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Seventieth Session,
16th & 17th Meetings (AM & PM)
GA/SHC/4137

Despite Global Gains, Efforts Must Be Redoubled to Stamp Out Targeted Violence, Third Committee Hears, Concluding Debate on Children

Comprehensive measures and international cooperation were necessary to protect children from violence, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) heard today as it concluded its debate on the rights of children.

Recognizing the primary responsibility of States to protect their citizens, speakers underlined the importance of international assistance in the field of children’s rights.  Many speakers welcomed the support provided to them by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), including in the fields of health and nutrition.

Yet despite global improvements, children kept facing violence, delegates told the Committee.  They remained the primary victims to many conflicts and continued to be subjected to violence, exploitation, harmful practices and malnutrition.

Speakers expressed concerns over the rise in cybercrime, including child pornography and trafficking, as well as the abuse of children through social media.  Holding information technology service providers accountable for such crimes was crucial, the representative of Sri Lanka said.  A South African delegate underlined, in light of the transnational dimension of those crimes, the importance of cooperation among States.

Referring to other types of violence against children and harmful practices, delegates said obstacles to the full enjoyment of their rights included female genital mutilation or forced and early marriages.  Some presented initiatives undertaken by their Governments to address those issues and reported successes in lowering child and maternal mortality rates and raising enrolment levels.

The representative from Maldives voiced concerns at the rise of religious conservatism and ideological views that created stereotypical practices such as non-vaccination of infants, restrictions to formal education and limited medical care for girls.  Several speakers also called on States to take measures to address bullying.

Commonly heard through the day was the concerns about the ongoing refugee crisis resulting from armed conflicts, especially considering its effects on children.  The delegate of Iceland, recalling the image of a three-year-old Syrian boy whose body was found on a tourist beach in Turkey, said Member States still had the power to change the future of millions of children for the better.

Agreeing, the representative of Bulgaria said coherent and comprehensive responses were needed, adding that his Government’s efforts were addressing the specific needs of children, especially those who were unaccompanied.  A speaker from El Salvador said efforts should not be focused on detaining migrant children, but rather on respecting and guaranteeing their rights to family reunification.  Malawi’s representative called upon the global community to increase its response capacity for the protection of all children.

Delivering statements were representatives of Eritrea, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Burkina Faso, Panama, United Republic of Tanzania, Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia, Madagascar, Georgia, Brazil, Haiti, Albania, Monaco, Spain, Benin, Bahrain, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Comoros, Colombia, Zambia, San Marino, Montenegro, Kuwait, Qatar, Libya, Ukraine, Congo, Tonga, Côte d'Ivoire, Costa Rica, Brunei Darussalam, Ethiopia, Niger, Guinea and Botswana, as well as the Sovereign Order of Malta.  Representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross and International Labour Organization also spoke.

Exercising the right of reply were delegates from the Russian Federation, Georgia and Ukraine.

The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 19 October, to begin consideration of its agenda item on the rights of indigenous peoples.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its debate on the promotion and protection of the rights of the child.  For background, see Press Release GA/SHC/4136.

Statements

AMANUEL GIORGIO (Eritrea) said his Government had established an interministerial committee in charge of overseeing the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in a coordinated manner.  Those principles were reflected in the newly revised civil and penal codes, including through the prohibition of corporal punishment and with provisions on their rights in situations of divorce.  The Government had also implemented a range of initiatives, including sensitization programmes supporting vulnerable groups, a pilot project to reintegrate street children, legal mechanisms to prevent child labour, trafficking and exploitation and measures in the field of health, nutrition and education. 

EGRISELDA ARECELY GONZÁLEZ LÓPEZ (El Salvador), aligning with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), presented progress achieved by her country in adapting its legislation to the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  El Salvador had also established child and adolescent authorities, charged with the protection of rights at the local level, including through addressing cases of abuse.  Although inequalities remained, progress had been achieved in reducing the number of children living in poverty, in line with the provisions of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  With regards to migrant children, efforts should not be focused on detaining them, she said, but rather on respecting and guaranteeing their rights, including their rights to family reunification and to non‑discrimination.

AMRITH ROHAN PERERA (Sri Lanka) said the Sustainable Development Goals would help to shape the way forward with regards to ensuring a better and safer future for children.  Sri Lanka had been placed at the top of the Child-friendliness Index in a report in 2013 by Save the Children.  Measures had also been set up to implement the Convention.  Cybercrimes, including child pornography and trafficking, had been prohibited under the Penal Code.  Holding information technology service providers accountable for such crimes was crucial, he said, adding that the cyber watch unit had been established to identify sex offenders.  The problem could not only be solved by new laws and regulations.  Greater awareness and education, however, were also required, and parents and guardians had to be vigilant.  Abuse of children through social media was another challenge, he said, noting that cyberbullying was a fast-growing problem not only in Sri Lanka, but around the world.

ZEENA MOHAMED DIDI (Maldives) welcomed the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, which had opened new hopes and greater opportunities for children.  As the international community aimed high to ensure that no child was left behind, Member States had renewed their commitments to the advancement of children’s rights.  For its part, Maldives had achieved five out of the eight Millennium Development Goals ahead of the 2015 deadline.  Despite progress, significant challenges remained in the promotion and protection of equal access and opportunities at home, school and work.  The rise of religious conservatism and ideological views that constrained gender roles had created stereotypical practices such as non-vaccination of infants, child marriages, restrictions to formal education and limited medical care for girls.  To that end, quality education and empowerment of youth was a priority for the Government.

MAYTHONG THAMMAVONGSA (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) spoke of the remarkable progress that had been made in his country with regard to protecting women and children from all forms of violence.  Special attention had been paid to the health and education of children, with greater budget allocations, the adoption of a nutrition strategy, a vaccination campaign and a free school lunch programme that had been launched as a pilot project in rural and remote areas.  Challenges remained, however, especially in those areas, where poverty was prevalent.  While the Government was doing its utmost to address them, he thanked development partners, international organizations and United Nations agencies for their assistance and looked forward to further support.

MYRIAM AMAN SOULAMA (Burkina Faso), aligning with the African Group, said the situation of children around the world was concerning, as they remained the primary victims to many conflicts and continued to be subjected to violence, exploitation, harmful practices and malnutrition.  Presenting some recent reforms undertaken in the field of education, health and combating violence, including female genital mutilation, she said initiatives had also been undertaken to combat discrimination against children and to ensure the inclusion of children with disabilities.  The implementation of legislation, however, continued to face difficulties, including a lack of knowledge by rights-holders and a lack of resources.  Concluding, she expressed deep concerns over the involvement of children in armed conflicts and welcomed the adoption of the 2030 Agenda.

DESIRÉE DEL CARMEN CEDEÑO RENGIFO (Panama) said actions directed at early childhood were essential to tackle development and social issues.  Panama’s Government was offering various programmes in that regard in the field of health and early detection of diseases and in the education sector, including preschool support and language education.  A recent law set 18 as the minimum age to marry and actions had been taken to reduce child labour notably through awareness-raising campaigns.  The Social Development Ministry had been charged with coordinating the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in collaboration with United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and harmonizing domestic legislation in that regard.

VICKNESS G. MAYAO (United Republic of Tanzania) said the Government had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols as well as the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.  In order to promote and maintain the welfare of the child, the country had enacted the Child Act No. 21 of 2009, imposing a duty on parents to protect child from neglect, discrimination, violence and abuse.  Further, to end early child marriage, the Government had amended the Law of Marriage Act, setting 18 as the minimum age of marriage.  Concluding, she said the advancement of children’s rights required concerted efforts.  While States had the primary responsibility to protect its citizens, international cooperation was necessary to supplement national efforts.

LYNN MARLAR LWIN (Myanmar) said despite progress made over the years, more needed to be done to address the persistent and growing inequalities that children had been experiencing.  In 2015, Myanmar had finalized the years-long consultations and preparations to sign the Optional Protocol related to the involvement of children in armed conflict.  Her country had also signed a joint action plan with the United Nations in 2012 to further accelerate its efforts to prevent underage recruitment.  On the well-being of children, Myanmar was reviewing its child law and conducting a series of consultations with the relevant international and civil society organizations.  To that end, from 2010 to 2013, 86 sensitization training sessions on child rights, child law and child protection had been conducted across the country.

HEIDA ANITA HALLSDOTTIR (Iceland), recalling the case of a three-year-old Syrian boy whose body was found on a tourist beach in Turkey, said Member States still had the power to change the future of millions of children for the better.  It was unacceptable that more than three million children from Syria were unable to attend school.  The Government of Iceland had provided the equivalent of €14 million to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UNICEF and other international organizations to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis.  Unfortunately, gender discrimination was often a factor whenever large numbers of children were displaced, and when education opportunities were limited.  Everyone suffered if girls were unable to reach their full potential, she said, underlining that free and universal education was key to ensuring social equality and the long-term prosperity of nations.

RESHANTY BOWOLEKSONO (Indonesia), aligning with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), recalled the country’s ratification of the Convention 25 years ago last month.  Children were at the centre of the national development agenda.  In 2015, the Government would be launching a new five-year strategy to prevent violence against children.  Laws and policies would be better aligned with the Convention, public advocacy and outreach would be promoted and stakeholders would be brought together to work in a harmonized way to avoid the wasteful overlapping of activities.  Some new advances included a website that was being developed to document and monitor cases of violence against children and a cyberbullying protection mechanism, called Indonesia Child Online Protection that was also being established.

CHEONG LOON LAI (Malaysia), aligning with ASEAN, said that his country valued its strong partnership with UNICEF on promoting and protecting the rights of children through various policies and programmes.  Earlier in 2015, Malaysia had hosted a UNICEF executive board meeting and welcomed the forward looking agenda and innovative initiatives established for recently approved country programmes.  Chief among those initiatives was an inclusive approach of children in the development process with the participation of the private sector as a strategic partner.  His Government was committed to cultivating a philosophy of corporate social responsibility as an investment instead of a cost.  Turning to the issue of armed conflict, he called for continued discussion on a palpable accountability mechanism for violations committed against children.  Bridging those gaps required collective efforts and actions from all actors.

HANTASOA FIDA CYRILLE KLEIN (Madagascar), reaffirming her Government’s commitment to the rights of all children, said that efforts had been recently stepped up to protect women, children and adolescents, including from trafficking.  Actions had also been taken against child marriage and sexual exploitation.  Placing education as a high priority on its political agenda, the Government had ensured free access to school and continued efforts to increase enrolment and the quality of learning.  She welcomed UNICEF’s support, including in the field of malnutrition and access to safe water and sanitation.  Madagascar was also implementing programmes to combat and prevent illnesses, in line with its commitment to implement the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda.

TAMTA KUPRADZE (Georgia) said her country looked forward to a visit in 2016 by the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.  Turning to pressing matters, she said the Government was extremely concerned that children’s fundamental human rights were being violated in occupied regions of Georgia.  Children in Tskhinvali and Abkhazia had been deprived of minimal safeguards for the protection of their rights, as guaranteed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  A Russian curriculum had been imposed and Georgian children had been denied the right to be educated in the Georgian language.  Severe restrictions imposed on the freedom of movement across the occupation line had extended even to children in need of urgent medical assistance.  Those were blatant violations of the internationally recognized right to health care, she said.

ALEX GIACOMELLI DA SILVA (Brazil) said the adoption of the 2030 Agenda offered an opportunity to reflect on progress achieved and challenges remaining in protecting children’s rights and promoting their well-being.  Brazil was glad that the 2030 Agenda contained numerous references to children, including goals related to poverty eradication, inequality reduction, health, education, gender equality, inclusive cities and access to justice.  Violence against children was a multidimensional phenomenon and bullying, in particular, had a range of negative effects on victims.  To that end, promoting positive social norms that welcomed diversity in cultures around the world was a critical step in acknowledging and protecting the rights of children.  All States, she concluded, needed to promote a culture of tolerance and non-discrimination.

MARIE FRANÇOISE BERNADEL (Haiti) said despite national disasters and other domestic problems, significant progress had been made in her country with regards to the promotion and protection of children’s rights.  She thanked UNICEF and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for their support and for conducting various programmes and projects in Haiti.  The delegation believed in the irreplaceable role of education in the social and economic development and in poverty reduction.  She remained concerned, however, about gaps in early childhood care and food security in the country.

ERVIN NINA (Albania), aligning with the European Union, welcomed the recent ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by South Sudan and Somalia and the adoption of the 2030 Agenda.  Expressing deep concerns about targeted barbaric violence by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS) and other extremist groups and child recruitment into armed forces, he welcomed the Children, Not Soldiers campaign and the International Criminal Court’s Appeal Chamber decision against the first individual to be convicted for enlisting and conscripting children.  With regard to Albania’s domestic situation, he said that the State Agency for the Protection of the Rights of the Child was now a key institution.  For its part, the Government had increased public investments that focused on children, both at central and local levels.

SHERINA SARAN (South Africa), aligning with the African Group and Southern African Development Community (SADC), welcomed the large number of States that had ratified the Convention, but expressed concerns over continuing practices, including the sale of children, exploitation and pornography.  In light of the transnational dimension of those crimes, she underlined the importance of cooperation among States.  For its part, the Government had taken a number of steps to bolster protection, including recently adopted new immigration laws with stringent requirements for those travelling with children through South Africa’s ports of entry.  Those regulations would certainly contribute towards minimizing the vulnerability of children to trafficking within and through the country, she said.

BENJAMIN VALLI (Monaco) said the reports that had been presented to the Committee had shown that the full protection of children’s rights was not always the case.  Monaco had participated in a range of efforts to address those shortcomings.  Since 2007, the Government had supported several international programmes and policies combating violence against children.  Drawing attention to the responsibility of States, he noted that the Government had undertaken all necessary measures and had strengthened national acts and legislation on the issue.

JUAN MANUEL GONZÁLEZ DE LINARES PALOU (Spain) said his Government had implemented a broad range of measures.  Among them was a number of reform programmes that had aimed at promoting and protecting the rights of children and adolescents.  The laws had guaranteed that the best interest of child was reinforced and that they were listened to.  Reform programmes also ensured that legal proceedings were child-friendly and improved the protection of victims.  The Government had also prioritized family care and conducted awareness-raising campaigns on the issue.

JEAN-FRANCIS RÉGIS ZINSOU (Benin) recalled an African saying that the child is the father of the man.  Every child must be considered a whole person, he continued.  For its part, Benin had enacted several laws and initiatives with regard to their protection and their rights.  Since 2014, actions had included the creation of a national policy on protection and a children’s code.  Through the adoption of a series of school fee measures, important progress had been made in increasing the number of children in school.   It was not enough to put a judicial arsenal in place, he said.  What was needed was concrete steps to be put in place for the promotion and protection of children.

HAYA ALROWAIEI (Bahrain) expressed her country’s commitment to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and to implementing the 2030 Agenda’s related provisions, including in the field of education and health.  Bahrain had already taken a number of steps in that regard.  The Government had adopted a declaration confirming the rights of civilians to free medical care and education was high quality, mandatory and free.  The Government had also created the national centre for children, which offered support to children victims of abuse and to orphans.  In addition, Bahrain was active at regional and international levels through development cooperation in the field of health.

GUNAY RAHIMOVA (Azerbaijan), reiterating her country’s commitment to the rights of the child, explained that the Government’s consistent efforts had included bringing its legislation in line with international standards, such as those regarding free access to education.  Recently, the Government had launched projects to raise awareness about children with disabilities, harmful practices and domestic violence.  Moving on, she stressed concerns about the situation of children involved in armed conflicts, and condemned violations of children’s rights resulting from Armenia’s aggression against Azerbaijan.

SAHAK SARGSYAN (Armenia) said it was encouraging to see that a wide spectrum of targets on children had been included in the Sustainable Development Goals and reflected on the 2030 Agenda.  For its part, the Government had initiated a number of executive and legislative acts, including the Prospective Development Strategy 2014-2025, the 2016-2020 State Programme of Education Development and the State Strategic Programme on Child Rights Protection 2013-2016.  Armenia was deeply concerned about the ongoing refugee crisis as a result of conflicts and its impact on children.  As a nation that had continued to suffer from the serious consequences of aggression and illegal blockades, his delegation condemned all forms of violence committed against children.  The international community, he continued, needed to redouble its efforts to end abduction, enslaving, sexual exploitation of children and their recruitment to armed groups.

MOHAMED SOILIHI SOILIH (Comoros) said despite progress made over the years, the reality was still far from achieving the full protection of children’s rights.  Food crises, climate change, humanitarian situations, hunger, poverty and illiteracy continued to act as obstacles to achieving universal goals.  The international community, accordingly, needed to do its part to advance children’s rights all around the world.  The Government had undertaken a number of measures, including in the areas of health and education.  To fight HIV/AIDS, Comoros had adopted a national programme in partnership with UNICEF.  As for its successes, the school enrolment rate had been increasing steadily.

STEPHAN TAFROV (Bulgaria), aligning with the European Union, said the largest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War had led to a mass migration of an unprecedented scale and nature.  Immediate action was needed, involving a coherent and comprehensive response.  Children were particularly vulnerable and it was a moral duty and responsibility to relieve their plight urgently.  Every effort was being made by Bulgaria, as a transit and host country for thousands of migrants and refugees, to ensure good living conditions and to pay attention to the specific needs of children, especially those who were unaccompanied.  It was doing so in cooperation with the European Union, UNICEF and other partners.  Domestically, the Government had undertaken a number of measures regarding children, with significant progress having been made towards deinstitutionalization.  The first-ever online direct consultation with children had been conducted as part of a social campaign launched in March 2015 by UNICEF Bulgaria, and its findings would be taken into consideration by the Government.

ALMA BIBIANA PÉREZ GÓMEZ (Colombia), aligning with CELAC, said her country was party to the Convention and its protocols and was committed to collaborate to implementing its recommendations.  Colombia was making progress on enhancing the nutritional status of children, reducing child mortality and in measuring achievements through indicators.  The Government was committed to eradicating violence and abuse against children, she said.  Investments for vulnerable children were necessary to achieve more equitable and prosperous societies.  It was also important to take a holistic approach in formulating public policies and it was essential to ensure access to sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents.  Finally, combatting bullying must be considered a priority in the agenda of all Governments.

SILVESTER MWANZA (Zambia), aligning with the African Group and SADC, expressed his country’s commitment to the protection and promotion of child rights through the implementation of international treaties.  Recognizing its primary responsibility to protect the rights of all citizens, the Government was implementing programmes and legislation in the field of health and education.  Zambia had taken a number of initiatives to raise awareness on children’s rights, including in rural areas and in cooperation with community and religious leaders.  Underlining the importance of ending child marriage and preventing early pregnancies, the Government had taken some practical measures to address those issues.  Finally, he stressed the importance of continued international assistance for the protection of the rights of children.

LOT THAUZENI PANSIPADANA DZONZI (Malawi), aligning with ASEAN, the African Group and SADC, informed the Committee that his country had recently enacted a law that had raised to 18 from 16 the minimum age of marriage.  That law had sought to bring an end to early and forced marriage and to ensure that marriage was entered only with informed, free and full consent.  In light of the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS among children and adolescents, the Government had accepted responsibility for delivering mass prevention through learning institutions.  HIV/AIDS education was now part of the core curriculum at all levels of schooling, with teachers being adequately prepared and trained to teach life skills curricula.  Referring to Malawi receiving child refugees from a number of conflict areas in Africa, he called upon the global community to increase its response capacity for their protection.

DAMIANO BELEFFI (San Marino) said his country was strongly committed to the Convention and its Optional Protocols.  The 2030 Agenda represented a unique opportunity to shape the world’s future and San Marino strongly supported the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular the ones aiming to advance children’s rights.  Children were the most vulnerable group of the population, given that a large number of them did not have access to basic services, health care and education.  San Marino was also deeply concerned about the impact of refugee crisis on children.  Recognizing the essential role of the United Nations in promoting the rights of children, he reiterated San Marino’s support to all initiatives in line with the advancement of their rights.

IVANA PAJEVIĆ (Montenegro), aligning with the European Union, said strong families were the best environment for the protection and development of children.  In that regard, the Government had launched a campaign, with technical assistance from UNICEF and funding from the European Union, which had seen a 200 per cent increase in the number of children in non-kinship foster homes.  Another campaign, with UNICEF support, had resulted in an increase to 78 per cent in the number of citizens who had found it acceptable for a child with a disability to attend the same class as their own child.  Montenegro had been recognized as a regional leader in applying victim-offender mediation in cases involving juveniles, but the rights of children in civil and administrative proceedings was an area that required further attention.  More generally, Montenegro was committed to better including youth in decision-making processes and, as such, its education system was preparing young people to think in creative and critical ways, to cooperate, communicate and take risks.

ALIA ALHUSSAINI (Kuwait) stressed the importance of access to quality education as a cornerstone for the development of societies.  In that regard, the Government provided free education for all.  Strongly supporting the Children, Not Soldiers campaign, she urged all States to make efforts to end conflicts, protect children and education facilities during hostilities, and work on reintegrating former child soldiers into society.  To ensure their protection, a new law called for the creation of special courts charged with dealing with family and children violence.  In closing, she denounced the daily suffering of Palestinian children as a result of Israeli occupation.

MS. SARA AL-SAAD (Qatar) said her delegation attached great importance to the promotion and protection of children’s rights.  The Government had undertaken a number of measures in the areas of health and education in line with universal goals.  Her delegation was, however, particularly worried about children in armed conflicts.  Stressing the importance of the prevention of children from the recruitment into armed groups, Qatar supported to the Convention’s Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict.  Concluding, she said that providing a quality education was a top priority for Qatar as it contributed to the overall development of the country.

JASEM K. S. HARARI (Libya) said the Government had implemented existing international agreements, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols.  As children were the future of a country, he continued, States needed to ensure their protection and create a peaceful environment for them.  For its part, Libya provided free primary and secondary education to children.  Further, the Ministry of Education had created an office responsible for the enrolment of children to their local school.

IHOR YAREMENKO (Ukraine), aligning with the statement of the European Union, described how, in the last few years, state policy had been focused on prevention of child abandonment, social support of families in difficult life situations and ensuring the rights of orphans to grow up in a family environment.  The proportion of orphans and children that had been deprived of parental care and were now living with families stood at 80.7 per cent.  The proportion of families with children in difficult situations had significantly increased as a result of Russian Federation’s aggression against his country and the terrorist activity of Russian-backed illegal armed groups.  He called on the Russian Federation to stop its subversive activity and urged Member States and the United Nations Secretariat to pay special attention to that matter.  Concluding, he noted that a recently launched UNICEF mine awareness campaign targeting 500,000 Ukrainian children and their families in conflict-affected areas was extremely pertinent.

LAURIA NGUELÉ MAKOUELET (Congo), aligning with the African Group, said a set of measures had been adopted by the Government that included care for victims of obstetric fistula, free antiretroviral therapy and prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission, free anti-malaria drugs for pregnant women and children up to age 15 and support for a network of NGOs dealing with acts of sexual violence.  Child labour, forced labour and forms of work that jeopardized the health of children were prohibited by law.  Anyone involved in the trafficking, sale or exploitation of children was subject to fines.  Measures had also been put into place with regard to rehabilitation and reintegration of child soldiers.

TEVITA SUKA MANGISI (Tonga) said his country had made children’s rights a priority within its legal and policy frameworks with regards to their physical safety, health and education.  His country was not immune to the effects of climate change.  Children, in particular, lacked the capacity to respond and cope in the face of the adverse effects of severe weather events, flooding, coastal erosion and ocean acidification.  Tonga, as a Pacific small island developing State, was firmly committed to developing mitigation and adaptation policies through effective collaboration with local communities and relevant partners.  To secure a sustainable future for children, Tonga would continue to do its part, he concluded.

JOSEPH GBROU (Côte d’Ivoire) said providing quality education was a priority for his country.  According to legislation, access to school was free and mandatory for children between the ages of 6 and 16.  On health, Côte d’Ivoire had continued to provide quality health services to ensure health and well-being of children.  Furthermore, the Government had penalized female genital mutilation.  Despite progress achieved, the year 2014 was marked by child abduction and murders in the country.  To prevent such acts, the Government had taken necessary measures, including the establishment of a monitoring and reporting mechanism.

Juan Carlos Mendoza-García (Costa Rica), endorsing the statement of CELAC, said chronic poverty was undoubtedly the biggest obstacle to addressing the needs of children.  Access to education was key to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.  Costa Rica believed that children belonged in schools and that they should enjoy learning.  The Government had created an educational programme that focused on ethics, aesthetics and citizenship.   The statement made by Malala Yousafzai to the General Assembly in 2015 equating peace, hope and prosperity with education was to be heeded.  Protecting boys and girls from violence should also be a national and international priority.  Attacks on medical facilities were a violation of international law.  Ensuring accountability for those who attacked schools and hospitals was essential, and perpetrator must be brought to justice.

ZAIDAH SHAHMINAN (Brunei Darussalam), aligning with ASEAN, said children comprised one third of the country’s population.  Education was a fundamental right and, according to United Nations statistics, Brunei Darussalam had one of the highest literacy rates in the region.  Turning to the Convention, he said his country had withdrawn its reservations to sections pertaining to adoption laws.  Indeed, families, especially parents, had a fundamental role in instilling positive values in children.  To that end, programmes had been introduced to strengthen the family institution that included pre- and post-marital courses and instruction on parenting skills.  Youth unemployment remained an issue, and technical and vocational training that fostered skills would help young people find decent work, become independent and contribute to development.

LULIT Z. GEBREMARIAM (Ethiopia) said investing in children was an investment in the future and central to inclusive sustainable development.  With 45 per cent of the population being under age 15, Ethiopia had put the improvement and well‑being of children at the centre of its development policies and strategies.  Article 26 of the Constitution guaranteed the rights and freedoms of children, principles that had been incorporated into all national legislation, policies and development programmes.  It was a positive development that Ethiopia had achieved the Millennium Development Goal 4 on reducing child mortality, with the under-five mortality rate declining by two thirds, to 68 from 204 per 1,000 live births.

AICHA ISSOUFOU (Niger) welcomed the work of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.  It was States’ primary responsibility to take all necessary measures to ensure the reintegration of child victims into society.  In line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Niger provided compulsory and free primary education to all.  The school curriculum was same for all and taught in mixed classrooms.  Concluding, she thanked international organizations, in particular, UNICEF and UNFPA, for their support to ensure the full protection and children’s rights.

IBRAHIMA KOMARA (Guinea), aligning with the African Group, said the vulnerability of children was a matter of significant concern.  A strategic national plan had been adopted by the Government to address female genital mutilation, which had persisted in Guinea on a large scale.  With help from UNICEF, vaccination coverage had been improved, resulting in a decline in under‑five mortality.  It was the political will of the President to strengthen the legal framework vis-à-vis children and to raise awareness about their rights.  Challenges that had to be recognized included the building of juvenile tribunals and health care for children with disabilities.  In addition to situation of HIV/AIDS orphans around the world, the States of the Mano River Union, including Guinea, had thousands of children who had become orphans due to the Ebola virus.  Greater cooperation and effort was needed to ensure the welfare of such children, who faced stigmatization even within their extended families.

ANN KYUNG UN DEER, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), noted the impact of armed conflict on children and education.  From its experience in the field, the ICRC had seen schools directly targeted, damaged incidentally or used for military purposes.  Parties to armed conflicts had gone to schools to recruit children and some had been subjected to rape and other forms of sexual violence.  Children who had been displaced by conflict were often excluded from the educational system for extended periods and the use of schools as shelters for displaced people could hamper access to education for resident children.  Numerous education activities for children affected by armed conflict had been undertaken by the ICRC.  Educational and vocational training programmes for children formerly associated with armed forces or armed groups should aim at reintegrating them with their families and communities.  Parties to armed conflict had an obligation under international humanitarian law to ensure children’s access to education.  Recent initiatives to prevent schools from becoming part of the battlefield were being followed with interest and could provide guidance on practical steps that could be taken to reduce the military use of educational facilities.

MICHAEL ESPIRITU, of the Observer Mission of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, commended Member States and other stakeholders for halving the under-five mortality rate under the Millennium Development Goals.  Progress, however, had stalled and too many children had continued to die needlessly.  The Order had undertaken projects in Uganda and Cambodia to address child malnutrition.  In Bethlehem, the Holy Family Hospital had provided women with a safe place to give birth; it was the only facility of its kind in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, open to all regardless of nationality, religion or income, and demonstrated how, even in one of the world’s most conflicted area, the Order was working to preserve the rights of the most vulnerable.

KEVIN CASSIDY, International Labour Organization (ILO), said persistent high levels of child labour continued to be a major barrier for children to exercise their right to education.  Recent ILO estimates showed that child labour had fallen globally by 22 per cent since 2000.  There were, however, still 168 million mired in child labour, which included 85 million doing hazardous work.  Child labour had a serious negative impact on school environments, attendance and achievement.  The absence of quality education and poverty had been “push factors”, leading children to drop out of school and enter the labour force before the legal minimum age of employment.  Drawing attention to the Organization’s experience, he said “child labour must be and can be stopped,” adding that it was possible through strong political will, better designed and integrated policies and more concerted action.

MPHO MICHELLE MOGOBE (Botswana) said the Government had taken a very deliberate and unyielding approach to ensure that education was available to all for the first 12 years of schooling.  For almost two decades, Botswana had allocated nearly one third of its national budget towards education, which was the key to unlocking the capabilities of children.  With regards to health, Botswana had made significant progress in reducing maternal and child deaths and had almost achieved zero mother-to-child HIV transmissions.  Her country, however, still faced a challenge in “Getting to Zero” and needed the support of the United Nations and development partners to realize that goal.

Right of reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of the Russian Federation said, with reference to the statement made by her counterpart from Georgia, that South Ossetia and Abkhazia were independent States over which her country had no effective control.  If Georgia had issues to raise, it should contact the respective authorities.  Existing data showed that seven schools in South Ossetia were teaching in the Georgian language.  It would be good to know how many schools in Georgia were teaching the Abkhazian language.  With regard to the statement by Ukraine, she said that delegation was using any and all opportunities to make slanderous statements about the Russian Federation.  It was cynical to do so in the context of children.  Many children had been killed or wounded as a result of the actions of the Kyiv authorities.  Many had problems with access to water, health care and education.  The Ukrainians should carry out their obligations towards a sustained peace and overcoming the consequences of armed conflict, she said.

Responding, in exercise of the right of reply, the delegate from Georgia said that, regardless of what the Russian Federation said, facts had spoken for themselves.  The Government of Georgia had been denied the ability to address the problems of children in the occupied territory of Georgia; it had no access and there was no international monitoring mechanism.  That was very concerning.  It was regrettable that the statement of the Russian Federation only served to mislead the international community as it remained in complete denial about what was happening on the ground.  With regard to talking to the occupation regime, there was only one conflict and that was a conflict between Georgia and the Russian Federation.

In exercise of the right of reply, the speaker from Ukraine said there were 1.5 million internally displaced persons in Ukraine, 25 per cent of them children.  They were suffering a lot.  It was not a situation that allowed for surmising and fantasizing.  Colleagues from the Russian Federation were urged to think about that point, he said, adding that “people are dying every day in my country because of your country.”  Pushing a knife in the back and twisting it was not a brotherly way to behave.  Noting that his own family had suffered losses, he said it was painful to hear accusations from people who were living in a parallel world.

For information media. Not an official record.