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Sixty-ninth session,
12th & 13th Meetings (AM & PM)
GA/SHC/4103

Opening Third Committee Debate on Children’s Rights, Top Officials Implore States to Combat Cybercrime, Violence

From battlefields in Iraq and Syria to online predators and recruitment by armed groups, children were facing an ever broadening number of threats and States must put words into action, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) heard today, as it began deliberations on children’s rights, one month away from the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

By recognizing two champions of children’s rights, the Nobel Peace Prize was acknowledging efforts to combat violence against and exploitation of children, said Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.  The situation was indeed grave.  From the abduction of girls in Nigeria and to the sale of girls and women in Iraq, rampant abuse and violence affected millions worldwide, she told Committee members, launching a wide-ranging discussion that included remarks from four other senior officials in the field. 

After all, a right recognized was not the same as a right executed, Anthony Lake, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said.  “Imagine girls forced to relieve themselves in fields at night, at risk from sexual violence,” he said.  “Imagine boys weakened by hunger and thirst or helpless to the depredations of armed militia.”

Despite progress in decreasing the number of deaths of children under five and HIV infections among children under 14 years, he noted that poverty continued to deprive children of their rights.  As many as 400 million of the world’s poor were under the age of 12.  Further, the unprecedented challenges of the moment, from conflict in Syria and Iraq to climate change and the Ebola crisis, were further undermining children’s well-being.  Calling on the international community to back up good intentions with strategic investments, he highlighted cost-effective solutions that used modern technologies, such as SMS, to improve communication and speed up the provision of children’s services.

But new technologies were also causing new risks, cautioned Marta Santos Pais, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children. Children were beginning to use media at younger ages than before.  Violent information, sexual predators, and cyberbullying were making new technologies unsafe for them.  For millions of children, the Convention was “a broken promise”, she added.  Levels of domestic violence, child neglect and abuse were increasing because of the high rates of unemployment and cuts in social spending.

Leila Zerrougui, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, called children the “primary victims” of armed conflict.  Expressing alarm about the trends of detaining children on security charges and attacking education and health care facilities, she called upon the international community to leverage the comparative advantages of all stakeholders.

Partnerships with the European Union, African Union, and League of Arab States were enabling her office to rise to the daunting challenge of protecting the world’s children, she concluded.  In closing, she said Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai was a symbol of all conflict-affected children, those who aspired and were moving towards a brighter future.

Prior to the debate on the rights of children, the Third Committee members discussed the advancement of women, with statements delivered by representatives of Botswana, Lithuania, Malta, Georgia, Maldives, Venezuela, Republic of Korea, Sierra Leone, Bahrain, the Solomon Islands Ukraine, Afghanistan, San Marino, Burundi, Mauritania, Zambia, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, Angola, Albania, Niger, Azerbaijan, and Montenegro.

The representatives of Japan, Republic of Korea and Russian Federation spoke in the exercise of the right to reply.

The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 16 October, to continue its general discussion on children’s rights.  It is also expected to take action on draft resolutions.  The Committee will then continue its discussion on the advancement of women on Friday, 17 October. 

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to continue its general discussion on the advancement of women.  For background information, please see Press Release (GA/SHC/4102).  It would also begin its consideration of the promotion and protection of the rights of children.

Before the Committee were reports of the Secretary-General on the status of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (document A/69/260) and on the follow-up to the special session of the General Assembly on children (document A/69/258).

Also under consideration were the report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (document A/69/212) and the annual report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children (document A/69/264).

Statements

MPHO MICHELLE MOGOBE (Botswana) said that her country had achieved varying degrees of success in gender mainstreaming, with women being offered opportunities for increased access, control and ownership of production resources, including land and property rights through the land policy.  There were also more women-specific opportunities in media and new communication technologies.  Given that a recent study showed that almost 67 per cent of women in Botswana had experienced some form of gender violence in their lifetime, she said it was important to remember that a significantly large proportion of those crimes went unreported for fear of public stigma and retribution from offenders.  Therefore, Botswana shared the Secretary-General’s observation that it was necessary to build the capacity of an institutional enforcement mechanism for addressing violence against women.  In closing, she said her country welcomed the inclusion of a stand-alone goal on gender equality in the post-2015 development agenda.

NIDA JAKUBONĖ (Lithuania) said enhancing women’s participation in political, economic and socio-cultural life had been among the main priorities of her country’s domestic and foreign policy.  The post-2015 development agenda was creating a unique opportunity for accelerating measures to address critical issues regarding gender equality and the empowerment of women.  In that regard, she continued, the effectiveness of institutional mechanisms was of utmost importance.  To combat domestic violence, she said Lithuania had adopted a holistic approach, passing a law on protection against domestic violence and adopting a national programme for prevention and a provision of assistance to victims.  Concluding, she said 2015 would be a significant year in the field of women’s rights, as it would mark the twentieth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the fifteenth anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. 

CHRISTOPHER GRIMA (Malta) said his country had promoted gender mainstreaming as a strategic tool for safeguarding and promoting equality and the inclusion of everyone in the social, political and economic spheres.  Combatting discrimination at the workplace, particularly with regard to pay, conditions of work and career opportunities, was a Government priority.  Further, he noted, the post-2015 process should address the empowerment and rights of women and girls, gender equality and preventing and combatting violence against women.  In conclusion, he reaffirmed Malta’s support and commitment to the full implementation of the Cairo Programme of Action, adopted at the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994, and the Beijing Platform for Action.

TAMTA KUPRADZE (Georgia) said that her country had carried out complex measures to address the rights of women.  Georgia continued to harmonize its domestic legislation in line with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and other international standards.  Moreover, several legislative changes had been made to enhance women’s employment by introducing more liberal regulations in the labour code.  Georgian legislation guaranteed equal access to education for all groups of the society, including women.  While Georgia was making gradual progress in advancing women’s rights, the Government had encountered serious obstacles in the occupied regions of the country where the humanitarian and human rights situation had deteriorated due to the intensification of barbed wire fence installation along the occupation line in the Tskhinvali region.  Women were the first targets in conflicts, she said, and their freedom of movement and other civil and economic rights in the occupied region were being blatantly violated on a daily basis.

SHIRUZIMATH SAMEER (Maldives) quoted the report of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which noted that her country was the highest ranking in gender equality and women’s empowerment in the South Asian region.  Laws guaranteed the same rights for women and men, she said, with legislation providing for, among other things, equal pay, three-month paid maternity leave and safe houses for abused women.  In addition, laws had been established to file complaints of sexual harassment and provide legal aid to victims of trafficking.  Yet equality in the law was not enough to bring empowerment to women, she said.  For that, a change in practices and perceptions was needed. 

MARISELA EUGENIA GONZALEZ TOLOSA (Venezuela) noted the progress made in expanding areas for the empowerment of women, through their inclusion in political, economic and social life.  Strengthening capacities, autonomy and power for women influenced society as a whole, she added.  She also called for ending poverty using a structural approach.  On violence against women, she said protection mechanisms had been established in her country alongside measures to punish perpetrators and provide temporary shelters for women and children in violent situations. 

HAHN CHOONGHEE (Republic of Korea) said the international community had made significant advances in the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women.  Pointing out the linkage between gender equality, empowerment and violence against women, he said his country had sought to incorporate those issues into the post-2015 development agenda not only as a stand-alone goal but also as a cross-cutting issue.  He called for further promoting women’s participation in decision-making processes as it would contribute to the elimination of structural causes of gender discrimination.  It was also essential, he said, to facilitate women’s access to resources and education. In that regard, countries must take appropriate legislative and administrative measures to tackle discriminatory laws and practices hindering the empowerment of women.  Concluding, he underlined that it was the time to translate political will into concrete action. 

EBUN ABEBOLA STRASSER-KING (Sierra Leone) said violence and many other challenges were setbacks against women realizing their full capabilities.  Despite tremendous efforts made at the national, regional and global levels to ensure gender equality and mainstreaming gender perspectives into all policies and programmes, she said, discrimination against women was still pervasive in society, undermining women’s self-esteem, dignity and full participation in development programmes.  Her Government had reaffirmed its commitment to the agenda on the advancement of women, especially in the African context.  To that end, she continued, Sierra Leone welcomed Africa’s ground-breaking initiatives and commitments relating to the declaration of the years 2010 to 2020 as the African Women’s Decade.  Concluding, she noted the persistent gaps in achieving the Millennium Development Goals on gender issues, calling upon Member States to ensure progress at all levels.   

SUMA AL ALAIWAT (Bahrain) said her country had placed the needs of women in the forefront.  Emphasizing the significance of equal opportunity between women and men, she noted that her country had fully supported the post-2015 development agenda with a focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment.  For its part, Bahrain had seen achievements in gender equality in national initiatives promoting women’s rights, domestic stability and family unity, as well as in training programmes enabling women to enhance their skills.

COLLIN BECK (Solomon Islands) said that despite many reports and bodies dealing with women’s advancement, there had been little action.  Poverty and climate change continued to deny women and girls in small island developing States and least developed countries their right to development.  Recent floods in his country had shaved off more than 9 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP).  Every year, the daily existence of women and girls was getting more difficult as the sea swallowed their land, disasters destroyed their homes and droughts threatened their food security.  His country was pleased that gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls had been given attention in a sustainable development context in the post-2015 agenda discussions and that climate change was also featured in the goals.  In closing, he said the Third Committee must monitor more closely the rights of women and girls to survive against climate change.

YANA BOIKO (Ukraine) said her country remained fully committed to the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, outcome documents of the Beijing Conference and twenty-third special session of the General Assembly.  Condemning trafficking in persons, especially women and children, she noted that the crime constituted an offence and a serious threat to human dignity and physical integrity, human rights and development.  To overcome that harmful practice, she continued, Ukraine had adopted a number of legislative documents aimed at strengthening its battle with human trafficking.  Turning to the Millennium Goals, she said Ukraine had made substantial progress over the past 13 years.  However, the conflict provoked in Ukraine and the illegal annexation of Crimea had devastating consequences, jeopardizing progress on the Millennium Goals.

ZAHIR TANIN (Afghanistan) said that the recent presidential election meant a new beginning for the country, as well as for women.  “Afghan women have been liberated from the tyranny of Taliban,” he said, recognizing the valuable role they played in the society.  He noted the involvement of women in the election, including that millions voted despite threats they had received.  Five vice-presidential candidates were women and many were elected to seats in provincial council, he added.  In addition to increased political participation, women enjoyed broader access to education, business opportunities and health care.  Despite progress made, women had been affected by three decades of insecurity and conflict that had added obstacles, including negative traditional practices, a lack of jobs and poverty that were still impeding their involvement in all sectors of society. 

DAMIANO BELEFFI (San Marino) said empowering women meant guaranteeing their access to schooling and education and their participation in political, social and economic life at all levels.  On violence against women, he said Parliament had adopted legal provisions that strengthened prevention and protection efforts and provided secure shelter, psychological counselling and other assistance to victims.  Moreover, San Marino’s Authority for Equal Opportunities was guaranteeing that data collection was undertaken on violence against women and gender violence.

ALBERT SHINGIRO (Burundi) said 2015 would mark the twentieth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and it was impossible to ignore half of the world’s population.  Despite international awareness, achieving the advancement of women and gender equality had remained challenging.  Stressing that discrimination, violence and poverty were major challenges in his country, he said the Government had revised its national gender policy to strengthen actions to eliminate the gender gap and set up a national protection system, adopting a penal code to punish human trafficking.  Thanking partners for their multidimensional contributions, he reiterated his Government’s commitment to addressing global challenges that women were facing.

EL KHALIL EL HAGEN (Mauritania) said women were at the heart of his country’s national development strategy, which aimed at achieving gender equality and advancement by freeing them from economic, social and cultural obstacles.  Further, he said, the Government was committed to the goals of the 1995 World Summit for Social Development, Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, Millennium Summit and the International Year of the Family.  Concluding, he reiterated his Government’s commitment to achieving the Millennium Goals, specifically the third goal related to the advancement of women.    

DAISY NKHATA NG’AMBI (Zambia) said that her country was committed to the full and effective implementation of international agreements on gender and development to which it was a State party, including the Beijing Declaration and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  For its part, Zambia was promoting educational opportunities for girls and had introduced collaborative programmes that enhanced women’s participation in national development.  To match demands for tertiary education, the Government had embarked on the construction of more universities nationwide.  Further, the country had introduced a human rights curriculum at the primary school level.  Regarding a campaign promoting a zero-tolerance campaign against child, early and forced marriages, she said an interministerial committee was working in collaboration with traditional leaders.  With that in mind, Zambia, along with Canada, would be tabling a resolution that sought to highlight the negative effects of child, early and forced marriage.

AGOK ANYAR MADUT (South Sudan) noted his country’s ambitious plan to achieve the Millennium Goals despite the short time left to the deadline.  Acknowledging the existence of gender inequality, he said women were marginalized in social, economic and political spheres.  Gender-based violence, he said, was commonly practiced in the country and to combat that issue, the Government had adopted a national plan for girls’ education.  The country was also tackling the issue of female genital mutilation.  Believing that education was a vital prerequisite to combating poverty by empowering women and protecting children from labour and sexual exploitation, he said specific programmes had been developed to provide qualified teachers and relevant curricula for general education.  Other initiatives addressed related issues, including high mortality rates, basic health, HIV/AIDS and malaria. 

HUDA MOHAMED (Ethiopia) said gender equality was key to achieving sustainable development.  National programmes and policies had been developed to broaden women’s rights, including owning land.  To improve the economic status of women, initiatives revolved around facilitating financing and skills training.  In the health sector, free maternal services were provided, including 38,000 female health workers being deployed in rural areas.  To increase women’s participation in decision-making processes and their political involvement, the Government had provided for leadership training and scholarships for continued education.  Turning to violence against women, she said a special unit had been created to expedite cases on abuse and provide free legal aid to victims of violence.

ELSA HAILE (Eritrea) said major interventions to achieve gender equality and women empowerment had focused on education, health, economic empowerment, power-sharing and decision-making processes.  Violence against women was regarded as a punishable criminal offense, she added.  In addition to domestic violence, the most predominant forms of violence were harmful traditional practices, such as female genital mutilation, and underage marriage, she said, noting that both had been criminalized.  To raise awareness of those and related issues, concerted and coordinated media and grass roots campaigns had been carried out with the involvement of community and religious leaders.  Consistent with its laws against human trafficking, Eritrea had also prioritized protecting victims and combating trafficking in persons and was working closely with neighbouring countries to uproot that phenomenon.

RICHARD NDUHUURA (Uganda), aligning his delegation with statements delivered on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, as well as the African Group, said that his country had established policies and legislation addressing issues related to women.  Uganda’s affirmative action policy had resulted in women in leadership positions.  The country was on track to achieving gender parity in education at the primary school level and had extended microcredit opportunities to rural women.  Despite those successes, there was still work to be done, he said, especially in reducing teenage pregnancy and tackling the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in women.  Eliminating gender inequality, he concluded, was a precondition for the advancement of humankind.

MARGARIDA IZATA (Angola) said that her Government was continuing to improve the conditions of women in all spheres of national life, including the public sector.  Rural women were an integral part of the country’s development process and were the focus of many Government policies under the 2013-2017 national development plan.  Citing examples of supportive projects, she described a family farming programme as well as literacy and technical support programmes for midwives in rural areas.  She reiterated her delegation’s support of United Nations bodies that were working to ensure the empowerment of women and the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against them.

ERVIN NINA (Albania) said his country was fully committed to the promotion and protection of all human rights as well as to the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the Cairo Programme of Action and the outcomes of their review conferences.  Albania had improved its domestic legal framework related to the protection of women’s rights by the ratification of key international documents and their amendments to ensure compliance of national legislation with international law.  Further, he said, the right to free legal aid was a very important component of ensuring the rights of victims of domestic violence.  In that regard, the Government and civil society had greatly assisted in increasing awareness about gender issues.

HALIMATOU DJIBO SADDY (Niger) said the protection of women and their rights were priorities for her country and could be seen in their very active participation in social, economic and political life.  For its part, the Government had established a number of programmes at the national level to combat gender-based violence and allow all citizens to fully enjoy their rights.  She also noted that the Government had adopted laws punishing the practice of female genital mutilation in the country.  However, there was long way to go to address challenges and fully achieve equal opportunities and social justice, she concluded.

GUNAY RAHIMOVA (Azerbaijan) said greater attention should be paid to the issue of violence against women and girls in times of armed conflict, which frequently created an environment conducive to the systematic violations of human rights.  He welcomed the emphasis place on the importance of policies to end impunity and promote a culture of accountability.  Further, Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security should ensure that the rule of law in conflict and post-conflict situations promoted justice and accountability that furthered women’s rights.  For its part in facilitating women’s access to justice, Azerbaijan had increased the number of female police officers as well as social resources to meet the needs of victims.

MILORAD ŠĆEPANOVIĆ (Montenegro), aligning his delegation with a statement delivered on behalf of the European Union, said that his country was party to all major international instruments for the protection of the human rights of women, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  For its part, Montenegro had paid particular attention to a number of issues, including greater participation of women in political life, their access to decision-making positions, economic empowerment and encouraging female entrepreneurship.  The Parliament had also adopted legislation with regard to gender balance on the electoral list.  Recognizing the important role of women in peacekeeping and peacebuilding, he reiterated Montenegro’s support for Security Council resolution 1325.

Rights of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, a representative of Japan addressed the issue of comfort women, saying that the Prime Minister Shinzō Abe had the same view as his predecessors on the issue.

Responding to that intervention, a representative of the Republic of Korea said his Government was deeply concerned that Japan continued to deny its legal obligations, ignoring repeated international calls to address the matter in a sincere manner.  Recent remarks and actions made by the Japanese leadership had shown contrast with its position, he said, especially in light of the re-examination of the Kono statement.

Also speaking in exercise of the right to reply, a representative of the Russian Federation said that Ukraine’s use of armed forces in the south of the country had caused the deaths of civilians, including women.  He said he rejected the fictional accusations made by Ukraine.

Speaking in exercise of a second right of reply, Japan’s representative said the legal issue of reparation had been finally resolved and that the Prime Minister had no intention of reviewing the Kono statement.

In response, the Republic of Korea’s representative said that it was time for Japan to recognize to responsibility of its actions and to take steps to prove its sincerity.

Interactive Dialogue on Rights of Children

The Committee then began consideration of the promotion and protection of the rights of children, including the introduction of reports and an interactive discussion.

ANTHONY LAKE, Executive Director, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), presenting the Secretary-General’s reports on the status of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (document A/69/257) and the follow-up to the special session of the General Assembly on children (document A/69/269), said that life was getting better for millions of children.  Between 1990 and 2013, the number of children under age 5 who died each year had been halved and HIV infections among children under age 14 had declined by nearly 60 per cent.

But for too many millions of children, life was a struggle, with almost half the population living in extreme poverty being under 18 and 400 million of the world’s poor under age 12.  “Imagine girls forced to relieve themselves in fields at night, at risk from sexual violence,” he said.  “Imagine boys weakened by hunger and thirst or helpless to the depredations of armed militia.”  Urging nations to sign and ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which would next month reach its twenty-fifth anniversary, he said a recognized right was not automatically an executed right.  Society’s strength was secured not through good intentions but through strategic investments, he continued, adding that current challenges, such as conflicts in Syria and Iraq, climate change and the Ebola crisis, were undermining children’s well-being.  “Children’s lives and children’s rights are at stake,” he said, noting that 17,000 children under age five died every day, mostly of preventable causes, and 250 million primary school age children still failed to learn basic literacy or arithmetic.  The age-old problem of inequality continued to pose challenges.

At the same, innovative solutions were coming to the forefront, he added, highlighting the U-report, an SMS-based service in Uganda, and Project Mwana in Zambia, which used rapid SMS to speed up the HIV diagnosis process in infants.  Innovations such as those reminded the international community that progress was not only possible, it could benefit the most marginalized children more efficiently and more cost-effectively than ever before.

LEILA ZERROUGUI, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, introducing her report (document A/69/212), said as armed conflicts continued around the world, 51 million people, mostly women and children, were displaced globally in 2013 and another 2.5 million in the first six months of 2014.  Since children were the primary victims, she was concerned by the trend of detaining them on security charges in conflict situations, including in Somalia, Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Iraq and Gaza.

Stressing the alarming trend of attacks on education and health care facilities, she deplored the deliberate targeting of schoolchildren, teachers and educational institutions.  In Nigeria, Boko Haram was inflicting brutal attacks on young people, directly targeting education as a tactic of warfare, including the abduction of schoolgirls in Chibok, which had shown gaps in protection mechanisms for such children.  In that regard, the choice of Malala Yousafzai as the Nobel Prize winner was sending a message that the world must act together to ensure that children affected by conflict could continue to learn and build brighter future.

The daunting challenge of protecting children affected by conflict could be overcome by leveraging all stakeholders’ comparative advantages.  Her office and UNICEF had engaged in mainstreaming child protection with the African Union.  Further, the United Nations had signed a partnership agreement with the League of Arab States to develop a framework for joint actions to protect children affected by armed conflict, she said, expressing confidence that partnerships would grow.  Concluding, she strongly encouraged governments to support the work of child protection actors, facilitate establishing dialogue and verify the implementation of commitments they had made.

MARTA SANTOS PAIS, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, presenting her annual report (document A/69/264), said that the Convention was a ground-breaking document that raised children above politics and marked a turning point in the way children were seen in society, not as passive beneficiaries, but as true subjects of rights and agents of change.  As such, freedom from violence remained at the heart of the instrument and many high-level government mechanisms and national legislation had been created to ensure that.

But for millions of children, she said, the Convention was “a broken promise”.  Marginalized children had been the hardest hit, she lamented, even in countries with advanced economies.  High levels of unemployment together with social spending cuts were leading to increased levels of domestic violence, child neglect and abuse.  Highlighting the fate of some children, such as those with albinism and those accused of witchcraft, she said consequences ranged from social exclusion to torture.  Because of fear or indifference, the plight of those children was largely met with silence, she stated.

Given the rapid pace at which information and communication technology was evolving, she added, more and more children were using those means, starting at younger ages.  Some new technologies had been associated with higher risk, however, whereby children could be exposed to violent information, groomed by sexual predators or subjected to cyberbullying.  Accelerating progress in children’s online safety was a high priority for her office, she said calling on the international community to work towards a world with the vision, energy and power to achieve freedom from violence for all children.

In the ensuing interactive dialogue, several delegates asked for more information about efforts to engage with non-State armed actors and the best way to reintegrate and rehabilitate children affected by armed conflict.  Others raised questions on a range of issues, from preventive and curative measures for the Ebola crisis to aspects of children’s rights that should be part of the post-2015 agenda.  Some speakers also encouraged Ms. Zerrougui to continue to hold regular dialogues with non-State armed actors that were recruiting children.

A number of questions came from speakers representing conflict-affected countries, including the representative of Palestine, who asked for more information about psycho-social support services for those affected by the recent 50-day bombardment and destruction of schools and homes by Israel.  Syria’s delegate said that the Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict was naïve not to condemn the recent double bombing that took place in Syria as a terrorist attack.  Israel’s representative asked if the United Nations had been able to document the use of schools in Gaza to store weapons and the use of children as human shields by Hamas.

Responding, Ms. ZERROUGUI said that despite legal prohibitions in various countries, the recruitment of children in conflict continued.  So it was not just a matter of political will, but also of capacity.  It was, therefore, up to bilateral partners to support initiatives in countries such as Somalia and Yemen to prevent recruitment.  Children released from armed conflict, she added, needed to be reintegrated and that was the weakest part of the work on the ground.  More long-term programmes were needed, she said, as a child released from an armed group may have undergone radicalization and needed services to fully heal and return to society.  “We need to work not only on the child, but also on the community,” she added.  The demobilization and peacekeeping programs must consider children to be sustainable.

Multidimensional strategies, including sanctions and military pressures, were necessary to work with non-State armed actors, she continued, noting that her office was finalizing agreements engaging with groups who had reached out to her.  It was important to not just sign agreements, but to monitor the implementation of the agreement.

Ms. PAIS added that the post-2015 agenda was a golden opportunity and children had participated in her office’s survey and various national consultations.  Her office was developing child-friendly, interactive materials to continue to engage with them.  Further, she added, there was no “perfect” country where violence against children did not happen.  Her office was working with various regional organizations that were powerful actors in combating violence against children.

Mr. LAKE said that UNICEF had reached out to 30,000 children through direct counselling in camps, text messages, caregivers and families, hot-lines and training teachers.  The aim, he continued, was not just to repair the infrastructure but the hearts and minds of the children.  Looking at three countries, the United Nations had responded as fast as possible to provide support to governments. On Ebola, he said the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) had been launched, aimed at defeating that outbreak with continuous work with health workers in affected countries. 

MAUD DE BOER-BUQUICCHIO, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, said the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize had recognized two champions for their efforts to combat the exploitation of and violence against children.  Millions of children continued to be victims of sexual exploitation, organ trafficking, forced labour and illegal adoption.  Recalling the abduction of 600 girls in Nigeria, she noted that children were especially vulnerable in conflict situations.  In Iraq, reports had shown that “the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS)” had set up an office in Mosul for the sale of abducted girls and women, brought with price tags for the buyers to choose and negotiate over.

Providing an overview of challenges, she said her first thematic report to be presented to the General Assembly next year would be devoted to the issue of information and communication technologies and sexual exploitation of children, reflecting new trends and threats, as well as on the potential of children to contribute to combating those crimes.  Advocacy priorities aiming at the universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, rehabilitation and prevention had also been identified as priorities, she said.  Research on the sale of children for the purpose of illegal adoption and on the demand factor underpinning the sale and sexual exploitation of children would also be conducted, she said, to shed a light on the causes of the phenomenon and provide policy guidance to prevention efforts.

During her tenure, she would continue to take a consultative and participatory approach in the implementation of her mandate, she added, acting as a facilitator of action-oriented dialogue between key stakeholders.  A gender perspective would be integrated throughout her work, because the scourge of the sale and sexual exploitation of children affected boys and girls in different ways.  Recalling the twenty-fifth anniversary of the creation of her mandate, as well as the fifteenth anniversary of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, she called on the international community to live up to its commitment by stepping up efforts to combat and prevent the sexual abuse and exploitation of children. 

KIRSTEN SANDBERG, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, said ahead of celebrations of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Convention, the Committee had hosted an online dialogue between members and 28 children from 14 countries.  When different generations communicated in a spirit of mutual respect, they could combine their ideas and produce innovative solutions to challenges that faced societies, with young participants bringing forth ideas on how to support children that experienced violence in different ways, prevention and the need to raise awareness about the lasting effects of violence.

Highlighting advancements that included increased legislation and policies related to children’s rights, more children going to school, and a more widespread use of restorative justice and alternative dispute resolution relating to children, she said millions of children were still suffering from negligence, violence, abuse and exploitation at home, at school, in institutions and in the community.  She encouraged States to combat all violence against children, with a focus on changing attitudes and bringing those responsible to justice, as well as investing in special protection programmes and strengthening child protection systems.  She then noted the challenges faced by migrant children, children in armed conflicts and children deprived of liberty.

Turning to the issue of digital media and children’s rights, she described a general discussion organized last month to develop rights-based strategies to ensure the equal access to digital media for children and maximize their online opportunities and engagement, while protecting them from risks and possible harm without restricting any benefits.  Conclusions from the discussion addressed areas such as access to information and communication technologies for different groups of children, the importance of digital literacy, online safety concerns, cooperation between States and telecommunications companies and data collection.  In conclusion, she noted that the pace of the ratification of the three Optional Protocol to the Convention had lost its impetus, encouraging States that had not already done so to ratify the Convention itself and its Optional Protocols.

For information media. Not an official record.