Delegations stress urgency of fighting trafficking in children, child labour, as Third Committee concludes review of children's rights
Draft Resolutions Introduced on Crime Prevention, Drug Control, Family Issues
Fifty-eighth General Assembly
19th & 20th Meetings (AM & PM)
Delegates highlighted the urgency of combating child trafficking and child labour around the world as the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today concluded its review of the protection and promotion of children's rights.
Several West African delegations expressed deep concerns about the increasing incidence of child trafficking in their region and highlighted national and regional actions they had taken to fight the problem. The representative of Nigeria said her Government had enacted a law against human trafficking and had established an agency to enforce the law and promote the exchange of information on offences, including forced labour and the trafficking of children. Rehabilitation centres and transit camps had been set up to provide support services for trafficked children and to reintegrate them with their families.
The representative of Mali said his country had signed a bilateral convention with Côte d'Ivoire to combat the trafficking of children, the first agreement of its kind in Africa. Mali had also undertaken measures to eliminate the practice of child labour and had reformed the criminal code to include provisions to prohibit it.
The representative of Côte d'Ivoire said that in addition to the convention signed with Mali, his Government had also signed a transnational border agreement with Burkina Faso to combat child labour and the trafficking of children across their common border. He said the treatment of children had been especially problematic in West African countries because of protracted conflicts in the region. He emphasized that his country considered child labour a criminal activity, and it was examining the situation in the cocoa industry, among other actions it was undertaking to combat child enslavement.
In Bangladesh, significant progress had been achieved in phasing out child labour from the garment industry, said a representative of that country. Active support from the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) had been critical in that endeavour. Bangladesh accorded special priority to the elimination of trafficking in persons, especially in children, and had adopted new laws and developed directives for law enforcement agencies to address this problem.
The representative of Mongolia pointed out that there were still 256 million children working in the world and said that the key tools in combating child labour were the provision of free and quality education and the adoption of core labour standards. Universal ratification of and compliance with the ILO Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour and the Minimum Age Convention were of particular importance in that regard.
The ILO Convention on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour had been translated into Azerbaijani with a view to submit it for ratification by the Parliament, said the representative of Azerbaijan. She added that her country was cooperating closely with UNICEF and the ILO on the elimination of child trafficking and child labour. Concern was raised regarding the areas of protracted armed conflict and post-conflict regions, which served as hotbeds for trafficking in human beings, particularly in women and children, and other illegal activities.
Other speakers highlighted concerns regarding the plight of children orphaned by the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the incidence of the disease among children and teenagers, the impact of war on children and the use of children as soldiers. Delegations also stressed that children were faced with extreme poverty, hunger, malnutrition and often lacked access to both education and health care.
Also today, the Committee heard the introduction of an amendment to a draft resolution on the International Year of the Family by the representative of Benin. Draft resolutions were also introduced on the United Nations African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders; strengthening the United Nations crime prevention and criminal justice programme; and international drug control by the representatives of Rwanda, on behalf of the African Group, Italy, and Mexico respectively.
Also speaking today were representatives of Romania, Kuwait, Uganda, San Marino, Bahrain, Barbados (on behalf of Caribbean Community), Syria, Eritrea, Canada, Ghana, Burundi, Tunisia, Israel, Belarus, Liechtenstein, Haiti, Iceland, Jamaica, India, Dominican Republic, New Zealand, China, Ethiopia, Cameroon and Thailand.
The Observer for Palestine also addressed issues related to the promotion and protection of the rights of children.
Representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Organization of the Islamic Conference also spoke.
Exercising their right of reply were the representatives of Armenia, Israel and Azerbaijan, and the Observer for Palestine.
The Committee will reconvene tomorrow, at 10 a.m., to begin its discussion of indigenous people's rights.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) continued its consideration of the promotion and protection of children's rights.
For further background information please see Press Release GA/SHC/3746 of 17 October.
Introduction of Draft Resolutions
Introducing amendments (document A/C.3/58/L.12) to a draft resolution on the International Year of the Family (document A/C.3/58/L.2), the representative of Benin said the amendments would welcome the decision of Benin to host a regional preparatory conference in May 2004 in collaboration with the United Nations. The amendments were also necessary since they guaranteed the launching of the celebration of the Tenth Anniversary of the International Year of the Family by the Secretary-General. Furthermore, she said the amendments would guarantee the involvement of regional organizations.
Introducing a draft resolution on strengthening the United Nations crime prevention and criminal justice programme (document A/C.3/58/L.14), the representative of Italy said the draft included some new provisions and highlighted major developments, such as the entry into force of the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. The draft resolution also stressed the importance of the entry into force of the two remaining protocols to that Convention.
Finally, the representative of Mexico introduced a draft resolution on international drug control (document A/C.3/58/L.15), saying that the draft met the request formulated in this forum for simplification. Special attention had been placed at respecting the balance achieved in previous resolutions to ensure that the interest of all countries was met in the battle against drugs.
The representative of Rwanda, on behalf of the African group, introduced a draft resolution on the United Nations African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (document A/C.3/58/L.13). He said the draft was identical to last year's resolution. The African Group commended the Secretary-General for his report on this topic, and it was their hope that the draft resolution would be adopted by consensus.
Statements on Children's Rights
MIHNEA MOTOC (Romania) said that after the demise of the Communist regime, Romanians, concerned individuals and organizations in other countries alike became increasingly aware of the dramatic situation of thousands of institutionalized children, victims of an outdated protection system unable to provide decent living conditions for them. Since then, Romania had taken important steps to reform its childcare system and bring it up to international standards. Outstanding progress had been achieved in this respect over the last three years.
The main focus of the reforms had been the closure of institutions, while developing alternative solutions for children living in them, such as foster care and family-type homes. He said the reforms also supported preventing institutionalization by introducing alternative services to help families in need, such as day care and mother and baby units. As a result of the reform process, between 2002 and May 2003, the number of institutionalized children had decreased from 44,837 to 41,626, and the number of children protected in substitutive families had increased from 40,754 to 44,724. Over the same period, the number of alternative services had increased from 270 to 461, and the number of foster parents had increased from 7,825 to 9,536. By the end of February 2003, 105 of the old type institutions had been closed down.
IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said urgent and effective actions were imperative to improve the situation of children who continued to suffer from poverty, armed conflicts, trafficking, displacement, HIV/AIDS and sexual exploitation. Bangladesh had adopted a national action plan that prioritized education and the fight against fatal diseases, with a view to improving nutrition for women and children. The Government had given the highest allocation of the national budget to education, with special emphasis on education for girls. Primary education had been made compulsory and free for girls up to the twelfth grade.
Special programmes had also been undertaken for children with disabilities and for abandoned street children, he said. Significant achievements had been made in phasing out child labour from the garment industry with active support from the International Labour Organization and UNICEF.
He said Bangladesh had accorded particular priority to the elimination of trafficking in persons, especially in children. It had adopted new laws, initiated awareness-raising programmes and had developed directives for law enforcement agencies to address this problem. At the regional level, Bangladesh had signed the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Convention on the Rights of the Child on South Asian Regional Arrangements for Promotion of Child Welfare. It would continue to work with the international community, the United Nations system and civil society to ensure the continuation of concerted efforts to prioritize children in development policies.
NAWAF N. M. A-ENEZI (Kuwait) said his delegation had considered the reports before the Committee on children in armed conflicts. While welcoming this report, he was concerned by the situation of children in armed conflict. In order to ensure a better world for children, it was necessary to emphasize that children's rights were human rights. Kuwait had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and it was important to give priority to the development of children.
In Kuwait, children represented more than 50 per cent of the population, and the Government had, therefore, initiated several pilot projects for their development, he said. The Supreme Council for Children and the Family had been established by a Presidential Decree and was preparing a national report on the situation of Kuwaiti children.
He expressed concern about States having to submit national reports on both Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and urged delegations to make proposals that would allow the speeding up of the process of considering national reports.
ADEKUNBI ABIBAT SONAIKE (Nigeria) said the international community still faced numerous challenges posed by the commercial and sexual exploitation of children, the adverse impact of armed conflict on children, and diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. Nigeria had recently passed into law a bill on child's rights. A child rights information bureau had been established to ensure the implementation and monitoring of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. A national education programme had been established to ensure that every child above the age of five had access to free and compulsory education up to the junior secondary level.
She said Nigeria was deeply concerned about the increasing incidence of child trafficking, particularly in the West African region. The Government had enacted a law against human trafficking, which had established an agency to enforce the law and to promote communication to facilitate the exchange of information concerning offences and to prescribe punishment for offences including forced labour and the trafficking of children. The agency had also undertaken measures to provide rehabilitation for trafficked children. Transit camps and homes for child victims had been set up, along with skills acquisition centres, and efforts had been undertaken to reintegrate them with their families.
She added that the Nigerian Government had also prioritized the fight against HIV/AIDS, which continued to have a devastating impact on children. A campaign against the pandemic had been initiated, including the creation of a national action committee to coordinate a multisectoral approach to combat HIV/AIDS.
CATHERINE OTITI (Uganda) thanked the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) for the tireless efforts undertaken to publicize and help end the plight of young boys and girls in northern Uganda who were being abducted by the so-called "Lord's Resistance Army" (LRA) -- a terrorist group which had, since 1988, enslaved children as soldiers and human shields to strengthen its ranks. The LRA had also launched an offensive in the north-eastern part of the country where civilians were being rounded up and shot to death on the spot. This month, approximately 500 people had been abducted by the LRA from Pader District in northern Uganda, and 100 people remained in the hands of the rebels. Internally displaced camps had also been attacked, depriving communities of any sense of reasonable livelihood. Children, in particular, were being robbed of all their human rights, she said.
Many children in Uganda had also been negatively impacted by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. As a result of the death of one or more of their parents, many had to take on parental roles for which they were not equipped. Their development was therefore being interrupted due to compromised care, nutrition, education and socialization. HIV/AIDS education had been included in the primary school curriculum since 1996, and to date, 15,000 primary school teachers had been trained and equipped to teach life skills based on HIV/AIDS. Paediatric AIDS case management however, remained a challenge that was almost universally caused by mother-to-child transmission. The Government had therefore adopted a policy and strategy of prevention of mother-to-child transmission, focusing on voluntary counselling and testing, anti-retroviral therapy, palliative care, and community education.
EROS GASPERONI (San Marino) said it was vital for each State to adopt domestic measures to guarantee every human being the necessary conditions for favourable development, a decent standard of living, and education, all critical elements for ensuring the well-being of children. The presence of adults was also vital to the proper development of children, and adults had a duty to guide them.
He said the Convention on the Rights of the Child represented the best international instrument for improving conditions for children around the world. With a view to ratifying the Convention's protocol concerning trafficking, child prostitution and child pornography, San Marino had recently adopted a new law against the sexual exploitation of minors. He noted that it was critical to improve educational opportunities for young girls, who often lacked access to education for cultural reasons or because they had been victimized by violence.
Children around the world suffered greatly as a result of armed conflict, disease, violence, and poverty and it was up to the United Nations to address this, he concluded.
Ms. RADHI (Bahrain) said her Government attached great importance to a better future for children, and the interest in children and their rights emanated from the belief in the rights of the individual. The Kingdom of Bahrain had made great strides locally to protect the economic, social and cultural rights of children. Her Government was also considering the implementation of international standards for the rights of children, while ensuring that they were in conformity with local and national laws.
During the special session on children, the First Lady of Bahrain had headed the national delegation and had highlighted efforts made by Bahrain through its constitution and legislation to ensure the legal and social protection of children, she said. The international community had been urged to address all violations of the rights of children, including those committed in armed conflicts.
An analytical study of the situation of children in Bahrain had been undertaken to identify remaining gaps in their protection, she said. As a result of this study, a Council had been established to develop a strategy for the promotion and protection of children's rights. Bahrain was also striving to improve the educational sector to strengthen the country's human resources. Much work had been undertaken by the Ministry of Education, including the setting up of day-care projects and assistance to families with limited resources.
CHEICK SIDI DIARRA (Mali) said his country had set up a national action plan and had undertaken measures to prohibit and eliminate child labour, to increase public awareness about the rights of children and to promote activities providing support services for children in need. The Criminal law had been reformed to include labour code provisions to address the problem of child labour. Mali looked forward to continued cooperation with UNICEF and other United Nations agencies to promote the welfare of children in Mali.
He noted that as part of his Government's efforts to fight the trafficking of children, Mali had signed with Côte d'Ivoire a bilateral convention to combat the trafficking of children. Mali was also especially concerned about the recruitment of children for armed conflict, and it was urgent to end this practice.
He said Mali was committed to continue working for the well-being of children and urged the international community to continue working to make the world worthy of children -- a world free of war, poverty, and the scourge of HIV/AIDS.
JUNE CLARKE (Barbados), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said it was now widely accepted that development could not be sustained if its future custodians were not nurtured and protected today. However, children were often the persons most vulnerable to and affected by the obstacles that crippled States' development, including persistent poverty, pandemics such as HIV/AIDS, armed conflict and inadequate social and economic conditions. It was for this reason that the Millennium Development Goals placed heavy emphasis on ensuring the health, education and security of children through time-bound, action-specific goals.
The Millennium Development Goals were, in the opinion of experts, technically feasible and financially affordable, yet the world was not on track to meet them in 2015, she said. One fifth of the world's people still experienced severe poverty and lived on less that one dollar a day. Another 1.6 billion lived on less than two dollars a day.
It was undisputable that the global targets set by the international community required financial support and new approaches, she continued. The CARICOM States called for a re-commitment to the implementation of the Monterrey Consensus and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation. Time was running out for the world's children, and developing countries needed concrete action and assistance to make these targets and goals a reality.
At the national level, it would require universal access to social services of good quality and the commitment of all countries to the full implementation of the 20/20 initiative. Internationally, debt relief and the commitments on trade made at Doha must be realized, she continued. Official development assistance (ODA) was critical to the achievement of international agreed development goals and targets, and in this regard, CARICOM urged developed countries to take concrete steps towards fulfilling the target of 0.7 per cent of gross national product as ODA to developing countries.
After sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean was the region most severely affected by HIV/AIDS, with high incidences of infection devastating populations and orphaning thousands of children, she said. The CARICOM believed that the best chance the world had of combating the effect of HIV/AIDS on children was through education. Throughout the region, both boys and girls were entitled to free primary and secondary education, and in the majority of cases, attendance was mandatory between the ages of five and 16 years.
The high incidence of teenage pregnancy in the region had forced several Caribbean States over the years to create special programmes to reintegrate adolescent mothers into the education system. Girls born to teenage mothers were 83 per cent more likely to become teenage mothers themselves. Allowing teen mothers to continue their education could help reduce this legacy, she said.
RANIA AL HAJ ALI (Syria) said children's issues were a priority for Syria, and this was reflected in its national action plan. Her Government had created a Committee for the Child, which aimed to promote the rights of children. Syria had signed the Optional Protocol on children in armed conflict, as well as the protocol on trafficking in children, child prostitution and child pornography. It had also acceded to International Labour Organization measures and was cooperating with UNICEF to eliminate child labour.
She said her Government's health care strategy was based on the expansion of early health care, especially in remote rural areas, with a focus on improving the quality of life for women and children. Compulsory education and health care were provided free of charge. There were also education courses designed to introduce the importance of services for children.
She noted that despite such achievements, the Government had been unable to help all Syrian children since many of them were living under Israeli occupation in the Golan Heights and suffered every day from abuses by the occupying forces. Children in the occupied territories were denied educational opportunities and were routinely displaced from their homes as a result of property confiscation by the occupying forces. She reiterated Syria's regret that the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict had to date been unable to visit the occupied territories and to produce a report on acts perpetrated by Israeli forces.
AMANUEL GIORGIO (Eritrea) said his country supported the development of a new international convention on the rights of people with disabilities, with a specific provision on disabled children that would provide legal protective measures for children with disabilities. Eritrea welcomed the enlargement of the Committee on the Rights of the Child to allow it to accelerate its review of country reports.
He said the report submitted by his Government highlighted that much work had been done on improving the situation of children in Eritrea. An inter-ministerial committee that included members of civil society had been established, and programmes had been set in motion to improve the delivery of basic social services at the national, regional and local levels. Eritrea believed that cooperation within its government bodies and among United Nations agencies, donor countries and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) would continue to play an important role in addressing the concerns of children.
He noted that the recent border war with Ethiopia had left several thousand children in need of special protection measures. He urged the strengthening of post-conflict development programmes to fully address the concerns of children who suffered from trauma, disability, displacement, the loss of parents, and exposure to landmines and unexploded ordinance.
PATRICE LAQUERRE (Canada) said Canada's National Plan of Action was intended to be a multi-sectoral, long-term, child-centred framework for children in the coming decade. The implementation of the Plan would be the responsibility of all Canadians. Canada supported efforts to strengthen the monitoring of, reporting on, and accountability for violations of children's rights in armed conflicts. He encouraged close coordination with existing initiatives, such as those related to the protection of civilians in armed conflict, and among all actors, whether in the field or at headquarters.
Canada welcomed efforts made by the Untied Nations system actors and NGO implementing partners to adopt practical measures to prevent and effectively address incidents of sexual abuse and exploitation against war-affected children, particularly refugees and internally displaced children. Such efforts must continue to be pursued and strengthened, he said. Canada hoped to be in a position to ratify the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Pornography and Child Prostitution, once necessary domestic consultations had concluded.
The unimaginable suffering of children who were being trafficked could only be effectively addressed by collective action on the part of the world's States. In this regard, Canada welcomed the recent entry into force of the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.
FARAH AJALOVA (Azerbaijan) said Azerbaijan placed emphasis on child trafficking and the elimination of child labour in the country, and the Government was closely cooperating with UNICEF and the International Labour Organization (ILO) on that issue. The ILO Convention on the elimination of the worst forms of child labour had been translated into Azerbaijani with a view to submit it for ratification by the Parliament. Apart from that, the State Commission on the issues of minors had included in its agenda issues concerning child labour and child trafficking. Concerned about the plight of homeless and street children, the Government had recently adopted a State Program on homeless and street children, envisaging a set of concrete actions, including the establishment of rehabilitation centres, special training for teachers, medical and social workers and measures on bringing these children back to schools.
She raised concern about the number of children suffering and dying from violence, exploitation and abuse during armed conflicts. Areas of ongoing and protracted armed conflicts and post-conflict regions served as hotbeds for trafficking in human beings, particularly in women and children, illicit drug trafficking and other kinds of illegal activity. The military aggression of Armenia and occupation of 20 per cent of the territory of Azerbaijan had led to the emergence of 250,000 child refugees and internally displaced children, and caused tremendous financial and moral damage. Children had become orphaned and disabled and hundreds had been killed, taken hostage or were still missing. For countries with an economy in transition, it was extremely difficult to tackle these problems. Words and standards must be translated into concrete action and effective cooperation at all levels.
MAVIS KUSORGBOR (Ghana) said her Government welcomed the increase in membership of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, as this would enhance equitable geographical representation and would improve the capacity of the Committee to monitor the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
She said that during the past decade, Ghana had undertaken various legal reforms to protect children's rights. Nationwide publicity campaigns and seminars had been held to educate the public about the need to promote children's rights. The Government had also established a Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs with the aim of integrating and designing comprehensive child-related policies and programmes into the national development agenda.
To promote educational opportunities for children, the Government had instituted a free, compulsory education programme for all children that had remarkably improved the primary school attendance rate. Educational programmes had also specifically targeted youth awareness of preventive and treatment measures against HIV/AIDS. She stressed that ensuring children a good start in life was the best investment a country could make in the drive to achieve sustainable development.
MARC NTETURUYE (Burundi) said the question of the rights of the child was the foundation for human rights. In his country, the Government had always worked to support and promote the well-being of children, which was why the Government had already ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Unfortunately, children were often party to conflicts and were abuse and exploited by warring parties. Burundi had witnessed the destruction and pillaging of schools, health centres and hospitals, violating the right of children to education and health. Rape and other sexual violence had been used as weapons of war, which had exposed girls to an array of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.
The Government of Burundi had decided to prohibit the recruitment of children under the age of 18 years of age, as provided under the Arusha peace agreement, he said. According to the agreements made, the future for the children of Burundi looked more hopeful. This however depended on rebel movements refraining from using children in armed conflict. Within the framework of rehabilitation and reconstruction, the protection of children played a central role. Particular attention had been placed on education, health, nutrition, re-education of child combatants and the particularly needs of the girl child.
SAMIR KOUBAA (Tunisia) urged the international community to redouble efforts to address the precarious situation of children, especially in Africa. His delegation appealed for the mobilization of all efforts and coordinated action in the areas of health, education and poverty reduction to improve the situation of children.
He said Tunisia was working nationally, regionally and internationally to prioritize the interests of children. It had adopted a national action plan, created a special council for children and had also established a children's parliament to encourage the participation of children in the formulation of policies and programmes concerning them.
A high-level congress on the protection of children's rights would be held in Tunis in January 2004, he said. Tunisia encouraged the contribution of NGOs in the promotion of children's rights and reiterated its commitment to continue to promote and protect the rights of children.
PHILIPPE D. DJANGONE-BI (Côte d'Ivoire) said child soldiers, child labour and enslavement of children were real concerns before the international community. The treatment of children had been a particular problem in West African countries due to protracted conflicts. Child labour was a criminal activity. His country had been seriously criticized as practicing and turning a blind eye to child enslavement; however, the authorities had taken specific steps to combat this scourge.
Among other initiatives, the Government had looked into the cocoa business in order to investigate the situation. Action had been taken on several levels since punishment alone could not produce durable solutions, he said. The Government had therefore also initiated awareness-raising and education campaigns. Regional meetings had also provided joint approaches on the protection of children and their rights.
His country was strengthening legal mechanisms in order to provide protection for children. On the subregional level, Côte d'Ivoire had signed an agreement with Mali on combating border trafficking of children. At the international level, his country had been one of the first to sign, ratify and accede to international instrument that protected the rights of the child.
ZE'EV LURIA (Israel) said protecting children and providing them with the best possible opportunities in life, was at the very top of the agenda for all parents. The Government of Israel had enacted more than 20 comprehensive bills relating to child rights. Every child in Israel was guaranteed the right to health insurance, as well as the right to education. Furthermore, the correlation between children's rights and human rights had been established.
The Israeli Government conducted its policy on these issues in cooperation with the effective NGOs that worked in Israel on the rights of the child, he said. In light of Israel's undertaking to implement the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a public committee had been established to examine general principles concerning children and the law, and their implementation in legislation.
To advance equality between children from different sectors, the State had a double duty, he said. First, it must prohibit discrimination of any kind between various children. Second, it must take all appropriate measures to ensure the advancement of equality. Israel was a multicultural society, and attention must be given to cultural differences in order to respect the cultural characteristics of children from different sectors. To respect and encourage social diversity in Israel was the guiding principle of the Government.
Israel was facing a particularly difficult security situation, with Palestinian terrorist organizations launching suicide bombings murdering innocent citizens, including many children, indiscriminately. The death of any child -- Palestinian or Israeli -- was a terrible tragedy, he said. Due to these attacks, Israel had been forced to develop extensive expertise in order to deal with trauma, as it affected children. It was imperative that children were not drawn into this conflict.
ANDREI TARANDA (Belarus) said his country was particularly concerned about the persisting problems of children due to homelessness and crime among minors, as well as drug addiction and the incidence of HIV/AIDS among teenagers. There was a critical need to improve the social and legal status of children. His Government had passed a law on the rights of the child, the first legislative instrument to provide a legal mechanism to protect children's rights. A National Commission on the Rights of the Child had been set up to coordinate State social policy on children, and there was also a national plan to promote human rights, including the rights of the child.
He pointed out that there were thousands of children still suffering as a result of the Chernobyl nuclear plant accident -- the worst industrial disaster of the last century -- and that these children needed special attention from the State.
He commended UNICEF for its projects aimed to improve the well-being of children in his country, including those on the prevention of iodine deficiency, the prevention of drug addiction and crime among youth and the improvement of measures to fight HIV/AIDS. The promotion of children's rights required more systematic efforts and exchange of experience. Belarus welcomed the support of the international community and was open to dialogue with all those interested.
PIO SCHURTI (Liechtenstein) said the international community had failed to protect the most basic rights of children, including the right to life, and the right to education continued to be widely violated because of neglect. The State and the international community were remiss in their fight against hunger and poverty, of which children were the most helpless victims. More could and must be done for the education of children in order to give them a better chance for the future.
Going beyond neglect or lack of resolve, children's rights continued to be actively violated, as they suffered physical and psychological cruelty at home and were dragged into armed conflicts, trafficked or sexually abused or economically exploited, he said.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child was a precise legal instrument with its focus on the best interest of the child, non-discrimination, development and participation, he said. Its Optional Protocols left no doubt about what must be done to eradicate the involvement of children in armed conflict or the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, respectively.
He called on the international community to continuously monitor and review the situation of children in order to be able to give effective guidance and strengthen the promotion and protection of children's rights. The entire United Nations system needed to be further and more widely involved to address the horrendous violations of children's rights in armed conflict.
Last year, the General Assembly had requested a comprehensive assessment of the scope and effectiveness of the system response, he said. It was hoped that Member States would be able to consider this assessment in the near future, and that it contained practical recommendations for strengthening and sustaining activities for the protection of children in armed conflict.
JEAN C. ALEXANDRE (Haiti), stressing the need to ensure a brighter future for children, said his Government had adopted measures in support of the women and men of tomorrow. Reducing the cost of health care had led to a drop in infant mortality rate, and a national health policy had established a minimum package of health services for children. He emphasized education as one of the main priorities of his Government, which had made enormous efforts to increase children's access to education. A national educational and training plan had been established to make the educational system more effective and to improve its quality. Other achievements included the creation of a telephone hotline for children and the adoption of a law banning corporal punishment and other legal instruments to combat child violence and abuse.
A major obstacle to implementing such projects had been the freeze of international aid, and he stressed that Haiti could not solve its problems alone. There was still much to do to fight HIV/AIDS and chronic poverty, the main obstacle that must be overcome to ensure the full protection of children's rights.
GRETA GUNNARSDOTTIR (Iceland) said the substantial increase in the number of children placed in institutions in many parts of the world was a cause of great concern. The rights of children in residential institutions as well as standards of care, had not received appropriate attention. There was evidence that children's rights were violated in such institutions in many parts of the world, and recent research demonstrated that children in such institutions were often subject to abuse and ill treatment. In addition, it had been shown that in many cases, conditions in which those children lived were appalling. There was a good cause for the United Nations to initiate an effort to identify the basic rights of children living in residential institutions based on the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
There had also been an increase of unaccompanied children in some parts of the world, she said. Unaccompanied children were often deported to their country of origin without an appropriate assessment of their needs. Unfortunately, this practice also meant that no arrangements were made to ensure that children were cared for in their country of origin. This practice was in conflict with the basic principle of the best interest of the child, embodied in the Convention.
Representatives from 14 States had been in Stockholm in March to discuss the plight of unaccompanied children, she said. They agreed that if unaccompanied children were returned to countries of origin, there must be adequate provisions in place to care for them. The countries would cooperate bilaterally and multilaterally to facilitate the establishment of national contact points on this issue. This initiative must extend to other parts of the world to ensure effective cooperation to secure the rights of these vulnerable children.
DIEDRE MILLS (Jamaica) said it was only through the adoption of multidimensional policies that the specific goals for advancing the welfare of children and young people could be achieved. To that end, her delegation noted with satisfaction that the report of the Secretary-General acknowledged the significance of ensuring the participation of all stakeholders -- governments, civil society, the private sector and the United Nations system. That augured well for the promotion of healthy lives, providing quality education, combating HIV/AIDS and protecting children against abuse, exploitation and violence.
She stressed that UNICEF's role in child advocacy, providing humanitarian assistance, education and health care for children was particularly noteworthy, and she encouraged the Fund to continue its work in addressing the emerging challenges facing the world's children.
Among other national initiatives, a draft act was in its final stages of consultations and would be passed shortly, she said. In addition, a special programme had been designed to provide skills training to assist street children in their development. In December 2002, the Government had established the Child Development Agency, an umbrella organization incorporating policy agencies with responsibility for children's issues. One of its main responsibilities was to supervise the operations of children's homes in Jamaica.
C.P. RADHAKRISHNAN (India) said the report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, had referred to the comprehensive body of instruments, norms and commitments that provided a basis for enforcement of the rights of children exposed to armed conflict. While this might be relevant to situations where States where involved, the accountability of non-State actors, whether connected with religious or political ideology, economic interests or plain outmoded social structures, well-known for their gross, massive and systematic violation of the rights of children, had not been adequately considered or documented. India therefore urged the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict to pay greater attention to this aspect for this, in India's view, was the "root cause" of many of the problems in this area.
If the international community in its next review desired to have a more positive and robust result regarding the situation of children, the efforts would clearly have to undergo massive and rapid change, he said. It was evident that the "rights" could not be achieved in a developmental vacuum. Therefore, while one might strive for the ideal situation of "participation" by the children of the world, as the "State of the World's Children, 2003" put forth, the need of the hour was to focus on the real challenges of poverty, hunger, malnutrition, HIV/AIDS, illiteracy, and exploitation being faced every day by millions of children worldwide.
MANUEL FELIX (Dominican Republic) said his country recognized that protecting its children was necessary to ensure sustainable development for future generations. The Government had adopted policies and programmes to help meet the basic needs of children and consciousness-raising efforts had been initiated to prevent child abuse. Efforts had also been made to improve conditions in detention centres and prisons for minors. It had increased resources allocated for the National Council for Children, whose activities demonstrated that the Government was investing in children. Efforts were also under way to promote the welfare of children in marginalized districts to reduce poverty there.
He said his country was also trying to deal with the worst forms of child labour and had established a national committee to confront the issue. Recently, there had been advertising campaigns to spread the message that small children could not do heavy work. The Government had also made efforts to provide education and technical training for street children.
DON MACKAY (New Zealand) said his country had recently submitted its second periodic report under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In that report, practical measures taken had been outlined. New Zealand had a low incidence of children's rights abuses, but violence against children continued to be an area of concern. The Government was currently implementing a family violence prevention strategy and was launching a public education strategy to change family behaviours concerning the physical disciplining of children. The Government had also invested in capacity-building of Maori family, tribal and community organizations, and recognized that many different forms of family existed.
Internationally, New Zealand continued to be gravely concerned about the abuses of children's rights in other parts of the world, he said. Too many children continued to be engaged in full time work, especially in Asia, including millions engaged as bonded child labourers. Too many children continued to be direct participants in war, often denied a childhood and subjected to horrific psychological and physical violence. Child soldiers were being used in more than 30 countries around the world.
New Zealand had a special concern for those children who were living without family support. Internationally, millions of children faced abject poverty, hunger, malnutrition, and exploitation, and many of these children were facing such challenges alone. The HIV/AIDS pandemic, armed conflicts and other trends were creating generations of orphans. Refugee children were often separated or unaccompanied. Street children lived without supervision or protection from adults. All States were urged to put such children first, and provide them, to the extent possible, with the support that their biological parents might not be able to provide.
PUREVJAV GANSUKH (Mongolia) said the full realization of children's right to education was key. Regrettably, today over 100 million children, 60 per cent of whom were girls, had no access to primary schooling. It was an unacceptable situation when millions of children did not have access to education, preventing them from fully participating their development process.
Another important issue was the elimination of child labour, he said. Today, 256 million children still worked, with 180 million being intolerably exploited. The key tools in combating this problem were free, accessible and good quality education and the adoption of core labour standards. Universal ratification of and compliance with ILO Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour and the Minimum Age Convention No. 138 were of particular importance in this regard.
He also stressed the role of the family in promoting the well-being of children. As the fundamental unit of society and primary environment for development of children, families must be provided with all the necessary assistance and resources required to take care of and protect their children. In this connection, Mongolia supported the appeal that during the upcoming celebration of the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family, efforts should be made to recognize the social role of the family, to improve parental involvement and their education in order to ensure that the best interests of children were realized.
ZHANG LEI (China) said children were the future of mankind. The promotion and protection of the rights of the child engaged a broad consensus among all countries. Yet, the world still failed to provide education to over 100 million children. Every year, preventable diseases took the lives of more than 10 million children. In addition, the world witnessed every day acts in violation of the rights of the child, such as armed conflicts, drugs, HIV/AIDS, sexual abuse and child labour.
China always attached importance to the protection of the rights of the child and had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child as early as 1991, he said. It had further ratified ILO Convention No. 182 concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour.
He said China would continue to adhere to the principle of "children first", vigorously promote the implementation of the outcome of the General Assembly special session on children, earnestly fulfil its commitment to children and promote the livelihood, protection, development and participation of all children. China was ready to work tirelessly with all other countries to achieve healthy development and bright futures for all children in the world.
NADYA RASHEED, Observer for Palestine, said each year, millions of children suffered the negative and debilitating consequences of armed conflict. Palestinian children knew all too well the grave effects that conflict situations imposed, in particular foreign occupation, for they had lived their entire lives under Israeli occupation -- a brutal and cruel occupation. This occupation had robbed them of their most basic and inalienable human rights. The impact of the Israeli occupation had been extremely detrimental, negatively affecting their well-being, safety and development. Palestinian children aged 18 and under represented 53 per cent of the population. Forty-two per cent of these children lived in refugee camps, commonly the sites of Israel's concentrated and brutal military attacks.
Palestinian children had suffered both physical and psychological trauma as a result of the incessant violent military assaults, human rights abuses and home demolitions, she said. The continuous traumas and hardships endured by Palestinian children -- the future of the nation -- would have lasting and devastating effects. The intensified Israeli military presence in Palestinian villages, towns and refugee camps and the prevalence of violent incidents in close proximity to children had even encroached upon the last remaining symbols of safety -- the home, school and the family.
In addition, Palestinian children had extensively suffered injuries as a result of excessive and indiscriminate force used by the occupying forces, she said. Many of these children had been permanently disfigured or disabled, living with constant reminders of the cruelty and brutality of this oppressive occupation. Palestinian children needed to be free to live peacefully in their own independent State, enjoying all the rights to which they as children were entitled. She urged the international community and this Committee to take real and necessary measures to end Israel's aggression against a captive Palestinian population and its children.
FESSEHA TESFU (Ethiopia) said various measures had been taken to make the principles and provision of the Convention on the Rights of the Child widely known to adults and children in Ethiopia. Methods of publicizing the Convention had included governmental conferences, workshops and seminars, and the use of radio and TV programmes. In addition, article 36 of the country's Constitution was totally devoted to the cause of children. It pronounced that every child had the right to life, name and nationality, and the right to not be subjected to exploitative labour practices, and to be free from corporal punishments or cruel or inhuman treatment.
Ethiopia had also adopted and implemented national policies and sectoral development programmes with respect to health, education, and population that emphasized the well-being of children. The national plan to prevent and control HIV/AIDS included the prevention of mother-to-child transmission and the provision of care for children orphaned and affected by HIV/AIDS. A national survey on the prevalence of AIDS orphans had been conducted in collaboration with UNICEF.
He added that providing free education for all children had been the most effective strategy to raise the enrolment of children. Ethiopia was happy to announce that it had achieved 65 per cent enrolment in 2003. However, the international community and especially the developed world needed to stand by its commitments and assist poor nations in the implementation of global objectives to secure better lives for all.
IYA TIDJANI (Cameroon) stressed that all efforts to promote the rights of the child must be backed up by unswerving international community cooperation, especially regarding developing countries. Extreme poverty gave rise to conditions that were conducive to the exploitation of children in prostitution and pornography, drug trafficking and the worst forms of labour. He called on the international community to step up its efforts to support disarmament and reintegration programmes and to continue the work to complete the drafting of the international convention to protect the rights of disabled children.
He said Cameroon had focused on efforts to improve early childhood conditions, malnutrition, and education and stressed the importance of the family unit in child development. Measures had been taken to try to prevent mother-child transmission of HIV/AIDS and to increase access to vaccinations against diseases. His Government was convinced that investing in education was critical to building for the future and to fight illiteracy, especially among female children. Cameroon had made great strides, but there was much still to be done. He appealed for international solidarity to support his Government's efforts to create conditions that were conducive to building a world fit for children.
URAWADEE SRIPHIOMYA (Thailand) said children in developing countries continued to be affected by the spread of HIV/AIDS. Intervention at an early stage was required in order to prevent the next generations from being infected by this deadly disease. At the same time, the special needs of those children affected by HIV/AIDS must be met, and their rights must be protected against all forms of discrimination and stigma. It was necessary that the progress made in this area be closely monitored.
According to the figure stated in the report of the Secretary-General, the growing number of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS could reach 25 million in 2015, she said. Such a disturbing trend undoubtedly cast negative economic and social impacts on the entire population of affected countries. While recognizing the serious situation in Africa, her delegation wished to draw attention to HIV/AIDS in the Mekong subregion. That issue, if unresolved, would greatly impede the economic and social development of countries in the region.
The Thai Government attached great importance to the protection of children from any kind of violence, she said. It was in the process of drafting the "Child Protection Act" aiming to establish legal systems and networks to protect children from acts of violence at all levels. The Act was drafted in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and was non-discriminatory in its orientation. Thus, any children in Thailand -- Thai or any other nationality -- were protected by the Act.
GEORGES PACLISANU, a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said the ICRC had made some progress in providing support for children victims of armed conflict. However, it was greatly concerned that so many children were still being recruited as soldiers, were separated from their families, and were being killed and raped and every day.
The ICRC had worked to prevent the recruitment of children by armed groups and to prevent the separation of children from their families, he said. Thousands of children in prison were in need of special protection, and the ICRC had worked to ensure the separation of child prisoners from adult prisoners. He stressed that the rehabilitation of war-affected children must be prioritized and integrated in peace agreements. Protecting child victims was the duty of all States, and it was important that States comply with their obligations under international instruments to protect the human rights of children.
S. SHAHID HUSAIN, of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) said that out of the 140 countries that had, reportedly, taken concrete actions to translate commitments into national action plans or had integrated them into existing plans and policies, a substantial number of them were OIC member States. The OIC shared the view expressed by Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, that while there had been significant increases in advocacy and awareness, the situation for children remained grave and precarious in war zones. Among the OIC members, the repercussions of conflict had been visible in Somalia, Sierra Leone, the Israeli occupied Palestinian territories, the Syrian Golan and in the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir.
He also highlighted some relevant provisions of the resolution on Child Care and Protection in the Islamic World, adopted by the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers in Teheran in May of this year. That resolution called on Member States to take all necessary measures to prevent any further armed conflicts and to provide particular care for the needs of children and women who were the main victims of such conflict. The resolution also invited Member States to combat child trafficking through awareness raising, capacity-building of law enforcement agencies, and the establishment of rescue and rehabilitation centres for victims.
Statements in Exercise of Right of Reply
Exercising the right of reply, a representative of Armenia said the allegations made by the representative of Azerbaijan were groundless. She said the reference to the so-called military aggression of Armenia was misleading. The situation was a forced reaction of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh to exercise their right of self-determination. She said Azerbaijan had continued to use the problem of refugees and internally displaced persons as a tool of propaganda. Azerbaijan should make real efforts to resolve the problem of refugees and stop blaming Armenia for all its problems.
A representative of Israel responded to a statement made by the Observer for Palestine in the exercise of right of reply, and said that unfortunately, since the outbreak of Palestinian violence, Israel was facing a difficult situation of Palestinian children and youth being used in acts of violence against innocent Israelis. Palestinian children had also been used as human shields protecting terrorists. Such abuse of children should be of great concern to the international community, yet, the Palestinian Authority had taken no action to end the abuse of the Palestinian children by terrorists.
The problem was education in the Palestinian areas, with textbooks inciting hatred towards Israelis, he said. More than 100 Israeli children and youth had been killed, and many more had been wounded and maimed permanently since the outbreak of the violence. Palestinian and Israeli children were growing up in a region of conflict.
He pointed out that these were the children who would design the future of the region. The death of any child -- Palestinian or Israeli -- was a tragedy. The Palestinian Authority must put an end to this cynical use of children. Israel had urged time and again that children must not be drawn into the conflict.
A representative of Azerbaijan, replying to Armenia's remarks, reiterated that the aggression of Armenia was a fact recognized by the United Nations. All appeals of the international community for Armenia to refrain from any act of hostility and any interference continued to be ignored by Armenia, she said. The occupation of Armenia had triggered the present humanitarian crisis, which was the root cause of the difficulties faced by children in her country. The occupation of its territories had displaced a large number of children, and many children had been killed and injured during attacks by Armenia.
The Observer for Palestine, exercising her right to reply, said that the kind of rhetoric just expressed by Israel represented nothing but deeply ingrained racism on the part of the occupying force. Blaming the victim of the violence as opposed to the real perpetrators of violence was a mere attempt to dehumanize the Palestinian people.
She stressed that Palestinian children had been dominated in every way and could not expected to feel happy about the occupation. Hateful feelings were not genetic but were socially constructed. In the case of Palestinian children, their feelings of hate could only be explained by the continuing Israeli occupation.
The policy of the Palestinian Authority was that it was the Israeli occupation and the destruction of three Palestinian generations that had led to the suicide bombings, she said. Israel must not use its own victims to justify its policies of occupation, oppression and aggression.
The representative of Armenia said Azerbaijan's claim for restoring its territorial integrity was historically, legally and politically deficient. The only time Azerbaijan had enjoyed sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh was during the time of the Soviet Union. She stressed that Nagorno-Karabakh had never been a part of independent Azerbaijan. Her delegation hoped that after concluding its presidential elections, Azerbaijan would engage in the peace process in a constructive manner.