Child Dies Every 5 Minutes from Abuse, Special Representative Says
Children on the move must be better protected from detention, family separation and violence, United Nations experts told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today in one of many appeals for Governments to safeguard the rights of boys and girls around the world.
The Secretary‑General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Virginia Gamba said that in the past year, numerous children have been recruited or abducted across borders and used to fight or serve in roles outside their countries of origin. Boys and girls also travelled with their families or caregivers into war zones and, upon arrival, were often separated and drawn into the conflict.
She expressed particular concern for children deprived of liberty, including those of foreign nationality, for their alleged association with armed forces or groups, stressing that their primary status as victims must be respected. Alternatives to detention should be prioritized to avert further stigmatization. Placing children at risk of statelessness contravenes central tenants of international law, she cautioned.
Along similar lines, Director of Programmes for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Ted Chaiban said it is of great concern that many countries still detain children, sometimes systematically, on the basis of their legal status or that of their parents. While some have created policy and legal prohibitions for child and family immigration detention, those measures must be fully implemented, in line with the evolving normative framework. He recalled that the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, to be adopted in December 2018 in Marrakech, fully commits to protecting the rights of millions of children who have migrated across borders or been forcibly displaced.
Marta Santos Pais, the Special Representative on Violence against Children spotlighted landmark achievements: the number of national plans to prevent and address violence has doubled; more than 50 countries have a comprehensive legal ban on all forms of violence; and data systems have been consolidated.
And yet, she said, every five minutes, a child dies as a result of violence. Every year, one billion children — half the world’s boys and girls — are disciplined through violence, sexually abused or bullied. Online abuse is a growing risk. Children wish for a world as big as their dreams, where neglect and exploitation have no place. She urged that no efforts be spared to make these aspirations a reality.
With the floor opened for debate, delegates outlined various challenges, with El Salvador’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), expressing concern about the recent implementation of migratory policies that entail the separation of children and adolescents from their families on the basis of their migratory status. Children and adolescents must not be detained, he asserted, stressing that the interests of the child must be the priority. He called on all Member States to ensure that all children — including those from minority groups or in vulnerable situations — fully enjoy their human rights regardless of their migratory status.
Morocco’s representative, on behalf of the African Group, pointed out that as of 2015, 3.8 million children under age 18 have lost both parents to AIDS — 3.5 million of whom live in sub‑Saharan Africa. He expressed concern about the insufficient knowledge about preventing HIV, especially among girls.
Zimbabwe’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said the bloc is working to end child marriage, notably by promoting inclusive development and girls’ participation in decisions affecting them. Efforts are also deployed to empower girls — including those already married — to improve their status, and to encourage parents and guardians to protect girls from early or forced marriage. Education is a fundamental human right and a pathway to poverty eradication, he stressed.
The representative of Barbados, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), urged Member States to consider their commitments to young people set out in the 2030 Agenda. Honest assessments and decisive action by all countries are required. Despite considerable success in ending the recruitment of child soldiers, an estimated 650 million children live in 52 countries that are off‑track on at least two thirds of the child‑related Sustainable Development Goals. The status of millions of others remains unknown. More reliable data, including from the CARICOM region, is needed.
Also speaking were representatives of Indonesia, Lithuania (on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic countries), Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Kenya, Italy and the European Union.
Also briefing the Third Committee were the Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child; the Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, including child prostitution, child pornography and other child sexual abuse material; and the independent expert and lead author of the “Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty”.
The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 10 October, to continue its discussion on the rights of children.
The Third Committee met this morning to consider the promotion and protection of the rights of children. Before it were reports of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (document A/73/41); the Special Representative of the Secretary‑General for Children and Armed Conflict (document A/73/278); and the annual report of the Special Representative of the Secretary‑General on Violence against Children (document A/73/276).
Also before the Committee were reports of the Secretary‑General on the issue of child, early and forced marriage (document A/73/257); Protecting children from bullying (document A/73/265); and Status of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (document A/73/272); as well as a Secretariat note transmitting the report of the Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, including child prostitution, child pornography and other child sexual abuse material (document A/73/174).
VIRGINIA GAMBA, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General for Children and Armed Conflict, said there is still a long road ahead to ensure that international instruments protecting children, including those affected by armed conflicts, yield results. “As members of this Assembly, you have both the obligation and a unique opportunity to catalyse real change in the lives of children affected by conflict”, she asserted. In the past year, numerous children were recruited or abducted across borders and used to fight or serve in roles outside of their countries of origin. These violations magnify protection concerns and increase the complexity of both prevention and response efforts. Detaining children, regardless of their nationality, for their alleged or actual association with armed forces or groups is not a viable response. To place children at risk of statelessness contravenes central tenants of international law and perpetuates the status quo, she stressed.
The protection of children and the prevention of grave violations and conflicts are two sides of a same coin, she added, underscoring the need to take additional measures before patterns of violence become discernible. She spotlighted initiatives launched by her office to strengthen cooperation on issues of children and armed conflicts, notably in the Central African Republic, Colombia, South Sudan, Sudan and Myanmar, which have expressed interest in developing national plans for prevention. International efforts should aim for the universal ratification and the implementation of the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. Response efforts should centre on reintegration, as it serves as a prevention tool and allows deeply traumatized children to regain ownership of their childhood. Given that learning is indispensable to children’s socialization and reintegration, access to education must be provided to children affected by conflict. “We must become better at preventing violations before they take place and we must ensure that children are at the centre of peace processes”, she stated, stressing that prevention is the best tool for protection.
When the floor was opened for questions, the representative of Estonia, impressed by the comprehensive report, asked about how the implementation of positive agreements was translated into practical measures.
The representative of Qatar referred to the data of the United Nations monitoring and reporting mechanism indicating an increase in verified cases of violations against children. An office would soon be opened in Doha following an agreement with the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.
The representative of Spain said his country endorses the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers. Stressing that education is a cornerstone of reintegrating these children, he noted that Spain will organize the third conference on safe schools.
The representative of Slovenia renewed her support, adding that a comprehensive approach is required in tackling the cross‑border nature of violations against children. She asked whether measures are being developed to enable a healthy and safe environment for children.
The representative of the European Union expressed hope for progress, reiterating the call to ratify the Optional Protocol, the Safe Schools Declaration and the Vancouver Principles. He asked about the new campaign for revitalizing Member State efforts.
The representative of Switzerland, citing an increase in violations against children, stressed that dialogue with all partners is needed. She asked about how Member States can support the Special Representative’s campaign to strengthen protection of children in armed conflicts.
The representative of the United Kingdom asked the Special Representative how she will address violations, such as stigma, along with grave violations.
The representative of Canada, stressing that the figures are troubling, expressed concern over the cross‑border nature of conflict, affecting girls disproportionately, and asked how the international community can cooperate to staunch the problem.
An observer for the State of Palestine pointed to generations of Palestinian children deprived of living safely, as they are under Israel occupation. He reiterated his call to do more for these children, inviting the Special Representative to visit and experience their suffering first‑hand.
The representative of Germany, commending efforts to engage civil society, welcomed the Special Representative’s recent visit. He asked about the biggest challenges around the Special Representative’s joint initiative, opening new pathways to address groups in conflict, and about efforts to repatriate and reintegrate the children concerned.
The representative of Malaysia voiced concern about the plight of Palestinian children, expressing hope that the Special Representative dedicates more time to their needs in her report.
The representative of Syria expressed regret that reports are still unable to address the needs of children in armed conflict without politicizing the issue. He wondered about who was responsible for recruiting, financing and brainwashing children through the Internet, telling them that when they die, they will be immortal. “They are not even told bedtime stories,” he said, asking how the reports could be trusted.
The representative of Sudan welcomed the recommendations by and commended the work of the Special Representative, drawing attention to the community‑based mechanism for reporting child abuse, as well as Security Council resolution 2427 (2018).
The representative of Saudi Arabia expressed surprise that the report did not mention the use of children as human shields, citing children in Yemen and recommending accuracy when defining their suffering. Also drawing attention to abuse of Rohingya children, he enquired about an action plan in Myanmar.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates, aligning herself with comments by his counterpart from Saudi Arabia, said recruitment of children in armed conflict is endemic and asked about ensuring accountability for armed groups.
The representative of South Africa stressed the need for continued dialogue, especially in addressing the causes of conflict.
The representative of Algeria said children in armed conflict should be seen as victims, stressing the importance of reintegration into the family and society.
The representative of Yemen recommended that action plans be updated, reiterating his call for the Special Representative to visit his country. It is important to understand the causes of conflict, especially in updating the monitoring mechanism.
The representative of Morocco, referring to the mandate and report based on several mechanisms, asked about coordination with other United Nations bodies working on the ground, especially child protection advisers, and about how the Special Representative’s mandate addresses the dichotomy of both protecting and preventing children from experiencing armed conflict.
The representative of Liechtenstein cited increases in each of the six grave rights violations against children in armed conflict, asking how to better address these violations and highlighting that males are the majority of victims in some areas.
The representative of Israel said rocket fire by Hamas into Israel, killing Israeli children, should be included in the report, noting that it is easier to blame Israel than to deal with the real obstacles and urging the Special Representative to look into that matter.
The representative of Libya recalled a United Nations briefing on the recruitment of children by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) on their transport by sea to other countries. Children in Libya have different nationalities and have lost their families, she stressed, emphasizing that all causes of children’s suffering must be recognized and addressed.
Ms. GAMBA, answering a question by Spain’s representative, said education is fundamental to the reinsertion process and one of the most effective tools for prevention. Her office is engaging in initiatives that embrace the voices of the children, aiming to consult them on every aspect of its work, notably peace processes, rehabilitation and reinsertion.
Responding to other questions, she said monitoring requires adequate access. Greater access to the affected countries and areas will allow a full picture to emerge. Further, the reduction of resources has meant fewer child protection advisers on the ground, which weakened the mechanism, she said. Joint action plans are strong mechanisms that strengthen accountability, but they can also serve as a prevention tool, allowing for action to be taken, providing clear guidelines to prevent violations, and raising public awareness. The regional and subregional action plans are also important because they generate regional standard operating procedures and a common approach in addressing cross‑border violations involving children. Regarding new campaigns, she pointed out that her office leads campaigns at the regional levels. It is important to support other agencies’ campaigns rather than compete with them, she stressed.
Responding to Syria’s question, she expressed willingness to visit Syria and other Middle East countries in the coming months.
MARTA SANTOS PAIS, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General on Violence against Children, said that nine years ago, in her first address to the Committee, she identified three critical indicators to assess progress in the shared journey to end violence against children: the development in every country of a comprehensive, well‑coordinated and ‑funded multidisciplinary national plan to prevent and address violence; the enactment of legislation to ban all forms of violence against children; and the consolidation of data to identify risks. Noting progress, she said that the number of national plans has doubled to almost 100, a significant achievement. But more importantly, much has been learned about the ingredients for success. A positive difference is made when a national policy agenda is informed by a process with wide participation.
In that context, she underscored the importance of establishing a high‑level National Commission on Prevention and Response, as Paraguay has done, with representation from relevant authorities and civil society organizations. On legislation, visible strides have been made in that more than 50 countries now have a comprehensive legal ban on all forms of violence. Data systems also have been consolidated. And yet, every five minutes, a child dies as a result of violence. Every year 1 billion children suffer some form of violence — half the world’s children. They are disciplined through violence, sexually abused or bullied. Online abuse is a growing risk, as is the sharing of images of sexual abuse. Sadly, violence starts in early years, and is serious and long lasting, becoming part of a continuum.
When the floor was opened for questions and comments, the European Union’s delegate asked which investment in early childhood would be most important.
The representative of Syria said politicization of the United Nations work created a lack of trust. Trust requires dialogue, he stressed.
The representative of Spain agreed with the interdisciplinary approach to protect children’s rights and spotlighted measures put in place by his country to protect young people in particularly vulnerable situations, including victims of trafficking.
The representative of Portugal asked how to better assess sustainable development. He also asked how the international community can ensure the Convention’s anniversary is not merely symbolic.
The representative of Switzerland asked for examples of multidisciplinary approaches that allow for the participation of various parties. She also asked how the international community can best support children who want to defend their own rights.
The representative of Mexico asked about measures Governments can take to address violence experienced in the first 1,000 days of children’s lives. He also asked what challenges the Special Representative faced while engaging with Governments on the topic of bullying.
The representative of Norway asked how the regional annual meeting is contributing to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Goal 16.
The representative of Brazil wondered about the critical normative gaps that must be addressed to achieve a world where children do not face violence.
The representative of Estonia asked about further involving children in efforts to free them from violence.
Also participating in the dialogue were the representatives of Slovenia, Dominican Republic and the Council of Europe.
Ms. SANTOS PAIS replied that she looks forward to visiting Spain, citing the new law. More broadly, she highlighted collaborations with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as well as with children themselves, to document best practices. Sharing ideas with countries is important, she said, adding that her report cannot only be about good news.
Half of the world’s children suffer violence, such as online and sexual abuse, and she wondered about both risk factors and areas where there is not enough data. She advocated investing in early childhood development, as societies should spend money on prevention. On good practices, she cited investments by Chile and Peru in early childhood, stressing that families are nurtured by such efforts, which in turn, visibly reduce violence. Improving the quality of services is essential for reducing costs, she added.
On bullying, parents encourage children to deal with it themselves, she said, underscoring the importance of empathy and citing data on death by suicide. She again noted the importance of investing in protection and prevention, adding: “We know what works and it can be replicated.” She also stressed the need to document best practices, citing the launch of a UNESCO report today in broader efforts to achieve zero violence, zero bullying. Statistics organizations should be supported in that context. “Change needs to happen within every one of us.”
Other important factors are cooperation with regional organizations and regional action plans, she said, as well as sharing experiences and best practices. Referring to Bhutan, she drew attention to the important role of religious leaders and more broadly highlighted the need to transform a continuum of violence into a continuum of protection. Countries must talk with each other and not force children to repeat their stories every time they move countries. She voiced concern that many countries lack or have weak guardianship systems, stressing that everyone concerned must be involved.
TED CHAIBAN, Director of Programmes for UNICEF, said that almost 30 years ago, the General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, by which the international community committed to protect children. Today, these reports paint a picture of progress achieved: a child’s chance to survive and thrive is much greater today than in 2000. The under‑five mortality rate has fallen by more than half since 1990, while the number of out‑of‑school children of primary school age worldwide fell by almost 50 per cent from 1999 to 2016. One year later, 53 States had enacted national legislation prohibiting all forms of violence against children.
Yet the Convention’s upcoming thirtieth anniversary underscores what is left to do, he said, calling first for realizing the rights of all children to be heard as “agents of change” and increasing the meaningful participation of both children and adolescents through legislation, policies, services and programmes. Second, proactive steps are needed to remove structural, practical and financial barriers that compromise a child’s right to education without discrimination. Further, it is important to protect children on the move, especially those detained due to the status of their parents, as well as end all forms of violence against children. He cited the comprehensive approach taken by the United Republic of Tanzania as an example of the preventive and response efforts needed. Noting that violence against women and children costs the country $6.5 billion, or 7 per cent of the national gross domestic product (GDP) — many times the cost of preventing it — he finally stressed the need to end child marriage through legal reforms.
When the floor was opened for comments, the representative of Syria called for prompt action on several issues: child and forced early marriage, trafficking in human parts, and child labor in the interest of terrorist groups. He called for an end to campaigns of terror and racism, which often target immigrants.
The representative of Costa Rica described new realities that children will face due to rapid technological change, public health emergencies and climate change. He asked how the report relates to the Sustainable Development Goals.
Mr. CHAIBAN responded that the Convention’s thirtieth anniversary is an opportunity to improve children’s protection. To the question about how to adapt the report to the Sustainable Development Goals, he welcomed an annual review, as a way to document progress in realizing children’s rights.
HASSAN EL MKHANTAR (Morocco), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that in the last two decades, Africa has recorded significant positive outcomes for children: higher school attendance, lower child deaths and increased access to basic services. However, there are challenges hindering the implementation of free universal and compulsory primary education, with girls more likely to be excluded from learning. Violence against children is among the major barriers to creating an Africa fit for children. Thus, the Group continues to boost momentum around campaigns to end child marriage and female genital mutilation. The issue relating to child‑headed households came to light due to the HIV epidemic and the large number of orphaned children. As of 2015, 3.8 million children under age 18 had lost both parents to AIDS, 3.5 million of them living in sub‑Saharan Africa. He expressed concern that knowledge about preventing HIV is low in Africa, especially among girls. Each year, about 16 million girls aged 15 to 19 years, and one million under age 15, give birth, he said, stressing that adolescent pregnancy takes an enormous toll on girls’ health.
FREDERICK MUSIIWA MAKAMURE SHAVA (Zimbabwe), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China as well as the African Group, said all the bloc’s member States have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and acceded to the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. They have also enacted administrative reforms and legislation to advance children’s rights, he said, citing efforts to end child marriage for over 125 million young African women. At the regional level, SADC adopted a Model Law on Eradicating Child Marriage and Protecting Children Already in Marriage in 2016. Noting that gaps exist in the implementation of laws due to inadequate human and financial resources and administrative shortcomings, he said SADC is working to promote girls’ participation in decisions affecting them; empower girls, including those already married; and promote greater parental and guardian roles in protecting girls from early or forced marriage. The group also promotes education as a fundamental human right and pathway out of poverty.
HENRIETTA ELIZABETH THOMPSON (Barbados), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the draft omnibus resolution to be presented to the Committee this session aims to capture its efforts to protect children over the past five years. It calls for the removal of barriers that perpetuate discrimination and inequality and prevent children from accessing necessary resources; full realization of the right to education for all children; protection of the large and growing number of migrant children; and the strengthening of efforts to protect children from violence. Urging Member States to consider their commitments to young people set out in the 2030 Agenda, she called for honest assessments and decisive action by all countries. Despite considerable success in ending the recruitment of child soldiers, she warned that an estimated 650 million children live in 52 countries that are off‑track on at least two thirds of the child‑related Sustainable Development Goals. The status of millions of others remains unknown. More reliable data, including from the CARICOM region, is therefore needed as an essential planning tool.
RENATE WINTER, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, said that while people under the age of 18 will soon be the majority in many countries, the concerns of children are ignored by adults. Child human rights defenders are deeply worried about the number of children escaping war and seeking refugee status. She pointed out that only one State, the United States, has not signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The number of States that are parties to the Optional Protocols is problematic, given the high number of conflicts, and trafficked and sold children. Reporting must be improved. States’ commitments to children’s rights require systematic and effective effort to implement the Committee’s recommendations.
She said the Committee held its tenth annual informal meeting with 50 States to discuss the simplified reporting procedure, the global study on children deprived of liberty, and the launch of two joint General Comments with the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. She pledged to do everything possible to make the system more responsive to children’s needs. She urged Member States to support the conclusions and recommendations of the Secretary‑General’s report, which would provide dedicated resources for treaty bodies that are commensurate with their increasing workloads. Failure to allocate adequate resources would have negative consequences on the entire treaty body system, she asserted, underscoring that justice delayed is justice denied.
When the floor opened for questions, the representative of Japan said numerous challenges remain ahead of the Convention’s thirtieth anniversary, and asked about harmonization and collaboration among the human rights treaty bodies.
The representative of Switzerland said children are especially vulnerable to climate change and asked what could be done to protect them.
The representative of the European Union asked whether the Committee will cover children’s exposure to pornography.
The representative of Mexico drew attention to persistent violations against children and adolescents with disabilities, especially in foster care. He asked what the Committee considered the minimum factors for a qualitative education, in the context of Sustainable Development Goal 4 (quality education).
The representative of the United Kingdom, citing the Leave No Girl Behind and the Education Cannot Wait campaigns in the context of emergencies, asked what more is needed for others to endorse the Worldwide Initiative for Safe Schools.
Ms. WINTER, responding, described treaty bodies’ collaboration with the Committee on the Rights of the Child, and the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. She also noted the creation of common working groups that analyse documents to determine whether “we speak the same language or need to adjust it”. General Comments cannot be taken too often; treaty bodies only allow one per year. Seven countries use the death penalty against children under age 18, she said, citing the case of a girl married at age 15, killing her husband after severe abuse at age 17, and executed at age 21. The simplified reporting system requested by Member States posed difficulties for the Committee, due to the lack of materials created by Member States ignoring invitations.
On digital media, she described instances of sexual abuse, harassment and bullying, while also stressing the positive possibilities for helping children with disabilities take part in life, and more broadly, helping children keep up with their friends. She expressed hope that electronic education will soon help children in remote areas, where education is often not sufficient or completely lacking. She encouraged Member States to sign the Safe Schools initiative, expressing concern over the destruction of schools during conflict. On General Comment 10, there is no reason to lower the age of criminal responsibility, she said, adding that age 14 would be better than age 12, as it would allow children more time to learn. In Europe, there is a tendency to lower the age of responsibility, especially for migrant children, turning the issue into one of penal rather than administrative law. The number of children in migration situations is the highest in years, she said, noting that no one asked them whether they want to migrate.
MAUD DE BOER-BUQUICCHIO, Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, including child prostitution, child pornography and other child sexual abuse material, said Governments must ensure children on the move are protected. The Global Compact for Migration must be formally adopted and translated into action. She expressed particular concern over the plight of Rohingya refugees — a majority of whom are women and children. There are reportedly growing cases of the sale of children for the purposes of marriage and sexual exploitation. She urged action to ensure accountability for the perpetrators.
The review and follow‑up procedure of the 2030 Agenda has suffered from underreporting by States, she stressed. Accountability mechanisms have yet to be harnessed and the goal of ending violence against children still must be integrated into national development agendas in many countries. Although children are identified as vulnerable in voluntary national reviews, disaggregated data and analysis are lacking. Yet, reliable data is at the heart of accountability. Its absence jeopardizes efforts to combat the sale and sexual exploitation of children. The Sustainable Development Goal indicators are an opportunity to map those violations. Moreover, States must indicate how they invest in children. This will allow an effective evaluation of the way in which they translate policies and legislation into action. It is also important that children be involved in the review and follow‑up procedures. Their meaningful participation is a strong indicator of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
When the floor was opened for questions, the representative of South Africa said there is no standard characterization or methodology for implementing the 2030 Agenda. The goal of ending violence should be integrated into plans. He asked about mainstreaming gender rights into the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals.
The representative of the United Kingdom asked about measures to ensure that all States ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The representative of the United States, underscoring the need for data on the sale of children, asked about actions that can help in the near term.
The representative of the European Union asked about ways to enhance monitoring and for examples of a child’s rights approach to voluntary national reviews.
The representative of Ireland asked how the views of children in the Sustainable Development Goals can be fully implemented.
The representative of the Dominican Republic said child marriage is not compatible with international law.
The representative of Mexico asked about measures to strengthen global alliances.
Ms. BOER-BUQUICCHIO replied by first underscoring the importance of mainstreaming children’s rights into all Sustainable Development Goals, and cooperating with the private sector. Internet service providers can play a key role in preventing the abuse of children, she said, while all stakeholders can work to prevent sexual exploitation in the travel and tourism sector. She called for cooperation between civil society and Governments in efforts to acquire and share knowledge. She recommended ratifying children’s rights instruments in parallel, especially the Optional Protocol.
More broadly, she said data is often misunderstood, as the trafficking and sale of children are often overlapping, a fact that is relevant for application of the law. Child repatriation can be addressed differently depending on whether sale or trafficking is involved: Sale always involves a commercial transaction whereas trafficking does not. She underscored the need to review indicators and data segregated by sex, age, ethnic group and crime. To other questions, she cited the need for proper accountability systems, stressing that children’s rights should not be an afterthought. Commitments must be made at the highest political level. She had yet to report to the Human Rights Council on her visits to Ireland and the Dominican Republic. She expressed regret over the insufficient attention paid to children’s rights, especially as related to the sale and trafficking of minors.
MANFRED NOWAK, independent expert and lead author, “Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty”, briefed the Committee on progress towards completing that report, first commissioned by the Secretary‑General in 2014. Noting that, following an extension in 2017, a Global Study will be presented in 2019, he said it had been severely delayed by a lack of voluntary funding. Most efforts in 2017 focused on fundraising, and while many countries provided support, the study is still operating on one fifth of its required budget. Nonetheless, data collection has begun and good practices are being identified through questionnaires and consultations. Thematic chapters are being drafted by different research groups. Recalling that a questionnaire was circulated to all Member States and other stakeholders in February 2018 by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), he said 85 replies have been received. Six consultations in various locations have taken place.
Moving forward, he said the Global Study will enter its final phase, in which the research and data will be consolidated into the various chapters. An expert meeting planned for March 2019 will invite a wide range of stakeholders — including children themselves — to critically review all the information. Calling on Member States to once again step up support, he stressed: “Let us not lose this momentum for children’s rights just because of financial shackles.” In the nearly three decades since the Convention’s adoption, the issue of children deprived of liberty has never been adequately addressed and continues to lag other areas, he said, emphasizing that such deprivation violates basic human rights obligations and exposes detained children to further abuse. “With immigration detention currently on the rise, there seems to be more regression than improvement in the situation,” he added.
In the ensuing discussion, the representative of Spain asked if the study consulted with children who have been detained to learn about their experiences.
The representative of South Africa asked how the study would galvanize efforts to address any gaps.
The representative of Austria asked about the importance of collecting data on the number of children deprived of liberty.
The representative of Mexico said deprivation of children’s liberty is serious, asking about attitudes that stigmatize children and examples of good practices in fostering the reintegration of these minors.
The representative of the European Union, drawing attention to detained migrant children, asked whether the study will focus on children sentenced to death, and for further elaboration on the need to collect data.
The representative of Germany, also speaking on behalf of France, said all children have the right to liberty.
The representative of Switzerland also contributed to the discussion.
Mr. NOWAK, responding, said not enough had been done to gather first‑hand experiences of children in compiling the report. To a query from Mexico’s delegate, he said children are stigmatized “from the beginning” and often go from institution to institution before landing in prison. He said he would be happy if other countries follow the example of Switzerland, noting that he is elevating the visibility of States that make financial contributions, as without those resources, there would be no Global Study. He stressed the importance of gathering specific country data, notably on best practices, which will be entered into a database.
On a question raised by the European Union’s delegate about the risks for children detained on migration grounds, he said these children are usually traumatized by experiences in their home countries and are retraumatized by the migration process. “We must take [the Convention’s] Article 37 very seriously”, he said, noting that children are sometimes sentenced to death for security and other crimes.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) said that strong cooperation to end poverty, advance health and improve access to education is needed to create an enabling environment for children’s well‑being. All forms of their exploitation and abuse must end, and investment in training for the digital economy prioritized. Describing the ASEAN framework for achieving the 2030 Agenda and noting that a third of the region’s 634 million people are children, he said the bloc would continue its progress in poverty reduction, with a master plan on connectivity that makes the necessary linkages among all sectors. An ASEAN commission on the rights of women and children targets trafficking in children, child marriage, online exploitation and bullying, as well as ensures identification and birth registration. Laying out the regional action plan to end violence against children, he pledged continued work with the United Nations to advance children’s well‑being.
AUDRA PLEPYTĖ (Lithuania), speaking on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic countries, said efforts should focus on prevention. All eight Nordic and Baltic countries have implemented a comprehensive ban on all forms of violence, including corporal punishment, and continue to challenge social norms that lead to abuse. She stressed that children with disabilities are more vulnerable. Describing inclusive education as a right for every child and obligation for all States, she underlined that comprehensive sexual education fosters young people’s empowerment and respect for human rights and diversity. Whether online or offline, bullying is a form of violence that restricts children’s enjoyment of education. As such, Nordic and Baltic countries have put in place comprehensive national programmes to strengthen the capacities of teachers and other professionals working with children.
GARRETT O’BRIEN, European Union delegation, said children continue to suffer from violence, abuse, neglect, exploitation and poverty, and are denied access to education, health care and justice. The Convention on the Rights of the Child strongly guides European Union policy and he called on all State parties to withdraw any reservations contrary to the text. The bloc is committed to ensuring every child enjoys his or her rights, he said, adding that a comprehensive toolbox is available for strengthening the promotion and protection of children’s rights. There can be no sustainable development without a firm commitment to eliminate all forms of violence against children. The Union is stepping up efforts to prevent child poverty and prioritizes access to education, including in humanitarian assistance programmes. The international community must address the risks faced by children in armed conflict, he said, noting that girls are particularly at risk. He warned that children continue to fall victim to trafficking networks, noting that the Union is supporting child‑friend justice systems.
RUBÉN ARMANDO ESCALANTE HASBÚN (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said the region still faces major challenges to fully protect the rights of children because it is mostly comprised of middle‑income countries. The effects of the global financial crisis linger alongside risks of natural disaster, organized crime and drug trafficking. He stressed the need to ensure equitable access to education and to improve its quality as a means for ending poverty and reducing inequalities. He expressed concern about the recent implementation of migratory policies that entail the separation of children and adolescents from their families on the basis of their migratory status. Children and adolescents must not be detained, he asserted, stressing that the interests of the child must be the priority. He called on all Member States to ensure that all children — including those from minority groups or in vulnerable situations — fully enjoy their human rights regardless of their migratory status.
Ms. WAGNER (Switzerland) said that, despite significant progress achieved in protecting children from discrimination, exclusion and inequality, millions still suffer from physical, psychological and sexual violence, with their rights constantly threatened. Citing an increase of grave violations, she called on all parties to armed conflict to respect international humanitarian law and human rights law. “We want to create a world where children can grow up free from fear and violence,” she said, calling education vital for societies as a whole and drawing attention to the urgent need to educate the 75 million children in countries affected by emergencies or protracted crises. She outlined Switzerland’s support for the Global Partnership to end violence against children, noting that children in conflict and deprived of liberty often remain invisible and forgotten, making them susceptible to violent extremism. She expressed regret over the many gaps in protection, which can only be addressed by global, regional and national efforts, along with political will and financial backing.
MYRIAM OEHRI (Liechtenstein) said that in 2016, children comprised half of refugees and asylum seekers, amounting to 12 million globally. Migrant and displaced children and adolescents are among the most vulnerable during the migration process, she said, even more so when they are unaccompanied or separated from their parents. The Global Compact for Migration and the Global Compact for Refugees are child sensitive, promoting existing international legal obligations. “It is up to us to deliver on what we have agreed upon,” she stressed. Children also make up almost a third of all human trafficking victims. She listed domestic servitude, agricultural and factory work, mining, begging, stealing, and commercial sexual exploitation and abuse as serious challenges, urging all States to ratify the Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. The monitoring mechanism established by Security Council resolution 1612 (2005) to document grave violations against children in conflict situations is an important tool for protecting children’s rights.
FLORA I. KARUGU (Kenya) described global progress in protecting children from discrimination, exclusion and inequality. However, much more must be done. Children up to age 14 comprise 42.5 per cent of Kenya’s population and the Government is committed to the full implementation of their rights. While significant global investments have been made to protect children, child labour and harmful social norms and discrimination persist. Free and compulsory basic education is a constitutional right in Kenya, and the President has also prioritized universal health care. Condemning child trafficking, sex abuse and oppression, she said Kenya has put legislative mechanisms in place to protect children from exploitation. The Government also condemns harmful female genital mutilation and child marriage.
MAURIZIO ANTONINI (Italy), underscoring his country’s long‑standing tradition of supporting children’s best interests, said it is no coincidence that the Montessori method of education was developed in Italy over 100 years ago. The country’s approach is geared towards improved living conditions for children, their protection against any form of abuse, and access to early childhood care and education. However, violence against children, their safety in armed conflicts, and their movements because of war, malnutrition or lack of opportunity are among the major concerns. Children are entitled to fundamental human rights protections enshrined in the Convention, he said, noting that since the Assembly’s adoption of the New York Declaration, Italy has played a lead role in negotiations for a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and a global compact on refugees by 2018.