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Seventy-third Session,
15th Meeting (AM)

Delegates Call for Education Access, Gender Parity in Labour Markets, as Third Committee Concludes Debates on Promoting Rights of Women, Children

Calling for access to education and eliminating child labour, as well as bolstering equal treatment for women in the labour market, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) concluded its debates on children’s rights and women’s advancement today.

Despite decades of progress, 152 million children are still engaged in child labour — almost half of whom are engaged in its worst forms, said the representative of the International Labour Organization.

Alongside those figures, 263 million children, adolescents and young adults are out of school, said the representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies — roughly the size of the world’s fourth‑most populous country.  While an essential public service, education is the most poorly supported during humanitarian crises.

Panama’s delegate pointed out that children’s situation is exacerbated by global inequality, calling the Sustainable Development Goals a blueprint for protecting their rights.

With protection concerns top of mind, the observer for the State of Palestine declared that Palestinian children’s rights are violated daily due to Israel’s occupation.  It is high time the international community held Israel accountable for its crimes and end its impunity, which only breeds violence.

Nearly 40 years after adopting the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Belgium’s delegate expressed regret that no country has achieved full equality, turning the Committee’s focus to the topic of women’s advancement.

Women represent 45 per cent of the rural labour force yet face greater constraints to accessing resources and services, said the representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), who pointed to evidence that agriculture policies are among the most effective measures for reducing poverty.

Along similar lines, Morocco’s delegate said women now hold important positions in her country such as ambassador, governor and pilot.  The Government had also enacted legislation to bolster gender equality.  Sri Lanka’s delegate meanwhile recalled that the world’s first female Prime Minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, had come to power in 1960.  Today, women participate in sports, politics and science, or as at‑home mothers.  “Every baby boy in my country will grow up to respect women,” she said.

Also speaking today were representatives of Burundi, Singapore, Thailand, Kuwait, Bulgaria, Lesotho, Albania, Azerbaijan, Qatar and Cameroon, as well as of the Sovereign Order of Malta.

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 12 October, to begin its debate on the rights of indigenous peoples.


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met to conclude its debates on the promotion and protection of children’s rights, and on the advancement of women.  (For background, see Press Releases GA/SHC/4231 and GA/SHC/4229.)

Promotion and Protection of Children’s Rights

ALBERT SHINGIRO (Burundi), aligning himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China as well as the African Group, said since his country has been a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols, it has deployed efforts at all levels to safeguard children’s rights.  The Government put in place a national committee for the protection of childhood and a national policy for orphans and vulnerable children, among others.  Further, 2,000 children were taken off the streets.  He reaffirmed Burundi’s commitment to implement all international and regional treaties and instruments to which it is party.  He called for ending “unilateral and immoral sanctions” which affect vulnerable groups, including children.

NADYA RIFAAT RASHEED, State of Palestine, said Palestinian children’s rights are violated daily due to Israel’s occupation.  Half of the 2 million Palestinians suffering under an 11‑year blockade are minors, creating a humanitarian and human rights crisis.  It is high time for the international community to hold the occupying Power accountable for its crimes and end Israel’s impunity, which only breeds violence.  In the occupied West Bank, home demolitions and evictions render children homeless.  The occupying Power continues to detain and imprison hundreds of Palestinian children, contravening international legal standards.  The international community must exhibit moral and political courage and take action to end the illegal occupation.

MICHAEL M. ESPIRITU, Sovereign Order of Malta, expressed concern over those children comprising more than half of the world’s 65 million displaced, including those separated.  Around the world, the Order serves the physical, material and psychological needs of migrant children.  In Germany, it maintains 140 facilities for 44,000 persons.  In France, it provided language courses to 800 children in the past year, while in Bangladesh, it operates three health stations in refugee camps offering medical care, and — working with the World Food Programme in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — it provides food aid for children in Ituri and Haut Uele provinces.  Its embassy in Namibia provides 350 meals a day for orphaned children, he added.

MADELINE ACHURCH, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said according to the United Nations, 263 million children, adolescents and young adults are out of school — roughly equal to the size of the world’s fourth‑most populous country.  Of this amount, 75 million lack access to adequate education due to armed conflict, disasters and other emergencies.  Education is an essential public service, yet it is the most poorly supported of all public services in humanitarian contexts, leaving a critical and increasing gap.  IFRC, which operates through its National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in 191 countries, is ready to meet this challenge.  Nearly one third of its National Societies have national programmes related to education and schools.

AMBER BARTH, International Labour Organization (ILO), said 152 million children are still engaged in child labour — almost half of whom are engaged in its worst forms.  There is an urgent need for coordinated global action.  Policy responses must be integrated into broader national development efforts and adapted to local contexts.  She stressed the need to achieve quality universal education and promote labour market policies focused on the areas where most child labour is found — in rural and informal economies.  Social protection floors should also be expanded to alleviate poverty and insecurity.  She invited the Third Committee to join the Alliance 8.7, a group created to support Governments seeking to end child labour by 2025.

LEE WEE TIONG (Singapore) said that, as a small city State, Singapore prioritizes education and high‑quality medical care.  Despite progress, more must be done, notably through more effective policies.  He expressed support for children from divorced families, adding more broadly that Singapore’s early childhood department works to ensure preschool is available to all and, thanks to a streamlined process, a record number of children are attending preschool.

ATIPHA VADHANAPHONG (Thailand), associating herself with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said early childhood development is the key to unlocking the full potential of every child.  Thailand’s efforts in providing access to compulsory education have been extended to children with status problems and undocumented migrant children.  Primary school enrolment stands at 100 per cent, while lower secondary is at 88.3 per cent and upper secondary school at 72.7 per cent.  Thailand promotes gender‑sensitive education in all its schools.  She welcomed the Secretary‑General’s initiatives to empower children by including and amplifying their voices.  Promoting science, technology, engineering and math education to equip young people for the technology‑driven economy, Thailand also takes various steps to protect children of migrants, she said.

Ms. ALZOUMAN (Kuwait) said that, despite the progress achieved in protecting children, there is a need for concerted efforts to protect children from sexual exploitation, including on the Internet.  She welcomed the progress made by Member States to protect children from violence, as well as the work of United Nations agencies, notably on bullying.  Underlining the importance of social services, she pointed out that Kuwait considers the family the basis of society and an environment conducive to children’s welfare.  Therefore, Kuwait promulgated several laws supporting families and children, notably safeguarding children’s right to life and growth in a cohesive family.

Ms. EL KBIRI (Morocco) recalled that her country has ratified all instruments on the rights of children, notably the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols.  Morocco’s new Constitution ensures the prevalence of international conventions on children’s rights over national laws, while several policies are in place to strengthen the legal protection of children, standardize existing structures and practices, and create monitoring systems.

Ms. CEDEÑO (Panama) said children are impacted by climate, humanitarian and other crises, and their situation is exacerbated by global inequality.  The Sustainable Development Goals are a blueprint to protect children’s rights.  Advocating strengthened efforts, he cited school bullying as an issue, stressing that many children are victims on social networks.  Such behaviour is toxic and must be tackled.  Protection against violence is a fundamental human right.  Recalling that the multidimensional poverty index is a tool that can measure child deprivation, he said Panama has worked to end child labour.

GEORGI VELIKOV PANAYOTOV (Bulgaria), aligning himself with the European Union, said his country is a co‑founder of the Groups of Friends of Children in New York and in Brussels, and advocates support for children as an investment in inclusive economic growth.  A new children’s strategy is being prepared, which will cover all modern challenges while a protection framework focuses on early childhood development.  It will follow the main ideas of the Sustainable Development Goals and be carried out through three‑year plans.  It is being drafted with the participation of institutions, non‑governmental organizations, academia and children themselves.  Children should be considered as more than just observers and subject to policies.  They should be direct participants in political decision‑making, he said, citing the “Bulgarian Youth Delegate to the UN” programme, launched in 2006, which has developed into a working commitment for its delegates.

NTHABISENG MŌNŌKO (Lesotho), associating herself with the Group of 77, African Group and Southern African Development Community (SADC), expressed concern that despite several laws that purport to protect children from early and forced marriages, one in five girls in Lesotho are still married before age 18.  And according to a recent assessment, 13,219 girls ages 14 to 17 are not enrolled in school.  “This is truly sad,” she said.  Lesotho’s Education Act of 2010 makes it compulsory for every child to attend school, while the Child Protection and Welfare Act of 2011 requires written consent of legal guardians to allow marriage at age 18 for boys and girls.  In 2017, the Government launched the “End Child Marriage Campaign” to foster dialogue on the issues that lead to child marriage and to offer recommendations.  She reiterated Lesotho’s commitment to end child marriage by 2030.

INGRIT PRIZRENI (Albania) said the adoption of the Law on the Rights and Protection of Children in early 2017 marked a major achievement for her Government, which is now focused on two priorities:  strengthening governance for equity and social inclusion, and protection and access to justice for children.  Through those efforts Albania seeks to lay the basis for a stronger institutional system, especially at the local level.  The Government is also focused on children in conflict with the law, aiming for the standard of no detention for them.  Towards achieving that goal, Albania is activating its system of child‑protection workers.

Advancement of Women

Ms. SENTISSI (Morocco) said Moroccan women’s status has improved, and progress has been made in all regions of the country.  Women now hold important positions such as ambassador, governor and pilot.  Stressing that women’s status has been a priority, she pointed out that the Government reformed the family code, the Moudawana, and adopted legislation to bolster gender equality, including a law to combat violence against women.  Further, Morocco put in place harsher penalties for harassment, including sexual propositions sent by SMS, voice messages or photographs.  Morocco’s civil society has also promoted women’s rights in the legislative, social, economic and cultural sectors.

LALA MEHDIYEVA (Azerbaijan), citing the system‑wide Strategy on Gender Parity, said the United Nations is a front‑runner in promoting gender equality, having achieved parity in senior management.  Women continue to face discrimination, poverty, workplace issues, and domestic and gender‑based violence.  Azerbaijan’s draft law on gender equality, submitted in July, seeks to introduce an implementation mechanism and important definitions, such as “gender expertise”.  Among other measures, she cited the creation of a Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, tasked with drafting a national action plan, and an online database and hotline for domestic abuse victims.  Recalling that Azerbaijan was the first Muslim country to grant women the right to vote in 1918, she said rural women and girls represent 77 per cent of the female population and described a project to promote their participation in economic and social life through support for family, small and medium enterprises.  Women’s representation in the foreign affairs ministry reached 50 per cent, she added.

JEROEN COOREMAN (Belgium) said that nearly 40 years after adopting the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, no country has achieved full gender equality.  Today, 190 States have ratified the instrument, however several have entered reservations, especially to Article 2, to eradicate all forms of discrimination.  He expressed regret over that situation and encouraged parties to withdraw their reservations.  Once ratified, the Convention must be implemented, especially through the timely submission of periodic reports, yet many have not done so, and he encouraged them to send those documents as soon as possible.  He invited parties that have not ratified the Protocol to consider doing so.

SABA M. F. M. ALFUHAID (Kuwait) said the world needs urgent solutions to the problem of sexual violence.  Noting that full gender parity has been achieved in the United Nations, she emphasized the importance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provisions related to women, especially on health care, domestic violence and protection from abuse, citing also advice hotlines.  Every woman and girl has the right to live free from fear.  Stronger political will is required to make those aspirations a reality.

Ms. ALMAWLAWI (Qatar), aligning herself with the Group of 77, said the advancement of women is a top priority.  Education is a human right and essential for women in all areas of life.  High‑quality education will be available for 1 million girls in Qatar by 2021.  Also, the Government has introduced amendments to its legislation to assist immigrant female workers, as well as issued a publication called Her Story with Colombia, reviewing the contribution of women leaders in the United Nations.  She underscored that Qatari women have led universities, succeeded in the diplomatic corps and held ministerial roles and high‑level judicial positions.

SHAMILKA KARUNANAYAKE (Sri Lanka) questioned whether women have been meaningfully heard in the #MeToo and #HeforShe movements, as patriarchy is still widely prevalent.  “I, a girl from the generation who has seen both war and peace, hope that we can end violence against women”, she said.  “Every baby boy in my country will grow up to respect women.”  Noting that Sri Lanka had the world’s first female Prime Minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, in 1960, she said women now participate in sports, politics and science, or as at‑home mothers.  The 30‑year war created many women‑led households, which now face the social stigma of widowhood, and suffer psychological and other forms of trauma.  As such, psychosocial well‑being programmes are carried out and a counsellor has been introduced to every divisional secretariat, together with a woman development officer.  The National Committee on Women is working to create a society that understands, believes and practices gender sensitization, she said, citing a minimum 25 per cent representation in local government.  If women are considered emotional and sensitive, that will only make them more powerful, as they decide with both heart and mind.  Making society a safe place for women is not only the business of Government, she said, “it is the business of everyone, mine, yours and us all.”

CARLA MUCAVI, Director, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said that nearly 80 per cent of the world’s extreme poor live in rural areas.  Women represent 45 per cent of the rural labour force and yet face greater constraints to accessing resources and services.  The 2030 Agenda has dedicated targets across the Sustainable Development Goals that map measures to lift women out of poverty, including equal access by women to land and productive assets, and enhancing their food security.  Evidence shows that agriculture policies that close the gender gap are among the most effective measures to reduce poverty.  Recalling FAO’s strong partnerships with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), World Food Programme (WFP), and United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN‑Women), she underscored the agency’s commitment to foster gender parity, and noted that at the end of 2017, women held 41 per cent of all international posts.

VINICIUS PINHEIRO, International Labour Organization, expressed regret that there is still a long way to go in achieving gender equality in the labour market, adding:  “Simply being female means a 30 per cent less chance of participation.”  He called for greater efforts, as only 32 women serve as chief executives of Fortune 500 companies, and globally, women still earn 23 per cent less than men per month.  It will take more than 70 years to close the gender wage gap.  He cited efforts by the Equal Pay International Coalition to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 8.5.  The lack of accessible, quality and affordable care services means that women shoulder the responsibility for unpaid care work, performing 76.2 per cent of total hours — more than three times as much as men.  Adequate investment in care services can create 269 million jobs by 2030, he said.

Ms. BANAKEN (Cameroon) described efforts to address female genital mutilation, a practice among minorities carried out in two of the country’s 10 regions.  Although residual, this phenomenon remains a concern.  Revision of the penal code in 2016 means that genital mutilation is now punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison.  The penalty is life imprisonment if death results to the victim.  The Government has reached out to religious and community leaders, and victims receive psychosocial support and rehabilitation.  Describing efforts to improve women’s representation in politics, he said the electoral code, adopted in 2012, provides for a minimum 30 per cent quota for female candidates in regional and national consultations.

For information media. Not an official record.