|For information only - not an official document.|
|16 November 2000|
Assembly Adopts Convention against Transnational Organized Crime
And Two Additional Protocols
Instruments to Be Open for Signing at High-Level Palermo Conference
NEW YORK, 15 November (UN Headquarters) -- The General Assembly this morning adopted the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, and the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, and opened them for signature at the high-level political signing conference to be held in Palermo, Italy, from 12 to 15 December. It did so by adopting, without a vote, a related draft resolution.
By the terms of that resolution, the Assembly urged all States and regional economic organizations to sign and ratify the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the protocols thereto as soon as possible, in order to ensure the speedy entry into force of the Convention and protocols. It called upon all States to recognize the links between transnational organized criminal activities and acts of terrorism, and to apply the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime in combating all forms of criminal activity.
Luigi Lauriola, Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of a Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, introducing the Convention and its two additional protocols, said the Convention provided a framework and tools for better international cooperation against organized crime without borders. What was critical, however, would be its implementation. The dangers posed by organized crime to the individual citizen and to the international community had rightly risen to the top of the agenda. The first steps had been taken, but there was still a long way to go. He regretted that the Ad Hoc Committee had been unable to complete its deliberation on a Protocol against illicit manufacturing and trafficking in firearms, their parts and components, and ammunition, in time for submission to the Assembly.
The Assembly also took up consideration this morning of the Special Session of the General Assembly in 2001 for follow-up to the World Summit for Children. Many delegates felt that, since the World Summit Meeting for Children in 1990, much progress had been made, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its additional protocols, dealing with the participation of children in armed conflict and with the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
However, commitments made by the international community had not been met during the last decade. Moreover, new challenges had arisen which should be addressed during the Special Session.
According to the representative of Cuba, challenges faced by children “inheriting the debris of modern civilization” were poverty, armed conflict, sale and traffic in minors, sexual abuse of children, child pornography, the illicit sale of body organs and the phenomenon of street children without a future. More than 11 million under the age of five died every year of preventable diseases. Child mortality in underdeveloped countries was 95 per thousand. Two out of five children in developing countries suffered from some kind of retardation. Some 250 million children under age fifteen had to work in order to survive. The AIDS pandemic also had a dramatic effect on children. By the end of 1999, 13,200,000 children had lost a mother or both parents to AIDS.
India’s representative said the Special Session must highlight the importance of literacy and education, including the promotion of the values of compassion, tolerance and caring. It was also essential to focus on improving the quality of water supply and provision of better sanitation facilities as well as the special needs of adolescents who, in their increasing numbers, represented a particularly important challenge. The Special Session must also address children in exceptional circumstances, including those affected by terrorism and armed conflict, street children, juvenile and delinquent children, child labour and children affected by HIV/AIDS.
The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania noted that poor countries had failed to carry out the goals of the Summit because of the prevalence of poverty. Two thirds of those countries spent more on external debt servicing than on basic social services. He hoped the Special Session would discuss various measures to address poverty and external debt, including international support for poverty eradication programmes in developing countries.
The representatives of France (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Italy, Mexico, Russian Federation, Poland, Monaco, Egypt, Croatia, Peru, Brazil, Viet Nam, Norway, Colombia and Canada also spoke. Japan’s representative spoke in explanation of his position after adoption of the draft resolution on the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.
The Minister of Justice for Ukraine addressed the Assembly also on behalf of Georgia, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and the Republic of Moldova.
The Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m. to continue its consideration of the Special Session of the General Assembly in 2001 for Follow-up to the World Summit for Children.
Assembly Work Programme
The fifty-fifth regular session of the General Assembly this morning took up consideration of the agenda item “Crime prevention and criminal justice” for the sole purpose of taking action on the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the protocols thereto. It was also expected to consider the item “Special session of the General Assembly in 2001 for follow-up to the World Summit for Children”.
Before the Assembly was a report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of a Convention against Transnational Organized Crime on the work of its first to eleventh session (document A/55/383), paragraph 121 of which contained a draft resolution to be taken up by the Assembly on the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. The text of the Convention is annexed to the report.
By the terms of the draft, the Assembly would adopt the Convention and its two protocols: the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children; and the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air. It would open them for signature at the high-level political signing conference to be held in Palermo, Italy, from 12 to 15 December.
The Assembly would urge all States and regional economic organizations to sign and ratify the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the protocols thereto as soon as possible in order to ensure the speedy entry into force of the Convention and protocols. It would call upon all States to recognize the links between transnational organized criminal activities and acts of terrorism, and to apply the Convention in combating all forms of criminal activity.
Also by the draft, the Assembly would decide that, until the Conference of the Parties to the Convention established pursuant to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime decides otherwise, the account referred to in article 30 of the Convention will be operated within the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Fund. It would encourage Member States to begin making adequate voluntary contributions to the above-mentioned account in order to provide developing countries and countries with economies in transition with the technical assistance they might require for implementation of the Convention and the protocols thereto.
The Assembly would request the Secretary-General to designate the Centre for International Crime Prevention of the Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention to serve as the secretariat for and under the direction of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention.
Annexed to the draft resolution in document A/55/383 are the texts of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, and the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air.
Also before the Assembly was a report of the Preparatory Committee for the Special Session of the General Assembly in 2001 for Follow-up to the World Summit for Children on its Organizational Session (document A/55/43, Parts I and II).
According to Part I of the report, the Preparatory Committee held its organizational session at Headquarters on 7-8 February. During the session, the Preparatory Committee adopted decisions concerning the provisional organization of work for its first substantive session, and the participation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). It also decided to defer its decision on arrangements for future sessions to its first substantive session, to be held from 30 May to 2 June.
Part II of the report concerned the Preparatory Committee’s first substantive session, held at Headquarters from 30 May to 2 June. The substantive session adopted a decision regarding participation of NGOs in the preparatory process. The Committee also decided that two substantive sessions of the Preparatory Committee should be convened in New York during 2001, one from 29 January to 2 February and one from 11 to 15 June. It adopted a provisional agenda for the second substantive session.
The Preparatory Committee further adopted a decision on arrangements for accreditation of NGOs in the special session, and a decision on participation of associate members of regional commissions. The Committee further agreed to authorize its Bureau to prepare a draft outcome document for consideration at the second substantive session in the first instance.
The Assembly also had a report of the Secretary-General (document A/55/429) on the state of the preparations for the special session of the General Assembly in 2001 for follow-up to the World Summit for Children.
The report had been prepared in response to paragraph 21 of resolution 54/93, in which the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to submit a report to its fifty-fifth session on the state of the preparations for the special session for follow-up to the World Summit for Children. The report indicates that there is strong momentum building for the special session. Substantive preparations are under way at the national, regional and global levels. Governments, NGOs and international agencies are actively involved in a variety of preparatory activities, spurred by the follow-up to the World Summit for Children, the virtually universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the convening of the special session.
Also before the Assembly was a draft resolution on preparations for the special session on children (document A/55/L.34). By the terms of the draft, the Assembly would stress that the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child contributes to the achievement of the goals of the World Summit for Children, and would recommend that a thorough assessment of the 10 years of implementation of the Convention should be an essential element in preparations for the special session.
The Assembly would also request the Secretary-General, taking into account the national reports to be submitted by Member States, to submit to the Assembly at its special session, through the Preparatory Committee for the Special Session, a review of the implementation and results of the World Declaration and Plan of Action, including appropriate recommendations for further actions. The review would also elaborate on the best practices noted and obstacles encountered in the implementation process, as well as on measures to overcome those obstacles.
Further to the draft resolution, the Assembly would invite States members of the specialized agencies that were not States members of the United Nations to participate in the work of the special session, and would reaffirm the important role of all relevant actors, including NGOs, in implementing the Plan of Action, and would stress the need for their active involvement in the preparatory process and at the special session, the modalities for which were being addressed by the Preparatory Committee.
The Assembly would decide to convene a special session of the Assembly for follow-up to the World Summit for Children on 19-21 September 2001, and to refer to it as the “special session on children”.
The Assembly would also decide to convene two substantive sessions of the Preparatory Committee for the Special Session in New York during 2001, one from 29 January to 2 February and the other from 11 to 15 June.
LUIGI LAURIOLA, Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of a Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, introduced the Convention and its two additional protocols: one on illicit trafficking in persons, especially women and children; the other on illegal trafficking and transporting of migrants. He said that those texts had been finalized and unanimously agreed upon in less than two years. The idea of preparing a United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime had been first formally raised at the World Ministerial Conference on Organized Transnational Crime in November 1994. Little by little, the political will of the participants, driven by newspaper headlines and public opinion, gave decisive impulse to the search for a global response to global organized crime. Countries which had been opposed even to the idea of discussing the possibility of an international instrument had become some of the Convention’s strongest supporters. Other countries, like Italy, Poland and Argentina, had supported the process from the very beginning.
The Convention, he continued, provided a framework and tools for better international cooperation against organized crime without borders. But it was implementation of the Convention that would be critical. He recalled that the mandate given to the Ad Hoc Committee also included the elaboration of a Protocol against illicit manufacturing and trafficking in firearms, their parts and components, and ammunition. He regretted that the Ad Hoc Committee had been unable to complete its deliberations on that protocol in time for submission to the Assembly. Accordingly, the Committee requested that it be allowed to continue its work in conformity with resolutions 53/111, 53/114 and 54/126, so that it might have an opportunity to finalize its work in the near future. The dangers posed by organized crime to the individual citizen and to the international community had rightly risen to the top of the agenda. The first steps had been taken, but there was still a long way to go.
YVES DOUTRIAUX (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, stated that the growth of transnational organized crime was a major challenge facing the international community. The phenomenon represented one of the major non-military threats to the security of the individual, the stability of societies, the sovereignty of States, and the development and continuance of democracy. His Government believed that, in light of its universal mission, the United Nations was the forum for devising legislative tools to combat transnational organized crime. A period of less than two years had been set aside by the General Assembly for negotiating a Convention against such crime, which was a sign of the urgency attached to the matter by the Member States.
The European Union considered the Convention to be an exemplary set of provisions. Moreover, it was the first global legal instrument devised to combat transnational organized crime, introducing essential innovations in law and in the procedures for cooperation among States parties. The Union was pleased that, for the first time, the Convention offered the international community universally recognized definitions of several fundamental concepts of criminal law linked to organized crime, such as “organized criminal group”, “serious offence” and “the proceeds of crime”. It was also important that the Convention broached the subject of approximating national criminal legislation by establishing criminal offences of a universal nature (participation in an organized criminal group, money laundering, obstruction of the course of justice, corruption) and by obliging the States parties to transpose them into their domestic criminal law.
In regard to the two related Protocols adopted in parallel with the Convention itself, the European Union considered them to be essential complementary tools, especially the Protocol designed to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, including women and children, thereby providing a legal definition of trafficking in persons. The Union believed that the completion of negotiations on the Convention and two of its related Protocols was a remarkable result, and looked forward to the Signing Conference in Palermo, Italy, this coming December. The European Union called upon all Member States to sign the Convention and its Protocols at the Palermo Conference.
SERGIO VENTO (Italy) said the Convention and its two Protocols addressed sensitive issues. His country had played a major part in the process that led up to finalization of the texts. That process would conclude in December in Palermo, where his Government was organizing the High-level Political Conference for the signing of the Convention and the Protocols.
Organized crime damaged the quality of life and the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms throughout the world. It jeopardized economic development, corrupting and destabilizing social and political institutions. The adoption of the Convention was a major step in the fight against that scourge. The Convention was an innovative instrument that had a direct impact on the prevention and prosecution of a broad range of crimes, including all serious transnational crimes committed by organized crime groups, and included both measures to strengthen national crime fighting systems and measures to foster cooperation among States.
The Convention also contained significant measures on international cooperation between judicial and police authorities. Bilateral or regional agreements were not enough to meet the need for prompt collaboration in investigating and prosecuting transnational crimes. A global system of norms and practices was needed, fostering collaboration among the largest possible number of countries. While satisfied with the fact that it took less than two years to complete the enormous job, he hoped that negotiations on the unfinished Protocol against the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in arms would be resumed shortly, so as to reach a compromise on the most controversial points.
He called for quick follow-up of the adoption by implementation of the Convention’s provisions. He appealed to all States to promptly sign and ratify the Convention and to come to Palermo, represented at the highest possible level.
MANUEL TELLO (Mexico) said he would like to place on record his concern at the lack of political will of some States, which had prevented conclusion of a protocol on the manufacture of firearms. In an increasingly interdependent world, organized criminal groups used increasingly sophisticated methods to make their atrocities transnational. International cooperation was needed to fight the phenomenon. The Convention was novel, as it had established a juridical regime to fight organized crime while incorporating a wide number of initiatives to promote international cooperation. Preventing and combating the smuggling of persons, especially trafficking in women and children, was designed to protect victims of exploitation. The relevant protocol was not an instrument to control migration, but to prevent such crimes. It protected the rights of persons who were victims of trafficking. As far as Mexico was concerned, illicit trafficking in migrants was serious when it endangered their life and security.
Fighting international organized crime would only be successful if the international community suppressed the manufacture of firearms. That trade in violence promoted phenomena as serious as drug trafficking, which destroyed and imposed its code of death and violence very widely, as well as terrorism and organized crime. With the adoption of the related protocol, the international community would be taking a very important step forward. Mexico invited the States that maintained reservations to reconsider their options, so that the international community could conclude the protocol.
SERGEY KAREV (Russian Federation) said it was obvious that transnational crime could not be addressed by a single State. Modern criminals had realized the advantages of international crime and would take advantage of any loophole. The need for formulating a single front of States in combating that threat was glaringly obvious. The international community must establish a system where no criminal would be beyond the law, and the Convention and its additional protocols would become the basis for such a system. Given the necessary will, serious results in the anti-criminal sphere could be reached quickly.
He expressed his satisfaction that the Convention embraced a broad range of crimes, including money laundering and corruption, and it was important that there were detailed arrangements for extradition and other matters, which would enhance the work of the law-enforcement agencies. He welcomed the additional protocols and hoped that the work on the protocol on the manufacturing and trafficking of small arms would be completed shortly. The quick entry into force of the Convention was very important.
JANUSZ RYDZKOWSKI (Poland) said his country had initiated the practical work on the Convention in terms of concept and implementation. Following that initiative, the Polish Government had invited a group of international experts to Warsaw, in February 1998, to start preliminary discussion on the Convention. The Warsaw meeting marked an important breakthrough in two respects. First and foremost, the issue of drafting such a multilateral convention was no longer addressed in “whether or not” terms but became a question of “how and when” instead. Secondly, more than 50 States had agreed unanimously to develop an effective tool to combat transnational organized crime in its most dangerous transnational dimension. In the preparatory stages, delegations had focused on identifying areas of emerging consensus.
The new legal instrument was of a unique character, because, for the first time, it delivered a precise definition of the phenomenon of transnational organized crime, and defined the instruments for an effective fight against uncivil society. Adoption of the Convention and its two additional protocols after only three and a half years of work was a significant achievement, and reflected the political will of the international community to combat the increased threat posed by organized crime. However, from a practical point of view, the adoption of a legal instrument was only the beginning. Ahead was the signing ceremony in Palermo, the difficult process of national ratification and implementation on international and national levels.
It was important to stress that full implementation of the Convention was possible only when it was carried out on a universal basis -- which meant that resources would be necessary to assist States unable to fight organized crime by themselves.
Action on Draft Resolution Contained in Document A/55/383
LUIGI LAURIOLA, Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of a Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, announced that in operative paragraph 3 of the draft resolution, the words “summary records” should be replaced with the words “a comprehensive report”. In operative paragraph 11, the words “and under the direction of” should be deleted. At the end of the paragraph, the words “in accordance with paragraph 33 of the Convention” should be added.
The representative of the Secretariat informed the Assembly that in connection with paragraph 5 of the draft, the Assembly would request the Ad Hoc Committee to continue its work in relation to the draft Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, their Parts and Components, and Ammunition, and to finalize such work as soon as possible. That request would imply the need to convene an additional session of the Ad Hoc Committee in 2001. No additional appropriation would be required under Section 2, General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services, of the programme budget for the biennium 2000-2001 as a result of the request.
In paragraph 11, regarding the designation of the Centre for International Crime Prevention as the secretariat for the Conference of the Parties to the Convention, current staff resources of the Centre would eventually need to be strengthened. The Secretariat estimated that the Convention may enter into force in the biennium 2002-2003, and would include related proposals in the 2002-2003 programme budget.
In paragraph 12, regarding the provision of necessary resources to the Centre for International Crime Prevention, the Secretariat assumed that the meetings of the Conference of the Parties would be financed from the United Nations regular budget. It was the intention of the Secretary-General to include in his proposed programme budget for the biennium 2002-2003 appropriate resources for the meetings of the Conference of the Parties and of the Ad Hoc Committee, acting as a preparatory committee for the first session of the Conference of the Parties.
The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution, as orally corrected, without a vote, as contained in paragraph 121 of the Ad Hoc Committee’s report.
Explanation of vote
NOPUYASU ABE (Japan) said today marked an historic step by the world community in its fight against organized crime, because the General Assembly had first adopted the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its two related Protocols. His Government welcomed the elaboration of those important international instruments through long, difficult negotiations. For its part, Japan had joined the efforts to conclude the negotiations, providing moral, political and financial support to facilitate the work of the participants.
However, he noted with regret that agreement had not been reached on a draft Protocol against the illicit manufacture and trafficking in firearms, which was designed to supplement the Convention. The Ad Hoc Committee had, therefore, to complete the work on the Firearms Protocol as soon as possible. His country was determined to continue its active efforts to bring the negotiations on the Protocol to a successful conclusion by next year.
As to the Convention and its two related Protocols, Japan looked forward to the signing conference in Palermo next month, and expressed its appreciation to the great contribution of the Government of Italy. It was incumbent upon the world community to bring those instruments to universal acceptance as soon as possible, and to spread the effective implementation of those instruments around the world. In conclusion, Japan was prepared to hold seminars, or training courses, and to continue to contribute to the Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Fund. It would also host an Asia-Pacific Law Enforcement Conference against Transnational Organized Crime in January 2001, he said.
Statement by Assembly President
HARRI HOLKERI, President of the General Assembly, said that, in 1990, he had had the honour of representing Finland at the World Summit for Children. On that occasion, an unprecedented dialogue among 71 world leaders had led to a universal appeal to ensure a better future for every child. He had been directly involved in helping galvanize political will at the highest level, through an action-oriented agenda devoted to the most fragile component of the social fabric: children. As a result of the World Declaration and Plan of Action on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children in the 1990s, attention to children had, indeed, increased. Virtually every country had now ratified the Convention of the Rights of the Child.
However, the suffering of millions of children around the world showed that the goals and commitments of the World Summit for Children remained far from fulfilled. More effective policies and programmes in more countries were urgently required to keep the promise made to children in September 1990. At the beginning of the new millennium, he was confident that, by focusing on children as the most vulnerable and cherished part of society, everyone could agree on effective actions to ensure their survival, protection, full development and participation.
In the Millennium Declaration, world leaders renewed the global commitment to children by addressing such issues as eradicating poverty, reducing child and maternal mortality, ensuring assistance and protection in cases of armed conflict and humanitarian emergencies, as well as the imperative to give all children, including girls, a basic education of good quality. This plenary session was an important step towards that global commitment. In considering the process leading to the special session in September 2001, delegations might wish to bear in mind the spirit which prevailed during the Summit in 1990. As world leaders then declared: “There can be no task nobler than giving every child a better future.”
JACQUES L. BOISSON (Monaco) said that the Convention on the Rights of the Child must remain the cornerstone and inspiration for everything that the international community did in the future for children. The international community should decide together on future action. Of fundamental importance was a good start in life. Health and the education of the mother would affect that good start. There had been progress on breastfeeding and health care, but the HIV epidemic and mother-to-child transmission of the virus had provided new challenges. The world campaign to eradicate polio was a symbol of what the international community could achieve. A good start also meant not being denied the basic right to an identity and nationality. Access to a sound and complete education at the basic level was important, as the international community could not eradicate poverty unless education was improved.
If the world community worked for development, it could also reduce the risk of armed conflict where children were often the first victims. Gender parity was also of prime importance, as an educated mother would provide her children with an additional chance in life. A favourable environment should be created for adolescents. There was a need for constructive dialogue with young people, and a participatory approach should be promoted. For many teenagers who had only experienced violence, a favourable environment meant vocational training to protect them against such problems as exploitation in the workplace. The new challenges implicit in HIV, globalization and armed conflict also called for new approaches. He hoped that working together, the international community would be able to solve some of those problems.
MANUEL TELLO (Mexico) said that his country, together with Canada, Egypt, Mali, Pakistan and Sweden, had had the honour of sponsoring the World Summit for Children in 1990. The outcome-programmes had succeeded in consolidating the commitments of States to protection of the rights of children. There had been progress in health, education, environmental health and social assistance. However, international commitments had not been fully implemented, nor had the shared targets been fully achieved. Despite advances, many challenges remained, the most important of which was ensuring that the benefits of globalization would help children in the framework of sustainable development, justice and equality.
According to the outcome of the Millennium Summit, by 2015, boys and girls should be able to complete primary education, and girls and boys should have equal access to all levels of education. In connection with the preparation for the special Assembly session, Mexico underlined the importance of translating into concrete reality the letter and spirit of all commitments the international community had made. Mexico would continue a State policy for children which aimed to protect children’s welfare and the welfare of women of childbearing age.
For the immediate future, his country’s priorities included reducing maternal and infant mortality; improving access to family planning; and improving education at all levels and with gender equity. He hoped the special session of the Assembly would help to consolidate a world alliance to achieve the shared objectives. In order to secure success, it was important to promote integrated programmes and measures against poverty. National action must be supported by redoubled international support.
AHMED H. DARWISH (Egypt) said that paying attention to the physical and mental development of children was an economic and social duty. It was also an investment in the future. He believed that the Convention on the Rights of the Child constituted a basic framework for the active protection of children. Egypt, he said, had emphasized its commitment to promoting the rights of its children, and had taken a number of special initiatives to do so. Child labour was an issue of great importance. It was imperative that children who had been victims of such exploitation were rehabilitated, and it was important to deal with that problem in a comprehensive manner. The Egyptian Government had banned children from performing hazardous work, and had set out regulations concerning the hours children were allowed to work. His delegation was concerned about the participation of children in armed conflict, the trafficking of children and child pornography. There must be international efforts to ban the recruitment of children into armed forces. The protection of children must include the respect of their basic rights in armed conflicts.
His country would like to see an end to all military acts directed against children in the occupied Arab territories, he said. The Israelis were still killing Palestinian children, and that must stop. He hoped the international community would mobilize the funds and political will to protect children, since they were the essence of the present and the hope of the future.
ATUL KHARE (India) said his country's compliance with the World Summit goals had been positive, if not total. Certain areas which called for mission-oriented goals -- such as immunization or water supply -- depended on resources and provision of services, whereas other goals were more complex, requiring attitudinal changes at the community level and convergence by several sectors and civil society partners. Understandably, such processes took a longer time and were more difficult to achieve, he said. The gains obtained in a democratic set-up, with participation by all, were certainly more permanent and easier to sustain. India had made appreciable progress in goals such as immunization and literacy, whereas there had been less progress in areas such as sanitation and combating malnutrition.
India was progressing on the right track in recognizing the need for decentralization and convergence as two important planks for achieving those goals. State Programmes of Action on Children (SPAC) in all India’s major states had been prepared after the National Plan of Action finalized in 1992. The process and preparation of SPAC, adopting the rights-based approach, had allowed subnational planning and ownership and mobilization of resources at local levels. He said that the outcome of the special session should be a focused and intergovernmentally negotiated document: concise, short and action-oriented. It was important that the document should include an agreement on efforts required to be taken at all levels for the eradication of poverty, as well as a strategy to combat malnutrition inter-generationally in children and infants, in adolescents and in pregnant and lactating mothers.
The special session must also highlight the importance of literacy and education, he said, including the promotion of the values of compassion, tolerance and caring. It was essential to focus on improving the quality of water supply and provision of better sanitation facilities as well as meeting the special needs of adolescents who, in their increasing numbers, represented a particularly important challenge. The special session must also address children in exceptional circumstances, including those affected by terrorism and armed conflict, street children, juvenile and delinquent children, child labour and children affected by HIV/AIDS.
IVAN SIMONOVIC (Croatia) said the special session of the General Assembly on children next year would provide the international community with a unique opportunity to take stock of its achievements to date, and prepare itself for the evolving challenges to be faced by children in the future. More importantly, it was expected to be the most representative gathering for children the world had ever seen. Croatia attached particular importance to the fact that the special session should be viewed as a comprehensive process rather than just a single event. That process would issue a clarion call for integral social change, dissemination and dialogue, as well as awareness-raising amongst all sectors of society.
In that connection, the preparatory processes -- such as the national governmental reviews -- would play a crucial role as a vehicle through which future policies for children could be identified and determined. Furthermore, the outcomes of regional events and national efforts would substantively enrich the whole process, as well as the final outcome of the special session itself. A national working group had been established in Croatia, with the exclusive mandate to prepare for active participation in and follow-up to the special session. Furthermore, under the new Government, a program of change had been instituted, committed to building a civil society under which particular attention was being given to children and youth for their harmonious development in a secure and favourable environment.
Children were the future of the world, and the millennium ahead belonged to them. Transferring the global commitment to children’s rights into a real challenge for children remained a task that must engage everyone. The seeds for new approaches were often to be found in the children themselves, and their interests must be considered.
RAFAEL DAUSA CESPEDES (Cuba) said the review of commitments undertaken in 1990 should lead to evaluation of the commitments that had not been complied with, and to establish what new challenges lay ahead. It was the world’s duty to protect children from inheriting the debris of modern civilization -- poverty, armed conflict, sale and traffic in minors, sexual abuse of children, child pornography, the illicit sale of body organs and the phenomenon of street children without a future. That was the reality confronting children. More than 11 million under the age of five died every year of preventable diseases. Child mortality in underdeveloped countries was 95 per thousand. Two out of five children in developing countries suffered from some kind of retardation. Some 250 million children under age fifteen had to work in order to survive. The AIDS pandemic also had a dramatic effect on children. By the end of 1999, 13,200,000 children had lost a mother or both parents to AIDS.
Efforts at the national level must go hand in hand with a new philosophy of international solidarity. Official development assistance (ODA) must finally attain the goals accepted by developed countries. As United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) had said, indebtedness had the face of a child, because children paid the highest price. Globalization had forced marginalization and exclusion of children. Economic and social development should be achieved for all. Eliminating poverty remained the key. There must be no abandoning of efforts to bring about progress in the education of children and in securing social services for all.
In the context of international commitments, the Convention on the Rights of the Child was more important than ever. He welcomed the two additional Protocols to that Convention, which his country had signed. With pride, he pointed to progress achieved in Cuba. Right from the beginning of life, no effort was spared to ensure that each child would have access to integral development. All had full access to education and heath care. Cuba’s doctors and health workers had helped in other developed countries. Despite the blockade, Cuba had achieved remarkable results, such as eliminating illiteracy, reduction of infantile mortality and child immunization programmes. Diphtheria, polio and tuberculosis, among other diseases, had been eradicated in his country because of the immunization programmes. Jose Martí had said that children were the hope of the world. It was the world’s responsibility to restore hope to those children who did not have any hope now.
MANUEL PICASSO (Peru) said that children and youth of the Latin American and Caribbean region today had a higher probability of survival, of living in dwellings with basic services, of being healthily fed and of going to school. However, there was no marked progress in terms of the maternal death rate and in the reduction of illiteracy. Those were spheres that mainly involved women, but that had an impact on the family and on national life. That reflected the fact that gender differences continued to have an impact on basic areas such as nutrition, primary education and survival.
On a national level, the progress the Peruvian Government had made to improve the quality of life for children had depended on the valuable participation of civil society and of NGOs, articulated through the Ministry of Promotion of Women and of Human Development. The Government had designed its 1996-2000 national Plan of Action for Children with the goal of promoting and safeguarding the full implementation of the rights of boys and girls, as well as contributing to the struggle against poverty through goals of survival, development and protection. A new Code for Children and Adolescents had recently been enacted, operating with the already existing Public Defender Offices for Children and Adolescents, for the purpose of safeguarding rights recognized by legislation.
In the area of education, Peru's constitution guaranteed access to education at its initial, primary and secondary levels. It was mandatory, and education was free in the Government institutions at their different levels, including the higher level within the public universities. With regard to child labour, one of the permanent subjects of international debate, Peru did not permit full-time work by youths. However, Peru's reality was not fully in accordance with the standards, since it remained very difficult to achieve a change in mentality and to outlaw traditional practices.
YVES DOUTRIAUX (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that the World Summit for Children, which coincided in 1990 with the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, marked a very important and ambitious stage in the process of improving the welfare of children in the world. The Convention on the Rights of the Child was one of the most important outcomes of the last decade. France expected the special session of the General Assembly next year, intended as a follow-up to the World Summit, to be "innovative in its approach, ambitious in its targets, pragmatic in its results and totally focused on seeking ways of advancing the situation of children."
The Union was glad to see that, prior to the convening of the special session, significant decisions to help children had recently been taken in the United Nations, notably the Assembly's adoption of the Optional Protocols to the Convention, dealing with the participation of children in armed conflict and with the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. In addition, the adoption by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in June 1999 of ILO Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour was a major development for the rights of children. The Millennium Declaration also underlined the importance of protecting children against the consequences of armed conflict.
The European Union encouraged next year's special session to address the emerging child-related problems of poverty, armed conflict and other forms of violence, discrimination, and HIV/AIDS. He supported the conclusion of a recent seminar in southern Africa on the question of HIV/AIDS to the effect that children and young people were particularly exposed to infection owing to the lack of proper sex education. The Union hoped that, in the special session's preparatory meetings, all institutions concerned with children -- including research bodies and academic institutions -- would participate in the process. Children must be heard as well, he stated, and the participation of NGOs would be welcomed in the September 2001 session.
SUZANNA STANIK, Minister of Justice for Ukraine, speaking on behalf of the GUUAM countries –- Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and the Republic of Moldova -- said children should be at the center of attention of human society. In September of 1990, heads of State had to examine the situation of children in the world and a Plan of Action had been adopted. Looking at the past decade, successes and failures could be seen. The most significant contribution was the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two additional Protocols. There was hope that those Protocols would get the same support as the Convention. In spite of efforts made, achieving compliance with the rights of children was still far from reality.
Children were still the most vulnerable and unprotected part of the world population, she said. In some parts of the world they did not even have access to food or drinking water. Children suffered especially as refugees. Another problem was that of hostages. The Commission on Women had addressed the issue of releasing women and children taken hostage as a result of armed conflict. The GUUAM countries felt the upcoming special session would be an important opportunity to renew the international community’s commitments.
The problems of protection of children had always been a priority of her country, she said. Among those were the creation of the proper conditions for integral development of children and the creation of possibilities for children to receive education and medical care. The GUUAM countries, however, had encountered difficulties because the States had not existed for more than 10 years and were concerned with the democratization process. They had distorted economies with unstable balances of payments. Those circumstances were made worse by environmental crises and troubles that did not stop at their borders.
MSUYA MANGACHI (United Republic of Tanzania) felt the special session would afford the international community an opportunity for appraisal of the implementation of the goals contained in the Summit’s World Declaration and Plan of Action adopted a decade ago. According to an analysis made by UNICEF, all but two governments had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. However, children, particularly those in developing countries, continued to face serious challenges, such as deepening poverty and greater inequality, proliferating conflict and violence, the spread of HIV/AIDS and discrimination. Thus, it was imperative that the special session address these issues on an urgent basis.
He noted that poor countries had failed to carry out the goals of the Summit because of the prevalence of poverty. A recent survey by UNICEF and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) indicated that two thirds of the countries spent more on external debt servicing than on basic social services. He hoped the special session would discuss various measures to address poverty and external debt, including international support for poverty eradication programmes in developing countries. The cumulative effect of HIV/AIDS on his country was enormous, claiming 10 per cent of the population. Furthermore, HIV/AIDS had created 11 million orphans worldwide. He hoped the special session would come up with strategies to curtail the spread of the pandemic so as to reduce its impact on children.
African countries had had their share of conflicts whose impact on children had been traumatic, since children had been drawn into the conflicts without regard to their rights. While he applauded the work of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, he expected the special session to build on that foundation to institute a coherent framework for States' conduct in times of armed conflict. Another problem associated with conflict was refugees. His country had been host country to refugees for over 40 years, he went on, and appreciated the traumatic effects of conflict on refugee children.
GELSON FONSECA, JR. (Brazil) said that, since 1990, many positive developments had taken place at the national, regional and international levels, which was proof of the powerful interaction of the World Summit for Children and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. He noted that the Convention, which had almost universal ratification, emphasized the child as bearer of rights, entitled to a life free of discrimination, violence and exclusion, who needed to be protected and cared for and whose voice must be heard.
As a result of the Convention and the World Summit, there was greater international awareness and an ever-higher attention to children's rights and needs. New international standards had also been established, including the International Labour Organization Convention to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labour, the Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography. In addition, at the national level, legal and policy measures had been put in place, in order to implement the Convention and to meet the targets set by the World Summit.
But the situation of children around the world, he went on, was far from what was envisaged, since, according to UNICEF’s The Progress of Nations 2000, poverty continued to enslave 600 million children aged one to five years. The commitment to "give every child a better future" must be reaffirmed. Brazil had already achieved most of the goals set by the World Summit for Children: maternal and infant mortality rates had been drastically reduced; the enrollment rate for basic education was 96 per cent, with the gender gap in education closed; poliomyelitis had been eradicated; vaccination campaigns had reached more children than ever; and the goals regarding health, reduction of malnutrition and sanitation were within reach. Although he believed much needed to be done, his Government was confident that the special session would adopt a new agenda for children, which would uphold the rights of children as the paramount focus of national and international efforts in the next century.
YURI N. ISAKOV (Russian Federation) said that in his country, the protection of motherhood and childhood were among specific priorities of State policy. That fact determined the paramount significance that the top leaders of the country had attached to international cooperation in this sphere. His country was determined to develop constructive interaction with the UNICEF in the interests of children and young people as a whole. Within the framework of preparation for the special session, it was necessary to continue to actively involve governments, United Nations bodies, the Bretton Woods institutions, NGOs, partners in civil society, including trade unions, the private sector, mass media and universities, to develop an optimum policy in the interests of children at the national, regional and international levels.
The problems of poverty and inequality, proliferation of conflicts, the spread of HIV/AIDS, discrimination against women and girls, and other forms of social injustice should be the focus of the international community in the development of measures in the interests of children. An integrated approach to the promotion of the rights of children was required, focusing on the three key policy lines: the creation of favourable conditions for all children to have a good start in life; access to good-quality education; and the creation of favourable opportunities to fully develop adolescent potential.
One of the central elements in the preparatory work for the special session was the holding of regional events, which would coordinate the interests of all countries and take regional conditions into account in the elaboration of global plans in the interest of children. In that connection, his country believed it would be useful to hold a preparatory event for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and the Baltic countries, since the situation of children in those countries was similar in nature and was determined first of all by the social and economic hardships of the transition period.
NGUYEN THANH CHAU (Viet Nam) said that in 10 years of implementing the World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children and the Plan of Action for Implementing the World Declaration in the 1990s, remarkable progress had been witnessed in various areas. The Convention on the Rights of the Child had been ratified by 191 countries, which clearly demonstrated almost universal political will and commitment to the protection and promotion of children's fundamental rights. However, the goals of the World Summit had not yet been fulfilled. There were many obstacles and challenges, such as deepening poverty and inequity, the growing burden of external debt, discrimination and violence, environmental problems, the explosive spread of HIV/AIDS and the proliferation of armed conflicts.
The review and assessment process must be stepped up at all national, regional and international levels to reach a common understanding of existing obstacles as well as emerging issues for children's welfare in the twenty-first century, in order to determine appropriate future actions. Viet Nam supported the rights-based approach in its efforts to realize the goals of the World Summit for Children. The welfare of children, however, could not be promoted in separation from the socio-economic development process of the country. Therefore, he was of the view that the review and assessment of the implementation of the outcomes of the World Summit at all levels, as well as future actions to be defined by the Special Session, must be closely linked with socio-economic development policies. It was important to find ways and means for capacity building to sustain hard-earned achievements in protecting and promoting children's rights.
JOSTEIN LEIRO (Norway) said that his country looked forward to receiving the first draft of the outcome document, and would like to join others in reiterating that the document should be innovative, concise and action-oriented. The document should be one that could be committed to with the same motivation and enthusiasm as was displayed at the World Summit for Children. It should build on the results of the Summit and take into consideration the challenges that had emerged since then. Those included rising poverty and disparity, the proliferation of conflicts and the HIV/AIDS pandemic. There must also be greater attention to the violation of children’s rights.
The participation of the various United Nations organizations in the preparatory process for the special session should not be limited to providing input to the Secretary General’s report, he continued. Their input was necessary throughout the preparatory process. They should also actively participate in the special session itself. Much had been said about the participation of children and youth, both in the preparatory process and in the Special Session. Participation was one of the guiding principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The issues raised during the preparation for the Special Session, and at the Special Session itself, would have a direct impact on the well-being of children. It was important, therefore, that children and young people be given the chance to voice their opinions and be heard as part of the process.
FABIO OCAZIONES (Colombia) said that 10 years after the World Summit for Children and elaboration of the human rights instruments for their protection, many promises had not been fulfilled. Nevertheless, there was now a unique opportunity to review lessons learned and to move from words to action. He was encouraged by the success of the Convention in monitoring international commitments. But there were still areas of great challenge, such as AIDS, maternal mortality, drinking-water supply and improvement of health conditions. There was urgent need to strengthen protection of minors in difficult circumstances, such as minors who were victims of armed conflicts and landmines, victims of trafficking for sexual purposes, and minors affected by drug addiction and abuse at home.
He drew attention to one harsh reality in the non-compliance with commitments, namely poverty. According to UNICEF, 600 million children grew up in families struggling to survive on one dollar a day. Poverty was also present when children did not attend school and worked in dangerous jobs and when families succumbed to domestic violence. The goals of the World Summit should be updated with realistic indicators that took those factors into account. An increase in resources should be obtained to combat poverty and offer universal access to basic services. That required greater attention from donors.
He supported UNICEF’s belief that children should have a good start in life, that they should have good-quality basic education, and that adolescents should have an opportunity to develop their capacities to the fullest extent. Those goals could be complemented by regional efforts. He, therefore, enthusiastically welcomed the Ministerial Meetings of Jamaica and Peru and had great expectations for the Summit of Ibero-American heads of State and governments, to be held in Panama in December, with the situation of children as its basic topic.
LANDON PEARSON (Canada) said that in September, Canada had hosted the International Conference on War-affected Children, where representatives of governments, the United Nations and its relevant agencies, members of civil society and young people themselves had demonstrated a resolve to work in this area. He hoped that the "Agenda for War-affected Children", agreed to by 130 governments and circulated as a document of the General Assembly, would contribute to the Special Session. He emphasized the importance that Canada attached to safeguarding the rights of children in especially difficult circumstances. Among those particularly vulnerable children were street-involved children, child-labourers, children who were sexually exploited and trafficked, children with disabilities, children in conflict with the law or in the care of the State. Refugees and internally displaced children, minority and indigenous children and war-affected children were also in need of special attention.
He encouraged all countries that had not already done so to sign, ratify and implement the tools of the two optional protocols on children. Canada had been pleased to participate in the successful conclusion of negotiations on the Transnational Organized Crime Convention and its two protocols on trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants. There were new tools to address heinous abuses of children, he said. As the outcome document of the Special Session, Canada was in favour of a short and focused political declaration followed by a set of clear, appropriate and measurable goals.
He stressed that while setting goals for certain specific actions for child survival, protection and development at the 1990 World Summit for Children, additional goals to address obstacles and emerging issues would require extra effort and commitment.
|* * * * *|