Enhanced protection of humanitarian personnel, secure environment, vital for aid delivery, General Assembly told

Report
from UN General Assembly
Published on 21 Oct 2003


GA/10178
Fifty-eighth General Assembly
Plenary
38th & 39th Meetings (AM & PM)

With the after effects of the tragic 19 August attack on the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad still reverberating throughout the international community, speakers addressing the General Assembly today condemned all forms of violence against relief workers and urged countries to ensure that crimes against such personnel did not go unpunished.

The Assembly continued its consideration of the strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance today, amid strong calls for States, as well as conflict parties, to ensure the protection of relief workers and provide them with a safe and secure environment. That was seen as chief among the prerequisites for the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Serbia and Montenegro’s representative observed that while humanitarian operations were becoming larger and more complex, the work of humanitarian personnel all over the world was becoming increasingly dangerous and was being carried out under extremely difficult conditions.

He called for a strengthened and unified security management system for the United Nations. Humanitarian staff needed to operate in as secure and safe environment as possible to successfully deliver assistance. The ultimate goal of humanitarian assistance in post-conflict situations was to ensure that durable solutions were found, thus setting the stage for sustainable development.

The representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross said that in August, while his agency had still been grieving with the loss of three of its own staff in Afghanistan and Iraq, it was appalled by the brutal attack on the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad. The organization condemned that and all attacks targeting civilians.

He added that, in order to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian personnel and create conditions so that relief could effectively reach all those in need, political and military action ought to be kept distinct from humanitarian activities. Blurring the two would undoubtedly place not only the people in need at further risk, but also hamper emergency operations and endanger relief workers.

The world must do more than condemn the 19 August attack in Baghdad, stated the representative of the Republic of Korea. The United Nations must emerge with a strengthened, rather than weakened, resolve to carry on. He called on Member States to support the Organization’s efforts by making sure that the atrocity of 19 August did not go unpunished.

He was among many representatives who stressed that while the current focus remained on Iraq and a few other high profile cases, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which had reached crisis levels in many developing countries, must not be forgotten. The fight against HIV/AIDS must be integrated into efforts to overcome complex emergencies in those countries. He added that humanitarian assistance should be seen in the perspective of long-term rehabilitation and development. The transition from relief to development was an important area of work for the United Nations in coordinating humanitarian assistance.

A host of speakers from African nations picked up that thread, as they discussed their efforts to address humanitarian emergencies and the need for increased national and regional capacity-building in the early warning and monitoring of natural hazards, natural disaster preparedness and mitigation. The Sudan’s representative said his Government continued to work to ensure lasting peace in the country. Achieving such peace was critical so that requisite assistance could be provided to the population and to ensure that development efforts could be pursued throughout the entire region.

But preserving peace required greater resolve than merely ensuring that a ceasefire held, he said. It was also necessary to maintain security and promote development once peace had been achieved. His Government had created a fund for construction in the south of the country and in other war-ravaged areas. That fund had now become operational, and he hoped for more support from the international community to ensure that his country could achieve its objectives of peace and development.

With over 40 speakers addressing the plenary today, the Assembly also touched on matters related to the follow-up to the outcome of its 2001 special session on children. To that end, the representative of Switzerland said it was evident that some of the commitments made there had fallen short, including those related to child justice. The challenges faced in creating "A World Fit for Children" were not the same across the world, and a great deal remained to be done. Civil society and governments had a role to play in achieving the goals set for children.

Also speaking today were the representatives of the United Arab Emirates, United States, Canada, Mexico, Kenya, Argentina, Japan, Belarus, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Panama, Israel, Ethiopia, Azerbaijan, Guinea, Zambia, Peru (on behalf of the Rio Group), Italy (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Namibia, Pakistan, Malaysia, Uruguay, China, Indonesia, Viet Nam, Bangladesh, Slovenia, Bahamas, Croatia, Syria, Cuba and Myanmar.

The Observers for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and the Holy See also spoke.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Israel, as well as the Observer for Palestine.

The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 22 October, to continue its consideration of matters related to the follow-up of the outcome of the special session on children.

Background

The General Assembly met this morning to continue its consideration of the strengthening of United Nations coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance, including special economic assistance. For background, see Press Release GA/10176 issued on 20 October.

It would also begin its consideration of the following items: follow-up to the outcome of the special session on children; towards global partnerships; follow-up to the outcomes of major United Nations conferences in the economic, social and related fields; the Decade to Roll Back Malaria; and global road safety crisis.

The report of the Secretary-General on the follow-up to the United Nations special session on children (document A/58/333) describes progress achieved in realizing the commitments set out in the final document of the twenty-seventh special session of the Assembly, entitled "A world fit for children", with a view to identifying problems and constraints, as well as to make recommendations on the action needed to achieve further progress.

The report highlights four major goals, namely, promoting healthy lives; providing quality education; protecting children against abuse, exploitation and violence; and combating HIV/AIDS. In the "Way Forward", it concludes that the limelight of the special session is fading, but the real work of implementing the Plan of Action, in fact, has just started. The progress made to date represents a good start, but tremendous challenges lie ahead. All stakeholders -governments, parliamentarians, civil society, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), families, children and the international community - need to renew their commitment to children and take concrete actions to protect and fulfil children’s rights.

The report also calls on all countries to consider establishing or strengthening appropriate national institutions for the promotion and protection of children’s rights. The Secretary-General has also proposed to provide a in-depth report to the Assembly every five years (2006, 2011 and 2016) based on national, regional and global reviews of progress.

The report of the Secretary-General on enhanced cooperation between the United Nations and all relevant partners, in particular the private sector (document A/58/227) outlines how partnerships between the United Nations and non-State actors, including businesses, foundations and other private sector organizations, play an increasingly important role. The report discusses partnerships in various forms, ranging from time-bound projects involving a small number of actors, to global initiatives including a multitude of actors. Partnerships have the potential to complement the Organization’s efforts to achieve its objectives while, at the same time, contributing to its renewal by introducing new working methods. To that end, efforts are currently under way to scale up promising approaches and to learn from experiences gained so far.

According to the report, the Assembly’s resolution 56/76 stresses that efforts to meet the challenges of globalization can benefit from enhanced cooperation between the United Nations and the private sector, in particular, which could work to ensure that globalization becomes a positive force for all. In addition, the report emphasizes the need for international cooperation to strengthen the participation of enterprises, especially small- and medium-scale enterprises, business associations, foundations and NGOs from developing countries and nations with economies in transition.

However, to fully make use of contributions by potential partnerships to the Organization’s work, it is necessary to implement a more coherent and systematic approach to developing and supporting partnerships across the United Nations system. Such an approach should be geared towards helping the Organization respond to challenges, including the need to provide stronger incentives for the development of partnerships, to share best practices in a systematic fashion, and to develop a stronger partnership-brokering skill-base, among other things.

Furthermore, given that various parts of the Organization are involved, promoting a common approach to partnerships requires efforts in internal consultation and coordination. The Partnership Office, which will bring together the Global Compact Office and the United Nations Fund for International Partnerships (UNFIP), will be well placed to build on lessons learned so far, as well as enhance quality assurance and provide a more solid institutional framework.

The report of the Secretary-General on integrated and coordinated implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic, social and related fields (document A/58/359) recalls that the Assembly, in its resolution 57/270B, provided for a framework for enhanced coherence among the various implementation and follow-up processes. The report focuses on identifying the core elements of the framework essential for integrating these follow-up processes and for ensuring a sharper focus on implementation. It also highlights those aspects of the resolution that require special attention during the Assembly’s fifty-eighth session, particularly with regard to intergovernmental bodies. Among its recommendations, the Assembly may wish to initiate an assessment of the functioning of the follow-up mechanisms established in chapter III of the Monterrey Consensus.

The Secretary-General’s report , entitled " 2001-2010: Decade to roll back malaria in developing countries, particularly in Africa - progress on the implementation of General Assembly resolution 57/294 (document A/58/136 and Corr.1)was prepared by the World Health Organization (WHO) and contains an update on the status of implementation of recommendations made in the resolution. It draws significantly on the joint WHO /United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) 2003 Africa Malaria report; reviews the state of resource mobilization and financing malaria control; provides examples of successful ways in which disease controls had been incorporated into sector-wide approaches for health and development planning; and describes efforts to strengthen the "Roll Back Malaria" partnership.

Malaria is preventable, treatable and curable, the report says, and despite the great complexity of the disease, major advances in control can be achieved immediately in many countries using existing tools. The development of new tools, such as a vaccine against the disease, deserve continuing support. But even with substantial investment and very good fortune, an effective vaccine is still a number of years away.

In the meantime, malaria-endemic countries require substantial support to expand coverage of existing control tools, especially ones with proven impact in Africa: insecticide-treated nets, prompt and effective treatment and intermittent preventive treatment during pregnancy. The report recommends that the Assembly, among other things, call on the international community to ensure the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria receives increased funding to enable sound plans to control malaria in endemic countries to be implemented and sustained in a way that contributes to health system development.

Also before the Assembly is the Secretary-General’s report on global road safety crisis (document A/58/228), which stresses that road traffic injuries now posed a global public health crisis that required urgent action at the national and international levels. It describes the gravity of the problem; the health, social and economic implications; and the risk factors and determinants that predisposed certain groups to vulnerability to road traffic injuries.

Stressing that road traffic injuries were a global problem affecting all sectors of society, the report notes that, to date, road safety has received insufficient attention at both the national and international levels. That has resulted in part from a lack of information on the magnitude of the problem and its preventability; a fatalistic approach to road crashes; and a lack of the political responsibility and multidisciplinary collaboration needed to tackle it effectively.

Among other things, the report recommends that the Assembly call for efforts by the United Nations system to address the global road safety crisis; call on Member States, particularly developing countries that bear a large proportion of the burden of road traffic injuries, to address the problem and reduce its adverse consequences; encourage each State to assess its own road traffic safety problem and situation; and recommend that States aim to ensure an availability of sufficient resources commensurate with the size of the problem in their countries.

Statements

ABDULAZIZ BIN NASER AL-SHAMSI (United Arab Emirates) commended efforts exerted by relevant bodies in the United Nations to coordinate humanitarian assistance, and expressed his support for measures taken by the Organization to spread awareness of the importance of safety and security of its employees as they carried out their noble work. He reiterated the importance of international efforts to strengthen emergency and development assistance for developing and poor countries, which were most affected by disasters and armed conflicts due to the vulnerability of their economical and ecological systems. In addition, he called on donor nations to implement their commitments to help affected countries with a development strategy, which would aid them in building systems capable of dealing more effectively with natural disasters.

The United Arab Emirates, he said, had always paid its financial obligations to the United Nations and peacekeeping budgets and had donated to humanitarian and development activities. Through a number of specialized national institutions, his country had provided emergency relief to developing nations and those affected by natural disasters and conflict. It was estimated that the country spent 3.5 per cent of its gross national income on foreign aid, which included emergency relief assistance, donations and loans to 50 African, Asian and European countries. Further, his delegation was concerned about the dire humanitarian conditions of the Palestinian people, caused by the Israeli policies of killing, destruction and closure of cities. He called on the international community to compel Israel to stop the building of the separation wall. Lastly, he asked that Israel allow international humanitarian organizations to deliver needed emergency assistance to the Palestinian people.

SICHAN SIV (United States) said there remained considerable challenges to the provision of humanitarian assistance and protection to all communities affected by conflict or disaster. The lack of safe access to many of those communities around the globe continued to plague humanitarian agencies and cost lives, including those of humanitarian workers. The United States held the improvement of security conditions in Iraq among its highest priorities. Other challenges included the need to implement the United Nations Code of Conduct to prevent the sexual exploitation and abuse of those receiving assistance; the need to uphold humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence; and the need to improve the effectiveness of humanitarian aid.

Stressing the need to adhere to policies of good donorship, he said the United States remained committed to base its funding on sound assessment and prioritization of needs on the ground. As one of the largest donors to the multilateral system, the United States also encouraged all donors to work together in continuing to strengthen the strategic and operational coordination role of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. He pointed out that while many people had no choice but to live on disaster prone lands, the responsibility for governments and members of the United Nations was clear -- each country should assess its own vulnerabilities to hazards and prepare to mitigate to the best of its ability. Where the dangers were greatest, he stressed the need to invest in mitigation measures to lessen the impact of natural hazards and install early warning systems, as well as insist on the enforcement of appropriate building codes. At the international level, he called on all to work with the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

GILBERT LAURIN (Canada) said the events of the past year had demonstrated that the need for concerted and effective humanitarian action had never been stronger. Member States could do much to support the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the dedicated humanitarian professionals working for the world body’s other agencies, as well as for the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs. Key issues requiring urgent collective attention included safety and security of United Nations and associated personnel, respect for international humanitarian law, access to affected populations, and the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

He said that while the United Nations had made important progress over the past year in developing measures to improve staff safety and security, the senseless attacks on the Organization’s headquarters in Baghdad had made clear that those efforts needed to be strengthened. That attack - "a new low in respect for human life" - demonstrated the need not only for improved threat assessment capacity but for a review of current approaches to security management. He also stressed that States and other actors should step up to effect relevant policies where legal gaps existed. The dangers faced by humanitarian workers could be seen as part of a broader trend towards widespread lack of respect for international humanitarian law.

"Our most effective response in most circumstances remains the promotion and implementation of humanitarian law and refugee law", he continued. Those efforts should be undertaken in tandem with support for the practical steps humanitarian agencies could take to enhance protection in the field. He went on to highlight relevant inter-agency efforts and responses that had been mounted to address cross-cutting humanitarian challenges such as the fight against HIV/AIDS. But he stressed that the inter-agency rivalry and competition for finite resources persisted. Further efforts were required to address weaknesses and enhance coordination and coherence among humanitarian actors, namely through broader beneficiary participation, greater accountability of donors and affected States, and harmonization of reporting requirements.

ADOLFO AGUILAR ZINSER (Mexico) said the report of the Secretary-General on strengthening of humanitarian assistance demonstrated that natural disasters had tripled in frequency during the past decades. Yet the number of deaths from natural disasters had declined due to preventive action taken. That showed that work undertaken to prevent natural disasters could help reduce its negative impact. Therefore, it was important to continue to strengthen humanitarian assistance and enhance United Nations system capabilities, while strengthening the Organization’s role as coordinator of international efforts in affected nations. In Mexico and Central America, cooperation had resulted in positive results. In cases of natural disasters, assistance should be part of a long-term framework. It was important to view the problem through sustainable development, as that was the best defence against natural disasters. Sustainable development gave nations the tools to improve their situation, and reduced the vulnerability of nations to disasters. In addition, it was necessary to work towards eradicating poverty, as poor nations were far more vulnerable to disasters and their effects.

The General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, along with the Security Council, had a special responsibility to protect humanitarian personnel, he stated. In that regard, the Security Council was interested in including in its mandate provisions to protect humanitarian workers. In that regard, it had been slow. It was not until the recent adoption of resolution 1502 that the Council had dealt explicitly with the protection of personnel in armed conflict. The 19 August attack had underscored the urgent need to create instruments to protect humanitarian workers. The situation of humanitarian personnel had been deteriorating in recent years, with an increasing number of deliberate attacks. Ensuring their safety was an obligation of warring parties and should be a fundamental task. He called on the United Nations to continue to strengthen coordination with NGOs and other bodies doing work in that field.

MICHAEL OYUGI (Kenya) said that protecting relief workers and providing them with a safe and secure environment was among the prerequisites for the delivery of humanitarian assistance. He supported United Nations efforts to ensure such safety, as well as to ensure that those found responsible for attacks on relief workers be quickly brought to justice. He noted, however, that international humanitarian efforts were facing other challenges, including ongoing conflict, natural disasters such as drought and flood, and the spread of HIV/AIDS. With relief operations and emergency situations becoming more complex, it was necessary to rethink the mechanisms aimed at ensuring cooperation and coherence among and between humanitarian actors.

Regional and national response actors should also enhance cooperation and exchange of information procedures so as to better ensure coordination of relief efforts, particularly regarding natural disasters, he continued. Kenya had established its own disaster preparedness agency, which operated from within the Office of the President. Kenya had also hosted the first regional meeting for disaster management in 2000, and that had now become and annual event.

He supported the need for gender mainstreaming throughout the full range of emergency humanitarian operations -- from the start of conflict right through to resolution and reconstruction. His country had recognized the issue of sexual abuse in the field, and hoped that United Nations agencies and staff as well as other humanitarian actors abided by relevant international rules and guidelines. Finally, he said that while he supported the recommendations outlined in the Secretary-General’s reports, he also believed that for humanitarian assistance and aid to be of use, it must be timely, adequate, predictable and supported by adequate resources. More often than not, humanitarian responses had been slow, sporadic and unwieldy, thus undercutting their effectiveness.

GABRIEL FUKS (Argentina) said the sustained trust the White Helmets Initiative had enjoyed from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) would facilitate even more intense collaboration in the future. The White Helmets had proven in their activities and results to be a valuable mechanism in areas of cooperation, financing and mobilization of resources. Argentina had planned to introduce a draft resolution on the White Helmets Initiative, which he believed provided an excellent opportunity for his Government to reflect its commitment towards peace and the fight against hunger and extreme poverty. It was also an opportunity to express the conviction that the White Helmets Initiative deserved to continue receiving the sustained support of all members of the international community.

The active participation of civil society in the United Nations activities was an indispensable requirement for the success of humanitarian and disaster relief missions. That participation not only mitigated damages, but also helped to avoid unwanted situations. The availability of White Helmet Volunteers was one of many convergent lines of action carried out by different countries. He insisted the time had come to reaffirm solidarity. That was especially true for the countries that had received the solidarity and support of different actors. It was important for the international community to continue to debate on the nature of its role in such circumstances, and the profile of volunteering, as well as take part in international efforts to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by carrying out humanitarian activities in natural or man-made emergencies.

KOICHI HARAGUCHI (Japan) said that despite efforts by humanitarian workers, there were cases when their work did not fully produce expected results, mostly due to lack of coordination among donors and United Nations agencies tackling the same crises from different angles. Therefore, close coordination and a seamless transition from humanitarian assistance to reconstruction were crucial to achieving effective results. In addition, it was vital that humanitarian and development assistance be implemented through the spectrum of the conflict and post-conflict stages of any humanitarian crises. Focusing on assisting people, rather than adhering to institutional mandates, would produce results that addressed problems in their entirety. As such, Japan had launched an innovative initiative to provide comprehensive regional development assistance to Afghanistan, aimed at implementing specific, feasible projects that emphasized regional recovery and community empowerment, in close cooperation with agencies, including the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

Regardless of how efficiently humanitarian work was coordinated, humanitarian assistance could not be carried out without adequate financial resources, he stated. It was, therefore, important to ensure public understanding of humanitarian crises, making it easier to rally support for contributions. In addition, it was important to increase the number of new donors as to enhance geographical balance with respect to humanitarian personnel employed by United Nations organizations. Japan hoped that OCHA and other agencies would further improve ways to address forgotten crises more effectively. For its part, Japan continued to extend humanitarian assistance to regions less in the public eye, such as southern Africa. Regarding natural disasters, relief was only a part of the answer. Reduction of natural disasters, specifically through mitigation, prevention and preparedness were also critical.

VLADIMIR TSALKO, Chairman of the Committee on the Problems of the Consequences of the Catastrophe at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant at the Council of Ministers of Belarus, said his country, where nearly 2 million people still lived in the contaminated areas of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, continued to undertake considerable efforts aimed at minimizing the impact of that catastrophe. Every year the country allocated resources to address the post-Chernobyl problems comparable with education, healthcare and defence expenditures. Since 1991, more than $13 billion had been spent to alleviate the impacts of Chernobyl, and the estimated total damage amounted to $235 billion. It was evident that those additional compelling expenditures could be otherwise allocated for the social and economic development of the country.

He said, due to consistent and efficient measures at the national level, the country had managed to minimize the impact of the radiation factor. However, the Chernobyl disaster had entailed a range of complex problems for the health sector, and the nature management and economic development of the affected areas. There was some degree of uncertainty with regard to safeguarding the good health of the people in the contaminated areas and to the measures which should be undertaken in that field. There was still no common opinion at the international level regarding the long-term impact of low levels of exposure on people and that was a source of concern. He invited the international community to provide assistance, as well as to support the draft resolution on Chernobyl.

KIM SAM-HOON (Republic of Korea) said the United Nations had unparalleled authority and expertise in bringing life-saving assistance to people in the aftermath of disasters, civil strife and conflict. His country had actively supported and taken part in those efforts. It had also supported the central role played by OCHA in humanitarian advocacy, policy and coordination, as well as the CAP - Consolidated Appeal Process -- and other mechanisms established to strengthen international cooperation for improved emergency preparedness and response. The Assembly’s deliberation on strengthening the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance followed a sobering year. The need for the United Nations to continue in its mission of leading humanitarian assistance around the world had not diminished.

He said the world must do more than condemn the 19 August attack in Baghdad. The United Nations must emerge with a strengthened rather than weakened resolve to carry on. He called on Member States to support United Nations efforts by making sure that the atrocity of 19 August did not go unpunished. He stressed that while the current focus remained on Iraq and a few other high profile cases, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which had reached crisis levels in many developing countries, must not be forgotten. The fight against HIV/AIDS must be integrated into efforts to overcome complex emergencies in those countries. He added that humanitarian assistance should be seen in the long-term perspective of rehabilitation and development. In that regard, the transition from relief to development was an important area of work for the United Nations in coordinating humanitarian assistance.

OCHIR ENKHTSETSEG (Mongolia) said the extent and nature of humanitarian developments and challenges had become increasingly complex over the past few years. Emergencies were exacerbated by conflicts, both protracted and emerging, epidemics like HIV/AIDS and natural disasters. Such new challenges required effective, adequate and timely responses. In order to be adequate, she continued, humanitarian assistance must be commensurate with the needs of a given emergency, equitably distributed and effectively managed.

That meant that there needed to be improved methods of assessing humanitarian crises, she continued. A common tool for analysing and diagnosing a given situation must be developed and consistently applied. That would help restore the trust of donors in the value of assessments and contribute towards ensuring a more equitable distribution of humanitarian assistance. Another area that required attention was the need to develop definitions that clearly identified eligible flows and provided qualitative description of humanitarian assistance, to redress the present disturbing situation that occurred when various uses for such assistance blurred the line between it and official development assistance (ODA). In that regard, her delegation supported the Economic and Social Council’s call for humanitarian assistance to be provided in a way that did not undercut resources made available for development cooperation.

Turning to natural disaster preparedness and response capacity, she said that even though advances had been made towards developing better knowledge about hazardous conditions, and investment in protective measures was on the rise, capacity-building to enhance preparedness for and reduce the impact of natural disasters remained a major challenge. That was particularly true for developing countries. For a country with extremely low population density, vast territory and weak infrastructure, Mongolia was also highly susceptible to natural disasters, including drought, forest fires, earthquakes and floods. For the past four years, the country had been hit by extremely harsh winters followed by droughts in the summers. The Government had developed, along with the UNDP and Luxembourg, a longer-term strategy for disaster preparedness and management.

YERZHAN KH. KAZYKHANOV (Kazakhstan) said the report prepared regarding Chernobyl gave fresh impetus to implement initiatives in health, socio-economic and environmental development in the region. He welcomed steps to the Russian Federation -- and the results achieved were a good example of teamwork. The creation of a local centre for social and physiological rehabilitation, and the aiding in development of agriculture in the region, indicated a serious approach to finding effective ways of addressing the problems associated with the Chernobyl accident. He commended the assistance given by the donor community to study the consequences of Chernobyl, saying it was both timely and essential. The problem of Chernobyl, he added, still needed further coordination.

He called for enhancing information activities to draw the international community’s attention to events such as Chernobyl. His country supported declaring 26 April a day to commemorate the victims of the accident, and also supported the current Chernobyl resolution before the Assembly. The Chernobyl tragedy had affected his country, where a testing ground was located and where 500 nuclear devices were tested, causing harm to people and the environment. Over 1.5 million people had been exposed to high radiation and, since 1950, the degree of infant mortality had increased and life expectancy had decreased. While he appreciated the support provided, there was an acute need to mobilize additional financial resources. Chernobyl continued to be a problem for the nations most affected and the world, as a whole. Minimizing the effects of the tragedy involved implementation of decisions already taken on the problem. He called for a new impetus to improve coordination at the national, regional and global levels.

RAMÓN A. MORALES (Panama) said that his statement would highlight the subregional alliance for sustainable development in Central America, which represented the commitment of the region to that end and focused on efforts to achieve greater and more effective agreement on macroeconomic policies and modernization of transportation, agricultural and communications infrastructure. Panama had witnessed a significant reduction in non-reimbursable relief assistance funds, at a time when there had been a considerable decline in funds for investment throughout the Central American region.

For its part, the alliance had created the Central American Centre for Natural Disaster Response to help coordinate and promote effective strategies to mitigate the impact of such disasters and emergencies, particularly by establishing early warning mechanisms and risk management programmes. He announced the recent signing in Brussels of a pact between Central America and the European Union, which covered, among other things, economic, immigration and counter-terrorism issues. That instrument represented an important step towards strengthening relations between the two regions.

He went on to highlight regional efforts to protect Central America’s vast and unique biological diversity and natural resources by establishing protected areas, which were home to countless species of flora and fauna. He also expressed hope for the continued support of the international community and the United Nations system as the region worked hard to achieve its development goals. Such support was vital to help the Central American region alleviate extreme poverty and provide the benefits of long-term development for its people.

ARYE MEKEL (Israel) said the item dealing with assistance to the Palestinian people was misrepresented, and insisted that his country supported efforts made by the donor and international communities to alleviate the hardships of the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel was sensitive to the humanitarian and economic needs of the Palestinian population, and viewed the addressing of those needs as a fundamental Israeli interest. The provision of assistance to the Palestinian people was a primary component of Israeli policy, which had arisen from the belief that stimulating the economic growth of the Palestinian economy and enhancing the welfare of the population was integral to the future of the region.

However, he continued, despite Israel’s mounting security concerns, it had endeavoured to the greatest extent possible to permit a steady flow of food, medicine, humanitarian assistance and other essential supplies. Israel had done its utmost to ensure that its legitimate security precautions affected Palestinian life and economic activity as little as possible. He also welcomed the efforts of Member States and organizations such as the UNDP, UNRWA, UNICEF and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to improve the living conditions of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel was also committed to ensuring that those organizations were empowered to fulfil their humanitarian and development mandates, despite the extremely difficult security situation on the ground.

He said that the Palestinian observer had blamed Israel’s security measures for the increasing hardship of Palestinians. But he argued that that presentation was like "beginning a story from the middle". The Palestinian plight was due to two factors, namely the "corruption of the Palestinian leadership" and Palestinian terrorism. Israel, in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, had taken a broad range of actions since 1994 to promote and improve the free movement of goods and labour from the Palestinian Authority areas into Israel. Also, industrial parks were set up in the Palestinian Authority, involving substantial Israeli investment and economic cooperation. However, it was only after violence had been employed as a political tool that Israel was left with no choice but to implement essential security measures to defend itself from Palestinian terrorism.

He insisted that the security precautions were not so-called "collective punishment" because Israel had no desire to unduly burden the Palestinian population, but rather to ensure the security of Israeli citizens facing daily threats to their lives. At the end of the day, the welfare and safety of both Palestinian and Israeli peoples was inextricably tied to the fulfilment, once and for all, of the Palestinian obligation to fight and dismantle terrorism. That alone would obviate the need for Israeli security measures and pave the way for peaceful negotiations based on mutual recognition and mutual compromise.

TERUNEH ZENNA (Ethiopia) said that his country had been affected by recurrent drought in varying duration and severity over the last 30 years. Humanitarian relief, while noble, would not solve the basic problems which made Ethiopians susceptible to drought. In the long run, the most important step was to strengthen the capacities of countries like his to grow more. It was critical to link relief to development. He agreed with the Secretary-General that a second Green Revolution in Africa was needed. Africa could, thus, effectively mitigate poverty and avert the hunger and malnutrition that haunted the continent today. He commended the assistance of the United Nations, European Union and the international community at large, and hoped United States President George Bush would follow through on his words, when he launched the Millennium Challenge Account initiative and pledged to "increase harvest where hunger was the greatest" on the continent.

To mitigate the effects of recurrent drought and to ensure food security in the short term, his Government was taking measures such as water harvesting, resettlement, conservation-based agriculture, improving live stock production and marketing. Realizing that mere economic growth or increased agricultural productivity alone would not eliminate food deficiency, his Government focused on poverty eradication policies. To that end, the country’s Sustainable Development and Poverty Reduction Programme (SDPRP) had been built on agriculture-lead industrialization and food security, justice system and civil service reform, governance, decentralization and empowerment, as well as capacity-building. The country’s food security strategy aimed at addressing both the supply and demand side of the food equation -- availability and entitlement.

MAGDI TAHA (Sudan) said his Government continued to work to ensure lasting peace in the country. Achieving such peace was critical so that requisite assistance could be provided to the population and to ensure that development efforts could be pursued throughout the entire region. The Sudan had almost achieved its goals and the current talks under way in Kenya might finally put an end to the long civil war.

Preserving peace required greater resolve than merely ensuring that a ceasefire held, he said. It was also necessary to maintain security and promote development once peace had been achieved. In addition, mechanisms to consolidate the foundations for a negotiated peace must be created. The Government had created a fund for construction in the south of the country and in other war-ravaged areas. That fund had moved from the conception stage and had become operational. He hoped for more support from the international community to ensure that the Sudan could achieve its objectives of peace and development.

ELCHIN AMIRBAYOV (Azerbaijan) said that effective and timely distribution of emergency humanitarian assistance to refugees and internally displaced persons depended on the availability of international, regional and local resources. It also necessitated coordination among an increased number of humanitarian actors in the field with expertise in various areas, mandates and resources, and their collaboration with local authorities. It had been 10 years since the Security Council and the Assembly had passed resolutions to assist refugees and displaced persons in his nation. He thanked all those who had provided and continued to provide much needed assistance. However, despite the contributions and activities of humanitarian actors, the protracted character of his nation’s armed conflict, and the lack of progress in its settlement process, had negatively impacted the situation in his country. Massive economic transformation and restricted financial resources had curtailed the capacity of his country to provide basic social services for refuges and internally displaced persons. Currently, the volume of assistance did not cover the most pressing needs.

The United Nations and its institutions acting in Azerbaijan, having shifted from emergency humanitarian assistance to development, did not adequately respond to the estimated needs of the country, he stated. A clear-cut balance must be struck in that regard. Establishing correct proportions of assistance, applied in the right places at the right time, required the integration of the Government into planning and coordination phases from the very beginning, so that the Government could effectively integrate its own resources with those provided by the international community. The effective transition from relief to development in situations of protracted conflicts should envisage the continuation of the delivery of emergency humanitarian assistance during the initial stages of transition.

ALPHA IBRAHIMA SOW (Guinea) said that, at present, the record for international humanitarian assistance was uneven, due to the complexities of emergencies, on one hand, and a lack of coordination of efforts, on the other. Concerted efforts were needed to find solutions at national, regional and subregional levels. Along with coordination and close collaboration of the United Nations system with other parties, effective mechanisms required a precise and concise definition of humanitarian assistance.

Guinea believed that while States bore the major responsibility to protect civilians, parties to conflict should also work to ensure the safety of civilians and humanitarian staff. He supported international efforts to set guidelines for the protection of relief workers, and it was up to the international community to ensure implementation of United Nations and other relevant initiatives. In the case of assistance for refugees and displaced persons, while it was appropriate to take a case-by-case approach, it was also necessary for regional and subregional actors to share experiences. His country also paid particular attention to the situation of women, who often faced sexual exploitation and sexual violence during humanitarian crises. It was also important to strengthen cooperation and collaboration among all humanitarian actors, including civil society groups.

He went on to say that an integrated approach to prevention, preparedness and intervention in natural disasters and other emergencies, including drought and epidemics was necessary. Allocation of resources should be based on needs. Turning to Africa in general, and the West African subregion, in particular, he said natural disasters and conflict had affected development and growth for some years. Guinea had participated in efforts to restore peace and stability to the subregion. He stressed capacity-building to coordinate humanitarian operations and the creation of new mechanisms to ensure economic recovery and revitalization of institutions.

DEJAN SAHOVIC (Serbia and Montenegro) observed that while humanitarian operations were becoming more complex and larger, both in scale and number, the work of humanitarian personnel all over the world was becoming increasingly dangerous and was being carried out under extremely difficult conditions. He called for a strengthened and unified security management system for the United Nations. Humanitarian staff needed to operate in as secure and safe environment as possible to successfully deliver assistance. The ultimate goal of humanitarian assistance in post-conflict situations was to ensure that durable solutions were found, thus setting the stage for sustainable development.

Also vital for a successful transition from relief to development was more support to be given to recovery and long-term development activities, capacity- building at all relevant levels, as well as the enhancement of national ownership. Coordination, in the content of the transition from relief to development, was a demanding and time-critical process, which required the full engagement of governments and donors at the early stages. The process of coordination among providers and between them and the recipients of assistance should be constantly reviewed and adjusted to the real needs in the field, to make it more efficient and avoid competition, overlapping and duplication of activities.

He stressed that humanitarian assistance was still needed to address the widespread poverty and needs of one of the largest displaced populations in Europe - over 380,000 refugees from the former Yugoslavia and some 260,000 internally displaced persons mostly from Kosovo. Of special importance to his country was the financial and other assistance from Member States, international intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, in the implementation of its National Strategy for resolving problems of refugees and internally displaced persons. He pointed to the specific nature of the problem of internally displaced persons in his country, and called on the United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) to enhance its efforts to fulfil the obligations stemming from Council resolution 1244 and create the necessary conditions for the safe return of internally displaced persons.

MWELWA MUSAMBACHIME (Zambia) welcomed the proposals in the Secretary-General’s report regarding the need for increased national and regional capacity-building in the early warning and monitoring of natural hazards, natural disaster preparedness and mitigation. He also supported strengthened coordination in the areas of information-sharing, analysis and logistics support. He appreciated visits to his nation by the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs for Southern Africa, and commended his team for their commitment and efforts with regard to the plight of Zambians.

During the 2001-2002 agricultural season, his Government put in place measures designed to promote food security, he stated. Some of those measures included the importation of maize, a provision for food relief in needy areas, the introduction of the Food Security Pack programme aimed at empowering farmers with credit, and early distribution of fertilizer by the Food Reserve Agency. As a result, Zambia had produced a higher yield in the last season than it had in the previous five years. Yet, despite major successes in both the agricultural and social sectors, the HIV/AIDS pandemic exacerbated the situation, attacking the most productive members of society, especially the rural poor, who were closest to the agricultural sector. He called on the international community to help ensure access to food, basic health, water, and affordable generic drugs to treat those with HIV/AIDS.

ENCHO GOSPODINOV, Observer for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said issues confronting the international community called for a holistic approach. However, his delegation’s experience showed that instead of a properly integrated approach to programming, delivery and distribution, there was often a patchwork of decisions based on considerations, which had more to do with donor priorities than the humanitarian needs of vulnerable people. He was pleased, however, that bodies such as the Inter-Agency Standing Committee were addressing those issues and had shown resolve to improve both coordination and the collaborative approach to response. Regarding emergency relief operations, he said they must be planned and undertaken with a long-term perspective. Only then would it be possible to link relief with development. In addition, he called for more local capacity-building in relief work, and hoped to bring more focused international attention to that area through the Standing Committee.

He was pleased to have been associated with the launch early this year of Humanitarian Accountability Partnership International, whose objective was to strengthen accountability towards those affected by crisis situations, and facilitate improved performance within the humanitarian sector. It was vital to remind the Assembly that responding after a disaster had struck was not enough. In fact, programmes must incorporate disaster risk reduction as a policy and programme highlight, and there must be a willingness on the part of States to translate their commitments into policies.

JOSÉ ANTONIO LINATI-BOSCH, Observer for the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, said his organization shared the anxiety of the United Nations over the safety and security of humanitarian workers in the field, particularly in the wake of the 19 August attacks on the world body’s headquarters in Iraq. It was his belief that adequate measures for the protection of humanitarian personnel should be included in all Security Council mandates.

He went on to say that there was no doubt that natural disasters caused grave humanitarian crises and that immediate help was imperative. But mitigation, prevention and reconstruction must also be included in emergency humanitarian assistance efforts. In other words, humanitarian actors must not limit assistance to the immediate consequences of such disasters. For its part, the Sovereign Order had been working to help mitigate natural disasters and in several countries, including El Salvador, where it had supplied water supply treatment plans. In Iraq, the Order had been active in the North helping to rebuild social infrastructure. His organization would continue to assist people in need and would continue its cooperation with OCHA and the Office of the Emergency Coordinator.

JACQUES VILLETTAZ, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said that in August, while his agency had still been grieving with the loss of three of its own staff in Afghanistan and Iraq, it was appalled by the brutal attack on the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad. The International Committee condemned that and all attacks targeting civilians. He said the complexity of most humanitarian crises, together with the staggering dimensions of human suffering caused by ongoing conflicts in parts of the world, represented challenges that outstripped the capacity of any single humanitarian organization.

The Committee was deeply disturbed, he said, by the continuing toll paid by civilians, especially the most vulnerable amongst them, including women and children. The central aim for all humanitarian organizations was for their actions to be as effective as possible in emergency situations. Therefore, humanitarian coordination sought the greatest possible complementarity among all actors. Towards that end, the Committee had participated in coordination efforts through regular dialogue and mutual consultation, both at its headquarters and in the field, on thematic issues as well as operational questions.

He added that, in order to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian personnel and create conditions so that relief could effectively reach all those in need, political and military action ought to be kept distinct from humanitarian activities. Blurring the two would undoubtedly place not only the people in need at further risk, but also hamper emergency operations and endanger relief workers.

CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Permanent Observer for the Holy See, noted that the rigours of natural phenomena could not be prevented but their impact could be reduced and even avoided, when capacities of vulnerable countries were strengthened and enhanced. The world had advanced to such a degree that it was often possible to foresee natural disasters, and that in turn helped to reduce harm to people and damage to property. Additionally, the international community could now accomplish much in relief and long-term reconstruction because of strengthened, transparent and accountable systems. He also supported the efforts of OCHA and welcomed the comprehensive approach of the Consolidated Appeals Process, the participation of the United Nations funds and agencies, the preventive approach of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, the lead of the Economic and Social Council humanitarian segment and the valiant United Nations and other humanitarian personnel for their efforts.

He said the scale of emergencies worldwide had made the task of offering effective and prompt assistance overwhelming, and the international community’s initiatives, projects and efforts might never be enough. Based on their severity and suddenness, some emergencies were classified as "loud emergencies", while others were reduced into "forgotten" or "silent" ones. The situation worsened when assistance was coloured by partiality and incoherent policies, or when crises were ignored or even put aside because of misrule or misguided politics. Also, the sad fact that contributions from donor countries and agencies were often insufficient to meet many worldwide needs should not lead the world into hopelessness. Instead, those contributions should be praised and encouraged, since simple gestures of giving, oftentimes combined with rapidity and coordination, would make a difference and bear fruit.

It was possible, he noted, to prevent and reduce the impact of natural disasters. However, numerous catastrophes continued to strike peoples in different parts of the world, while chronic emergencies resulting from armed conflicts, extreme poverty and ethnic clashes had given rise to an enormous misplacement of peoples throughout the world. The international community should not let victims of tragic events and conflicts succumb to the agony they had endured in the aftermath of such natural and man-made disasters.

Right of Reply

In exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Armenia said that it was deplorable that Azerbaijan continued to use the problems faced by refugees as a propaganda tool. Azerbaijan had continued to inflate, by as much as half, the number of refugees in the region. International estimates placed the number at 583,000, while Azerbaijan continued to say there were over 1 million, in an attempt to mislead the international community with propagandistic numbers. Instead, Azerbaijan should try to ease the poor conditions in which those people lived.

It was apparent, he continued, that the Government of Azerbaijan was not concerned about the conditions of so many refugees but chose to use them as a showcase for their propaganda campaign. Regardless of numbers and nationalities, the very existence of refugees should be a matter of concern for all. That was why the Armenian Government had developed a programme for integrating refugees into its society. Armenia hoped the international community would respond more actively to the needs of those refugees. Armenia would also continue to seek a peaceful solution to the situation in the disputed territories.

The observer for Palestine said Israel’s earlier statement had been filled with mistakes and lies. While she would not go into details, she said that statement had blamed the deterioration of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories on Palestinian terrorist actions. That could not be farther from the truth. Indeed, the current conditions were a direct result of the continuation of Israel’s ugly occupation of Palestinian lands and the escalation of Israel’s bloody expansionist campaign against the Palestinian people and leadership.

Just yesterday, the occupying Power bombed the Gaza Strip, killing 11 people, including two children, and wounding scores more. And still the campaign continued, despite the objections of even some Israelis. But Israel covered the crimes by suggesting that its actions were a defence against terrorism. The policies and actions of Israel had led to the suicide bombings, not vice versa. Israel was responsible for the destruction of three generations of Palestinians and should accept that there would be no peace during the occupation. Israel should not be allowed to exploit the international war against terrorism as a cover for its expansionist policies. Before talking about corruption, Israel should return the money it had stolen from the Palestinians.

The representative of Azerbaijan said that Armenia’s groundless claims had forced him to speak. Armenia’s reaction to Azerbaijan’s earlier statement had been expected. Without wanting to get into a useless, irrelevant and unproductive exchange, he would, nevertheless, stress that Armenia was an aggressor State, in violation of the United Nations Charter and international law. It had violated the sovereign territory of another United Nations Member State - Azerbaijan -- and continued to occupy nearly one fifth of its territory. Armenia continued to defy United Nations resolutions, and, enjoying the environment of impunity, continued with its ugly practice of occupying the disputed territory and other areas.

He said Armenia was responsible for, and should be brought to justice for, the ethnic cleansing that took place in the disputed region. Its criminal policy had evicted almost 1 million Azerbaijani people from their homeland. Armenia had demolished almost all traces of Azerbaijani culture in the occupied territories. Still, Armenia found it appropriate to try and justify its crimes and mislead the Assembly. Armenia should behave as a responsible member of the family of nations.

The representative of Israel said his country’s actions had been in exercise of the basic right of all States to self-defence. Since the first of the month, two dozen Kassam artillery rockets had been fired by Palestinian terrorists into southern Israel -- 10 in the past 48 hours. Since the Palestinian Authority was doing nothing to address terrorism in its own midst, Israel had been forced to act. Its response had been measured and calculated, to do as little collateral damage as possible. The Palestinian Authority was using civilians as shields, he added.

He said Israel had used precision weapons to destroy weapons warehouses, factories and depots, as well as vehicles that had been used in the attacks. Israel had also intercepted an attempted terrorist attack. He stressed that sophisticated radar surveillance had shown that no civilians were visible in the target areas and no casualties had been apparent. The sole purpose of the attack yesterday had been to impair Hamas’ capability to wage terrorism. Israel deeply regretted the loss of innocent civilian life during its attempt to root out terrorists. As long as terrorists chose to position themselves in the midst of civilian infrastructure - shielding themselves behind civilians -- and the Palestinian Authority refused to act, the Authority must bare the responsibility for those unfortunate casualties.

He added that the area had been under the Authority’s control and there was no excuse for its complacency with terrorist cells and groups. They should have been dismantled long ago. Having no alternative, Israel must do what the Palestinian Authority had refused to do -- fight Palestinian terrorism.

The representative of Armenia said Azerbaijan had voiced many absurdities. Its reference to Armenia as a so-called aggressor State had only been one absurdity among many. Azerbaijan’s claim for territorial integrity in the disputed region was also deficient, since it had not been a part of Azerbaijan except during the Soviet Union, when it was within its administrative borders. Those facts were well known and documented. He urged Azerbaijan to look up the correct facts and to abide by international law.

The representative of Azerbaijan said that Armenia was to blame for the emergency humanitarian situation. As a result of its policy of ethnic cleansing, hundreds of thousands of people had been forced from their homes. Armenia was indeed in violation of international law and should be brought to justice. The international community should put an end to double standards and impunity. Rather than making statements in the Assembly, Armenia was better off making use of common sense and decency. It should respect international law and get out of the occupied territories.

The observer for Palestine said the Israeli representative could only present a "standard issue" statement regarding terrorism, which was highly questionable. Israel repeated that statement time and again and plugged it in to address any situation. That statement had been insulting to the Assembly. Regarding the attack on Gaza yesterday, she regretted that Israel had forgotten to mention that 100 civilians had been wounded in the attack. Those were the facts.

The representative of Israel said now that the observer for Palestine’s response had given him the opportunity to address the Assembly for five more minutes, he would address the issue of suicide bombers. The morally abhorrent claim that Israel was responsible for suicide bombings must be rejected. He went on to highlight what Israel felt was an orchestrated attempt to promote women as suicide bombers. He said that two weeks ago, a female Palestinian suicide terrorist had killed 21 Israeli civilians.

He said several others had been apprehended before they could do damage, including one aged 15 and another hiding a bomb under a maternity dress. The Palestinian Authority, not Israel, had regularly targeted women in its promotion and glorification of suicide terrorism. The Palestinian Authority had undertaken a very public campaign of promoting women as terrorist bombers. The promotion had led to a string of unsuccessful suicide bombing attempts by women until a supermarket bombing in March 2002. The campaign to turn women into suicide bombers was sadly succeeding.

Continuation of Debate

MARCO BALAREZO (Peru), speaking on behalf of the countries in the Rio Group, said the special session on children renewed the international community’s political commitment towards that issue. It also established four priorities for children, including a healthy life; quality education; protection from maltreatment, exploitation and violence; and the fight against HIV/AIDS. The well-being of children and adolescents should be understood as a main objective of the process of development. The Rio Group had made great efforts to work towards the development and strengthening of national and regional plans, and, in fact, many of its nations had designed plans that had as their basis the social investment in children and adolescents.

However, it was important to point out that social investment was often seriously affected by the present and difficult economic situation in the region, he stated. The situation had a negative impact on various social groups, especially children, affecting the provision of health and educational services. It had obstructed the fulfilment of using 20 per cent of the national budget for basic social services. However, many nations had still managed to reduce the under-five mortality rates, eradicate some immuno-preventive diseases and increase primary school enrolment rates. The Rio Group attached great importance to investment in children belonging to marginalized or minority populations. To that end, the Group was coordinating action to combat discrimination and the high indexes of poverty and social exclusion.

ALDO MANTOVANI (Italy), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that creating "A World Fit for Children" was about creating an enabling environment that impacted on the everyday life of children and their families. That must be reflected in all strategies at international, regional, national and local levels. The goals of the four priority action areas, promoting healthy lives, providing quality education, protecting from abuse and violence and combating HIV/AIDS were "ambitious but attainable". An important aspect for achieving the goals at the international and regional levels was the integration of a rights-based approach in the work of regional and global organizations, including UNICEF and other relevant organs of the United Nations system. He welcomed the fact that that approach was now firmly entrenched in their mandates and programmes. Further efforts to fully mainstream the rights-based approach were also needed in the implementation of programmes at the national level.

He insisted that the adoption and carrying out of national plans of action for children was a crucial step to put in place mechanisms for meaningful implementation, monitoring and review. He stressed that the goal of healthy lives for all children encompassed all other aspects such as child mortality, disease, malnutrition, healthy environments and mental health. On the goal of providing quality education, he said the right to have access to and complete primary education that was free, compulsory and of good quality should be made available to all children exposed to difficult situations. Educating girls was another key factor to reducing poverty, hunger, under-five mortality, maternal mortality and fighting major diseases. Turning to the issue of protection from abuse and violence, he stressed that problem was everywhere and difficult to tackle because it was often hidden. Additionally, he pointed out that girls belonging to minorities, indigenous children and children with disabilities were more likely than others to suffer from multiple discrimination.

For that reason, he urged all States to adopt a "zero tolerance" approach and to take all necessary measures to combat such practices, as well as ensure investigation, prosecution and punishment of the perpetrators, while safeguarding the rights and interests of the child victims at all stages of the proceedings. On the issue of combating HIV/AIDS, he stressed that there was an urgent need to adopt policies and programmes to respond to the needs of millions of children orphaned or directly and indirectly affected by HIV/AIDS. The real implementation of "A World Fit for Children" had just begun and all relevant actors needed to move from plans and policies to actions and results.

MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said the special session had provided an opportunity to see progress made since 1990, and to further commit to making the world a better place for children. As a follow-up to the pledge, "Say Yes to Children", 28 September had been declared the day of Namibian children, and 16 June, the Day of the African Child. The Government of Namibia and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) had conducted workshops on sexual and reproductive health, and attached great importance to the education and health of children, which accounted for 40 per cent of the annual budget. In his nation, primary healthcare was free, and programmes to prevent mother to child transmissions had been piloted in two hospitals. Currently, there were plans to take the programmes to others. Also, primary education was free and the challenge was to provide universal education.

HIV/AIDS was a major health problem in his nation, he said, and had increased the number of child-headed households. Namibia was creating more support for those households. Orphans also received free education, and his Government was finalizing a trust fund for orphans and other vulnerable children. Another challenge was food insecurity. Children in remote areas of Namibia, a drought-prone country, suffered from hunger. The Government sought to enrich the most vulnerable citizens and the plan of action required efforts on all levels. He called on donor countries to provide additional resources.

JENO C.A. STAEHELIN (Switzerland) said that the Secretary General’s report represented a way for the voices of children to be heard, and had taken into consideration the challenges faced by children around the world. It was evident, he conceded, that some of the commitments fell short, including those relating to child justice. The challenges faced in creating "A World Fit for Children" were not the same across the world. A great deal still needed to be done, including in his own country. Non-governmental organizations, civil society and governments all had a role to play in achieving the goals set for children. He looked forward to another review of the implementation of the Plan of Action by the Assembly in 2006.

KASHMALA TARIQ (Pakistan) said the plight of children worldwide was a grim reminder of the failure of the international community. The worst exploitation of children was occurring in situations of armed conflict, both as victims and as child soldiers. Despite the growing awareness and increased focus on their protection and rehabilitation, the suffering of children had not ended. To succeed, the international community needed to address the root causes of the problem. She believed that just, peaceful and amicable resolution of long-standing conflicts in the Middle East, South Asia, Africa, Central Asia and elsewhere was essential. Efforts to create "A World Fit for Children" must be accompanied by international assistance for developing countries through debt relief, increased developmental assistance, enhanced investments, removal of trade barriers and measures to bridge the digital divide.

She said Pakistan was working on good governance, participatory democracy and economic revival. It was also putting into place a comprehensive reform programme that protected the most vulnerable, including children, as a fundamental element in the country’s human security agenda. To that end, the National Perspective Plan 2002-2012 concentrated on education, infant mortality, child labour and review of legislation in line with Pakistan’s international obligations. Among other things, Pakistan had provided free secondary education and ensured greater access to proper nutrition and health facilities. The country’s child-action "road map" acknowledged the principle of the best interests of the child, which was reflected in the country’s laws, policies, programmes and resource allocation.

NAPSIAH OMAR (Malaysia) said it was clear that the collective pledges made by the international community to improve the situation of children needed to be translated into concrete action at the national, regional and international levels. For that, adequate resources, expertise and assistance were required. In that regard, United Nations agencies should continue their efforts in assisting developing countries to establish and strengthen their national capacity and institutions for the promotion and protection of the rights of children. They could also explore the possibility of working in tandem with regional organizations, where appropriate, to assist Member States to achieve the goals set by the special session.

Reviewing Malaysia’s progress in that regard, she noted that the country had begun implementation of its Second National Plan of Action for Children prior to the 2002 special session. That Plan had been formulated to conform with the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Designed as part of the national policy to ensure the promotion and protection of children, the Plan would steer the country to achieve the status of a developed nation by the year 2020. The national Plan had incorporated all the four elements and goals envisaged by the special session: providing quality education; promoting healthy lives; protecting children against abuse, exploitation and violence; and combating HIV/AIDS.

MARÍA AMALIA SERENO JUAREZ (Uruguay) said that it was critical to provide children with education, protect them from abuse and combat HIV/AIDS. The Convention on the Rights of the Child guided her country’s national strategies related to children. Uruguay had increased social spending, and attained good results, including a decrease in the rate of infant mortality and universal education for children under four. However, her nation’s long economic crisis had still affected the most vulnerable sector of society. Efforts to combat disease in children were a priority, she continued. Uruguay had been developing programmes for children at risk, a reflection of the Government’s determination to take leadership in that field. In addition, children over four were encouraged to participate in healthy lifestyles through the promotion of sports for recreation.

Uruguay, she said, had embarked on other initiatives, including ones to combat teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. The implementation of sex education as part of teaching curriculum and training of instructors was also in place. Emphasis had been placed on the importance of the family unit and extended social circles, which could influence the teaching of youth. Another initiative was the "blue line", an 800 phone number, which children and other victims of abuse or violence could contact for help. All of those actions were being undertaken with the support of Uruguay’s civil society.

ZHANG YISHAN (China) said his nation had promulgated a programme of action in May 2001 for child development, which laid out goals to decrease the rate of infant and maternal mortality, reduce malnutrition and promote early childhood development, among other things. The National Working Committee on Children and Women, a central government department responsible for children’s work, was made up of 24 government departments and five NGOs. Since 2001, that committee had further strengthened its functions with increased staff and funds.

China had also promulgated a set of laws concerning the survival, protection and development of women and children. In addition to the Constitution, there were additional laws that formed a fairly complete legal framework for the protection of the rights and interests of children. Since the special session on children, China’s largest NGO organization had attached even greater importance to the role of child workers at the grass-roots level, and had further improved their training. The Chinese Government and all sectors of society had made efforts to create a world fit for children. Yet, despite achievements, there were still difficulties and challenges ahead.

LUCIA HELWINDA RUSTAM (Indonesia) said that her Government was currently finalizing the National Programme for Children in Indonesia 2015, which addressed the key issues of child health and nutrition, children and HIV, early childhood care and development and basic nine-year education, and child protection. On the issue of child health, the Government had introduced special policies focusing on the promotion of community nutrition education, family nutrition improvement, food fortification and implementation of food nutrition surveillance systems.

She said that despite the fact that HIV/AIDS cases among children remained low, the Government had taken proactive measures to prevent the spread of the epidemic, especially among children, through mother to child transmission. That was reflected in the Government’s new National Strategy to Combat HIV/AIDS 2003-2007. There was also a focus on enhancing access to and improving the quality of education. The Government also paid particular attention to the issues of child labour, child trafficking and sexually exploited children, as well as the emerging issue of children’s involvement in the use, production and distribution of illicit drugs. She hoped that efforts could be strengthened through the involvement of civil society.

Indonesia, she added, was working to improve the lives of children in the East Asian and Pacific region, based on the Bali Consensus, which identified four main areas of cooperation: HIV/AIDS; trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation of children; maternal and neonatal mortality; and child malnutrition. The first two issues, she noted, were new and complicated, while the last two were relatively old and tended to be intractable.

NGUYEN THANH CHAU (Viet Nam) said that children were not only the future but the master of the country, and the world as well. While he was pleased to note that as many as 140 countries had taken concrete actions to translate and integrate the commitments of the Plan of Action into their existing national plans and policies, he pointed out that children around the world continued to suffer. Nearly 200 million children under five years of age were malnourished. Additionally, 11 million died each year; over 100 million still had no access to education; 250 million children had to work for a living; and 40 million suffered from abuses and neglect, while thousands of others were infected with HIV/AIDS.

It was the policy, as well as the tradition, in Viet Nam to provide children with the best in protection, care and education, he said. As such, the whole nation, from the central Government to the grass-roots levels, was mobilized to implement the 2001-2010 National Programme of Action, that defined specific goals on nutrition, healthcare, primary education, clean water and environment, culture, leisure and recreation for children. While much had been recorded in the promotion and protection of the rights of children in Viet Nam, much remained to be done to meet the remaining challenges.

ISMAT JAHAN (Bangladesh) said the situation of children in many parts of the world remained critical. Children continued to be the most vulnerable victims of poverty, armed conflicts, trafficking, HIV/AIDS and many forms of discrimination. Despite a less than ideal situation for children, it was, however, important to recognize forward movement. Her nation had adopted a National Plan of Action for Children, which focused on education and the protection of children from disease as important priorities, in particular for girls. Her country’s national budget had been increased for education and healthcare, with primary education made compulsory for all, and free for girls up to twelfth grade, thus bringing parity in school enrolment.

Remarkable progress had been made in reducing child mortality and malnutrition through an extended immunization programme, she stated. In addition, progress had been made in decreasing iodine deficiency disorders, while vitamin A supplementation and oral rehydration therapy, along with programmes on safe motherhood, had saved millions of lives. Eliminating the trafficking of children was a particular priority, and, as such, a national advisory committee had been established to investigate that issue. Aware that legal reforms and legislation alone were not enough, she said they must be effectively followed and implemented. Of serious concern was the situation of children in armed conflict and the suffering of children under foreign occupation, as in the occupied Palestinian territories.

ROMAN KIRN (Slovenia) welcomed the rights-based approach to development cooperation that had been implemented by UNICEF and other United Nations agencies, because economic and social development and the protection of human rights, including the rights of the child, were interlinked. The rights of the child were an important part of Slovenia’s domestic and foreign policy. "A World Fit for Children", he asserted, was an important supplement to the Millennium Declaration, especially in promoting sustainable human development, eradicating poverty, combating HIV/AIDS and protecting the environment, since it accommodated the implementation of relevant Millennium Development Goals to the benefit of children.

He highlighted some of the activities taking place in Slovenia in partnership between the Government and civil society organizations. The Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Affairs, together with the National Committee for UNICEF, was preparing a National Plan of Action for Children for 2003-2013, which was to be adopted by the Parliament next spring. The Plan embraced all issues and areas that affected children and adolescents in modern society, and also stressed Slovenia’s international obligations as a future member of the European Union. Further, a special government office would be created to more effectively coordinate different inter-sector activities relating to the well-being of children.

In addition to the different efforts undertaken globally, he said that regional and interregional action was also necessary. In that regard, he was appreciative of its membership in the Human Security Network, a group of like-minded countries from all regions of the world. The protection of children in armed conflict was one of the priorities in that Network’s agenda, and Slovenia strongly supported that aim.

PAULETTE BETHEL (Bahamas) said the report showed there had been mixed results in implementing the Declaration and Plan of Action adopted at the special session last year, and there had been a lack of consistent and systematic follow-up to this point. She also noted that the Secretary-General’s report offered a timely reminder that all the actions undertaken by the international community ultimately had an impact on the world’s children. The priorities which were set were ambitious and no State could achieve them alone; there should be resource mobilization at the national and particularly the international level, through official development assistance, debt relief and international assistance. This was critical to ensuring that all States were able to meet their obligations, particularly those that affected the daily lives and future of the world’s children.

The Bahamas was a young nation with an equally young population, she said, and it was imperative that actions be undertaken to safeguard the well-being of this segment of the population. She also recognized that the country’s future development and prosperity depended on the children. It was with this reality in mind that the Government had sought to translate its commitment to children into a series of significant national actions. On the issue of the health of the children, she stressed that without a healthy population no development and progress could be achieved. Equal importance was also placed on educating children to enable them to take their places as productive members of society and to contribute to the development of the nation. However, the sad reality of abuse, violence and exploitation of children was one that no one in the international community had been able to prevent. She said the Caribbean was the second worst-affected region in the world for HIV/AIDS. The Caribbean in general, and her country in particular, had waged an intensive campaign against the pandemic through the provision of care, treatment and prevention programmes.

JASNA OGNJANOVAC (Croatia) stressed that strong international cooperation and an effective implementation of international legal standards for the protection of the well-being of children by all nations was a "sine qua non" towards the full promotion and protection of the rights of the child. As a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Optional Protocols, as well as other relevant instruments, Croatia attached great importance to the protection of children’s rights and urged States that had not yet ratified those instruments to do so.

Reviewing various initiatives of her Government to fully implement the Declaration and Platform of Action, she said Croatia had adopted the Revised National Programme of Action for Children. National mechanisms for the protection and promotion of children’s rights had been further strengthened by the appointment of an Ombudsperson for Children. That office would monitor the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international instruments ratified by Croatia.

Further, she said, Croatia’s National Plan for the Suppression of Trafficking in Persons was being implemented successfully. It envisaged measures for an adequate legislative framework to sanction perpetrators, and to provide assistance and protection to "trafficked" persons, especially women and child victims of such crimes.

FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said his country had been making efforts to protect the rights of children since 1999, in addition to implementing the recommendations of the special session on children. At the regional level, Syria participated in all regional conferences and had planned to attend an Arab high-level conference on children next year. The country had adopted various protocols on child labour and prostitution, and had raised the employment age to 15. In keeping with an International Labour Organization recommendation, Syria had also acceded to remove the worst practices against children. Syria would continue to carefully consider the recommendations made in the Committee on the Rights of the Child. To that end, Syria would participate in a conference on children in Damascus, from 20 to 24 October.

The national health strategy relied on extending health care to all citizens free of charge, he stated. Also a programme called "The Healthy Village" was created, which paid attention to the development of children and the enabling of women. He said many international organizations and NGOs also participated in the programme. Many children living in the Golan Heights suffered because their books were closed to Syrian literature, their identities were erased and their families were displaced. Turning to the report, he said that he would have liked to see more detailed information relating to children in armed conflicts. It was also important that such issues be addressed "without selectivity" and objectively. In spite of the achievements, more work was needed to achieve better lives for children.

ORLANDO REQUEIJO GUAL (Cuba) said he could not share the enthusiasm for the Secretary-General’s report, when 3.1 million AIDS victims were under the age of 15, and only 1 per cent of infected persons had access to medication. "How can we be optimistic when 250 million children had to work to survive, and many had to take up the worse kinds of child labour?" How was it possible to refer to successful plans when 100 million children were not in school, or receiving low quality teaching, and 11 million under the age of five were dying from preventable diseases? Developing countries were experiencing a slump in funds, and losing more than $100 billion pledged to them.

To deal with those problems, it was important to implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child, he said. It was also critical to promote an international climate of peace. Yet powerful nations were doing little to deal with the main causes of armed conflict, the vestiges of colonialism, widespread poverty and foreign occupation. Cuba, however, had made progress regarding its children, despite its limited resources. Policies in his nation related to the development of children were based on equal opportunity and social distribution of wealth, which had made it possible for Cuba to surpass indicators set forth in meetings in 2000. In fact, the mortality rate was 6.5 per cent and 100 per cent of children were protected against preventable diseases. In addition, 100 per cent of children were enrolled in primary school and 90 per cent in secondary school. Currently, programmes were being developed to give all schools the computers they needed.

U KYAW TINT SWE (Myanmar) said his country was currently implementing a 30-year long-term national education promotion programme, intended to ensure that all children of school-going age could attend school. Primary school enrollment rate for the 2002-2003 year was 93.07 per cent. As a result of various programmes undertaken, there had been a marked drop in infant and under-five mortality rates. Immunization coverage of six major infants’ diseases and vitamin A supplementation had similarly increased substantially.

He said Myanmar had taken effective measures to fight the global crime of human trafficking, particularly that of women and children, for which the country had put in place a National Action Plan. It encompassed preventive, enforcement and prosecution, protective and repatriation, return and re-integrative strategies. Effective enforcement was carried out and human traffickers were liable under the country’s penal code; prison terms ranging from seven to 14 years had been meted out to offenders. Also, as part of the HIV/AIDS preventive strategy, Myanmar was educating its future leaders, the children. Education on HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases was provided for more than a million Myanmar school children, ranging in ages seven to 14.