Global Pledges to Improve Children’s Well‑Being ‘A Distant Dream’ without Renewed Respect for Their Rights, Notably Protection, Third Committee Speakers Declare
With children’s aspirations still falling short of global commitments to improve their well‑being, and some calling those pledges a “distant dream”, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) continued its debate on children’s rights today amid urgent appeals that they be central to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
That call was especially true for children in conflict situations, Iraq’s delegate said, noting that girls and boys there are traumatized from severe abuse by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh). He called for more social protections, as well as a high‑level Government committee that would monitor child abuse during conflict.
The issue was one of many tackled today, as delegates outlined policies, programmes and legal measures to better protect children’s rights. Expressing regret that the Convention on the Rights of the Child had not been universally ratified, the representative of the Russian Federation acknowledged the need to perfect State policy in this area and noted the President’s decree marking the current decade as the “Decade of Childhood”.
Several decried the rise of cyberbullying, with Australia’s representative describing national policies to guide the development of safety and well‑being practices within schools, and the creation of an eSafety Commissioner to assist cyberbullying victims. Keeping track of activities — online and offline — is critical, added Japan’s delegate, pointing to a report published annually on undesirable behaviour. Colombia’s delegate said the issue required a broad approach, while Romania’s delegate cited the launch of a national plan against cyberbullying, a “No Hate Campaign”, and with Save the Children, a guide for safe Internet use.
Child marriage continues to persist in many parts of the world, despite laws against it, many said. For its part, Viet Nam adopted a scheme to address the practice in ethnic minorities, aiming to reduce its rate by 2 to 3 per cent annually.
More broadly, delegates underscored the importance of including children’s voices in policymaking, with Brazil’s representative detailing the high value it places on their participation in planning. Rwanda’s delegate meanwhile pointed to the establishment of an annual Children’s Summit, allowing girls and boys to discuss issues affecting their lives and ensure their opinions and concerns are considered in national policies.
Laws against corporal punishment also featured prominently in the day’s discussion. Peru’s delegate said the practice is prohibited in the country, while the representative of the Philippines pointed to pending legislation to penalize corporal punishment.
Also speaking were representatives of Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Eritrea, Israel, Mexico, Mongolia, India, Spain, Jamaica, Poland, Guatemala, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Ecuador, South Africa, Georgia, Maldives, Malaysia, Turkey, Afghanistan, Dominican Republic, Qatar, Zambia, China, Iceland, Namibia, Republic of Korea, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Nigeria, Sudan, Bangladesh, Ghana, Uruguay, Algeria, San Marino, Iran, Syria, Bahrain, United States, Burkina Faso, Lebanon, Tonga, United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Andorra, Ukraine, Libya, Bolivia, Angola, Mozambique, Equatorial Guinea, Nicaragua, Monaco, Sierra Leone, Botswana, Bhutan, Guinea, Oman and Azerbaijan, as well as the Holy See.
The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 11 October, to continue its debate on the rights of children.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) continued its debate on children’s rights (for background, see Press Release GA/SHC/4231).
Ms. ALMUDAYHIM (Saudi Arabia) cited the launch of an early detection and intervention programme for reporting child abuse, noting that 4,000 training workshops have been held in schools, benefiting 30,000 people. Saudi Arabia established a committee to analyse electronic games that lead to suicide among children, and introduced an age classification for those games. Other measures include the creation of a family programme to monitor and report abuse to the authorities, a 24‑hour hotline for harassment and bullying, and a foundation for traumatised children. Another programme helps former child soldiers reintegrate into society. In addition, Saudi Arabia provides free education and medical care for children from Syria and other countries, she said, noting that more than $64 million in aid has been spent to help children in Yemen.
ANAYANSI RODRÍGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba) said Cuba has made significant progress in the care and development of children and adolescents. A State party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Cuba has designed national child and adolescent‑centred policies, actions and programmes since 1959, more than 30 years ahead of the Convention itself. The network of homes caring for children without parents is an example of a policy that has had high impact. Such achievements are the result of ensuring free and universal national health and education systems at all levels, she said, noting that all Cuban children are vaccinated at birth against 13 communicable diseases and priority is given to the early detection of congenital disease.
AKANE MIYAZAKI (Japan) drew attention to his country’s recent $5.9 million contribution to the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children. With those funds, Japan seeks to urgently address such abuse in the contexts of conflict and crises through 12 projects in Nigeria and Uganda that enable children to leave armed groups and begin new lives. The funding will also provide vocational training, address the psychological toll of violence and prevent harm from landmines. On the domestic level, Japan works to ensure early detection of, action on and protection against bullying and violence in schools. It also publishes an annual report titled, “Survey on Undesirable Behaviour and School Non‑Attendance of Students” which summarizes instances of bullying, including cyberbullying.
FRANCISCO TENYA (Peru), noting that his country joined the Safe Schools Declaration to protect students and teachers in times of armed conflict, and recently, the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative, said that nationally, Peru has made progress in promoting children’s rights. Its national plan outlines various objectives and the Government has prioritized efforts to reduce anaemia incidence. Corporal punishment is prohibited, he said, encouraging the international community to tackle the challenges children face at all phases of growth.
Mr. LAFTA (Iraq) said children in his country have been traumatised and their rights severely abused by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), calling for enhanced social protection networks to promote children’s rights. Iraq set up a committee to protect the rights of children and women, and a high‑level Government committee to monitor child abuse during conflict, he said, recalling a meeting with the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences. Noting that soldiers in Iraq are recruited from age 18, he said foreign children found in the country are repatriated according to human rights laws and handed over to their Governments. Child marriage has harmful consequences on girls’ lives, he said, stressing that women who marry early are more exposed to violence and citing in that context the law setting the marriage age at 18 years.
MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said achievement of the goals set during the 1990 World Summit for Children remains a distant dream. Children living in areas affected by conflict and foreign occupation are more at risk than ever. “From Syria to Palestine and India‑occupied Jammu and Kashmir, they continue to be caught in a vortex of violence”, she stated. Pakistan has established a National Commission for Child Welfare and Development to assess and promote children’s rights. In February, Parliament unanimously adopted a child protection bill, envisaging the establishment of national bodies to protect children from abuse, maltreatment, neglect and other forms of violence.
Mr. CHERNENKO (Russian Federation) expressed regret that the Convention on the Rights of the Child has not been universally ratified. Describing national measures, he drew attention to the national strategy for 2012‑2017 and the action plan for children. He acknowledged the need to perfect State policy in this area and noted the President’s decree marking the current decade as the “Decade of Childhood”. He expressed concern over the perception in some European countries of a mother and father being replaced by “parent number one and parent number two”, saying that such practices endangered the historical and cultural values of the Russian Federation, which could cause irreversible damage to children.
VILATSONE VISONNAVONG (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), aligning himself with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said his country has made significant progress incorporating the child rights convention into its national policies and laws, as described in its latest implementation report, submitted last month. At the regional level, it contributes to children’s development through ASEAN, particularly in the areas of institution building and standards setting. It is engaged with ASEAN instruments that promote the rights of women and children, and is leading thematic studies on identification, management and treatment of trafficking victims, especially women and children. He pledged that the Lao People’s Democratic Republic will continue to fulfil its international obligations and work with all global partners to build a better life for children.
NGUYEN LIEN HUONG (Viet Nam), aligning herself with ASEAN, said children’s well‑being still falls short of global commitments to improve their lives. Child marriage stunts the development of young girls and their children, leading to irreversible consequences. It also aggravates gender inequality, household poverty, lack of access to education and employment. For its part, Viet Nam adopted a scheme to address child marriage in ethnic minorities, aiming to reduce its rate by 2 to 3 per cent annually. Acknowledging the need to update policies on children, she said her country organizes biannual dialogue forums to understand their views and aspirations on issues that affect them.
ZEBIB GEBREKIDAN (Eritrea), citing the lack of access to quality education, health care and social safety, stressed the importance of children’s welfare to development. Eritrea, along with civil society and religious leaders, is devising an action plan to address female genital mutilation, child marriage and the abandonment of infants. The plan, which targets the family as a core unit, also strengthens social protections for orphans and children with disabilities. Noting that the prevalence of female genital mutilation for girls age 5 and under dropped to 12 per cent from 95 per cent in 1995, she said Eritrea acceded to the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention on Minimum Age for Work in 1999. No one under 18 should jeopardise his or her physical, mental or social development.
MICHAEL BAROR (Israel) emphasized that education also takes place outside classrooms and in informal ways, pointing to Israel’s long tradition of non‑formal education that positively impacts young leadership, personal growth, social life and political participation. About 30 per cent of school students take part in after‑school youth movements — a type of non‑formal education. In addition to science, mathematics and geography, it is important to teach children to engage in constructive dialogue, navigate their surroundings and lead through action.
BELMAN GUERRERO (Mexico) said the international community has been unable to bridge the gap between law and reality. Today, more is known about children’s aspirations, especially those in vulnerable situations. Mexico is involved in the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children. Progress must be made to ensure that education and social welfare have an immediate impact. Children’s rights also must be respected, he said, noting that Mexico has raised global awareness on bullying, and urging Governments to fight against such abuse in schools. With only 12 years left to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he asked delegates to think about who will be sitting on the Committee 12 years from now. “Let’s deliver on promises,” he stressed.
SUKHBOLD SUKHEE (Mongolia), stressing that children and adolescents are key agents for sustainable development, said his country has adopted significant legislation to protect and promote their rights. Childcare centres have been set up and measures carried out to improve school conditions for ethnic minority and disabled children. By 2030, Mongolia intends to address the insufficient number of kindergartens, overloaded family hospitals, suburban schools functioning in three shifts and pollution in the capital.
PAULOMI TRIPATHI (India) recalled that her country is home to nearly one in five children in the world. It has a national policy for children based on rights, serving more than 90 million children and 19 million women through 1.3 million integrated child‑development centres. The Government put in place a range of programmes focusing on physical and psychological health of adolescents, with special provisions for girls. The eradication of child labour is a priority: the ban on the employment of children under 14 is strictly enforced.
RICARDO DE SOUZA MONTEIRO (Brazil) said protecting children from violence is instrumental for achieving peaceful and just societies. Regarding migrant children, Brazil fully supports the promotion of the prohibition of collective expulsions, and the end of both child detention and arbitrary arrest. To prevent malnutrition and poverty from jeopardizing future generations, early childhood has been given special attention. Brazil is also working to reduce unpaid domestic and care work, which affects girls’ prospects in education and employment. The participation of Brazilian children in policy planning is highly valued: their perspectives have been considered in formulating programmes for girls’ empowerment, for instance.
FRANCISCO ALBERTO GONZALEZ (Colombia) reiterated the importance of the Convention and his country’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda, acknowledging that children and adolescents must grow up in environments with love and understanding. They have special needs for guidance and special rights for protection. In 2017, the country adopted a model that, among its four core areas, promotes joint responsibility of the family to guarantee children’s rights. In particular, it focuses on the first six years of life. More broadly, Colombia seeks to end the use of children in armed conflict, especially in Africa, he said, noting that bullying and cyberbullying require a broad approach that considers the vulnerability of childhood. Statistical systems must be improved.
PABLO EMILIO GUTIÉRREZ SEGÚ BERDULLAS (Spain) highlighted Spain’s strong commitment to the rights of minors. Recalling that Spain submitted six special reports, he mentioned the third national strategy plan for 2019‑2022 in stressing that the Government links early childhood to the Sustainable Development Goals. It has appointed two high commissioners to address child poverty in the 2030 Agenda, in efforts to leave no child behind. He also drew attention to Spain’s work related to the Safe Schools Declaration and civilian protection.
TYESHA O’LISA TURNER (Jamaica), aligning herself with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said her country has developed legislation and policies to safeguard children’s safety and well‑being. Jamaica is developing an anti‑bullying response framework because it is important to ensure children can access quality education free of fear. She stressed the need for greater opportunities to exchange views, as well as the importance of partnerships to ensure no child is left behind. In that spirit, Jamaica and the United States signed a Child Protection Compact to reduce child trafficking. Jamaica also launched a Country Level Engagement and Assistance to Reduce Child Labour project, in collaboration with Winrock International and Lawyers Without Borders.
BOGNA RUMINOWICZ (Poland) said that, 30 years after the Convention on the Rights of the Child, children are still violated, treated like objects, killed, abused and exploited. Member States have a moral and legal responsibility towards children. Poland has a Children’s Ombudsman entrusted with the protection of their rights, as defined in the Constitution and relevant acts. Migrant children are treated in Poland with special care, in full respect of commitments under international law. When unaccompanied, they are granted legal representation, decent living conditions and social assistance. However, the Government recognizes the importance of family reunification and takes all measures necessary to that end.
EDGAR ANDRÉS MOLINA LINARES (Guatemala) said children who do not receive postnatal care may not survive their first days; a child without nutrition may not develop cognitively or physically; and a child without protection from violence, discrimination, child labour or early marriage may suffer emotional and physical consequences. The figures are heartbreaking and if efforts are not made, 70 million children will die before age five. Like other countries in the region and given its geographic position, Guatemala is highly vulnerable to trafficking, characterized by a migratory flow to the North. He expressed concern about trafficking for sexual exploitation and its devastating impacts: drug addiction, sexually transmitted disease and even suicide. “It is modern slavery,” he stressed.
ARMAN ISSETOV (Kazakhstan) said her country has enacted forward‑looking legislation to support children with disabilities; provide improved immunization and nutrition services; and prevent crime, neglect and homelessness among children. Further, the Government created an Ombudsman for Children position, and also reduced infant and maternal mortality rates. It also placed emphasis on recreational and cultural activities, as well as sports, to ensure the all‑around growth of a robust younger generation.
Ms. HASAN (Indonesia), associating herself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China as well as ASEAN, said the world is in a defining era for children. One quarter of the global population — 1.9 billion people — are children. “Children today will be leaders tomorrow,” she added. Governments have made crucial improvements in their lives, through ensuring timely vaccinations and proper nutrition. Indonesia is fully committed to enabling children to grow and make positive contributions to their societies. The Government continues to lower poverty and support poor families through its “ideal family” programme and national health insurance system.
MARIO A. ZAMBRANO ORTIZ (Ecuador), aligning himself with CELAC, noted the importance of Sustainable Development Goals 4 (quality education), 5 (gender equality) and 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions). Registering concern about integral health care, social security, family and social coexistence, he drew attention to the “Tenderness” initiative to promote equality. Children are the future, and thus, require a safe, secure environment to be happy, he said, recalling the Convention’s thirtieth anniversary to stress Ecuador’s firm commitment to strengthen children’s rights, without distinction. “We must step up efforts to ensure all countries can develop the SDG on child mortality”, he said, without which, the Goal on primary education, and others, could be missed.
Ms. SHANGE-BUTHANE (South Africa) said children in her country face myriad challenges, especially those who are excluded. As the wealth gap grows, children from the poorest households lack education, nutrition and access to tertiary education. Noting that South Africa offers free tertiary education, she said substance abuse particularly affects poor communities, an issue she requested be included in reports on children’s rights. South Africa is also seeking legal instruments to fight child labour and human trafficking.
EKA KIPIANI (Georgia), associating herself with the European Union, cited multiple new laws and regulations to protect children, including the Juvenile Justice Code of 2016. Since 2017, a Parliamentary committee has been drafting a Code of Children’s Rights, which once adopted, will fill gaps in the legislation and foster implementation of the State’s human rights obligations. Describing the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the occupied regions of Georgia, she said children there face daily violence and discrimination by the occupying regime. They are deprived their basic human rights, including to education in their native language. Since 2015, the occupation regime in Sokhumi and Tskhinvali has gradually closed Georgian schools or changed the language of instruction to Russian, representing other attacks against the identity of ethnic Georgians.
Ms. FAREENA (Maldives) said that in her country, girls outperform boys in secondary school and higher education, and there will soon be more women than men with tertiary qualifications. Some policies seek to enhance education access for children with special needs. Persons with disabilities, including children, receive both financial and non-financial support in the form of assistive devices, and additional points in social housing schemes. Further, the Maldives has reduced infant mortality from 121 per 1,000 live births in 1977 to just 6 in 2016, while vaccine-preventable diseases do not exist. Women and child victims of domestic violence, abuse and neglect are provided temporary shelter in safe homes. A registry of convicted child sex offenders is published online. Citing programmes to empower girls, she said the Government seeks to foster a culture of respect and tolerance in its schools.
AMIR HAMZAH MOHD NASIR (Malaysia), associating himself with ASEAN and the Group of 77, said that massive urbanization in his country, caused by economic development, has led to the formation of urban pockets, where vulnerable children lack health services and education. They face social stigma and can be easily exploited. “The door of opportunities at times is slammed shut on them due to the lack of certain skills and level of education,” he said. Malaysia is also working to ensure education access for indigenous children, students with special needs, young prisoners, juvenile offenders and undocumented children. Having achieved gender parity in school enrolment, Malaysia is now focused on child labour, sexual exploitation and trafficking of children.
AYSE INANC-ORNEKOL (Turkey) described the legal and institutional framework in place to improve children’s living conditions. Turkey ratified the Convention and its two Optional Protocols, as well as the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse. Along with Canada and Peru, it will co‑host the annual International Day of the Girl Child event on 11 October. Children’s rights must be considered in all settings, including conflicts and crises, she said, stressing: “Challenges such as recruitment and use of children, mass abductions, torture and sexual violence, attacks on schools and hospitals, and preventing humanitarian access have unfortunately become patterns of conflict.” Joint and robust political determination is needed. Nearly 50 million children have migrated across borders or been forcefully displaced and she called for redoubled efforts, recalling that the 1 million Syrian children in Turkey are enrolled in public schools and 318 temporary education centres.
ZUHAL SALIM (Afghanistan) said the ongoing violence imposed on Afghans has had a devastating effect, as violent proxies from abroad sow discord and inflict severe trauma on children. The most recent attack on an educational centre in western Kabul illustrates their heinous atrocities. Just last year, 3,179 children were killed and maimed during the war. Safeguarding children’s rights has been a challenge. Terrorists exploit children’s innocence, abducting and brainwashing them to carry out suicide attacks. Afghanistan is committed to protecting the rights of children and, among other efforts, formulated a child protection policy, established a Children Secretary position, amended the trafficking in persons law, and developed a strategy to eliminate child labour.
LUZ DEL CARMEN ANDÚJAR (Dominican Republic), underscoring the need for education programmes, said that as child marriage is incompatible with international law, the minimum age for marriage in her country is now 18 years. Moreover, the President declared a National Girls Day, acknowledging their role in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals, while other efforts are under way to launch the “No Excuses” campaign and “We Protect” alliance to prevent violence against children, which involves civil society. The Government is committed to improving public education and aims to develop a protection system.
Ms. AL MAWLAWI (Qatar), noting her country’s contribution to the education of children who do not enjoy freedom, said Qatar will open a centre on children in armed conflict in Doha. She described the “Qatar 2030” vision, as well as the first and second national strategies, pointing also to social welfare assistants who work to uncover any acts of violence against children, and an awareness system set up in schools to care for abused and neglected children. Education is key to development and a right which must be protected everywhere. She cited in that context the Education Above All Foundation, set up with UNICEF and more than 80 international partners. She also noted Qatar’s support for Yemen’s water and sanitation system to stop children from becoming sick.
BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, spotlighted the special role of the family in fostering children’s growth and well‑being. “The family is the setting in which new life is not only born but welcomed,” he said, adding that States should support families in fulfilling those natural life‑giving and formative functions. Also underlining the critical role of education in children’s development, he said countries should recognize the inalienable right of parents to educate their children according to their religious and cultural values, particularly in areas where the dignity of the person is at stake. Noting that millions of children around the globe are victims of violence, mistreatment, exploitation and abuse, he declared: “No effort must be spared to create a culture of protecting the young and vulnerable.” That is especially true in the case of migrant children, who are often forgotten or ignored.
JOHN ZULU, Director, Ministry of Youth, Sport and Child Development of Zambia, associating himself with the African Group and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said the Constitution was revised to protect children’s rights. Other plans in the works aim to reduce child malnutrition and expand early childhood care. “We believe addressing violence against girls in schools is important as it has the potential to reduce school enrolment for girls,” he said, expressing concern that unsafe school environments discourage parents from sending their daughters to school. The Government is also working to end child marriage, aiming to reduce that practice by 40 per cent by 2021, and seeking to ensure children have access to high‑quality health services.
JO FELDMAN (Australia) said her country strives to leave no child behind by closing the education gap between indigenous and non‑indigenous Australians, improving education access for children with disabilities and preventing cervical cancer through free HPV vaccinations. As measures to protect children from abuse and bullying are also important, new national school policies, and the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009‑2020, address those issues. She also described measures taken to protect children from institutional sexual abuse, pointing to the National Redress Scheme which provides child victims with counselling, psychological care and monetary payments.
ZHU HUILAN (China) said the international community should uphold the principle of peaceful dispute settlement and create a stable environment to protect children from war. Calling on Member States to strengthen cooperation, implement the 2030 Agenda and eliminate child poverty, among other things, he said new technologies present both opportunities and challenges to protect children’s rights. Advanced information technology enables the wider dissemination of information allowing children to acquire knowledge. However, Internet addiction and harmful online information hurt children, increasing the prevalence of such crimes as child pornography. States have both the right and responsibility to enhance Internet monitoring to prevent and combat those abuses, he stressed, outlining several of China’s legislative actions in that arena.
BERGDIS ELLERTSDOTTIR (Iceland) said that during its tenure at the Human Rights Council, the Government pledged to continue its support for ending all violence against children, including sexual abuse, forced marriage and female genital mutilation, efforts that require comprehensive work with boys and men, families and communities, community chiefs and others to change social norms. Violence against children should never be tolerated. Trauma in early years can have devastating consequences on children’s mental and physical health. Early detection and intervention is needed, with evidence-based procedures applied as a means to enhance protection and address risks. Education is among the most important investments a country can make in its youth, she said.
NEVILLE GERTZE (Namibia), said his country’s Child Care and Protection Act provides a legal framework to prevent and respond to neglect, abuse, exploitation and the trafficking of children. However, Namibian children across the economic spectrum face challenges, such as bullying. Underscoring that women constitute over half of the world’s illiterate adults, he said equal access to education is fundamental to tackling female poverty. To that end, the Government introduced free education from primary through secondary levels. Given that one in five new HIV infections occur among adolescents, most of them girls, teen clubs have been set up to provide treatment, adherence support and psychological services.
CHO EUN BANG (Republic of Korea) highlighted areas for the promotion and protection of children’s rights, stressing that inclusive and equitable quality education should be a priority. The Republic of Korea will continue to promote global citizenship education, which instils the fundamental values of understanding and respect for diversity, tolerance and human rights. Marginalized children — such as girls and those with disabilities — need special attention. It is important to empower girls, who are more susceptible to various forms of violence and discrimination, and have lower school attendance.
TUN LIN SWAI (Myanmar) called children “the most valuable asset for development and prosperity”, making investment in education a top priority. The Constitution guarantees all children can access free and compulsory primary education, and the Government has greatly increased public spending on learning. Envisioning education for all children, it put in place a new system that provides free high school enrolment. More broadly, peace is the only way to alleviate the plight of children in armed conflict, and essential for both sustainable development and the endurance of democracy and human rights. Therefore, Myanmar organizes the “Union Peace Conference”, he said, noting that an important agreement was reached during the July session to mainstream child protection into the peace process.
INSAF BAKEER MARKAR, youth representative from Sri Lanka, said a safer, peaceful and just future is incumbent on the rights of children everywhere. Children in Sri Lanka are protected by a well-connected child protection network that features an accessible health care system and free education from primary to university. It is important to give children priority in the matters that affect them. Warning against an overemphasis on academic qualifications, she said access to leisure, recreation and play is a right. Children should be encouraged to participate in decision-making with accurate information and care.
FATMAALZAHRAA HASSAN ABDELAZIZ ABDELKAWY (Eqypt), aligning herself with the African Group, said the family is the most protective environment for children, indispensable for their psychology, protection and development. Child marriage and early marriage cause problems, especially in rural areas, where it reached 50 per cent prevalence, she said, drawing attention to Egypt’s legal and other interventions in this regard. An initiative to raise awareness about bullying through TV and street advertisements was launched in cooperation with UNICEF. Changes brought about by globalization affect children both in and outside of school. Declaring 2019 as National Year of Education, she said Egypt aims to provide quality education through the use of new technologies and modern theories. She referred to a strategic national plan for fighting violence, and establishment of a national team in charge of protecting children, headed by the National Council for Women.
Action — Organizational Matters
The representative of Morocco, speaking in explanation of vote on behalf of the African Group, expressed surprise over the events witnessed during the Third Committee’s ninth meeting, when, despite the need to respect the Rules of Procedure, attempts had been made to trample on the sovereignty of some Member States. He underscored the sovereign right of each State to use United Nations services, including to seek a legal opinion, without being constrained by politicized votes. There has never been case in the Third Committee when a legal opinion has been voted upon and he expressed regret that a misinterpretation of the Rules had interfered in the Committee’s work and could set dangerous precedent.
Following clarification by the Chair on the time allotted for explanations of vote, he urged the Chair to “listen to the voices of wisdom” of Member States, regardless of the case today, and be guided by the Charter of the United Nations and the Rules of Procedure. He requested all States to support the motion requesting a legal opinion.
The representative of United States reiterated her statement 8 October that her delegation will vote no, on the basis that individual States cannot request a legal opinion; it must be sought by an inter-governmental body.
The representative of Cuba, sharing the view of the African group, expressed his support for the proposal and would vote in favour of it.
By a recorded vote of 91 in favour to 1 against (United States), with 66 abstentions, the Committee approved the request to seek a legal opinion from the Office of Legal Affairs, clarifying the legal basis for including the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi on the Third Committee list of mandate holders presenting reports during the seventy-third session and participating in a related dialogue.
Speaking in explanation of vote, the representative of Syria said it is logical for a country that respects the law to be afraid of requesting a legal opinion. He supported the proposal.
The representative of Venezuela said “good faith always guided us” in the belief that this matter can always be handled through consensus.
TEODORO LOPEZ LOCSIN, JR., (Philippines) said children embody the most compelling justification for the existence of States, which must step up to ensure not only the survival of boys and girls but also their well-being. In the Philippines, children have the right to free and compulsory education — one that was recently extended to tertiary education in public institutions. There is also pending legislation to penalize corporal punishment. The Philippines also values participation and inclusion, and children are represented in various levels of governance.
NKENJINKA ULAKU ODARU WADIBIA-ANYANWU (Nigeria), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said her country has a national task force charged with protecting and supporting children against molestation and victimization in the public and private spheres. The Government created a Nigerian children’s parliament, which has been replicated throughout the country, and is working to ensure all social programmes are sensitive to the needs of the most vulnerable children and their families. Further, a child education project seeks to increase girls’ enrolment and retention in school, while legislation criminalizing cybercrime, including child exploitation and pornography, has been enacted.
OMER DAHAB FADL MOHAMED (Sudan) said his country has established several institutional structures to protect children from all types of violence and inhuman treatment. A prosecutor general investigates the crimes perpetrated against children and a hotline was also put in place. He reiterated Sudan’s readiness to cooperate with the United Nations in implementing international instruments for protecting children’s rights.
MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh) said that children’s rights were guaranteed in his country’s Constitution and in recent years an environment has been created to allow children to fully realize their potential. For that purpose, education and health care are priorities, with services provided even in camps housing hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees. Millions are benefiting from stipends, free textbooks and mobile, hi‑tech learning centres. As the Government was committed to the well‑being of women and girls, the fact that marriage of children under 18 is allowed in certain circumstances must be placed into the local context. Such marriages are decreasing, due in part to a national action plan to end them. A pilot project on comprehensive sexuality education has also been launched. An original proponent of the Migration Compact, Bangladesh expected it to become the guiding document for protecting the rights of migrant children and for guarding against trafficking. Continuing efforts to address abuse of women and girls, help centres are available countrywide, including in the Rohingya camps.
KAGENZA SAKUFI-RUMONGI (Rwanda), aligning himself with the African Group, said it is unfortunate that the United Nations monitoring and reporting mechanism on grave violations against children in situations of armed conflict indicates an increase in the number of verified cases for each of the six grave violations. This worrying trend requires immediate international action to ensure the upsurge is reduced. Rwanda has made children’s participation in national policies and programmes a priority, notably by establishing an annual Children’s Summit, which allows children to discuss issues affecting their lives and ensure their opinions and concerns are considered in national policies. Also, National Children Forums have been established at village, cell, sector and district levels. Through the National Strategy for Child Care, adopted in 2012, the Government is transforming the childcare and protection system into a family‑based system, allowing children in childcare situations to be situated in a safe and loving family environment. It also has developed decentralized structures to ensure children’s protection at the grassroots level, such as child protection units in law enforcement agencies.
RENNE YARBORKOR ABBEY (Ghana), aligning herself with the African Group and the Group of 77, underscored that global attention has yielded a significant decrease in the prevalence of child marriage. Yet, the practice remains widespread and a source of major concern, particularly in Africa. Early marriages are underpinned by poverty, gender inequality, social exclusion and marginalization, among other factors. In addition to legislative measures, responses must therefore include safety nets and poverty-reduction strategies, especially in rural areas. Ghana recently introduced free senior high school, which has led to high enrolment of girls who would have otherwise lost access to education due to poverty and possibly been married off as child brides.
LUIS HOMERO BERMÚDEZ ÁLVAREZ (Uruguay), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, said that, at the regional level, his country has been a leader for the promotion and protection of children’s rights. Minors should be perceived as subjects of rights, and not as a mere recipient of protection. He reiterated the call for universal ratification and implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols, expressing concern over the situation of children in armed conflict areas and their recruitment by armed groups and States.
NORA IMANE BELLOUT (Algeria) said her Government has increased its education budget tenfold over the past 15 years, with free schooling guaranteed for all boys and girls regardless of nationality or status, including child refugees in cities and the Tindouf camps. Ending all forms of violence against children is a priority, she said, with a new child‑protection law defining rules and mechanisms to address children at risk, child offenders, child protection centres and criminal provisions. Measures to protect children in armed conflict should begin with joint action on conflict prevention and resolution, she said, emphasizing that child soldiers should be treated as victims.
DAMIANO BELEFFI (San Marino) outlined various policies and programmes put in place since ratification of Convention in 1991. San Marino is a traditional sponsor of resolution on children’s rights, he said, noting that the goal of leaving no one behind requires special measures. Children and young people have the right to grow up free from violence, and he recalled the great price those in armed conflict situations pay: rape and death. International human rights law must be respected. Recalling the Safe Schools Declaration is an important tool for protecting children in conflict situations, he said San Marino was among the first to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Ms. ERSHADI (Iran) expressed deep concern over the situation in Yemen, where the most serious humanitarian catastrophe and human rights violations against children are taking place. Iran has integrated children’s rights into its sixth five-year development plan and charter of citizens’ rights. Those efforts have translated into results, such as free education for all children, be they refugees or undocumented. Drawing attention to the pain suffered by children who ended up in cages or were forcedly separated from their families, she expressed regret that the United Nations was unable to properly react to such human rights violations.
KOUSSAY ALDAHHAK (Syria), said that before the current crisis erupted, his country had a broad programme for sustainable development — including free education and immunization for children. Today, the Government finds it difficult to maintain such efforts. Students in areas occupied by terrorist elements were evacuated and provided with bursaries. The Government sought to ensure that children in liberated areas have access to special courses to catch-up on their learning. A national commission has been established to monitor the situation of children. Some are trying to politicize humanitarian work, contravening children’s best interests. He called for an end to the inhuman treatment of Syrian children in some refugee camps.
BUDOOR AHMED (Bahrain), aligning herself with the Group of 77, reiterated her country’s commitment to the rights of children, spotlighting Bahraini training programmes for public school teachers and mental health support centres for students. The Government implemented a national strategy seeking to protect children from all kinds of abuse and exploitation. When necessary, assistance — legal and otherwise — is provided to children who have been abused. Training courses help children to be more aware of sexual harassment and bullying.
Mr. McELWAIN (United States) highlighted factors of child, early and forced marriage issues, including economic hardship, the ending of childhood too early, and the limiting of children and young girls’ future options. Supporting international and non‑governmental organizations in the private sector to prevent and protect children from such marriages, he said the United States is addressing this issue on the international level. Citing the resolution on women and peace and security, he noted that in Gambia, residential retreats were organized where elder and religious leaders took part in a dialogue to change norms. The biggest challenge to women and girls is the loss of economic opportunities and a lack of education, he said, adding that through the provision of emergency funds, his country is combating child, early and forced marriages so that girls can have a brighter future.
YEMDAOGO ERIC TIARE (Burkina Faso), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said protecting the rights of children is not only an option for his country, it is imperative. Several texts on the rights of children have been adopted. Concerns, such as preventing child pornography, fighting child labour, violence against women and children, and protecting the rights of children, have led to the establishment of a national council. Other national plans have been adopted to provide health care and social protection, reduce the number of street kids and increase support to vulnerable children. Burkina Faso is also addressing the family code regarding the legal age of marriage, he said, voicing his regret that many challenges remain such as water hygiene and sanitation and the lack of schools. He expressed hope to be able to tackle these issues with the support of technical and financial partners and UNICEF.
CYNTHIA CHIDIAC (Lebanon) said much remained to be done to fulfil the aims and goals of the Convention and ensure that all children are protected. For its part, Lebanon has come a long way in ensuring that all children enjoy their most fundamental rights. Nevertheless, one of the major challenges is the presence of 1.2 million displaced Syrians, of whom 417,000 are between the ages of 3 and 14 years old. Taken together with Palestinian refugee children, there is “gigantic” pressure on Lebanon’s health care and education infrastructure.
VILIAMI VA'INGA TŌNĒ (Tonga) said mainstreaming children’s protection from violence and abuse into the legislative framework is a priority. Tonga has aligned its criminal legislation with the Council of Europe’s Convention on Cybercrime, to which it is a party, aiming to combat sexual exploitation and violence against children. Recalling that Tonga is both a small island developing State and a low‑lying large ocean State, he said the human rights of all Tongans, including children, are inextricably tied to protection of their marine and terrestrial environment. In the face of climate change and rising sea levels, this is a pressing concern.
Ms. ABDALLA (United Arab Emirates) said her country’s federal act on children’s rights aims to protect children from neglect and maltreatment. Recalling that 20 November is International Children’s Day, she referred to a forum hosted by her country to fight abuse and protect against Internet crime. She also noted initiatives to end violence against children in cooperation with UNICEF, including a global task force, law enforcement, and efforts to combat crimes through technological means. Citing a federal law to combat family violence, she described guidelines for childhood services and an initiative to host an Arab children parliament.
MARIA-IULIANA NICULAE (Romania), associating herself with the European Union, said a new structure for protecting children’s rights came into force in January 2018, charged with addressing complaints submitted to it. In 2016, Romania became one of two European “pathfinder countries” in the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children and has been running awareness raising alongside UNICEF and non‑governmental organizations. On bullying in schools, she described a national plan aimed at analysing and preventing such behaviour across the country, as well as the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Strategy and joint efforts with Save the Children to develop a guide for young people’s safe Internet use. She also outlined various strategies to prevent young people from leaving school early, to combat child poverty and to protect children from minority groups, such as the Roma community.
Ms. MOHAMMED (Ethiopia), aligning herself with the African Group and the Group of 77, said her country has woven the Goals and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda into its policies and strategic plans. To strengthen national interventions and protect children’s rights, Ethiopia has developed a five‑year national action plan for children (2015‑2020) which takes into account the Goals’ relevant global and national programmes. The Government is working to educate the public about children’s rights through school and clubs, notably in addressing the problems of early marriage and harmful traditional practices. Stressing that the trafficking of children for any purpose should be a punishable offence regardless of its territorial and cross‑border manifestations, she said Ethiopia has ratified the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. It has also adopted Proclamation No. 909/2015 for the prevention and suppression of such abuse against migrants.
Ms. BANASEN (Cameroon) said that, despite progress made, the situation of children is still worrying due to humanitarian crises, sickness, armed conflict and climate change. The Government has taken steps to stop the use of children by armed groups, by promoting education and raising awareness among imams, parents and families. Education is a tenet of Cameroon’s work on the fundamental rights of the child. The Government has implemented free schooling in both urban and rural areas. A world fit for children requires a global struggle against poverty, she added.
ELISENDA VIVES BALMAÑA (Andorra) expressed concern over the bullying suffered by children. In 2016, Andorra set up a plan of action for the prevention of harassment through dialogue. To involve youth, the Government organized a short‑film contest. Andorra is cooperating with UNICEF to promote children’s rights at the national level, as well as in other countries. It will create a national body for children and adolescents, with their participation. Andorra is committed to respecting and promoting the rights of the child now and in the future, she stressed.
VERONIKA TARADAI (Ukraine), associating herself with the European Union, described a programme to improve the national policy for protecting children’s rights, which updates the work of State authorities and local government. Last week, Ukraine also adopted a first draft on combating bullying. It is taking steps to improve the access of children with special educational needs to free services. For children in occupied territories, both in Crimea and Donbass, Ukraine has introduced initiatives to improve their access to university in mainland Ukraine. For the fifth year in a row, more than 220,000 children in Donetsk and Luhansk live near armed hostilities. In May, shells hit a school in Svitlodarsk where 125 children were attending class. She commended the efforts of UNICEF to help children with post‑traumatic stress disorder.
Mr. MELAD (Libya), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said his country abides by human rights law, including the Convention and its Optional Protocols, while respecting religion and culture. Free education, housing and drinking water were among the main concerns. Libya adopted a law to end early marriage, he said, noting that the age for marriage is 20 and that the official age of a child has been raised from 16 to 18, aligning with international standards. To combat bullying, the first week of October is dedicated to cultural activities and awareness raising. Libya also is abolishing corporal punishment in school.
Ms. CORDOVA SORIA (Bolivia), aligning herself with CELAC, said many children are protected under the Convention. As a party to the Convention since 1990, Bolivia implemented new initiatives to reduce poverty and foster development, focusing on children and families. This led to significant progress regarding the protection of children’s rights: mortality for children under 1 year old has dropped by 50 per cent, and malnutrition among children under 5 was also reduced by half.
MARIA DE JESUS DOS REIS FERREIRA (Angola), associating herself with Egypt, Namibia, the Group of 77 and SADC, highlighted several national initiatives to promote children’s rights, including those that support childcare institutions and focus on health and education. Law 25/12 aims to create a social protection system and increase investments in key sectors for children. While child poverty remains a significant obstacle, she noted improving access to birth registration and maternal and child health programs, along with the reduction of school failure. As well, child mortality recently declined from 157 to 68 per thousand live births. Within the National Justice and Law Reform Commission, efforts to eliminate the few exceptions to early marriage before 18 are being made.
ANTÓNIO GUMENDE (Mozambique), aligning himself with the Group of 77, the African Group, and SADC, said children in his country were known as the “flowers that never wilt”, a phrase that comes from their recognition as people at an incipient stage of development. To enforce the legal regime needed to protect children, Mozambique has enacted several laws. To advance the promotion and protection of their rights, many stakeholders are involved in disseminating legal instruments and children’s rights. Children have their own Parliament, called Parlamento Infantil, where they can exercise their legislative rights and discuss concerns in an open and frank manner.
NARCISO SIPACO RIBALA (Equatorial Guinea), joining its voice with the African Group, expressed concern over challenges to improving children’s rights, and noted his Government’s focus on children in armed conflicts. Measures were taken to strengthen national strategies, among them, those to improve structures for child protection and guaranteeing justice for minors. He also cited a high‑level meeting to end child marriage through best practices, underscoring the importance of preschool and primary school education. Equatorial Guinea set up a committee to protect children’s rights to education, as well as psychological, medical and social assistance.
HERMIDA CASTILLO (Nicaragua), aligning himself with CELAC, expressed firm commitment to applying the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols. The Government focused on programmes to help families. Social and economic policies have reduced poverty rates, and extreme poverty has gone down to seven per cent. The under-five mortality rate has dropped from 67.5 per cent to 19.7 per cent. Moreover, the Government has implemented a strategy to return 3,000 children who had been in protection centres to their families, and now provides alternative care for them.
CLOTILDE A. FERRY (Monaco) said that, in the last decade, the number of children in armed conflict increased to 47 per cent. Describing programmes for reintegrating children who had fled conflict, she recalled that schools had been used during fighting as military basis, endangering children’s lives. Over one third of children do not read or write, he said, stressing that education is a fundamental right. She went on to describe laws to stop crimes against children, adding that Monaco launched a “Stop Bullying Day” on 3 November to raise awareness. More broadly, she said 64 million people were HIV positive, including 2 million children under the age of 15, describing workshops held to combat HIV.
NIMATULA BAH-CHANG (Sierra Leone) said the Child Rights Act, a domestic version of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, was enacted in 2007 to consolidate the legal protection of the country’s children. Sierra Leone is determined to embark on a review and increase of budgetary allocations for the implementation of the Sexual Offences Act of 2012; increase the capacity of the Family Support Unit, the Ministry of Justice and the judiciary to investigate and prosecute reported cases; and strengthen protection, rehabilitation and reintegration support for victims of sexual abuse. Also, Sierra Leone had introduced free quality education for every child from primary to senior secondary school in all Government and Government‑assisted schools. Yet, it is grappling with several challenges as it moves to strengthen the capacity of its national institutions and resources to carry out existing legislation, administrative policies and strategies.
EDGAR SISA (Botswana) said that in July, the Government and the United Nations signed the Joint Gender Programme on Gender-Based Violence aimed at eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls, including trafficking and sexual exploitation and abuse of children. Parliament passed on a motion in December 2017 to create a mandatory Sexual Offenders Registry that will be used to prevent registered offenders from working in institutions that serve children. On 13 April, Parliament passed an amendment to the penal code that raised the age of sexual consent from 16 to 18 years.
DOMA TSHERING (Bhutan), noting that half of Bhutan’s population is under the age of 25, said its Government has always prioritized the welfare of children and youth in its national planning and budgeting. The National Plan of Action for Child Protection has been integrated into the current five-year plan and child focal persons have been appointed in all Government agencies and non-governmental organizations. Established in 2015, a children’s parliament aims to engage children in the electoral process and promote their participation in democracy and policy decisions. Children will remain at the centre of Bhutan’s efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda and the Government will cooperate with the international community to that end, she said.
Mr. GUILAVOGUI (Guinea), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, recalled that African Union member States committed to strengthening the protection of children through national plans centred on five priorities. As such, Guinea revised its legislation to remove ambiguities regarding neglect and discrimination against children. It took care of thousands of children who were victims of violence, orphaned due to Ebola, in early marriages or migrants. He urged all United Nations specialized agencies to support his country as it seeks to implement its national economic and social development plan.
Ms. AL ABRI (Oman) said her country is working to guarantee the development of children and their right to expression. They have access to free education and health care. Efforts have been made to foster children’s participation in public life, she said, citing also Government measures to ensure boys and girls with disabilities can enjoy life like any other children. Legislation has created care centres for them, aiming to ensure their independence and rehabilitation.
Ms. MEHDIYEVA (Azerbaijan) noted the reduction in child mortality, a significant decrease in the number of out-of-school children, the advancement of gender equality, and declining rates of child marriage, among other successes, which must spur more action. Azerbaijan has taken steps to align national legislation with the Convention. Children with special needs, refugees and internally displaced persons are entitled to free education at any State school or university, as well as free medical care. In addition, over 4,000 children and their families have benefitted from Government projects facilitating the rehabilitation of boys and girls with disabilities. She also cited the provision of training on child development, protection and psychology to teaching staff, and the creation of a hotline to provide legal advice and receive complaints about gender-based violence.
Right of Reply
The representative of Syria responded to remarks by his counterparts from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United States on the assistance of Syrian refugee children. “If this assistance exists, it is due to the Governments of these countries who are responsible for the suffering of the Syrian people”, he said, adding that “Syrian children have lost their security, stability and life with their parents because of them”. The crisis in his country was prolonged because efforts to find a political solution have been obstructed. “Without the intervention of these destructive States, we would not have needed the assistance of these countries,” he said.