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Continuing its discussion of children’s rights, third committee on the Rights of the Child hears about dangers confronting youth worldwide

October 25, 2006, 0:00 2942 PressZoom.com

From prostitution and poverty to living rough on the streets and the deadly lure of toy-like munitions, the myriad of ways in which the rights of the world’s children have been put in danger received an airing today in the Third Committee (Social, Cultural and Humanitarian), with a number of delegations highlighting and proposing solutions to what many described as one of the international community’s most urgent concerns.

(PressZoom) - Continuing its discussion of children’s rights, the Committee heard first from Jakob E. Doek, Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which he reported had been making good progress in clearing a backlog of reports from States parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. He said his Committee fully supported the recommendations set out in the Secretary-General’s study on violence against children, presented Wednesday by independent expert Paulo Sergio Pinheiro. He particularly endorsed a proposal for the appointment of a Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence against children, which he said would give all children someone within the United Nations system who would stand by their interests.

Responding to questions from delegations, Mr. Doek said a major obstacle to compliance with the Convention was poverty. Developing countries made an understandable argument in terms of lack of capacity, he said, not just in finances but also in human resources and expertise.

Several delegations told of problems unique to their countries and regions, and steps being taken to address them.

The representative of Guyana, speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said Member States of the Group had concerns regarding the effects of poverty on the livelihoods of children. It was incumbent upon States to address the persistent challenges posed by child labour, HIV/AIDS, and lack of access to quality education and health care, as those were areas directly linked to poverty.

The representative of Uruguay said the impact on poverty among the young was most obvious in the phenomenon of street children. An ocean away, in Eastern Europe, poverty had been pushing more and more children onto the streets, the representative of Ukraine said. About half of all street children were thought to be under 13 years of age, he added, and they faced such appalling dangers as gang violence, child prostitution and drug abuse.

The representative of Lebanon said that, above and beyond the damage and tragedy of the recent conflict in his country, the biggest risk to children in south Lebanon was from unexploded ordnance, which would take months, if not years, to clear. Many of those munitions had been designed to look like little toys while others looked like chocolate bars. His concerns were shared by Syria’s representative, who said such munitions continued to threaten young lives.

The representative of Colombia said his country was making good on its commitment not to incorporate children less than 18 years of age into its Armed Forces. The representative of Myanmar similarly reported that his Government had taken steps to halt the recruitment of children under 18 years of age into its Army.

Child sex tourism was particularly vile and worrying, the representative of Singapore said. As it knew no boundaries, it could not be tackled at the national level alone. Regional and international initiatives to address the problem were needed, and for that reason Singapore had joined other States in South-East Asia and the Pacific in efforts to stop such exploitation.

The representative of Iceland told how his country had reorganized its procedures for investigating child sexual abuse by establishing a Children’s House that brought child protection services, medical professions, law enforcement, prosecution and court judges under one roof -– an idea picked up in other States. Moldova’s representative, who called the Convention on the Rights of the Child the most widely violated international treaty in the world, suggested the creation of a special international tribunal for crimes against children or a special section on children’s rights within the International Criminal Court.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Republic of Korea, Ghana, India, Indonesia, San Marino, Russian Federation, Libya, Cфte d’Ivoire, Saudi Arabia, Nepal, Venezuela, Mongolia, Azerbaijan, Gabon, Senegal, Monaco, Kuwait, Qatar, Algeria, United Republic of Tanzania, Oman, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Armenia, New Zealand, Liechtenstein, Malawi, Cuba, Sierra Leone, Thailand, Kazakhstan and Zambia.

The Committee also heard the introduction, by the representative of Mongolia, of a draft resolution ( document A/C.3/61/L.4 ) entitled United Nations Literacy Decade: Education for All.

The Committee is to meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 16 October to conclude its debate on the promotion and protection of the rights of children and to begin at 3 p.m. its debate on indigenous issues.

Background

The Third Committee ( Social, Humanitarian and Cultural ) met today to continue its general discussion on the promotion and protection of children’s rights.

The Committee also heard the introduction of a draft resolution on social development entitled United Nations Literacy Decade: Education for All ( document A/C.3/61/L.4 ).

For background, please see Press Release GA/SHC/3852 of 11 October.

Statement by Chairman of Committee on Rights of Child

JAKOB E. DOEK, Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, presented an oral report on his Committee’s work. He recalled that two years ago, as a temporary measure, the Committee had broken into two chambers, primarily to clear a backlog of reports. The experience had been positive, contributing to reducing the backlog of reports pending consideration. In 2006, 49 reports from States parties had been considered, compared with 27 in the previous year, and the time lapse between the submission of a report and its consideration by the Committee had been reduced from two years to one, or even less, contributing to the relevance of the available documentation to the dialogue and its outcome.

He said the composition of the two chambers had been drawn by lot, and their geographic, gender and professional background distribution had been equitable. While the burden placed upon members had been considerable, the quality of work had been maintained. Looking ahead, 179 reports from States parties were overdue, in addition to reports due in 2007 and 2008. The Committee was considering working in two chambers if required by the influx of reports, as it was believed that reports should be reviewed within 12 months after submission, and therefore it might submit proposals to that effect to the sixty-second session of the General Assembly.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child fully supported the recommendations set out in the study on violence against children, he said. The emphasis should be on their implementation at the national level. Equally important was the proposal for the General Assembly to recommend the appointment of a Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence against children, who needed someone within the United Nations system who they could associate and identify with, and who would represent their interests.

Mr. DOEK responded to a series of questions from Finland, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States. In answer to a question on how to strengthen monitoring and reporting of the rights of children in armed conflict, he drew delegations’ attention to the work of the Committee on monitoring the Optional Protocol on children and armed conflict. The Committee had made recommendations recently on how to prevent recruitment of children and end their involvement in hostilities. He urged States parties to the Convention to take all necessary measures to address that problem, including through the exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction. He hoped to be in touch with members of the Security Council on this issue.

Responding to a question on particular areas of concern to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, he noted that one of the major obstacles to compliance with the Convention was poverty. Developing countries made an understandable argument in terms of lack of capacity, not just in finances but in human resources and expertise, he said. In order to better address that problem, the Committee had decided to devote the next day of general discussion to Article 4 of the Convention.

Asked what the international community could do about the problem of overdue reports to the Committee, he highlighted the efforts of the Committee to reach out to States that had difficulties in reporting. The United Nations Children’s Fund ( UNICEF ) and other agencies had been active in that effort. It was important not to point fingers at countries that were overdue in their reporting but to be inviting -- to find out what were the impediments to reporting and how could they be overcome.

Statements

ALEXEI TULBURE ( Republic of Moldova ) said the Convention on the Rights of the Child was the most widely violated international treaty in the world. Every five seconds, a child died because of hunger, malnutrition and maladies. In a three-hour period, humanity would have lost 2,000 children, or one every five seconds. Annually, 275 million children became victims of domestic violence, including those who witnessed such violence. Children were used as soldiers; left to languish in orphanages; forced into work; abused in detention centres; sexually assaulted; abandoned to the streets; with no access to education or health care; deprived of their rights. How could that be tolerated?

In an ideal world, the best answer would be an international and constraining jurisdiction, he said. Why not a special international tribunal for crimes against children? Something more affordable would be a special section on children’s rights within the International Criminal Court. Regional courts, such as the European Court of Human Rights, could open such sections as well. There was still a long way to travel down the road to full respect for children’s rights, but there was no time to lose anymore. What was missing, 17 years since the Convention was adopted, was a sense of urgency, expressed in concrete and time-bound targets of action.

GEORGE TALBOT ( Guyana ), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said the Member States of the Group had concerns regarding the effects of poverty on the livelihoods of children, and urged that increased attention be focused on addressing children’s practical and material needs. It was incumbent upon States to address the persistent challenges posed by child labour, HIV/AIDS, and lack of access to quality education and health care, as those were areas directly linked to poverty. The Group was heartened by indications from the International Labour Organization ( ILO ) pointing to a marked decline in child labour worldwide, although there had been no new estimates on the worst forms of child labour.

Regarding health care, there had been some success in the Rio Group region, he said. Child mortality had fallen by over one third in Latin America and the Caribbean in the 1990-2000 period. However, the region had continued to grapple with HIV/AIDS, particularly among adolescents. The Group welcomed the report on violence against children as a solid basis for dialogue and action aimed at strengthening the regime of child protective measures. Several States in the Group had already set up agencies to promote and safeguard the rights and well-being of children. Given its overarching interest in the demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration of children associated with armed forces and illegally armed groups, the Group supported any recommendation that sought to increase funding in that area.

CLAUDIA BLUM ( Colombia ) said it was essential that recommendations in the report on violence against children led to concrete challenges and obligations, such as specific national strategies for the eradication of all forms of such violence formulated in a participatory, operable and assessable manner. Moreover, those recommendations had to be transmitted to all levels of Government and to different levels of society. The promotion and protection of the rights of boys and girls had been a State priority in Colombia. A childhood and adolescence law had been approved by Congress on 29 August which included explicit dispositions against any kind of punishment or physical, emotional or psychological abuse in educational spaces and social contexts. A national plan for childhood and adolescence was meanwhile in its final review stage.

The Colombian State had been dutifully carrying out its commitment not to incorporate children less than 18 years of age into its Armed Forces, he said. Within the framework of disarmament and demobilization of illegal violent groups, the Government was rehabilitating children formerly linked to such groups. Three thousand boys and girls had benefited from a programme that offered such children comprehensive attention that included institutional protection and social reintegration. The demobilization of more than 40,000 members of violent groups, including all illegal self-defence groups, and the many actions which had led to a signification reduction in crime and insecurity, had had a favourable effect on the rights of children in Colombia.

CHO SU-JIN ( Republic of Korea ) said many obstacles inhibited the implementation of “A World Fit For Children”, the outcome document of the twenty-seventh special assembly of the General Assembly in 2002 ( document A/RES/S-27/2 ), such as inadequate resources and a lack of focus on the need to protect children. States should revitalize their commitments, intensify international cooperation and increase official development assistance ( ODA ). As part of its commitment to doubling overall aid, the Republic of Korea would substantially increase assistance to Africa. Providing education to girls was particularly essential, as women and girls were the most effective agents in bringing about social change and progress. Education was indispensable for restoring peace and development, as it eliminated the root cause behind children’s involvement in armed conflicts and helped them understand the repercussions of taking up arms. It was on that understanding that the Republic of Korea had spent $2.3 million in the Palestinian territories to build schools, install computer labs and provide nutrition supplements to elementary and middle school students.

Regarding children suffering from diseases, including HIV/AIDS, the Government was contributing $10 million to the Global Fund against HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, she said. Those funds would enable children to undergo proper anti-viral treatments. UNICEF had been an important vehicle as well, through which the Government had contributed nearly $2.2 million to supply clean water and food to North Korean children. Domestically, the Republic of Korea had been taking such measures as the establishment of a National Youth Commission to develop, coordinate and implement policies for children and young people. By working alongside civil society, her Government would sustain its strong commitment to advancing global efforts aimed at making the world more fit for all children.

DIVINA ADJOA SEANEDZU ( Ghana ) said the in-depth study had unveiled the horrific scale of violence suffered by children around the world and its devastating consequences. Most violence against children was perpetrated by adults, who were expected to provide protection and security. She highlighted the gender dimension of the problem, with girls and young women particular targets for horrific forms of violence, including harmful cultural practices, sexual violence and trafficking. Children also continued to suffer the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS and were vulnerable to preventable diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis, chronic ill health, persistent poverty and child labour.

Another urgent issue that must be addressed during the session was the situation of children affected by armed conflict, she said. Children were victims of forced recruitment, rape and other grave abuses and violations in more than

30 conflicts around the world. Large numbers of children were maimed, killed, denied access to health care and education, separated from their families, and displaced from their homes as a result of conflict.

Ghana was committed to the promotion and protection of children and had introduced reforms to ensure that national legislation conformed to its treaty obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols. She also reviewed other Government initiatives aimed at improving children’s access to health care and education, and better protecting them from violence. Despite a number of programmes and policies initiated, Ghana, like many developing countries, had achieved mixed results, she said. The number of child abuse cases reported had increased, and studies indicated that child sex tourism was on the rise in her country. Addressing issues of child protection required adequate resources, she said, urging donors to ensure greater support for activities aimed at securing a world free of violence against children.

MABEL REBELLO ( India ) said children were the future of humanity. The international community had to pay more attention to their development, with a special focus on regions where they were most vulnerable, such as sub-Saharan Africa. Poverty eradication, sustained economic growth and the realization of the rights of children were mutually reinforcing. Timely achievement of the Millennium Development Goals was a key step towards meeting commitments to children. Regarding children in armed conflict, more attention should be paid to that problem by the General Assembly, and mechanisms within the Peacebuilding Commission should include rehabilitation and reintegration of all affected children, taking into account local values and traditions.

India had the largest child population in the world -- 41 per cent of the total population -– and it shared a deep concern about their status and welfare, she said. Regarding the study on violence against children, India agreed with the central message that no such violence was justified and that it had to be prevented. From 10 October, there had been a ban in India on the employment of children under 14 years of age as domestic helpers or in eateries. India’s strategy to eliminate child labour in all its forms recognized that the problem was linked to poverty and illiteracy, and could not be solved by legislation alone; a holistic approach was needed. India was conscious of the need to do a lot more to improve the overall status of the Indian child.

WIWIEK SETYAWATI FIRMAN ( Indonesia ) said much work remained to be done to be on track with child-related goals. A better picture of the progress that had been made, and of the remaining challenges, was expected to come out of next year’s mid-decade review. One such challenge was children and armed conflict -- an alarming issue. International standards and norms had to be applied to effectively protect children in armed conflict situations. Indonesia was encouraged by the Special Representative’s constructive approaches vis-а-vis engaging Member States systematically on such standards and norms.

Indonesia had incorporated child-related goals and targets in its National Action Plan on Human Rights, she said. The Government had been collaborating with national and international stakeholders to provide quality education to make Indonesian children competitive at the global level. With support from UNICEF and other agencies and donor countries, a “back to school programme” was under way for children affected by the May earthquake in Yogyakarta. “Child-friendly” schools had been introduced, with clean water, separate toilets for boys and girls, and access for disabled children. Regarding children who faced abuse, the Government had been promoting the establishment of Child Protection Commissions at the provincial and district levels.

DIANELA PI ( Uruguay ) highlighted the issues of violence and poverty as they affected the rights of children. Her delegation was deeply concerned about high levels of violence, exploitation and abuse which persisted in homes, schools, detention centres and elsewhere. Uruguay appreciated the in-depth study on all forms of violence against children and endorsed the recommendations of the independent expert. She hoped the study would help in the formulation of effective responses, including through the involvement of children in policy planning.

She noted that poverty also was a form of violence. In Uruguay, poverty was concentrated among the young, as was most obvious in the phenomenon of street children. An innovative response was required to ensure more sound and sustainable protection networks. A shortage of food in early life affected the development and learning capacity of the young. Her Government believed it was important to support poor families, and that overcoming poverty among children and adolescents required the involvement of entire families. She urged the international community to support global efforts to eradicate poverty in order to achieve agreed targets, including the Millennium Development Goals, and to create “A World Fit for Children”.

HJБLMAR W. HANNESSON ( Iceland ) said violence against children had serious implications on the functioning and development of societies. The Convention on the Rights of the Child had been invaluable in furthering the rights of children all over the world; and the study on violence against children would be a significant contribution to the same goal. Iceland looked forward to studying its recommendations.

The Council of Europe had, in April, launched a programme titled “Building a Europe for and with Children”, which Iceland welcomed for its integrated approach with the key concepts of partnership and communication. Work within the Council of Europe on improving parental skills aimed to incorporate the Convention’s provisions into guidelines for Governments and professionals. Child-friendly judicial procedures to protect children from trauma and re-victimization were important; Iceland had reorganized its procedures for investigating child sexual abuse by establishing a Children’s House that brought child protection services, medical professions, law enforcement, prosecution and court judges under one roof. Other Governments had implemented that model. Iceland had substantially increased its financial contribution to UNICEF, and was now the biggest contributor per capita to that Organization.

Ms. BERNARDI ( San Marino ) said the protection of children’s rights was one of the most important issues at stake for the international community. Her delegation was particularly concerned about the situation of children in armed conflict and was keen to see implementation of Security Council resolution 1612, which provided for the establishment of a monitoring and reporting mechanism that would act upon six grave abuses. San Marino was pleased that the issue of children was on the agenda of different United Nations organs and that a multifaceted approach to the problem was being taken. She stressed that the United Nations should monitor all situations, even in countries that were not on the Security Council agenda.

She urged particular attention to the shameful fact that many cases of abuse and violations against children during armed conflicts were perpetrated by United Nations Peacekeeping troops. San Marino supported the implementation of the Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse of children and the full compliance of all actors with the United Nations code of conduct. The control on illicit and cross-border activities harmful to children, including those concerning small arms, and the abduction and recruitment of children as soldiers must be condemned and acted upon decisively by all countries, big and small, she said.

BORIS V. CHERNENKO ( Russian Federation ) said that despite international efforts, children remained the most vulnerable population group. They had been the first victims of hunger and poverty, misery and exploitation, armed conflict and terrorist acts. There was no more worthy task than saving the world’s children from suffering and fear. To that end, States had an obligation to be guided by fundamental principles set forth in the many international documents. One was bound to feel a lack of understanding and sense of alarm regarding attempts by some delegations to politicize the issue.

In the Russian Federation, a programme to guarantee improvements in health and social status for 4.5 million children had been in place for the 2003-2006 period, and a new programme for 2007-2010 has been worked out and adopted. Children were a key area in Russian social policy. In his annual message, President Putin to the Federal Assembly in May, questions of demographic policy and raising the birth rate had been set as priorities. Allowances for families having children had been increased. As this year’s chair of the Group of Eight ( G-8 ), Russia had launched a Youth of Eight with national delegations of school children discussing problems of the day, culminating with a presentation to G-8 leaders at their summit in Saint Petersburg. That had been highly assessed by UNICEF, and the Russian Federation hoped that other G-8 States would carry on the practice.

ANG SIOK HUI ( Singapore ), noting that 2006 marked the tenth year of her country’s accession to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to improving the lives of children. Singapore focused on key areas including health, education, legislation and social services. Her country had a robust legal framework to protect children’s rights, ensured six years of basic education under the Compulsory Education Act and ranked alongside Sweden as having the lowest infant mortality rate for children under the age of 5. Challenges remained, particularly in the area of child protection.

The issue of child sex tourism was particularly vile and worrying, she said. As child sex tourism knew no boundaries, it could not be tackled at the national level alone. Regional and international initiatives to address the problem were needed, which was why Singapore had joined other States in South-East Asia and the Pacific in efforts to stop such exploitation. More than 1 million children were trafficked each year as cheap labour or for sexual exploitation. The Association of South-East Asian Nations ( ASEAN ) was working on the ASEAN Traveller’s Code to promote responsible tourism. Singapore also was involved in a regional campaign to combat sexual abuse of children by foreign travellers. The United Nations could play a role in facilitating multilateral cooperation.

ADEL ALAKHDER ( Libya ) noted that despite near-universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the world still witnessed flagrant violations of children’s rights, particularly during armed conflict. His delegation also condemned acts of violence and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of children in detention centres at the hand of police, which studies showed was on the rise. He noted that despite the fact that most countries had ratified the Convention against child labour, children around the world were compelled to do work that jeopardized their health, deprived them of education and harmed their upbringing in other ways. States should be held accountable, he said.

He drew attention to the persistent problem of street children, who grew up in an environment that fostered delinquency. Those children were exposed to the violence of street gangs, which undermined the values of society. He called upon the international community to work to eliminate this problem, including through providing care, education and rehabilitation services for street children.

His delegation was deeply concerned about the suffering of Palestinian children living under occupation. Children were displaced and humiliated by the Israeli occupying forces, and sometimes could not get to school because of Israeli barriers, he said. They were deprived of the most elementary rights to: life; shelter; education; and health care. He also noted the suffering of Lebanese children from the “unequal war” launched against the country for more than one month, during which most of the victims were children. Unexploded bombs left behind continued to kill many children every day. He urged the international community not to overlook the suffering of children in Africa, who were exposed to conflict, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and preventable diseases. He appealed to the United Nations and other international organizations and donors to support programmes for the benefit of African children and to cooperate with the African Union to address these problems.

FLORE CHANTAL ASSOUMOU ( C фte d’Ivoire ) said no continent was free of violence against children. From Africa to Oceania, via Europe, America and Asia, children had been targeted by adults obsessed with money and sexual pleasure. As combatants, children had been forced to kill other children, to kill their fathers and to disembowel their mothers. Cфte d’Ivoire welcomed the entry into force of the additional protocol on children in armed conflict; its Government was committed to ratifying it as soon as the political situation permitted. Since the crisis in Cфte d’Ivoire had began in September 2002, there had been more than 4,000 child soldiers; under the ceasefire and subsequent declaration ending the war, they were being demobilized and reintegrated.

The other face of violence against children had been their use for the worst forms of labour, she said. They had been exploited on plantations and in mines. In Cфte d’Ivoire, an internal and cross-border network had been discovered aimed at the exploitation of child labour in cocoa fields, a situation that had been hard for national and international opinion to accept. The Government had given itself an institutional framework and legal instruments to confront the problem.

Mr. AL-MOQHIM ( Saudi Arabia ) noted that protection of children’s rights was the starting point for the promotion of human rights and essential for any society aspiring to progress and prosperity. Article 10 of Saudi Arabia’s Basic Law stipulated that the State, bearing in mind shariah law, would seek to strengthen family bonds, maintain its Arab and Islamic values, care for all its members and provide suitable conditions to improve their capacity.

The Kingdom protected the right to life from conception onward, believing that life started in the mother’s uterus, he said. Saudi Arabia provided prenatal care and supported maternal leave policies. The Government had dedicated resources for children in areas such as education, health and leisure. Saudi Arabia had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and was Party to regional agreements on protecting the rights of the child.

In conclusion, he said it was distressing to see the deterioration of the status of children around the world, especially Palestinian children living in the occupied territories. That tragedy had been followed by the barbarian occupation and war against Lebanon by the Israelis, he said.

VOLODYMYR PEKARCHUK ( Ukraine ) said no county was exempt from violence against children. In Eastern Europe in particular, poverty had been pushing more and more children onto the streets. About half of all street children were thought to be under 13 years of age; they faced such appalling dangers as gang violence, child prostitution and drug abuse. Regarding armed conflict, a disturbing gap remained between adopted standards and initiatives to protect children and the atrocities that had been carried out.

Children’s health in the context of the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster had been a particular concern in Ukraine, he said. The spread of HIV/AIDS had been another alarming phenomenon. Trafficking in women and children had continued to be considered an acute issue. Juvenile policies, including a recently adopted presidential decree on protecting the rights of children, had been significantly strengthened, however. As the current year was Year of Protection of the Rights of the Child in Ukraine, there had been a strong impetus towards legislative and practical activities. It went without saying that Government efforts could not have been successful without the assistance of foreign Governments, the United Nations and others.

PREM SUWAL ( Nepal ) noted that millions of children around the world faced violence, exploitation, poverty, malnutrition, disease and illiteracy. The trafficking of girls should be given special attention, and there should be greater cross-border cooperation between the countries concerned. Issues regarding children could not be divorced from the larger development challenges, he said. Developing countries, particularly least developed countries like Nepal, needed additional financial and technical assistance to achieve internationally agreed goals such as halving poverty and providing universal access to primary school education by 2015.

Children in Nepal were among the most vulnerable to suffering caused by conflict in recent years, particularly those children living in remote and rural areas and from marginalized communities. The Government was working to promote their development and promote social inclusion. The goal of “Education for All” was being implemented, including through special programmes to reach girls, Dalits and disadvantaged children. Since April 2006, following the successful People’s Movement, the Government had taken measures to prevent child abductions, the recruitment of child soldiers and the detention of children. He added that investment in children’s education and development was inadequate, while there was increased expenditures on destructive weapons around the world.

U WIN MRA ( Myanmar ) said his country had adopted a National Plan of Action to implement the goals set forward in “A World Fit for Children”, and it had taken part in regional endeavours such as ASEAN initiatives. It had acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991 and promulgated a Child Law in 1993. Due to Government initiatives, the under-five mortality rate had been reduced from 77.7 per 1,000 live births in 1999 to 66.6 per 1,000 in 2003; it was hoped that that would be further reduced to below 45 per 1,000 by 2015. Immunization had reached more than 70 per cent of young people and a goal was to have universal education for boys and girls by 2015. Since poverty had been a major barrier to achieving the goals of “A World Fit for Children”, the Government had been paying special attention to bringing about higher economic growth.

Armed conflict had come to a virtual end in Myanmar, he said, with only one insurgent group remaining outside of the legal fold. Schools, hospitals, roads and bridges had been built in areas where it had not been possible in the past. The Government had taken firm measures to prevent the recruitment of children under

18 years of age into the Army, including relevant legislation, the establishment of a high-level committee, and the development of a plan of action to prevent under-aged recruitment. Also, arrangements had been made with the United Nations Development Programme ( UNDP ) and UNICEF to visit military recruitment centres in Yangon and Mandalay to show that recruitments complied with the law.

MAJDI RAMADAN ( Lebanon ) said his country and its children had once again been victims of Israeli aggression last summer, with children making up more than one third of the 1,100 civilians killed. Four thousand children had been injured, many left with permanent disabilities. Children were among the 200,000 people forcefully displaced by Israel, and in Beirut, 18,000 children were still camped in crowded and often unsanitary conditions. The conflict also had resulted in around $70 million worth of damage to the country’s education system and had dealt a rude blow to its medical services, with 70 per cent of all primary health care facilities in the southern villages of Marjayoun and Bint Jbeil completely destroyed.

Above and beyond all the damage and tragedies, the biggest risk to the lives of children in South Lebanon was from unexploded ordnance, which would take months if not years to clear, he said. Since the cessation of hostilities, 124 people had been killed or wounded by unexploded bombs, mostly sub-munitions that landed indiscriminately in civilian areas. Many of those munitions had been designed to look like little toys while others looked like chocolate bars. In closing, he extended his delegation’s warmest thanks to UNICEF, whose staff had demonstrated true heroism by supporting Lebanese children despite personal risk. UNICEF had been the first to provide humanitarian aid to the city of Tyre, with UNICEF personnel crossing rivers on foot to carry aid because bridges and overpasses had been destroyed by Israel.

Introduction of Draft Resolution

The representative of Mongolia introduced the draft resolution on the United Nations Literacy Decade: Education for All ( document A/C.3/61/L.4 ), as orally amended. Co-sponsors of the draft included Algeria, Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Israel, Kazakhstan, Liberia, Madagascar, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, Panama, Russian Federation, Senegal, Thailand and Yemen.

The problem of illiteracy required far greater attention and resources, she said. The draft requested all relevant entities of the United Nations system, particularly the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization ( UNESCO ), to work with national Governments and take concrete steps to address the needs of countries with high illiteracy rates. It also requested the Secretariat to report on progress achieved by Member States in implementing their national action plans for the Decade for consideration by the General Assembly at its sixty-third session.

Ms. CAVALIERE ( Venezuela ) said her country believed that development had to be centred on the human being. It had adopted an organic law which recognized young people as having rights and responsibilities, guaranteed by the State, the family and society. Several measures had been taken, such as comprehensive care programmes for children from households with low incomes or working mothers, balanced school meals, vaccinations for children in the most vulnerable sectors and the right to education, even for children who lack identity papers.

Children’s rights had to be addressed from a broad perspective, and their social and economic environment could not be ignored or disregarded, she said. Poverty, in which millions lived, was a flagrant violation of their rights. Venezuela welcomed the report on violence against children; however, it failed to take into account the poverty perspective. It was hoped that a section on poverty could be included in this year’s draft resolution on the rights of the child.

O. ENKHTSETSEG ( Mongolia ) said her delegation was encouraged by the findings of the Secretary-General’s report on progress towards “A World Fit for Children”. Mongolia had developed its National Plan of Action for the Protection and Development of Children for the period 2002-2010, in line with internationally agreed goals, and was committed to implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Optional Protocols. Her country also had adopted legislation on child protection, domestic violence and on trafficking.

She said the national policy framework aimed to create an enabling social, cultural and political environment that supported children’s participation in areas such as education, justice and governance, and planning and evaluation of all child-related strategies. One example of efforts to ensure children’s participation was a national summit held in November 2005 to assess the progress of implementation of recommendations made by the Committee on the Rights of the Child. The summit meeting included more than 1,000 participants from governmental and non-governmental organizations, including more than 220 children.

VUSALA ALIYEVA ( Azerbaijan ) endorsed the study’s recommendation of comprehensive prevention strategies to address the underlying causes of violence against children. The focus on children living in especially difficult circumstances should be much stronger. Their vulnerability, especially those suffering the consequences of armed conflicts, was much higher than that of children living under normal conditions. Protective factors, particularly efforts to strengthen and support family and good parenting deserved special attention. The gender dimension of violence against children was another issue that required special emphasis.

It was a heartbreaking reality that armed conflict remained one of the major threats undermining the rights of children worldwide. She expressed support for the Special Representative and her activities. She added that Azerbaijan had established a State Committee for Family, Women and Children and had prepared a national plan of action.

FRANKLIN J. MAKANGA ( Gabon ) agreed with the analysis of the in-depth study on all forms of violence against children and supported the recommendations made by the independent expert. The international community so far had failed in its efforts to protect children from violence, in part because adults were always trying to speak on their behalf. Children were the primary victims of armed conflict, poverty, sickness and many kinds of violence, including sexual exploitation. In May 2002, Heads of State had made a commitment to build “A World Fit for Children”, but four years later little had changed. The publication of the historic in-depth study should spur efforts to do more, by Governments, specialized agencies of the United Nations, non-governmental organizations, the media, religious leaders, teachers, parents and children themselves.

Since ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child, his Government had taken many steps to protect children’s rights, he said. One project, supported by UNICEF, was Radio Emergency, which was run by young people. A law to ban the trafficking and exploitation of children had recently been adopted. Gabon also had a parliament for children and a national observatory to monitor children’s rights.

ODETTE FAYE ( Senegal ) said her country had adopted legislation and had set up programmes and services, aimed at children. In education, the President had given priority to a project called “ A Place for Toddlers” which gave very young children in 14,000 villages access to vital services. UNESCO had recognized the project as a universal model, and it demonstrated how Senegalese society was dedicated to education.

In health care, Senegal had introduced such measures as free vaccinations, full care for illnesses, national programmes to combat malaria and HIV/AIDS, and care for children left orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Such measures had helped to bring down the child mortality rate. A programme was in place to combat the worst kinds of child labour; early marriage had become punishable under the penal code. Help was going out to street children, and the Convention of the Rights of the Child had been made part of the school curriculum. Major obstacles remained; unhelpful traditions and beliefs persisted; and some of the best programmes were not available throughout the country due to a lack of training and resources.

GILLES NOGHИS ( Monaco ) said the international community ought to raise the thick veil that masked the suffering of numerous children, particularly little girls, subjected to cruel customs in the name of presumably righteous moral or disciplinary values. Member States must end sordid sex tourism and never use cultural differences as a pretext for criminal behaviour. It was up to all Member States to provide more protection from violence considering the emergency of the issue. His delegation was happy with the progress noted by the in-depth study, particularly in the area of legislation, yet remained troubled by the statistics revealed.

Monaco took care of children with disabilities, in conformity with the guidelines of the European Council and with the United Nations global plan of action, he continued. The improvement of health and education was at the centre of international cooperation efforts concentrating on four African countries. Initiatives included fighting against malnutrition and opportunistic diseases, and against the practice of excision; welcoming children with disabilities; preventing the transmission of HIV/AIDS to small children; and supporting child victims of sex abuse. The fight to protect children and their families was led by Her Royal Highness Princes Caroline of Hanover, in her capacity as Goodwill Ambassador of UNESCO.

Mr. AL-SHAHAB ( Kuwait ) said his country had always given special attention to children. Those under the age of 18 made up the majority of the population. Kuwait had plans and programmes for the health and care of children, and specialized centres had been set up. His country also monitored implementation of the Convention of the Rights of the Child. Many associations had been dealing with children with special needs, such as handicapped youngsters. Kuwait also was home of the first Arab centre for the education and training of autistic children.

His country was interested in children at the regional and international levels, he said. It was home to Arab Child, a 20-year-old publication about educating children in the Arab world. Kuwait wished to point out the suffering of children who had been victims of armed conflict and foreign occupation such as those in Lebanon, where children represented one third of the victims of Israeli violence, and Palestinian children facing Israeli occupation.

Ms. AL-HEMEIDI ( Qatar ) said her country had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and recently had submitted a report to the Committee monitoring compliance with the treaty. Qatar had passed legislation to ban child labour, particularly to protect children from involvement in camel races. The objective was to protect the victims and the Government was working to complete an action plan on children effective in 2008. That plan would include programmes on health, development, and the protection of children from all forms of violence and negligence. An analytical study was planned, the results of which would be incorporated in a bill on children. All ministries and civil society organizations had participated in that effort to strengthen children’s rights.

Qatar had gone through a major period of strengthening institutions for women and children, she said. The Government also worked to eliminate child labour in domestic settings, in both public and private institutions. The High Council for the Family had prepared a plan in cooperation with the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and for the past two years had held training sessions with judges and workplace inspectors. Qatar supported all efforts to improve the status of children and looked forward to a world where all children enjoyed their rights.

SALIMA ABDELHAK ( Algeria ) welcomed the near universal acceptance of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but what did it mean that violence against children -– banned in paragraph 19 of the Convention -– persisted? Had that aspect been neglected in favour of others judged more important, or it was just being tolerated? Children were vulnerable beings, entrusted to grown-ups by God, and there was a responsibility to take care of them, protect them and educate them.

Recommendations in the study into violence against children had been action-oriented, and Algeria supported the proposal to appoint a Special Representative to eliminate such violence, he said. Algeria believed that such a Special Representative should investigate the situation of children growing up under foreign occupation. Domestically, Algeria would continue to consolidate the progress it had made regarding children and the family.

MARIAM J. MWAFFISI ( United Republic of Tanzania ) cited a number of measures her Government had taken to promote and protect children. Tanzania had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Optional Protocols, as well as the Convention on Child Labour. The Government had adopted a policy on child development and protection and had instituted legislation aimed at protecting children’s rights. As national Governments had the primary responsibility to ensure that children were protected from all forms of violence, capacity-building and strengthening national Governments and local actors should be given priority, she said.

She also stressed the need to be aware of the traditional role of families, extended families and the community in combating violence against children. The gradual change in lifestyles due to industrialization, urbanization, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and high levels of poverty had eroded extended family networks and social safety nets. The diminished capacity and poverty at the community level had also contributed to an increase in child labour, she said. Tanzania was working to combat the worst forms of child labour through a pilot programme aimed at the commercial agriculture sector, the domestic service sector, the mining industry, and at commercial sexual exploitation.

Ms. AL-SALAH ( Oman ) said her country was very committed to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and was taking every step necessary for its full implementation. Other agreements had been ratified as well, such as the protocol on trafficking in persons and the ILO convention on minimum age of employment. Oman had been fully engaged in cooperation with UNICEF and other United Nations agencies concerned with children.

Vast strides had been made in education, she said, and significant progress had been made in children’s health with a dramatic drop in child mortality and the immunization rate now at 98 per cent. Malnutrition still seemed to challenge the Omani children, however, and strategies were being implemented to overcome problems arising when young children moved from breastfeeding to semi-solid food. Education was key, and so was children’s input -– a website had been set up for children to express their views, and a television show, moderated by students and encouraging dialogue with Government officials, was to go on air in the new year.

Mr. AL-SADA ( Yemen ) welcomed the in-depth study on all forms of violence against children and hoped its recommendations would be implemented. His delegation was deeply concerned about the dramatic situation of Palestinian children, given the arbitrary measures taken against them by the Israeli occupying forces. He also expressed concern about the cluster bombs left behind by the Israeli army in south Lebanon which continued to kill innocent victims, including children. He urged the international community to take up its responsibilities.

Islamic law required upholding children’s rights from the time of conception, from when they were embryos, he said. Yemen had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Optional Protocols. Article 30 of the country’s Constitution required the State to protect mothers and children. Yemen also had adopted a Law on Children in 2002 and established a Higher Council on Children in 1999. In 2006, the Prime Minister had issued a decree to provide free primary education for children. The Government also had undertaken anti-trafficking measures. Yemen was moving from the legislation to the implementation phase, but still had many obstacles to overcome. He called for more joint efforts, nationally and internationally

MARIAM AL SHAMISI ( United Arab Emirates ) noted that her country was convinced that children under 18, who made up 35 per cent of the population, were the most important asset for the future. Her Government had undertaken a number of legal measures and programmes to ensure the protection of children. The Higher Council on Childhood and Motherhood, chaired by the wife of the late president of the country, had worked to provide support for children and mothers in all areas, including health care, social services and education. Her country last year had passed a law prohibiting the involvement of children under 18 in camel races. The State had applied strict measures to apply that law and was working to combat all forms of trafficking in children. In coordination with UNICEF, the Government had supported children removed from camel races, educated them and reintegrated them back into their families and communities in their home countries.

Her country had made remarkable progress in terms of protecting children’s rights and childcare, including by reducing child mortality rates, reaching an

86 per cent school enrolment rate for both girls and boys and establishing centres for the care of abused or neglected children. Her delegation was deeply concerned about the tragic humanitarian and security conditions for Palestinian children, who were suffering from violence and destruction at the hands of the occupying Israeli Power. She urged the international community to redouble its efforts to compel Israel to stop its hostile policy and respect the provisions of international humanitarian law in the treatment of civilians, including children and women.

ARA MARGARIAN ( Armenia ) said protecting the rights of children had been high on his Government’s agenda, in particular for the Ministry of Labour and Social Issues. Special attention was being paid to preventing the so-called phenomenon of “social orphans” by adopting new legislation and improving existing laws. Child protection policy had been based on the principle of creating a family-like environment for every child, especially those in difficult conditions.

Since the beginning of 2006, in a northern region, a project called “Discharge of Orphanages” had been implemented to cut down the number of social orphans. It was aimed at assisting their return to their families and reactivating their ties with their communities, with their rights protected. The next goal of the project was to have financial resources being spent on social orphans shifted to their families. Foster families would greatly help by taking orphans out of orphanages; here UNICEF’s cooperation was appreciated.

NICOLA HALL ( New Zealand ), also speaking on behalf of Canada and Australia, said there was a need to go beyond providing basic needs; the whole of children’s development and their active participation in their families, communities and States had to be supported. Reform of the United Nations and establishment of the Human Rights Council provided an opportunity not to be missed to create an adequate framework to promote and debate children’s rights. New approaches had to be sought beyond the omnibus resolution on the rights of the child, and United Nations forums had to be opened up to the contributions of children and their representatives.

Canada, Australia and New Zealand supported full consideration of the recommendations in the report on violence against children and supported action to keep the issue at the forefront of the United Nations agenda, she said. They commended progress on implementing Security Council resolution 1612 on children in conflict, and encouraged the Security Council to apply targeted and graduated measures against parties to conflict who continue to commit atrocities against children.

PATRICK RITTER ( Liechtenstein ) said he appreciated the broad approach of the in-depth study on violence against children but was concerned that such breadth could prove more difficult to follow up due to a possible lack of focus and priorities. The United Nations ran the risk of overstretching its efforts and resources if there was no clear division of tasks among the Organization’s offices involved in promoting the rights of children. Creating a new mechanism -– as the study recommended -– would not by itself solve the problem since the mechanism would address all forms of violence against children. Such a broad mandate could blur the differences between various forms of violence and their varying degrees of seriousness. Any mandate to ensure follow-up to the study must be based on clear criteria for action.

Children in vulnerable situations such as armed conflict deserved the international community’s special attention, he continued. Despite promising progress under the leadership of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict, much more must be done to bridge the gap in implementation. Creating a new mechanism to focus on alternative discipline in school and at home would not be commensurate with the seriousness of violations of children’s integrity in several situations outside armed conflict. At the same time, follow-up should be accessible and visible to children. The Human Rights Council could facilitate follow-up and would be well placed to expand monitoring of children’s rights.

JANE ASANI-NDELEMANI ( Malawi ) said her country aligned itself with the statement delivered by Namibia on behalf of the Southern African Development Community ( SADC ). Malawi remained committed to the comprehensive implementation of the internationally agreed upon Millennium Development Goals, of which almost all directly addressed the rights of children and condemned any form of violence against children. Her Government had put into place a number of specific policies that directly impacted young people, among them the National Policy on Early Childhood Development, and the National Policy on Orphans. Furthermore, programmes had been implemented in the areas of health promotion, quality education, protection against abuse and combating the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Malawi, along with the support of UNICEF, had launched the Zero-Tolerance Campaign on Child Abuse, which involved reaching out through the medium of television and radio. Also, paralegals were deployed to monitor prisons and provide legal aid to children in conflict with the law. In an effort to reduce child mortality, she said, her country had implemented an Integrated Management of Childhood Illness approach in order to deal with major illness of orphans and other vulnerable children. Regarding education, Malawi had adopted the Universal Free Primary Education Programme, in addition to programmes designed to address gender issues within education.

WARIF HALABI ( Syria ) said her Government had taken legal and administrative measures to protect the rights of children, recognizing that children’s protection was crucial for society’s development. Fifty-three per cent of her country’s population was under the age of 19. Her Government was working with UNICEF, representatives of civil society and with children themselves to develop a national strategy to improve child protection. A children’s parliament had been active since 2004, and the Government sought to expand that parliament to 14 regions across the country. Campaigns to protect children’s rights and prevent abuse were being conducted through the schools. Syria also had programmes to support the family unit, and had set up a telephone hotline to provide assistance to children in need.

She regretted that many Syrian children did not enjoy the benefits they should, particularly those who suffered from Israeli occupation in the Golan region. Those children suffered from arbitrary actions by the occupying authorities, including the closure of Arabic-language schools and the banning of schoolbooks. She also noted the repressive actions taken against Palestinian children in occupied territories, including violations of their rights to life. Her delegation was horrified by the massacres that occurred during the Israeli invasion of south Lebanon and the many children who were killed there. She noted that even as agreement on a cessation of hostilities was being reached, Israel had dropped many cluster bombs in the form of toys and candies. Those unexploded bombs continued to threaten the lives of children.

LUIS ALBERTO AMOROS NUСEZ ( Cuba ) said that, as the Committee had met once again to assess the fulfilment of commitments made to improve the lives of all children, there was no reason for optimism or celebration. More than 115 million children did not attend school; nearly 11 million under age 5 died every year of curable diseases; and the spreading HIV/AIDS pandemic had already affected

2.2 million children under age 15. Those dramatic figures contrasted with the idyllic world full of opportunity that some wanted to sell, precisely those who had the most and were the only beneficiaries of neo-liberal globalization. In order to ensure that all children of the world enjoyed their rights, eliminating poverty and marginalization, it was necessary to change the unjust world economic order, he said.

He noted that Cuba was one of the first countries to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child and had developed policies and programmes in line with its treaty obligations. Regarding the report of the independent expert on all forms of violence against children, his delegation had expected it to have a more global and comprehensive character, addressing violence from multiple perspectives and avoiding a restricted approach. With respect to the work of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, he expressed concern that the General Assembly was increasingly marginalized from its mandate to promote and protect the rights of children while the Security Council continued to expand its area of competence.

VICTORIA M. SULIMANI ( Sierra Leone ) said that Sierra Leone was taking measures to mitigate some of the problems of post-war trauma in keeping with the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the commitments set out in the final document of the Assembly’s twenty-seventh special session. The first such measure was the establishment of a Ministry for Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, which, among other things, ensured the protection of the rights of all children. The second such action was the establishment of a National Commission for War Affected Children. Since its establishment, the Commission had embarked on several programmes geared towards the promotion and protection of the rights of children, including “trauma healing centres” and advocacy projects for street and amputee children.

As her country was emerging from a decade-long brutal conflict, concerted action was needed to address the problems of children who had suffered the trauma of war, she said. During the negotiations that had helped to end the war, her Government had adopted a pragmatic approach towards the issue of children by including in the Lome Peace Agreement a provision to protect children affected by the conflict in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In addressing the problem of violence, abuse and abduction, the Government had introduced programmes aimed at providing emergency care and services to reunify children affected by the war with their families. The Government had also established a Family Support Unit in the Police Department to intervene in cases of abuse and domestic violence, especially against women and children. A draft Child Rights Bill was awaiting enactment.

The problem of roaming child ex-combatants was a serious matter requiring urgent efforts, she said. By the end of 2005, some 5,651 children, or 96 per cent of the registered children, had been successfully reintegrated with their families. Getting every child into school was of paramount concern to Sierra Leone. A major preoccupation of the Government was ensuring that Sierra Leone attained the goal of universal primary education and gender equality by 2015. The right of every child in Sierra Leone to enjoy the highest standard of health was another priority. Today, Sierra Leone was one of the polio-free countries in the West African subregion. While Sierra Leone had done much to address the promotion and protection of children, much remained to be done. In that regard, she appealed for the international community’s continued support for the cause of Sierra Leone’s children.

KHUNYING LAX

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