Preparatory Committee for the 2001 HR/4518

Special Session of the General Assembly 31 January 2001

on the Children s World Summit

6th Meeting (PM)


Children and Armed Conflict, HIV/AIDS among Issues Highlighted

The Preparatory Committee for the General Assembly s special session on children continued its discussion of the draft provisional outcome document this afternoon, with speakers highlighting, among others, children in armed conflict, HIV/AIDS, the rights-based approach, and international legal obligations.

The 16-page draft text — entitled A World Fit for Children – was prepared by the Committee s Bureau for consideration at the current session, the second of three in preparation for the special session, which is scheduled for

19-21 September.

Olara Otunnu, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, said that children affected by armed conflict were among the most vulnerable in the world, next to those affected by AIDS. It was time for some bold and imaginative action to help those children, and the special session represented a unique opportunity for action. In that spirit, he had put together an agenda for action for war-affected children. At the same time, on the issue of resources aimed at such children, there had been more lip service than actual commitment.

Speaking on behalf of the European Union, the representative of Sweden said that, although he agreed with the emphasis on a number of issues in the draft document, including the rights-based approach, he felt that there was need for improvement. The final document had to give clear priorities and not be all-inclusive.

The representative of Colombia, speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said that the draft document should be fluid and easy to understand. It was important that children and adolescents be able to understand it. The document should have a strong legal basis, guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Paulo David, of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the cause of children everywhere would be strengthened if the approach of the special session was based on clear links to international legal

Preparatory Committee – 1a – Press Release HR/4518

6th Meeting (PM) 31 January 2001

obligations, on mechanisms to ensure accountability, on broader participation and empowerment, and on the duty to prevent and avoid discrimination.

Also speaking at the meeting were the representatives of Guatemala, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Russian Federation, Venezuela, Iceland, Ecuador, Norway, Republic of Korea, Turkey, Thailand, China, India, Israel and Bolivia. The Permanent Observer for the Holy See also spoke. A representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) and several non-governmental organizations also addressed the Committee.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a. m. Thursday, 1 February.

Committee Work Programme

The Preparatory Committee for the special session of the General Assembly for the follow-up to the 1990 World Summit for Children met this afternoon to continue consideration of the outcome of the special session.


CRISTINA MUNDUATE (Guatemala) said that her Government’s social policy regarded the reduction of infant and maternal mortality and fostering universal access to primary education as priorities. It had introduced a series of sectoral policies and programmes to realize those goals. It had also adopted measures aimed at benefiting people with the lowest incomes.

With regard to the outcome document, she said that it should include a summary of the objectives of the decade, as well as an analysis of the principal factors that hindered the realization of the goals. It should also incorporate an action plan that would allow a proper orientation of efforts in connection with protection and participation of children and adolescents.

She emphasized the importance of strengthening the Committee on the Rights of the Child. It should be given the necessary resources in order to properly carry out its functions. It was also necessary to provide specific thematic rapporteurs on the theme of the child and the adolescent in order to reinforce the full implementation of the Convention of the Rights of the Child.

One of the most pressing challenges for the new decade, she added, was the problem of children and adolescents who resorted to violence in order to survive and street children. That problem should also be addressed in the final document.

ALFONSO VALDIVIESO (Colombia), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said the draft outcome document should contain elements from the declaration of the tenth Ibero-American countries and the Fifth Ministerial Meeting on Children and Social Policy of the Americas, held in Kingston, Jamaica.

He said that the Rio Group also favoured a short, concise and action-oriented document which should be fluid and easy to understand. It was important that children and adolescents would be able to understand it. It should also take into account national reports. Challenges should reflect the effects of globalization, violence against children and the impact of HIV/AIDS.

Further, he continued, the document should have a strong legal basis, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child should be prominently incorporated. That document should also benefit from the outcomes of major conferences, such as those on human rights and racism, as well as from regional meetings. Sustainable development should be included, and the plight of children who have used violence as a means of survival, as well as the problems of street children, should be addressed. The Rio Group was also concerned about the issue of child labours and would like this concern reflected in the document. It would also be sending its proposals in writing to the Bureau.

THOMAS HAMMARBERG (Sweden), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that the draft outcome document had been well received and made a number of crucial points. The Union welcomed the emphasis on the rights-based approach, poverty reduction, education and combating HIV/AIDS. The text, however, could and should be improved. The final document had to give clear priorities and not be all-inclusive. There should be an emphasis on implementation and, therefore, on strategies and concrete measures aimed at different actors; that was to say, on how changes were to be achieved. The outcome document should serve as an effective tool for change.

The outcome document should be based on a clear and comprehensive analysis of the problems and possibilities for children, he said. It should emphasize the interdependence of generations and the importance of seeing children as part of families and wider communities. The important role of the father should also be recognized. An analysis of causes and effects might also be contained in the report. Child poverty must be an integral part of all poverty-reduction strategies and be included in the overall international development agenda. Also, the outcome document should relate to the relevant world conferences and their follow-up sessions. It should be rooted in previous agreements relating directly to children, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It was not, however, necessary to restate all aspects of the Convention. The special session should focus on the main principles and seek consensus on the realization of rights.

There should be a clear stance against all forms of violence and abuse against children, including in institutions and home settings, he said. To make the document an important action tool, distinctions must be made between joint undertakings by participating governments and recommendations to the international agencies. The outcome document should focus on key priorities and not set too many goals. He suggested a focus on key goals and time frames that had already been agreed to at previous world conferences and follow-up meetings.

HADI NEJAD HOSSEINIAN (Iran) said the draft should serve as a starting point. The draft required more attention to action, commitments, strategies, challenges and tasks, at both the national and international levels. National capacity-building, infrastructures, social services, poverty and education were pillars of a sound and comprehensive reform policy at the national level. Global issues, however, must also be given serious attention.

The vision, strategy and goals in the draft outcome document should be updated in accordance with recent developments at the international level, he said. Globalization was a key factor, shaping today s world and offering new challenges. While women and children were the beneficiaries of undeniable opportunities, they also suffered from the adverse impact of globalization. The document should be more focused and far-reaching in introducing measures to fully use the dynamism of globalization and reverse its negative impact.

Discrimination was a serious, old wound that continued to plague societies, he said. Gender inequality and racial discrimination constituted threatening challenges and must not be allowed to impede the sustained development of children s rights and well-being. The present draft failed to capture the complex challenge of children in armed conflict. Also, strengthening the institution of the family was one of the most effective ways to protect children from numerous threats, and the outcome document should give prominence to that issue.

MOUSHIRA KHATTAB (Egypt) said the World Summit had secured unprecedented unanimity and that most countries had honoured their obligation by submitting national reports. That was a positive achievement, which should be acknowledged in the draft outcome document. Negotiations should also be guided by that progress, as it was a time for lessons learned.

There were some promises that had not been fulfilled and the reasons for that must be found. Those reasons should shape the goals for the next decade. The draft document should also be an action plan, which would strive to offer a better life for children all over the world. Marginalized children, such as those under occupation, involved in armed conflict or the victims of economic sanctions, as well as the girl child, should receive special attention. In addition developing countries must be helped in security resources. In establishing objectives, some attention should be given to quality, as well as quantity, because quantity alone was not enough. She also supported the initiative on the need to strengthen the family.

MUBARAK HUSSEIN RAHMTALLA (Sudan) said that, despite the great achievements since 1990, many objectives had still not been reached. The special session would provide the basis for reviewing what had been accomplished so far, and follow a pragmatic approach to dealing with constraints. Poverty and inequality could not be eradicated when infrastructures, especially in developing countries, were crumbling.

With regard to the outcome document, he said it represented a good start. Negotiation and dialogue would be important in achieving a final document. It was important that the final document contained elements relating to the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995) and the World Summit for Social Development (Copenhagen, 1995). In addition, the role of the family should be emphasized. Above all, the final document should express the interests of children throughout the world.

N. V. TCHOULKOV (Russian Federation) said that while he was impressed by the long-term goals set forth the draft document, the deadlines for goals put forward should be correlated with actual opportunities of certain countries. He appreciated that the document provided for the interests of the economies in transition. The specific needs and requirements of that group of countries should be reflected in the draft. The first version of the outcome document, as a whole, needed substantial elaboration to make it more streamlined and logical. Among its major drawbacks was a bias towards the promotion of the rights of the child, while insufficiently providing for social and economic conditions. The role of the family in protecting the rights of the child was underestimated. The draft document virtually ignored the need to combat drug abuse and addiction among adolescents.

The document was not very well structured, he added. Goals and objectives preceded strategies. The draft outcome should include an analysis of the follow-up to the World Summit for Children, using the data contained in national reports, as well as the recommendations of regional conferences. The experiences of countries that had achieved particular results would allow for a more pragmatic and realistic formulation of recommendations. Furthermore, the five proposed strategies in the draft outcome should be elaborated.

LENIN ROMERO (Venezuela) said that he supported the position outlined by the representative of Peru on:gender mainstreaming; education and training; participation and programmes; and the participation of adolescents. He supported the establishment of State and social responsibility. He reiterated the need to develop a follow-up system for monitoring policies. He affirmed the need to create mechanisms for the participation of civil society and interest groups. Clearly, the revised document explained the problem of poverty.

He suggested replacing paragraphs 9 and 10, on the issue of poverty. For paragraph 9, he would like to add commitments to overcoming social inequalities. Regarding paragraph 10, in all undertakings vision should be based on the firm belief that human rights were interdependent and indivisible. Protecting the best interests of children required a commitment by States parties.

GRETA GUNNASDOTTIR (Iceland), addressing the issue of violence against children, said that much of the abuse inflicted was committed by private individuals and often took the form of sexual abuse and domestic violence. Bullying was another form of violence committed against children, often by other children. She admitted that some might believe that bullying was not of great concern to the international community. Considering that it often happened within schools and other official institutions, she believed it should be addressed by national authorities.

She suggested that the wording on alcohol and drug abuse contained in the draft outcome document should be strengthened considerably, to reflect the fact that children seldom resorted to illegal drugs without first having started to consume alcohol. Member States should not only concentrate on preventive measures in that regard, but should also provide children with access to treatment and rehabilitation when preventive measures failed.

MARGARITA VELASCO (Ecuador) said that the final document should go beyond just setting goals and address the issue of citizen’s rights. It should also include poverty relief and the impact of external debt on the lives of children. Attention should also be given to the incessant violence in the lives of adolescents. In Ecuador, more young people were dying from social causes, such as suicide, rather than from biological causes.

She believed that children and young people should be allowed to participate at all levels, in order to build a society in which both groups could thrive. The issues of discrimination and migration should also be incorporated in the outcome document. Migration was of particular concern in the region, since it had blighted the lives of many children. Governments should be asked to establish policies to reduce its negative impact.

METTE RAVN (Norway) said that the final outcome document should be global in nature and serve as an effective tool for action. The document should be rights based, promoting the implementation of the Convention, and should build on other relevant human rights instruments. The document should also consider the challenges that had emerged in the last decade, including HIV and the rise in the number of conflicts. The structure was rather unclear and repetitive. The total number of goals should be limited, otherwise the document s effectiveness would be reduced. The section on strategies should be further elaborated.

The challenge of realizing children s rights should be reflected in the context of poverty eradication, he continued. The threats presented by environmental degradation should receive greater attention. The reduction of child and maternal mortality rates should be major goals. Effective action must be taken to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS. The outcome document should also provide for free education. Education for girls was especially important. Partnerships should be established with parents and local communities. Quality education was the most effective tool for combating child labour.

More attention should be given to vulnerable children, especially children affected by armed conflict, she said. Among vulnerable groups, girls suffered most. Gender perspectives should, therefore, be mainstreamed throughout the document. The problems of early marriage and pregnancies, violence and harmful traditional practices should also be addressed. The right to participate should include children and youth. The outcome document should not call for the establishment of new monitoring mechanisms. Existing mechanisms, such as national monitoring mechanisms, should be used.

LIM JAE-HONG (Republic of Korea) preferred a simpler structure for the outcome document. The basic structure of the document should include a review and appraisal of the implementation of the 1990 World Declaration and Plan of Action, new challenges and opportunities, future actions and strategies and monitoring mechanisms. The Committee must be realistic in setting targets and goals for the next decade. The outcome document should give priority to areas where relatively less achievement had been made. The degree of achievement varied from region to region. Targets should be tailored and more specific towards each region and subject.

The outcome document should set specific targets and goals, especially for children in least developed countries, he said. The girl child was still one of the most marginalized groups in most parts of the world. He hoped that the outcome document would be more gender-sensitive. He proposed the inclusion of new goals and targets, specifically for the girl child and girl adolescents.

The world had recently witnessed an upsurge in violence against children, he continued, and the outcome document should contain actions and strategies to address it. He also proposed the strengthening of the Committee on the Rights of the Child. The valuable insight of civil society and non-governmental organization members should be reflected in the final outcome document.

OLARA Otunnu, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, said that children affected by armed conflict were among the most vulnerable in the world, next to those affected by HIV/AIDS. It was time for some bold and imaginative action to help those children. The special session represented a unique opportunity for action, which would make a real difference in the lives of those children.

It was in that spirit that he put together an agenda for action for war-affected children, he said. It included the importance of organizing a means to monitor the conduct of parties involved in armed conflict against children. The rights of those children should be integrated into the peace and security agenda.

Delegates were in a position to take measures to curb the recruitment of child soldiers on the ground, he continued. On the issue of resources that were aimed at children affected by armed conflict, there had been more lip service, than actual commitment. A space must be created for the participation of children and young people at all levels. The international community needed to embark on a major information campaign, to build a social movement across borders aimed at protecting children affected by armed conflict.

UMIT PAMIR (Turkey) said that since food consumed in early childhood had a long-term effect, the draft outcome document should emphasize food security, safety and sustainability. It should outline the important role played by foster and adoptive families and include measures aimed at integrating disabled children with other children.

He added that since children around the world, especially in developing countries, suffered considerably from environmental hazards, such as water and air pollution, the document should address environmental degradation as one of the major challenges facing the world. He concluded that it was mainly the will and effort at the national level that could make a meaningful change in the lives of children. International efforts without an effective backing at the domestic level would not produce the desired results.

SAISUREE CHUTIKUL (Thailand) said that mental health should receive more attention, as children today suffered from intense stress and trauma, stemming from the economic crisis, family crisis, war and all forms of exploitation. Many children exhibited intense aggression. Counselling services should be provided to all children in need of rehabilitation, recovery and reintegration. Greater emphasis should also be put on the prosecution of perpetrators, criminals and abusers.

Drug problems were still rampant in her region, she continued. More children – some as young as 11 years old – were involved in the drug business as consumers and traffickers. In the draft document, it was unfortunate that neglected or abandoned children had only been mentioned in passing. A short paragraph highlighting the concerns of neglected and abandoned children could also be inserted in an appropriate place in the text. Further, youth groups and young adults could become more active advocates for children. The importance of their involvement could not be overemphasized. It was also important to ensure the participation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The international community must be more proactive in strategies and actions related to the protection of children.

WANG XINGGEN (China) said that, although the principle of putting children first had been accepted by the international community, their general situation had not changed substantively. The number of children living in poverty had risen. Disease had not been contained. Too many school-age children were still unable to attend school. War, armed conflicts and economic sanctions affected the survival of many children. The outcome document should be objective and should reflect the obstacles that impeded the development of children. It should also propose appropriate solutions. Poverty was the primary factor hindering the development of children. The quality of basic social services was key. The primary strategy should be based on the promotion of economic development, with the development of child-related services as a core component.

Regarding the role of governments and the international community, he said that the core role of governments was indispensable. The present document had not adequately addressed the role of the international community in promoting the cause of children. It was appropriate for the international community to help developing countries in promoting the cause of children through provision of official development assistance (ODA) and the transfer of technology. The document had also provided for a broad framework for setting national goals and targets. The targets contained in paragraph 34 of the draft document were not clearly articulated.

VEENA S. RAO (India) said that in order to strengthen the health component of the final document, specific goals should be established regarding the reduction of low birth-weight babies, the elimination of Vitamin A and iodine deficiency disorders, and the reduction in anaemia in women and children, as was done at the World Summit.

On the issue of violence against children, she said that the goal set should be the complete prohibition of violence against children, rather than a reduction of child victims of violence by half. She believed that all governments and societies should take firm anddecisive action against the heinous offence of child abuse and the sexual exploitation of children. She hoped that the World Summit goals would not only represent a commitment of governments, but also act as a means to awaken the conscience of society to protect children’s rights. Only through the partnership of government and the community could a social contract be developed to secure children’s rights.

YEHUDA LANCRY (Israel) said his country had always believed that the way a society treated its children mirrored its values. Childhood was a golden age, a paradise of innocence and dreams, and yet it had become a paradise lost for many children. Israel had supported the efforts of the international community to codify standards for the treatment of children.

He emphasized that there were still many obstacles to overcome in the international campaign to protect children. Anachronistic social and traditional values that persisted in many societies were a major barrier to improvements in the treatment and development of children on a global scale. For that reason, the World Summit for Children had been an important event. All States and NGOs should make greater efforts in promoting children’s rights. Respect for the dignity of all human beings, including children, should be a common denominator among all cultures and traditions, providing a normative and moral framework for action.

JARMILA MORAVEK (Bolivia) said that some 2 million children suffered from poverty. Most did not enrol in primary schools and many lived as street children, exploited and abused. The primary objective of her Government was to reverse those indicators and overcome the inequalities that affected children. Her country s health policies were based on the implementation of institutionalized health care and the practice of providing children with free, quality medical care. In its educational policies, Bolivia had taken important steps in educational reform, which were intended to ensure that education was multicultural and multilingual. It was important to keep rural children in school.

Urgent attention must be given to improving the living conditions for children, she said. Structural poverty in many countries meant than children were involved in labour and suffered great injustices. Such ills must be overcome

Archbishop RENATO MARTINO, Permanent Observer for the Holy See, noted specific elements taken from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Plan of Action of the World Summit for Children which, he said, must have a proper place in the final outcome document. The first was the promotion and protection of the right to life, as well as the human dignity, and rights of the child before and after birth. The second was the fact that the family was the basic unit of society and had primary responsibility for the nurturing and protection of children from infancy to adolescence. The outcome document must also include strong statements concerning sustainable development, debt relief and the eradication of poverty.

While there had been many successes during the past 11 years, many shortfalls and goals had not been met, he said. The outcome document reaffirmed the best interests of humanity through serving the best interests of the world s children.

PAULO DAVID, of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the draft outcome document should be careful to avoid any possible perception that the outcome of the special session could create parallel or overlapping processes for international commitment or monitoring of the condition of children. It should ensure that all international efforts were strongly centred on the Convention and other relevant treaties mentioned in the draft. The cause of children everywhere would be strengthened if the approach to the special session and its outcome was based:on clear links to international legal obligations; mechanisms to ensure accountability; broader participation and empowerment; and the duty to prevent and avoid discrimination.

In addition, he continued, the special session should set clear objectives and targets for protecting child rights from the impact of armed conflict and eliminating the involvement of children in hostilities. They were often the most innocent of civilian victims. Such targets should also identify certain rights that were only partly addressed by the current draft document. By keeping child rights firmly at the centre of its efforts, the special session could help to ensure that future international efforts continued to focus on the indivisible human rights that recognized all children entitled to enjoy a childhood.

Mr. TROEDSSON, of the World Health Organization (WHO), said that health should be a key priority in our collective agenda because without health there could be no development. Without health, children would be unable to fulfil the potential that was within each of them; and without health, wealth had no meaning.

He welcomed the stress on early childhood development as outlined in the draft document, as that meant attention was being paid to the psychosocial growth and development. Children whose newborn period was compromised because of inadequate care could not fulfil their individual potential or contribute fully to their commitments. Early childhood development should, therefore, be closely linked to the programmes fostering improved health of newborn babies.

He was also pleased that the document placed strong emphasis on education for later childhood, but pointed out that there were specific health issues that were critical during that period, and that should be addressed.

He offered his organization’s support in a number of ways in the next decade which included helping to identify research needs and leading a broad-based partnership bringing together other international organizations, countries and institutions to develop clear targets and indicators for health-related goals.

A representative of ECPAT International said more than some 2 million children were working as prostitutes. The child sex business was a multi- billion-dollar industry. The growing phenomenon was aided by the changing world, especially the Internet. Sex tourists shared information among themselves on where to find child prostitutes. Cell phones and pagers had pushed the problem off the streets indoors. Where exploited children were in the reach of help, they were now difficult to identify. Disparities of income had been exacerbated by globalization. Men could travel the world to find children. Mass culture more often eroticized the bodies of younger girls. The draft outcome document mentioned the need to end the problem of commercial sexual exploitation. It did not, however, mention sex exploitation in the home. Children who were sexually abused at home would be more likely to enter the sex business, or become abusers themselves.

The representative of Plan International said that governments had begun a series of consultations at the regional level. Those consultations were in the early stages and required continued commitment. The draft outcome document had already had significant input from civil society. The inclusive document must focus on critical issues affecting children. The minimum obligations to the child should be registry at birth, the right to nationality and access to education. The impact of HIV/AIDS was a key issue requiring immediate attention. The NGO civil society was lending its fullest support to make the commiment a reality.

A representative of the Arigatou Foundation said that poverty was the chief obstacle for children and often led to violations of their rights. Understanding poverty was a complex phenomenon, and it was important to recognize that it had a spiritual dimension. Poverty was both material and spiritual. Material poverty obstructed sound physical development and wore down the intrinsic value of being human. Children were born into a vicious cycle of impoverishment. At the same time, the exclusive preoccupation with self and greed, regardless of the consequences, distorted many materially wealthy countries. The very fact that a society allowed some to live in poverty revealed that the society was spiritually poor. Poverty was a multidimensional phenomenon and a comprehensive approach was needed to deal with it.