Third committee begins consideration of children s rights

11-Oct-00

GA/SHC/3588

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.

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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 ensure and promote the implementation of the Optional Protocol, particularly pertaining to enforcing age limits for recruitment. Could he elaborate on the plans for a criminal tribunal for Sierra Leone?Would such a tribunal have a specific emphasis on children in armed conflict?Could the issue of impunity, as defined in the Optional Protocol, be addressed?She said that Mr. Otunnu s report noted that only nine of the 36 commitments listed had been fully met. What was being done to address all those commitments?Finally, she asked if the representative from UNICEF could elaborate on the agency s reactions to the Brahimi Report and its experience with children in peacekeeping

The representative of Rwanda questioned some aspects of the report concerning the age of children in armed conflict, particularly in his country.

The representative of Libya said that while poverty, armed conflict and trafficking were addressed generally by the Convention, she saw a few problems with the Optional Protocols. Those two instruments did not address issues related to trade in diamonds and other natural resources as it affected children in armed conflict. There had also been incidents of drug use and addiction by children participating in hostilities. How could this issue be addressed?How could the children be rehabilitated once they were removed from conflict situations?The Convention also failed to address the situation of street children, who were often affected by violence and deserved special attention.

The representative of Cuba said that tomorrow her delegation would be signing the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. She was saddened by the fact that the report on the sale of children did not contain substantive or statistical information on the many ways children could be exploited — outside prostitution and trafficking. She was concerned, in that regard, that perhaps the office of the Special Rapporteur on the exploitation of children did not have the resources it needed to carry out its mandate. She was also concerned that the Security Council had become increasingly involved in issues pertaining to human rights. The Council s mandate was limited to the protection and promotion of international peace and security. She expressed concern about the delay in the issuance of documents for the Committee s consideration.

The representative of Canada asked if there could be some elaboration on the lessons learned from child survivors and from efforts to incorporate the protection of children in peace agreements or involving them in peace processes. He asked the representative of UNICEF to elaborate on the agency s experiences with child refugees. What were the prospects of expanding training for peacekeeping personnel prior to deployment?

The representative of the Sudan wondered if Mr. Otunnu would focus further in the coming year on the issue of peace and peace initiatives as they related to the rights of children. Would that include broader participation by NGOs?

The representative of India wondered if Mr. Otunnu could place more emphasis on the issue of poverty as it related to children affected by armed conflict.

The representative of Iraq asked why Mr. Otunnu had chosen to disregard the comprehensive effect of sanctions on children, particularly since UNICEF had been working diligently in that area and had reported that sanctions regimes often caused more child deaths than actual conflict situations.

Many representatives deeply regretted the absence of Ofelia Calcetas-Santos, Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the sale of children, child prostitution and pornography. As this was the tenth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it would have been most helpful if she had been present to hear the comments and questions of Committee members on important issues pertaining to the protection of the rights of children. Several representatives also expressed concern that many of the documents before the Committee had not been released in a manner timely enough to allow them to be properly discussed prior to consideration.

Mr. Otunnu, Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, said in response to the representative of Iraq that consideration of the effect of sanctions on children was at the top of his agenda. To the representative of India, he said he would study children and poverty in relation to situations of armed conflict, usually considered in the aftermath of conflict. To the representative of the Sudan, he said that a main concern during the next mandate period was to consolidate gains and capitalize on first steps already taken. Ways of integrating children into the peace process would certainly be pursued.

Further, he said, in reply to the question by Canada’s representative, the protection of children was a new area of concern and there was much to do to develop the programme. Children’s rights had been ignored in the past but were now firmly on the agenda. By anticipating the needs and rights of children, parties affirmed they were ready to pay attention to them in the post-conflict situation. It also implied that normative actions could be initiated, particularly since local institutions had sprung up to advocate for children. Finally, the recent involvement of young people in peace initiatives had brought their own interests forward.

In his response to the query by the representative of Rwanda on the juvenile justice issue, he said young adults should be made accountable for their actions, provided procedures for juvenile justice were adhered to. To the representative of France, he said the Optional Protocol should come into force within the year. However, its ratification already shifted attention to real conditions on the ground. As a ratified protocol admitting concern for children and armed conflict, it was a confident advocacy tool. That enabled other factors in a conflict to be addressed, such as political differences. It also indicated that right now, on the ground, in every conflict, there was an available capacity to absorb, relieve and rehabilitate former child soldiers.

Commitments attesting to those effects of the protocol had already been made by parties on the ground, he continued. The question now was how to enforce the commitments and how to monitor them. In that regard, he said, “I need your help, that of the governments. “United Nations agencies were helpful in monitoring on the ground, but the real influence lay with governments. The collective challenge was how to use the collective channels of influence to engage parties and generate pressure on them.

Finally, regarding the special tribunal being proposed for Sierra Leone, he said a young person around the age of eighteen knew the difference between right and wrong. The purpose of delineating between those above and below the age of eighteen was to protect children from abuse and exploitation, not to give young people licence. It was precisely because young people could be made accountable for actions that there was a category called juvenile justice. Further, the provision for those juveniles found guilty in a tribunal was not to punish but to rehabilitate. The juvenile justice component would be useful not just for healing in Sierra Leone but for other situations. The key concept was rehabilitation rather than punishment.

Mr. ROBERFROID, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF,said the questions had been well answered by the Special Representative. With regard to implementing the Protocol, UNICEF tried to give it maximum presence in the field and tried to work with the country office to stimulate awareness. It also made contact with conflicting factions and set up the machinery to initiate contacts for implementing the Protocol. Country office networks encouraged signing of the Protocol. With regard to juveniles, justice should be different from that for adults. It should not be just imprisonment or punishment. Truth and reconciliation commissions should be set up for training young people beyond the capacity of their judgements. He said he was quite in agreement with the Secretary-General’s views on juvenile justice.

With regard to securing adherence to commitments, he said UNICEF had an advantage. Being on site in the field, it witnessed the breaking of commitments. The child-protection adviser was a mechanism to make concrete the message that children were now on the international agenda, whether for peacekeeping, peacemaking or other mandates. All humanitarian agencies on the ground should be systematically consulted for reports on protocol commitments. They should be the “intelligence on the ground” with regard to the parties in conflict. “We’re the first to be present when the situation is bad”, he said.

The situation of displaced children was creating a new set of problems, he continued. Gaining access to them was not always easy to resolve. The important point with regard to juvenile justice was to focus on the process itself. Working for it through the regular country programme presented an opportunity to frame the question through a human rights instrument. The concept of rights was not just a legal issue but an opportunity to assess the possibilities for action, because society’s relationship to rights had changed in recent years. It was no longer just a problem for lawyers but for everybody in society. Defining the new relationship to rights was a work in progress. It was reality.

Ms. STAMATOPOULOU, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said with regard to impunity and the Optional Protocol the Commission had a weakness in that it made no provision for individual procedure. In promoting implementation of the Protocol, non-State actors others than those mentioned should be kept in mind, such as the media. The important point with regard to juveniles was that the highest standards of juvenile justice should be applied. Training should be a strong element with regard to children’s rights, and should be pursued with partners. Finally, she said she would convey the Committee’s regrets at the absence of Ms. Calcetas-Santos, the Special Rapporteur on exploitation of children.

Statements

MARINE DE CARN DE TR CESSON (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the signature and eventual ratification of the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, by members of the Union as well as other Member States, had been an extremely important reaffirmation of the international community s commitment to protecting the rights of children. Signature of the Protocols had demonstrated that the international community was willing to reach beyond national boundaries in its efforts to effect an international instrument to appropriately address that issue. It was now up to the world community to ensure that signature of the protocols was followed by implementation of their provisions and that implementation was supported by concrete action. She welcomed the recent attention and importance the Security Council had paid to the issue of children s rights, and applauded the work of other United Nations bodies as well as regional organizations in that regard.

There was much left to be done to fully address the problem of the sexual exploitation of children, she said, as she turned to that issue. Too many children were still being forced into prostitution, often because of poverty, but always because the adults exploiting them received financial benefit from that practice. Moreover, rapid globalization had highlighted the growing problem of prostitution networks — some of which operated over the Internet — and other sophisticated organized criminal activity geared towards the exploitation of children. All international efforts should be deployed in order to stem the tide of exploitation. More also needed to be done to identify the legal implications and social ramifications of exploitation. In particular, since the issue of trafficking had such complex social and legal implications, steps should be taken to strengthen international cooperation and multilateral action. The signature of the Convention s two Protocols was an example of what could be achieved when the efforts of the international community had been mobilized. It was important to note in that regard that countries which had committed themselves to those instruments also committed themselves to the implementation of their provisions.

She went on to say that the basic rights of children could not be fully guaranteed as long as poverty raged worldwide. Strategies to combat poverty should be energetically developed, particularly as regards street children, who were often ignored in policy and programme efforts. The devastation of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and discrimination against those who suffered from the disease, must also be addressed. Education programmes should cover education in human rights and tolerance, as it was important to prepare today the behaviour of the adults of tomorrow. Finally, the Union was concerned by the number of reservations to the Convention, and urged that those be removed as soon as possible. It was also concerned over the lack of resources for the Committee on the Rights of the Child. She urged that the Committee s membership be expanded so that its important work could continue unimpeded.

ALVARO TIRADO (Colombia), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group of Latin American and Caribbean nations, said that despite all the progress made in protecting children, many things still remained to be done. Many parts of the world, including his region, were still behind in meeting their obligations to the needs of children. The Rio Group considered it necessary, now more than ever, to act in a concerted manner to carry out the principles and obligations concerning protection and promotion of the rights of children. It recognized the valuable work of the United Nations system in protecting and promoting the welfare of children, and notably the contribution made by UNICEF to national authorities in the implementation of plans and programmes for the benefit of children.

Likewise, he continued, the tireless work of Mr. Otunnu deserved solid support. The Group condemned the recruitment of minors and military action deliberately targeted against children. It attached great importance to the campaigns to sensitize public opinion regarding those practices. It also called on all parties in armed conflicts to cease such practices, which greatly affected the development of children and young people. The Rio Group would continue to be responsive to the special needs of those children, who, by reason of conflict, poverty or social intolerance, had been forced to flee their homes to become refugees or displaced persons, to work as labourers in the streets, or to live in situations of social and racial discrimination.

TSUNEKO YANAGAWA (Japan) said that painful realities such as poverty, infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS), armed conflict, discrimination and injustice had cast dark shadows on the future of the world’s children. Japan had been taking up a range of activities meant to address that issue. As an important follow up to the G-8 Summit in July, Japan was preparing to co-host an expert

workshop in November this year, with a focus on the reintegration of child soldiers in society.

The inhumane exploitation of innocent children was unfortunately globalizing, and the situation was now worsening in some cases, she said. The Government of Japan would host the Second World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, in cooperation with UNICEF and NGOs, in December next year. Recently, child abuse had aroused grave concern in Japanese society. With a view to supplementing existing legalization, the Diet had adopted a Child Abuse Prevention Law which was scheduled to come into effect in November. The law assigned to the public responsibility for reporting child abuse to the authorities. Placing emphasis on prevention, early detection, early response and rehabilitation of both victims and perpetrators, Japan strove to create an environment for children free from the abuse inflicted on them by those close to them.

HAROLDT URIB (Namibia), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said that today there were about 50 countries embroiled in conflict. Statistics indicated that the number of child combatants under the age of 18 was around 300,000. It was also estimated that each month some 800 children were killed or maimed by landmines. The Committee had to make recommendations on small arms, landmines and child soldiers. It must also address both the gender concerns and internally displaced persons issue in the peace and security agenda, as well as find effective ways to promote peace building and conflict prevention.

Against that background, Namibia, in its capacity as President of the Security Council, had decided to hold an open debate in the Council entitled “Women, Peace and Security” on 24 October. An estimated 80 per cent of all internally displaced persons and refugees were women and children. Furthermore, the number of women and girls heading households due to conflict had increased dramatically. Namibia felt that given the specific mandate of the Council, there were a number of contributions that the Council could make to improve women’s protection in armed conflict and ensure their centrality to conflict prevention, peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace-building. Needless to say, women were crucial in the protection of children and were, therefore, important actors, particularly on behalf of children affected by armed conflict.

He said that, for a long time, education had received little attention from humanitarian organizations, and was not seen as a life-saving initiative like health and nutrition. The SADC was pleased to see the increased recognition of the importance of education to child survival and development — even in the midst of conflict — and supported the proposal of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to launch a refugee education trust.