Voices of ‘Silent Citizens’ Must Be Heard, Third Committee Speakers Urge, Calling for Action to Protect Rights, as Debate on Children Continues

GA/SHC/4136
15 October 2015
Seventieth Session, 14th & 15th Meetings (AM & PM)

Voices of ‘Silent Citizens’ Must Be Heard, Third Committee Speakers Urge, Calling for Action to Protect Rights, as Debate on Children Continues

The time had come for States to move on from universal ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to its universal implementation, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) heard today, as it continued its discussion on the rights of children.

Describing the world as “generally a better place for children today than yesterday”, Benyam Dawit Mezmur, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, drew attention to a number of challenges remaining, including extreme poverty, political and social instability and large-scale criminal violence.

The Committee report he presented to delegates was “a combination of good news and not-so-good news”, he continued.  Applauding Somalia for ratifying the Convention as the 196th State, he looked forward to engaging with the United States, as the last remaining State that was yet to ratify the Convention.  However, the pace of ratification of the Optional Protocols on the sale of children, child prostitution, child pornography and children in armed conflict had been “short of celebratory”.

Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, expressed alarm about the lack of data on the sexual exploitation or trafficking of children, she called upon the international community to take all necessary measures to overcome that challenge.  The recovery and reintegration of child victims of sexual exploitation was a very long process, she stressed.  To be effective, States needed to carefully select and train law enforcement officers, magistrates, social workers and other professionals who come into contact with the victims.

Regional representatives and delegates then told the Committee of their efforts along with the challenges ahead.  Echoing a common concern, the representative of Ecuador, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said poverty and inequality were among the roots of many harsh realities that children faced alongside organized crime, trafficking, natural disasters and financial crises.

Several speakers highlighted the impact of war on millions of children.  Providing a grim synopsis of the situation on battlefields in Iraq and Syria, delegates from those countries said children had been targeted in their homes and schools by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS).  Syria’s speaker said children were being brainwashed and recruited as soldiers, while girls were being raped and subjected to sexual trafficking in refugee camps.  Iraq’s representative said ISIL’s actions spanned from forced displacement and migration to exploitation and killings, leading to a deterioration of health care and education services for children, who, in besieged area, were also suffering from malnutrition.

Mass displacement caused by people fleeing armed conflicts was another consequence of war that greatly affected children, some speakers said.  Describing the current refugee crisis as a matter of deep concern, the European Union’s delegate said one in four asylum applicants in the region in the first six months of 2015 were under the age of 18.  The implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he said, would be key to tackling the root causes of the crisis.

Discussions also encompassed solutions to ensure the protection of children’s rights.  Education was a key enabler of human and social development and a critical means to overcome poverty, several representatives echoed throughout the debate.  The representative of Paraguay said his country had been implementing programmes and initiatives in the area of education, expecting to reach 100 per cent in enrolment rates soon.

Also delivering statements were representatives of Ecuador (for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Malawi (for the Southern African Development Community), Myanmar (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Poland, Egypt, Philippines, Morocco, Slovenia, Mexico, United States, Italy, Israel, Singapore, Peru, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Thailand, Algeria, Russian Federation, Republic of Korea, Kazakhstan, Tunisia, Kenya, United Arab Emirates, Nicaragua, India, Jamaica, Canada, Lebanon, Iran, Norway, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, Mozambique, Japan, Guatemala, Nigeria, Sudan, Bolivia, China and Pakistan, as well as State of Palestine and the Holy See.

The representatives of Israel and the State of Palestine spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Committee will reconvene on Friday, 16 October, to continue its discussion on the rights of children.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to continue its general discussion on the promotion and protection of the rights of children.  For information, see Press Release GA/SHC/4135.

Interactive Dialogue

BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Chair the Committee on the Rights of the Child, introducing the report of the Committee, brought with him “a combination of good news and not-so-good news”.  On 1 October 2015, Somalia became the 196th State to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Committee looked forward to ratification by the United States.  However, the pace of ratification of Optional Protocols dealing with the sale of children, child prostitution, child pornography and children in armed conflict had been “short of celebratory”.

Underlining substantive trends noted by the Committee, Mr. Mezmur said “the world is generally a better place for children today than yesterday.”  However, a number of challenges remained, including extreme poverty, political and social instability and large-scale criminal violence, low birth weight, lack of access to improved sanitation facilities and a lack of primary schooling.  In the world’s richest countries, 30 million children, or 1 in 8, were growing up in relative poverty.  The time had come for States to move on from universal ratification of the Convention to its universal implementation.

Highlighting current concerns, Mr. Mezmur noted the potential harm of child pornography and bullying facilitated by social media and the significant effects of the current migration crisis on children.  When adopting laws, policies and practices, the best interests of migrating children ought to be a primary consideration for States of origin, transit and destination.  Laws that reduced the minimum age of criminal responsibility, imposed harsh penalties on children or deprived them of procedural protection represented “a very serious regression” vis-à-vis the Convention.  The preamble of the Convention stated that children should grow up in an atmosphere of love, he said, emphasizing that “love” was a noun, not a verb, which called for more coordinated, sustained and effective action in that regard.

When the floor opened, delegates raised questions about the access to education, joint work with the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Committee’s experience with dual chambers, potential partnerships to fully implement children’s rights and the role of civil society.

Responding, Mr. MEZMUR said the Committee was monitoring and reporting children’s rights in all over the world.  Partnerships with civil society, academia, religious leaders, elders and other stakeholders were extremely important to make progress and raise awareness.  However, States remained the most important actors in fully ensuring the promotion and protection of children’s rights.  To make concrete progress, multisectoral coordination was needed at the highest level.  Turning to the dual chambers, he acknowledged potential advantages and limitations.  However, the Committee had focused on the advantages and quality of work.  Turning to the issue of education, he questioned the number of countries provided “free and compulsory” education.  Access to education in conflict situations and the occupation of schools by armed groups were particularly important topics to discuss as they affected the future of children.

Participating in the interactive dialogue were representatives of Japan, Mexico, Ireland and Iceland as well as the European Union.

MAUD DE BOER-BUQUICCHIO, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, expressed concern over “the lack of implementation” of the Convention, but also welcomed the Sustainable Development Goals, which included three goals that affected her mandate.  The next 15 years would be of fundamental importance, she said.  Her report to the Committee focused on child victims of sexual exploitation and provided States with practical guidelines.  There was a glaring lack of data on the sexual exploitation of children, or such data was being aggregated with statistics on trafficking.  For instance, the exact number of child victims of sexual exploitation through information and communication technologies was unknown.  More needed to be done in that regard.

Despite numerous positive examples of first-response services, there was a significant gap in medium- to long-term care for child victims of sexual exploitation, she said.  To be effective, any rehabilitation had to involve the child concerned and foster his or her sense of agency.  Children were incredibly resilient and could not be solely considered as victims.  Law enforcement officers, magistrates, social workers and other professionals who come into contact with child victims of sexual exploitation had to be appropriately selected and trained.  In addition, States had to develop and monitor minimum standards for caregiving organizations.  Recovery and reintegration of child victims of sexual exploitation was a very long process that varied from one individual to another.  If children fell victim to unspeakable crimes, “it is often due to our failures”, and they could not be failed a second time by not being able to get the care they needed.

During the interactive dialogue, delegates raised questions about best practices, awareness-raising campaigns, boys as victims of sexual violence, policy recommendations on access to quality education, the elimination of child pornography and the reintegration of children into society.

Responding, Ms. DE BOER-BUQUICCHIO said recovery and reintegration programmes were needed in order to achieve a medium- and long-term impact.  The support centres in Scandinavia provided medical examinations and facilitated interviews for victims without causing additional trauma.  She also stressed that States could not act alone and they needed to engage in partnerships with civil society and the private sector.  Turning to the issue of sexual violence, she noted that the majority of victims were girls.  However, boys were victimized as well and States needed to take a proactive approach to address such violations.  On the child pornography in Japan, she said her office needed to better examine the existing legislation in the country.

Participating in the dialogue were representatives of Switzerland, United States, Japan and Mexico as well as the European Union.

Statements

DIEGO ALONSO TITUAÑA MATANGO (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said the full and effective promotion, protection and enjoyment of the rights of children and adolescents were priorities.  As a region with several middle-income countries, CELAC had continued to face challenges in fully protecting the rights of children due to poverty, inequality, global financial crisis, natural disasters, organized crime and drug trafficking.  Stressing that indigenous children, those with disabilities, and migrants were the most marginalized and excluded groups, he underlined the need to pay due attention to their vulnerability to potential violence, neglect and abuse.  To achieve children’s full development, national policies and programmes needed to address their needs.

CELAC attached great importance to international cooperation, including North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation, in order to enhance national and international development initiatives.  Further, he reiterated the need to strengthen efforts to implement programmes to fully realize children rights, involving the support of the international organizations.  Accordingly, the recent adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development had provided an opportunity to address the gaps in implementation and the uneven progress in the realization of the universal rights of children.  Progress in the promotion and protection of their rights also depended on the advancement of the global poverty eradication efforts, which required the full commitment of the international community.

LOT THAUZENI PANSIPADANA DZONZI (Malawi), on behalf of Southern African Development Community (SADC), reiterated the Community’s commitment to children’s rights and the fact that all its member States had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Violence was a fact of life for children in conflict areas and there was an urgent need for action in that regard.  The needs and obligations of children with disabilities had to be honoured; to that end, efforts were being made to ensure that schools were fully accessible.

Strong families represented the best environment for the protection, nurturing and development of children, he said.  They provided significantly better outcomes against exploitation, trafficking, child labour, early marriages and physical, sexual and emotional abuse.  During the last session of the General Assembly, a resolution was tabled by SADC regarding the countless number of children living in child-headed families.  That issue remained a challenge today.  Other challenges included HIV/AIDS, which remained a heavy burden in the SADC region where alternative policies and programmes were being studied with a view to better alleviate its consequences.

KYAW TIN (Myanmar), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that since the 2009 adoption of its Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint, which outlined strategies and targets to address the issues of vulnerable groups, including children, the Association had established the Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children.  As State parties to the Convention, ASEAN countries had implemented necessary plans of action and strategies to improve the well-being of children at the national and regional levels.  The Association had also set up fora and platforms to promote the rights of children in region, including the 2004 Vientiane Declaration against Trafficking in Persons Particularly Women and Children. 

The Association was not only collaborating among its member States, but with United Nations agencies and other development partners to advance the children’s agenda.  Its Commission was implementing projects in collaboration with UNICEF and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN‑Women).  He expressed hope that under the ASEAN-United Nations comprehensive partnership, the two organizations would be able to strengthen cooperation in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals related to the protection of the rights of women and children.

IOANNIS VRAILAS, Deputy Head of the European Union Delegation, said that seven members of the Union had already ratified the third Optional Protocol to the Convention on a communications procedure.  The impact of the current refugee crisis on children was a matter of deep concern.  One in four asylum applicants in the European Union in the first six months of this year were below the age of 18.  Implementation of the 2030 Agenda would be key to tackling the root causes of the refugee crisis.

Millions of children around the world had suffered from the consequences of war and the Union welcomed the Organization’s attention to that matter.  In closing, he said the Union was also a staunch promoter of Sustainable Development Goal 5, which aimed to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

PAWEŁ RADOMSKI (Poland), aligning with the European Union, underlined the importance of the Convention on the Rights of the Child for ensuring their rights in all parts of the world.  He welcomed the recent ratification of the Convention by South Sudan and stressed that implementing the instrument’s provisions required the adoption of legal measures, the transformation of the mindsets and sharing best practices and lessons learned at national and regional levels.  States parties had to allocate sufficient human, technical and financial resources for the full dissemination of child-related laws, he added, suggesting the use of Bangladesh’s Children’s Act as a good example.  Moving on to Poland’s domestic efforts, he referred to numerous initiatives and policies regarding the reconciliation of work and family life and access to institutional childcare.  He reiterated Poland’s commitment to working at the international level for the eradication of harmful practices, such as early and forced marriage, and stressed its deep concern at increased violence against educational facilities during armed conflicts.

Fatmaalzahraa Hassan Abdelaziz ABDELKAWY (Egypt) said the traditional family was the guardian of the child, as well as the protector of women, older persons and the disabled.  The welfare of children was at the top of Egypt’s priorities.  Education was an international obligation and a fundamental right.  Respect for parents, cultural identity, national values and different civilizations were important with regard to developing the welfare of the child.  Egypt looked forward to the mobilization to more resources to eliminate female genital mutilation, especially in Africa.  Condemning attacks and killings of Palestinian children in the occupied territories, he said ending impunity for the perpetrators was important.  Concluding, he said his country counted on a strong partnership with UNICEF to promote and protect the rights of children.

THERESE RODRIGUEZ CANTADA (Philippines), aligning with ASEAN, said the largest part of her nation’s budget had been allotted to free primary and secondary education.  The Government was also continuing to work on protecting children in conflict situations, with help from partners in the United Nations system and others.  The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had, in 2014, renewed its commitment to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children, and the second phase of its joint action plan with the United Nations would hopefully get under way soon.  Unhindered United Nations access for verification would continue, as would the release from armed groups of former combatants under the age of 18.  Guidelines had been issued by the Armed Forces with regard to activities in the vicinity of schools and hospitals.  Teachers and school heads were to report within 24 hours any incident of grave child rights violations, including the identity of armed groups involved.

OMAR RABI (Morocco) reiterated his country’s support for the promotion and protection of children’s rights, expressed in a clear vision to make progress on the issue nationwide.  Further, Morocco had ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and had undertaken a number of measures to improve the quality of education.  Turning to domestic reform, he said that the Government had created a national action plan to ensure that children could enjoy their rights.  It was a positive development that the number of children attending to primary school had increased, including migrant and refugee children, he concluded.

DARJA BAVDAZ KURET (Slovenia) said that despite some positive improvements, the situation of children was deteriorating in many parts of the world, with children fleeing from home as a result of conflict or crisis situations, as seen in Syria, Afghanistan and other countries.  It was extremely important to be aware of special vulnerabilities of refugee children, she said, especially with increased instances of abductions and trafficking in refugee camps.  For its part, Slovenia had played particular attention to training professionals in different fields, such as prevention and elimination of online sexual abuse, exploitation of children and domestic violence.  The Government was convening, in December 2015, the first nationwide campaign on violence against women, focusing also on teenage girls.  Additionally, the Government was planning to issue guidelines on dealing with violence against children in schools.  At the global level, Slovenia had supported development and humanitarian projects carried out by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and focusing on children’s rights, particularly the right to education.

ESTHER MONTSERRAT PEREZ (Mexico) recalled the adoption by the General Assembly at its last session of a resolution that addressed bullying.  Mexico had recognized bullying as a priority human rights issue and initiated several programmes to address it.  Violence against children was a human rights issue that had a direct impact on education.  In the coming months, Mexico would be acting in the formation of a global alliance to combat violence against children.  The rights of children should be addressed by the General Assembly from a comprehensive perspective, linking human rights and development.  Government action was needed to guarantee that the interests of children be taken into account, particularly migrant children, indigenous children and those with disabilities. 

KELLY L. RAZZOUK (United States) drew attention to the “unprecedented” scale of humanitarian crises that were leaving their mark on the world’s children.  UNICEF had called Syria the most dangerous place to be a child; the situation there was exemplified by the case of a four-year-old girl, mistaking a camera for a gun, put her hands up in surrender when a photographer tried to take her picture.  Her delegation was appalled by the fact that the Assad regime had continued its bombardment against civilian targets, including children.  The United States, which in 2015 had contributed $1.6 billion towards humanitarian efforts for Syria, was committed to shielding children against the impact of conflict.  With regard to education, the theme of this year’s resolution on the rights of the child, the United States had invested more than $1 billion in early education.  Children all over the world deserved the best that Governments could offer them; efforts had to be redoubled so that they could inherit the world that they deserved.

EMILIA GATTO (Italy) said her country had attached great importance to the advancement of children’s rights.  Italy had traditionally been at the forefront of efforts aimed at eradicating child, early and forced marriage.  The country had also worked towards the elimination of the practice of female genital mutilation.  Further, in close cooperation with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Government fully supported the Action for Adolescent Girls programme, which aimed at delaying early marriage for girls.  In closing, she cited a passage by Italian poet Dante Alighieri, “Three things were left to us from paradise: stars, flowers and children.”

NIMROD BARKAN (Israel) said his country’s concern for the life and well‑being of children knew no colour, no ethnicity, no nationality nor faith and no borders.  Since its inception, Israel had offered free schooling to youth from age 3 to 17 and ensured equal access to education, particularly for children with disabilities.  It provided education that focused on tolerance and coexistence.  Similarly, efforts were made to ensure the availability of health care for children and were based on the principles of justice, equality and mutual assistance, with special assistance to pregnant women, children, families and disabled persons.  At the international level, Israel had been present in every major crisis — from Haiti to Nepal, from Guinea to Turkey — offering cutting-edge medical treatments and supplies.

RAMZI BABJEE (Singapore), aligning with ASEAN, said it was important to address related issues from a child’s perspective, as to better assess their needs and what they actually wanted.  Above all, he said, children wanted to be free from fear and free to pursue their dreams.  Children should not have to fear hunger, illness or death, he added, presenting some of Singapore’s achievements in the field of health.  Children also wanted to be safe from all forms of discrimination, whether due to race, religion, family background or disability.  Singapore had not only — through its Compulsory Education Act — ensured that all children had access to education, but was also taking steps to improve the accessibility, affordability and quality of early childhood services.  Singapore was further improving its education system, including through a recent initiative that brought together individuals to help schools provide authentic learning experiences and cater to their students’ diverse strengths and interests.

FRANCISCO TENYA HASEGAWA (Peru), aligning with CELAC, said children must live a life free from discrimination and have access to basic rights such as education, health care and happiness.  The 2030 Agenda allowed all States to review their current policies and programmes and undertake new measures to make progress on the issue.  For its part, the Government had adopted the National Action Plan for Children 2012-2021, aiming to guide state and civil society organizations in their efforts and actions regarding children’s rights.  Concluding, he stressed that the promotion and protection of children’s rights were fundamental to sustainable development.

LUZ DEL CARMEN ANDUJAR (Dominican Republic), associating with CELAC, noted how her country’s national development strategy contained 13 objectives that referred to the protection of children’s rights.  National efforts included the establishment of a foster care programme and the launch, in April 2015, of a three-year road map for the prevention and elimination of violence against children and adolescents.  While the Dominican Republic was facing challenges with regard to necessary financial resources in implementing provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it remained committed to investing in the rights of all children.

FEDERICO A. GONZÁLEZ (Paraguay), aligning with CELAC, said children’s rights were considered a priority in Paraguay.  Addressing the needs of children represented an important challenge, as they continued to face violence and economic exclusion.  Indigenous children, those living with disabilities and others in rural areas were particularly vulnerable.  In recent years, Paraguay had been implementing programmes and initiatives in the areas of education and poverty eradication.  Enrolment rates had increased and would soon reach 100 per cent, he said.  Paraguay had also implemented a national plan for comprehensive childhood development, which had sought to improve health, and had adopted social policies using a rights-based approach.  Going forward, the Government was committed to continue its efforts to improve the well-being of children and young people.

AMJAD QASSEM AGHA (Syria) said terrorist groups were undertaking systematic operations against children, their schools and their homes.  Those groups had been supported by countries that claimed to be champions of the protection of children’s rights.  Achieving an environment free of violence in the occupied territories required that the Israeli occupation ended.  The international community must end its silence on violence against children by armed and terrorist groups, he said, emphasizing that children were being brainwashed and recruited as soldiers, while girls were being raped and subjected to sexual trafficking in refugee camps.  Despite those challenges, the Syrian Government, in collaboration with UNICEF, had undertaken efforts to implement health programmes for Syrian children.

AMOROS NUNEZ (Cuba) said the ills afflicting childhood could not be overcome without a just and equitable international order.  The existing gap between North and South and the polarization of wealth were unacceptable.  Cuba was proud to affirm that none of its children were victims of armed conflict.  There were no children on the streets in Cuba and no child was forced to make a living for themselves or their family.  Hunger, illiteracy, insalubrity and discrimination were just bad memories, he said.  The infant mortality rate stood at 4.2 per 1,000 live births, compared to 60 per 1,000 in 1959, and, according to the World Bank, Cuba had the best education system in the world.  Such achievements had been attained despite the severe impact of the economic, financial and commercial blockade that the United States had imposed on Cuba for more than half a century.

MS. SUKONTASUP (Thailand), aligning with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), expressed her country’s commitment to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols.  Commending the work done by UNICEF, she stressed the importance of strengthening its cooperation with Member States.  As clear legislation was needed to prevent and protect children from sexual exploitation, Thailand had recently passed a Criminal Code amendment that aimed at punishing the production, dissemination and possession of child pornography.  The Government had launched a funding programme to ensure that newborns of low-income parents had adequate support and access to health care and, in 2012, it had declared education improvement a national priority, calling for joint efforts to raise the quality education by 2015.  Thailand had also undertaken a range of initiatives at regional and international levels on the elimination of violence against children.

BAKHTA SELMA MANSOURI (Algeria), associating with the African Group, said thousands of children were trapped in armed conflicts.  Despite all efforts, progress had been too slow and too fragmented to make a real breakthrough in the protection of children from violence.  Data and research were crucial to break the invisibility of such violence.  In 2015, a new law had been issued in Algeria to reinforce the legal framework for the protection of children from violence.  The country was also in the final stage of implementing, in collaboration with UNICEF, a national plan to address the problem.  Infant mortality had been declining in Algeria and free mandatory education for all children up to the age of 16 remained a priority for the Government.

EKATERINA VODENIKOVA (Russian Federation) said children’s rights were a priority in her country’s social policy.  Children in armed conflict and humanitarian situations should be given particular attention.  Russia rigorously condemned the wounding and killing of children in the midst of conflict, and it called upon States that had not already done so to accede to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  International efforts to counter an increase in violence against children were welcome.  Russia was concerned about the welfare of Russian children who had been adopted by foreigners and who had become the victims of abuse.  With political will, openness and dialogue, the lives of millions of children could be changed for the better, she concluded.

HAHN CHOONGHEE (Republic of Korea) stressed the importance of investing in children for the realization of the 2030 Agenda.  He then called on Member States to pay particular attention to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, such as those in conflict or humanitarian crises, refugees, migrants and children with disabilities.  Most of all, it was important to realize the rights of girls, who faced higher vulnerability in the areas of nutrition, health care, education and violence.  The Republic of Korea was implementing health and education programmes overseas, with $200 million allocated over the next five years.  Concluding, he emphasized the significance of the right to education, which was central for overcoming poverty. 

DAMIRA ZHANATOVA (Kazakhstan) said her country had been able to achieve most development goals and remained committed to protecting children from violence, abuse and the negative consequences of climate change.  Kazakhstan had adhered to all international instruments relating to children’s rights and had used indicators to measure progress achieved.  New legislation and programmes had been implemented to ensure children’s access to education, leading to Kazakhstan being among the most developed countries in that field.  She recognized the specific vulnerability of children with disabilities and assured the Committee of her Government’s efforts to address their needs.  Finally, she highlighted initiatives undertaken at the international level, reiterating her country’s commitment to collaborating with UNICEF and other United Nations agencies.

KARIMA BARDAOUI (Tunisia), associating with the African Group, said her country had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991.  Given the current situation, political will needed to be intensified so that children could enjoy their full rights with no discrimination whatsoever.  The new Constitution in Tunisia specifically referred to the State’s obligation to respect the rights of children and to ensure their protection.  It was no coincidence that 2015 had been declared the year for the protection of children in Tunisia.  Several actions and programmes had been put into place with UNICEF, she said.  Education was an inalienable right and parents faced punishment if they failed to enrol their children in school.  Children were “silent citizens”, but their voices had to be heard.

KOKI MULI GRIGNON (Kenya) discussed the progress her country had made with regard to education, which was an effective way to eliminate harmful cultural practices such as female genital mutilation and child marriages.  Data was important to better address the problems of children, she said, noting national progress towards a total collection of vital statistics “from cradle to grave”.  A long-term investment was being made in addressing the risk of violence faced by children with disabilities.  Children who lived in the midst of armed conflict or those fleeing it were the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, she said, recalling the widely seen image of the lifeless body of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, washed ashore while fleeing conflict, or the horror of a mother watching two of her children drown.  The impact of conflict on children was everyone’s concern and it must be put high on the agendas of the Security Council and the General Assembly.

MS. AHLAM RASHID ALSALAMI (United Arab Emirates) said developing countries continued to face challenges affecting their ability to address the needs of their children.  To prevent the exploitation of children, investments, measures and national policies were needed.  She reiterated her country’s commitment to those issues, as illustrated by its support for the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  In that vein, it would continue to design laws protecting children.  Citing some examples, she said the Government would amend and strengthen its legislation relating to exploitation and trafficking in children and adopt a national action plan for the rights of children with disabilities and a programme for addressing violence and bullying in schools.  The United Arab Emirates would also continue its involvement at regional and international levels in favour of the rights and health of children.

MARÍA CLARISA GOLDRICK (Nicaragua) said her country had made inroads with efforts aimed at improving the situation, rights and well-being of children.  Those initiatives had been based on an approach geared towards transforming the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child into implementation programmes.  Among the progress made were improvements in the fields of health and education.  Other gains were made in combating malnutrition.  Programmes had also been implemented to protect children from violence.  To conclude, she reiterated her Government’s commitment to protecting the rights of children.

MAYANK JOSHI (India) said that despite unprecedented progress made over the past decade, half a billion children continued to suffer from extreme poverty and hunger.  Twenty per cent of the world’s children were Indian and, for its part, the Government had been pursuing its agenda of inclusive growth for development by overcoming inequalities, keeping in mind the best interests of children, particularly in education, health and protection from violence.  Efforts had led to the eradication of polio and the overcoming of maternal neonatal tetanus.  India had also achieved full access to and gender parity in primary education and was currently focused on affordable quality education at the secondary level.  Underscoring the importance which his country attached to protection, he said India had passed legislation and adopted action plans that targeted areas including human trafficking, the sale of children, child marriage and labour.

MOHAMMED AL-OBAIDI (Iraq) referred to terrorist acts committed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS) that had led to displacement, forced migration, killings and the forced exploitation of children.  Such actions led to a deterioration of health care and education for children, who in besieged area also suffered from malnutrition.  Children were being killed, losing their parents, abandoning school and finding themselves kidnapped by terrorist groups that transformed them into terrorists.  An international conference on the recruitment of children by ISIL had put out a message to the world to take such actions seriously.  The challenges, terrorism being chief among them, facing the Government had not undermined its will to achieve advances with regard to children.  He thanked all countries that had supported it and called upon the international community to continue to do so.

E. COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), aligning with CELAC, said that his country placed great emphasis on addressing the challenges facing children and had reaped marked success in that regard.  Jamaica had achieved virtually universal enrolment at primary and secondary levels, including equitable gender distribution.  The country had also invested heavily in addressing the situation of children who had come into conflict with the law through legislative and policy adjustments and by providing facilities at detention centres to ensure that children were not held longer than absolutely necessary.  The global economic and financial crises had disproportionately affected children, often leading to their homelessness and vulnerability to predatory practices such as trafficking and sexual exploitation.  Refugee and migrant children were at an elevated risk for such practices as well, he said.  There was much to be done at the national, regional and global levels to safeguard children’s rights and ensure they were able to enjoy those rights.

ANTONIA WYNNE-HUGHES (Canada) said children were agents of change who could drive the 2030 Agenda forward.  Problems such as violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect were complex and multifaceted and needed to be addressed from a human rights and a development perspective.  The substantive resolution on child, early and forced marriage that Canada helped to send to the General Assembly was a significant achievement.  With targets set, the focus now had to be on making them a reality thorough planning and action at the national level.  Canada was committed to Security Council resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1612 (2005) on women, peace and security and grave violations of children’s rights in conflict situations, respectively, and it had contributed to initiatives to address the challenge of eradicating the practice of using children as combatants.

MAYA DAGHER (Lebanon) said her country remained committed to the promotion and protection of the rights of children, despite the challenges it faced with the presence of more than 1.2 million Syrian refugees, most of whom were women and children.  With support from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UNICEF, the World Bank and bilateral donors, it had launched a back-to-school campaign that would allow 200,000 Syrian refugee children between the ages of 3 and 14 to access certified basic education, nearly double the number of last year.  However, current resources were insufficient to reach all refugee children.  The humanitarian situation in Lebanon was outstretching its infrastructure at all levels and putting decades of development efforts and achievements at stake, she said.

MOHAMMAD HASSANI NEJAD PIRKOUHI (Iran) said the inclusion, within the 2030 Agenda, of the goals of declining infant mortality and rising education enrolment showed that, with political will and sufficient resources, significant change was within reach.  Much remained to be done, however, as children continued to face violence, poverty, inequality and lack of access to education, health or food.  In addition, conflicts around the world continued to have a dire impact on children.  Iran had been hosting hundreds of thousands of refugee children and made great efforts to ensure their free enrolment in schools throughout the country, despite minuscule support from the international community.  In 2015, a comprehensive database on children had been inaugurated and would contribute to the production of disaggregated data required for further improvements of policies addressing their well-being.  Meanwhile, national meetings had been organized on the role of religious leaders in the prevention of violence against children.

MAY-ELIN STENER (Norway) said the Convention was an integral part of Norwegian law and framed her country’s policy concerning children.  The right to education, particularly of the girl child, was a core priority for her Government.  In order to mobilize political and economic support for education, Norway had hosted the Oslo Summit on Education for Development in July.  Education was a human right and a catalyst for job creation, but in many countries, far too many girls did not complete their secondary education.  Harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation, were unacceptable, she said.  Early marriage deprived girls of their childhood and participation in society and often subjected to violence and sexual abuse.  Norway was deeply concerned by the pervasiveness of violence against children worldwide.  The tenth anniversary of the study on the protection of children against violence, and the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals targeting that issue should serve as an impetus to end it.

REEM JULIA MANSOUR, of the Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine, regretted that, for over 48 years, Israel’s military occupation had denied Palestinian children the right to live in a harmonious atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.  Rather, children were denied their basic rights and bore the brunt of increasingly oppressive, violent and illegal Israel policies.  She referred to the cases of two Palestinian children recently murdered by Israeli occupying forces, before condemning the rise of violence and terrorism by Israeli settlers, including against Palestinian children.  Turning to the situation in occupied Gaza, she recalled the tragedy that civilians, particularly children, had faced during the military operation by the occupying Power during the summer 2014.  At least 540 children were killed and 2,955 were injured, she said.

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer for the Holy See, pointing at the number of unachieved and neglected areas in the field of children’s rights, stressed the need to further strengthen national health and other services for children.  He called for creative solutions to financial barriers preventing families from sending children to school or affording health care.  He highlighted the beneficial value of modern technologies for the well-being of children, for example in reuniting families, facilitating birth registrations, testing for HIV/AIDS or preventing human suffering in cases of natural disasters.  Expressing concern over the situation of children during armed conflicts, particularly sexual violence against them as a war strategy, he said the Catholic Church was running numerous projects in conflict-affected areas to address the needs of those children.

TALAIBEK KYDYROV (Kyrgyzstan) outlined the efforts being made by his Government with regard to child abuse, including sexual violence against children, juvenile justice, health care and education.  Kyrgyzstan supported strengthening the role of the family, which was the best and most natural environment for the growth and well-being of children.  It was the family that should bear the responsibility for the moral and spiritual upbringing and protection of children, he said.  Real sustainable development could not be achieved without stronger families, and Kyrgyzstan stood ready to cooperate with UNICEF in implementing the 2030 Agenda.

MURAT UĞURLUOĞLU (Turkey) said education and health service projects undertaken by Turkey in Afghanistan and Somalia were concrete examples of its support for children in the midst of emergency and conflict.  The world was facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War and it was high time for States to collectively share responsibility and ensure that parents built a safe future for their children and not risk perilous journeys to flee conflicts.  Turkey had given safe refuge to more than 2 million Syrians and ensured cross-border humanitarian assistance for those still inside that country.  There were almost 400,000 school‑age Syrian children in Turkey, but many were missing out from schooling.  More teachers and classrooms were urgently needed.  In that regard, proper funding for the “No Lost Generation strategy” would help.

ANTÓNIO GUMENDE (Mozambique) said his Government had adopted and implemented several legal instruments, policies and strategies for the promotion and protection of the rights of children, including the National Plan of Action for Children and the National Strategy of Basic Social Security.  In collaboration with development partners, Mozambique had undertaken further measures in the areas of health care, expansion of the school network and social protection.  Despite progress achieved, enormous challenges still remained, affecting children and their enjoyment of rights.  Such challenges included the high prevalence of domestic violence, child labour, trafficking, chronic malnutrition and the unavailability of adequate learning materials.

ARINO YAGUCHI (Japan) said that his country was deeply concerned by the gender gap in secondary education in much of the world.  Japan intended to provide over $350 million over the next three years to ensure that women and girls could have a quality education.  Turning to children in armed conflict, he cited a memoir written by a former child soldier from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Michel Chikwanine, who had been abducted at the age of five and forced to kill his 12-year-old friend as part of his induction.  Tragic childhoods like his continued to occur around the globe, and the international community needed to strengthen its efforts to eliminate the recruitment and use of child soldiers.  In that regard, Japan welcomed Security Council resolution 2225 (2015) and called for its implementation.  Japan would continue to work with UNICEF for the social rehabilitation of former child soldiers, she said, noting that Japan valued the Convention on the Rights of the Child as the foundation for the international promotion and protection of children’s rights.

ANA CRISTINA RODRÍGUEZ PINEDA (Guatemala) said her Government had made a number of efforts to improve the quality of education, including through national reading and mathematics programmes.  Training was provided to technical staff and support given to local educators.  Over the last few years, immigration and unaccompanied children had changed the political agenda and led the Government to take measures to address their needs.  She reiterated that States should develop alternative measures to detention and should protect the family unit.  She expressed concerns over attacks against children in armed conflict and underlined the importance of States to increase their cooperation at all levels not only to react to such violations of international law, but also to prevent them.

HUSSEIN ABDULLAHI (Nigeria) said protecting the rights of children was a task that his country embraced at international, regional and national levels.  For its part, the Government had adopted its Child Rights Act in 2003, drawing inspiration and guidance from the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Further, the National Priority Agenda for vulnerable children (2013-2020) had been developed as a strategic framework to ensure the protection of the most vulnerable children.  Accordingly, funding had been made available to bolster public awareness.  Noting that Nigeria had been challenged by the deplorable and inhumane acts of terror by Boko Haram, he condemned the heinous acts of abuses committed by the group, which violated the fundamental human rights of children.

MOHAMED IBRAHIM MOHAMED ELBAHI (Sudan), outlining the measures taken by his Government, noted the creation of child protection units in the armed forces and the appointment of a prosecutor to investigate allegations relating to children in Darfur.  Sudan had sought to address all concerns expressed regarding children, especially those in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile provinces.  A working plan to address the concerns of children in armed conflict was being fine-tuned.  Sudan was asking for its name to be deleted from the list in the annex of the report on children in armed conflict.  In responding to the question of child soldiers, national sovereignty and territorial integrity had to be respected, he said, asking that the Secretary-General only included in his reports proven information.

INGRID SABJA (Bolivia), associating with CELAC, said her country had travelled a long road with regard to children.  Children were considered to be rights holders in Bolivian society, with a legal code governing the protection and care of young people applying to everyone, without exception.  Further reducing child mortality and malnutrition were challenges that the Government was confronting.  The rights of children to sports, recreation, health, education and safe water had to be ensured, otherwise, they may be attracted to alcohol and drugs.  The 2030 Agenda was extremely important, as a multifaceted approach was needed to promote and protect the human rights of children.

HU MIAU (China) welcomed Somalia’s recent ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and highlighted important achievements accomplished worldwide in children’s health and education.  Considering the tremendous violence faced by children during armed conflicts, it was important that the international community strengthened its efforts to create a peaceful and stable environment at both global and regional levels, including through resolving differences peacefully, in accordance with the Charter of United Nations.  China called upon developed countries to continue supporting developing countries.  For its part, China would do its part through financial assistance to a number of countries, including in the field of health.

DIYAR KHAN (Pakistan) said protecting the rights of children was both smart economics and a moral obligation.  Pakistan was committed to their rights and had ratified international instruments on the issue.  National legislation had ensured the implementation of international provisions, notably in the field of combating child exploitation or trafficking.  He welcomed the inclusion of child-related issues within the Sustainable Development Goals, complementing some of Pakistan’s own national priorities in the education and health sectors.  Pakistan had succeeded in reducing maternal mortality and polio, and would continue its efforts on those and related issues.

Right of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Israel said he was stunned by accusations made by Syria.  Children had been among those killed by the murderous Syrian regime; that was something that had been documented by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.  The Palestinians were, once again, projecting a one-sided and misleading picture, complaining of what Israel was doing to them, but not presenting anything positive about what they were doing for their own children.  Israel regretted that children had become messengers of terror.  Returning to the negotiating table was the only way towards a desired two-State solution.

Exercising the right of reply, the representative of the State of Palestine said the Israeli delegation had consistently failed to address its illegal occupation of Palestine.  The reality was that a foreign military occupation was taking place in Palestine where Israeli boots were on the ground.  Children had lost their lives as a direct result of an occupation that the international community had in its power to end.

Taking the floor for a second time, the representative of Israel said he regretted the obfuscation of reality by his Palestinian colleague.  She had not suggested anything that Palestinians could do for their own children, he said, noting that that was very sad.

For information media. Not an official record.