States had an obligation to ensure that vulnerable children received the rights they were due, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) heard today as it continued its deliberations on children’s rights.
Four special mandate holders addressed the Committee from various spheres of the international legal machinery dedicated to children’s rights, two of them making an unprecedented joint presentation. Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, presented a report along with Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. Their thematic study addressed children’s vulnerabilities to exploitation as they fled armed conflict, natural disaster and humanitarian crisis, and underscored that children were entitled to specific rights in terms of care, recovery and reintegration.
Indeed, the failure of States to protect children entitled to international and national child protection measures “could not be condoned”, said Ms. Giammarinaro. It was imperative to establish significant legal channels for migration, and for Member States to recognize that children victimized by traffickers were entitled to support. Provision of those entitlements required accurate screening of children in places of first arrival, while additional measures must include residence status under anti-trafficking legislation.
Manfred Nowak, Independent Expert and Lead Author of the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, said children were being held in overcrowded migrant detention centres in rich countries. The Global Study sought to bridge the data gap on the number of children in such situations and raise awareness about the risks posed to society as a whole. It would also develop evidence-based recommendations and compile best practices to help reduce childhood incarceration.
Renate Winter, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, also addressed the Committee, recommending that States use the treaty body capacity-building programme of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to assist in fulfilling their reporting obligations, as a way to reduce reporting backlogs.
When the Committee reopened its debate, delegates underscored the importance of education, with South Africa’s representative, on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), identifying access to education, vocational training, healthcare and social protection as priorities. The European Union’s delegate highlighted the importance of education in emergencies, noting that 6 per cent of the bloc’s humanitarian funding had been allocated for that purpose. Mitigating child trafficking was a core principle of its agenda and increased attention was being given to the trafficking of girls for sexual exploitation.
Other delegates described the contributions of the international child protection machinery, with the representative of Barbados, on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), noting that the 2006 United Nations Study on Violence against Children had fostered progress on protecting children, increasing global attention and developing international standards. Those efforts, in turn, had led to improved data collection for evidence-based programming, greater awareness, and both consolidation of knowledge and sharing of good practices. Indonesia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that while partnering with United Nations agencies, her group had also worked with others to organize regional workshops and trainings, develop quality standards and create a child development index.
Also speaking today were representatives of Switzerland (also speaking on behalf of Austria), Japan, Mexico, Egypt, Paraguay, Peru, Italy, Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Brunei Darussalam, Iraq, Brazil, Cuba, India, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Liechtenstein, Syria, Namibia, Afghanistan, Viet Nam, Philippines, United States, Nicaragua, Eritrea, Monaco, Israel, Norway, Zambia, Iran, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Lebanon.
A representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea spoke in exercise of the right to reply.
The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 11 October, to continue its discussion on the rights of children.
The Third Committee met today to continue its debate on the promotion and protection of the rights of children. (For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/4200.)
RENATE WINTER, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, began her presentation by describing human rights violations which had occurred to girls and boys around the world, such as a six year old who had been forced to work breaking stones, and who had died from his labours at age 16. She then described the status of ratification and accession to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and reporting on it and its Optional Protocols. Only the United States was missing before the Convention reached universal ratification, she said, adding that the Optional Protocol on a communications procedure was undergoing a slow pace of ratification, with just 36 States acceding to it thus far. Late reporting also must be improved and she recommended that States use the treaty body capacity-building programme of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to assist in fulfilling their reporting obligations.
Turning to the Committee’s activities over the past year, she said it had reduced its backlog of reports relating to the Convention and its first two Optional Protocols. It had also adopted three General Comments, the first on children in street situations and the other two on the human rights of children in the context of migration. She stressed the need for States’ financial contributions to the global study on children deprived of liberty, commissioned by the Secretary-General. Increased ratifications and greater demands to the communications procedures had led to a heavier workload and she warned that, should the Committee not receive the needed resources, its failure to respond to victims’ needs would rest with the Member States.
When the floor opened for discussion, the representative of the European Union asked how States could step up ways to eliminate violence against children, including street children and migrant children.
The representative of Japan asked about challenges the Committee faced in achieving greater efficiency and harmonizing of the human rights treaty bodies.
The representative of Ireland said the country had made progress in providing support to the senior cabinet minister for youth affairs and asked about what States could do to place children rights at the heart of their policies.
The representative of the United Kingdom asked for ideas to promote societal change in protecting the rights of children.
Ms. WINTER replied that education was essential in preventing violence against children. However, when teachers and parents were pressed for time and resources, they at times resorted to violence to instil discipline. She said teachers might refrain from violence if more of them were assigned to larger classes or given more pay. She also highlighted the issue of sexual violence that happened at home, pointing out that 6 out of 10 children who were victims of sexual violence had encountered those situations at home.
To the question about street children, she said interviews with those children had revealed that not all of them wanted to go home. Rather, they wanted dignity. “What they were asking for is to have their dignity respected,” she said. “They want to be respected even if they lived in garbage.”
To protect children on the move, she said all countries must accord refugee, migrant and asylum-seeking children with the same rights as children in the countries to which they had come.
Regarding the Committee’s efficiency, she pointed out that the Committee worked pro-bono. All treaty bodies lacked resources and she called on Member States to provide the Committee with more people so it could address its case backlog.
Stressing the importance of sharing data, she said “there is no country that ever has data in order.” Countries would always have ministries which did not want to share data or would only share partial data. “I do not know what is so secret and threatening about sharing data on children,” she asserted, calling on Governments to collect data, as well as to devise a comprehensive strategy and action plan to protect children’s rights.
MAUD DE BOER-BUQUICCHIO, Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, along with MARIA GRAZIA GIAMMARINARO, Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, presented the first-ever joint report to the General Assembly of two special procedures mandate holders. Their report contained a thematic study addressing children’s vulnerabilities to exploitation as they fled armed conflict, natural disasters and humanitarian crises in Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan, and Myanmar, “to name a few”, she said. Even the deployment of peacekeeping forces had proven to be a risk factor for children, she said, calling on Member States to sign the Voluntary Compact to eliminate sexual exploitation and abuse.
She said children who were victims of sale, trafficking and other forms of exploitation had the right to be identified, protected, assisted and supported, safely returned — and protected again from re-trafficking and persecution. They were also entitled to access remedies and specific rights in terms of care, recovery and reintegration. The absence or the inadequacy of child protection systems could cause children to lose confidence in the protection available to them, she said, adding that good practices included the creation of child-friendly spaces within interim care services. In armed conflicts, natural disasters and humanitarian crises, children were forced to search for protection in ways which increased their exposure to risks of sale, trafficking and exploitation. The international community had an obligation to address those risks, and should place greater emphasis on reducing the vulnerabilities of children affected by conflict. As part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, States had a political commitment to do so.
MARIA GRAZIA GIAMMARINARO, Special Rapporteur on the trafficking of persons, especially women and children, said child trafficking was widespread and consent of the child was irrelevant in such cases. The failure of States to protect children entitled to international and national child protection measures “could not be condoned”. All children were vulnerable to trafficking, she stressed, adding that migrant children faced risks at all phases of their journey. Children were particularly vulnerable in transit countries where authorities prevented them from travelling to preferred destinations, circumstances which increased the likelihood of them falling prey to traffickers. Meanwhile, in destination countries, children faced discriminatory State practices and limited access to social services.
The plight of migrant children was made worse by “poisonous political discourse” that promoted anti-migrant, racist positions, she said, warning that restrictive migration policies had also resulted in their detention. As a result, it was imperative to establish significant legal channels for migration, she said, calling on Member States to recognize that children victimized by traffickers were entitled to protection and support. Provision of those entitlements required accurate screening of children in places of first arrival, while additional measures must include residence status under anti-trafficking legislation. Worryingly, trafficked children were the least likely victims to receive any compensation. She concluded that States must fight impunity and bring perpetrators of trafficking to justice while ensuring that vulnerable children received the necessary assistance.
When the floor opened for questions and comments, the representative of the Maldives asked about the provisions the Special Rapporteurs wished to see in the Global Compact to address the issue of trafficking in children.
The representative of Iraq asked for guidance on protecting the rights of children in armed conflicts.
The representative of Liechtenstein asked what could be done to increase synergies and collaboration of different United Nations agencies in protecting children against exploitation.
The representative of Libya asked for the source of information in the reports which stated that children had been detained in Libyan prisons.
The representative of Qatar asked the Special Rapporteurs what could be done to promote accountability for crimes against children perpetrated during armed conflicts.
The representative of Slovenia asked the Special Rapporteurs to share good practices on protecting girls in emergency situations from exploitation and other harmful behaviour.
The representative of Switzerland asked which measures could be feasibly increased to prevent trafficking in persons and to protect children in complex situations, such as in Libya and the central Mediterranean route.
Also speaking were representatives of the United States, Russian Federation, South Africa, United Kingdom, Cuba and Mexico, as well as the European Union.
Ms. DE BOER-BUQUICCHIO, responding, underscored the importance of preventing the exploitation of children. As no country was safe from violence, it was essential for there to be a robust child protection system in place. In the face of conflict, children did not know whom to turn to, and their knowledge of the risks they would encounter was limited. The international community must focus on prevention and developing an effective child protection system which, for example, started with birth registration. There should also be a reporting mechanism for children who had been subjected to exploitation. If those crimes occurred, the first question States should ask themselves was whether they had an effective mechanism in place for accountability. Some crimes were serious, and should be listed among the six grave violations defined in Security Council resolution 1612 (2005) on Children and armed conflict, she said, adding that countries under whose command those crimes had been committed should be prevented from contributing troops.
Good practices in countries of origin, transit and destination were scarce but they did exist, she continued, saying for instance that the institutions of guardians had shown that assistance to children could work. Prevention and accountability were the two primary pillars on which States should build their response to the sale and trafficking of children on the move. The 2030 Agenda would provide Member States with an opportunity to address the issue efficiently. There was a need for financial investments, and the fact that the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development had dedicated focus to Goal 16.2 was promising and a strategic opportunity. The Special Procedures were present to ensure the monitoring of progress, she concluded.
Ms. GIAMMARINARO, also responding, said the Global Compact on migration would give Member States a strong message to establish a legal channel for migration, which would reduce vulnerability to trafficking. It was important to establish procedures to interview migrants in places of first arrival, and to register children, which was also true for adult migrants in vulnerable situations, she added. Indicators showing a risk of trafficking should be used to identify tailored solutions to protect migrants. All migrants were in a way vulnerable, but some situations were specific, she said, providing the example of people arriving in a position of debt bondage. A child in such a situation was compelled by family expectations to go on with the journey, which could lead to trafficking for sexual and other forms of exploitation. But if that form of vulnerability was identified, the exploitation could be prevented.
Thus far, there was no solution for relocating migrants, not even children, she said, adding that children should not be detained for immigration reasons. In Europe, that meant that the Dublin Convention [which determines the Member State responsible for examining asylum applications for those seeking international protection] should be substantially revised, since it placed children and other asylum seekers into limbo, which in turn, left them vulnerable to trafficking. International cooperation systems for protection should be improved. Turning to the issue of overlapping areas between different concepts, she said standards should reinforce each other. In response to a question on good practices concerning a gender perspective, she said she had not seen much evidence of that in humanitarian crises. And in response to queries on feasible measures for the central Mediterranean route, she said the idea of blocking migration flows from one route would just mean that another route would be immediately activated. It was an issue of international cooperation; good practice experiences of humanitarian corridors might be used as an example for addressing situations of conflict and humanitarian crisis.
KEITH MARSHALL (Barbados), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), drew attention to the regional roadmap, formulated in 2012, which raised awareness of abuse against children in the Caribbean, promoted exchange of experiences and stimulated progress in priority areas. Also, the Kingston Declaration recognized that the elimination of violence against children, a major challenge, required sustained efforts with Governmental institutions, legislatures, academia and civil society, as well as children and adolescents. Both instruments where supplemented by the CARICOM Regional Framework of Action for Children, which outlined Members States' commitments to protect children against abuse, exploitation, violence, child labour, discrimination and neglect.
He said the 2006 United Nations Study on Violence against Children had helped to hasten progress in protecting children, increase global attention and develop international standards. Those efforts, in turn, had led to improved data collection for evidence-based programming, increased awareness, consolidation of knowledge and sharing of good practices. However, the gender dimension of child violence must be addressed and child labour must be given greater focus, while the issue of children on the move must also be considered in migration debates. Armed violence, bullying, online violence and corporal punishment of children were also issues of concern, he said.
EPHRAIM LESHALA MMINELE (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and the African Group, said the Community’s longstanding commitment to protect children was anchored in the cultural values and principles of its Member States. Preventing child marriage was a priority in the region and a model law had been adopted to help harmonize national legislation on the matter. Violence against children, including in armed conflict, was a persistent challenge hindering the achievement of sustainable development. While a global trend to promote the protection of children in armed conflict existed, more must be done to guarantee access to education and eliminate the risk of all forms of exploitation.
Protecting children called for “breaking the poverty cycle” that served to increase vulnerabilities. To that end, the Community had developed comprehensive approaches to deliver basic services to vulnerable children, including orphans. Access to education, vocational training, healthcare and social protection had been identified as priorities. Those approaches were grounded on the notion that family-centred policy could contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. There was also a regional framework for Governments and civil society to work together, he noted, reaffirming the Community’s commitment to work with partners to mobilize resources to attain a sustainable future for children.
INA H. KRISNAMURTHI (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), described cooperation initiatives among Member States, and mechanisms to promote and protect children’s rights. In 2015, ASEAN Members States had signed a convention against trafficking in persons, which aimed to promote action plans, strengthen law enforcement and promote international cooperation and coordination. In September 2017, they approved a work plan to protect the rights of women and children, agreeing to conduct projects in areas such as eliminating child marriage, awareness raising on the social impact of climate change on women and children, gender equality in education and women’s economic empowerment.
She said it was important that countries worked together to protect and promote children’s rights, as that would allow them to “utilize the advantages derived from commonalities and diversity” to achieve sustainable development. While partnering with United Nations agencies, ASEAN also had worked with other partners to organize regional workshops and training sessions, develop standards for quality and a child development index. Other projects focused on the management and treatment of trafficked women and children, and developing guidelines for a non-violent approach to child rearing.
GARRETT O’BRIEN, of the European Union delegation, said the bloc had become a leader in the promotion, protection and fulfilment of children’s rights. With the political momentum generated by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, priority should be given to the protection of the most marginalized children, he said. Through its revised Guidelines on the Promotion of the Rights of the Child, the European Union advocated for system-strengthening and rights-based approaches to promote the Convention on the Rights of the Child. He recognized the importance of education in emergencies, adding that the Union had allocated 6 per cent of humanitarian funding for that purpose, with the amount set to increase next year.
Mass migration was placing children at risk of trafficking, he stressed. Mitigating child trafficking remained a core principle of the bloc’s agenda and increased attention was being given to the trafficking of girls for sexual exploitation. Responses to trafficking and violence against children must be gender-specific and child-sensitive. Persistent conflicts emphasized the risk of children’s exploitation by terrorist and other armed groups. Protecting children in armed conflict called for addressing all phases of the conflict cycle, from prevention to reconciliation. All forms of violence against children obstructed sustainable and inclusive development, he said, concluding that every State was obliged to protect the rights of all children.
Ms. FRECHIN (Switzerland) said her country attached great importance to respect for the principles of juvenile justice, expressing deep concern about children around the world who had been deprived of their liberties. Those children were vulnerable to various forms of violence and were often deprived of their right to education and health. They also became more susceptible to violent extremism, especially if they had been detained in conditions that did not consider their age-specific needs. For those reasons, all States should be concerned about children who had been deprived of their liberties, as it had serious consequences for society as a whole. She went on to draw special attention to the concerning trend of denying humanitarian access, which affected civilian populations, especially children in armed conflict.
YASUE NUNOSHIBA (Japan) said her Government had announced its “Learning Strategy for Peace and Growth”, which focused on providing education for girls. To implement that strategy, Japan was working to improve the studying environment for girls by establishing dormitories for them and increasing the number of restrooms for girls in older school buildings. Continued violence against children around the world caused great harm and deprived them of an environment conducive to healthy growth. Although Sustainable Development Goal 16.2 aimed at ending violence against children, challenges remained, and many countries had difficulty in addressing the situation due to a lack of data.
Ms. PADILLA PINEDA, youth delegate from Mexico, said that in her country, boys and girls and adolescents represented one third of the population. Inclusive efforts were needed to improve their quality of life, she said, adding that discussions should be based on statistics, data and realities. For its part, Mexico had submitted a resolution to the General Assembly on bullying, a form of violence which should be stigmatized and prevented. The 2030 Agenda should be implemented with special focus given to Goal 16.2, she said, adding that Mexico’s action plan outlined a strategy to prohibit physical punishment. The General Assembly must pronounce itself on children’s rights, and good practices carefully analysed.
FATMAALZAHRAA HASSAN ABDELAZIZ ABDELKAWY (Egypt), associating herself with the African Group, said families bore the main responsibility of caring for children, while the presence of parents ensured that children were raised in a healthy environment. Underscoring the importance of attending to children’s psychological well-being and respecting the views of parents, she said that by working with United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Egypt had made strides in preventing violent acts against women, including female genital mutilation. The Government had introduced a law with a jail term of up to seven years for engaging in that practice, she said, pledging that Egypt would abide by the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
JULIO CÉSAR ARRIOLA RAMÍREZ (Paraguay), associating himself with CELAC, said his country had adopted a comprehensive system to protect the rights of children and adolescents. It aimed to eliminate child labour, address the needs of street children, provide food in school to improve learning and reduce drop outs, and promote non-violence in child rearing. Paraguay had also adopted guidelines to prevent schools from being used for military purposes in armed conflict, focused on reducing unwanted pregnancies among young people and recognized that children living in extreme poverty and those from indigenous groups deserved special care.
Ms. SALAZAR (Peru) said her country’s national plan to protect the rights of children and adolescents had established guidelines in areas such as child mortality, access to drinking water, health and education, and infant malnutrition. Peru also had a law to prevent child labour. Stressing that a child abused at home was more likely to be a victim of violence in other settings or to repeat violent behaviour, she described norms to protect children against violence and cited a programme launched by the education ministry that encouraged children to confidentially report violence in school.
SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy), aligning with the European Union, said childhood well‑being must at the core of development action. Italy provided substantial support for United Nations programmes related to childhood protection, health education and empowerment. He attached utmost importance to the fight against harmful traditional practices, including early and forced marriage. Citing Italy’s support for Global Compacts on migrants and refugees, he said special protection was needed young people in those populations, particularly unaccompanied children. Commenting that armed conflicts posed serious challenges to children, he described Italy’s efforts to raise awareness of their plight in the Security Council. He called States to reaffirm international commitments to protect education during conflict, particularly during the Council’s 13 October Arria Formula meeting on attacks on schools.
MAURICIO CARABALI BAQUERO (Colombia), associating himself with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), affirmed his Government’s commitment to eliminating all forms of violence against children and child marriage. Increased investment was required to better assist children. To that end, Colombia was investing heavily in education, with some 8 million children now having access to free education. International cooperation, including with the United Nations and relevant agencies, was essential for ending abuse and violence towards children. Colombia was working to achieve social and cultural changes to attain sustainable and lasting peace, emphasizing the prevention of children from becoming involved in conflict.
MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina), associating himself with CELAC, said his country was working to fully incorporate the Convention into its child protection efforts, and he urged States to achieve universal implementation of that instrument. Legislation was in place to support “the superior interests of children” across the entire country. He reiterated Argentina’s support for combating all forms of violence and exploitation against children, underscoring the need to address the effects of violence and harassment, especially against the most vulnerable children. Argentina had ratified relevant international mechanisms to prevent the use of children in conflict and forced labour, he said, citing efforts to prevent the use of schools for military purposes during conflict.
CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile), associating himself with CELAC, said his country had a comprehensive national plan on children and adolescents in place, which sought to develop political and normative institutions for implementing the Convention, and included a paradigm shift from the protection of rights to the exercise of them. It also focused on strengthening the role of the community in the promotion of children’s rights. Noting that Chile faced various challenges, such as inequality, she said the Government had requested feedback from children in drawing up policies to address their needs.
NORAMIZAH MARALI (Brunei Darussalam), aligning herself with ASEAN, said that children made up one third of the population of her country. Brunei had acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1995, and had enforced a number of domestic laws to ensure the protection and promotion of children’s rights. The Children and Young Persons Act, for example, provided for the rehabilitation of children and setting up of the Juvenile Court and Action Team on Child Protection. Also noting positive developments in child health, she added that all children in Brunei were entitled to free primary education.
Mr. RABAH (Iraq) welcomed the efforts of those assisting children displaced by conflict in his country. Emphasizing that every child had the right to safety, he underscored the dire situation faced by children in Iraq as the result of the actions of terrorist groups, including Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), which used children as human shields and sexually exploited them. Iraq was implementing measures to protect children in liberated zones and areas of displacement. Despite a difficult socioeconomic situation, significant funding was directed to assist children. Children in Iraq from other countries were also being offered support ahead of their return to their home countries. He emphasized the need to restore infrastructure in areas liberated from terror groups as a means to build safe environments for children, as well as to enhance assistance in providing services to children affected by terrorism.
FREDERICO S. DUQUE ESTRADA MEYER (Brazil), aligning himself with CELAC, said that since 2012, a new legislative framework had safeguarded the rights of children victims and witnesses to violence, and the right to be raised free of corporal punishment. It also sought to prevent the trafficking of children and protect migrant children. Brazil had launched a programme to combat sexual violence against children and adolescents, he said, also noting that between 1992 and 2015, the number of working children and adolescents had declined by 80 per cent. The Government was working to reduce the burden of unpaid domestic and care work by girls. On 2 October, Brazil had deposited the ratification instrument of the Optional Protocol, he added.
ANAYANSI RODRÍGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba), associating herself with CELAC, reaffirmed support for the 1990 World Summit for Children, including the need to allocate more resources to address problems that most affect children. While global progress in protecting children had been made, benefits had been unequally distributed, due to wealth divides and polarization. The economic order, if unchecked, would cause extreme poverty for 167 million children by 2030, she said, noting that Cuba’s emphasis on equality had made hunger, illiteracy, instability and discrimination against boys and girls a “thing of the past”. Moreover, infant mortality in Cuba had fallen and mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS and syphilis had been eradicated. Saying that the blockade imposed on Cuba by the United States amounted to “economic genocide”, she added that international cooperation and solidarity were critical to ensuring the safety of all children.
MAYANK JOSHI (India), stressing that children comprised more than one third of its one billion strong population, said his country realized the scale of the task of making available basic amenities and services to children. The Constitution guaranteed fundamental rights to all children, while its national policy affirmed its commitment to a rights-based approach to child development. A program to prevent parent-to-child transmission of HIV and AIDS had been introduced, and universal polio immunization programs launched. The Government also had established meal programs to prevent classroom hunger and encourage students to stay in school. Expressing India’s commitment to eliminate child labour, he described regulations to ensure a balance between prohibiting employment of children below 14 years old, and securing the livelihood of children from disadvantaged families.
Ms. DILEYM (Saudi Arabia) described a national strategy focused on strengthening institutions to protect children’s rights and offering free healthcare and education to children. Noting that violence against children had decreased recently, she cited rigorous enforcement of laws to convict perpetrators. To protect children from domestic violence, a centre had been established to receive information on cases of children who had been abused at home. Saudi Arabia placed high priority on educating girls. Noting that education was a right that all children deserved regardless of nationality, she said children from Syria and Yemen living in the country were provided access to education. She urged the international community to ensure the protection of Palestinian and Syrian children.
RALIA MOHAMED AGA (Kenya), associated herself with the African Group, and noted that her country’s Constitution guaranteed children’s protection from violence, abuse, neglect, exploitation and ill treatment. To that end, Kenya had enacted a number of laws to protect children and bring perpetrators to justice. Despite those efforts, ending violence against children, especially girls, was a challenge due to the lack of data on the magnitude of sexual violence against women and girls, harmful practices, illiteracy, poverty and limited resources. Reaffirming Kenya’s commitment to eliminate all forms of violence against the girl child, she said the Government was taking steps to protect children from child labour, especially as a large portion of the population continued to live in poverty, which fuelled exploitation.
Ms. OEHRI (Liechtenstein) said the world had seen an overall erosion of respect for international humanitarian law, including grave violations of children’s rights. The Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict had cited 4,000 violations by Government forces and more than 11,500 by non-State armed groups, with incidents documented in Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Lake Chad basin. Worldwide, there were 21.3 million refugees fleeing conflict, of which half were children. They had missed years of school, severely compromising their futures, with many experiencing profound physical and emotional traumas, often with irreversible effects. Unaccompanied minors were especially vulnerable to discrimination and exploitation. Child trafficking was among the biggest human rights scandals, with children used for forced labour, agriculture and factory work, as well as for commercial sexual exploitation and abuse.
AMJAD QASSEM AGHA (Syria) said that for more than six years, his country had witnessed a brutal campaign by terrorist groups. Violence was deteriorating the social fabric and moral structure of an entire generation of children, he said, calling for greater assistance to those fleeing conflict. Terrorist groups and trafficking networks perpetrated brutal activities in the country. Citing letters sent to the Security Council, he said that children had been abducted and brainwashed by terrorist groups. Also, Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights and Palestine had degraded children’s safety. Despite such challenges, Syria was working to assist children, notably immunizing millions with United Nations assistance.
NEVILLE GERTZE (Namibia), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China and SADC, said that since 2015, his Government had provided free primary and secondary education for all children. The School Feeding Programme, providing mid-morning meals to some 330,000 students, had significantly helped to reduce dropout rates, among other things. Namibia was preparing the Electronic Transaction and Cyber Crime Bill, which would offer access to national and international prosecution of online child pornography. As young people were not interested in HIV as a stand-alone issue, he advocated broadening the conversation to all issues affecting adolescents. Underlining the important role of the family, he said open and genuine dialogue in the family must be encouraged.
ZUHAL SALIM (Afghanistan) said children in his country had suffered from 40 years of war and conflict. Yet, Afghanistan had made meaningful gains to advance their rights. Calling the provision of quality education a top national priority, she said more than nine million students were enrolled in school, of whom 40 per cent were girls. Afghanistan had also introduced laws to protect children’s rights and a national action plan to eliminate child marriage. Moreover, a special presidential order, established in 2016, focused on investigating child recruitment in armed forces and adopting legislation to prevent and criminalize that practice. Reforms also had led to 35 under-age children serving in armed forces being reunited with their families, while 289 cases of child recruitment had been stopped. Twenty-one child protection units had been established around the country which worked with the Afghan national police and local police to prevent children from being recruited into the armed forces.
NGUYEN LIEN HUONG (Viet Nam), associating herself with ASEAN, expressed concern over the violence, sexual abuse and harmful traditional practices faced by children around the world. While children accounted for less than 30 per cent of the global population, they were 100 per cent of the future, she said, a fact that highlighted the need to help them fulfil their dreams. In a complex world, education was an effective response to build resilience to protect families and communities. Viet Nam’s revised child law offered safeguards to the right to protection from violence, and contained provisions on the responsibilities of national agencies to ensure children’s rights were protected. Citing a new cooperation programme with UNICEF, she expressed Viet Nam’s commitment to fruitful partnerships to fully realize children’s rights.
TEODORO LOCSIN (Philippines) said his country had declared children, as the nation’s most valuable asset, “zones of peace” in its laws. They should be free from attack and protected from any form of threat, assault or torture. They should not be recruited to take part in fighting or used as guides, couriers or spies. The Philippines had taken all appropriate steps to reunite families separated by armed conflict. Close cooperation between Philippine and foreign law enforcement had resulted in the arrest and conviction of foreigners taking part in online child abuse and sex tourism. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Immigration had refused entry to aliens involved in or convicted of moral depravity crimes, and had denied entry to 118 registered sex offenders in 2016. For victims, the Government had provided counselling, shelter, skills training and protection by law enforcement.
KELLY L. RAZZOUK (United States) said children’s rights continued to be violated due to crises and conflicts, pointing to the dire situation of children in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and especially Syria, where 26,000 children had been killed since the start of the conflict. Urging countries to do more to ensure that such children’s basic and immediate needs were met, she said girls were particularly vulnerable in conflict situations. For the United States, education for displaced children was a high priority, she said, adding that education should be seen as a long-term investment for a country’s future and way to achieve sustainable peace. More focus should be placed on the issue of bullying among young people, in particular cyber bullying, which could lead to mental health concerns and even suicide.
JUANA SANDOVAL (Nicaragua), associating herself with CELAC, said the family was the natural nucleus for children’s growth and well-being, and as such, Nicaragua focused on programmes that benefited families. Measures were in place to guarantee children access to education and health services and to encourage good nutrition. A new family code facilitated access to food and provided comprehensive protections, she said, adding that family councils were also being created to foster better opportunities for children. She said United Nations agencies had recognized Nicaragua’s work in implementing policies that guaranteed the recovery of children and adolescents. Stressing that children required collective social commitments based on love and tolerance, she called for implementation of the 2030 Agenda to guarantee the full rights of the child.
ELSA HAILE (Eritrea) said the Government, civil society organizations, families and communities were working to expand and strengthen protection measures to promote children’s survival and development. Efforts were being made in Eritrea to create favourable grounds for orphans and other vulnerable children to remain within their extended families and communities. In the legal arena, recently published codes had introduced child-friendly provisions, she said. “The best interest of the child” had been clearly outlined as a guiding principle in the new civil code, while the new penal code had removed a provision that a child under the age of 18 could be subjected to a penalty that was applied to adults.
ISABELLE F. PICCO (Monaco) said the impact of violence against children was often irreparable and persisted throughout their lives. For its part, Monaco had adopted a legislative framework to prevent offences and crimes against children and ratified international protocols, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Government also provided places to live for adolescent victims of violence, and offered support to minors with children. As cyber bullying was a growing issue among young people, Monaco had established a day dedicated to raising awareness of bullying.
NELLY SHILOH (Israel) said that protecting children meant protecting the future, and without education, there would be no prosperous future. Giving every child an education would provide them with the tools to reach their full potential. For all Israeli children, regardless of religion, equal access to education was a fundamental right, with school attendance being mandatory and free from ages 3 to 18. Education was a means for promoting tolerance and co-existence among diverse populations. Those were the guiding principles of the Eastern Mediterranean International School based in Israel, whose mission was to make education a force for peace and sustainability in the Middle East. Ultimately, education could provide the essential traits to facilitate the dialogue necessary to foster peace, she concluded.
MAY-ELIN STENAR (Norway) said her country had doubled development assistance to education over the last four years, as it recognized schooling as essential to helping every child reach his or her potential. Education had positive side-effects, making children less susceptible to trafficking, child labour, child marriage and sexual exploitation. Yet, violence and abuse of children still happened in Norway. To protect their rights, the Government had adopted a national plan to scale up efforts to combat violence and put in place a zero-tolerance policy for bullying in schools. In that context, she urged countries to ban corporal punishment of children.
CHRISTINE KALAMWINA (Zambia), associating herself with the African Group and SADC, said her country was implementing legislative and administrative measures to establish a comprehensive child protection framework. The definition of “child” was aligned with the Convention, while education policy made provisions for free basic education and prohibited discrimination in schools. Measures were also being taken to phase out discriminatory laws and consolidate children’s rights and access to welfare. The prevalence of child heads of household was worrying in Zambia, and the region, she said, noting that 3.5 million children in Sub-Saharan Africa had lost their parents to AIDS. Those children in Zambia received financial assistance, she said, adding that nation-wide strategies targeted child marriage, with awareness campaigns to educate communities on the negative impacts of that practice.
MANFRED NOWAK, Independent Expert and Lead Author of the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, after warning of the lack of funding for the Global Study, said he would deeply regret if he had to end his participation, because of the seriousness of the matter. As the Convention on the Rights of the Child had made clear, children’s vulnerability was severely increased by deprivation of liberty. It should occur only as a last resort, and then only for the shortest period of time. Far too many children, however, were nevertheless detained in prisons, pre-trial detention centres, police lockups, orphanages, children’s homes and other institutions for the supervised education of children with anti-social behaviour or with disabilities, those using drugs or alcohol, children of refugees and migrants, street children, child soldiers or children accused of terrorism.
Witnessing children behind bars during his term as Special Rapporteur on Torture was heart-breaking, he said, as many of them had been tortured, neglected or isolated and were crying for help. The youngest was a three‑year‑old orphan in a terrifying institution that warehoused boys in a variety of situations and employed daily beatings for minor infractions. In other countries, he had seen young boys in prison with grown men where torture was routine, as well as prisons expressly for children. Children were also held in overcrowded migrant detention centres in rich countries. The Global Study aimed to bridge the data gap on the number of children in such situations and raise awareness about the risks posed to society as a whole. It would also develop evidence-based recommendations and compile best practices to help reduce childhood incarceration.
ANDREW GILMOUR, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, then addressed the Committee, asking Members States to support the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty.
The representative of Germany asked Mr. NOWAK to elaborate more on how he cooperated with Member States and the United Nations to collect information for his study, and what could be done in practical terms to improve cooperation.
The representative of Morocco asked about best practices to ensure children rights were protected, especially those of juvenile delinquents.
The representative of Switzerland, who also spoke on behalf of Austria, said the two countries were concerned that the Global Study could not be completed because of a lack of funding. She asked about the impact of the Study.
Mr. NOWAK, in response, said the Study could not be completed without sufficient funding. While his team was willing to save as much money as possible, a sufficient pool of funds was needed to carry out the Study. Non-governmental organizations were willing to contribute on a pro-bono basis to the Study but academic institutions must be paid. However, his team was willing to be flexible, he said, stressing: “If we don’t have enough money we will reduce the scope of the global study.”
To questions on the Study’s impact, he said it had huge potential to advance the discussion of children who had been deprived of liberty, noting that previous studies on children in armed conflicts had raised awareness on the issue and reduced the phenomenon of child soldiers.
He underscored the need to involve States in collecting data on children who had been deprived of liberty, adding that agencies such as UNICEF and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as well as United Nations field offices, could support countries in that pursuit. Evidence-based measures could be developed based on the data, and recommendations that outlined alternative ways of addressing juvenile delinquents could be provided.
Ms. KHALVANDI (Iran) said that despite promises to protect the rights of children, armed conflict continued to take the lives of countless young people. Those lucky enough to flee conflict faced abuse, malnutrition and disease. Disturbing news of the conditions of children in armed conflict and under occupation reflected clear violations of basic human rights. Extremism and violence would continue if those violations persisted, she stressed. Iran had adopted a national comprehensive plan of action on children to monitor all Government policy and to develop a coordinated national framework on the subject. The Ministry of Education was developing strategies to assist children that were not enrolled in school and to ensure access to education to refugee and undocumented children. She concluded by noting that a network of child-friendly lawyers was being developed to provide all necessary assistance to victims of abuse.
VILATSONE VISONNAVONG, (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), associating himself with ASEAN, said his Government had invested in child development and made progress in strengthening its legal and policy framework to protect women and children from all forms of violence, including domestic violence. As a State party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic was committed to implementing its obligations. It had also paid special attention to the health and education of children by increasing budget allocations to those sectors in order to improve service delivery.
MAYA DAGHER (Lebanon) said one out of four children lived in conflict zones. Already vulnerable due to inequality, these children faced increased risks of exploitation. While progress to protect children across the world had been made, a long path remained ahead, she noted, identifying education as a way to protect children from violence. Lebanon continued to face challenges posed by the presence of millions of Syrian refugees. Still, remarkable progress had been made in the field of education with schools providing increased access. The Ministry of Health was implementing vaccination programmes in schools and health centres and covered 90 per cent of children registered in the country. A committee was also established to eradicate child labour, with particular focus on child refugees. Technology presented new threats to the rights of children, she said, calling for the increased attention of relevant agencies.
Right of Reply
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in exercise of the right to reply and responding to comments by his counterpart from the United States who said children in the former’s country were deprived of their rights, said no child was starving to death in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Every child led a happy life. The United States should focus its efforts on protecting its children against harmful trends such as gun violence and rape.