Press Releases

    GA/SHC/3822
    17 October 2005

    Effects of Poverty, Conflict, Domestic Violence among main Topics of Discussion, as Third Committee Takes up Children's Rights Issues

    NEW YORK, 14 October (UN Headquarters) -- The effects on children of poverty, civil conflict and domestic violence were the main topics of discussion today, as the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) began its review of issues related to the promotion and protection of children's rights.

    A new proposed working definition of poverty suggested that the poverty children experienced included spiritual and emotional dimensions, said Rima Salah, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).  That new working definition -- which went beyond the traditional approach of viewing poverty solely in terms of income deprivation -- had been proposed in the UNICEF's 2005 publication, "The State of the World's Children".  Furthermore, most of the goals of the "World Fit for Children" Plan of Action would only be achieved if resource allocation and political will were intensified for actions for disadvantaged children and poor families.  As child protection was not included in the millennium targets, it was still a challenge to have appropriate consideration of child protection in macro-level plans such as Poverty Reduction Strategies.

    Implementing critical programmes for children would continue to challenge many countries due to institutional capacity weaknesses, budgetary constraints, conflict and instability, she continued.  Creating high-level national children's councils, building capacity of national child agencies, and working with parliamentarians and civil society to promote child-focused budgets, could rectify the situation.

    Despite tangible progress that had been made, the situation for children in many situations of conflict remained grave and unacceptable, Karin Holmgrunn Sham Poo, Under-Secretary-General and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, said.  A considerable distance still existed between strong child protection standards and norms on the one hand, and the actual situation for children on the ground on the other.  The international community must apply and enforce norms and standards on the ground in order to close that gap, as children's lives were directly or indirectly affected by armed conflicts in more than 30 countries.

    Collaborative efforts over the last eight years among the Office of Special Representative, the UNICEF and other key United Nations entities, as well as Member States, regional organizations, non-governmental organizations and other civil society groups had resulted in significant advances that had created a strong momentum for the children and armed conflict agenda, she continued.  That included more extensive global awareness of the issue; significant progress in development of field programmes and training of field personnel, including the deployment of Child Protection Advisers to United Nations peacekeeping operations; and children themselves becoming actively engaged in the issue at local and international levels.

    Clearly, there had been some progress because the key principle of the best interest of the child had remained the pre-eminent consideration among all parties concerned.  Stressing the importance of continuing to keep that principle in mind, Ms. Sham Poo said the collective resolve and determination to act in the best interest of the child had helped to generate the necessary consensus to significantly advance the agenda for children affected by armed conflict.

    Presenting the Secretary-General's report on the status of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, Craig Mokhiber, Deputy Director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said this year marked the fifteenth anniversary of the Convention, which was the most widely ratified of human rights conventions.  Also encouraging was the fact that the number of States parties to the two Optional Protocols had now increased to three-digit figures.  The Committee on the Rights of the Child was reviewing its working methods and preparing for January 2006, when it would convene its session in two parallel chambers for the first time.

    In a question-and-answer session following the presentations, several representatives inquired about the strategies and future plans of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and the UNICEF in protecting children in conflict areas.  Other questions were raised on getting armed groups to respect international human rights instruments prohibiting the recruitment and use of child soldiers in Burundi, preventive measures on the recruitment of child soldiers, efforts to mainstream effective strategies to end the use of child soldiers into the United Nations work, and the UNICEF's action to assist child victims of HIV/AIDS and those whose parents had died from the disease from discrimination, among others.

    Following that discussion, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, the Independent Expert directing the Secretary-General's in-depth study on violence against children, said violence against children could never be justified, whether on the basis of discipline or the guise of tradition.  Children were different from adults, but that difference called for more, not less, protection in laws, policies and programmes.  He had been struck by the fact that violence against children in all settings and contexts was very prevalent and knew no boundaries of geography, class, politics, race or culture.

    Ensuring safety for children was a low priority for many States, despite the fact that they had accepted international treaties that required them to guarantee their safety, he said.  Throughout his activities, he had become aware that some forms of violence against children were hidden and invisible, and that there were no systems to monitor response mechanisms.  The study would challenge social norms that condoned any form of violence against children or that justified violent practices under the guise of tradition.

    In its general discussion, the Committee heard statements from representatives of the United Kingdom (on behalf of the European Union), Mauritius (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community), Singapore, China, Egypt and Senegal.

    The Third Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 17 October, to continue its consideration of issues related to the promotion and protection of the rights of children.

    Background

    The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to begin its general discussion of promotion and protection of the rights of children.

    The Committee had before it the Secretary-General's report on the status of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (document A/60/175 and document A/60/175/Corr.1), which states that as of 30 June 2005, 192 States had ratified or acceded to the Convention and two other States had signed it.  Also as of 30 June 2005, 98 States had ratified and 117 States had signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the involvement of children in armed conflict; 95 States had ratified and 111 States had signed the Option Protocol to the Convention on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

    Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General's report on follow-up to the special session of the General Assembly on children (document A/60/207), which presents updates on progress made in achieving the commitments set forth in the session's document entitled "A world fit for children" concerning health promotion; quality education; protection against abuse, exploitation and violence; and combating HIV/AIDS.

    Also before it was a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the independent expert for the United Nations study on violence against children (document A/60/282), which summarizes the findings of expert Paulo Sergio Pinheiro on the situation of violence against children and steps to end and prevent such violence.

    In the report, the independent expert identifies key focus areas for the coming year -- based on regional, subregional and national consultations, expert meetings, field visits and analysis of the work of human rights mechanisms such as the Committee on the Rights of the Child.  Those areas include the continued legality and prevalence of corporal punishment against children in the home, schools, alternative care, institutions and the juvenile justice system; the vulnerability of children in conflict with the law and vulnerability of street children to violence; and the pervasiveness of harmful traditional practices.  Further, he identifies community attitudes to violence, discrimination, poverty, the unequal status of women and girls, lack of access to quality education and denial of human rights as underlying conditions that exacerbate children's vulnerability to violence.

    In addition, the Committee had before it the report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (document A/60/335), which provides an overview of the agenda for war-affected children, and highlights progress achieved in the "era of application" campaign to enforce existing international child protection norms and standards on the ground.

    The report concludes that despite tangible progress made in the agenda for war-affected children, the situation for children in conflict remains grave and unacceptable.  Greater commitment and more effective collaboration by all parties concerned were needed.  The report recommends that the General Assembly consider introducing a separate resolution on children and armed conflict under the agenda item "Promotion and protection of the rights of children", in order to ensure a sustained focus on the issue.

    Further to the report, all Member States should ensure that the rights, protection and well-being of children affected by armed conflict are specifically integrated into all peace processes, peace agreements and post-conflict recovery and reconstruction planning and programmes.  United Nations entities, Member States and other members of the international donor community should also ensure adequate support to develop and strengthen the institutional capabilities and local civil society networks.

    Introductory Statements

    KARIN HOLMGRUNN SHAM POO, Under-Secretary-General and Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, said that in more than 30 countries in the world, children's lives were directly or indirectly affected by armed conflicts.  There were many faces of the suffering of children in the midst of armed conflict and its aftermath.  Children were killed or maimed, made orphans, abducted, deprived of education and health care, and left with deep and emotional scars and trauma.  They were recruited and used as child soldiers, and uprooted and displaced from their homes.  Girls were particularly vulnerable, and faced additional risks, especially of sexual violence and exploitation.  All those categories of children were victims of armed conflict, and all of them deserved attention and protection, and to live in countries fit for children.

    She said collaborative efforts over the last eight years among the Office of Special Representative, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and other key United Nations entities, as well as Member States, regional organizations, non-governmental organizations and other civil society groups, had resulted in significant advances that had created a strong momentum for the children and armed conflict agenda.  That included more extensive global awareness of the issue; significant progress in development of field programmes and training of field personnel, including the deployment of Child Protection Advisers to United Nations peacekeeping operations; and children themselves becoming actively engaged in the issue at local and international levels.  The past several years had also seen the development and consolidation of an extensive array of protective standards and norms for children.

    It was clear that progress had been achieved because the key principle of the best interest of the child had remained the pre-eminent consideration among all parties concerned, she continued.  It was important that everyone continue to keep that principle in mind in every aspect of what they were doing.  The collective resolve and determination to act in the best interest of the child had helped to generate the necessary consensus to significantly advance the agenda for children affected by armed conflict.  Yet, in spite of the tangible progress that had been made, the situation for children in many situations of conflict remained grave and unacceptable.  A considerable distance still existed between strong child protection standards and norms on the one hand, and the actual situation for children on the ground on the other. In order to close that gap, there was a need for the international community to apply and enforce norms and standards on the ground.

    The Special Representative had therefore called on Member States to endorse the "era of application" campaign for the enforcement of international norms and standards for the protection of the rights of war-affected children, and had made that a central preoccupation of the office's advocacy agenda.  It was necessary to move towards further mainstreaming within the system, and more work was also required to build national and subregional networks for advocacy and for the protection of children affected by armed conflict, as well as for reporting.  She added that it was also important to not forget to reach out more vigorously to children and young people themselves, and enrol them in the struggle for the protection of other young people so they could become themselves advocates on behalf of children affected by armed conflict.  Children must be given the chance to lead the movement for the protection of their peers who were caught up in situations of conflict.

    RIMA SALAH, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said most of the goals of the "World Fit for Children" Plan of Action would only be achieved if resource allocation and political will was intensified for actions for disadvantaged children and poor families.  At least 172 of the 190 countries that had adopted the action plan had taken or foreseen action to achieve the goals.  As child protection was not included in the millennium targets, it was still a challenge to have appropriate consideration of child protection in macro-level plans such as Poverty Reduction Strategies.

    In many countries, implementation of critical programmes for children would continue to be a challenge, due to institutional capacity weaknesses, budgetary constraints, conflict and instability, she continued.  That could be rectified by creating high-level national children's councils, building the capacity of national child agencies and working with parliamentarians and civil society to promote child-focused budgets.  In its 2005 publication "The State of the World's Children", the UNICEF proposed a working definition that went beyond the traditional approach of viewing poverty solely in terms of income depravation.  The proposed definition suggested that the poverty children experienced included spiritual and emotional dimensions.

    Efforts were under way to deter some of the gravest abuses perpetrated against children during armed conflict, she said.  United Nations Security Council resolution 1612 of 25 July 2005 requested immediate creation of a mechanism to monitor and report on a range of child abuses.  Better information would enable the United Nations and other concerned organizations and civil society groups to better prevent and respond to such concerns.

    CRAIG MOKHIBER, Deputy Director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented the report of the Secretary-General on the status of the Convention of the Rights of the Child (document A/60/175).  He said this year marked the celebration of the fifteenth anniversary of the Convention, which was the most widely ratified of human rights conventions.  Also encouraging was the fact that the number of States parties to the two Optional Protocols had now increased to three-digit figures, with 102 States party to the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict and 101 States party to the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

    The Committee on the Rights of the Child was now reviewing its working methods and preparing for January 2006, when it would convene its session in two parallel chambers for the first time.  In addition to considering State Party reports, the Committee had continued to work on specific thematic issues.  For its part, the Commission recognized the need of States and other concerned parties for guidelines for the protection and alternative care of children who were without parental care.  The Committee also emphasized the need to focus on existing international and regional instruments with a view to effectively implementing those provisions, to monitor progress in implementation, and to give consideration to the preparation of further international standards or guidelines on the protection of children who were without parental care and in need of alternative care.

    Committee members had also contributed to activities related to the Secretary-General's study on violence against children, and continued to provide guidance on the implementation of the provisions of the Convention through the adoption of general comments.  He added that the Committee had continued to liaise with other treaty bodies, special procedures mandate holders, representatives of the Secretary-General and the United Nations specialized agencies.  It carried out its work in close partnership with national human rights institutions and academia, and had indicated its particular gratitude to cooperating international and national non-governmental organizations for their important contributions to the reporting process, and to the implementation of the provisions of the Convention at the national level.

    Discussion

    During the ensuing question-and-answer period, several speakers inquired about the strategies and future plans of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and UNICEF in protecting children in conflict areas.

    As to how to get armed groups to respect international human rights instruments prohibiting the recruitment and use of child soldiers in Burundi, Ms. SHAM POO said the issue was on the Security Council's agenda and was being dealt with by a task force in Burundi working under the Special Representative's leadership to gather reliable data from relevant parties and the Government of Burundi to ensure effective action to end the use of child soldiers as it had in other instances.

    Regarding measures to prevent recruitment of child soldiers, Ms. SALAH said that ensuring children's rights to protection and development through a protective, safe family environment was the primary goal.  But for many isolated poor families, sending their children into the armed forces was the only way to ensure they were adequately fed and clothed.  The UNICEF was working with Government and non-State actors, including rebel groups, to disarm children and send them back to school.  For example, in Sierra Leone it had a programme to educate children who were no longer of school age.  Children in school were less likely to be trafficked or recruited as soldiers.

    Regarding efforts to mainstream effective strategies ending the use of child soldiers into United Nations work programmes, Ms. SHAM POO said in the last several months her office, and in her capacity as Convenor of the Task Force on Children in Armed Conflict, had worked with heads of United Nations departments and agencies to develop a collaborative approach.  The Security Council had also focused on the need for strong collaboration with non-governmental organizations.

    In terms of the UNICEF's action to assist child victims of HIV/AIDS and protect from discrimination those whose parents had died from the disease, Ms. SALAH said the UNICEF was advocating for legislative reform to ensure implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child to end such discrimination and help children, particularly girls, understand and deal with the disease.  For example, in Swaziland it had a programme to give orphans school grants and free meals.  The UNICEF promoted "child-friendly" schools where children could feel safe from conflict raging outside.

    As to the situation of children in Sudan, Ms. SHAM POO said she had recommended in her report that the new Special Representative visited the country, and added that she was confident that her replacement would in fact do so as soon as possible.  Ms. SALAH said the UNICEF would continue its work in Sudan on the disarmament and demobilization of children.

    Asked whether the Special Representative intended to rely excessively on input for its report from non-governmental organizations, particularly Human Rights Watch, whose agenda was far removed from the topic and items addressed, Ms. SHAM POO said there had been some overemphasis with some regional organization and not others, and that the Special Representative would seek to have even-handedness in the future.  She added that the Special Representative would specifically focus on advocacy and ensuring that protection, rehabilitation and development were the top priority in conflict and post-conflict settings.  That included unblocking political impasses as appropriate and ensuring follow-up to parties' commitments.

    Regarding the UNICEF's programmes in Iraq, Ms. SALAH said she had met with Iraqi Government representatives and non-governmental organizations there, and would continue to work with them to put an end to violence against children through training and protection programmes at the family level.  Next week, they would meet to discuss how to deal with education issues.

    Statement by Independent Expert

    PAULO SÉRGIO PINHEIRO, the Independent Expert directing the Secretary-General's in-depth study on violence against children, said such violence could never be justified, whether on the basis of discipline or the guise of tradition.  Children were different from adults, but that difference called for more, not less, protection in laws, policies and programmes, as well as significant investment in protecting them from of violence.  The objective of the study must be to ensure that children enjoyed the same protection as adults.  It would challenge social norms that condoned any form of violence against children, and would also challenge social norms that justified violent practices under the guise of tradition.

    He was particularly encouraged that more than 120 Governments had provided comprehensive and thoughtful responses to the questionnaire outlining laws, policies and programmes in place to address violence against children.  Similarly, the many submissions he had received from non-governmental organizations, other parts of civil society and individuals had convinced him that the study process had placed violence against children firmly on the international agenda.  Subregional and national consultations, a number of which had been convened since he had submitted his report, had also allowed for information-sharing and the building of partnerships, and had contributed to lifting the veil of silence surrounding violence against children.

    He had been struck by the fact that violence against children in all settings and contexts was very prevalent and knew no boundaries of geography, class, politics, race or culture.  Also, children and adults were not accorded equal protection from assault and humiliation, and ensuring safety for children was a low priority for many States, despite the fact that they had accepted international treaties that required them to guarantee their safety.  Legal provisions in some countries tolerated some forms of violence against children, while those forms might be condoned by parents and communities that did not grasp their negative effects on children, family life and community well-being, as well as their implications for national development in the cultural, economic, political and social spheres.  Throughout his activities, he had become aware that some forms of violence against children were hidden and invisible, and that there were no systems to monitor response mechanisms.

    Discussion

    During the ensuing question-and-answer period, several speakers asked the Independent Expert to elaborate on efforts to end violence against children in specific countries.

    Asked about eliminating child gangs in Central America, Mexico and the United States, Mr. PINHEIRO said that after meeting with the President and First Lady of El Salvador, he had a very positive impression of how politicians in that country were dealing with the issue.  Gang prevention and repressive measures were necessary.  Children should be in schools not on the streets.

    Regarding collaboration between those working on the study on violence against children and the study on violence against women, both of which would be discussed in the next General Assembly session, Mr. PINHEIRO said the report was not intended to denounce violent practices but to express Member States' commitments, particularly in the South, on collaboration.  The UNICEF and his office had taken a regional approach to preparing reports on violence against women and girls.

    In terms of violence against children in the home and the proposed legislation in Brazil that would outlaw corporal punishment by parents of their children, he said the goal was not to criminalize parents, but to help them with alternative ways to discipline children.  His office was trying to encourage countries to end corporal punishment without criminally prosecuting them, except in extreme cases.  A dialogue was needed with honest parents who used corporal punishment.  The office had met with some 400 parents who said they were seeking alternative forms of discipline for their children, he said, stressing the importance of getting parents to adhere to the principles set forth in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    Regarding ending female genital mutilation in Mali and ensuring that Malian women were aware of their rights, he said criminalizing female genital mutilation would not solve the problem.  Greater community commitments involving awareness-raising were essential, and such measures must be taken in the near future.  The Malian Government's action plan involved good practices to overcome this problem, he said, adding that he had visited Bamako on several occasion, and had seen remarkable work being done with babies and young girls.

    Statements

    RICHARD WOOD (United Kingdom), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said progress towards realizing the key principles and objectives of the plan of action of the Special Session of the General Assembly on children had so far been mixed.  One of the objectives was to eradicate child poverty, and the Millennium Summit brought home the unpalatable truth of just how far there was to go towards that aim if the promise of meeting it within a single generation were to be kept.  Indeed, Member States must redouble their efforts across the board to ensure that "A World Fit for Children" would not remain a broken promise.  The Convention on the Rights of the Child must constitute the primary standard in the promotion and protection of the rights of the child.

    The European Union remained critically concerned about the situation of children affected by armed conflict, both as combatants and victims, and he urged all Member States that had not already done so to sign, ratify and fully implement the corresponding relevant international instruments.  Stressing that the Union also remained concerned about the impact of the AIDS epidemic on children, he added that the promotion and protection of human rights was essential to safeguarding human dignity in the context of HIV and AIDS, and to ensuring an effective response.  There was an urgent need for short-term solutions, as well as longer-term strategies for the care of orphans and vulnerable children, with an emphasis on strengthening families and communities, to counteract the devastating effects for future generations and societies as a whole.

    JAGDISH KOONJUL (Mauritius), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said the SADC attached great importance to the promotion and protection of the rights of children.  That commitment was demonstrated in its continued support for the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on children's rights, and in the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan, which clearly and unequivocally laid out that children's rights should be mainstreamed in all development endeavours.  Despite those commitments, millions of children, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, remained vulnerable to chronic ill health, were infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, died from preventable diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis, and were negatively impacted by conflicts.  All Member States had a moral obligation to ensure that every child survived, grew and developed to his or her full potential.

    The SADC Member States viewed gender equality and the empowerment of women to be at the core of all of the Millennium Development Goals, from improving health and fighting disease, to reducing poverty and mitigating hunger, and to expanding education to lowering child mortality.  Unfortunately, many children, particularly girls, were still disadvantaged in many ways that made them vulnerable to poverty.  This year, the SADC would once again present the resolution on the girl child, and he urged all Member States to continue the support they had provided in the past by serving as co-sponsors.  He added the Community strongly condemned violence against women and children in all forms, and was committed to its prevention and eradication.

    CHNG TZE CHIA (Singapore) said that as a small country endowed with no natural resources, it was critical that Singapore should place importance on the well-being and nurturing of its young citizens, who were its greatest asset and future.  His Government fully understood that it took no less than a national effort to come up with a comprehensive agenda for the development and implementation of children-related policies.  An inter-ministry committee on children's issues monitored and reviewed progress, while efforts to promote the rights of the child were enshrined in a national statement on the best interests of the child, which had become a common reference for all agencies that worked with children.  The key pillars that underpinned the policies of child development in Singapore included good laws, a strong and comprehensive family network, and a strong education system.

    His Government continued to strive toward maximizing educational opportunity for all children.  Under a compulsory education, all children would have to attend at least six years of primary school education.  In 2001, Singapore had ratified the International Labour Organization (ILO) Core Convention 182 on the Elimination of the Worse Forms of Child Labour, which protected all children against the worst forms of child labour, such as slavery, prostitution and other illicit activities.  In October 2004, the employment act had been amended to raise the general minimum working age for children and young persons from 14 to 15.  Acknowledging the good work done by the UNICEF in mapping out new strategies and policies to improve the welfare of the children of the world, he said their effort in pushing for the betterment of mankind's future served as an inspiration to all.

    TIAN NI (China) said poverty, hunger, disease, natural disasters, child labour, drugs, sexual abuse, war and armed conflicts constituted serious violations of the rights of children, including their rights to life and health.  Therefore, the protection of the rights of children worldwide still had a long way to go.  Guided by the fundamental principle of acting in "the best interests of the child", the international community must strengthen cooperation and take effective measures in an effort to gradually eliminate the root causes of those problems.  Those were the common responsibilities of all countries.  The developed countries in particular had the duty and obligation to provide financial resources and technologies to the developing countries, so as to create a sound environment for the healthy development of all children across the world.

    She said that respect for the elderly and caring for the young had been a long-standing tradition in China, where children accounted for one fifth of the world's total.  At present, China was giving positive consideration to the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.  In order to effectively implement the Convention and the Protocols, her Government had taken a series of legislative and administrative measures aimed at protecting the rights of children.  China's domestic system of law and regulations in the field of protecting the rights of children had basically taken shape, and consisted of the constitution, civil law, a law on adoption, a law on the protection of minors, and a law on compulsory education.  A comprehensive nationwide organizational structure in the field had also been established, which centred on the State council's committee on women and children, and involved relevant Government agencies.

    HESHAM AFIFI (Egypt) said the interest in the child in terms of physical and intellectual development was important for the socio-economic development of all countries.  Attention to children and their development was an investment in the future, especially because children represented one third of the world's population.  It was necessary to work in a determined way in order to support the global alliance and promote the rights of the child and cooperation between Government and civil society.  It was also important to step up efforts and mobilize the necessary resources, and to show political determination in that area.  He stressed the difficult situations experienced by Palestinian children, and called on the international community to help them enjoy their rights and live free of oppression and suffering in families that were not continually threatened with losing their houses, work or freedom.

    Egypt had worked hard at the international and national levels in the area of children's rights.  At the international level, it had been one of the first States to sign and ratify the International Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols.  It also took an active part in efforts to develop strategies to prevent all forms of violence against children, and had hosted a regional conference on the subject.  His Government was particularly interested in the report submitted by Mr. Pinheiro, and believed that it was an important study.  At the national level, there was a law on children that had been adopted in 1996, and a national council for motherhood had been set up in 2000.  The Government had also adopted measures for the most vulnerable sectors, such as street children, and had sought to put an end to female excision.  It had implemented projects and programmes in order to meet the basic needs of children in health and education.  Despite important achievements in strengthening the rights of children, his Government agreed on the need to give particular attention to children in armed conflict.  It would have liked to see more attention given in the corresponding report to occupied territories, particularly the Palestinian Occupied Territories.

    LEYSA FAYE (Senegal) said girls in conflict were often forced to work as housemaids without work contracts or fair treatment, and forced into clandestine or overt prostitution.  Girls had limited access to schools in rural areas in Senegal.  The scale of children's problems continued to be an issue of concern in many African countries, resulting from a whole range of factors including poor integration into society.  Street children were most vulnerable to being trafficked or forced into armed conflict.

    The Senegalese Government's national strategy aimed to protect children from such crimes and enable them to develop to their fullest potential, she continued.  Officials had mobilized national Government departments, non-governmental organizations and local Government offices to implement the rights of the child.  These issues were taken into account in Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers and strategies to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  Senegal had implemented a free universal polio vaccination programme and an infant care programme for children aged two to four.  Also, it had allocated 40 per cent of the national budget for education, and had enacted better laws to protect children and adolescents.  Thanks to awareness-raising programmes, particularly among young people, to combat HIV/AIDS, the rates of infection of the killer disease had dropped from 1.7 per cent to 0.7 per cent.

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