18 October 2005
UN Should Step up Efforts to Take Children off Battlefield, Promote "Zero Tolerance" Policy on Violations of Children's Rights, Third Committee Told
Draft Resolution Introduced on International Cooperation against World Drug Problem
NEW YORK, 17 October (UN Headquarters) -- The United Nations should step up its efforts to take children off the battlefield, promote a zero tolerance policy against violators of children's rights and focus on the concept of "Children as Zones of Peace" with greater seriousness, Sri Lanka's representative told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today as it continued its general discussion of promotion and protection of the rights of the child.
Security Council Resolution 1612 symbolized the growing consensus at the United Nations to take punitive actions against those who violated the rights of children in armed conflicts, he said. It was a remarkable step forward in the international community's resolve to employ sanctions, including proposals for an international travel ban, against offending parties. Sri Lanka was working with relevant United Nations agencies to set up a task force on monitoring and reporting as envisaged by the resolution.
But despite the good intentions of Government, dialogue with armed groups, who were bent on flouting internationally accepted norms and conduct, had often been perversely projected as a sign of recognition of their armed campaigns and as an opportunity for expanding their reach. Armed groups also sought a cover of legitimacy through interactions with United Nations functionaries and other international entities, he added.
Echoing that claim, Libya's representative said although several Member States had ratified the myriad of conventions to protect children, grave violations against the youngest members of society continued and went unpunished. In recent years, 1 million children had died in armed conflict, 6 million had been disabled, 60,000 children were working as soldiers, tens of thousands of girls had been raped, and since 2003 more than 14 million children had been displaced within their countries. Children were violated in prison and at the hands of the police. All reports dealing with this issue indicated that violence and torture, rape and the killing of children had not stopped.
Similarly, Myanmar's representative said the Secretary-General's report estimated that 300 million children worldwide were subjected to violence, exploitation and abuse, including the worst forms of child labour, harmful practices and child marriage. In Myanmar, authorities were working to educate people about children's rights and how to best protect them. The Myanmar Department of Social Welfare was training social welfare officers, probation offices and care-givers and planned to do the same for police officers, social workers, lawyers, judges and prison officers. It was conducting training workshops on child protection, sending teams around the country to promote awareness of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Myanmar's Child Law and child protection issues.
Further, a new law prevented and stringently monitored recruitment of child soldiers, he continued. A high-level Committee for the Prevention of the Recruitment of Child Soldiers had devised an action plan to discharge and reintegrate child soldiers into society. Myanmar was closely cooperating with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Coordinator's office and with United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), both of which had visited military recruitment centres in Yangon and Mandalay.
Norway's representative said Member States must not remain silent in the face of violence against the most defenceless in society. It was critical that the reporting and monitoring mechanism on children in armed conflict be given the necessary resources and tools to carry out its mandate in an efficient, transparent and expedient manner. Children were particularly vulnerable during war time, as physical, mental and sexual violence escalated, and social structures and safety nets broke down.
She said efforts must not end with the release of the expert's report on violence against children, as its recommendations must be linked to feasible ideas for implementation. Prohibiting all forms of corporal punishment was an important step towards ending violence against children. The human rights mechanisms of the Council of Europe were now insisting that children must have equal protection, she said, stressing that it was imperative that Member States enabled children to actively take part in that struggle.
Also during the meeting, Mexico's representative introduced a draft resolution on international cooperation against the world drug problem (document A/C.3/60/L.9).
Those making statements today included the representatives of the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Barbados (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Iraq, Burundi, Kuwait, Japan, Cuba, Syria, Algeria, Peru, Iceland, Oman, Kazakhstan, Israel, Sudan, Burkina Faso, Fiji, Venezuela, Bahrain, Morocco, Indonesia, Uruguay, Mongolia, Niger, Thailand, Bahamas, Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria, Canada (also on behalf of Australia and New Zealand), Brazil, Malaysia, Azerbaijan, India and Belarus.
The Observer of Palestine also spoke today.
The representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO) also made a statement.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 18 October, to conclude its debate of promotion and protection of the rights of the child.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its general discussion of promotion and protection of the rights of children, and to hear the introduction of a draft resolution on an in-depth study on all forms of violence against women (document A/C.3/60/L.12) and a draft on international cooperation against the world drug problem (document A/C.3/60/L.9).
For more background information, see Press Release GA/SHC/3822 of 14 October.
AMNA ALI AL-MUHAIRY (United Arab Emirates) said that, since its founding, her country had followed a development policy focusing on human beings as the real wealth of the nation. It regarded its children and youth as the future, and had enacted a number of new laws and acceded to the regional and international conventions on the protection of the rights of the child. The concerned authorities and civil society in her country had also demonstrated, within the context of the Islamic traditions and cultural heritage, their commitment to the recommendations of international conferences on the child, including those in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Her country's obligation to protect the rights of the child had translated into various measures, including establishing of health care and medical centres for maternity and childhood all over the country; making education compulsory for both sexes in the primary stage, and free for all stages from kindergarten to university; enacting new laws to ensure the safety and protection of children; establishing the High Council for Maternity and Childhood, which aimed at advancing standards of care and attention given to mothers and children; and establishing care centres for handicapped children and children with special needs. Convinced that international cooperation was instrumental to the achievement of development, her Government has been keen to participate in international efforts aimed at achieving that objective. She also called upon the international community to compel Israel to discontinue its aggressive policies and ensure its respect and commitment to the principles and provisions of international humanitarian law.
AIZAZ AHMAD CHAUDHRY ( Pakistan) said the Secretary-General's report on the follow-up to the Special Session of the General Assembly on Children noted encouraging progress in certain areas of the declaration "A World Fit for Children". However, full progress on four key areas identified in the declaration remained a major challenge and needed concerted national and international efforts. Those included the promotion of an agenda for the development and implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, which could make a crucial difference in poverty eradication; concentrating on conflict resolution; addressing diseases that threatened children the most; achieving progress in the area of education; and protecting children against abuse, exploitation and violence.
The efforts of his Government to create a healthy environment for children -- who constituted 48 per cent of the country's total population -- were based on a national framework and the goals set in the World Fit for Children declaration, the Millennium Declaration and relevant international conventions. There was a National Commission for Children Welfare and Development in Pakistan, and a national plan of action was being prepared in collaboration with civil society actors. The country's Juvenile Ordinance 2000 was an effective instrument to prevent capital punishment to juvenile offenders and to create separate prison facilities. Furthermore, education was free up until the tenth grade, and the country's health sector has been accorded priority. Pakistan's poverty reduction strategy placed a special emphasis on alleviating its impact on children, and the eradication of child labour was a priority for the Government, he added.
CHRISTOPHER HACKETT ( Barbados), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said a significant portion of the world's extremely poor people were children. It was unlikely that the international community would meet the millennium target of achieving universal primary education by 2015. Global targets set required significantly more financial assistance. He called for renewed commitment to implement the Monterrey Consensus and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, particularly the targets for domestic and international resource mobilization and investment in basic socio-economic infrastructure, health, nutrition, education and social security programmes aimed at children. Developing countries needed concrete action and support to achieve those targets.
In recent years, the CARICOM had repeatedly stressed the need for urgent action to tackle the HIV/AIDS problem, he continued. Combating HIV/AIDS was one of the four priority areas identified in the May 2002 General Assembly document entitled "A World Fit for Children". Statistics revealed that, in the past two decades, HIV/AIDS had become the world's fourth greatest cause of death. Half of all new people infected with HIV/AIDS were between the ages of 15 and 24. An estimated 1.5 million children under the age of 15 lived with HIV/AIDS. After sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean was the region with the highest HIV/AIDS infection rates, with high levels of mother-to-child transmission.
RAGNE BIRTE LUND (Norway) said violence against children was in itself a grave violation of children's human rights, and Member States must not remain silent in the face of violence against the most defenceless in society. Welcoming the momentum created by Professor Paulo Pinheiro, the Secretary-General's Independent Expert on violence against children, in close cooperation with United Nations agencies, States and non-governmental organizations, she said efforts must not end with the release of his report. The study recommendations must be clear and linked with objective and feasible suggestions for implementation. States must take the momentum currently being experienced as a unique opportunity to deepen their commitment at national, regional and global levels to ensure a life free from violence for every child.
To further strengthen its endeavours, the Norwegian Government recently launched a strategy to combat sexual and physical child abuse. The strategy, which covered the period 2005 to 2009, included measures to prevent and disclose such abuse, strengthen the assistance and therapeutic measures offered to children and their families, and strengthen research and professional qualifications. Furthermore, the prohibition of all forms of corporal punishment was an important step towards ending violence against children, and in Europe, the human rights mechanisms of the Council of Europe were now insisting that children must have equal protection. It was imperative that Member States enabled children to actively take part in that struggle, and children must never be made or allowed to remain invisible. Children were also particularly vulnerable in situations of war and armed conflict, as physical, mental and sexual violence escalated, and social structures and safety nets broke down. It was critical that the reporting and monitoring mechanism on children in armed conflict was given the necessary resources and tools to carry out its mandate in an efficient, transparent and expedient manner, she added.
RAWAR KHOSHNAW ( Iraq) said Iraqi society had suffered greatly during the last three decades due to wars and the economic embargo, negatively affecting children in particular. Children's lives were constantly threatened. Dozens of children had died in a recent terrorist attack, and 35 had died on 14 July following a suicide attack. Children were exposed to mines and weapons due to wars during the former Iraqi regime's reign and due to current terrorist attacks. Iraqi families wanted their children to continue their education to build a new Iraq.
The Iraqi Government had adopted several laws aimed at protecting children, which were in the draft constitution, he said. For example, article 29 protected children against commercial exploitation, and article 30 guaranteed social security and health care services for children and women. Other laws had been amended to ensure adequate housing and income for children, prevent violence against children, assist orphaned children and outlaw the use of child soldiers. Iraq had signed the Optional Protocol against children in armed conflict. He appealed to other Member States, in partnership with non-governmental organizations, to give priority to the situation of Iraqi children, and to help relieve their suffering. He expressed hope that the international community would help Iraq continue efforts to achieve stability and security in the country.
LEONIDAS NKINGIYE ( Burundi) said the fate of children in armed conflict was a basic concern for his delegation. He welcomed the fact that the Security Council, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children in Armed Conflict, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and regional and subregional organizations had spoken in one voice on that question. It was necessary to have awareness-raising, and Member States must mobilize opinion in favour of children. The recommendations in the Secretary-General's report were encouraging in that context, because the report called for a global response to that sort of situation. The parties who were affected by the question of children in armed conflicts nevertheless needed to draw up new measures to promote the responsibilities of armed groups and non-state actors, as proposed in the report.
On Burundi, his delegation had taken note that the report covered the peace process, which had made greater progress after December 2004. It was necessary to ensure that armed groups were under control, and he called for international support to help the Government in supporting its children and in ensuring their re-insertion into social and economic life. One party to the Burundi conflict had not yet laid down its arms, and the new Government wished the group would also engage in negotiations in order to put a definitive end to the conflict. The situation regarding children in armed conflict would therefore be resolved satisfactory. His Government called for an end to any action that would harm Burundi's children.
TURKI AL-MEKRAD (Kuwait) supported the Secretary-General's report on follow-up to progress made in commitments in General Assembly Outcome Documents concerning children, as well as conclusions of the independent expert on violence against children. He stressed the importance of collecting data to chart progress in ending violence against children. Countries must attach special importance to caring for children as they were the nucleus of the future, and Kuwait had done just that. Children represented over half of his country's population.
Kuwait had prepared health, social and education programmes to help children, he continued. It also wished to implement all international conventions on children's rights. In order to establish a healthy climate for children's development, Kuwait had set up centres for disabled and ill children and their families. The Kuwaiti Association for the Progress of Arab Children had produced publications on child development, and his country also participated in all conferences and international seminars on children's issues. In 1991, Kuwait had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols against children in armed conflict and the use of children for sexual exploitation.
MIKIKO OTANI ( Japan) said a world fit for children would be a major step towards fulfilling the commitments made at the Millennium Summit in 2000. All four major goals set forth in the Plan of Action adopted at the special session of the General Assembly on children three years ago -- promoting healthy lives; providing quality education; protecting against abuse, exploitation and violence; and combating HIV/AIDS -- were important to establish an environment in which children could live in peace, dignity and freedom. Although much progress had been made in each of those areas, it was a heart-breaking fact that children were still the victims of violence.
Sexual abuse and the exploitation and trafficking of children, especially girls, were violations of the human rights of children, as well as sources of violence against them. Japan had been making efforts both domestically and internationally to ensure the effective implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in that area. It had enacted in 1999 a law for punishing acts related to child prostitution and child pornography and for protecting children, and had established a national plan of action against the commercial and sexual exploitation of children in 2001. As one of a comprehensive set of measures to combat trafficking in persons, the Government had also approved a series of amendments to laws and regulations, including an amendment to the penal code to criminalize the acts of buying and selling persons. She added that Member States needed to take concrete steps to implement the commitments reaffirmed in the Outcome Document on the issue of children in armed conflict.
VILMA THOMAS (Cuba) said "The State of the World's Children 2005" prepared by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) revealed that childhood was cruel and brutally different from our aspirations for almost half of the world's 2 billion children. The Secretary-General's report reinforced that lamentable reality, revealing that 6 million of the 10.8 million child deaths annually were due to preventable and curable diseases. More than 29 million children, mainstreaming from poor regions, had not been vaccinated against the main childhood diseases. More than 100 million school age children did not go to school, and an estimated 300 million children suffered exploitation, abuse, the worst forms of child labour and violence in their communities, at school, at work and during armed conflict. An estimated 2.2 million children under the age of 15 were infected with HIV/AIDS. An estimated 15 million children had been orphaned by AIDS between 2001 and 2003.
Without social development there would be no real solution to eradicating children's poverty or reducing its effects, she said. Nor would there be a solution to socio-economic problems affecting children. It was important to take into account the principles set forth in the Convention on the Rights of the Child as guidelines to solving these problems. Cuba was one of the first countries to ratify the Convention, and had worked intensely to develop a system of guarantees that could articulate coherent policies and programmes to address children's social, cultural and political issues.
WARIF HALABI ( Syria) said the Syrian population was a young one. Children under nine comprised 53 per cent of the population, and the Government therefore accorded significance to them. It attached much importance to children's issues, and provided them with the best means and care, in both the national plan of action and in policies, in order to promote their educational, legal and cultural situation. A high-level committee had been established in order to follow up on all governmental and non-governmental actions towards children and secure a better life for them. A national plan for the protection of the child had also been created, which had been submitted to the Syrian Government this month. It included implementing a plan to provide protection against violence and malnutrition, and provided for the protection, health care and rehabilitation of children who were victims of violence.
Her country's national plan had led to a significant improvement in the health indicators of children, as well as a significant decrease in infant mortality and the mortality rates of children under five. In the field of education, Syria had for three decades sought to establish a link between education and global development, particularly through the education of all females and males. Primary education was mandatory, but since the drop-out rate was high, the Government had issued a new law that made primary and secondary education one phase, called the basic education phase, which was mandatory. Regarding the economic exploitation of children, the Government prohibited the employment of children under 15, as compared to children under 12 before 2002. On combating violence against children, a penal code in the country provided for the protection of children and severely punished perpetrators.
She said that the Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan had caused the displacement of thousands of Syrian citizens and the loss of their land. As such, Israel had violated the rights of children in the Syrian Golan; had deprived children from receiving free information and knowledge; and restricted the freedom of movement of all inhabitants, including children. In the field of health, Israel also had violated conventions through the severe lack of health care and health centres, and through neglect of basic children's health issues. Expressing hope that Professor Paulo Pinheiro would include the issue in his next study, she stressed that the severe violations against children in the world, particularly in the Middle East, required immediate action.
SALIMA ABKELHAK ( Algeria) said the almost universal accession of Member States to the Convention on the Rights of the Child was a great show of international solidarity as was support for the UNICEF Plan of Action "A World Fit for Children". Still, the situation of children continued to be very precarious and worrying in many countries. Millions of children continued to live in subhuman conditions and were the main victims of poverty, pandemics and armed conflicts. Children continued to be abused in all forms, forcefully enrolled soldiers and subjected to sexual and other forms of exploitation. It was unacceptable that one in every four children died. Giving dignity back to millions of children was only possible through a real awareness of children's social, political and civil rights, including the right to adequate education, health care, food, water and housing.
African countries had adopted a Charter of Wellbeing of the Rights of Child, she said. The New Economic Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) had aimed to provide a global framework to adopt measures to eliminate socio-economic causes of children's suffering. However, Africa lacked the financial resources to face such challenges alone. It was incumbent on the international community to reduce the negative impact of globalization on developing countries. Children's rights were a top priority for Algeria, which had coordinated and integrated efforts to reduce infant mortality, improve nutrition, improve universal access to primary education and help children living in difficult conditions. In 1993, it ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and had ratified the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention against the worst forms of child labour.
ROMY TINCOPA ( Peru) said the protection and promotion of human rights was indispensable for the well-being of children, and was also a main objective of development. Her Government was implementing the plan of action for children and adolescents for 2002 through 2010, which had been drawn up with the assistance of more than 200 institutions in society. The full development of children was necessary for the respect of those rights. The main goal of the plan was to achieve structural changes for the children and adolescents of Peru, whose reality was currently marked by social inequalities. Such inequalities had a negative impact on them, and in many cases led to an early entry into the labour market, abandonment, exploitation, early pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, among others. The plan also focused on the health, education, nutrition, and well-being of children in families and the community, with an aim to protect them against violence and abuse. It also aimed to include young people in decision-making.
The Government had also launched two national campaigns to guarantee the rights of children and adolescents. One was the right to a name or an identity, and that plan had been created because 15 per cent of annual births were not registered, which therefore caused children to suffer from discrimination and abuse. The second campaign was based on promoting the good treatment and respect of children and adolescents, which would cause a change of attitude in parents and people in general regarding their treatment. Her Government was also aware of the problem of violence against children, and had taken measures to prevent and punish it. The medium-term strategic plan of the UNICEF for 2006-2009 was of great value, and her Government wished to highlight the cross-cutting approach of the document and the fact that the highest priority had been given to a plan to fight against HIV/AIDS.
Her Government was also pleased that the subject of the rights of the child was part of the work of the relevant bodies of the United Nations, and she called upon those bodies to continue their work. Her Government, for its part, would continue to implement its commitments regarding children and adolescents, even though a great deal still needed to be achieved. It would continue to ensure that it had an obligation in both the present and future to children, she added.
HJALMAR HANNESSON ( Iceland) said the vicious cycle of violence against children in all societies must be broken. Iceland had incorporated an explicit duty of parents to safeguard children against violence, which entailed a ban on parental corporal punishment of children. He urged Member States that had not already introduced similar legislative measures to do so. He expressed concern about the impact of armed conflict on children, whether a result of children's direct involvement in hostilities or the widespread repercussions of armed conflict on their societies in general. He urged all States to reflect provisions of Security Council resolution 1539, adopted 22 April 2004, in their efforts to ensure children's safety and security in conflict areas.
Iceland fully supported the important work of the United Nations Independent Expert on violence against children, he said, expressing hope that the final report of Paulo Sergio Pinheiro would provide new insights into combating such violence. The Regional Consultation for the United Nations Study on Violence against Children for Europe and Central Asia, held in Ljubljana in July, had demonstrated the serious situation of children's well-being, and had underlined the importance of coherent strategies to combat violence at varying levels. Iceland fully supported the Ljubljana Final Conclusions to Act Now on Violence Against Children.
YUOSF AL-AFIFI ( Oman) said the individual man was the keystone of the development of any society, and in Oman, man was the objective of all development. The civilization and culture of a nation was determined by its development programmes for the child. His Government was convinced that children were the pillars of society, and both the ends and the means of development that must take place. His country, therefore gave particular importance to children through efforts aimed to ensure that they enjoyed full development in a healthy environment and were prepared for the future. The support and help of the Government was visible in programmes that helped children, and that included a national commission on children, which had a global strategy to monitor the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Government was also taking measures regarding children, such as providing funding for programmes for them, as well as developing programmes and projects to meet their physical and spiritual needs. There were also programmes for orphans in Oman, and the Government promoted material and moral assistance to children who did not have parents. Kindergarten and pre-school were also very important, and the Government had a strategy for education from early childhood. There was a national programme for children to make further progress in that context. The Government had also reduced under-five mortality in a relatively short period of time, and had programmes aimed at informing families how to deal with children. It was proud of the fact that its society did not have horrible practices against children, and it respected all international treaties in that area. It had acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1997, which illustrated the support that the rights of the child enjoyed in the country. The Government had also ratified the two Optional Protocols at the end of last year.
ZHANAR KULZHANOVA ( Kazakhstan) said Kazakhstan paid serious attention to maternity and childhood protection. The improvement of the status of women and children was an integral part of the Kazakhstan's national policy, its national development programme effective until 2010 and long-term concept of national development effective until 2030. Kazakhstan had enhanced legislation and created conditions for teaching and educating children and protecting their health as part of efforts to implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the millennium targets on children. As stated in the 2005 United Nations Millennium Development Goals Report in Kazakhstan, some 99 per cent of the country's children received compulsory primary education.
Kazakhstan had integrated the general principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child into national programmes and regulatory documents, she said. The Human Rights Ombudsman, the National Commission for Family and Women and the inter-agency commissions on humanitarian law and human rights and on the rights of the child supported efforts to address children's issues. The 2005-2010 national childhood protection programme set basic strategic guidelines regarding promotion and protection of children's rights and set up an effective system of children's legal and social guarantees. A joint project with the UNICEF taught children and youth non-violent behaviour. A 2004-2005 Government plan of action to combat and prevent crimes involving human trafficking was being devised, and Kazakhstan had set up 38 crisis centres for women and children victims of violence, and had created a law on juvenile delinquency prevention and prevention of neglect and homelessness among children. In addition, a draft bill on domestic violence prevention and suppression was under way.
TUVIA ISRAELI ( Israel) said the purpose of so much of what Member States did at the United Nations, from environmental protection to promoting peace and security, was to build a stronger, brighter future. Without question, the most fundamental building block of that future was children. The investment made in the world's children today would pay off long into the future. Israel was keenly aware of the value that its nation's 2 million minors possessed, and was constantly seeking to bolster and advance them. However, the realities of the world and society posed disproportionate threats to minors. Israel was committed to the principles outlined in the Declaration of the Rights of the Child and the 2002 World Summit on the Rights of the Child, and was doing its utmost to implement safeguards to ensure that its children received the best. The Government had built a cross-sectional infrastructure to enhance its efforts to promote and protect children.
The first concern was always the safety of the child, he continued. Should circumstances arise that children had to be removed from the home, every effort was made to place them in a supportive, community alternative. Israel was a multi-ethnic blend of cultures, religions and backgrounds. The pluralistic nature of its society was rich with opportunities, but also had unique challenges when it came to designing policy to protect children coming from all the diverse backgrounds represented. From Bedouins to Orthodox Jews to everything in between, Israel was constantly making efforts to fine-tune its policy to be ethnically sensitive and effective. It had also developed and continued to develop tailor-made programmes for population groups. He added that caring for children was not country specific, but was a global concern. Training courses had been held both in Israel and abroad on a wide range of issues concerning children, and Israel was willing and happy to share its experiences with the international community.
Mr. SAEED ( Sudan) said the 1990's Children's Summit gave priority among Governments, scientists, experts and non-governmental organizations to children's issue and to ensure children's fundamental rights. The General Assembly's 2002 Special Session on children and the adoption of the action plan "A World Fit for Children" were further efforts to ensure good medical coverage and education for children and efforts to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS among children. The millennium targets took into account four main objectives regarding children and seven targets regarding children's rights. Despite Member States' commitment to children and their willingness to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child, more must be done.
The Sudan was one of the first countries to ratify the Convention, and had recently signed the two Optional Protocols on children's rights, he said. That was a tremendous investment and way to build a better future for children. The Sudan had national programmes on to ensure children's access to education, health and safe drinking water. New laws had been adapted in line with the provision of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The signing of a peace agreement in the Sudan had put an end to war in South Sudan, which would create a better framework for peace, stability and development there. He called on the international community to support it. Palestinian children living under occupation had a history of suffering. The international community must take all necessary steps to end that situation.
PRASAD KARIYAWASAM ( Sri Lanka) said United Nations agencies should re-double their efforts on the issue of children in armed conflict. Despite good intentions, dialogue with armed groups, who were bent on flouting internationally accepted norms and conduct, had often been perversely projected as a sign of recognition of their armed campaigns and as an opportunity for expanding their reach. The time had come for the United Nations to actively promote a policy of zero tolerance against violators of children's rights, while denying the cover of legitimacy sought by them through their interactions with United Nations functionaries and other international entities. It was also time for the United Nations to focus on the concept of "Children as Zones of Peace", with the seriousness it demanded.
Furthermore, he said that Security Council Resolution 1612 symbolized the growing consensus at the United Nations on taking punitive actions against violators of the rights of children in armed conflicts. It represented a remarkable step forward in the international community's resolve to bring a variety of sanctions, including the possibility of an international ban on travel for offending parties. Commending the Security Council, the Secretary-General and the Special Representative for the strong signal sent through the resolution, he said his Government was currently in the process of working with relevant United Nations agencies to set up a task force on monitoring and reporting as envisaged by the resolution. It was now imperative that the United Nations and the Security Council re-double their efforts to halt systematic grave violations against children and, for that purpose, to take resolution action, including targeted sanctions against offending parties.
OUATTARA BALY ( Burkina Faso) said children's well-being required access to adequate socio-economic and political services. From 1999 to 2000, Burkina Faso had stepped up implementation of poverty alleviation programmes, particularly those affecting children. In 1990, it had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and attended the World Summit on Children. It had launched the 2006-2015 strategy for children's rights and development. In Africa, 2 million girls were subject every year to genital mutilation, which endangered their chance for a normal, productive life. Burkina Faso had a zero tolerance strategy to end that practice.
In 2004, authorities had intercepted 394 child victims of human trafficking, and arrested 41 traffickers, he said. A convention signed in Abidjan put into motion a regional strategy to end child trafficking. As part of its strategies to support young people, Burkina Faso had set up social service programmes benefiting 6,240 children and education centres benefiting 400 children. A recent study in Finance and Development magazine showed that pre-schooling helped to socialize children more quickly and prepare them better for education. However, preschool was still considered a luxury in developing countries. Greater efforts were needed to make this resource available. In 2004, with the support of technical and international partners, Burkina Faso had adopted strategies and launched programmes to reduce children's vulnerability. Social development must be based on social statistics, and developing countries must be allowed to provide reliable data annually regarding problems affecting children in their respective societies.
SIMIONE ROKOLAQA ( Fiji) said the widely ratified Convention on the Rights of the Child demonstrated the importance Member States attached to the Convention, as well as their willingness to commit themselves to implement its obligatory requirements. Children all over the world faced problems of some kind or another, whether they were physical, emotional or psychological abuse, sexual abuse, violence, poverty, war, diseases, or malnourishment. Those diseases were trebled in developing countries and less of a problem in developed ones. Those were the challenges faced by the international community, and it was necessary to cooperate and assist each other in identifying solutions and allocating resources that would give hope to children.
His Government had ratified the Convention in 1993, and had established the National Coordinating Committee on Children, which was mandated to translate the national strategic plan into action, as well as monitor and review the implementation of its programme and activities. To further protect children and their families, the Government had introduced the Family Law Act, whose main purpose was to protect the prime interests of all children by reinforcing parental and familial responsibilities towards them. By acceding to the Convention, Fiji had committed itself to making primary education compulsory and available to all; promoting the different forms of secondary and vocational education; making higher education accessible to all; making educational and vocational information readily available; and taking measures to encourage regular attendance at schools and reducing drop-out rates. The Government had also placed a high priority on the health of its people, particularly the children, and had taken steps regarding child labour.
IMERIA NUNEZ DE ODREMAN ( Venezuela) said that in 1990 Venezuela had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It also had ratified the Optional Protocols on children in armed conflict and on the sale of children, child prostitution and use of children for pornography. The Venezuelan Government had improved public policies and services for children in the areas of health, the environment, education, food and children's rights, and its 2001-2007 Social Strategy Plan considered health an inalienable right of children. Since 2001, the Ministry of Health and Social Development had launched a national strategy to combat HIV/AIDS, aimed at preventing the spread of the disease by providing anti-retroviral treatment and education, as well as school programmes to help prevent pregnancy in young girls and domestic violence. Officials had also launched a programme to prevent mother-to-child transmissions by providing free anti-retroviral medicine, therapy and tests for immunological disease and viruses.
Venezuela condemned all forms of violence against children and was concerned with the recruitment of children as soldiers, she said. The conscription law governing the armed forces stipulated age 18 as the legal age for children to enter the armed forces. Venezuela also condemned exploitation of children for sexual purposes, forced labour, slavery and organ trafficking. In 2000 it had signed the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and had ratified its two Protocols in 2002.
Ms. AL-SADOON ( Bahrain) said children were an important segment of human society, and deserved every assistance in order to ensure a bright future for the coming generations. Caring for children was a sacred duty of all, nationally and internationally, and that was seen in the implementation of obligations under the United Nations Charter, in order to advance and promote standards of living. Her Government attached, therefore, special importance to children in accordance with its national charter of action and constitution. It provided adequate protection for mothers and children, protecting them from any physical or spiritual abuse. During the World Summit and the historic Summit on Children in 2002, a plan of action and declaration had been adopted, reflecting the importance attached to children. The ratification and signing of the Convention on the Rights of the Child was a great achievement, and reflected the collective international interest and protection provides to children around the world.
Recent years had been characterized by the enactment of special legislation to protect the rights of the child and prepare proper approaches to ensure a better tomorrow for all of them. In his report regarding the follow-up and review of the World Summit on Children, the Secretary-General had drawn attention to the importance of translating political consensus into effective measures that provided the protection required for children, which in turn assisted in the development of the rest of society. Furthermore, she said many of the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals were directly related to children, and they were closely linked with the main commitments in the special session that required all Governments to work for the promotion and protection of the rights of children and to protect them from violence. Bahrain had acceded to the Convention in 1992, and had also acceded to several conventions of the ILO. She added that the human being was the focus of development and the real wealth that any country could have.
ELKADIRI ABDELFATTAH ( Morocco) said Morocco had signed in 1990 and ratified in 1993 the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Optional Protocols on the sale of children and use of child for sexual purposes, as well as on children in armed conflict had strengthened the Convention's objectives. Despite those steps and others, much still remained to be done. International institutions and programmes must be promoted and improved to protect the rights of children, and international efforts to achieve peace and development must be increased.
Morocco had taken measures aimed at preparing children to meet the challenges of future, he said. Work was under way to ensure that national strategic planning was in line with children's development in Morocco. The 2003 penal justice code was reformed to set age 18 as the year in which people became responsible for crimes they committed. The 2002 Civil Registry Law made it mandatory to register all births and guaranteed full civil status for children born out of wedlock. The 2004 Family Code gave full rights to women and children, and increased the legal marriage age to 18. The 2004 Labour Code made particular progress in counteracting child labour and harmonizing domestic labour codes with fundamental international principles. It banned labour for children under age 15 and strengthened penalties for violators. An annual national literacy strategy aimed to reduce national illiteracy to below 20 per cent by 2010 and to eliminate national illiteracy entirely by 2015.
SAMANTHA DONOVAN, representing the International Labour Organization (ILO), said her Organization believed that the elimination of child labour was an attainable goal that required commitments of both will and policy. The elimination of child labour was one of the ILO's fundamental missions, and it worked on the subject in two basic ways. The first was the setting and supervision of international labour standards, and the second was through technical cooperation with ILO constituents. The Minimum Age Convention of 1973 and the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention of 1999 were the fundamental international standards on the subject. Supervision of the implementation of those instruments demonstrated that ratification was having a substantial effect on country performance, though it was uneven. While there was a marked increase in, for instance, setting of policies and adoption of legislative provisions, there was much less emphasis on effective measures to protect the most vulnerable child workers, including child soldiers and the girl child.
A number of countries had translated commitments to combat child labour into action by engaging in what were termed Time-Bound Programmes, with the assistance of the ILO through its International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour, she continued. The Time-Bound Programme was a programme approach of comprehensive policies and measures with clear goals, specific targets and a defined timeframe, aimed at preventing and eliminating a country's worst forms of child labour. By the end of 2005, twenty fully fledged programmes would be operational, and a number of other countries were applying similar approaches without the ILO's technical or external financial support. With respect to children and armed conflict, the ILO specifically focused its interventions on the most vulnerable groups that had suffered or might suffer from armed conflicts. Special emphasis would continue to be placed by the ILO on the trafficking of children for labour or sexual exploitation, she added.
Introduction of Text
Opening the Committee's afternoon meeting, JENNIFER FELLER ( Mexico), introduced a draft resolution on International cooperation against the world drug problem (document A/C.3/60/L.9), highlighting the fact that the resolution's co-sponsors came from different regions, which demonstrated the support of the international community. The text of this year's resolution had been simplified and streamlined in order to update and consolidate it, she said. Discussions had been ongoing, and there was about to be an agreement. She expressed hope that a revised text would be submitted, which could be adopted by consensus very soon.
ADIYATWIDI ADIWOSO ASMADY ( Indonesia) said the National Programme for Indonesian Children 2015 launched in 2004 reflected four major areas related to the action plan "A World Fit for Children", as well as child-related goals that formed part of the millennium development framework. In its first year, the Programme's progress had been particularly encouraging in terms of providing quality education and protecting children from abuse, exploitation and violence. The Indonesian Government, in close collaboration with the UNICEF and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), had introduced the Creating Learning Communities for Children programme to promote effective learning processes, transparent school management and to encourage active community involvement in these activities. The programme had expanded from 79 schools in 2000 to 1,326 schools by 2004, reaching some 240,000 children.
Implementation of a National Action Plan on Combating Trafficking in persons, particularly women and children, as well as efforts on eliminating commercial sexual exploitation of children had resulted in an increased number of policewomen to investigate cases and to advocate against trafficking in women and children, she said. The plan served to strengthen task force activity at district, provincial and national levels, revising or creating national legislation to fight pornography and trafficking in persons. It strengthened legal protection for victims of trafficking, as well as mutual legal assistance.
DANIELA PI ( Uruguay) said children were one of the most vulnerable sectors of society, and were at the same time its future. That is why her Government felt deeply satisfied at the large number of ratifications of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and appealed to those States that had not yet done so to adhere to that instrument and to the optional protocols. Respect for human rights involved relations between people, between people and institutions, and between people, institutions and the State. Consequently, the practical task of the protection of human rights was first and foremost national in character, and the prime responsibility of the State. It required the help of national, governmental and non-governmental organizations, as well as of the international community, to promote, protect and ensure compliance with existing legislation and to ensure full respect for human rights.
As a general principle, her Government considered that every child and adolescent enjoyed rights that were inherent in the human person. Those rights should be exercised in accordance with the development of the child's faculties and in the manner provided for in the applicable national and international laws. The child or adolescent had the right to be heard and to obtain replies when decisions were taken that affected his life. Her Government had assumed the obligation to protect the rights of all children and adolescents subject to its jurisdiction, and had undertaken to afford special protection to children and adolescents from, among other protections, any form of abandonment, sexual abuse or exploitation through prostitution, discriminatory treatment, harassment, segregation or exclusion.
MAHMUD ABUSIF ( Libya) said that despite the ratification of many conventions to protect children, grave violations against children still continued. One million children had died in armed conflict; 6 million had been disabled; 60,000 children were working as soldiers; tens of thousands of girls had been raped; and more than 14 million children since 2003 had been displaced within their countries. The return of refugee children to their families was the best way to ensure that children resumed a normal life. Libya had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Many other countries had done the same, but violations against children's rights continued to occur and to go unpunished. Children were violated in prison and at the hands of the police. All reports dealing with this issue indicated that violence and torture, rape and killing of children had not stopped.
Children continued to work in many areas that were dangerous to their health and growth, he said. The international community also had the responsibility to protect Palestinian children, who continued to suffer under Israeli occupation. African children also needed priority attention, as they were taking part in armed conflict and were victims of HIV/AIDS, violence and rape. The theme of the Second Africa Conference, organized with the UNICEF and the African Union, and to be held in 2006, was violence against children. Libya had signed all United Nations protocols and conventions regarding protection of children but more must be done.
OCHIR ENKHTSETSEG ( Mongolia) said her Government was encouraged by fact that three years since the special session on children, there had been progress, and it revealed a promising picture. Her Government concurred with the main conclusion of the Secretary-General's report on the subject, which said that current efforts needed to be reinforced both through increased political will and increased economic resources, in order to achieve the Goals. The Government had adopted a national programme to reflect all aspects of children's development and protection. It aimed to create an enabling legal environment to promote the self-development of children and improve their education and health care. The programme consisted of six main parts and included performance indicators. A national policy for an integrated early childhood development had also been adopted by a Government resolution, making Mongolia the second country in its region to have done so.
The lack of integrated policy coordination at the international level made it impossible to address children's issues and create social services, she continued. It was not only necessary to support children's rights, but also to contribute to investment in support of human and socio-economic development. Such implementation would promote child-friendly, basic social services that aimed at meeting the physical, psychological and cognitive needs of children. Her Government had instituted a State policy on public health, which had been approved by parliament in 2001. The policy stressed client-oriented services, as well as the importance of strengthening Government, non-governmental and other civil society partnerships in providing health care services in rural and remote areas. One of the main objectives of the plan of action of 2004-2008 was to decrease infant and maternal mortality. Considerable progress had been achieved in restructuring the private education system, although equitable access to quality education still remained a challenge, she said. She also reiterated the firm commitment of her Government to spare no effort in making the world fit for children.
U WIN MRA ( Myanmar) said the Secretary-General's report estimated that 300 million children worldwide were subjected to violence, exploitation and abuse, including the worst forms of child labour, harmful practices and child marriage. The Myanmar Department of Social Welfare provided training to service providers such as social welfare officers, probation offices and care-givers and planned to further develop training programmes for police officers, social workers, lawyers, judges and prison officers. The Department also conducted training workshops on child protection throughout the country through mobile teams, which promoted awareness of child protection and prevention, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Child Law and child protection issues.
The 2005 annual report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict listed 11 situations of concern, he continued. Myanmar was not a country in armed conflict. A total of 17 major insurgent groups had returned to the legal fold in past years and were actively cooperating on development with the Government, greatly contributing to the prevalence of peace and security in the country. In Myanmar, the minimum age for recruitment into the army was 18. The country had enacted legislation to prevent and stringently monitor recruitment of child soldiers and created a follow-up compliance mechanism. In January 2004, it had set up a high-level Committee for the Prevention of the Recruitment of Child Soldiers and adoption of plan of action, which included procedures to discharge and reintegrate child soldiers into society. Myanmar was closely cooperating with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Coordinator's office and with the UNICEF, both of which had visited the military recruitment centres in Yangon and Mandalay.
ABSI FATOUMA ( Niger) said more than a decade had gone by since the World Summit on children, which had been very successful at the global scale since its impact had led to awareness. The Niger was determined in seeking to implement the objectives of that Summit through various programmes for children. At the national level, there was a national action plan for children, which dealt with such issues as nutrition and education, among others. There was also a framework programme to counteract poverty, as well as programmes that dealt with sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS. The Government aimed to improve the well-being of the population in general and children in particular. The Niger had also ratified and implemented international treaties in order to improve the status of children in both economic and social terms. Despite the gloomy economic and food situation that continued in the Niger, the State had always had the political will to implement the decisions and plan of action of the World Summit. Several measures had been taken both nationally and within the framework of partnerships with donors and other countries of the subregion in order to launch initiatives for the survival and protection of the child.
Regarding children, the Niger dealt with under nourished children, street children, those in conflict with the law, genitally mutilated children, and children with HIV/AIDS. It had always been supported by the international community and the United Nations, and she thanked them once again. To enhance the implementation of national instruments, specific measures were also being taken, particularly the promotion of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Government was also taking measures to harmonize its national laws, train juvenile courts, create centres to counteract children's diseases, and hold organized national vaccination days. Such actions, however, did not prevent the Niger's involvement in regional and international activities.
The situation of children throughout the world was still a subject of concern despite efforts to design and implement programmes at the international level, she said. It was therefore necessary to review the existing strategies in order to have a better understanding of children throughout the world, and there should be a mobilization of all resources necessary to counteract poverty. In addition, Member States should enhance the coordination of measures being taken by stakeholders to protect children; enhance the follow-up systems on the rights of children; conduct studies to get a better picture of the situation of children requiring special assistance; and to identify socio-cultural factors that limited implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
KHUNYING LAXANACHANTORN LAOHAPHAN ( Thailand) said Thailand's 2005-2015 National Strategy and Plan of Action for "A World Fit for Children" was a result of broad-based participation and close collaboration between governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations and civil society. In addition, 12,000 children from around the country participated actively in drafting the document. On health, Thailand had witnessed the decline in the infant mortality rate during the last 15 years from 38.8 per 1,000 live births to 22 per 1,000 live births in 2001. It aimed to reduce that figure to 15 by 2006. Thailand had seen a drop in the mortality rate of children under five due to better health care and improved socio-economic conditions, and was on track to reach millennium target number four, which called for reducing the rate by two-thirds by 2015.
In the past few years, Thailand had introduced new laws and regulations to end violence against children. Effectively addressing violence against children required effectively addressing violence against women, as the two issues were undeniably interrelated. A mother in good physical and mental health would be able to raise a child to become a responsible adult. The two issues should be treated in a more integrated manner. In the last decade alone, 2 million children had been killed in situations of armed conflict, while 6 million children had been permanently disabled or injured. Since 2003, over 14 million children had been forcibly displaced, and 10,000 children were killed or maimed annually due to landmines.
PAULETTE BETHEL ( Bahamas) said her delegation was encouraged by the conclusion in the Secretary-General's report on follow-up to the special session of the General Assembly on Children that there were greater signs of progress in implementing the outcome of the special session. The reports offered a timely reminder that all of the actions undertaken by the international community ultimately had an impact on the world's children. Her Government recognized that the country's future development and prosperity depended on its children, and it was with that reality that it had sought to translate its commitment to children into a series of significant national actions. It had committed itself to providing social and other services to the entire population of the country, a commitment that had necessitated duplication of infrastructure in each of the islands, and the allocation of scarce resources in that regard. The investment in children emanated from the firm conviction that no child should go hungry, be without a home, or remain illiterate, abused or abandoned. Every child had the right to be respected and protected by the family, the community and the State.
Her Government recognized that without a healthy population, no real development or progress could be achieved, she continued. Accordingly, it had devoted considerable resources to providing universal access to health care in each of its islands. Equal emphasis was placed on the importance of educating its children, to enable them to take their places as productive members of society and to contribute to the development of the nation. The Government was also committed to eradicating the practices that would harm children and prevent them from enjoying their full human rights. It had waged an intensive campaign against HIV/AIDS, through the provision of care, treatment and prevention programmes, coupled with awareness-raising and education activities. She added that the world's future depended on the actions taken today to safeguard the welfare and well-being of children.
FESSEHA TESFU ( Ethiopia) said the 2003-2010 National Plan of Action set specific targets in health, education, combating violence and reducing HIV/AIDS in children. It planned to increase health care coverage to 62 per cent; reduce maternal and child mortality by one third; improve nutrition, sanitation and water services; control major killer disease, reducing malaria by 50 per cent; raise tuberculosis case detection by 75 per cent; and eradicate polio and tetanus by 2006. It planned to increase the national annual health budget from 7 per cent to more than 10 per cent and connect electronically the federal and regional health information management systems. Further, it intended to expand pre-primary education from 2.1 per cent to 4.5 per cent, provide quality primary education to 90 per cent, and increase the secondary education participation rate from 13 per cent to 20 per cent, by increasing by 6 per cent the education budget to 20 per cent of the total national budget.
The Government had designed specific programmes to protect children from all forms of abuse, exploitation, violence and harmful traditional practices, as well as provide assistance to children in particularly difficult circumstances, he said. That included registering the birth of every child, awareness creation activities, reintegration programmes for street children, HIV/AIDS orphans, commercial sex workers and other vulnerable children. Further, it had promulgated and enforced laws that prohibited female genital mutilation, abduction and other harmful traditional practices.
BROWN B. CHIMPHAMBA ( Malawi) said investing in children was a priority for her Government, as they represented the future of the nation. It believed that children would contribute positively to the development of the world if properly nurtured and cared for. The Government had put in place a number of child-specific policies that directly impacted children. Among them was a national policy on early childhood development, a national policy on orphans and other vulnerable children, a national gender policy, and a national HIV/AIDS policy. Programmes in the areas of health promotion, quality education, protection against abuse, exploitation and violence, as well as on combating and mitigating the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, were among others that were being implemented.
His Government continued to work towards the improvement of the status of children. In an effort to reduce child mortality, it was implementing an "integrated management of childhood illness" approach to deal with the major illnesses of infants and children. In addition, a national malaria policy had been approved, and efforts to reduce infant and child mortality had been linked to HIV/AIDS prevention strategies. In June, the Government had launched the national plan of action for orphans and other vulnerable children for 2005-2009. He added that the Government also attached great importance to the protection of children from abuse, exploitation and violence.
MARYAM INNA CIROMA, Minister of Women Affairs of Nigeria, said her country considered the protection and promotion of the rights of children a primal responsibility of States. Nigeria had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, and its National Assembly had enacted the Child Rights Act in 2003, to demonstrate Nigeria's commitment to the rights and responsibilities of the Nigerian child.
Noting that education was a key element in the promotion of children's rights, she said that her Government had introduced the Universal Basic Education Programme, which provided compulsory and free education for all children of school age, up to junior and secondary school level. To further encourage school attendance, the Government had initiated a school feeding and health programme. In addition, the Government had established a new agency to deal specifically with the increasing practice of child trafficking. The agency brought to justice those who engaged in child trafficking and offered a rehabilitation programme for children who had been trafficked throughout the country. Nigeria had also entered into bilateral agreements with Benin and Italy to eliminate trafficking in persons, especially women and children.
Turning to the disastrous impact infectious diseases posed for children, she said the situation was exacerbated by the alarming number of families living in extreme poverty in the developing world. To deal with this issue, Nigeria had adopted a poverty alleviation strategy that offered credit to rural women and a package of universal vaccination against polio, measles and meningitis, as well as the distribution of insecticide treated mosquito nets to children in vulnerable areas.
JESSICA BLITT (Canada), speaking on behalf of Australia, New Zealand and Canada, said the annual omnibus resolution on the rights of the child provided the major framework for debate on the important issue at the United Nations. At the General Assembly and at the Commission on Human Rights, the delegations had accordingly been among the most active co-sponsors and supporters of the resolution. For the past three years, however, they had called on the resolution sponsors to consider new approaches to the issue, and she repeated that call today. Each year, too much time was spent going over old ground, repeating debate on standards that had already been agreed. Insufficient time was left to address new and critical issues. Moreover, it was simply not possible to give the proper attention to the implementation of the Convention. The three countries she represented urged Member States to consider how to promote a more meaningful debate on the rights of the child in United Nations forums. Such a review was a natural part of the current process of reform and renewal of the United Nations, and was necessary in advance of the establishment of the Human Rights Council.
The status of the Convention on the Rights of the Child should be examined biennially by the General Assembly, as was the case with the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, she continued. The resolution should also be streamlined to focus on implementation. It was necessary to turn attention to what the United Nations system and Member States were doing -- and should be doing -- to live up to agreed standards. Regarding the issue of children in armed conflict, she called on Member States to support the undertaking of an active campaign calling on the Security Council to implement Resolution 1612 through the prompt creation of a Working Group, as mandated in the resolution. Member States should also ensure that the UNICEF, civil society and those working at the field level had sufficient funding, and continued close coordination among United Nations agencies. They should also ratify the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflicts and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG ( Brazil) said children's poverty and hunger resulted from a combination of complex elements, including maternal mortality, food insecurity, low-quality education and violence against children. Brazil had opted for a multi-sectoral approach to tackle such challenges. All income-transference programmes had been unified under the Bolsa Familia, or Family Grant, umbrella programme, which linked income transference to action in the fields of health, nutrition and education, with particular emphasis on promoting children's welfare. It also set up a national action plan for children and adolescents that focused on the four major areas identified in "A World Fit for Children".
In that regard, Brazil was seeking to consolidate a clear tendency towards the reduction of child mortality rates, with a focus on family health, immunization and vaccination, he said. Brazil was also committed to reducing maternal mortality through expanded and improved sexual and reproductive health services. Regarding education, the country's goal was to have all children between the ages of 7 and 14 in school by 2007. Regarding protection against abuse, exploitation and violence, he said reducing child labour had been a priority through monitoring, awareness promotion campaigns and increasing access to schools. The Government had also set up a Network for Combating Sexual Violence Against Children and Adolescents that promoted outreach to children in situations of sexual violence, awareness campaigns against commercial and sexual exploitation of children, and strengthening of an individual complaints system.
HAMIDON ALI ( Malaysia) said that the well-being of children and women was an indicator of a healthy society and of good governance. His country would continue to promote and facilitate the rights of the child in the areas of protection, development and participation. To ensure the effective implementation of programmes for children in Malaysia, the Department of Social Welfare under the Ministry of Women, Family and Social Development had been restructured and given additional resources in 2005. In addition, a unit dedicated to the development of children had also been established.
He said that many issues faced by children were closely related to under-development, poverty and conflicts in developing countries. Unless those underlying developmental issues were seriously addressed with the required resources and assistance, the countries concerned would not be able to solve any problems relating to the rights of children. To that end, he urged United Nations agencies to assist developing countries to establish institutions for the promotion and protection of the rights of children and to provide capacity building assistance. At the tenth Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Summit held in Malaysia in 2003, member countries adopted a resolution on "Child Care and Protection in the Islamic World", which called upon the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to organize the first ministerial meeting on the child in collaboration with the OIC General Secretariat and the UNICEF. That meeting was expected to address a broad range of issues relating to children in the Islamic world.
FARAH ADJALOVA (Azerbaijan), noting that her country had signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Protocols, said that those instruments, along with other relevant international instruments should constitute the standard in the promotion and protection of children worldwide. Citing the efforts to mainstream child's rights into school curricula, she said that in cooperation with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Azerbaijan was launching a pilot project on human rights education based on the Convention for children 10-12 years old, which would initially cover 600 schoolchildren.
Azerbaijan remained concerned about its infant and child mortality rates, which were significantly higher in rural areas and in temporary settlements for refugees and internally displaced persons, where the rates were almost 50 per cent higher. She commended the UNICEF for its support of national efforts in that area. The Government had also instituted a new State programme on deinstitutionalization and alternative for children living without parents. Moreover, in her country, the situation of children affected by armed conflict remained challenging, particularly the large number of internal displacements. The international community should redirect its efforts from elaborating the standards to ensuring their application on the ground.
S. K. BWISWMUTHIARY ( India) said that without addressing the underlying causes of the miserable condition of one half of the world's children, very little could be achieved. While the need for focusing attention on children's rights was paramount, there should be commensurate attention on and support of children's developmental needs, such as adequate and nutritious food, civil amenities, health services, and access to education. The interrelated aspects of poverty, development and rights of children were self-evident. A better understanding of the underlying interlinkages was required for addressing the important issue of development of children. He urged specialized funds and agencies to give special attention to those aspects in their future studies, and welcomed the initiatives of the Secretary-General for an in-depth study on violence against children.
India was home to the largest child population in the world, he said. His country shared a deep concern about the status and welfare of children, who comprised 41 per cent of the population. The commitment to children was reflected in various articles in the Indian constitution, and elementary education was a fundamental right in the country. The Government had also resolved to increase public spending on education to at least 6 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP), of which half would be spent in the development of primary and secondary education sectors. A universal elementary education scheme had been launched, with a special emphasis on girls, and a national nutrition mission to combat malnutrition among children had also been started. Several laws had been enacted to ensure the protection of children's rights. India was committed to eliminating child labour in all its forms and was moving in that direction in a targeted manner.
NADYA RASHEED, Observer for Palestine, said her delegation attached great importance to the rights of children. In every region of the world, in almost every aspect of their lives, children -- who constituted the most vulnerable segment of society -- were subject to unconscionable violence and abuse. For that reason, the international community must take all necessary measures to fulfil their promises to the children of the world, and transform the universal ideal of creating a "world fit for children" into a universal reality. Each year, millions of children suffered the negative and debilitating consequences of armed conflict. The Palestinian children knew all too well the grave effects posed by situations of armed conflict, particularly foreign occupation, as they had lived their entire lives under Israeli occupation.
The intensification of the military aggression by the occupying power over the past five years had resulted in a dramatic deterioration of the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, causing even more harm and suffering to the lives of Palestinian children. Moreover, the prevalence of violent incidents in close proximity to children had encroached upon the last remaining symbols of safety: the home, school and family. It was imperative to recall relevant provisions of international law, including international humanitarian law and human rights law. Serious and urgent efforts must be undertaken to bring an end to the dire situation and to bring hope to the lives of the innocent and defenceless Palestinian children under Israel's occupation.
ANDREI TARANDA ( Belarus) said the future of all mankind depended on the measures that were taken to protect children. The World Summit on children and the General Assembly special session on children had set out priority objectives, including reducing infant mortality, increasing vaccination coverage, providing basic education to children, and ensuring the rights of all children. Despite the fact that the general situation today gave greater hope to optimism, Member States needed to continue active, collective measures to address the many problems and to achieve the over-arching goal, which was a world fit for children.
Belarus considered children a priority of its national policy, which emphasized lifestyle, quality education, the protection of vulnerable children and the prevention of juvenile delinquency and HIV/AIDS, among other things. It had set up an institutional framework for promoting children's rights, and work was under way to improve national laws to bring them more into line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Government had also instituted a national plan of action for improving the status of children for the period 2004-2010, and was undertaking determined efforts to become party to more international agreements on the rights of the child. It was also implementing national procedures for acceding to the Optional Protocol on children in armed conflict. His Government considered the most flagrant form of violation to be the trafficking of children, and such acts required strong measures by Member States and the United Nations. His delegation proposed that efforts should be made within a framework of a global partnership against slavery and trafficking in humans in the twenty-first century. It also welcomed efforts by the UNICEF to ensure national capacity-building in order to deal with trafficking in children.
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