Governments around the world were focused on improving access to quality education and health care for children and adolescents to ensure they reached their full potential, speakers told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) as they concluded discussion on children’s rights.
Indeed, children’s fundamental freedoms could be best protected by ensuring their education and health care needs were met, said Bangladesh’s delegate, who noted that children at all educational levels in his country were provided free textbooks on New Year’s Day, the world’s largest such distribution that had seen 360 million textbooks handed out this year. The education system also had been enhanced by the introduction of information and communications technology in school curricula.
Similarly, Bhutan’s delegate said children were provided free education up to the tenth grade, while in Ukraine, a law on inclusive education ensured all Ukrainian children had access to high-quality education, said that country’s representative.
Efforts to boost education had borne fruit, several said, with South Africa’s delegate noting that 98 per cent of girls were enrolled in school. Rwanda’s delegate said primary school enrolment had risen to 95.4 per cent, with girls’ 96.5 per cent rate higher than the 94.2 per cent rate for boys. Overall, primary school completion in Rwanda was 76 per cent. In Indonesia, said that country’s delegate, a Child Labour Reduction Program focused on education and vocational training had led to 49 children returning to school.
In terms of child health, there had also been gains. El Salvador’s representative said a comprehensive child health care policy had fostered a 42 per cent decrease in chronic malnutrition and reduced parent-to-child transmission of HIV and AIDS. In Thailand, meanwhile, particular attention had been paid to achieving universal health coverage, said that country’s delegate, with a grant introduced to help poor families with new-born children. Libya’s representative likewise stressed that, despite instability, his country was determined to provide children with free education and healthcare services, including vaccinations.
Speakers also underscored that education and health care policies must be inclusive to meet children’s varying needs. The Dominican Republic’s delegate highlighted the establishment of a centre for children with conditions such as autism and Down’s Syndrome. “We know that investing in the rights of children means investing in our future,” he said. Echoing this sentiment, Tonga’s delegate added that every child, including those with disabilities, had the right to education.
Children also deserved access to social services regardless of their nationality, speakers noted. The representative of the United Arab Emirates said immunizations were offered to Yemeni children who had been affected by conflict. Spain’s delegate added that child migrants were accorded the same rights as Spanish citizens.
However, the Republic of Korea’s delegate pointed out, girls often lacked access to healthcare and education. Adolescent girls left school much earlier than their male counterparts. Girls also suffered disproportionate violence, and lacked access to health care and nutrition. It was well documented that societies which empowered girls through education achieved better results in every area of development, she observed.
Also speaking were representatives of Botswana, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Iceland, Kazakhstan, China, Georgia, Kuwait, Turkey, Nigeria, Maldives, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Panama, Burundi, Malawi, Morocco, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Armenia, Andorra, Burkina Faso, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Bulgaria, Sudan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Azerbaijan, the Russian Federation, Bahrain, Congo, Myanmar, Djibouti, Algeria and Togo, as well as of the Holy See, State of Palestine, Sovereign Order of Malta, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and International Labour Organization (ILO).
The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 12 October, to consider the rights of indigenous peoples.
The Third Committee met today to continue its debate on the promotion and protection of the rights of children. (For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/4200).
EDGAR SISA (Botswana), associating himself with the African Group and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), reiterated his commitment to international and regional mechanisms for children’s rights. Having amended its Children’s Act, Botswana had strengthened its promotion and protection of children’s rights. Programmes were in place to address growing alcohol and substance abuse among young people, while others for child protection were grounded in providing equitable and quality education. Botswana endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration and had almost achieved universal access to education. Among the challenges was the declining quality of junior secondary education, he said, stressing that revision of curricula and increased teacher training had been identified as tools to bridge the education gap.
Ms. AL EMADI (Qatar) said achievements in protecting children’s rights included the widespread ratification of Convention on the Rights of the Child. However, millions of children still faced the brunt of climate change and conflict. She called for intensified international efforts to protect children wherever they were. Legislative efforts in Qatar were aligned with development strategies and aimed to foster international cooperation to create an environment conducive to meeting children’s educational and health needs. Yet, efforts had been hampered by “illegal international measures” imposed on Qatar that had forced families to separate. Despite those obstacles, she underscored Qatar’s commitment to protect all children.
MARCOS MONTILLA (Dominican Republic), associating himself with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said the national strategy to protect the rights of children and adolescents included the provision of medical services, which had led to a decrease in chronic malnutrition, and support for single women to resume their studies. The Government also had focused on improving education and increasing public spending on schools. A centre for children with conditions such as autism and Down’s Syndrome had been established, and to address the issue of violence, a bill was being developed to promote children’s positive upbringing and avoid violence in child rearing. Ultimately, he said, the country aimed to ensure that its social policies were consistent on the Convention. “We know that investing in the rights of children means investing in our future,” he added.
MAYRA LISSETH SORTO ROSALES (El Salvador), associating herself with CELAC, said promoting children’s and adolescent’s rights was a priority. El Salvador had made strides in improving education and health services for children, and had introduced laws to better protect their rights. Girls and boys, for example, had access to comprehensive healthcare, which had fostered a 42 per cent decrease in chronic malnutrition and a reduction in parent-to-child transmission of HIV and AIDS. A paradigm shift also had been made in the legislature to focus on rights protection and ensure that laws aligned with the Convention. She also urged Member States to promote the human rights of all migrants, particularly children.
MADHUKA WICKRAMARACHCHI (Sri Lanka), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said his country had successfully incorporated the principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child into its legal system. Legislation protected the rights of children to nationality, non-discrimination and to have their best interests safeguarded. National child protection policies had been adopted to bring Sri Lanka’s standards up to international standard and action plans were in place to end sexual abuse and violence against children. Turning to the problem of bullying, he said Sri Lanka was one of five countries to have laws prohibiting the act in schools. He noted the vital role played by parents and teachers in mitigating bullying, also calling for greater cooperation with religious leaders to ensure children get the protection they need.
HELEN INGA S. VON ERNST (Iceland) said free and universal education was crucial to social equality and long-term prosperity as it reduced poverty, boosted economic growth and increased income. But gender was a discriminating factor, and the international community must focus on girls’ empowerment and participation in education. Turning to the issue of armed conflict, she said children were often the first to suffer when societies faced conflict, poverty or famine. With millions of children displaced from among other countries Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Myanmar, urgent action was needed. Governments had an obligation to ensure children’s rights were respected, protected and fulfilled.
MOHAMMAD DAVID ARSLAN (Indonesia) associating himself with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said his country was committed to combating violence against children and protecting them from being exploited. Indonesia had launched a Child Labour Reduction Program focusing on education and vocational training which had successfully withdrawn nearly 49 children engaged in labour and returned them to school. In addition, Child Labour-Free Zones had been established throughout industrial areas, and measures had been taken to improve both family welfare and economic resilience with a twelve-year free and compulsory education program. Children’s forums, family learning centres and children’s creative spaces had been established in all 34 provinces.
TSOKI CHODEN (Bhutan) firmly endorsed investment in the rights of children as a fundamental building block for prosperity and sustainable development. Sound legal frameworks in Bhutan provided protections, including free access to education up to the tenth grade. Protections against all forms of abuse and exploitation of children had also been put into force. Such measures had benefited from an expanded definition of violence against children and harsher punishment for perpetrators. A five-year-plan sought to mainstream child protection issues, with child focal points appointed to all relevant Government offices, she said, adding that measures were also in place to promote the political inclusion of children.
AZAT SHAKIROV (Kazakhstan) said the security and safety of children were prerequisites for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially in conflict zones. Regions where strife and conflict prevailed required investment in sectors that promoted the socioeconomic needs of young people. He called for the implementation of action plans to reintegrate child soldiers, with special focus on girls, measures which called for greater United Nations cooperation. Turning to mass refugee flows, he said all countries involved in the migration cycle must be held accountable for their actions. He said it was imperative to implement relevant Security Council resolutions to protect children in armed conflict, including the maintenance of schools as safe spaces.
SHAO WU (China) said that her Government had worked relentlessly to put into practice the principle of “children first” by drafting and implementing three successive National Plans of Action for Child Development. In addition to legislation to tackle domestic violence, the Government had also enacted measures to improve nutrition of children in poverty. Civil society had a key role to play in the protection of the rights of children, she stressed, adding that developed countries must honour their commitment by increasing substantive assistance to the developing countries in terms of finance and technology to create a better environment for children globally.
TEVITA SUKA MANGISI (Tonga) said that while his country criminalized all forms of child abuse, progress towards protecting children rested in the proper implementation of such laws. Tonga’s policy targeted the education sector, with every child, including those with disabilities, having the right to education. Efforts were also improving the quality of teachers and incorporating climate change awareness into curricula. Monitoring progress called for quality data collection, he noted, adding that Tonga was the second country ever to establish a sound monitoring system and undertake a country-wide census of child development. He closed by reaffirming that children’s rights were integral to the Government’s work.
EKA KIPIANI (Georgia) said that in the past year, her country had adopted legislative measures and new laws as part of its commitment to protect and promote the rights of children. Those measures included a new code for juvenile justice. Georgia had also complied with reporting obligations under the treaty system, and hosted a visit of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography in April 2016. But the humanitarian and human rights situation in the occupied regions of Georgia were deteriorating, and children there were deprived of basic human rights, including that to an education in their native language. The Sustainable Development Goals must be fully implemented everywhere, including in conflict-affected areas.
Mr. MOHAMMAD (Kuwait) expressed concern about children experiencing hardship caused by armed conflict and natural disasters. In Kuwait, the family was seen as the core provider of care and protection for children, while the State offered support for their spiritual and physical needs. Noting that Kuwait’s policies had met the requirements of the Convention, he said a family court had also been established to address family conflicts, and in turn, reduce violence against children. The country had also organized conferences to raise awareness of the risks posed to young people by digital technology and the suffering of Palestinian children.
MURAT UĞURLUOĞLU (Turkey) said his country had taken various initiatives to protect children, including through the adoption of a national plan that aimed to improve their living standards. The focus had been on health, education and social inclusion, he added. Party to the Convention, Turkey had also ratified the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse. Turkey attached great importance to the rights of the girl child, and to ensuring education opportunities for both boys and girls. In conflicts and crises, children were vulnerable to mass abductions, torture and sexual violence, he said, underscoring that there were 835,000 school-age Syrian children in Turkey, and that their education was crucial for rebuilding Syria.
ABIODUN RICHARDS ADEJOLA (Nigeria) associating himself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, described a campaign to end violence against children which had fed into Nigeria’s internally displaced persons camps where alleged sexual exploitation had been reported. In addition, a survey had helped the Government initiate awareness-raising campaigns for parents, families and communities on the need to protect children from all forms of violence, abuse and exploitation. He also highlighted the “End Child Marriage Campaign”; drop-in-centres for child victims of terrorism that targeted re-enrolment in school; the Home Grown School Feeding Program, which aimed to feed children in schools across the country; and the Safe School Initiative as a way to prevent Boko Haram from recruiting children through security measures for their protection.
ZEENA MOHAMED DIDI (Maldives) said children were being used as slaves, weapons and even commodities to trade. The Maldives had focused on training parents and professionals working with abused children, she added, emphasizing that the number of cases reported to protective services had increased in recent years. A mobile reporting application and a 24-hour toll free call centre had been launched where reports could be made anonymously. To reach every island in a timely manner, community social groups were being rolled out across the Maldives. Domestic abuse and violence against children could be countered in large part by empowering women. The recently passed Domestic Violence Prevention Act and the Anti-Human Trafficking Act had strengthened protection mechanisms. She also underscored the importance of education in the advancement of children.
Mr. ALI (Pakistan) underscored that half a billion children — one out of every four — lived in countries affected by conflict, natural disasters or epidemics. “This is a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions,” he stressed, emphasizing that protecting and promoting children’s rights was both smart economics and a moral obligation. Among the earliest signatories of the Convention on Rights of the Child, Pakistan had since ratified several international instruments, including one on child labour. The National Commission for Child Welfare and Development and a comprehensive child protection bill provided the necessary national legal basis to protect children from abuse and exploitation. Pakistan was committed to reducing infant and maternal mortality and increasing literacy to 90 per cent of the population within the next eight years.
PORNRAWE POENATEETAI (Thailand), associating herself with ASEAN, said international attention should be focused on children living in poverty, rural children and migrant children. Thailand had been working to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, paying particular attention to achieving universal health coverage, under which it had introduced a grant programme providing financial assistance to poor families with newborn children. All children, including migrant children, received free, quality education in Thailand. The emerging role of media and technology obliged the international community to minimize the risks of exploitation or abuse through such channels, she said, adding that her country had a national strategy to prevent such online abuse, including cyberbullying.
VUSUMUZI NTONGA (Zimbabwe) said his country had acceded to both the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Children’s Act, Education Act and Domestic Violence Act were all in place, as were programmes to implement their provisions, such as the National Victim Friendly System which responded to cases of violence and sexual abuse of children. While police offered victim-friendly lines, there were also child friendly courts and clinics which facilitated child-sensitive court sessions for abuse cases. Limited resources, low institutional capacity and prevailing social, cultural and political norms were among the challenges to enforcing those reforms. Police received reports of nearly 100 girls being exposed to sexual abuse every day, he said, in part because they were in early and forced marriages, a practice that had been outlawed since 2016.
Ms. ELMANSOURI (Tunisia), associating herself with the African Group, said the protection of children was a priority, and as such, Tunisia had implemented legislation emphasizing their vulnerability to all forms of violence and exploitation. Laws protecting women’s rights also recognized children as vulnerable to sexual abuse. Education was the central pillar of the country’s child protection agenda, with notable investment made to improve school and health infrastructure. Those efforts had expanded students’ access to food and targeted drop-out rates. Young people must be given a political voice, she said, adding that Tunisian children had been consulted in the drafting of the latest five-year plan.
LAURA ELENA FLORES HERRERA (Panama), associating herself with CELAC, called children the most valuable social capital of any country. Considerations for their well-being must recognize them as fully fledged persons with the right to be heard. Panama was focused on their interests through a national secretariat office and campaigns to combat sexual abuse against children. Plans were in place to eradicate child labour, with the Office of the First Lady and the Ministry of Labour implementing campaigns. The list of hazardous work for children also had been updated. She called attention to alarming rates of violence against children, saying that such acts took an immense toll on the international community.
Mr. KAYINAMURA (Rwanda) said the national policy on orphans and vulnerable children outlined objectives and proposed strategies to care for those young people, while a related children’s plan was guided by principles, such as meeting the needs of every child and prioritizing children in all policies. The ultimate goal of Rwanda’s policy on children was to protect their rights and ensure they developed by improving services, institutions and systems. The Government had made strides in protecting their rights, transforming orphanages and providing orphans with home-based care. In addition, primary school enrolment had risen to 95.4 per cent, with girls’ enrolment at 96.5 per cent — higher than the 94.2 per cent rate for boys. Overall, primary school completion was at 76 per cent.
SHAMEEM AHSAN (Bangladesh) said children’s rights could be best protected by ensuring their education and healthcare. Since 2010, children at all educational levels had been provided free textbooks on New Year’s Day, the world’s largest such distribution effort that had seen 360 million textbooks handed out this year. With schools funded through the Government budget, the education system had been enhanced by the introduction of information and communications technology in school curricula. In terms of child health, mobile phone and web portals provided health services, complementing the work of 16,438 community and local health clinics for children. Regarding displaced Myanmar nationals who had sought refuge in Bangladesh, he said his country was trying to extend as much help as possible to the children, who comprised 60 per cent of the refugees. He urged the international community to ensure those children were protected from violence and aggression, and to help them return to their families in Myanmar.
BERNARDITO AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, drew attention to unaccompanied refugee and migrant children, the number of whom had reached a record high globally. Children were the most defenceless group among refugees and migrants. The Convention on the Rights of the Child had established legal obligations for States Parties that could not arbitrarily and unilaterally be curtailed, he said, including proper identification and registration, and the right to education. Violations against the rights of children in armed conflict had increased in intensity and scale, with children used as soldiers, suicide bombers, sex slaves and disposable intelligence-gatherers in the most dangerous military operations. The protection and integration of children must be a primordial concern for all.
NOKULUNGA ZANDILE BHENGU (South Africa), associating herself with the African Group and SADC, said that while the global North had done well to advance children’s rights, progress in the global South fluctuated from country to country. Still, South Africa had made strides towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, with 98 per cent enrolment of girls in school and increased budgetary allocations for education. The social security safety net for children was being expanded to better serve the most vulnerable children, with grants reaching 70 per cent of households. Substance abuse among young people had taken a heavy toll on South Africa, she said, calling for future reports on child protection to provide guidance on how to address that issue.
ALBERT SHINGIRO (Burundi), associating himself with the African Group, said prevention of violence against children was at the heart of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 2030 Agenda. Burundi was deploying considerable efforts to protect children and taking measures to strengthen legislation on the matter. A series of committees had been established to promote children’s well-being and safety, while legal tools had been developed to protect children from violence, with a unit in the justice ministry dealing exclusively with children’s issues. The greatest challenge in Burundi was creating safe environments that mitigated high mortality among children, he said, pledging to put into effect all international mechanisms to protect children.
Ms. AL JABRI (United Arab Emirates) said her country had enhanced its judiciary and legislative system to meet requirements set out in the Convention and its Optional Protocols. In addition, a strategic plan had been introduced to foster the rights of children with disabilities. The Government also provided humanitarian assistance to Yemenis in the United Arab Emirates who had been affected by conflict, including immunization for Yemeni children. Protecting children from radicalism and terrorism was also a focus, and to that end, the country had introduced measures to protect women and children from hate speech.
Mr. BASTIDA (Spain), associating himself with the European Union, said his country had introduced legislative reforms to protect the rights of children and adolescents. Protecting the rights of children on the move was an issue of concern for Spain, given its location along a historical crossroad. Child migrants were accorded the same rights as Spanish citizens from a belief that all children should have equal rights regardless of nationality. Spain also ensured that children from poor families were provided access to basic social services.
LOT DZONZI (Malawi), associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, the African Group and SADC, said his country had taken special note of the annual report of the Special Representative on Violence against Children. Malawi had worked to include commitments made under international treaties into its domestic legal framework, including by amending its Constitution to raise the marriage age from 15 years to 18 years. Poverty was among the factors driving trafficking, and to prevent it, Malawi had made birth registration mandatory. HIV and AIDS was an ongoing challenge, which Malawi was working to mitigate through a national strategic plan which had reduced HIV infections among children in some age groups by 84 per cent.
Ms. HAIDOUR (Morocco) said her Government had a clear vision to protect the rights of the child. Constitutional progress had been made to prioritize international mechanisms on the matter. Efforts prioritized education and took a human-rights-approach to assisting children. As a result, the rate of children in school had increased from 50 per cent to 80 per cent in recent years. As part of its national action plan for children and other national mechanisms, Morocco had put in place measures to protect children in armed conflict, allowing them access to the legal system.
YOOSIL HWANG (Republic of Korea) said it was important to educate children in universal values such as human dignity, tolerance, respect for diversity and human rights. She expressed concern that fewer girls attended school than boys, and that adolescent girls left school much sooner than their male counterparts. Girls also suffered disproportionate amounts of violence, and lacked access to adequate healthcare and nutrition. Empowering girls was not merely protecting individuals; it fostered gender equality, she said, stressing that it was well-documented that societies which empowered girls and young women achieved better results in every area of development. The Republic of Korea would continue to promote global programmes supporting girls’ health, education and vocational training.
JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica) said the country had launched a national action plan to address early childhood needs before birth and up to age 10 years. It offered universal healthcare for children and universal preschool education. Many young believed that better education could help them overcome family problems, drugs or bullying. More education would also lead to young people delaying marriage and avoiding unwanted pregnancies, he said, citing a law to prohibit child marriage and penalize those who had sex with people younger than 15 years old.
E. COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), associating himself with CELAC and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said his country was determined to place children at the heart of development efforts, notably through its long-term, holistic approach to helping children and bringing perpetrators to justice. All forms of violence, including bullying, must be targeted, he said, noting that more than one billion children around the world were subjected to violence by care-givers. Alternative discipline strategies had been devised and corporal punishment prohibited in schools. Noting the transformational impact of education on girls, he reaffirmed the importance of reintegrating school-aged-mothers into the education system. There was also a need to share international best practices, he said, and Jamaica would continue to work with all relevant stakeholders.
Mr. ABDELWAHED (Libya), associating himself with the African Group, said his country insisted on protecting children, especially those under 16 years, including the foetus in the womb. Libya had granted children the rights to education, potable water, nutrition and protection from all forms of violence. The continuing crisis in Libya meant that special attention was given to displaced children. To ensure well-being, violence and terrorism must be brought to an end. Referring to children as the basic pillar of sustainable development, he said social services for them must be expanded. Despite instability, Libya was determined to provide children with free education and healthcare services, including vaccinations.
LILIT GRIGORYAN (Armenia), associating herself with the European Union, said the protection and promotion of children’s rights was a priority. Strengthened national laws and evidence-based policies were the way to eliminate all violence against children. For its part, Armenia had approved a national strategy on human rights which allowed children to bring complaints directly to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. National efforts included collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for the development of childcare policies with integrated health, social protection and inclusive education reform. Armenia condemned violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, in particular when they concerned the rights and the lives of children.
SAHAR ABUSHAWESH (State of Palestine) said Palestinian children had been traumatized by decades of human rights violations by Israel, particularly in the Gaza Strip, where children continued to be tormented by its policies. Palestinian children had been killed and injured by Israeli occupying forces and illegal settlers, she said, calling for all perpetrators of crimes against them to be brought to justice. The occupying Power also had demolished homes and confiscated educational facilities, and she pressed the international community to compel Israel to end that practice. Expressing concern that Palestinian children continued to be illegally held and subject to ill-treatment in Israeli prisons, she called for greater collective efforts to protect and provide Palestinian children with rehabilitation.
JOAN JOSEP LÓPEZ LAVADO (Andorra) said his country in 2014 had made corporal punishment a criminal offense, joining just 53 States worldwide that had enacted such legislation, which was crucial for the protection of the rights of the child. Turning to the issue of bullying, he said his country had experienced an increase in children affected by that, which had worsened with the introduction of new technologies and social networks. In response, his Government had launched a plan to mitigate the problem, and in 2018 it would present a new law to reinforce existing measures and further promote the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Andorra had endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, and more than 40 per cent of the country’s official development assistance (ODA) went to programmes for children.
Mr. KOUDOUGOU (Burkina Faso), associating himself with African Group, said the country had introduced a charter to ensure children’s well-being and enhanced laws to protect children in armed conflict. The Government also had introduced an inclusive education act, and put in place an institutional framework to fight all forms of violence and harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation. Those measures were in line with Burkina Faso’s economic and social plan which made healthcare, education and social protection priority areas. However, the country faced major challenges such as the spread of infectious diseases and prevalence of children in gold mining areas who did not attend school. The country also grappled with the exploitation of children by terrorist groups. He called on the international community to support efforts to fight terrorism in the Sahel.
JORGE SKINNER-KLÉE (Guatemala), associating himself with CELAC, recognized the 2030 Agenda as a transformative, human-centred understanding that renewed common efforts to prevent violence against children. National legislation in Guatemala had created a space for children to enjoy their full rights, he said, noting that measures were in place to undertake a national census that would better guide child-centred programmes and measure children’s level of inclusion. Guatemala was vulnerable to the activities of trafficking networks seeking to exploit children, he said, adding that persistent abuse of children in armed conflict was an attack on all humans. He called for the sharing of best practices to bring perpetrators to justice.
LILA DESTA (Ethiopia) associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said the proper implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change would help address obstacles preventing the full realization of children’s rights. Ethiopia had created a growth and transformation plan that recognized the crucial nature of investing in children. A national action plan included a focus on protecting children from harmful traditional practices. Ethiopia had also established a system for registering births. Given the enormity of the challenges, more cooperation and partnerships were needed at the bilateral, regional and multilateral levels.
HANNA HALCHENKO (Ukraine) associating herself with the European Union, said every child must have the opportunity to become a productive member of society, and the right to speak up and be heard. Ukraine was committed to implementation of the 2030 Agenda, having for instance adopted a law on inclusive education, which ensured all Ukrainian children’s access to high-quality education. Since the beginning of Russian aggression against her country, 90 boys and 47 girls had lost their lives, she said, adding that the proportion of families with children in difficult situations had significantly increased. There were 1.7 million internally displaced persons in Ukraine, 232,000 of whom were children. Ukraine was grateful to UNICEF for its financial and technical assistance to the country.
GEORGI PANAYOTOV (Bulgaria) said all child policies in his country followed a human rights-based approach that took into account the “best interest of the child” principle enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Fruitful partnerships had been established with civil society, social partners, the private sector and the media in Bulgaria to advocate for child protection and to raise awareness about child rights, he said. As President of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Bulgaria was making every effort to ensure that the rights of children with disabilities were protected and upheld.
Ms. MUKHTAR (Sudan) said cooperation efforts with the United Nations were in place to fulfil national and international obligations related to the protection of children. A national council for children had been established and child protection units were being deployed by the police. Sudan had put forth a comprehensive legal system, with a special prosecutor to oversee child-related cases, including those of children in armed conflict. A joint action plan had been launched with the United Nations to protect children in armed conflict and provide care in conflict areas. Such efforts sought to eliminate the recruitment of child soldiers by armed groups.
JA SONG NAM (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said his country had creditably fulfilled its duty as a protector of children’s rights, through providing in its Constitution child protection, as well as by adopting a number of national and social welfare policies. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, he said, expressing great pride in having an advanced system to protect children’s rights. Happy children gave the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea optimism about the future, he said.
LALA MEHDIYEVA (Azerbaijan) said that amid progress, there were indications of an alarming level of violence against children, as each year, at least one billion children experienced emotional, physical or sexual violence. She condemned strongly all violations committed against children in armed conflict situations, drawing attention to the fact that Armenia’s occupation of Azerbaijan and continued attacks had caused casualties among children and damaged schools. She went on to describe national measures that had improved the situation of children in Azerbaijan, including a rule on the “State Supervision over the Implementation of Children’s Rights” and adoption of a law on combating domestic violence.
Ms. LIKINA (Russian Federation) said her country was committed to strict observance of international legal commitments. As safeguarding children’s rights was a focus of Russian leadership, the national children’s action strategy set forth the goals of national policies for children and key mechanisms thereto. The well-being of children was an absolute value for all, and particular attention should be paid to strengthening the traditional family. She called on all concerned to be more actively involved in advancing traditional family values internationally. Ukraine’s delegation had launched an inappropriate discussion, she added.
Mr. AL-TERAIFI (Bahrain), describing accomplishments, cited unified family laws, a child care law and a special fund for children. In Bahrain, all forms of mistreatment were prohibited, and laws had been enacted to protect children from exploitation. Since acceding to the Convention, Bahrain had provided all sorts of care services for children, as well as established a national centre for the protection of the child. Bahrain had submitted periodic reports on the Convention’s implementation, he said, noting that his country would spare no effort in caring for its children.
LAURIA NGUELE MAKOUELET (Congo), associating herself with the African Group, said the well-being of children was at the heart of her country’s policy. Laws had established equality for all children and banned child marriage, she said, noting that a strong legal architecture was also in place. Mechanisms to coordinate the protection of children included all relevant stakeholders. Noting that Congo’s commitment to children went beyond its borders, she said regional partnerships sought to combat trafficking, while investments in health and education had raised school enrolment, including among girls. Programmes were also in place to combat HIV/AIDS and malaria and an organization had been established to monitor sexual violence. Thanks to those measures infant mortality was declining, she said.
KYAW MOE TUN (Myanmar) aligning himself with ASEAN, said children were the future of his country, adding that education was the key to their development. Myanmar had increased public spending on education, and a new system waived school fees for all high school students. All primary school students were provided with school uniforms. Having faced internal armed conflicts for more than six decades, Myanmar sought to build a peaceful and harmonious society. The Government welcomed the “Children, Not Soldiers” programme of the Special Representative on Violence against Children, and was working closely with the United Nations Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting to prevent underage recruitment into the military. A new child rights law had been enacted with wide-ranging consultation with civil society.
Mr. MOUSSA (Djibouti) associating himself with the African Group, said children were both exceptional and fragile beings who deserved education, health, and an appropriate environment. Djibouti condemned all violence against children, adding that the devastating nature of violence against children led to illnesses and other serious consequences. A child endangered was a dangerous child, and entire segments of society were being lost. Starting in 2000, the Government had provided free education for all children, and there was no difference in attendance between girls and boys. Djibouti would continue to promote schooling for girls, he said.
NORA IMANE BELLOUT (Algeria) said her Government had identified access to education as central to peace and security in all countries. As a result, the education budget in Algeria had increased tenfold over the past 15 years. Some eight million children now received free education across the country, she noted, adding that those benefits extended to refugees and pursued gender parity. Programmes that took an inclusive approach were being implemented in cooperation with civil society, she said, noting that national child protection efforts had succeeded in improving knowledge about children’s fundamental rights.
Mr. DOUTI (Togo) encouraged more specific action to ensure better quality of life for children. Having ratified most relevant international mechanisms, Togo had strengthened its legal system by adopting laws which allowed for increased protection of vulnerable children. Anti-trafficking laws also had achieved positive results in assisting victims and bringing perpetrators to justice. With the support of several partners, Togo was pursuing increased school enrolment, and a national hotline was created to enable the reporting of child abuse cases. Substantial efforts were also being made to improve the quality of education by investing in infrastructure and training teachers and staff.
MICHAEL ESPIRITU, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, said the Order was active in 120 countries providing medical, humanitarian and social assistance, underscoring that children’s welfare was a foremost concern. The Order fed hungry children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where it worked with the World Food Programme (WFP) to provide aid for displaced and malnourished children. It was also active in Namibia, Uganda, Togo and Benin, where nutrition nurses travelled to villages treating undernourished children where they lived. Having served the vulnerable for nine centuries, the Order would continue dedicating itself to serving children.
DANIELLE LARRABEE, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said the organization had a long history of working to protect children, including those on the move. The focus now was on establishing new partnerships, joining various international initiatives and ensuring that young people and children had a voice in identifying risks and providing solutions. For example, in Bangladesh, the Red Crescent Society had held regular discussions with displaced children to learn about their experiences. Working with its national societies and its 17 million volunteers, IFRC was conducting country evaluations of its work with children on the move in Ecuador, Guatemala, Benin, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Indonesia. Despite enormous needs and challenges, she was encouraged to see children’s rights garner international attention, particularly welcoming the pledge in the New York Declaration to protect children on the move.
KEVIN CASSIDY, International Labour Organization (ILO), said ILO’s two main international conventions covering children in the world of work had nearly universal ratification. Yet, ratification of those Conventions — on the minimum age for work and the elimination of the worst forms of child labour — was insufficient in eliminating child labour. The standards enumerated in the Conventions should be translated into national laws, he said, adding that estimates showed a total of 152 million children in labour globally. ILO was working to eliminate child labour in complex and multi-tiered global supply chains through a “Child Labour Guidance Tool” which aimed to serve as a resource for companies seeking to meet due diligence requirements. Effective common standards that were monitored and enforced were needed to help protect children’s rights.
Right of Reply
The representative of Saudi Arabia, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said Syria had spread fabricated information to draw attention away from its “heinous” crimes. The Syrian regime was committing crimes that had claimed thousands of lives and turned a blind eye to the suffering of displaced people. He reiterated his Government’s commitment to provide aid to countries undergoing humanitarian crises.
The representative of Myanmar, responding to statements made by her counterpart from Bangladesh, said authorities in her country and Bangladesh had agreed on cooperation to address issues along the shared border. Security forces were well aware of the Geneva Convention and the “law of the land”, and were not harming civilians. She said Myanmar would work in a neighbourly fashion to address the issue of displaced persons.
The representative of Armenia, responding to statements made by her counterpart from Azerbaijan, said the Government had been addressing refugee issues for more than 25 years as a result of Azerbaijani actions in Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia had provided the only viable solution to the issue, yet Azerbaijani aggression persisted. She said the death of any child was a tragedy and expressed regret that Azerbaijan did not share that view.
The representative of Azerbaijan said Armenia’s delegation had distorted the essence of the conflict. Armenia had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. International law was on Azerbaijan’s side, and demanded the withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied territories. Armenia should engage in substantive talks, rather than resorting to provocations. If Armenia was interested in the political settlement of the conflict, it should withdraw its forces.
The representative of Armenia, taking the floor a second time, said Nagorno-Karabakh was under the control of the Nagorno-Karabakh defence army. Azerbaijan’s delegate had not denied allegations regarding killings of children; atrocities had been well-documented by Azerbaijanis themselves.
The representative of Azerbaijan said Armenia’s delegate had disagreed with what the President of Armenia had said, and asked what Armenian soldiers were doing in a certain city. Secondly, regarding the killing of children in July, he said a two-year old Azerbaijani girl had been killed, and that ordinary people via social media had said that more Azerbaijani people should be killed. Concerning the April war, Azerbaijan had undertaken appropriate measures to ensure the safety of its citizens.