal for basic primary schools by recruiting more teachers and construction of additional schools. To engage more children in decision-making, a children’s parliament had been set up.
Yet, children in Niger were still exposed to violence and ill treatment, she said. A monitoring mechanism had been set up to address the worst forms of such violence. A code of conduct for children working in homes had also been developed. The Government was working to better support victims of trafficking. The country’s penal code had also been revised. For example, those found guilty of the rape of a child under 13 years of age now faced an imprisonment from 15 to 30 years. In addition, the labour code had specific provisions regarding child labour. Although Niger was one of those low-income countries in Africa that had devoted substantial resources to children, significant work was still required to further protect children, she concluded.
BADER AL-SAQER ( Kuwait) said the proper protection of the child under law was at the heart of his country’s policies. Kuwait paid due attention to the family and the child; its Ministry of Social Affairs, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health all sought to augment a child’s well-being and future. One hundred per cent of children in Kuwait completed primary school through those policies. He said he would also like to draw attention to the suffering of children in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and called on the international community to pay special attention to their plight.
SIDATI OULD CHEIKH ( Mauritania) said millions of children suffered violence, abuse and exploitation on a daily basis. That showed that, despite the efforts of the international community, children did not yet have adequate protection in a statute. After its 1989 adoption, the Child Rights Convention had begun a process to protect and promote the rights of the child. In addition, the adoption of Security Council resolution 1882 (2009) on children and armed conflict further represented a step forward in the rights of the child. Moreover, the work of UNICEF was critical and he stressed in that regard the launch of a campaign in Mauritania in July on children’s vaccinations. His Government supported the work done by the United Nations and UNICEF, and hoped it would continue.
Noting that children today did not feel safe, he called for further efforts to prevent trafficking and discrimination. For its part, Mauritania was working to strengthen children’s rights, including by setting up a National Council for Children to monitor State policies. Another step forward came in 2005, with an edict on the criminal protection of the child. Mauritania had also signed the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. Today, the Government had increased the resources it allocated to education. As a result, illiteracy rates had dropped and primary education was now mandatory. Mauritania had also signed the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography. Stressing that his Government sought to secure children rights and supported all initiatives to that end, he underscored that today’s children were tomorrow’s leaders — and children who grew up in safety today would be better equipped to ensure a stable world tomorrow.
ABDELMOUNAIM EL-FAROUQ ( Morocco) welcomed the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which countries had adapted to their own situations, taking into account their rights and opinions and their best interests. The rights of children were a priority for Morocco, as part of its policy to place the human being at the centre of its concerns. One of Morocco’s pillars of action was its national plan for children, which would include government bodies and civil society and aimed at providing better education and fighting the maltreatment of children.
Morocco’s efforts to boost child rights had just been evaluated, providing an opportunity to consider recommendations for areas of action, he said. In Morocco, improvements were needed in such areas as medical coverage; protection from violence; awareness of the dangers of drug consumption; mobilization to end school drop out rates, with particular attention for girls in rural areas; begging; and early marriage. He also backed the idea of creating a world map that gave insight into the problem on the sale of children, prostitution and child pornography. That would offer insights into the abuse of children and provide an important perspective on national priorities.
VALÉRIE S. BRUELL-MELCHIOR ( Monaco) said children in the most vulnerable communities must be the focus of development activities, and emphasis must be placed on girls, who were the most vulnerable. Member States also had to pass laws that ensured social protection programmes and policies that met the needs of children with disabilities. Monaco also had a number of international development programmes, and was working to help children with poor eyesight, particularly those in rural areas, so they could be integrated into society.
Monaco was also committed to promoting access to healthcare, providing projects for infant cardiac surgery and a programme called the ambulance of hope, which went to rural areas. Through private and public partners, nearly 140 children with heart disease had been cared for in Monaco, she said. Monaco supported the global integrated approach proposed by the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and was resolved to implement international systems to protect them.
YOUSSOUFOU BAMBA ( Côte d’Ivoire) said his country’s constitution protected human rights, giving special concern to children and vulnerable groups. Côte d’Ivoire had recently ratified the two Optional Protocols and it was a party to a number of child-related International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions. Child rights were also guaranteed through a number of bilateral and multilateral agreements with other West African countries, including a bilateral agreement with Mali to combat trafficking in children. That issue was also covered in a multilateral treaty with other countries in the region. Noting the use of child soldiers during African conflicts, he said his country was working to immediately halt the practice, further stressing that Côte d’Ivoire was no longer on the “shame” list in that regard. Its commitments under the relevant international instruments were being translated into laws and regulations regarding female genital mutilation, as well as child prostitution, trafficking and recruitment into armed groups.
He could not, he said, pass over the issue of child labour in cocoa plantations in silence. As one of the world’s major producers of cocoa, Côte d’Ivoire was seeking to put an end to the use of child labour. It was fully involved in the certification process under the Harkin-Engel Protocol and was currently working to asses the situation in terms of quantity and quality, what must be done to change that situation, and what machinery was in place to improve the daily lives of children in cocoa-producing areas. Outlining the phases of the certification process, he said child labour was a symptom of poverty and social inequality. “Combating poverty is the best way of reducing and eliminating the worst forms of child labour in Côte d’Ivoire”, he said, noting that, among other things, schools and community health centres were being built in cocoa-producing areas, while alternative income-generating activities were also being created.
VICTORIA M. SULIMANI (Sierra Leone), aligning with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, said that Sierra Leone had undertaken a transformation of key institutions to ensure quality care and protection for all its children, including their rights to adequate food and shelter and their right to be heard. The Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, which was responsible for protecting children, was being made more effective in coordinating and monitoring child protection issues. Further, basic education was now free and compulsory for all children. Also, a free health care service had been launched and the rate of maternal and infant mortality had dropped. Communities were being educated on hygiene, nutrition, immunization, use of mosquito nets and on how to prevent malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia.
Numerous measures had been taken to protect children from violence, exploitation and abuse, she said, among them: a National Referral Protocol for child victims/survivors of sexual and gender-based violence; and the construction of pilot homes for victims/survivors of domestic violence in the north and west. Child-focussed legislation addressing rights, human trafficking, adoption and child labour had been enacted or were being amended. With partners, the country was making progress on the two optional protocols, particularly in the provision of support to former child combatants. It had endorsed the Paris Commitment to Protect Children from recruitment into armed groups and adopted the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Protocol. The Child Rights Act had criminalized the recruitment and enlistment of children and underscored the right of every child to protection from involvement in armed and other conflicts. Numerous endeavours were underway to make children aware of their rights, she said.
RALF SCHROEER ( Germany) said his country supported the draft Optional Protocol allowing children to file complaints, recently adopted by the Human Rights Council. He called on all States to support the resolution, which would be forwarded to the General Assembly next year. On the situation of children with disabilities, he said they faced discrimination and isolation, and it was States’ job to ensure their equal participation in society. The rights of children with disabilities should be integrated into the international legal framework, he said.
Children in armed conflict situations also deserved special attention; he said. They were at greater risk of recruitment and sexual exploitation, while often suffering malnutrition and lack of education. They were also sometimes used as suicide bombers and were often innocent victims of action. Germany was closely cooperating with United Nations bodies to better protect those children, and supported Security Council resolution 1998, which declared schools and hospitals off-limits for armed groups, as a step in the right direction. Germany also provided financial support to the Special Rapporteur for violence against children, and offered wholehearted agreement with her mandate. Domestically, last month Germany launched a new national plan on protection of children from sexual violence and exploitation. Germany would continue its cooperation within the United Nations system, within its region, and with civil society, in the common goal to protect children and ensure they grew up in a caring, supportive environment.
ZWELETHU MNISI ( Swaziland) said that the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Swaziland was a party, set a baseline for creating a better climate for children. His country had in place initiatives aimed at addressing issues affecting children and their protection, he said, adding that it was also making efforts to accede to the Optional Protocols of the Convention. Efforts to strengthen national laws and policies in the area of child protection included a 2009 National Children’s Policy, the establishment of a Children’s Court and a 2011 Child Welfare Protection Bill — intended to give effect to the provisions of the constitution and the country’s obligations under the Convention — which was currently before Parliament.
Despite that progress, however, Swaziland remained seized with several challenges. There had been a dramatic increase in the number of orphans and vulnerable children in the country, due mainly to poverty and HIV/AIDS. The epidemic had overwhelmed extended families, he said, creating the rapidly increasing new phenomenon of “child-headed households”. In response, the Government had put in place community-level initiatives such as Neighbourhood Care Points, where children could come daily to receive psychosocial support, a meal, basic health care, education and recreation. There were currently more than 48,000 children under the age of 5 registered at nearly 1,500 Care Points nationwide, he said. Swaziland wished to further clarify its position on the matter of corporal punishment, he said, stressing that it strongly condemned all violence against children. However, school discipline was managed by independent Disciplinary Committees and Directors of Education, who were not bound to accept recommendations. The Directors could authorize punishment that may include corporal punishment. However, it was limited to disciplinary purposes only, and education rules were in place to protect pupils from physical abuse in the name of discipline. All allegations of abuse, torture and mistreatment were duly investigated and dealt with in accordance with relevant laws, he stressed.
FAITH DANIEL (Botswana), aligning with statements made on behalf of the SADC and the African Group, reiterated her country’s commitment to ensuring the full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and related instruments. The protection of children in all situations was critical, but those with disabilities were in greater need because they were likely to suffer multiple forms of discrimination. In its efforts to eliminate violence against children, the Government had developed a communication strategy that raised awareness, gathered important data and empowered children to report abuse. It had partnered with civil society and other stakeholders to address a range of related issues.
She expressed concern that, despite the laudable efforts of many countries, children continued to suffer from poverty, hunger and malnutrition, violence, exploitation and the vicissitudes of armed conflict. She supported all efforts aimed at combating those problems. Affirming that education was critical for both the protection of children and the promotion of human rights, she said that her country had steadily expanded access, as well as the institutional capacity of both primary and secondary schools, and had put in place a policy on early childhood development. Notable progress had also been made in the provision of health care and the reduction of HIV transmission and child mortality. The country still faced financial and human resource constraints in those areas, however. For that reason, the support of all partners continued to be valued.
ISMAEL A. GASPAR MARTINS ( Angola) said the Child Rights Convention and its Optional Protocols, together with other instruments, provided a firm normative foundation for preventing and responding to violence. Angola was working with UNICEF on several fronts to advance the implementation of the recommendations of the 2006 United Nations Global Study on Violence against Children. Angola’s new 2010 Constitution had created a solid legal framework for the country’s children, and the Government was currently tackling violence against children as part of its national development strategy. The National Institute for Children had been improving its capacity to respond to the challenge by formulating relevant policies and supporting the protection network of non-governmental organizations, churches and Government institutions as the main pillars of its national child protection system.
Noting that there was room for much improvement in such areas as data collection, he said the health sector also needed support to establish a reliable national database for legal action on cases of violence against children and injuries resulting from such violence. In that regard, he appealed to specialized international institutions for support. In the future, Angola would support the development of a child “help-line” and accelerate progress on access to birth registration and fair justice, among other critical areas.
GRÉTA GUNNARSDÓTTIR ( Iceland) said the Convention and its Optional Protocols constituted the cornerstone of work to protect children’s rights, and she urged countries to join those instruments, with the aim of achieving universality by 2012. Noting that Iceland had ratified the Convention in 1992, she said a bill containing amendments to the Icelandic Children’s Act included provisions to better reflect the Convention in that legislation. On gender discrimination, she noted a worrying development towards “skewed” societies that had more boys than girls, based on the belief that daughters were worth less than sons. The impacts of that were staggering: generations of young men were unable to form a family. Bride trafficking and sexual violence were other unintended consequences.
She went on to encourage Governments, among others, to ensure girls had equal opportunities “from the very start” to meet their basic needs, strongly supporting calls to protect girls’ rights and promote their participation in society. Girls were inversely affected by poverty and there was a risk that even amid economic recovery, girls and women would be more vulnerable to the effects of the global crisis, with decreased spending on education and health. Governments had a duty to ensure that girls were educated, healthy and skilled, especially in rural areas. On a brighter note, she said Iceland had been encouraged by the calls of young people in the Middle East and Africa for their concerns to be addressed, and she welcomed UNICEF’s “State of the World’s Children” report, which urged investment in adolescents as a means to break inter-generational poverty.
MELISSA ANN MARIE BOISSIERE (Trinidad and Tobago), aligning with CARICOM, said her Government had formulated a National Plan of Action of children that focused on providing quality education, promoting healthy lives, combating HIV/AIDS and protecting children from abuse, exploitation and violence. Earlier this year a new Ministry for Gender, Youth and Child Development was established. A “children’s package” of legislation had been enacted alongside the 2011 Trafficking in Persons Act and a Domestic Violence Act that, among other things, allowed a child to apply for a protection order. Millennium Development Goals on universal primary education and eliminating the gender disparity in primary and secondary education had been achieved. Education from the primary to tertiary levels was provided at no cost.
Trinidad and Tobago supported the call for greater attention to be paid to children with disabilities, she continued, noting that her Government had embarked on a number of measures to affirm the rights of that vulnerable group. Initiatives included a Disability Assistance fund and grants to purchase various assistance devices such as wheelchairs, as well as infrastructure modifications to sidewalks and crosswalks. A “seamless education project” included a focus on inclusive education for children with disabilities. A vision and hearing screening programme had also been implemented for entrants to public and private primary schools. In addition to providing children with school meals and access to free health care, the Government had instituted a Children’s Life Fund, which brought relief to children requiring expensive, specialized medical treatment unavailable in the country. It was the personal initiative of the Prime Minster and Cabinet members, who donated 5 per cent of their salaries to the Fund. It had been used by 23 children between May 2010 and April 2011.
ELLEN MADUHU (United Republic of Tanzania), aligning with the statements by the African Group and SADC, said her country’s development programmes had incorporated children’s issues and key outcomes that embraced child-focused goals and targets of the Millennium Development Goals. Problems affecting children could not be seen in isolation from the socio-economic situation. She highlighted many of her countries successes: enrolment at primary school was at about 100 per cent and gender parity had been achieved; the introduction of ward secondary schools had also increased the enrolment of children; and vaccinations, improved nutrition and distribution of insecticide treated nets had significantly reduced neonatal, infant and maternal mortality rates.
But, while there was growing awareness to register children, the number was low, so her Government was planning a campaign to get those under 5 years of age registered. Also, the Government had continued to ensure children were consulted and participated in issues of their concerns, through its Junior Council. A study on recent violence against children in Tanzania was the first evidence-based study in Africa that covered all forms of violence. It estimated the extent of all violence against girls and boys, and while the statistics were troubling, they provided information that would be useful in devising policies and interventions for combating violence against children.
DAMIANO BELEFFI (San Marino) said in recognition and support of the global campaign for the universal ratification of the Optional Protocols to the Convention of the Rights of the Child that was launched last year, his country had recently ratified the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict and the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. Since its ratification of the Convention of the Rights of the Child in 1991, San Marino had engaged in efforts to fully apply the general principles of that Convention in its legal framework and to integrate those principles in its policies and programmes.
As a strong and active advocate in safeguarding of children, particularly children with disabilities, San Marino believed that targeted strategies and policies that took into account the situation of such children were needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education. That particular group of children — children with disabilities — was one of the most marginalized groups that experienced widespread violations of their rights. He also reaffirmed San Marino’s support of the work of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, and regretted that children continued to be the most vulnerable and the most affected by violence, abuse and exploitation. In that regard, he recognized the United Nations essential role in promoting the rights of the child and pledged his country’s continued support for initiatives aimed at reaching that goal.
RZA ALIYEV, youth delegate of Azerbaijan said the active participation of all members of society was needed for the effective protection of children. Emerging technologies and information networks required legislation that countered newly developing threats. The vigilance and activism of individual citizens, youth and civil society was equally important, and the business community must shoulder its burden too. Parents, educators, health care professionals, social workers, media professionals, religious leaders and others who touch the lives of children every day should make an effort to be fully informed, to take notice of early signs of abuse and to fulfil their obligations to protect children from all forms of violence. Children must also assume the responsibility of protecting other children, especially those that were younger or more vulnerable. An explicit legal ban on all forms of violence against children also needed to be scaled up, to allow children to benefit from needed legal protections.
Calling for greater youth participation in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, he said one of the main tools for their attainment was education, which had the power to break the cycle of poverty, decrease violence and lead to a more prosperous and progressive world. For its part, Azerbaijan was working to address youth employment, improve the social and economic welfare of its young people and support young families through mortgages. Yet, one of the main problems of the Azerbaijani youth was the continuing occupation of almost one-fifth of the country. Every ninth person was a refugee or an internally displaced person. Further, a huge portion of the one million refugees were children and young people. Noting the psychological trauma and lack of access to services stemming from 20 years of conflict, he expressed hope that it would soon be resolved.
PHAM BINH ANH ( Viet Nam) said that children were the future of humanity and that, despite commendable efforts in protecting and promoting child rights, challenges remained. He noted that 8.1 million children under the age of 5 died each year, along with 350,000 maternal deaths. Some 67 million children were not in school, while millions of others were victimized by armed conflicts, trafficking, child labour, sexual and other violence. He said that protecting and promoting the rights of children should become part and parcel of legal systems, socio-economic development policies and also of the plans and programmes of all United Nations development agencies. While progress had been made in coordination within the United Nations system and with treaty bodies, efforts should be even more effectively coordinated.
Viet Nam, as one of the first countries to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child and a party to both optional protocols, was committed to children’s interests as manifested in its national constitution and legislation, he said. Internationally, it had submitted reports to the Convention’s monitoring Committee and was implementing its recommendations. There had been tangible results recognized by the Organization and other development partners. Over 90 per cent of the population under 6 received free health insurance, and vaccination programmes, implemented nationwide, had helped virtually eliminate many infectious diseases in children. Supplement programmes had reduced the rate of childhood malnourishment and significantly reduced infant mortality. Universal primary education had been realized and the gender gap in education at all levels was diminishing. Children comprised 27.5 per cent of the country’s population. The National Action Plan on children aimed to improve conditions for the most vulnerable.
BERNADETTE BONKOUNGOU/KANDOLO ( Burkina Faso) said her country had a very young population and a rather low level of development. In 2006, 46.6 per cent of the population was under 15, while just over half was under 18. Those children not only faced problems, they were simply not aware of their rights. Indeed, a 2008 survey showed that 63 per cent of the children and 40 per cent of the adults of Burkina Faso had never heard of children’s rights. The Government had subsequently decided to promote children’s rights. To that end, it had instituted training programmes for adults and a children’s guide had been translated into the country’s seven languages. Other meetings had been held for religious and community leaders, as well as childcare providers at the local level.
In 2008, an anti-trafficking law had been enacted. A help line to address violence against children had been set up and corporal punishment in education had been banned. The Government was also trying to stamp out forced and early marriage. Last year, 92 per cent of births were registered. Housing for young people had been built in some detention centres. A list of dangerous work from which children were prohibited had bend drawn up. Another programme, called “education in the open,” sought to provide schooling to street children. State institutional capacities were also being built up, including through the provision of wider access to primary education, and informal education centres had also been opened. Nonetheless, greater mobilization by development partners was crucial to success, she stressed.
Milorad Šćepanović (Montenegro) aligned himself with the statement delivered by the European Union, and highlighted issues of importance to Montenegro, bearing in mind that the country continued to build a democratic society that fully respected, protected and fulfilled children’s rights through the implementation of the relevant programmes and projects, rule of law and government accountability. “Deinstitutionalization” of the child protection system was one of the most important goals, which was commonly defined in the first phase of cooperation with UNICEF. The process of deinstitutionalization would be the result of the overall reform process of the child protection system. The Draft Master Plan for child protection system was created through identifying needs for development, and was based on key international documents pertaining to the protection of children’s rights and was compatible with strategic goals of Montenegro. At the national level, it would provide the possibility of eliminating the identified disadvantages of the previous system of social and child protection.
He commended the excellent cooperation between Montenegro and UNICEF and, in particular, the progress achieved in introducing the modern forms of child protection, intensification of the consultation process, and planning reforms. Montenegro had made significant progress in the process of European integration, particularly in the area of promotion and protection of the rights of the child. A network of day care centres had been set up, and awareness campaigns had been stepped up. In collaboration with the government, UNICEF launched the campaign “It’s About Ability”, in order to promote a program of inclusive awareness and improve the situation of children with disabilities through raising awareness. In conclusion, Montenegro would continue to actively support and implement programs to achieve equality, social inclusion and protection of the most vulnerable, the deinstitutionalization of the system of child protection and establishment of a system of monitoring implementation of adopted decisions.
NEGASH KIBRET ( Ethiopia) said Ethiopia attached great importance to the welfare of children, which constituted a significant portion of its population and was party to several international instruments in that regard. The country had taken several initiatives to harmonize its national laws with international and regional obligations. As violence against children was one of the worst impediments to the promotion and protection of children’s rights, the Government had revised its Family Code and Penal Code to ensure that its provisions tally with the relevant international instruments. The Family Law stipulated the importance of full and free consent and the attainment of the full age of 18 years for marriage. The Penal Code considered female genital mutilation, rape, abduction and trafficking of children as serious crimes that entailed severe punishment.
He said his country had managed to reduce infant and under-5 mortality rates through extensive immunization campaigns. As the result of successive five-year Education Sector Development Programmes — including construction of low-cost schools, alternative basic education centres to reach children from pastoralist areas and sensitization programmes to create awareness among parents to send their children to school the gross enrolment rate for girls at the primary school level had increased from 53.8 per cent in 2002 to 93 per cent in 2009. The Gender Parity Index had showed significant progress, both at the primary and secondary education levels.
JAVED FAIZAL ( Maldives) recalled that his country began serving on the Human Rights Council in 2010, and had played an important role in the 2011 adoption by that body of a new Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which provided a communication procedure allowing child victims to report incidents of abuse directly. Maldives fully supported the adoption of that Optional Protocol by the General Assembly, after which it would be open for signature in 2012. “It is high time that we gave voice to the victims of human rights violations” under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, he emphasized, including by providing them with appropriate international remedial measures.
After transitioning to a fully democratic system of governance in 2008, the Maldives had continued to work to strengthen its national institutions to protect the rights of children from abuse and exploitation, he said. It was currently undertaking a thorough review of existing frameworks of child protection, in order to identify and fill gaps. Among efforts undertaken were a draft bill protecting against sexual abuse and exploitation, a comprehensive public awareness policy aimed at moving stigma associated with victims of sexual abuse and severely increased penalties for perpetrators. It had drafted a Domestic Violence Bill and established a related helpline, as well as a Child Helpline, which had received over 400 calls in its first month of service. Additionally, UNICEF-trained social workers were now stationed in 20 outlying atolls. Maldives was also addressing weaknesses, including efforts to improve its secondary- and higher education systems. The country continued to be embattled by high rates of youth drug addiction, and had made the prevention of narcotic and drug addiction one of its Top Five Key Pledges. Further, Maldives had actively participated with its regional partners through the South Asian Initiative to Eliminate Violence Against Children. It remained deeply concerned about trafficking in young women and children, and continued to undertake efforts to combat those “outrageous actions”.
RUDRA KUMAR NEPAL ( Nepal) said her country had implemented a 10-year plan of action on health to protect children against abuse, exploitation and HIV/AIDS. Nepal had also developed a comprehensive legal regime for the protection of the rights of the child, geared towards rehabilitation of child offenders and child-friendly procedures. Its Child Labour Act outlawed the use of a child below 14 as a labourer and laid down stringent punishment for violators, and the Government had adopted a zero-tolerance strategy in child recruitment to armed groups. “Efforts are directed to protect children and ensure that children recruited in armed conflict have access to rehabilitation and reintegration measures”, she said, pointing out that 2,973 minors had been released from various cantonments and integrated into society.
Education was the key to proper child development and Nepal’s development plans were committed to ensuring all children, particularly girls, children in difficult circumstances and those belonging to ethnic minorities had access to free and compulsory primary education. The Government had also formulated several programmes for the welfare of children, and was making steady progress in health care, reducing under-5 mortality from 91 per 1,000 live births in 2001 to 54 per 1,000 in 2011. Although it was a least developed country just emerging from conflict, Nepal had embarked on a path to protect and promote the rights of the child in a holistic manner, she said. It appreciated works undertaken by the United Nations system and continued to look for enhanced support and cooperation from the international community.
MARINA IVANOVIĆ (Serbia), aligning with the European Union, said that as a State party to the Convention and its Optional Protocols, it fully supported its universal ratification and implementation, as well as the elaboration of the Third Optional Protocol on a communications procedure, adopted by the Human Rights Council in June. She voiced hope the Assembly would adopt that new standard-setting instrument by consensus during its current session. Noting that Serbia had presented its initial report on the implementation of the Convention in 2008, she said that the Government last year formally endorsed the Paris Commitments and Principles on children in armed conflict.
Noting that reform was underway to harmonize national regulations with the European Union “acquis”, she touched on several laws adopted in the last decade that related to children’s rights, including the Family Law and the Criminal Code. Serbia also had adopted strategies and policies on poverty reduction, social protection and inclusion, refugees and internally displaced persons, and Roma, to name a few. The national action plan for children defined the goals to be achieved by 2015. The National Strategy for the Prevention and Protection of Children against Violence was adopted in 2009, and the action plan for its implementation in April 2010. Finally, she said the results of the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey on Monitoring the situation of Children and Women in Serbia showed there were still disparities related to the national average data and data related to various groups of vulnerable children. Future measures would focus on those groups, including children with disabilities and Roma children.
AMANUEL GIORGIO ( Eritrea) welcomed the growing number of ratifications for the relevant conventions and protocols and applauded the efforts of the Secretary-General in that regard. His country, in accordance to its obligation to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, had just presented its periodic national report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. Noting that poverty affected children more than any other group, he said that his country, which was prone to desertification, land degradation and drought, had a long-standing policy to reduce poverty through sustained economic growth and accelerated human development. In order to reduce the rate of underweight children, the nutritional needs of children were being addressed through the Food Security Strategy, salt iodization, food fortification and instituting Therapeutic Feeding Centre at hospitals and health centres.
Continuing, he said that the under-5 mortality rates had declined in Eritrea to 55 deaths per 1000 live births, due to a number of steps taken, including instituting the Integrated Management of Neonatal and Childhood Illnesses program and the Early Childhood Development Program. Both programs included basic services to mothers during pre- and post-delivery periods. Further, the overall malaria morbidity had been reduced by 86 per cent and mortality due to malaria by more than 82 per cent. That made his country one of the few countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to have met the Abuja “Roll Back Malaria” targets. As well, HIV/AIDS prevalence, which had been estimated at 2.4 per cent in 2002 was currently down to 0.7 per cent and the Government of Eritrea had banned female genital mutilation in its efforts to address violence against the girl child. Concluding, he said that Eritrea had endorsed the Paris Commitment and, in doing so, joined other States in advancing the agenda of protecting children in conflict situations.
ESSA SALEEM ALSUBAIEI ( Bahrain) said his country had paid special attention to children even before acceding to Convention and was working hard to integrate its provisions into national laws. National strategies and policies had been set up and children’s centres had been established. Bahrain also had adopted national measures to promote children. The National Committee on Children was created in 1999 and involved both the public and private sectors to address children-related activities, providing legislative protection and studying special needs. It was the national mechanism to follow up on the Convention’s application.
Noting that Bahrain had acceded to numerous conventions, including ILO Convention 182 (1989), he said committees had been set up in various ministries to identify work to be achieved. Childhood affairs issues had been transferred to the Ministry of Human Rights and Social Development, as had responsibility for juveniles. Further, Bahrain had reviewed child-related laws, he said, noting that the 2009 Family Code included provisions for children’s welfare. The National Committee on Childhood, in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UNICEF, also was studying the situation of children, with a view to setting up a national strategy and consolidating national efforts. Bahrain’s other efforts included projects that provided legal protection for children at all levels.
ABDUL HANNAN ( Bangladesh) said his country was on track to achieve Millennium Development Goal 4 on child mortality; successful programmes for immunization, control of diarrhoeal diseases and Vitamin A supplementation were the most significant contributors to the decline in child and infant deaths in Bangladesh. The country had also enacted legislation and policies to protect children from violence, changing societal attitudes and establishing mechanisms against abuse and exploitation. One project provided access to adolescent clubs for empowerment through informal life skills-based education, on issues such as child marriage and trafficking. The Government had also banned corporal punishment in all educations across the country, he said.
Steps had also been taken to prevent sexual harassment through a country-wide social awareness programme; the Government had formed committees in different ministries to form complaint committees at district levels. It was also considering initiating a counselling programme in schools to raise awareness of child rights issues. Collaboration between the Government, private sector and non-governmental organizations had also brought notable improvements in the overall situation of children in Bangladesh, he said.
KADRA AHMED HASSAN (Djibouti), aligning with the African Group, said her country had acceded to all regional instruments related to the promotion of children’s rights, and had ratified the Optional Protocols on Children in Armed Conflicts, and on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography. Since submitting its initial report 10 years ago, Djibouti had withdrawn its reservation on the general declaration. It had submitted its second periodic report and the Committee’s recommendations had been welcomed. Djibouti sought to eliminate all forms of violence against children. A national action plan had been prepared and special attention was being given to vulnerable children, especially orphans.
Detailing other efforts, she said Djibouti also was stepping up efforts to tackle female genital mutilation (FGM), and had devised an integrated approach to address the needs of infants and children aged zero to 5, especially in rural areas. Four childcare centres had been opened throughout Djibouti this year. Special attention was being paid to orphans and vulnerable children through a national strategy focused on their special needs, which sought to provide vocational training to them, among other things. Finally, she said studies of the impact of the family code, the pilot phase of the orphans and vulnerable children programme, and the female genital mutilation programme had been conducted to understand their impact on children. In closing, she said multilateral and bilateral assistance was paramount to helping Djibouti deal with an unprecedented drought.
LIBRAN N. CABACTULAN ( Philippines) said his country’s Constitution made the child the core of the family and mandated the State to promote their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual and social well-being. The Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 raised the minimum age of criminal responsibility in the country from 9 to 15, while other important laws protecting the rights of Filipino children ensured newborn screening, instituted policies to eliminate trafficking and provided stronger measures to protect working children.
An issue of utmost importance to the Philippines was the involvement of children in armed conflict, she said. During her visit to the country in April this year, the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict expressed her satisfaction at the great strides being taken, such as its programme to reintegrate and rehabilitate children used in armed conflict, as well as restructuring Government mechanisms to oversee protection of children under the oversight of the Council for the Welfare of Children.
SANJA ZOGRAFSKA-KRSTESKA (the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) said that making the world fit for children required global and regional responses and action at national and local levels. Her country was now implementing recommendations from the Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Government had established a National Commission on Children’s Rights to monitor implementation of the Convention and its Protocols. The Commission created a National Action Plan for Children’s Rights for the period 2006-2015, which was under review, and submitted annual reports to the Government on the Plan’s implementation. The Commission was comprised of representatives of government and civil society, as well as the country’s United UNICEF office, all on an equal footing. Non-governmental organization brought indispensable experience “from the ground”.
She expressed support for an international instrument to provide a Third Protocol, concerning a communications procedure, as a means to strengthen the Convention on the rights of the child. Due to economic hardship and growing poverty, her country was focussing on disparities between urban and rural children, to work towards greater social equity and social inclusion, particularly for Roma children, to combat discrimination and improve quality education, to free schools from violence and to build a culture, in that regard, among children. She noted the important role of UNICEF in the work undertaken.
PEDRO AURELIO FIORENCIO CABRAL DE ANDRADE ( Brazil) said that Brazil was one of the first Member States to enact in 1990 a specific set of laws on the rights of the child. In the ensuing twenty years, it had accomplished a great deal, including reduction of poverty, improved access to primary education, a reduced child mortality rate and the development of a new legal and policy framework on sexual exploitation and juvenile justice. However, he noted the challenges facing his country, including the millions of children still living in extreme poverty. Recalling the statement the President of Brazil gave in the General Assembly last month, he underscored the country’s commitment to eradicate extreme poverty through expanded social policies.
One component of that commitment to the rights of children and adolescents, he said, was the improvement of the public health-care system. That included a guarantee that pregnant women and their babies would receive safe and humane care from the beginning of the pregnancy to the first two years of the baby’s life. Another “crucial dimension” was the recent decision to build 6,000 childcare centres throughout the country, ensuring access to employment outside the home for mothers and early childhood social services for the children.
Concluding, he said that the Convention of the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols were milestone in the fight for the protection of children’s rights and he urged Member States that had not ratified to do so. Brazil was pleased to co-sponsor Human Rights Council Resolution 17/18 concerning the Optional Protocol, and he expressed his conviction that the new instrument would provide additional tools towards the implementation of the Convention and its other Protocols. Moreover, it would place the Convention on the Rights of the child “on equal footing” with other international human rights instruments.
PALITHA T. B. KOHONA ( Sri Lanka) said that the predicament of children experiencing violence, especially disabled children, migrant children, and child soldiers, was tragic. The reports, observations and thematic discussions have underlined the urgency of concerted action at the national, regional and international levels to halt discriminatory practices and different forms of violence perpetrated against children, including marginalized children. He condemned the continuing abominable practice of child recruitment, and said the constitution of Sri Lanka guaranteed equality to all citizens, and allowed for special provisions to be made for the advancement of women, children and disabled persons, reflecting the need for special affirmative action in the case of vulnerable groups. Sri Lanka had a dedicated government agency, the National Child Protection Authority, doing work on child protection issues, and had actively participated in the South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children and were developing an action plan under it, covering critical issues such as corporal punishment, sexual abuse and exploitation, child trafficking, child labour and early marriage.
The Penal Code amendment of 2006 strengthened Sri Lanka’s law regarding the sale of children and child prostitution and significantly widened the definition of human trafficking to conform with international standards. The amendment also dealt with cybercrime against children, and criminalized the soliciting of a child for sexual purposes. Moving onto the issue of child soldiers, he noted that rehabilitation of child soldiers was a priority, as well as reuniting war-affected children with their families. The National Child Protection Authority of Sri Lanka was implementing a programme in the North to provide livelihood support to foster families of conflict-affected children. Moving on to other issues, he noted policy formulation of early childhood care and development (ECCD), and said that policymakers were aware of the need to enhance capacity-building and systems and structures to support implementation of laws related to children. He noted achievements regarding equitable primary education and child and maternal mortality. In recognition of Sri Lanka’s efforts, UNICEF commended Sri Lanka as the best achiever in the subregion, despite a longstanding conflict. In conclusion, Sri Lanka would continue to work to strengthen policies, institutions, civil society, and the private sector to further advance women’s and children’s rights.
ESHAGH AL HABIB ( Iran) said the family, as the basic unit of society, held the primary responsibility for the protection, upbringing and development of children. But, despite progress in some child-related indicators, there were disparities among countries, with the situation of children even worsening in some parts of the world. A new approach concentrating on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children could be an effective way to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. On the sale and sexual exploitation of children, he said full use of the relevant mechanisms of the Organization, particularly the Human Rights Council and its special procedures, was needed for a prompt response to these “heinous phenomena”.
The plight of children living in armed conflict, foreign occupation and dire humanitarian crises must also be given prominence, he said. Children living under famine and civil war in Somalia required urgent attention, while the deterioration of the situation of children in Palestine was a grave injustice to humanity. Iran had taken many initiatives to promote the rights of children domestically, and was considering a new bill on the protection of children. It was also increasing its annual budget for child-related areas at national and local levels, and was formulating a plan for their security that established a reliable information data bank in each province on the rights of juveniles.
SOFIA MESQUITA BORGES (Timor-Leste) said over half the population of her country was under 19 years of age and 60 per cent was under the age of 24. The presence of so many young people created challenges, but also provided vast opportunities, and the delegation was very aware that protection and encouragement of youth was critical to the sustainability of its country, as well as the globe. Timor-Leste’s focus on the rights of the child had improved health care, education and legislation, while the Government had made promotion and advocacy of the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child a key theme of its Administration.
Although money was scare, Timor-Leste had tripled its education budget over the past five years and launched intensive literacy courses. It had also launched a teacher competency framework, which provided four months of intensive training for every teacher in 2009. Primary education enrolment had increased by 46 per cent over the past four years and secondary education had seen a sharp increase by one third in the past three years. In September 2010, 18 Timorese medical students graduated as medical doctors from the National University of Timor-Leste. “The ceremony was a historic moment for the Timorese health sector,” she said. Through improved health services, civil society information campaigns and immunization strategies, Timor-Leste had brought down its under-5 mortality from 115 per 1,000 births in 2001 to 64 per 1,000 in 2010.
* *** *