Fifty-seventh General Assembly
20th Meeting (AM)
As the General Assembly s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) continued its consideration of the rights of children, many delegates stressed that the situation of children in armed conflicts added to the already tremendous challenges of poverty, HIV/AIDS, sexual exploitation, and environmental degradation.
The plight of children who continued to face the terror meted out through armed conflicts, abductions and killings, was a major concern to her Government, said the representative of Uganda. She reminded the Committee that when assisting and rehabilitating former child soldiers or war-affected children, it was critical to remember that they had been robbed entirely of their childhood. Many had been forced to commit unspeakable crimes and others could no longer walk, talk, eat, sleep, or think straight. It was her hope that these children would soon see better days.
The representative of Australia told the Committee about its financial contribution to rehabilitation projects for child soldiers in countries such as Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Angola and Uganda. The projects supported activities such as trauma counseling services, unaccompanied children’s centres, child soldier demobilization and reintegration programmes, and community resettlement projects. Children were among the most vulnerable in all societies and must continue to be a focus of all international efforts.
The rights of millions of children around the world continued to be violated in numerous ways, said the representative of Liechtenstein. She stressed that children affected by armed conflict, with all its manifold and devastating consequences, were indeed in the worst situation. Effects of armed conflict on children, all forms of sexual exploitation, and child labour stood out as areas where concerted national and international action was a prerequisite for successful solutions. It was, however, necessary to deal with the root causes.
The representative of India echoed the need to look at root causes saying it was time for a reality check . The interrelated aspects of poverty, development and child rights were self-evident. How could anyone expect the rights of children to be protected when the overwhelming concern of day-to-day living in many countries was not rights, but the more basic question of finding enough food to survive for one more day? Out of the world’s 1. 8 billion children it had been estimated that some 600 million lived in abject poverty. Without addressing the underlying causes of the miserable conditions of one third of the world’s children, very little progress could be made.
Education was the key to progress and the healthy growth of children, the representative of the Republic of Korea said, but chronic poverty presented a great barrier to children s rights, including their right to education. Education did not necessarily mean well-built schools and facilities, he said. More important than detailed knowledge in specific subject areas was making children literate and instilling in them a sense of freedom and responsibility, self-confidence and vision for the future.
Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Armenia, Japan, Algeria, Ecuador, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Viet Nam, Mali, Philippines, Argentina, Nepal, Bangladesh, San Marino, Morocco, Ukraine, Canada, (also on behalf of New Zealand), Mauritania and Pakistan.
The representatives of the International Labour Organization and the International Committee of the Red Cross also spoke.
The Committee will reconvene tomorrow at 10 a. m. and is expected to conclude its consideration of the rights of children.
The Third Committee met this morning to continue its joint consideration of matters related to the promotion and protection of the rights of children, including follow-up to the outcome of the General Assembly special session on children held last May. For background, see Press Release GA/SHC/3699 of
MARINE DAVTYAN (Armenia) said the problems of children were of paramount importance for the world s future peace and prosperity. Ensuring the rights and well-being of children was the key to sustainable development. Only if given the best possible start in life could children grow up to fully realize their potential as adults. Yet, lives and well-being of children were still threatened. Ten million children under the age of five still died each year from preventable diseases, while hundreds of millions suffered from poverty, conflicts and HIV/AIDS.
For Armenia, the previous decade had been a period of fundamental transition, she said. The country was going through economic and political reforms, re-evaluating its values, and paving its way to democracy. In addition to the problems of transition that were common to all post-Soviet countries, the situation in Armenia had been further aggravated by the devastating earthquake, refugees and blockade. Therefore, the protection of the most vulnerable groups of children was an issue demanding special attention. In Armenia, this group included refugee and displaced children as well as children from the earthquake-affected zone.
JAMES CHOI (Australia) said the outcome of the special session had set a new global agenda for collective international action to improve the situation of children in priority areas such as promoting healthy lives, providing quality education, protecting against abuse, exploitation and violence, and combating HIV/AIDS. It was now up to the international community to implement that agenda and promote the principles enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Australia would shortly sign the Convention’s Optional Protocol on children in armed conflict. That was demonstrative of Australia’s commitment to children as well as the wider aims of implementing the Convention. It was important for the Protocol s principles to be backed up by practical measures on the ground.
He said Australia had contributed to funding projects in countries such as Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Angola, Uganda and Sri Lanka. Those projects had supported activities such as trauma counseling services, unaccompanied children’s centres, child soldier demobilization and reintegration programmes, and community resettlement projects. Australia was set to provide some $400,00 for rehabilitation of child soldiers in Sri Lanka — part of a broader package of
$7. 5 million for humanitarian objectives in that country, including land mine action, food aid, rehabilitation and conflict reduction. Children were among the most vulnerable in all societies and must continue to be a focus of all international efforts. Australia looked forward to working with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other partners, particularly regional actors, in order to ensure a world fit for children.
KAY FUSANO (Japan) said the international community still faced a number of challenges, such as the sexual exploitation of children and the plight of children in armed conflict and suffering from poverty. Japan had made a variety of efforts to tackle these challenges, she said. Japan believed that to exploit children was to exploit the future of humankind. There must be zero tolerance for such exploitation. Last December, Japan had hosted the Second World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, which culminated in the adoption of the Yokohama Global Commitment. The Commitment called on the international community to promote further action towards the elimination of child prostitution, child pornography and trafficking of children for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
Japan, for its part, had recently doubled its efforts to combat the problem. It had enacted the Law for Punishing Acts related to Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, and for Protection of Children, as well as the Child Abuse Prevention Law, and formulated the National Plan of Action on Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. Today, the offence of sexual exploitation of children abroad by any Japanese national was subject to punishment in Japan. Elimination of the commercial and sexual exploitation of children, including trafficking, required multi-faceted international cooperation, and Japan was committed to tackling it as a priority item on its agenda.
ABDELOUAHAB OSMANE (Algeria) said children represented the future, and following the May special session, it was time to reinvigorate international efforts for the promotion and protection of the rights of children. That was most necessary because, despite the many international agreements that had been made, the situation of children the world over remained fragile. Of all those children, it was undoubtedly the children and youth of Africa that suffered most from poverty, disease and underdevelopment. That continent could not face those challenges alone, since, most often, even when African nations could generate the political will, the means to implement international objectives and goals were scarce.
There was no doubt that many of the problems in Africa and in other developing nations were exacerbated by globalization. It was necessary, therefore, that the international community stand by its commitments and assist poor nations in the implementation of global objectives to secure better lives for all children. He said that since its independence, Algeria had established a judicial, legal and regulatory framework for promotion of fundamental rights of children, which made up half its population. Programmes covered all sectors, including health, education and social services. He said it was up to the international community to continue to work towards the betterment of the lives of all children and to ensure a world fit for children.
HO-JIN LEE (Republic of Korea) said that in his country, the traditional perception that problems relating to children were largely familial matters had begun to change with the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Laws and institutions had been put in place for the State to actively provide for protection and promotion of the rights of children. A comprehensive Plan for Child Protection and Development had been worked out, with the Prime Minister s office coordinating the various related Government offices. This year, a report on child abuse had been issued, analysing the various types of child abuse and suggesting preventive policy measures.
His Government believed that education was the key to healthy growth of children, as noted in the outcome document of the special session on children. Chronic poverty was the greatest barrier to the protection and promotion of children s rights, including their right to education. Efforts to overcome poverty required concerted efforts and investment of resources on many fronts, as well as long-term strategies for the transition to sustained development. Education did not necessarily mean well-built schools and facilities. More important was the software which creative thinking and motivation could largely provide. More important than detailed knowledge in subject areas was the first-order goal of making children literate, in all of its multiple dimensions, and to instill in them a sense of freedom and responsibility, self-confidence and vision for the future.
CATHERINE OTITI (Uganda) said that four pillars of children s welfare were to be addressed by the Ugandan Government — survival, development, protection and participation. To achieve these goals, wide participation and consultation was taking place, within and outside the Government, and there was commitment and involvement at high political levels and by civil society. The Universal Primary Education programme continued to be a success, although some goals of the Ugandan National Programme of Action for Children remained to be achieved. Children s welfare continued to improve, and children living in difficult circumstances were being given priority assistance. The major concern of the Government remained the plight of the children in northern Uganda who continued to face the terror abductions and killings by the so-called Lord s Resistance Army.
The President of Uganda had relocated to northern Uganda to help quell the situation, and the plight of the children in the area remained his prime concern. The Government would build primary schools for children rescued from the rebels. It was important to remember that children there had been robbed entirely of their childhood. Many had been forced to commit unspeakable crimes; many could no longer walk, talk, eat, sleep, or think straight. It was the Government s hope that these children would soon see better days.
S. S. AHLUWALIA (India) said the outcome of the May special session on children reflected priority issues that affected the development of the world’s children. Of the world’s 1. 8 billion children, it had been estimated that some 600 million lived in abject poverty. India believed therefore that without addressing the underlying causes of the miserable conditions of one third of the world’s children, very little progress could be made. Moreover, it was not enough to focus attention only on a “child’s rights” perspective. Such a focus must be accompanied by sufficient attention and abundant support to children’s development needs — first and foremost, ensuring adequate and nutritious food, together with civic amenities, basic health services and access to education.
He said the interrelated aspects of poverty, development and child rights were self-evident. How could anyone expect the rights of children to be protected when the overwhelming concern of day-to-day living in many countries was not rights, but the more basic question of survival — of finding enough food for one more day? It was time for a “reality check”. A better understanding of the underlying factors was necessary to adequately address the issue of child development. India would therefor call on UNICEF, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and other relevant funds and agencies of the United Nations to give attention to those aspects of development in future studies and strategies.
GUSTAVO PALACIO URRUTIA (Ecuador) said the protection of the child was a vital part of sustainable social development. In Ecuador the economic crisis, foreign debt, and unfair terms of trade made the protection and promotion of the rights of children difficult. Despite the current difficulties faced by the Government, it had increased spending on the social budget to 25 per cent. The Government had also promoted a series of specialized programmes for children. These included programmes that provided breakfast, lunch and dinner for children in school; assisted victims of abuse; assisted pregnant mothers; and promoted youth empowerment. Most of these programmes were based on community volunteerism.
Legal reforms had also been undertaken to promote and protect the rights of children. A new Code for Children and Adolescents was being developed and focused on the role of the family. In this context, he stressed the importance of addressing the practice of child labour. However, poverty and marginalization were preventing many developing countries various programmes against child labour from being successful. It was time to stop paying foreign debts — it was time to pay a social debt. It was also time to turn around the current international economic system and establish a world economy based on equity and justice. Important work was also being undertaken by his Government on the protection of children with disabilities.
KAYEMBE NSENDULA (Democratic Republic of the Congo), said his country, whose children were suffering profoundly from a variety of grave social ills, including poverty, the ravages of HIV/AIDS and the scourge of war, had played an active role in the Millennium Summit, as well as the Assembly’s special sessions on HIV/AIDS and children. The situation for Congolese children was indeed disturbing, as the unjust and barbaric war imposed on the country by three of its neighbours continued to affect every level of their development. That war had been characterized by systematic violations of human rights and brutal killings. It had been reported that the death toll was now close to 3 million Congolese people, mostly women and children. Other horrors had emerged, including kidnapping, sexual slavery and forced conscription.
Along with all that, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s vast natural resources had been plundered beyond imagination. Would all those crimes go unanswered? Would that war — so barbarous and inhuman it seemed a war of another age — that murdered and raped women and children for gold and diamonds continue? He added that the protracted conflict also exacerbated poverty for all Congolese citizens, particularly children. Some 900,000 under the age of 15 had been orphaned by one or both parents due to AIDS. In spite of that alarming situation, he assured the Committee that the well-being of his country’s children remained a priority concern of the Government.
He said national legislation was being created to confront many of the problems children faced. The country was party to the core international human rights instruments concerning children. Last year, the Democratic Republic of the Congo had hosted a regional conference on women and children in conflict. The country had also established a Parliament on Children and Youth. A National Office for Demobilization and Reintegration had been created, and it currently worked with UNICEF and other agencies to ensure support for children rescued from the horrors of armed conflict. The Congolese armed forces no longer enrolled children, and a draft code for the protection of Congolese children had already been promulgated and was awaiting adoption. He reaffirmed his country’s commitment to core children’s rights instruments and called on the international community to assist in their implementation.
PIO SCHURTI (Liechtenstein) said when it came to the application of existing standards, the picture was not so bright. The rights of millions of children around the world continued to be violated in numerous ways. Children affected by armed conflict with all its manifold and devastating consequences were in the worst situation. Liechtenstein had therefore supported the work of Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu. Worldwide awareness of children affected by armed conflict was rising; however more needed to be done in making the achievements of the international community known.
The effects of armed conflict on children, the different forms of sexual exploitation, child labour, and the special vulnerability of children to the HIV/AIDS pandemic stood out as areas where concerted national and international action was a prerequisite for successful solutions. All these issues constituted large-scale crises that could only be addressed through immediate and coordinated action. It was, however, necessary to deal with the root causes. Long-term strategies needed to be pursued in this respect. Education would play a crucial role in protecting the rights of the child, since this was the only way of enabling children to develop their potential and to express themselves. While providing educational systems was largely a national responsibility, the eradication of poverty worldwide would obviously play a decisive role in facilitating such national policies.
PHAM THI KIM ANH (Viet Nam) said it was a disappointment to see that the rights of many children around the world were not realized. Children in many regions still suffered from exploitation, hunger, diseases, and environmental degradation. Children from countries or regions devastated or affected by wars, armed conflicts, foreign occupation and embargoes suffered even more. In this regard, Viet Nam was proud to be the second country in the world to sign and ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In December 1990, the first National Conference on Children had been organized in Viet Nam. The Second National Conference on Children had been held in January 2001, with the conclusion that most of the goals set at the first Conference had been reached.
The under-five mortality rate had decreased by over 30 per cent; the extended vaccination programmed had reached 95 per cent of the target; polio had been eradicated; and vitamin A deficiency had ended, she said. Furthermore, the universalization of primary education had been completed, and illiteracy had been eliminated. Still, all had not been achieved. The new Programme of Action for 2001-2010 not only concentrated on fulfilling the unaccomplished, but also strove for new goals such as early-childhood education development and the fight against HIV/AIDS.
ISSA KONFOUROU (Mali) said the leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) would meet next month in Dakar as part of the follow-up to the outcome of the Assembly’s special session on children. That summit expressed the political will of the leaders of the subregion to implement the special session s outcome. For its part, Mali had adopted a Plan of Action for the survival and protection of its children. It was also party to all core human rights treaties on behalf of children. The country had developed and implemented a joint plan of action with Government and civil society to capture the momentum of the global movement for children and to step up relevant action at regional and subregional levels. Mali was also in the process of harmonizing its domestic legislation with international instruments.
Even with all that, he said, Mali placed great hope in the new programme of cooperation with UNICEF for 2003-2007. The effective implementation of that Programme would build on past gains and improve national indicators on the situation of women as well as children. That plan aimed to eliminate violence, reduce the negative effects of HIV/AIDS and promote adequate education for both boys and girls. Mali had also signed a bilateral agreement with Cote d’Ivoire on trafficking. On children in armed conflict, Mali had always been in favour of the development of a binding international legal mechanism that would put an end to that scourge.
MARIA LOURDES V. RA