Hears Introductory Statements by UNICEF; Commissioner for Human Rights; Special Representative Otunnu

Juvenile justice procedures should be firmly adhered to when young adults were held accountable for their actions, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) this morning as it began considering the promotion and protection of children’s rights.

Mr. Otunnu made the statement in response to questions posed by the representatives of Rwanda and France regarding juvenile justice in situations such as the special tribunal being considered for Sierra Leone. The reference also referred to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol on children and armed conflict, which had been ratified in the past year. P> A young person knew the difference between right and wrong, Mr. Otunnu said. The purpose of delineating between youths above and below the age of eighteen was to protect children from abuse and exploitation, not to give young people licence. Juvenile justice existed precisely because young people could be held accountable. The objective, however, was rehabilitation and not punishment.

The important point with regard to juvenile justice was to focus on the process itself, said Andr Roberfroid, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). He said the concept of rights was not just a legal issue. Rights were no longer a problem for lawyers but for everybody in society. Justice for juveniles should be different from that for adults. It should not be just imprisonment or punishment. Young people should be trained beyond the capacity of their judgements.

Elissavet Stamatoupoulou, of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said training should be a strong element in considering children’s rights. The important point was that the highest standards of juvenile justice should be applied.

Participating in a question-and-answer exchange between guest speakers and Committee members were the representatives of France (on behalf of the European Union), Rwanda, Libya, Canada, Cuba, Sudan, India and Iraq.

Third Committee – 1a – Press Release GA/SHC/3588 18th Meeting (AM)11 October 2000

Statements were then made by the representatives of France, on behalf of the European Union, Colombia (on behalf of the Rio Group), Japan, and Namibia, on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

The Committee will meet again at 3 p. m. today to continue considering issues related to the promotion and protection of children’s rights.

Third Committee- 3 – Press Release GA/SHC/3588 18th Meeting (AM)11 October 2000

Committee Work Programme

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to begin its deliberations on promoting and protecting the rights of children.

The Committee has before it a report of the Committee on the Rights of the Child. It also has the Secretary-General’s reports on the status of the Conventions on the Rights of the Child and on Children and Armed Conflict. Notes by the Secretary-General transmit the reports of his Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, and the interim report of the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights regarding the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

The report of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (document A/55/41; Suppl. 41) summarizes the Committee’s activities at its eighteenth to twenty-second sessions. It further contains the conclusions and recommendations adopted regarding children in armed conflict and the administration of juvenile justice.

The report states that, as of 28 January, the closing session of the twenty- third session of the Committee, 191 States were parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Also, as of that date, the Committee had received 144 initial reports and 32 periodic reports on implementation of the Convention. A total of 118 reports had been examined by the Committee.

The overall report further outlines the Committee’s consideration of the country reports during its eighteenth to twenty-third sessions. Those include the initial reports of Armenia, Austria, Barbados, Belize, Benin, Chad, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ecuador, Guinea, Grenada, Hungary, India, Iraq, Fiji, Japan, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Maldives, Mali, Netherlands, Sierra Leone, Saint Kitts and Nevis, South Africa, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Vanuatu and Venezuela. Also considered were the second periodic reports of Bolivia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Peru, Russian Federation, Sweden and Yemen.

The Committee’s concluding observations about each report are contained in the overall report. Issues requiring follow-up are also indicated. In addition, the report describes other activities of the Committee, including procedural undertakings and coordination of international cooperation for implementation of the Convention. Annexes to the report list the States which had ratified or acceded to the Convention; Committee membership; status of States parties reports; and a note from Iraq concerning its initial report, considered on 23 and 24 September 1998.

The Secretary-General’s report on the status of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (document A/55/201) states that, as at 5 July, 191 States had ratified or acceded to the Convention. At that same date, the optional protocol on involvement of children in armed conflict had been signed by eight States (Argentina, Cambodia, Canada, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Sweden, United States). The optional protocol on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography had been signed by six States (Cambodia, Chile, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, United States).

The report describes initiatives taken towards implementation of the Convention. It then outlines measures taken to prevent and eradicate the exploitation of children; to protect children affected by armed conflict; to assist refugee and internally displaced children; to eliminate child labour; to alleviate the plight of street children; and to promote the rights of children with disabilities.

A note by the Secretary-General transmits the report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (document A/55/442). The report should be read in conjunction with the Secretary-General’s report to the Security Council and to the General Assembly on the same subject (see below).

The report states that children are suffering amid armed conflict and its aftermath in 50 countries around the world today. Today’s civil wars are exploiting, maiming and killing more children than ever since traditional authority figures and value systems are no longer respected and children are left uprooted. Although they were the least responsible for conflict, children suffer disproportionately.

The report describes activities and initiatives taken by the Special Representative over the past year. Those include efforts to implement international standards, most notably through the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child with regard to children and armed conflict, adopted during the reporting period. The report describes activities involving the Security Council, regional organizations and the United Nations system, as well as those for placing protection of children on peace agendas and neighbourhood initiatives. The results of country visits to Sierra Leone, Northern Ireland, East and West Timor, and Colombia are described, as are other cooperative undertakings such as with women’s organizations, the media and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Progress achieved during the Special Representative’s first mandate is described in the report. A section sums up future plans to build a movement for the protection of children affected by conflict.

The Committee also had before it a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the interim report on the Sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (document A/55/297). The report was prepared by Ofelia Calcetas-Santos, Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights, and it summarizes her working methods and activities towards the effective fulfilment of her mandate in the areas of the sale of children, child prostitution and pornography as they pertain to commercial sexual exploitation.

According to the report, the Special Rapporteur has identified three catalysts which she believes are both causative and preventive of commercial exploitation:the justice system, the media and education. The crucial role those catalysts play has been validated throughout her research. It soon became apparent that another catalyst — perhaps the most fundamental — needed to be examined:the family. In a vast number of cases, where a child had been exploited, the roots of that exploitation could be traced back to the family situation. In order to obtain a comparative view of developments relating to domestic violence and commercial sexual exploitation, in June 1999, the Special Rapporteur sent a circular to all governments, relevant United Nations bodies and agencies, and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, soliciting information to be used in her report to the Commission on Human Rights.

Further to the report, the Special Rapporteur carried out follow-up to country missions. In July 1999, she wrote letters to the Governments of the Czech Republic, United States, Kenya, Mexico, and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. She received a response from the Government of Mexico. In May 2000, she wrote again to the other four Governments and also to the Governments of Belgium, Netherlands, Guatemala and Fiji. She received a response from the Government of Guatemala. On the activities of the Special Rapporteur, the report notes that since the fifty-fifth session of the Commission on Human Rights, she has carried out one field mission. From February 28 to 3 March 2000, she visited Morocco (Casablanca, Rabat, Meknes, Tangier and Marrakech) at the invitation of the Government.

The Committee also had before it the Secretary-General’s report on Children in armed conflict (document A/55/163-S/2000/712). The report was submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 1261 (1999), which gives legitimacy to the protection of children exposed to conflict as an issue properly belonging on the Security Council’s agenda.

According to the report, in the internecine conflicts of recent years, children have increasingly been victimized as both targets and the perpetrators of violence. Almost one half of the world’s 21 million refugees are children, while it is estimated that another 13 million children have been displaced within the borders of their own countries. The number of children induced or forced to take up arms as child soldiers is generally thought to be in the range of 300,000. Each year, between 8,000 and 10,000 children are victims of landmines. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has indicated that during the decade between 1986 and 1996, armed conflicts killed 2 million children, injured 6 million, traumatized over 10 million and left more than 1 million orphaned.

The report outlines activities undertaken to protect children caught in conflict situations. Areas covered include monitoring of obligations and commitments; measures to encourage compliance with obligations; ensuring access to humanitarian assistance; curbing the illicit flow of small arms; ending the threat of landmines; protecting children under sanctions; care for uprooted and displaced children; the special needs of girls; and child soldiers and education.

Also covered in the report are steps taken to integrate the protection of children into peacemaking and peacekeeping, including reporting responsibilities to the Security Council. Post-conflict peace-building initiatives and plans are outlined and graphically set out, as are regional initiatives and the role of NGOs and civil society. Recommendations are made in each regard. Among the concluding observations are a call for early-warning mechanisms and a recommendation for an assessment mechanism.

Introductory Remarks

OLARA A. Otunnu, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, said that over the past three years important and tangible progress had been made in the agenda for the protection of children affected by armed conflict. The Security Council had formally affirmed that the fate of such children belonged legitimately on its agenda. In the space of a few years, major regional organizations had come to embrace the issue as part of their own agendas. In addition, a number of governments had made the protection of children affected by armed conflict a prominent feature of their domestic and international policies.

In a very significant development, he said, the Security Council had agreed to incorporate the protection of children into peacekeeping mandates. The establishment of child-protection advisers in United Nations peacekeeping operations was an important innovation. Child-protection sections had now become an established feature of regular reports to the Council, on specific conflict situations as well as on thematic concerns. In addition, important advocacy work had focused on making the needs of children a central concern in policy making, priority setting and resource allocation in post-conflict situations. That had started to bear fruit, as could be seen in East Timor, Sierra Leone, Kosovo and Guatemala.

He said that in developing the activities for the mandate ahead, emphasis must be placed on follow-up to the progress made in the following areas, in order to consolidate and deepen those gains, and to ensure that emerging trends became fully embedded practices. The areas of concern include:monitoring and controlling illicit trade in natural resources that fuelled conflicts; providing training for peacekeeping personnel; developing a research agenda to help fill knowledge gaps; and reaching out to and involving young people in the movement for the protection of children affected by armed conflict. Also, the international community needed to mobilize to address the special needs of girls affected by armed conflict, internally displaced children, the liberation of abducted children, the impact of sanctions on children and the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS in the corridors of armed conflict.

In terms of collective ambitions, he said that one goal was to channel the various actions and initiatives into a critical mass of activities, whose impact could be truly felt on behalf of children affected by armed conflict. A second was to aim to build a culture of advocacy, protection and response for the benefit of those children, which should become self-sustaining beyond the lifespan of the mandate of the Special Representative. A third was to implement an “era of application” on the ground, and finally, to give rise to a major social and political movement for the protection of children affected by armed conflict.

ANDRE ROBERFROID, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said that 10 years after the entry into force of the Convention on the Right of the Child, child rights were now recognized as human rights, to be ensured by adult society as a matter of legal obligation, moral imperative and development priority. Years of effort in support of the implementation of the Convention had also made clear that the realization of the rights of children depended not only on what governments did, but on the mobilization of the broadest possible range of partners within the United Nations system, in civil society and, increasingly, in the private sector. He said that in a little more than a year, the General Assembly would hold its special session on the follow-up to the World Summit for Children. The aim would be to mobilize a broad-based global movement in the cause of children s rights. The intended outcome was a new global agenda for children — an agenda that would decisively advance the realization of the rights of all children, as set out in the Convention.

The Convention, he said, provided the legal foundation, as well as the ethical and moral principles, that guided UNICEF s actions for children. The Committee on the Rights of the Child continued to play a vital role in promoting concrete changes in law, policy and practice by acting as the international mechanism through which the progress of States parties in implementation was reviewed and assessed. The Committee also offered guidance and support to all those that worked in the cause of children s rights. However, the very success of the Convention in attracting broad international commitment to the achievement of its goals had produced a staggering workload for the Committee. It was for that reason that UNICEF would urge States parties to accept the proposed amendment, which would increase the Committee s membership from 10 to 18.

He said that UNICEF continued to work with others to strengthen and promote adherence to international standards for the protection of children s rights. This year s tenth anniversary of the Convention and the World Summit for Children was a good time to reflect on the challenges that had impeded progress in implementation and on how those challenges might be overcome. Prominent among those challenges were poverty, the spread of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and the effects of armed conflict on children. In the last 10 years, 2 million children had died as a result of war, while a further 2 million had been left homeless, and 6 million had been injured or physically disabled. Those that survived suffered long-lasting psychological effects. They were the first to suffer poverty, malnutrition and ill-health that resulted from the disruptions and dislocations of war. Endless treaties, conventions and conferences around the world had made promises to children — good faith promises to ease the suffering, promote protection and end exploitation — but all too often, those promised had gone unfulfilled.

Recently, there had been some encouraging developments, he continued. Notable among those had been the Security Council s adoption of resolution 1261 on children and armed conflict. That decision illustrated the growing visibility of children in international discussions of peace and security. Council resolution 1314 of last August had been a welcome reaffirmation of the responsibility of governments, rebel groups and the private sector to ensure that the fundamental rights of children were protected in times of war, as well as in peacetime. Two years ago, UNICEF had identified five priority areas on which to focus its efforts and resources. Among those, four were geared towards addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic and bringing the devastating impact of its effects to the attention of policy makers at all levels. The final priorities were to strengthen the capacity of families and communities to identify and respond to the needs of orphans and vulnerable children.

ELISSAVET STAMATOPOULOU-ROBBINS, Deputy to the Director, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that after the success of the quasi-universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the international community was clearly facing the challenge of implementation. The rapid ratification of the Convention had generated an ever-increasing amount of work for all partners involved in the implementation and monitoring process, including the Committee on the Rights of the Child itself. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was providing special support to the activities linked to the implementation of the Convention through a plan of action designed to strengthen implementation. The plan of action provided substantive support to the Committee, assisted States in meeting their reporting obligations, and facilitated activities to follow up the recommendations of the Committee.

The Office devoted particular attention to children affected by armed conflict. Specific activities focusing on children so affected were closely linked to implementation of the Machel Study recommendations on the impact of armed conflict on children. Furthermore, said Ms. Stamatopoulou-Robbins, the Office was finalizing a field guide for human rights staff, in which attention is given to armed conflict situations and children’s rights. The Office had systematically provided child rights input into draft reports and other material developed within the United Nations system, in an effort to contribute to a consistent and effective United Nations approach to the protection of the rights of children affected by armed conflict. Through its field presence in regions of armed conflict, the Office conducted human rights investigations, monitoring, reporting and technical cooperation, focusing at times on the specific situation of children.

She told the Committee that the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography had focused her attention on the protection of children and on the role of the family. Her report to the fifty- sixth session of the Commission on Human Rights had provided an overview of responses received from governmental and non-governmental sources concerning domestic violence and its impact upon children. The information received confirmed the existence of a strong link between the way a child was treated at home, and his or her subsequent entry into commercial sexual exploitation. Harmful treatment of a child included not only physical and sexual abuse, but also witnessing violence within the family, and being subjected to emotional neglect. During 2000, the Special Rapporteur had also started to examine the role of the business sector on the protection of the rights of children under her mandate.

Question-and-Answer Session

The representative of France asked several questions of behalf of the European Union. She wondered about Mr. Otunnu s efforts to ensu