Third Committee Speakers Describe National Efforts to Safeguard Child Development, Including Intensified Effort to Combat Under-5 Malnutrition in Developing World

19 October 2012

Third Committee Speakers Describe National Efforts to Safeguard Child Development, Including Intensified Effort to Combat Under-5 Malnutrition in Developing World

19 October 2012
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-seventh General Assembly

Third Committee

16th & 17th Meetings (AM & PM)

Third Committee Speakers Describe National Efforts to Safeguard Child Development,

Including Intensified Effort to Combat Under-5 Malnutrition in Developing World

Some 46 Delegates Take Floor in Concluding Day of Debate on Child Rights;

Focus on Education, Health Care, Strengthened Legal Regimes for Child Protection

In the developing world, some 25 million children below 5 years of age suffered from acute malnutrition, and as Governments intensified their efforts to keep them from dying of often-preventable causes, they needed a strengthened international partnership, delegates in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) stressed today, as they wrapped up their discussion on the promotion and protection of children’s rights.

Those efforts were being launched amid renewed United Nations determination to increase opportunities for improving women’s and children’s health.  The Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health was the culmination of many coordinated global efforts, including the launch of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.  Other agencies - including the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) – had increased support for the “Scaling Up Nutrition” movement at the national level and in global processes.

Such coordination was needed, many of the day’s 46 speakers said.  Malnourished and uneducated children were extremely vulnerable to death, often waging daily battles against preventable diseases, such as measles, tuberculosis, polio and tetanus.  The continued prevalence of HIV and AIDS had created child-headed households, where children were caregivers to parents.  In many cases, they became orphans and street children.  More broadly, entrenched extreme poverty meant that mothers and children lacked access to the most basic health interventions.  According to UNICEF data, 25,000 children died from poverty each day.

“This is deplorable”, said the representative of Comoros.  Malnourished and uneducated children grew into poor adults, who would be poor parents and bear poor children.  To break that cycle, her Government was working to reduce maternal and child mortality, and tackle acute malnutrition in children under age 5.  Its HIV/AIDS programmes aimed to keep prevalence under 1 per cent of the population.  A hotline had been created to provide information on the disease and antiretroviral drugs were provided for free.

A number of speakers outlined the substantial, targeted investments they were making to improve children’s lives, even as their small coffers were feeding competing national priorities.  Several – especially from sub-Saharan Africa - detailed measures to expand quality prenatal and postnatal health care, offer HIV screening to prevent mother-to-child transmission and expand alternative care for orphaned children.  Others described efforts to stem the tide of malnutrition.

Lesotho’s delegate said HIV/AIDS was “a direct source of the rapidly increasing number of orphans and infected babies, in particular girls.”  The Government was working to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV through a plan that had treated 81 per cent of HIV-positive pregnant women in 2011, up from 71 per cent in 2010.  Through the initiative, 60 per cent of HIV-positive children had access to treatment.

Botswana’s delegate said her Government was working to improve maternal health, as that would, by extension, curb child mortality and HIV/AIDS.   Botswana had made substantial investments in health infrastructure to create an extensive primary health care system.  But, the country faced financial and human resource constraints and she called for strengthened partnerships with the United Nations.

In South Asia, Bangladesh had taken steps against the threat of malnutrition, that country’s delegate said, through programmes that provided Vitamin A supplement, oral rehydration therapy and other services.  “Malnourished mothers will give birth to malnourished babies,” he said.  Bangladesh’s success in lowering child mortality by over 67 per cent had been widely acclaimed.

On that point, India’s delegate said his country manufactured 40 per cent of the vaccines used in universal immunization programmes around the world, protecting babies and children from disease and death.  “Early childhood is the most crucial phase,” he said, and nutrition and health initiatives included growth monitoring and providing supplements to bridge the caloric gap between the average and the recommended intakes in vulnerable communities.

Ethiopia’s delegate said his country’s Health Extension Work Programme placed strong emphasis on preventive intervention and selective actions on curative health services.  Millions of children’s lives had been saved, as seen in the significant declines in infant and under-5 child mortality rates.

Highlighting a bilateral partnership, Ireland’s delegate said his country was supporting a cash transfer programme in Zambia, where chronic malnutrition caused 50 per cent of the deaths in children under 5. Money was provided to poor households with infants and young children, and aimed to target under-nutrition in the first 1,000 days and combating the irreversible effects of chronic under-nutrition in childhood.

“The future prospects of these children are inextricably linked to the decisions that we adopt and the actions that we implement at the national, regional and international levels,” said South Africa’s delegate, rounding out the discussion.

Also speaking today was a Counsellor in the Foreign Ministry of Qatar, as well as the Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nepal.

The representatives of Kazakhstan, Montenegro, Timor-Leste, Iceland, Kyrgyzstan, Oman, Costa Rica, Zambia, Albania, Maldives, Iran, Singapore, Dominican Republic, Angola, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Indonesia, Monaco, Bolivia, Jamaica, Malta, Swaziland, Haiti, Australia, Congo, Libya, Togo, Côte d’Ivoire, Bahrain, Georgia, Ecuador, Myanmar, Eritrea, Viet Nam, Azerbaijan, and Trinidad and Tobago also spoke.

Observers from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Sovereign Military Order of Malta and the International Labour Organization (ILO) also spoke, as did a youth delegate from Azerbaijan.

The representatives of Finland and the Russian Federation spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Monday, 22 October, to begin its discussion on the rights of indigenous peoples.


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to conclude its discussion on the promotion and protection of children’s rights.  For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/4042.


KIRILL GLAGOLEV ( Kazakhstan) said the legal framework to ensure the protection of children’s rights was constantly being brought into line with international standards.  Cooperation among Government agencies, non-governmental bodies and international organizations to improve their quality of life was being actively promoted through joint projects and social research.  Spending on education had increased annually and currently comprised almost 33.8 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  School enrolment had hit 99.8 per cent, with special focus on promoting quality access for children with disabilities, children of migrant workers and ethnic minorities.  Further, attention was being paid to children’s moral and spiritual education.

On other matters, he said Kazakhstan’s fourth periodic report on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child had been submitted to the Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2011 and would soon be reviewed.  A committee on children’s protection — which included a council of non-governmental organizations — had been established in the Ministry of Education and Science.  Special attention was also being paid to children who could not attend school for health reasons, with provision of computers and software tailored to their needs.  Children’s rights were enshrined in Kazakhstan’s legal system, and his Government was committed to eliminating the worst forms of child labour by addressing the root causes of that phenomenon.  Development efforts were focused on enhancing partner countries’ own systems for delivering basic services without discrimination, including universal birth registration.

MAFIROANE MOTANYANE ( Lesotho) his Government had put in place initiatives geared towards addressing issues affecting children and their protection; children’s rights were at the centre of all decision making processes.  In partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), it was drafting a Children’s Protection and Welfare Act and Court Rules intended to further enhance the child justice system.  In an effort to reinforce its commitment to the welfare of children, the Government had launched a national child helpline that provided youth with access to 24-hour counselling, support and protection services and initiated a Child and Gender Protection Unit in all police posts across the country to provide a child-friendly reporting environment that ensured confidentiality.

But, the gains Lesotho had made were at the risk of reversal, as a result of the scourge of HIV and AIDS, he said.  The pandemic was one of its biggest medium to long-term challenges, and was being felt across all sectors of society.  “It is a direct source of the rapidly increasing number of orphans and infected babies, in particular girls,” he said.  “The extended family, which historically absorbed such children, had been overwhelmed, giving rise to a new phenomenon of child-headed households.”  Children had “become caregivers to parents, effectively keeping them out of school”.  To counteract that, the Government had institutionalised a plan to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV, which treated 81 per cent of pregnant women living with HIV last year, up from 71 per cent in 2010.  Through the initiative, 60 per cent of HIV-positive children had access to treatment.

MILORAD ŠĆEPANOVIĆ ( Montenegro) discussed gains made in his country, citing a 2011 law on juvenile justice and its preparation of a draft law on social and child care.  The introduction of victim-offender mediation as an alternative for children in conflicts also had yielded good results, and efforts were underway to create a child protection database, as well as a new action plan for children.  However, foster care for children lacking parental care was insufficiently promoted, so the country had adopted a new strategy and action plan for the 2012-2016 period, which aimed to develop foster care as a “less restrictive” form of protection and to enhance funding.

As for children with disabilities, he said the legal framework was harmonized with international standards, noting the need to intensify efforts for ensuring full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, notably vis-à-vis health care.  Significant steps had also been made to make education more inclusive for those children.  As for violence against children, he pointed to the strategy for protection from domestic violence (2011-2015), and in March, the Government — with support from the Council of Europe — started a “one in five” campaign.  He stressed the need to improve the record on domestic violence against children and strengthen the capacities of experts in various fields for working with at-risk children and families.  There was also a need to monitor the number of cases and scope of abuse.

Mr. GIYORGIS ( Ethiopia) said the world financial and economic crisis had seriously affected children in a number of African nations.  His country had undertaken over the years various initiatives in order to effectively address the problems of children, including its Health Extension Work Programme that placed strong emphasis on preventive intervention and selective actions on curative health services throughout the country.  Millions of children’s lives had been saved by the significant decline of the under-five child mortality rate from 167 per 1,000 in 2001/2002 to 101 per 1,000 in 2009/2010.  Likewise, infant mortality had been reduced from 97 per 1,000 in 2001/2002 to 45 per 1,000 in 2009/2010.

Ethiopia recognised that certain traditional practices were an impediment to the full realization of the rights of children, and the Government took measures to revise the legal system and introduce policies, including awareness campaigns, social mobilization and discussion, to enhance the role children could play in shaping the nation’s destiny.  Recognizing that child labour was deeply rooted in the broader socioeconomic problems of the nation, the Government had ratified different legislative provisions to protect working children.  Moreover, the Child Labour Forum had been established to oversee implementation of those laws.

KAREN KOSKING ( South Africa) said violence was an undeniable reality that millions of children around the world faced each day and combating it required redoubled efforts by States, the United Nations and the entire international community.  A key challenge was to match the existing political will to advance children’s rights with the provision of financial resources.  “The future prospects of these children are inextricably linked to the decisions that we adopt and the actions that we implement at the national, regional and international levels,” she said.  For its part, South Africa had an enabling legislative environment for children, marked by the child justice act and the children’s act.

She said the issue of violence against children was a priority, which had led to increased legislative action and policy intervention to safeguard their rights.  On the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, she urged the United Nations to work with States to develop, adopt and implement context-specific strategies to prevent such abuse.  There was an urgent need for a legal framework, in compliance with international standards, to protect both victims and witnesses of sexual exploitation.  Raising awareness was an imperative at the community level.  The plight of children in armed conflict was also a concern.  Extreme vigilance was required to ensure all parties to armed conflict refrained from actions that violated children’s rights.  She urged leveraging funds to ensure the dream of education for countless children around the world. South Africa had placed education and health among its five core priorities.

MERINA EXAREAL (Timor-Leste) said her Government’s efforts for children were focused in several areas, including promotion of general health through nutrition programmes, immunization and increased access to drinking water and basic sanitation.  Maternal and child health, specifically reducing the child mortality rate, was a priority, and she was pleased to note that significant progress had been achieved through the development of a broad child health policy.  In 2009, Timor-Leste established its National Commission for Child Rights, designed to be guided by children and young people and aimed at developing child-friendly mechanisms that promoted their rights.  A youth parliament was also introduced, resulting in policy recommendations on education, health, employment and recreation.

Timor-Leste was also in the process of finalizing its Child Code and Juvenile Justice Bill, she continued, and legislative measures had been taken to address the rights and concerns of children, such as the adoption of a national child rights action plan.  Timor-Leste was a young democracy that believed education not only changed the lives of people, it drove the future of nations.  Education development was an integral aspect of development and national plans.  The Government was promoting access to education for all, and would ensure that by 2030 the people of Timor-Leste were living in a nation where people were educated, knowledgeable and able to live long and productive lives.

GRÉTA GUNNARSDÓTTIR ( Iceland) said that the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its optional protocols were the cornerstone of work to promote and protect those rights, and urged States that had not yet become parties to the Convention and the Optional Protocols to do so.  She then welcomed the two recent verdicts on child soldiers by the International Criminal Court and the Special Court of Sierra Leone, and supported those Courts’ innovative approaches to child-friendly judicial procedures that protected children from trauma and re-victimization.  Further, Iceland was prepared to share its own experience of Children’s House, its model for child-friendly judicial processes that made its justice system more accessible and effective for children.

Turning to the Millennium Development Goal of universal education, she said her country was strongly committed to the right to education and believed that education prepared young people to participate in society.  Free universal education was key to social equality and long-term prosperity.  Gender and poverty were the main impediments to education.  Thus, it was important to emphasize the right of the girl child to education as an investment societies must make in order to thrive.  Finally, she said that violence against children and child abuse must never be tolerated and must be addressed in the post-2015 development framework.  Supporting calls from United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to address violence against children in the justice system, she said there was a tendency to lower the age of criminal responsibility and increase penalties for children; yet there was no evidence that juvenile delinquency was on the rise or that harsher treatment of young offenders improved public security.  It was better to prevent and reduce situations that deprived children of liberty.  Violence as a form of punishment should be prohibited.

FAISALL AL SHAHWANI, Counsellor, Foreign Ministry of Qatar, said his country had ratified the Convention and the two Optional Protocols.  The Emir was interested in enhancing children’s rights nationally, regionally and internationally, and the country’s foreign relations were based on human rights.  Great efforts had been made in Qatar’s legal framework.  The family was the core of society and responsible for protecting children from abuse.  As such, a number of State and non-governmental bodies had been created to protect children’s rights.  The supreme council for family affairs coordinated efforts to ensure family protection, especially in the social, health, cultural and education spheres.

He went on to say that a number of bodies had been created, including the Institute for Women and Children, as well as a child cultural centre, which reinforced early education.  Shafallah centres also had been created to help children with special needs, while workshops and training programmes had been organized for all social groups.  Qatar hosted the seventeenth meeting of the Arab Conference on Children in 2011.  With that, he expressed concern about the rights of Palestinian children in Occupied Palestinian Territories.  Qatar would implement all instruments in that regard and do its utmost to engage with the international community to promote the rights of the child.

NURBEK KASYMOV ( Kyrgyzstan) said a low level of education was the reason behind many problems, including early marriage among girls.  He urged enhanced education levels for children and was ready to be involved in that initiative.  The country had adopted a new legal code that strengthened Government bodies responsible for identifying families living in difficult situations.  It also had taken steps to increase quotas for child orphans, so they could enter education systems and have access to housing.

He noted with satisfaction that this year his Government signed a $30 million plan for cooperation and action with UNICEF to help alleviate poverty, social exclusion and shortcomings in State mechanisms for protecting children.  The needs of children also needed to be taken into account in post-conflict peace planning, he said, underscoring the role of United Nations agencies with those actions.  Kyrgyzstan intended to strictly comply with its obligations under the United Nations Convention on child rights, and its State policies would continue to promote children.  The President had declared 2012 the Year of the Family, Peace, Harmony and Development, in order to strengthen the family as the basic unit of society and help overcome obstacles and ensure fairness for all.

FAITH DANIEL ( Botswana) said children were at the centre of the Millennium Development Goals and, as such, achievement of those Goals contributed to an enabling environment for children’s protection.  Progress had been made vis-à-vis violence against children and children in armed conflict, including efforts to combat impunity and end child recruitment.  But, the achievement of the Goals was still hampered by continued violence, including sexual violence against children.  Children from marginalized and impoverished communities, conflict situations and children with disabilities were at greater risk of not enjoying their rights to health, education and protection from violence.  She supported all efforts to address those challenges.

She supported all efforts to address those challenges to safeguard and protect children’s rights, saying that, for its part, Botswana had acceded to the Child Rights Convention and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.  It remained committed to realizing the rights of its children, especially through its 2009 children’s act, which provided the legal framework for such promotion.  The act also encouraged the creation of structures and, with that in mind, the National Children’s Council and the National Children’s Consultative Forum had been established.  Access to education had also improved.  But the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS made reducing child mortality and improving maternal health a “daunting task”.  In its “MDG” Acceleration Framework, Botswana focused on improving maternal health, as that would, by extension, curb child mortality and HIV/AIDS.  Botswana had made substantial investments in health infrastructure to create an extensive primary health care system.  Botswana also faced financial and human resource constraints and called for strengthened partnerships with the United Nations and development partners.

ABDALLAH BIN JAMA’AAL’ARIMI ( Oman) said throughout the world, wars were violating the rights of the child.  His country had legislation and laws protecting the rights of the child, and was very interested in the mandate for such efforts.  There was coordination among Oman’s ministries to protect children from abuse, and the country had also formed a working group to analyze which abuses needed to be addressed.

The international community was acting to create a generation that would see the development of the child throughout the world, he said.  Efforts would create better education for children and, thus, provide a viable and prosperous future.  He concluded by reaffirming his country’s adherence to all Conventions related to child rights and stating it would work with all Member States to ensure the promotion and protection of the rights of children.

ADRIANA MURILLO RUIN ( Costa Rica) said violence and organized crime affected the most vulnerable populations and she urged ongoing capacity-building in those areas.  In her country, United Nations funds and programmes supported national efforts to combat poverty and reduce inequality.  Cooperation with UNICEF had been vital in that regard.  This year’s resolution on the rights of the child, which Costa Rica had co-sponsored, focused on indigenous children, an issue that must be placed on the international agenda.  Education was vital for those children, as it enriched common, cultural and moral values.  Education must be culturally appropriate and include human rights.  The Ministry of Education was working to establish inter-cultural education, in line with international provisions in that area.

She lauded the International Criminal Court and the Special Tribunal for Sierra Leone for addressing cases of abused children in armed conflict.  Costa Rica, which did not have an army, believed that “the place for children is in schools and on the playground, not the battlefield”.  She supported renewing the mandate of the Special Representative on Violence against Children, including with resources from the regular budget.  Regional coordination was fundamental, as was cooperation among various State bodies and social actors, which in Costa Rica offered “excellent” results.  She cited the National Commission against Sexual Commercial Exploitation and a road map for a “country free of child labour” in that regard, saying the Ministry of Labour coordinated the work of many institutions in such efforts.  Girls required particular attention.

JOHN C. ZULU ( Zambia) said this agenda item was very important for his country, due to the fact that children under the age of 18 constituted about 50 per cent of its 13 million population.  Of all the children in the country, it was estimated that 1.3 million were vulnerable, meaning they were either orphaned, street children, child labourers or children heading households.  One of the primary duties of the State was to ensure children were nurtured into responsible citizens, and the Zambian Government had prioritized the domestication of all human rights Conventions and treaties, including those pertaining to children.

As a result of its deliberate policies supported by strategic partners, Zambia had attained universal access to basic education and was working relentlessly towards achieving universal access to health.  Despite positive gains, social and cultural dynamics, including poverty, continued to pose a challenge to the Government.  The scourge of HIV/AIDS had brought new dynamics, while children were prone to child labour and young girls were often forced into early marriage to sustain their ailing parents or orphaned siblings.  Early marriages further perpetuated poverty in Zambia’s communities, as young girls missed the opportunity to be educated, and faced increased risk for complications in pregnancy and childbirth.  Zambia was working with cooperating partners to implement programmes for vulnerable children, such as social cash transfers targeting incapacitated households and school feeding programmes.

ERVIN NINA ( Albania) said his country was thoroughly implementing the provisions of the landmark Convention on the Rights of the Child through legal, administrative and practical measures.  Albania was also a State Party to the Convention’s two Optional Protocols, with its initial reports under those instruments considered on 26 September 2012.  Albania had supported the General Assembly’s 2011 adoption of a new Optional Protocol on a communications procedure, which it signed on 24 September 2012.  In addition, Albania had adopted a new law on children’s rights protection, which included a mechanism to enforce their rights at the family and national levels alike.  In 2012, the action plan for 2012-2015 was adopted to ensure children’s rights to social and legal protection, and for the prevention of abuse.

He went on to say the 2006 domestic violence law coordinated action against that abuse, notably by providing support to domestic abuse victims and centres for those at-risk.  Equally important, legislation had been drafted in close cooperation with civil society.  Further, the judicial system was in line with international human rights law, but early marriage had been identified in rural areas.  Information had been provided to Roma communities, including on the unacceptability of early marriage.  Meals also had been provided to schools with Roma students.  As for children with disabilities, Albania was working to improve the situation of those wishing to live in special institutions.  On 19 October, Albania had celebrated the work of “a tiny woman with great heart”:  Mother Theresa.  In that context, he reiterated the call for collective action to save the children of Syria, and with that, the country’s future.

ZENYSHA SHAHEED ZAKI ( Maldives) noted significant strides made since adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989 and said the Maldives had signed the Optional Protocol on communications, allowing children to file individual complaints of violation of their rights.  As a member of the core group of countries supporting the initiative, she urged other Member States to sign and ratify it.  The Maldives had achieved universal access and was expanding access to secondary education, she said, adding that efforts to improve education quality and to make it more inclusive, especially for children with special needs, were underway.  While under-nutrition remained a challenge, infant and child mortality had declined and the Maldives prioritised the establishment of affordable, accessible health services for children.

Despite laws protecting Maldivian children from abuse, the 2008 National Study on Violence Against Children found children under threat at home and school, she said.  In response, many recommendations of the United Nations Study on Violence Against Children, including the child helpline, were implemented.  The legal framework to combat sexual abuse had also been strengthened significantly, with laws passed enabling increased and easier prosecutions of perpetrators of crimes against children, and another was in the works to ensure better compliance of Maldivian law with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The shooting of Malala Yousafzai highlighted children’s vulnerability, she said, with millions like Malala denied basic education and well-being, while living in poverty and at risk of violence, discrimination, forced marriages or trafficking.  She said the Maldives would work through the Human Rights Council to combat recruitment of child soldiers and other forms of exploitation, and was pleased that last week’s inaugural commemoration of the International Day of the Girl Child had been an important milestone in highlighting the vulnerabilities of female children and the need for increased global action to protect their rights.

FOUZANDEH VADIATI ( Iran) said despite significant achievements in the promotion and protection of children, serious challenges persisted, including child mortality, hunger and the fact that children were still the primary victims of armed conflicts, foreign occupation and interventions, unilateral sanctions and terrorism.  The increased number of targeted attacks by armed groups against children was also alarming, she said.  She noted that the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary execution reported to the Human Rights Council that targeted killings of children and women through the use of night raids on housing by the United States, resulted in 600 deaths within a three-month period She encouraged the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict to address the issue in the next report to the General Assembly.

Children were also vulnerable to “State terrorism”, she said.  The children of the assassinated Iranian nuclear scientist had recently met with the Secretary-General to send a message of peace and friendship, as they were Iran’s ambassadors of peace, she said.  The impact of foreign occupation on children must also be adequately reflected in reports from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.  Another area of concern was that many children had no access to primary education, she said, hoping that the Secretary-General’s Education First initiative would provide a stronger impetus to the global education movement.  For its part, Iran had made progress towards achieving the Millennium Goals and had gone beyond the 2015 targets.  A new comprehensive bill included promoting and protecting children in the legal framework.  On the issue of child marriage, she pointed out that the same delegation referring yesterday to the existence of that practice in Iran had not, in fact, even ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

ELAINE TEO ( Singapore) said that her country became party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1995, but the journey to give its children the lives they deserved began much earlier and had not been without challenges.  In the post-World War II era and early years as an independent state, Singapore had to grapple with political instability, uncertainties as a small island state with no land, and a host of social problems that threatened the rights of a child.  Today, 47 years on from the country’s independence, things had changed.  In the latest Global Competitiveness Report on the “Quality of the Educational System,” Singapore stood among the best in terms of the ability to meet the needs of a competitive economy.  The Compulsory Education Act ensured that all Singapore’s children completed primary education, and more than 90 per cent of each primary school cohort went on to secondary school.  The country also offered specialized schools, support for children with mild special needs, special education schools, and financial assistance schemes for children from lower-income families.

Singapore’s healthcare system also ensured that all its children had proper access to healthcare, she said, citing a low maternal mortality ratio of 3 per 100,000 births, an infant mortality rate of 2 per 1,000 live births and an under-five mortality rate of 3 per 1,000 live births.  Singapore’s life expectancy at birth was 81.8 years.  All pregnant women had access to comprehensive antenatal care in Singapore, with births delivered by doctors if not trained midwives, and were offered HIV screening so that mother-to-child transmission could be prevented.  Children were protected from preventable diseases with basic immunization provided for free.  Also, the interests of the children were protected through a sound legislative and administrative framework, including the Employment Act prohibiting employment of a child under the age of twelve.  The Children and Young Person Act prohibited a child from abuse, the Women’s Charter protected girls against sexual exploitation, the Child Protection Service ensured that there were interventions to help a child in distress and Family Service Centres provided social support to disadvantaged children.

DEREK O’BRIEN (India) said, given that his country contained one of every five children in the world and that its 400 million children under age 18 surpassed the total populations of the United States, Argentina and Australia, investing in the future of the world’s youngest citizens was not just an economic necessity, but a moral imperative.  For its part, India’s Constitution and the National Charter for Children had addressed critical areas, including health, education and protecting children with disabilities and those living in marginalized and disadvantaged communities, he said, adding that a detailed Plan of Action drawn up in 2005 focused on four areas:  child survival, development, protection and participation.

“Early childhood is the most crucial phase,” he said, and nutrition and health initiatives included growth monitoring and providing supplements to bridge the caloric gap between the average and the recommended intakes in vulnerable communities.  Child protection legislation had also been implemented and the Government, in an effort to eradicate child labour, had been strictly enforcing a ban on employing children under age 14, he said.  Turning to the girl child, the Government had recently marked 24 January as the National Girl Child Day and had taken steps to enhance the status of girls, including banning sex-selective abortion and child marriage.  Efforts also targeted school enrolment interventions.  Quoting Mahatma Gandhi, he concluded by saying “if we wish to create a lasting peace, we must begin with children”.

VIRGILIO ALCÁNTARA ( Dominican Republic) said his country had ratified the Convention 20 years ago and it “changed our perspective on children and adolescents”, whom it now viewed as productive, useful members of society.  In that context, he cited a code that protected the rights of children and adolescents, and a law that protected the rights to life, development and special protection for children.  Other efforts included an immunization programme, which had increased coverage for children under one-year-old of preventive illnesses such as measles, tuberculosis and tetanus.  The First Lady had prioritized children’s programmes aimed at those situations of risk and abandonment.

Further, he said a “mobile classrooms” programme had been launched, and a special phone line created to allow citizens to report cases of child abuse.  His Government was committed to eliminating all forms of child abuse and had hosted a Central American meeting to follow up on the global study on violence against children, in cooperation with Special Representative on Violence against Children.  In May, the Dominican Republic signed a cooperation agreement with UNICEF for a joint work plan for 2013 to accelerate the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  Its national development strategy had 57 goals, 13 of which referred to children’s protection.  Citing one initiative, he said the “Poverty Free Quisqueya” programme promoted capacities and opportunities for vulnerable communities, to ensure early childhood development and eliminate illiteracy.

ISMAEL ABRAÃO GASPAR MARTINS ( Angola) said the elimination of all forms of violence against children was a priority for his Government.  Harmful practices were not very common in Angola, though some existed on very small scale, such as the abuse and abandonment of children accused of witchcraft.  Angolan legislation had primacy over customary practices, which helped reduce those practices, and the Government was working with civil society to completely eliminate them.  In 2008, the Government launched a national initiative to increase the capacity of data collection to establish key indicators on children.  A general law on the complete protection and development of children was recently passed, while a help line for children was also created, along with a fund to finance action for the benefit of children.

The Angolan Government had also adopted a Tourism Code against sexual exploitation of children and adolescents, which had strengthened controls at airports and borders, requiring certification of the legality of a child’s departure to prevent child trafficking.  Also, in full cooperation with UNICEF, Angola was implementing a national development programme aimed at rapidly improving the social and economic conditions of its children, he said.  Other recent successes in Angola included increased construction of schools, through the School for Africa Initiative, and the recent celebration of one year without polio.

KANYA KHAMMOUNGKHOUN (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) said that to address challenges such as organized crime, domestic violence, trafficking, exploitation and poverty, redoubled efforts were needed to implement the Declaration and Plan of Action, adopted at the 2002 General Assembly’s Special Session on Children, the Millennium Development Goals and other international agreements.  Such efforts must be in line with the Convention and its Optional Protocols.

For its part, his Government had adopted the national action plan for children, the national programme on anti-trafficking and sexual exploitation of children, and the national nutrition strategy.  It also had amended laws on education, labour, hygiene and sanitation.  That had all contributed to his Government’s implementation of the Convention.  The National Commission for Mothers and Children advocated for children’s rights and provided policy guidelines.  Its work ensured that mothers and children were included in the development agenda.

ANDY RACHMIANTO ( Indonesia) said the Government was doing its utmost to serve in the best interests of children at all levels.  Regionally, Indonesia pushed for the promotion and protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and children through an Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Commission on that matter.  Indonesia had also ratified the two optional protocols to the Child Rights Convention.  At the national level, the President had established in 2009 the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection, which was responsible for policy formulation, monitoring, evaluation and coordination in child protection.  Other national measures included the issuance of its action plan for the elimination of violence against children, which called for an end to violence, bullying and physical punishment at home, school, playground, public places and workplaces. 

Underscoring the consequences of early marriage on all aspects of a girl’s life, he acknowledged the Secretary-General’s new Education First global initiative and said education “is a must thing.”  Indonesia continued to prevent early marriage through campaigns and by establishing a Centre for Information and Counselling Adolescent Reproductive Health in schools and religious institutions.  A priority in the Education First initiative was to put every child in school.  Since 1994, Indonesia had provided access to education to every child through a nine-year compulsory education program.  And now, it was in the process of establishing a 12-year compulsory education programme beginning in 2013.  As a member of the Lead Group of the Scaling Up Nutrition movement, Indonesia had taken the necessary measures to prevent stunting in millions of young children, which occurred as a result of poor nutrition in a child’s first 1,000 days.

VALÉRIE S. BRUELL-MELCHIOR ( Monaco) said the living conditions of the mother, as well as her education, nutrition, access to education and high quality primary education were prerequisites for achieving international objectives.  With that in mind, Monaco was committed to promoting and protecting children and women, notably in the area of health.  Monaco continued to improve maternal health by supporting reproductive health programmes in countries lacking them.  She reiterated support for the Secretary-General’s “Every Woman Every Child” initiative, adding that Monaco had joined the UNICEF “A Renewed Promise” initiative to intensify actions for the survival of mothers and children, and to prevent avoidable deaths.

She said thousands of children from partner countries had benefited from Monaco’s programmes to combat hunger and malnutrition, and provide of polio vaccine.  Another focus was trafficking in persons, and she underlined the importance of coherent joint efforts by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Alliance for Trafficking in Persons.  Monaco supported OSCE efforts to prevent trafficking in children, notably with the 6 July joint agreement to combat human trafficking, which would help children who lacked parental protection.  Monaco hosted the “Monaco Plus Five” conference to assess the progress in “Building a Europe for and With Children” and to identify forthcoming priorities.

INGRID SABJA ( Bolivia) said her country was committed to protecting the rights of boys and girls, and that could be done by implementing certain measures.  Bolivia had gone a long way towards protecting the rights of girl children and adolescents, and was implementing processes in its laws to that end.  Denying any boy or girl access to education could quite possibly compromise their entire lives.  The Constitution of Bolivia dealt with the implementation of various human rights, and its code of the child provided support without discrimination.

Bolivia’s development plan aimed to reduce child mortality, she said.  The Government was also implementing programmes to reduce malnutrition and anaemia and had set up an initiative that ensured children in State schools reached the eighth grade, achieving a reduction in non-attendance in schools throughout the country.  It had also implemented programmes to redistribute wealth and reduce illiteracy.  “If we did not protect children in their early years of life, many of the goals of our countries would not be achieved,” she said.

RAYMOND WOLFE ( Jamaica) said the Government over the last few years had made considerable progress, through several legislative and institutional changes, to address issues relating to the protection of children.  On a legislative front, Jamaica’s Child Care and Protection Act of 2004 sought to protect children from abuse, neglect, exploitation or ill-treatment and provided for their educational, physical and emotional needs, as well as their religious and spiritual views.  The Act, which was bolstered by several other pieces of legislation, made a clear statement of parental and state responsibilities in children’s welfare and introduced penalties for failure to discharge those duties.  With regard to the institutional framework, the Child Development Agency, the lead entity for child protection issues, was complemented by the Office of the Children’s Registry, which was tasked with receiving and recording reports and by the Office of the Children’s Advocate, which was mandated to represent children in legal matters where their rights had been infringed by government organizations.

Despite the progress made, he continued, violence against children was an area of concern.  The phenomenon spanned the gamut with children being both victims and perpetrators of violence.  In that regard, the Government had drafted a 2011-2016 action plan to foster an environment that protected children from violence, abuse and exploitation.  It also promoted diversion programmes and community/family-based care for children without family care.  Emphasis was also being placed on strengthening public-private partnerships, community-based programmes and improving parenting skills to ensure that there was a holistic and comprehensive approach to address violence in society.  Reaffirming its own commitment to improving the lives of children and young people globally, he said “the protection and promotion of the rights of children is everyone’s business”.

CHRISTOPHER GRIMA (Malta), aligning himself with the statement delivered on behalf of the European Union, said he would welcome a universal commitment to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as its Optional Protocols, noting his country’s ratification of those instruments.  It had also signed the third protocol on a communications procedure.  Malta’s legislation aimed to protect children by upholding their best interests as set out by the Convention.  The country had also enacted the Hague Convention’s Protection of Children Act of 2010 and related instruments on parental responsibility and protection measures. 

He said that the setting up of the Office of the Commissioner for Children in 2003 in his country aimed to ensure enactment of legislation in the best interest of children and strove to promote the rights of children through the media and through meetings with parents and children.  The recently launched draft national children’s policy recommended further improvements in such efforts, also addressing socio-economic changes in society and giving a voice to children as citizens.  He noted, lastly, that the legislation of 2010 required registration of all those convicted of crimes against minors, with all institutions dealing with children required to report such crimes.  The range of support services offered to children and young people in the country, particularly those facing some difficulties, aim to promote well-being, protect their rights and enhance their potential.  Workers in the field developed care plans and took action to ensure that children’s well-being was always given top priority.

FATIMA ALFEINE ( Comoros) said the Convention’s adoption and the 2002 General Assembly Special Session marked substantial progress in realizing children’s rights, but their situation was a still grave concern, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.  Around the world, 182 million children suffered from stunted growth, with 25 million children under age five suffering from severe malnutrition.  Some 780 million people lacked access to improved water sources and 2.5 billion had no access to improved sanitation.  Malnourished and uneducated children who lacked social protections would grow into poor adults, who, in turn, would be poor parents and bear poor children.  “This is deplorable”, she said.  Children were not poor themselves.  Nor were they economically or legally able to be independent actors.

Thus, factors such as family membership, the status of women, and the number of children in a household must be considered to better understand the impacts of poverty, she said.  In the Comoros, a holistic approach to children was taken, which addressed families and communities.  In the areas of education and health, focus had been placed on reducing maternal and child mortality, as well as acute malnutrition of children under age five, with strong support from UNICEF.  As for HIV/AIDS, programmes aimed to keep prevalence under 1 per cent of the population.  A hotline had been created to provide information on that disease, and there was also free access to antiretroviral drugs.  On other issues, she said primary education was free.  Three centres had been established to help abused children.  Judges had been appointed to act on behalf of children, and courts crated to address minors. 

ABULKALAM ABDUL MOMEN ( Bangladesh) said the international community had over the years formulated many documents and initiatives to protect children, and had achieved many successes.  However, progress was slow and uneven.  Bangladesh had enacted plans to respect children’s rights and welfare, and also combat trafficking of women and children.  The rights of the child could best be improved through education, and at the national level Bangladesh had a comprehensive policy for education for all, with emphasis on free education for girls.  Free textbooks and other measures had lowered dropout rates, while the present Government had banned corporal punishment in all institutions.

Bangladesh had also extended maternity leave from four to six months, and had taken steps against the threat of malnutrition through programmes that provided Vitamin A supplementation, oral rehydration therapy and other services.  “Malnourished mothers will give birth to malnourished babies,” he said.  Bangladesh’s success at lowering child mortality by over 67 per cent had been widely acclaimed.  The private sector and non-governmental organisations had partnered with the Government in a number of initiatives, and that was especially apparent in aiding vulnerable children who had been orphaned or living on the street.  While Governments and the international community were working hard for the rights of the child, however, it should not forget the role of the family as the first educator of the child.  Family and cultural values must be respected, preserved and protected for the future of our children, he said.

PETUNIA LINDIWE MNDEBELE ( Swaziland) said her Government had established a National Children’s Coordination Unit to develop necessary policies, plans and legislation related to the welfare of children.  Its National Children’s Policy, formulated in 2009, aimed to ensure appropriate interventions were put in place to protect, promote and fulfil the rights of Swazi children and ensure their full development and long-term welfare, including their physical and psychosocial development.  It would also strengthen initiatives on the girl child, she said.

The family was the natural and fundamental unit of society, and had been since time immemorial.  “Unfortunately, the traditional extended family which has for a long time been a safety net for orphaned children is under extreme strain due to the devastating impact of the HIV and AIDS epidemic,” she said.  Her Government was working with traditional chiefs, religious institutions, communities and civil society to collectively place children at the centre of public policy and ensure their rights were protected.

JOHN GILROY ( Ireland) said over the past decade his Government had worked very hard to learn lessons from the past and build a robust domestic framework for the protection and promotion of the rights of children.  It now had a Programme for Change for Children, making legislative changes and reforming the country’s child protection services.  The new framework included establishment of a Minister for Children and an independent Ombudsperson for Children, who had powers to investigate complaints, including those from children in the Government’s care.   Ireland had also established local child and youth councils, a national youth parliament and mechanisms for consultations with children and young people, so they could participate in the creation of policies and services that concerned them.

Later this year, Ireland would seek to further strengthen protection by holding a referendum to amend its Constitution to include explicit recognition of the rights of children.  In its foreign policy, Ireland gave priorities to children’s education, hunger and health.  For example, he said, in Zambia, where chronic malnutrition caused approximately 50 per cent of deaths in children under 5, Ireland supported the Government’s Social Cash Transfer Programme, which provided money to poor households to buy food.  That was tailored to households with infants and young children, with the objective of targeting under-nutrition in the first 1,000 days and combating the irreversible effects of chronic under-nutrition in childhood.

DEEPAK DHITAL, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nepal, said his country had a comprehensive legal regime to protect children’s rights, including the Children’s Act of 1992, which incorporated almost all the rights of the child, in line with the Convention.  That Act and the criminal justice system were geared towards rehabilitating child offenders through “child reform” homes.  Regulations outlined child-friendly procedures to be used when trying cases involving children, while juvenile benches had been established in district courts.

He went on to say that the 2000 Child Labour Act outlawed labour for children under age 14 and laid out strict punishment for violators.  A committee and fund for the prevention of child labour also had been created under the Act.  As for education, which was the key to proper child development, he said the national action plan for 2001-2015 and the school sector reform plan committed the Government to ensuring that all children had access to free and compulsory primary education.   Nepal was party to almost all core international human rights instruments, including the Convention and its Optional Protocols.  It also had ratified the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Convention for the Promotion of Child Welfare. Although a least developed country emerging from conflict, Nepal had embarked on a path to promote and protect children’s rights in a holistic manner.

MARIE FRANÇOISE BERNADEL ( Haiti) said many families in her country, owing to a large number of children or meagre resources, were forced to enter children into domestic service.  Unfortunately, the phenomenon had economic roots.  Rural families, unable to guarantee the education and survival for their children, sent them to live with relatives in a city to work in domestic labour.  Child labour was largely the consequence of poverty and its solution lay in sustained economic growth.  Eliminating the worst forms of child labour required immediate action, including education, reintegration and taking into account the situations of those families.  To help remedy the situation, Haiti had implemented a wide-ranging literacy campaign.

Education was one of the best ways to break the chain of underdevelopment, and for that reason it had implemented free mandatory schooling, which had already benefitted 1.3 million children.  In January this year, the Government officially implemented its “Aba Grangou”, or “No to Hunger” Programme, which had two specific objectives:  halving the number of persons suffering from hunger by 2016; and eradicating malnutrition by 2025.  Another plan sought to provide education to girls without discrimination, and raise awareness among boys and girls to the right to reproductive health.  She was pleased to inform the Committee that Haiti had taken major steps to fulfil its international commitments, and recently its judiciary had made juvenile delinquency a priority.  Also, she said, it was increasingly difficult to traffic children outside the borders of the country, thanks to the Brigade of Protection for Minors, which was supported by UNICEF.

TANISHA HEWANPOLA (Australia) said her country was firmly committed to ensuring children’s protection from exploitation and abuse, and supported the Secretary-General’s call to establish a framework of laws, policies and programmes to ensure children’s rights were part of the care and protection afforded to them in the early years of life.  She also supported the creation of a global alliance to implement the Convention.  At the national level, Australia sought to boost its children’s policies.  An important step in that regard was the establishment of a children’s commissioner in the Human Rights Commission, to advocate for children’s rights, conduct research and education programmes, and liaise with children’s organizations.

She also welcomed the focus on indigenous children in the rights of the child resolution.  But, she remained deeply concerned at the deplorable children’s rights violations that persisted, welcoming the Secretary-General’s call for a strategy to combat violence against children.  The Security Council’s work on children in armed conflict was an important part of protecting children from violence.   Australia welcomed its expanded set of triggers for perpetrators of that abuse, as well as designation criteria in its sanctions committees for perpetrators of some of the gravest violations.

MELAINE AURESTIE NSATOUNKAZI MPOMBO ( Congo) said children were the future, representing the philosophical, moral, social and political values of any society.  Her country had ratified the Convention in 1993.  To create a conducive environment for children’s survival, Congo had carried out an outreach campaign under law 4/2012 (2010); drafted a manual for child victims of trafficking; trained police; launched an anti-trafficking campaign; and offered free malaria treatment for children up to age 12.

She said other activities included the drafting of a text for the creation of a national child observatory.  On trafficking, she said steps aimed to safeguard children from “foreign communities” that had taken root in her country, and to prevent the exercise of certain practices, had been taken.  In closing, she thanked all bilateral and multilateral partners, as well as civil society, for working alongside her Government to protect children’s rights.

MALAK SALIM ( Libya) said her country had gone through a war launched by the dictator Qaddafi against the Libyan people.  He had recruited children into his security battalions and had also used them as human shields, in clear violation of international conventions.  Now, education was compulsory and free up until middle school, and Libya respected the rights of the child.  To prevent conflict from disturbing the school year, mobile classes were deployed and school reconstruction had been embarked on immediately.

Children had not been spared the weapons of Qaddafi, as hundreds were wounded and became children with special needs, she said.  The Government was working to aid these children, giving them treatment and providing necessary help, such as electric wheel chairs.  Authorities had made efforts to provide free health services, especially to children, giving vaccines and managing to control measles, as well as a number of other infectious diseases.  Even though it understood that the challenges facing it were numerous, Libya was ready to make an effort at every level to promote and protect the rights of children.

KOKOU NAYO MBEOU ( Togo) said his country was the nineteenth country to ratify the Convention in 1990.  During the fifty-ninth session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Togo presented its third report on its implementation of the Convention.  In 2002, after the General Assembly Special Session, Togo set the goal of ending female genital mutilation by 2010, which it had not attained.  In 1998, Togo adopted law 98-016 forbidding that practice.  To reinforce such measures, it brought together all national legal provisions into a single law 2007-017.  The Government had also taken actions in the field, with support of the World Health Organization, UNDP, the United Nations Population Fund, UNICEF and civil society organizations, including radio and television programmes addressed to women who practiced mutilation to “re-guide” them to alternative revenue-generating activities.

He continued, saying that in 2006, the practice had been reduced, but there were still pockets of resistance, which was understandable, as it was a cross-border phenomenon.  A strategy was needed to deal with the issue more effectively and Togo would support the creation of a global response to eradicate the “mutilation scourge”.  Indeed, the future depended on “the total integrity of our young girls, in spirit and in body.”  On other matters, he said children lacking birth certificates were marginalized from birth, deprived of health, education and labour rights.  The recording of births in civil records was the right of every child.  Also, Togo was hard-hit by malaria, due to a lack of adequate diagnosis and treatment and the most vulnerable were children.   Togo had distributed treated mosquito nets in rural areas, which had been effective.  The success of a campaign to diagnose and treat malaria in children between 0 and 10 years old - which started on 4 October and would run through 31 December - would depend on bilateral and multilateral partners.

YOUSSOUFOU BAMBA ( Côte d’Ivoire) said in his country, like many others in the world, many children did not have access to education or health care and did not have birth certificates.  The Government was doing all it could to promote and protect the rights of children.   Côte d’Ivoire firmly condemned abortion, given the central place for the right to life in its Constitution, which had abolished the death penalty.  In the field of education, in response to a lack of infrastructure, the Government had set a goal of guaranteeing access to high-quality education.  It was also helping open schools that had been closed, as a result of post-electoral conflict.

So that children were aware of their rights, human rights curricula had been introduced in schools in the current academic year.  Child trafficking and labour were also central concerns of his Government.  Indeed, Côte d’Ivoire had been exposed on the international stage for exploiting child labour, including for cocoa production, in which it was the globe’s primary producer.   Côte d’Ivoire intended to adopt a national plan of action to combat child labour for 2012-2013, and would gather reliable statistics on the matter, he said.

FATIMA ALI ( Bahrain) said her country had signed a number of conventions and agreements to protect children internationally, and locally it had adopted a number of measures to protect them, as well.  It also cooperated with regional Arab organizations, and benefitted from their experience.   Bahrain was promoting the rights of the child through legal provisions, underscoring the role of the institutions that provided care for all children and widows, so that children with special needs would be able to participate in society and be ensured a dignified life.

Children with special needs had the same rights as any child, as well as special rights, she said.  The State ensured all rights for families and took every possible measure to ensure those of children were not neglected.  Efforts had been made at the national and international level for the rights of the child, and, in keeping with those efforts, Bahrain had also expanded promotion and protection of the rights of children.

NELI SHIOLASHVILI ( Georgia) said her country was party to the main human rights instruments concerning children’s rights, including the Convention and the Optional Protocols.  Many programmes targeting children in vulnerable areas had been carried out, including for children living on the streets.  An alternative care system – which included guardianship of relatives, foster houses, family-type boarding houses, reintegration and adoption - had been in place since 2004.

Achievements were inseparable from challenges, she said, saying that children in the Gali district of the occupied Abkhazia region, and willing to receive education in the Georgian language, faced daily obstacles put in place by the authorities in control of that area.  The Ministry of Education and human rights groups had reported that children willing to attend Georgian schools in neighbouring areas were being systematically refused passage across the occupation line.  She appealed for a proactive role by United Nations specialized agencies to counter those appalling reports of serious violations of children’s rights.

ANDRÉS FIALLO ( Ecuador) said his Government had given unprecedented support to the status of children.  The 2008 Constitution outlined that the State and the family must promote children’s rights.   Ecuador had worked diligently to secure those rights through intersectoral policies.  In that context, he said child labour violated children’s rights and his Government had launched a campaign to eradicate it.

Outlining other gains, he announced that Ecuador had decided to support the Convention’s Third Optional Protocol, calling on all States to also support the resolution on the rights of the child, which focused on indigenous children.  There would always be discrimination as long as neglect for the care of children with special needs persisted.  His Government was focused on those children.  The Government had also decided to present the candidature of an Ecuadorian expert to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

HTIN LYNN (Myanmar), aligning with the statement made by ASEAN, said that the importance and acceptance of the Convention on the Rights of the Child was evident by the fact that it had become the most widely ratified human rights instrument.   Myanmar had ratified the Convention based on its belief that children needed special care and attention that adults did not.  Further, as the political, social and reform process in Myanmar gained momentum, it created an enabling environment that allowed the country to embrace other relevant international legal instruments.   Myanmar continued to submit periodic reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, describing, among others, its efforts to harmonize national legislation with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Myanmar was currently implementing a national strategy focused on health and nutrition, water and sanitation, education and child development, and child protection, he said, adding that it was working towards better coordination among all implementing agencies.  As education was the most important area of investment in the future of Myanmar, the country aimed to provide primary education for all school-age children.  In addition, Myanmar was taking steps to raise awareness and provide training on children’s issues and rights, and had developed minimum standards on the care and protection of children in residential care.  Also, in June his government had signed a Plan of Action that elevated its policy implementation on the prevention of the recruitment and use of children in the country’s armed forces.  Operational procedures and communication mechanisms – for the identification, verification, and discharge of underage recruits, as well as the management of interim care facilities - had been drawn up and agreed upon, and a workshop had taken place to sensitize and train personnel.  The implementation of the Action Plan in line with the agreed procedures was scheduled to commence in October 2012, kicking off a “one-time shake-off” process of 18 months, at the end of which it could be confirmed that there were no underage recruits in the armed forces of Myanmar.

SEMERE AZAZI ( Eritrea) said his country had been able to reduce the under-5 mortality rate by 57.4 per cent between 1990 and 2015.  According to the Global Countdown report, Eritrea was one of three countries in sub-Saharan Africa that was on track to achieve Millennium Development Goal 4.  The same progress had been registered with respect to Goals 5 and 6, related to women and HIV/AIDS.  That progress had been possible due to a number of steps, including instituting its Integrated Management of Neonatal and Childhood Illnesses Programme and an Early Childhood Development Programme.

Reduction of the mortality rate was not just due to better access to primary health care.  It could also be attributed to Eritrea’s intensive food security strategy, salt iodization, food fortification and instituting Therapeutic Feeding Centres at hospitals and health centres, as well as the social protection scheme put in place to alleviate the living conditions of the most needy and vulnerable members of society.  “These steps have also contributed towards reducing the rate of underweight children.  The nutritional deficiency is estimated to be between 7 per cent to 11 per cent, which is within the WHO (World Health Organization) threshold of 10 per cent.  Yet, more work is needed to address the issue of nutrition for children in the country,” he said.

NGUYEN CAM LINH (Viet Nam) aligned himself with ASEAN, saying that since ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990 and two Optional Protocols in 2001, Viet Nam had undergone a rigorous process of harmonizing its national laws and policies with the international legal system on the rights of children, with the fundamental principles of the Convention on non-discrimination and children’s best interests incorporated into the 2004 Law on the Protection, Care and Education of Children.  Children’s rights in Viet Nam had expanded, as had their role in society, with 18 million children members of youth organizations, forums and clubs and 100 schools adopting educational programmes on healthy living and life skills, focused especially on HIV/AIDS prevention and other public health issues.  Children had been consulted via a website to help draft a new law on amending and supplementing the Law on the Protection, Care and Education of Children, he said, with the feedback considered for inclusion in the draft law. 

Extreme abuse and violence towards children was of great concern, but children were also exposed to physical, sexual and psychological abuse in their homes, schools and elsewhere, with devastating consequences.  It was a multifaceted issue, cutting across geographical, racial, class, religious and cultural boundaries and threatening global development.  Broad, coordinated action at all levels was needed to resolve the issue, he said.

HABIB MIKAYILLI (Azerbaijan) said his country was a State party to the Convention and the two Optional Protocols, and had ratified International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions dealing with child labour, including No. 138, dealing with the minimum age for admission to employment, and No. 182, on the prohibition and immediate action for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour.  The 1998 Child Rights Act outlined that public policies were designed to ensure the development of each child under appropriate material and domestic circumstances.  The country had made “tremendous” strides in meeting the needs of refugee and internally displaced children.

Further, he said the Committee had considered Azerbaijan’s third and fourth periodic report and welcomed the adoption of the law on the prevention of domestic violence, signature and ratification of the ILO and Council of Europe Conventions and establishment of the State Committee for Family, Women and Children’s Affairs.   Azerbaijan was suffering from the grave consequences of armed conflict and strongly condemned violations of international humanitarian law committed against children in situations of such conflict.  He underlined the importance of ensuring accountability for grave violations committed against children and combating impunity.

Joining him, a youth delegate, citing UNICEF data, said 25,000 children died from poverty each day.  “Children are our future”, he stressed, urging Governments, non-governmental organizations and civil society to act immediately in an efficient manner.  His Government and civil society had spared no effort to protect children.  A number of laws had been implemented to that end, including providing social protection for orphans and education for special needs students.

Further, he said the Government was working with the ILO and had advanced legislation to prohibit and eliminate the worst forms of child labour.  The National Coordination Council worked to teach children to be upstanding citizens, and that their rights must be respected, in line with the Convention and other international standards.

RODNEY CHARLES ( Trinidad and Tobago), noting his country’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, said Trinidad and Tobago had also enacted the “Children’s Package” of legislation at the national level.  That legislation included safeguards protecting children from discrimination and violence and addressed issues related to foster homes, adoption, child abduction, family court, the redefinition of offences against children, and the use of DNA testing in civil matters, among others.  Additionally, in March of this year, his country passed the National Strategic Plan for Child Development, which was framed within five goals related to:  a secure and nurturing environment for children; opportunities beyond academics; healthy lives; specialized services; and harmonized initiatives to uphold the rights of children.

Both primary and secondary education were compulsory and free in Trinidad and Tobago, he said, and various grants existed to assist parents with costs associated with sending children to school.  Through such initiatives, his country had achieved and surpassed Millennium Development Goals 2 and 3.  The Government also ran various social and health programmes, which included the provision of meals and transportation for students, as well as access to free health services.  The Prime Minister, in 2010, established a Children’s Life Fund to bring relief to children requiring expensive, specialized medical treatment not available locally.  The country also continued to address the issue of non-communicable diseases and had implemented initiatives to protect children with disabilities.  Recognizing the need for global partnerships for continued progress, he said he looked forward to the High-level Meeting on Disability and Development to be held in 2013.

ANN DEER, of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), drew attention to the issue of children’s access to education during armed conflicts.  According to a 2011 United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) report, more than 40 per cent of all children not attending school lived in conflict-affected countries.  Schools were unlawfully damaged, destroyed or used for military purposes.  Armed forces sometimes went to schools to recruit children and rape them or subject them to other forms of sexual violence.  Under such circumstances, parents might keep their children out of school and teachers might stop coming to work.  As a result, schools could be closed.  The ICRC called on parties to armed conflict to respect children and teachers, as well as educational facilities.  It undertook numerous activities to support the provision of education, including setting up safe spaces or rebuilding damaged schools.  Other ICRC measures included psychosocial support for children formerly associated with armed groups.  “Armed conflict imposes immense suffering on children,” she said, and much of that could be prevented by increasing knowledge and respect for the rules of humanitarian law.

ALICIA GOMEZ-RECIO, Observer for the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, described projects being carried out around the world by Malteser International, the humanitarian agency of the Order of Malta.  In South Sudan, traditional birth attendants were trained in prenatal care, safe deliveries and handling high-risk pregnancies, while maternity care projects were also in Haiti and in Bethlehem.  In addition, several projects focused on preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission in Argentina, Angola, South Africa, Cambodia and elsewhere.  As well as fighting malnutrition among Ugandan and Cambodian children, other projects in those countries, as well as in Democratic Republic of the Congo, India and Pakistan focused on ensuring that mothers’ diets were balanced, with a view to reducing the risk of complications during birth, raise birth weights and ensure that milk contained the necessary nutrients. 

She called for a focus on female children, who were key to achieving gender equality and their own empowerment.  In Afghanistan, the Order facilitated girls’ participation in television shows promoting girls’ rights to formal education.  The presence of girls on televisions, she said, raised their social status while directly targeting a female audience.  In addition, to reduce the workload of girls, it was important for clean water to be accessible close to home and the Order ran programmes to achieve that in Cambodia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

KEVIN CASSIDY of the International Labour Office said a minimum of 215 million children across the world were trapped in child labour – a major human rights challenge which urgently required focus and action.  Progress had been made reducing child labour, but in too many cases, international standards were still not fully enforced.  However, he said, to focus on the positive, in the last decade approximately 70 countries formulated a national policy on child labour, with some 90 National Action Plans to combat the worst forms of child labour.

To ensure national programmes took an integrated approach against root causes, one important step was aligning the minimum age for employment and the age for completion of compulsory schooling, he said.  Effective education and training backed by social protection could produce significant increases in school enrolment and a decline in child labour.  “In a world of incredible wealth, the means exist to end child labour.  Through our renewed focus and reinvigorated action, the international community can, in solidarity, reach the goal of a world without child labour,” he said.

Right of Reply

Exercising her right of reply to yesterday’s statement by the Russian Federation, Finland’s delegate said that, in line with article 3 of the Convention, the best interests of the child should be the primary consideration, a principle thoroughly followed by Finnish authorities.   Finland was bound by its international obligations and respected children’s rights without discrimination, irrespective of the child or guardian’s national origin or status.

Responding, the representative of the Russian Federation repeated that seizing children from families negatively impacted children’s well-being.  Such practices should be applied with great caution, especially in situations of families with mixed origins.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.