Children Exposed to ‘Unimaginable’ Violence during Conflict, Expert Tells Third Committee as Delegates Call for Accountability, Legal Reforms
Child Dies Every Five Minutes as Result of Abuse, Special Representative Warns
Tens of thousands of children are killed, abused and deprived of their liberty during the many violent conflicts raging around the world, United Nations experts told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today in their clarion calls on Governments to safeguard their rights.
Briefing the Committee, Virginia Gamba, Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict — one of six experts updating delegates on a wide range of crimes perpetrated against children and ways to stop them — said conflict situations represent the worst kind of violations of children’s rights. Minors are exposed to “unimaginable” violence and deprived of liberty, she said. More than 24,000 violations were verified in 2018 in the world’s 20 conflict situations.
Further, she said recruitment continues unabated, with more than 7,000 children drawn into the frontlines of battle. Sexual violence against children remains underreported — due to lack of access, stigma and fear of reprisals — while nearly 2,500 children were verified as abducted. “It is our common responsibility to find durable and just solutions for all girls and boys affected by war,” she declared.
Along similar lines, Najat Maalla M’jid, Special Representative on Violence against Women, said that such brutality against children is a hidden and pervasive issue. “Every five minutes a child dies as a result of violence.” And every year, at least 1 billion children suffer some form of abuse. Peer-to-peer aggression is also on the rise, with fights, bullying and gang-related behaviour affecting millions of young people and their families, schools and communities.
Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), drew attention to another particularly vulnerable group of children — those without parental care — who are far more likely to be excluded, experience abuse and be exploited than children who grow up in the care of their parents. She stressed that the Convention on the Rights of the Child is about more than rights — it is also about the results demanded by those rights. As its thirtieth anniversary is celebrated, now is the time to summon the political will and investments needed to reach every child with the support they need.
Maud De Boer-Buquicchio, Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, including child prostitution, child pornography and other child sexual abuse material, described new manifestations of this “abhorrent crime”: among them, the exploitation of unaccompanied minors who have been forcibly displaced — and the consequences created by the for-profit nature of assisted reproductive technologies. Such abuse amplifies the risk of children being sold or bought “as commodities”, she said, calling for strong preventive measures and for cooperation between stakeholders nationally and internationally.
When the floor opened for debate, delegates decried such violence and called for answers. Many outlined various challenges, with Pakistan’s delegate describing the “grim reality” facing children in “occupied Jammu and Kashmir”. Since August, thousands of minors have been picked up in night-time raids. Children have died from pellet gun injuries and tear gas shells. She called on the international community, on UNICEF and the Security Council to come to Kashmir’s aid.
Zambia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that while gains have been made in reducing child marriage, a lack of access to health care, persistent HIV/AIDS infections and disparities in maternal mortality and child growth stunting hinder progress.
The European Union’s delegate meanwhile voiced concern about children deprived of parental care owing to violence, internal disturbances, armed conflicts, and other deep-seated social problems. In countries around the world, child-sensitive national budgeting should be designed to make these children visible.
Pointing one way forward, the representative of Saint Kitts and Nevis (on behalf of Caribbean Community (CARICOM)) said the region continues to bolster national and regional immunization and breastfeeding programmes and is well on the way to eliminating mother-to-child HIV transmission. In education, it is reorienting its policies to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Also speaking in the debate today were representatives of Norway (on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic countries), Botswana, Myanmar (on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN)), Pakistan, Japan and Iraq.
Also briefing the Third Committee were the Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, and the Independent Expert and lead author of the “Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty”.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 10 October, to continue its discussion on children’s rights.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to consider the promotion and protection of the rights of children.
Delegates had before them six reports by the Secretary‑General, titled: Global study on children deprived of liberty (document A/74/136), Sale and sexual exploitation of children, including child prostitution, child pornography and other child sexual abuse material (document A/74/162), Status of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (document A/74/231), The girl child (document A/74/246), Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict (document A/74/249), Annual report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children (document A/74/259).
The Committee also had before it the report titled, Follow-up to the outcome of the special session of the General Assembly on children (document A/74/240).
Briefings and Interactive Dialogues
VIRGINIA GAMBA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General of Children and Armed Conflict, said today’s conflict situations represent the worst kind of violations of children’s rights, providing a theatre in which tens of thousands of boys and girls are killed and abused. The international community must find durable solutions for all children affected by war by ensuring accountability and compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law. In that context, she pointed to the rights enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, encouraging States to accede to the Optional Protocol and join the already 170 State parties. Children are exposed to unimaginable violence during conflict and deprived of liberty, she said, noting that more than 24,000 violations were verified in 2018 in the world’s 20 conflict situations. The recruitment of children continues unabated, with more than 7,000 children drawn into the frontlines. She also spotlighted incidents of sexual violence against children, which remain underreported due to lack of access, stigma and fear of reprisals, noting that nearly 2,500 children were verified as abducted.
She drew attention to her engagement with parties to conflict and said United Nations teams on the ground have helped to significantly improve the protection of children in specific country situations. She pointed to the recent adoption of a commitment by parties in the Central African Republic, Syria and Yemen as examples. Additionally, sustained advocacy has prompted both States and armed groups to take positive measures, such as the adoption of a child rights law in Afghanistan, training for military focal points in Myanmar and a workshop to develop an action plan covering all six grave violations in South Sudan. She highlighted the essential role played by child protection advisers in peacekeeping and special political missions, as well as within United Nations agencies — particularly the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) — monitoring and verifying violations. She called for strengthening action plans and adopting additional preventative measures prior to the emergence of violations, noting that she launched the Global Coalition for the Reintegration of Child Soldiers as a way to generate ideas for ensuring sustainable support for child reintegration programmes.
When the floor opened for questions and comments, the representative of Canada recalled the 2018 launch of the workshop on the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers (known as the Vancouver Principles), adding that she looked forward to its effective implementation. The representative of the European Union underscored the importance of “full and long-term measures” to rehabilitate child soldiers, emphasized the importance of allocating more resources for data collection to ensure perpetrators are held accountable, and asked what more could be done to ensure more children speak out. The representative of Slovenia, aligning with the European Union, asked about lessons learned from the workshops held in Geneva to monitor the documentation of violations against children, reiterating her country’s support for psychosocial rehabilitation services for children in Ukraine, Gaza and Syria. Meanwhile, the representatives of Mali, Argentina, and the United Kingdom asked how to prevent further child recruitment and facilitate the reintegration of children formerly conscripted in conflict.
Along similar lines, the representative of France asked how the Special Representative’s mandate contributes to “countering impunity”, while Algeria’s representatives asked what Member States can do to eliminate violence against children and emphasize child protection. Germany’s representative stressed the need for more accountability with respect in Myanmar and Syria and asked the Special Representative to describe how this concern can be addressed, with concrete examples. Saudi Arabia’s representative, recalling the memorandum signed with the United Nations to protect children affected by armed conflict in Yemen, said his country will “implement the relevant conventions”.
The representative of Syria condemned a recent action plan that the United Nations signed with the Asayish Kurdish militia. Calling this move “irresponsible, dangerous conduct”, he stressed that the militia has kidnapped children from camps and conscripted them as soldiers.
Also taking part in the interactive dialogue were representatives of Spain, Morocco, Belgium, South Africa, Sudan, Switzerland, Guatemala, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Yemen.
Ms. GAMBA, in response to Canada’s delegate, underscored the need for additional resources, particularly to peacekeeping missions, and increases in the number of child protection advisors in the field, as sexual violence is underreported. Livelihood initiatives and education are among the most important elements for peace. Accountability at the national and local levels is also needed. She also called for security sector and justice reforms in countries emerging from conflict so they can take onboard strategies to combat sexual violence. To this end, religious leaders could send specific messages to their communities and help end the stigma associated with such abuse.
She agreed with Argentina’s delegate that more can be done to protect children in conflict, especially by providing a platform for non-governmental organizations so they can start their campaigns.
To the United Kingdom’s delegate, she said more can be done to foster reintegration and drew attention to the Friends of Reintegration Group. Thus far, reintegration efforts have been inadequate due to a lack of funds. Also, the nexus between protection and prevention must be constructive and she stressed the importance of education, employment, psychosocial support, peacekeeping, and support for UNICEF and non-governmental organizations in that context.
Responding to Algeria’s delegate, she spotlighted national legislation criminalizing violations of children’s rights, and more broadly called for fighting impunity, both nationally and regionally. Without legislation, there is no force to advance accountability. Standard operation procedures are fundamental for combating violations against children and accountability processes should be employed regionally.
She replied to Syria’s delegate by stressing that parties must understand that they are protecting children; nothing they do gives legitimacy to armed groups.
NAJAT MAALLA M’JID, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Women, said that violence against children is a hidden and pervasive issue. “Every five minutes a child dies as a result of violence. Every year, at least 1 billion children suffer some form of violence”, she said. There are disturbing trends and increasing challenges that threaten the gains made for children, including climate change, conflicts and humanitarian disasters. Peer-to-peer violence is on the rise, with fights, bullying and gang-related abuse that affect millions of young people and their families, schools and communities.
To end violence against children by 2030, she said children must be placed at the forefront of the political agenda, with action galvanized at the global, regional, national and local levels to prevent and respond to all forms of violence in all settings. There also should be a focus on children as a distinct group, as defined by the Convention on the Rights of the Child. More effective cooperation among the many actors in this field is essential. “Children’s lives are not divided thematically to correspond to the mandates of the organizations working on their behalf”, she said. Rather, children are often exposed to more than one form of violence and in more than one setting. Taking effective action requires financing and investment in children — prioritizing those in situations of greatest vulnerability and marginalization — as well as reliable disaggregated data to properly reflect the situation of all children.
In the ensuing interactive dialogue, the representative of Japan stressed the critical importance of ending violence against children, for which a comprehensive approach and collaboration among various sectors are essential. The representative of Algeria outlined the Government’s involvement in broader African efforts to fight child marriage, while Morocco’s delegate underlined the importance of using all relevant instruments to promote children’s rights.
Spain’s delegate meanwhile stressed that violence — which generates physical, sociological and legal consequences — is a reality for children in many countries. On that point, the representative of Mexico called for urgent action to end children’s suffering and pointed to his country’s action plan to address their needs, which involves efforts to counter bullying.
The European Union’s representative pointed out that more than 1 billion children experienced psychological and physical violence in 2018 and that children with disabilities are four times more likely to suffer abuse. She asked the Special Representative about her priorities for the current term. Along similar lines, the representative of Portugal asked how the Special Representative perceives the role of health sector in ending violence against children and whether there are groups of children she considers especially vulnerable.
Focusing on solutions, Slovenia’s representative highlighted a new Government programme for children, stressing that prevention and empowerment are a top priority on the agenda. The representative of Brazil underscored the shared responsibility to protect children, especially from exploitation, while the representative of South Africa pointed to the long-term psychological consequences of sexual exploitation. Qatar’s delegate described education initiatives launched by his country, focused especially on children in armed conflict situations.
Ms. M’JID replied that preventing violence everywhere must be part of a broader vision that ties in with social development and family policies. Preventing all forms of violence against children is not just about Goal 16.2 (peace, justice, strong institutions). It involves all the other Goals as well. Prevention cannot be achieved without an integrated approach.
On cooperation and non-Governmental organizations, she stressed that a child protection policy cannot just originate in a social development ministry alone; it must be a State policy from the highest level of Government, building on what already exists. It is important that local government and the private sector are involved, along with children themselves and their communities. Making a successful policy means bringing everyone together.
Turning to the regional dimension, she said her predecessor had participated in cross-regional meetings, efforts which she will bolster, as it is important to scale up good practices, examine the challenges and identify ways to overcome them. Regional meetings allow States to learn lessons from others, offering national visibility. To questions about participation, she said children’s voices must be taken into account. Their participation is not just an exhibit; they must be representative of all children, including the most vulnerable.
CHARLOTTE PETRI GORNITZKA, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said the Convention on the Rights of the Child is about more than rights; it is also about the results demanded by those rights. The three reports presented to the Committee all demonstrate how far the international community has come and how much work still must be done to ensure that every child enjoys her rights to health, protection, education, water and sanitation. Turning first to the Follow-up Report to the Special Session of the General Assembly on Children is a reminder that a child born today has a much greater chance to survive and thrive than in 2008. Indeed, most children now survive past their fifth birthdays, more are enrolled in school than ever before, more are being vaccinated and more child marriages are being prevented.
She said the Secretary-General’s report on the Girl Child serves as a reminder that despite progress, girls continue to face serious challenges that require both urgent attention and investment. This is particularly the case for girls in rural areas who face not only multi-dimensional poverty, but also discrimination, exclusion and unequal access to basic social services like water and education. The Secretary-General’s report on the Rights of the Child meanwhile focuses on another particularly vulnerable group of children — those without parental care. They are far more likely to be excluded, to experience violence and abuse and to be exploited than children who grow up in the care of their parents. As the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child is celebrated, now is the time to summon the political will and investments needed to reach every child with the support they need.
LAZAROUS KAPAMBWE (Zambia), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that while the number of deaths of children under five dropped from 12.6 million in 1990 to 5.4 million in 2017, that population in sub-Saharan Africa still accounts for two-thirds of global deaths from malaria. Millions of eligible children in the region do not benefit from malaria chemoprevention, mainly due to lack of funding. Poverty, discrimination, natural disasters, violence and conflict continue to rob millions of children of the rights enjoyed by their peers in more developed countries. Meanwhile, they also face threats from humanitarian emergencies, State fragility, instability and displacement. While more children are in school now more than ever before, only 22 per cent of countries have at least one year of compulsory pre-primary education and adolescent girls continue to face obstacles to schooling. A lack of access to health care, persistent HIV/AIDS infections in some areas and disparities in maternal mortality and child growth stunting are other factors hindering progress. He spotlighted significant gains made in reducing child marriage. The fight against that practice has been institutionalized in most African countries through national development strategies and 20 out of 30 States in the region have launched national campaigns to end child marriage. However, he expressed concern about the persistent threat posed by human traffickers, noting that 30 per cent of those trafficked between 2016 and 2017 were children — mostly girls.
COLLEN V KELAPILE (Botswana), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and associating himself with the African Group, said education is a fundamental human right and an effective instrument for breaking inter-generational poverty. “The provision of education to children, especially the girl child, reduces gender discriminatory practices and keeps the girl child in school and postpones marriages,” he added. SADC adopted the Model Law on Eradicating Child Marriage and Protecting Children Already in Marriage in 2016 to address early and forced marriages. Significant progress has been made in outlawing child marriages and enrolling girls who fall pregnant back into school after delivery. SADC member States have adopted family policies to protect children against all forms of violence, including gender-based violence. He also stressed the need to address the devastating effects of the HIV and AIDS pandemic, given the exposure rates faced by adolescents and young people. In that regard, it is essential to promote greater access to health services and reproductive health care. This year SADC member States will present a draft resolution titled “The Girl Child”, aimed at promoting the rights and welfare of the girl child.
MONA JUUL (Norway), speaking on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic countries, said that teenager Greta Thunberg’s bravery shows that young people globally are challenging leaders to act and take responsibility. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely ratified human rights instrument around the world, he continued. The Nordic-Baltic States are proud to have made the principles, rights and obligations of the Convention parts of their legislation. Norway and Denmark are increasing their support of “Education Cannot Wait”, a global fund and partnership dedicated to delivering quality and education to children and young people in areas affected by crisis and conflict. In countries affected by conflict, girls are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than are boys, he said. Young people need comprehensive sexuality education to make knowledgeable decisions about their lives.
SILVIO GONZATO, European Union delegation, said the bloc will present its third annual resolution on the rights of the child to the Third Committee. The theme of this year’s resolution is: children without parental care. He voiced concern about the large number of children deprived of parental care owing to violence, internal disturbances, armed conflicts, and other deep-seated social problems. In countries around the world, child-sensitive national budgeting should be designed and implemented to make children without parental care visible. Within the European Union, the promotion of quality alternative care is considered a case of social investment in the best interests of the child. Through bilateral and multilateral cooperation, the European Union will continue to pursue political dialogue to promote and protect the rights of the child without parental care, he said.
Briefings and Interactive Dialogues
LUIS ERNESTO PEDERNERA REYNA, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, said that despite huge improvements in the lives of children globally during the last 30 years, challenges persist. Poverty and exclusion, criminalization and violence, as well as armed conflicts and climate change, continue to hamper children’s full enjoyment of their rights. For this reason, in March 2019, the Committee asked States parties to renew their commitment to the Convention by pledging to take one specific and measurable action for the protection and realization of children’s rights. Some 32 pledges have been received so far. The Convention has the highest rate of ratifications and accessions of all United Nations human rights instruments. However, its three Optional Protocols continue to be characterized by a rather slow pace of ratification.
He said that during its May session, the Committee adopted its latest General Commitment dedicated to children’s rights and the child justice system, which replaces General Comment No. 10 (2007) on children’s rights in juvenile justice. It reflects developments that have occurred since 2008 as a result of the promulgation of international and regional standards, the Committee’s jurisprudence, new knowledge about child and adolescent development and evidence of effective practices. It also reflects trends relating to the minimum age of criminal responsibility and the persistent use of deprivation of liberty. The Committee is also working on children’s rights and the digital environment, showing that after 30 years the Convention is a “living” document that can be applied to new contexts.
In the ensuing interactive dialogue, the representative of Switzerland asked about the most significant challenges related to the promotion of children’s rights. Indeed, children deprived of parental protection are more vulnerable to having their rights violated than children with that protection, said the representative of the European Union. Given that this group is not represented in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, she requested specific recommendations that Member States can apply in this context.
The representative of Spain asked the Chair’s view on which issues in the Conventions should be subject to updates or possible modification, and about the issues the Committee is considering for future General Comments. The Russian Federation’s delegate meanwhile asked what the Committee is doing to achieve greater transparency in its work. The United Kingdom’s delegate focused on actions to ensure that children born of sexual violence in conflict are not left behind and addressing the stigma that they face.
Mr. PEDERNERA drew attention to the Convention’s Article 12 in focusing on the participation of children. The traditional relationship between adult institutions and children has changed. Meeting with children has changed the Committee’s understanding of certain issues, for example, the importance of the right to play. Children themselves have communicated the importance of that issue.
On the right of a child to grow up in a familiar environment, he said the Convention’s preamble states that the family is the natural place for the child to grow. Institutionalization is not good for children, which is why when States approved that preamble, they were visionaries. To a query from Spain’s delegate, he said the Committee is focused on the rights of children in the digital environment for the time being. Regarding transparency, he said the Committee’s sessions are webcast and information is available on the website whenever reports are submitted. On the question of children and sexual violence, he said the Committee cooperates with other treaty body Committees in that regard.
Also taking part in the interactive dialogue were representatives of Germany, Japan and Norway.
MAUD DE BOER-BUQUICCHIO, Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, including child prostitution, child pornography and other child sexual abuse material, described new manifestations of this “abhorrent crime” that had resulted from changing information and communication technologies, such as predators grooming and exploiting children, the exploitation of unaccompanied children who had been forcibly displaced, and the consequences of the for-profit nature of assisted reproductive technologies. All have far-reaching implications for rights-based responses at the global and national levels. Such phenomena amplified the risk of children being sold or bought “as commodities” for exploitation, she said, stressing the need for strong preventive measures and for cooperation between stakeholders nationally and internationally.
Moving on to surrogacy, she noted the lack of international consensus from a legal or ethical perspective, with approaches taken by States running the gamut from prohibition to a lack of regulation. The consequent regulatory vacuum means that children born through surrogacy are at risk of having their fundamental rights breached, she said, calling for strict regulations and oversight to prevent the sale and exploitation of children in the context of surrogacy. Any attempt to commodify them contravenes Article 35 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and Article 1 of the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, she said.
She went on to describe “minimum safeguards” for the protection of the rights of surrogate-born children, developed after dialogue with the Human Rights Council and country visits. There is an “undeniable need” for standards and empirical studies on the long-term impact on all stakeholders, including surrogates, gamete-donors and intending parents, she stressed, and to ensure that children are not discriminated against based on the way they have been conceived. She outlined safeguards that States should put in place to protect surrogacy-born children, such as sanctions and penalties on for-profit intermediaries, for independent determinations of parentage orders from jurisdictions that do not undertake protective measures in the child’s interest, and for a legal framework for identity rights. Such minimum safeguards could ideally take the shape of an international instrument such as a model law, she said, welcoming commendable efforts towards this objective, including the parentage project of The Hague Conference on Private International Law.
The representative of United States stated that her country has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and is not bound by it, although it is a party to the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. The United States does not accept the premise that the Optional Protocol creates any obligations due to surrogacy, adding that it is “inappropriate” for the Special Rapporteur to make recommendations on an issue outside her mandate. The representative of Spain asked about any type of structure that might protect children’s rights when it comes to children and mothers. Meanwhile, the representative from the European Union, raising the threat posed by intermediaries, asked how the concern could be addressed, and the representative of the United Kingdom once again asked about what the international community could do on the issue of children born in the context of sexual violence and conflict.
The representative of the Russian Federation underscored her concern that “in spite of objections”, surrogacy continues to be viewed as a form of trafficking. Expressing concern about the sexual orientation of parents, she called for the use of internationally agreed upon language “which does not undermine traditional family values”.
Also speaking were the representatives of Spain and Ireland as well as the representative of the European Union.
Ms. DE BOER-BUQUICCHIO, responding on the topic of surrogacy, offered clarity from the perspective of children’s rights, despite that surrogacy is not exclusively a child’s rights issue. This is why she recommends more research on the long-term impact of surrogacy practice on all stakeholders, including surrogates, parents and children.
To the United States’ representative, she said the fact that surrogacy is a contract-based agreement with irrevocable consent on the side of the surrogate raises issues. In addition, it is important that the capacity of the parents to care for children be appropriately assessed. She is not convinced that mere contractual law could answer that question. To Spain’s delegate, she said she has not taken a firm decision on whether surrogacy should be regulated or prohibited; the answer falls within the remit of States. To Ireland’s delegate, she welcomed the reference to the need for record keeping, so that children, when grown up, can access relevant information, for example on health-related matters.
Regarding points made by the European Union’s representative, she stressed the importance of putting in place regulatory frameworks for surrogacy. This framework should be applied in international surrogacy arrangements, as it often happens in jurisdictions where there is no prior suitability assessment of the parents. When intermediaries exercise psychological control on surrogates prior to and during the birth, the concept of the sale of children takes on full significance, she said.
Responding to the Russian Federation’s delegate, she said today’s discussion is not about situations in which the sale of children arises, but rather, to address the rights of children born from surrogacy. She is not talking about trafficking but about sale, which is clearly related to her mandate. To the United Kingdom’s delegate, she welcomed the country’s commitment to address the online sexual exploitation, stressing that the division between online and offline is not clear.
MANFRED NOWAK, Lead author of the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, said that the Convention on the Rights of the Child is clear when dealing with the right to personal liberty. The detention of children is only permitted as a measure of last resort, meaning that children shall, in principle, not be deprived of liberty. Detention can only be justified as an exceptional measure on a case-by-case basis if non-custodial solutions are either unavailable or not deemed adequate in the circumstances of the case. Data collected for this Global Study show a totally different picture. Using the most conservative estimates, there are 1.5 million children who are deprived every year of their personal liberty by a decision of a court or administrative authority. The real figures of children deprived of liberty in all types of institutions — including police custody, pre-trial detention, prisons, migration detention centres or military camps — are much higher and possibly exceed 7 million children per year worldwide. These figures illustrate a huge discrepancy between law and practice.
He said societies appear to have forgotten one simple truth: Children should not be detained, because deprivation of liberty means deprivation of rights, agency, visibility, opportunities and love. When a child commits a crime, societies must be forgiving and use non-custodial solutions. Detention simply does not serve the assumed purpose to prevent crime. The same holds true for immigration detention and the institutionalization of children, because it will neither deter irregular migration nor provide the right care for children in need. Childhood is when children develop their personalities, emotional relationships with others, social and educational skills. Deprivation of liberty constitutes a form of structural violence.
In the ensuing interactive dialogue, the representative of Belgium asked about the sharing of best State practices to eliminate the detention of children. The representative of Liechtenstein requested the Independent Expert’s thoughts on child slavery and trafficking as a form of the deprivation of liberty of children. Mexico’s delegate asked about best practices for disaggregating data, in particular, on the additional violations suffered by girls.
The representative of the European Union meanwhile requested the Independent Expert’s interpretation of the numbers in his Study, while Austria’s delegate was interested in generating awareness around children who are at risk of being deprived of liberty. Morocco’s representative, recalling the Independent Expert’s remark that each child should be raised in a climate of understanding and love, pointed to an international database and requested details on its content and its methods for collecting data. The representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) meanwhile said that children associated with groups designated as terrorists deserve special attention as they are often at greater risk of being under-protected by existing legal measures. She called on States to not selectively apply the law for these children.
Also taking part in the interactive dialogue were representatives of the Russian Federation, Switzerland, Colombia and Qatar.
Mr. NOWAK replied to Belgium’s delegate that the Study identified best State practices. Many States pointed to practices that have had an impact on the declining numbers of children deprived of liberty, for example, reducing the number of children in institutions by following the United Nations guidelines for their alternative care. To Morocco’s delegate, he replied that the database is far from complete and he has received data from more than 100 sources. In the future, this database must be regularly maintained and updated, and States should provide data on children being deprived of liberty. Responding to Austria’s delegate, he noted the best practice of having police officers trained in a child-sensitive manner so that every police station has an officer with child-specific expertise.
SAM CONDOR (Saint Kitts and Nevis), speaking on behalf of Caribbean Community (CARICOM), highlighted the Community’s commitments to children’s health and education, as well as the protection of migrant children in the aftermath of disasters. The biggest health challenge facing the bloc’s children is obesity and its recent commitment to universal health coverage strengthens regional policy instruments. Moreover, CARICOM continues to bolster national and regional immunization and breastfeeding programmes and is well on the way to eliminating mother-to-child HIV transmission. On education, CARICOM continues to reorient its policies to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics. On climate change, he said Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas illustrated the relentless destruction to schools, homes and communities. In such crises, children are susceptible to violence and exploitation, and he called for scaled up efforts to ensure that children are always protected in all places. The bloc is also committed to evidence-based policies and multisectoral approaches to minimize crime and violence in schools, he noted.
HAU DO SUAN (Myanmar), speaking on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the region is focused on increasing social investments to lift children out of poverty. ASEAN is strengthening legal frameworks on child rights, including preventing all forms of violence against them and protecting their rights to education, health and other basic services. Close cooperation with United Nations agencies and intergovernmental bodies is essential. Noting that the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children promotes regional guidelines to end trafficking in children, child labour, child marriage, children’s online exploitation and school bullying, he said it also prioritizes the provision of national identification and birth registration, especially for children in vulnerable situations. On the issue of children and armed conflict, ASEAN is engaged both at national and regional levels.
MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said that children’s rights continue to be disregarded, despite considerable progress in child mortality rates and stronger safeguards against violence and exploitation. Children are worst affected by armed conflicts, foreign occupation, and humanitarian crises. On the report of the Independent expert on children deprived of liberty, which touched on the plight of children under occupation, she drew attention to the “grim reality” facing children in “occupied Jammu and Kashmir”, adding that since “its illegal annexation” by India in August, thousands of children have been picked up in night-time raids. Recalling children killed due to pellet gun injuries and tear gas shells, she observed that India does not respect the rights of children or international norms. Noting that the recommendations of two reports by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights were yet to be implemented, she called on the international community, on UNICEF, and the Security Council to come to Kashmir’s aid.
AKANE MIYAZAKI (Japan) said that 2019 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of Japan’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The country has also taken steps towards formulating a national action plan to end violence against children. Japan will continue its efforts to formulate the action plan toward 2020, she said. It also enacted a law in 2019 to amend the Child Welfare Act and other relevant laws to strengthen measures to prevent child abuse and clearly prohibit corporal punishment. Japan contributed $5.9 million to the End Violence Fund. That contribution has supported 12 humanitarian projects in Uganda and Nigeria, she said, encouraging other partners to help expand the Fund’s humanitarian window to end violence against children affected by conflicts.
Ms. AL ABTAN (Iraq) said that Iraq has always sought to protect the human dignity of children who are at risk. It created a Governmental department to combat the problem of homelessness among children, by providing them with housing and quality education. In addition, Iraq passed legislation making it mandatory for children to remain in school and prohibiting them from entering the labour market prematurely. There are also action plans to support children in health, education and other areas, she said, welcoming cooperation with UNICEF to end child labour, and with the High Commissioner to identify violations against children in armed conflict. The Special Representative is working with Iraq to establish an action plan with clear timetables to provide children with a conflict-free environment.