Seventy-eighth Session,
13th & 14th Meetings (AM & PM)

As Children Increasingly Suffer from Armed Conflicts, Forced Recruitment, Online Exploitation, Third Committee Stresses Urgent Need to Ramp Up Protection

Cyberbullying and sexual exploitation and abuse are among rising online threats to children, who are also killed in conflicts and forcibly recruited as combatants, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) heard today, as delegates continued their general discussion on promotion and protection of children’s rights.

During their general debate, delegates warned that children are subject to illegal detention in conflicts as well as transfer to third countries.  Amid rising use of the internet, representatives also spotlighted concerns over cyberbullying and sexual exploitation online, urging Governments to step up protections.

Ireland’s delegate noted that schools and hospitals are increasingly vulnerable to attack in conflicts. “Beyond the apparent violence of these attacks, it’s important that their lasting impacts are also addressed,” she said.  Referencing Azerbaijan’s attack on Nagorno-Karabakh in September, the Armenian delegate said that “several children were killed; dozens were wounded”.  The wounded were evacuated to Armenia, where they continue to receive medical treatment.

Thousands of children worldwide also have their childhoods taken through forcible recruitment as combatants in conflicts, the Nigerian delegate said.  “Many of these children are abducted, drugged, brainwashed, recruited forcefully and used as human shields.”  The representative of the Central African Republic said the prevalence of child soldiers has increased in that country, spotlighting major violations of children’s rights there.

Meanwhile, children who flee conflict zones are exposed to criminal networks, the representative for Ecuador said, while Syria and Italy highlighted threats to children detained and abducted in conflicts.  The Syrian delegate said 58,000 children and women from terrorist combatant families are being held in illegitimate prisons in the country’s north-east.

The representative of Italy voiced concern over children transferred to the Russian Federation from Ukraine.  “We encourage all possible efforts aimed at facilitating family tracing […] and we call on all parties to give child protection actors access to these children.”   Ethiopia’s delegate said that, considering the country’s national-security challenge over the past three years, a concerted effort is being made to provide protection and recovery support for affected children.

Taking a different approach to child protection, Tunisia urged the international community to define children in terms of of their perseverance and will-power, not geography or nationality.  She spoke of migrant children “who never had a chance to attend school, who make the sky their roof or find themselves in a boat towards the unknown”.

The protection of children online was taken up by delegates from India, France, Georgia, Sri Lanka and Guyana, variously citing the threat of cyberbullying and sexual exploitation and abuse.

The delegate for Guyana cautioned that new technologies present dangers to children, exposing them to new forms of cyberbullying and sexual exploitation.  Expressing concern over artificial intelligence (AI), the representative for Sri Lanka urged Governments to use child-centred screening. “I say it’s a brave new world, and we need to make sure that our children are prepared for it,” he stressed.

On another tack, the representative of the United States spotlighted root causes of threats to children, among them extreme poverty.  In addressing this hindrance, he said:  “One of the best investments a country can make to eliminate extreme poverty is to boost economic growth and promote a peaceful society.”

Citing difficulties to eradicating that threat, the delegate for Lesotho said his country had to abandon plans to roll out free meals in secondary schools because of its “ever-increasing” debt burden.  “As a result, we continue to advocate for the restructuring of the international financial institutions in order to make them more democratic and fit for purpose for which they were established,” he said.


BOAZ RODKIN (Israel) noted that the almost universally adopted Convention on the Rights of the Child outlines the protections that children are entitled to, but that Governments must ensure them.  Millions of children, however, are left behind, affected by global crises and living in poverty.  One strength of Israeli society is diversity; it engenders adaptability.  Efforts to protect children in all groups include the National Council for the Child, from which multiple services are offered. Moreover, the country provides support for children with disabilities for their entire lives.  They receive free education up to the age of 21, with specific attention in the classroom by specialized educators, ensuring that all children’s individual needs are met.  To involve children and youth in decision-making, he reported that children’s civic participation in councils and even the Parliament is encouraged. The country is happy to share best practices with the international community, he added.

PETER MOHAN MAITHRI PIERIS (Sri Lanka), reporting that girls are high performers in his country’s education sector, said the Government has taken steps to remove disparities, including introducing a technical education stream in its advanced-level curriculum.  To ensure participation of all students, including girls, 1.06 million students are provided a morning meal.  However, he expressed concerns over artificial intelligence, urging Governments to use systems that meet the requirements for child-centred screening that prioritize fairness and non-discrimination for children.  “I say it’s a brave new world, and we need to make sure that our children are prepared for it,” he stressed, adding that experts have warned that children may form emotional bonds with artificial intelligence, overshadowing human relationships and hindering social skills.  “It is said that every child you encounter is a divine appointment.  We must therefore give them hope of a better tomorrow, a brighter future,” he emphasized.

NEKWAYA HELALIA NALITYE IILEKA (Namibia), aligning with the African Group and the Southern African Development Community, said that, “as a youthful nation,” her country places the welfare of children at the forefront of Government policies.  Namibia has implemented legislation and policies focusing on child protection, education, health, disability and participation.  Recognizing the transformative power of education in the development and empowerment of children, the country has enacted laws to ensure free access to primary and secondary school education for all children, irrespective of economic and social status.  Noting that hunger and malnutrition pose a challenge for children in Namibia, given its status as a developing and drought- and flood-stricken country, she highlighted the School Feeding Programme, which provides mid-morning meals to nearly 330,000 learners nationwide.  Namibia is also actively working on the Electronic Transactions and Cybercrime Bill, which addresses issues such as online child pornography, she said, adding that “mere rhetoric about children being the future is insufficient”.

ARAM HAKOBYAN (Armenia) said the Government works to ensure equal rights and opportunities for children, regardless of nationality, race, gender, language, religion, social background or other circumstances.  The humanitarian crisis that evolved after Azerbaijan’s recent aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh had a particularly disproportionate impact on vulnerable groups.  About a third of the 100,000 persons who were forcibly displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh after Azerbaijan’s brutal attack on 19 September are children.  “Several children were killed; dozens were wounded during this attack,” he said. The wounded children were evacuated to Armenia, where they continue to receive medical treatment.  The Government of Armenia has taken steps towards ensuring that all rights of displaced children are adequately protected.  As of yesterday, more than 6,500 forcibly displaced children were registered in the public schools of Armenia in areas and communities where their families have found accommodations, he added.

ALASSANE ISAAC OUATTARA (Burkina Faso), associating himself with the African Group, said that children represent 51.78 per cent of the country’s population.  To strengthen children’s rights, many texts and laws have been adopted to ensure the financial, material and moral well-being of minors.  Pointing out that the security crisis has led to massive population displacement, he reported that children represented 58.50 per cent of the total number of internally displaced persons in March. Furthermore, in April, over 600 schools were closed, he said, which encouraged children to drop out and reinforced the risk of them being forcefully enrolled by armed terrorist groups. To reduce impacts of the school system crisis, Burkina Faso has set up 32 children-friendly spaces in camps for the internally displaced for the 2023–2024 school year; subsidized education for 1,155 girls and boys; and provided school kits to 51,000 students.

MARWA JABOU BESSADOK (Tunisia) said the rights and well-being of children are a top priority that her country pursues in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), civil society and the private sector, with a focus on children in all phases of their lives, citing one national programme that supports school attendance.  Access to justice for children and young people is also a priority, whether as victims, survivors, witnesses or suspects, she said.  Within the framework of South‑South cooperation, Tunisia is innovating approaches and best practices, underscoring the importance of children being defined by their perseverance and willpower, not geography or nationality.  For those who never had a chance to attend school, who make the sky their roof or find themselves in a boat toward an unknown destiny — for all these children, Tunisia calls on the international community and the United Nations to make this world a better place.

NARMIN AHANGARI (Azerbaijan) said her Government continues to strengthen its national child protection system, including through social services, access to justice and monitoring of children’s rights.  A new strategy and action plan was adopted to align the child protection system with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Also, particular attention is being paid to children who are experiencing additional vulnerability, including orphans and those affected by epidemics and natural disasters. Accountability for past violations is key for the effective protection and prevention of new crimes, particularly children impacted by conflict, she said, adding that children continue to suffer due to long-term consequences following the end of hostilities.  In the aftermath of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, she reported that children are still dying due to the former refusing to share accurate information vis-à-vis landmines laid on her country’s territory.  Furthermore, around 3,000 citizens of Azerbaijan — including 71 children — are still missing as a consequence of the conflict.

ANEL BAKYTBEKKYZY (Kazakhstan) said that the country is in a structural transformation, with the Government prioritizing support for children and their families.  In January 2024, the National Fund for Children will commence investments for children so that when they reach the age of 18, they will have a State fund for housing and education.  Moreover, the “Keleshek” Fund will supplement the National Fund, ensuring access to higher education.  With support from UNICEF, the country introduced “mapping the capacity of the national system of Kazakhstan” to respond to the needs to migrant children. In addition, working with UNICEF, the country’s Child Well-Being Index was produced, measuring 56 factors in four domains including family and society as well as public policy.  Detailing other advances made in affordable health care and in education, she spotlighted the Quality Education “Educated Nation” for 2021—2025 national project that aims to reduce the gap in the quality of education between urban and rural environments.

SAIMA SALEEM (Pakistan) said that despite legislative standards and commitments, the international community is off track in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their associated targets relating to children. With 40 per cent of its population below the age of 18, her country accords the highest priority to protecting and promoting the rights of children.  They will, after all, be the drivers and beneficiaries of development and prosperity in Pakistan.  ‑Like many other developing countries, the COVID19 crisis, climate change and conflicts have severely damaged Pakistan’s economy and have had detrimental impacts on the rights of children.  Moreover, the epic floods last year affected 33 million people, including 10 million children.  She stressed that the SDGs Stimulus proposed by the Secretary-General must be realized. Technical resources must be made available and designed to correspond to the national circumstances of each developing country to promote and protect rights of children.

ROISIN LEONARD (Ireland), aligning with the European Union, said all States must do more to promote and protect the rights of children.  She expressed deep concern that children across the world continue to face grave violations and abuses of their human rights, particularly in armed conflicts. Schools and hospitals are particularly vulnerable to attack.  “It's unacceptable that in 2022, recorded instances have more than doubled globally.  Beyond the apparent violence of these attacks, it's important that their lasting impacts are also addressed.”  Conflicts too often create long-term barriers to rights such as health care, food and access to education. In that context, she said it is “appalling that girls in Afghanistan continue to be denied their right to education”.  This is a flagrant abuse of children's rights, she said, calling on the Taliban to reverse its decision immediately.”

VEOMANEE MEUNLUANG (Lao People's Democratic Republic), aligning with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), noted that 37 per cent of her country’s population are children under 15, adding that it is committed to protecting their rights.  Recently passing a raft of legislation and policies to that end, she highlighted the second Five-Year National Plan of Action on the Prevention and Elimination of Violence against Women and Children (2021—2025) as well as the institutional framework under Counseling Centre for Women and Children, which offers support to child victims of domestic violence and sexual exploitation.  Improved access to flexible digital learning for children in rural and urban areas also benefits children.  This year, the Lao Women’s Union, in collaboration with UNICEF and ChildFund, co-organized an awareness-raising event — “Investing in Our Future Means Investing in Our Children” — promoting the crucial role of children in addressing climate issues and fostering sustainable practices.

JONATHAN SHRIER (United States of America) pointed out that investing in girls’ education contributes to a decrease in gender-based violence; child, early and forced marriages; child mortality; and child stunting. Recognizing the importance of supporting and uplifting children, his Government has invested $350 million at the national level to improve child protective services and community-based child abuse prevention programmes.  This year, his country formed a Task Force on children’s online health and safety, he said, noting that President Joseph R. Biden has announced a strategy on youth resilience in response to the youth mental health crisis. Spotlighting that Washington, D.C., is preparing its first ever national adolescent health action plan, he added: “One of the best investments a country can make to eliminate extreme poverty is to boost economic growth and promote a peaceful society.”

ELIZABETH NORALMA MENDEZ GRUEZO (Ecuador) said her country’s Constitution takes note of the rights of children, which are also protected by other aspects of the legal framework.  All national institutions are aware of and in support of the rights of children, with good policies in place, including programmes to provide support for children and families in extreme poverty.  More so, it is important to remember that many children who flee conflict zones are in danger because they are exposed to criminal networks.  Further, as technology evolves, it is key to protect children on the Internet, she emphasized, spotlighting a national law aimed at preventing and combating digital sexual violence, cybercrime and exposure to sexual content.  Highlighting the plight of children exposed to armed conflict, she underscored that it is of pivotal importance for regional States and the United Nations to protect children in conflict. 

SAMUEL ISA CHALA (Ethiopia), aligning with the African Group, said children account for the most important segment of Ethiopia’s demography, with 71 per cent of the population under 30.  Thus, children’s rights and well-being are given priority, primarily through poverty-reduction efforts.  Milestones include reducing child mortality and enhancing universal access to quality education.  Ethiopia is also implementing its National Action Plan to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labour and has raised the minimum working age to 15, from 14.  On track to attain universal education by 2030, in alignment with the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063, it has implemented school feeding programmes that have an overwhelming leadership by women. Considering the national-security challenge over the past three years, a concerted effort is being made to provide protection and recovery support for affected children; his Government is engaged with the Office of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.  In light of that, he emphasized that the situation in Ethiopia does not warrant inclusion in the Special Representative’s report.

ELIE ALTARSHA (Syria) said his Government places the utmost importance on education and is committed to protecting children’s rights. However, as the economic embargo imposed on his country demonstrates, many countries are adopting hostile approaches to Syria.  Turning to the issue of child recruitment by terrorist groups, he highlighted that 58,000 children and women from terrorist combatant families are being held in illegitimate prisons in the north-eastern part of the country, beyond the control of the Syrian Government and under the control of separatist militias.  Against this backdrop, he called for cooperation and dialogue with the United Nations and stressed the need to oppose politicization.

SHOWEB ABDULLAH (Bangladesh) underscored the importance of renewed commitments to children’s rights in a context of global crises.  The Government’s priorities in this regard include a robust legal framework. So-called “Child Welfare Boards” have been established at district levels to supervise the overall well-being of children, and social safety nets to cover more children, especially orphans and destitute children.  To that end, the Street Children Rehabilitation Programme has been established for the withdrawal and well-being of street children.  The Government is pledge-bound to eliminate child marriage entirely by 2041 and all forms of child labour by 2025, he added. Bangladesh ensures access to justice for children through child-friendly desks at police stations.  Under the Blended Education Master Plan, 60,000 multimedia classrooms will be set up, bridging the digital divide.  Further, the country has added 18,000 Community Clinics, bringing health services to rural areas.

KIM NAM HYOK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said that disputes and civil wars are impeding the international community's efforts to achieve the 2030 SDGs.  In his country, child rights are enshrined in the State constitution.  “Nurseries and kindergartens are run at the expense of the State, and all children across the country are studying to the fullest possible extent, receiving the textbooks and other school things from the State free of charge under the 12-year compulsory education system,” he said. Children with disabilities grow up “without the slightest distinction” in treatment and education, and the State takes sole responsibility to look after orphaned children.  The country acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, followed by its ratification of the Optional Protocol to that Convention on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, she added. 

DANIELA TONON (Italy) said States have the primary responsibility to protect, respect and fulfil children's rights, both in times of peace and war.  She expressed special concern over the increasing number of “grave violations against children” verified by the mandate holder on children and armed conflict, particularly killing, maiming and attacks on schools and hospitals.  “We strongly condemn the repeated attacks to civil infrastructure,” she said.  In the context of the Russian Federation aggression against Ukraine, Italy aligns itself with concerns expressed about children transferred to the Russian Federation from Ukraine.  “We encourage all possible efforts aimed at facilitating family tracing ... and we call on all parties to give child protection actors access to these children to facilitate the process in line with the actual best interests of the child.”

BOLA ASAJU (Nigeria), aligning with the African Group, said that her country’s National Human Rights Commission acts to promote and protect the rights of children, whether citizens or foreigners.  It has established “open human rights clubs” in schools for survivors of abuse and their families to provide safe platforms to report abuse and seek and receive timely help.  It also provides free legal services for victims of all forms of violence with “follow-up procedures for healing”.  It is disheartening that thousands of children across the globe have their childhoods taken away from them due to the activities of criminal elements who engage them as combatants in armed conflicts.  “Many of these children are abducted, drugged, brainwashed, recruited forcefully and used as human shields in armed conflicts.  Such abhorrent acts must continue to be globally condemned. We must fight to end all forms of violence against children,” she said.

FATIMA ABDULRAHMAN (United Arab Emirates) said her Government has adopted several national laws, strategies, plans and initiatives to create a safe environment for children and is continuing efforts to protect children at the regional and global levels.  The Ministry of Education last year launched the Child Protection Unit initiative, which aims to protect children from all abuse, negligence and exploitation in schools.  The United Arab Emirates has also strengthened and developed its national policies and strategies on children’s rights, including the National Policy for Child Protection in Educational Institutions in 2022.  The Policy aims at ensuring the implementation of child protection mechanisms and measures in the educational system.  She underscored her country’s commitment to working with all relevant parties, both locally and internationally, to support initiatives aimed at protecting children, strengthening their community, family, health and educational rights, and providing them opportunities for better lives and futures.

DIARRA DIME LABILLE (France), associating herself with the European Union, said that while the digital world represents new opportunities for children, the abuse of it entails new challenges, such as cyberbullying and children’s exposure to illicit or hateful content online.  Calling for the appropriate regulation of digital platforms, she emphasized:  “It cannot become a lawless zone.”  On the national level, France is working on tackling online harassment, she said, reporting that the Government will be presenting a bill on school cyberbullying in the next weeks with the aim of creating a specific punishment of definitive confiscation of mobile devices or a ban on social networks.  More so, President Emmanuel Macron will launch the Laboratory for the Protection of Children’s Online Rights at the 2023 Paris Peace Forum in November, which aims to bring together private and public stakeholders to strengthen operational response to the increased exposure of minors to cyberbullying. 

ROB MITCHELL (Australia) said that for children across the globe, 2023 was a year fraught with crises and widespread violations of rights, caused by gender inequality, poverty, violence, displacement and lack of access to a quality education.  He expressed deep concern about global discrimination and the sale and sexual exploitation of children.  Girls continue to be forced into early marriages, he said, adding that every year 12 million girls are married before the age of 18.  Girls also face gender-based violence and limited access to reproductive health services and quality education.  He also expressed concern about the devastating effects of the COVID–19 pandemic, which, as evidenced by the Secretary-General’s report, reversed progress in all spheres of girls’ lives.  “It is essential that Governments listen and respond to the voices and views of children and young people,” he said.

BRINZ-YANNICK-MICHEL LENANGUY (Central African Republic), aligning himself with the African Group, said access to education is his Government’s priority, with programmes being developed that seek to remove obstacles to education for vulnerable children.  Recalling that his country has gone through serious crises in its history, he said it is engaged in a national reconciliation process and is committed to avoid the resurgence of tension, exploitation, violence and torture that children might fall victim to.  However, the phenomenon of child soldiers has increased in scale, he warned, spotlighting major violations of the rights of children in his country.  The Central African Republic national council for the protection of children provides a framework for coordination for all programmes and strategies to protect them, he said, also pointing to the family code adopted by his Government, which enshrines the rights of children.

ADONIA AYEBARE (Uganda), aligning with the African Group, highlighted challenges to the protection of children such as domestic violence and poverty, leading to school dropouts and trafficking.  In her country, the National Children Authority is mandated to provide a mechanism ensuring the evaluation of policies related to child rights and development, she said.  Further, The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development has developed programmes addressing the plight of street children while establishing an alternative care framework, she said.  She underscored that child rights should not override their age-appropriate responsibilities, which must be the primary consideration in all actions that affect them. Further, the recently approved 2021 to 2024 National Child Policy demonstrates the Government’s commitment to the well-being of children, she said, protecting them from all forms of abuse and violence. 

BERNICE YI LIN TEO (Singapore), aligning with ASEAN, said Singapore invests about 3 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) in education.  However, she recognized that more needs to be done to give every child a good start in life.  First, more support is needed for early childhood education for young children, she said, particularly those from low-income families.  In that regard, the country’s KidSTART programme provides young children age 6 and below from low-income or disadvantaged families with support and will be taken nationwide in 2026.  Students that exhibit early signs of absenteeism are proactively identified and referred to a coordinator and local social services.  Singapore is also leveraging new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) to better customize learning for every child.  She concluded by saying that Singapore remains committed to caring for and providing the best opportunities to give every child a good start in life.

SUMAN SONKAR (India) said that her country’s national services aim to provide supplementary nutrition, health care and early childhood education to children throughout the country.  Its national health programme focuses on early detection and intervention in children's health issues.  Several other programmes aim to empower girls and ensure they have access to education. Measures are also in place to prevent and protect children against cyberstalking and cyberbullying, child marriage, sexual harassment, pornography and trafficking in persons.  However, during the interactive dialogue on the matter of children, Pakistan chose to misuse the forum, she pointed out.  Pakistan continues to engage in baseless and malicious propaganda against India.  Matters pertaining to the union territories of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh are purely internal to India.  As a country with one of the world's worst human rights records, Pakistan “would do well to put its own house in order” before venturing to point a finger at India.

PATIENCE AHOUE ITOUA LEKEGNY (Congo), associating herself with the African Group, said that her country’s 2022–2026 National Development Plan aims to operationalize policies, programmes and strategies linked to the family.  To this end, a social project — “Let Us March Together” — calls for inclusive growth based on a strong, diversified economy, she said, also noting that the 2023–2026 National Social Action Plan acknowledges the special place of family in ensuring development and flourishing of its members.  Further, she pointed out that article 39 of the country’s Constitution stipulates that every child, without discrimination, is entitled to receive protective measures from the family, society and the State.  In addition, the 2022–2025 National Action Plan to improve the quality of life of Indigenous People calls for training Indigenous teachers to adapt education to their way of life, she said. 

JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO (Nicaragua) said that boys and girls are human beings with full rights.  As such, they need healthy environments free of violence, he said, citing several national programmes that support such efforts, including school nutrition programmes.  The rights of children are guaranteed by the Constitution, he said, adding that there are laws to combat the sexual exploitation of children and to fight cybercrime as it pertains to children.  Until 2006, the educational system was marked by privatization, and, because of the irresponsible policies of neoliberal Governments, the school infrastructure was in a serious state of neglect.  The current Government has managed to reinstate free education, without discrimination.  Disability is part of human diversity, he added, reporting that there are guarantees in place to ensure that those with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else. 

EKATERINE LORTKIPANIDZE (Georgia), aligning herself with the European Union, stressed the importance of the rights of the child in ensuring the future well-being of every society.  The digital environment offers vast potential for the realization of children’s rights.  However, it also increases the risk of children’s exposure to online violence. Accordingly, the promotion of digital skills and literacy programmes, alongside initiatives targeting cyberbullying, are among the activities envisaged by her Government.  Children’s vulnerability to violence is exacerbated worldwide, with multiple overlapping crises, she observed, condemning the prohibition of education in native languages in the Russian Federation’s occupied Georgian region.  She also warned that the occupation creates the risk of another wave of displacement.

ABOSEDE HAZLEWOOD (Guyana), aligning with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that Guyana’s Childcare and Protection Agency ensures safety from harmful and vulnerable situations, noting that the Government provides education to children in all regions through the construction of schools, curriculum reform and the provision of smart classrooms and school meals.  To that end, education’s allocated budget has increased by over 60 per cent over the past three years, she added, underscoring that rural areas, where much of the country’s Indigenous live, are given particular attention to address inequalities.  While new technologies create new opportunities for learning and social interaction, they present dangers to children, exposing them to cyberbullying and sexual exploitation.  The Government must create a safe online environment for children, she said, while bridging the digital divide.

CARLOS AMORÍN (Uruguay) said that children’s vulnerability to violence has worsened due to various situations, such as the increase in poverty, social inequality, forced displacement, conflicts, climate change and food insecurity.  Even though the digital world can greatly improve access for children to an inclusive and quality education, it also gives rise to risks and challenges such as misinformation, sexual exploitation, and abuse.  At the same time, millions of children do not have any access to the Internet, which increases the digital gap and limits access to inclusive education.  Reducing this digital gap is important when it comes to complying with the right to nondiscrimination.  Uruguay is proud of its strong educational system, which is free of charge, he said, underscoring the principle of “leaving no one behind”.

BERTHA MKAKA NYIRONGO (Malawi), aligning herself with the African Group, said the protection of children’s rights is crucial as they represent over 40 per cent of her country’s population.  Steps to strengthen children’s rights include guidelines to establish participation structures at the national, district and community levels, including a children’s Parliament.  “When children meet in these structures, they discuss issues affecting them and come up with resolutions submitted to policymakers for consideration during the decision-making process,” she said.  Noting that the Government also implemented a legal framework to combat child marriage, she also reported that protection is strengthened at the community level by recruiting additional child protection workers and engaging traditional leaders.  Concluding, she commended development partners for the support that they provide the Government of Malawi to meet its obligations in the area of child protection.

FRANCESS PIAGIE ALGHALI (Sierra Leone), associating herself with the African Group, said that her country’s President, Julius Maada Wonie Bio, made the elimination and prevention of child sexual exploitation, abuse and violence a priority for his Government.  In this regard, 18 November has been recognized as the international Day for the Prevention of and Healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse, and Violence.  Furthermore, the Government is strengthening its child protection systems through a review of laws and policies, while also implementing child protection information management systems for improved case management and data collection, she said. In addition, the Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs will shortly commence the review of Sierra Leone’s Child Justice Strategy with the aim of protecting children from harmful digital content and services.  In the past five years, the Government has also increased domestic education funding to 22 per cent of the country’s national budget, she reported.

CHOLA MILAMBO (Zambia) aligning himself with the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Group and the Group of 77 and China, expressed his deep concern about the failure to end all forms of violence against children or meet the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Highlighting the need to act urgently together to ensure the elimination of violence and all harmful practices against children, he cited child marriage as a problem that requires individual and collective response.  While illegal in name, some countries tolerate these unions because of customs, gender norms, family practices and low levels of education, he said.  He expressed his commitment to the fight against child marriage, recognizing the magnitude of work required.  He also pointed to the enactment of the Children’s Code Act as a tool to strengthen the multisectoral approach towards child protection.  The Act, he added, has also criminalized all forms of violence against children.

HALA HAMEED (Maldives) said children are “the heart of our society”, and their potential must be nurtured.  The commitment to protecting children is not just a moral imperative, but the cornerstone of a just society.  However, today children risk unprecedented challenges, she said, stressing the need to tackle these complex issues and ensure their rights.  In this context, she pointed to the Child Rights Protection Act, adopted by her Government, which ensures the best interests of the child.  It protects children from being prosecuted by the criminal court and places a high emphasis on restorative justice.  Noting that education is not just a privilege but a basic human right, she reiterated her Government’s commitment to universal education to ensure every child can reach his or her true potential.  She also spotlighted the lurking danger of cyberbullying and online harassment.

MASAKO KAMIYA (Japan) emphasized the importance of dignity and cooperation when addressing children’s needs and issues.  This year, Japan launched the Children and Families Agency to champion the rights and interests of children, while a Basic Act on the Child Policy, based on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, also came into force. Going forward, the Government plans to adopt a set of general principles that will emphasize the rights of children and youth.  Japan is also committed to helping vulnerable children in many parts of the world, she said, noting its support for a programme, led by the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children, that tackles violence against children in places affected by conflict, the climate crisis and the COVID‑19 pandemic.

SÉKOU KONATÉ (Guinea), aligning with the African Group, noted that his country strives to respect all human rights.  As in other countries with substantial poverty, however, children there are at increased vulnerability to violence.  They are prioritized, nonetheless, with an improved legal framework prohibiting corporal punishment and moving towards banning child marriage.  The Government recently unveiled a road map prioritizing steps to ensure the rights of children, including the Guinean Children’s Code and Children’s Parliament, with 114 deputies representing diversity in the country.  Another framework coordinates dialogue on the issue at a ministerial level, he added, noting that such measures will allow future generations to flourish.  Guinea is confident that its commitment to the SDGs as well as its midterm recovery programme will achieve the desired results, with support from development partners, and achieve a better world for its children.

JEEM LIPPWE (Federated States of Micronesia) said that his Government is committed to prioritizing the promotion and protection of the rights of children with relevant policy, administrative and institutional responses. However, the Federated States of Micronesia continues to face challenges in recruiting specialists in health care, education, and childcare and other related sectors aimed to meet the specific need of children, especially children with disabilities.  “We also face the challenges of early teen pregnancy and the stigma that comes with early pregnancy among young girls,” he said. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the rights and well-being of children.  Climate change increases health risks including those stemming from water and foodborne diseases.  The scourge of climate change also increases the risk of malnutrition and mental health issues.  “We continue to urge the international community to provide assistance to address these challenges to protect our children,” he stated. 

MATETE PAUL NENA (Lesotho), aligning with the African Group, said his country has made pre-primary education universal and compulsory.  It includes a feeding programme that ensures that children coming from poor families are guaranteed “at least one decent meal a day, saving them from malnutrition”.  The measure has contributed to increasing school enrolment up to 80 per cent, “thus giving every child a fair chance” at education.  The Government’s plans to scale up the programme to secondary schools have been frustrated by Lesotho’s ever-increasing debt burden, he pointed out.  “As a result, we continue to advocate for the restructuring of the international financial institutions in order to make them more democratic and fit for purpose for which they were established,” he said.  Other measures include increasing access to education for children with physical disabilities, with support from Japan, he said. 

SYUKRI SULAIMAN (Brunei Darussalam), associating himself with ASEAN, said that to implement the 2035 Brunei Vision, the Government has developed a social blueprint to facilitate social development, while also reviewing the 2023-2027 Plan of Action on Family to strengthen the family institution.  Furthermore, in 2022, his country launched the Register of Children and Young Persons in Need of Protection to provide a centralized database of vulnerable children and adolescents and to facilitate inter-agency monitoring of victims who need immediate protection.  In 2021, Brunei Darussalam completed the building of a new home shelter — the Welfare Home Complex — for women and children fleeing abuse, he reported, also pointing out that in 2020 it launched the National Welfare System.  In addition, the 2021 Persons with Disabilities Act introduced severe punishment for abuse and neglect against persons with disabilities, he added. 

GALA PASTORA MATOS MENÉNDEZ (Dominican Republic), aligning herself with the Central American Integration System, said children are the bearers of the future and must receive equitable attention as members of society.  She pointed to a strengthening of the international legal framework in this respect but added that guaranteeing the rights of children is a continuous battle. They are still victims of conflict, exploitation and poverty and many suffer a lack of access to education and quality health care.  She pointed to political will in her country to implement economic and social plans to benefit children, citing as an example a school health program which helps reduce obstacles to learning.  She also spoke against the scourge of child marriage, pointing to awareness-raising programs that provide sexual education to prevent unwanted pregnancies among adolescents. 

CORNEL FERUȚĂ (Romania), aligning himself with the European Union, highlighted his Government’s new strategy for children’s rights for the period 2023 to 2027.  It focuses on an increased level of children’s participation in decisions that concern them; reducing poverty and social exclusion among children; improving children’s health; increasing children’s participation in quality inclusive education; development of mechanisms to protect children against violence; ensuring child-friendly justice; and ensuring children’s access to digital public services in safe conditions.  He further said that, despite global efforts, an estimated 45 million children under the age of 5 suffered from wasting, 148 million had stunted growth and 37 million were overweight in 2022, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).  “In my region, the war against Ukraine perpetrated by Russia has and continues to have devastating consequences for children,” he said, noting that the exposure to repeated explosions, crimes, forced displacement and separation from family members has deeply affected their well-being and mental health.  Romanian and Ukrainian authorities have been closely cooperating to support unaccompanied children that have entered his country, he added.

KARLITO NUNES (Timor-Leste) voiced concern about millions of people living in poverty and the increasing vulnerability of children to this scourge.. Worse, many children suffer from multidimensional poverty, lacking access to sanitation and clean water. Domestically, the country’s National Action Plan for Children focuses on implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child, he said, while the Government’s Child-Protection law emphasises security to protect against several violations to children’s well-being. Committed to ending child poverty, Timor-Leste aims to give parents the right tools so that children will succeed as adults.  Social protection measures adopted include school subsidies and pensions, which also target persons with disabilities, he said, adding that a nutrition-balanced school meal programme focuses on combating malnutrition.

NAIMA LYAZIDI (Morocco) said her country has acceded to all international instruments on human rights and international humanitarian law, which protect the rights of children. Morocco was among the first countries to sign and ratify the three additional protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Morocco aims to protect children from exploitation and is focused on promoting child development by ensuring access to education and health services.  Regarding violence against children within families, Morocco has created a special centre and hotline, which is dedicated to protecting children and documenting information about their abuse.  The country’s Criminal Code aims to protect children, she stressed.  And other social protection schemes are formed and updated to be more fair, equitable and inclusive.  These reforms are intended to improve care for children.

RAHMA SAMAI (Algeria) aligning with the African Group, said safeguarding the rights of children is the “responsibility of one and all”.  In Algeria, children have the right to mandatory free education.  A tangible result is that 100 per cent of children are enrolled in schools, half of them girls, she said.  In the area of child protection, Algeria’s efforts include a hotline by the National Agency on the Protection of Children, which anyone can call it if they feel that there is danger to a child.  In response to possible threats of sexual exploitation to children online, Algeria has established measures to protect children from risks encountered on the Internet, seeking to deter “any kind of crime that can harm children”.

AMINA ALABBASI (Bahrain), recalling that her country acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its relevant protocols in 1992, said it also joined the International Labour Organization (ILO) Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention in 2001.  Through its National Commission for Childhood, Bahrain pursues efforts to develop children on educational, psychological and cultural levels, she noted, pointing out that, through Law No. 4 of the Penal Code, it has established a Child Protection Center.  In the digital domain, her Government works to increase awareness and understanding of children’s rights by conducting conferences and lectures on sexual abuse and dangers related to computer games.  Further, it has established a unit in the Ministry of the Interior to protect children in cyberspace, she reported, adding that this unit increases awareness of children up to 18 years old on the dangers they might face using different applications and platforms.

DANIEL ZAVALA PORRAS (Costa Rica), aligning with the Central American Integration System, reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the human rights of children.  Some 60 per cent or more of the SDGs relate to children, he said, adding that the COVID‑19 pandemic, climate change and other challenges have further removed the world from attainment of those goals.  He expressed serious concern about violations of children’s rights during conflict, noting that more than 170,000 serious violations of the rights of children have been verified since 2010. Turning to environmental factors, he said that every year more than 1.7 million children under the age of 5 die prematurely because of unclean air or water or because of unhealthy sanitation.  In terms of environmental degradation, the destruction of biodiversity is also the destruction of the life of future generations, he said, and called on Member States to do more to protect children’s future.

MIGUEL RICARDO CANDIA IBARRA (Paraguay) said his country is experiencing a demographic boom, which is projected to continue until 2045.  Strengthening the protection of children’s rights is crucial, he said, noting that the duty to protect the rights of children and adolescents is shared between the family, society and the State.  Therefore, to comprehensively address multiple challenges facing children, his Government’s National Plan 2022–2024 has as its axis the strengthening of the family in its protective role and first guarantor of rights. Also, a work plan has been adopted prioritizing the establishment of mechanisms for exchanging updated information — a single database that will provide better protection to girls, boys and adolescents who are in alternative care settings.

JÖRUNDUR VALTÝSSON (Iceland) said that in his country, children’s rights were placed under a Ministry of Children to establish a “child-friendly Iceland”.  In this process, experience and knowledge sharing have been valuable, he said, noting that challenges remain in the areas of mental health and combating violence against children.  On the other hand, the Committee on the Rights of the Child has commended his country for empowering children in the family, allowing them to request custody of one parent or contest a custody decision, he said.  He condemned the unlawful deportation of Ukrainian children from areas occupied by Russian Federation forces.  New technologies offer opportunities for youth but also come with risks, he said, as old patterns of misogyny, racism and gender-based violence spread throughout new platforms.  He called on the international community to take pre-emptive actions targeting social norms and gender stereotypes, including educating young men and boys to be agents of change for gender equality.

ALI MABKHOT SALEM BALOBAID (Yemen) said that the war in his country has destroyed and disrupted Government institutions, including those focused on protecting children.  The Yemeni Government has worked with limited resources to meet the commitments laid out in international treaties related to children's rights.  Since the coup in 2014, and the subsequent destruction and vandalism of the services sector, the Government has exerted many efforts to implement national strategies to protect children.  He condemned the many violations inflicted on children by the Houthi militias, also expressing particular concern for the plight of child soldiers.  Thousands of children have been recruited to fight, and many have died, he reported. It is essential to ensure that child soldiers can be rehabilitated and integrated back into communities.  They must also be given the right opportunities to rid the psychological effects of such terrorist movements, he stressed. 

KYAW MOE TUN (Myanmar) said that in his country, children’s rights have worsened since the illegal military coup.  Far from achieving their full realization, the rights of children are being brutally violated by the military junta.  He reported that 672 children were arrested during the last two-and-a-half years, of whom 287 remain in detention and 466 were killed.  All fundamental rights of the children have been violated, including the right to life, protection from violence, the right to education, health, food and a relationship with their parents, as well as the right to express their opinion.  In addition, an immunization programme for children has been nearly non-functional for more than two years.  He appealed to the international community, including UNICEF and other UN agencies, to provide the necessary support in an innovative way to enable the immunization programme for the sake of the children’s safety.  To end the violations of the rights of children and all human rights in Myanmar, it is crucial to end the military dictatorship and restore democracy, he stressed.

SAHAR K.H. SALEM, an observer for the State of Palestine, said that in 1995 her country announced its voluntary commitment to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and enacted domestic legislation to that end. Underscoring that the State of Palestine’s resources are drained by the ongoing Israeli occupation, she stressed: “The Israeli representative told you what his country does for their own children, but he could not tell you what his country does to our children.”  Pointing out that Israel kills the children’s parents, leaving them to endure the pain of being orphaned or separated, and demolishes their homes, among other things, she said it also denies them access to medical care.  “Ask the Israeli representative why his country demolished an EU-funded school near Bethlehem this past May,” she stated, emphasizing that Palestinian children are killed on their own land.  Most of them are killed by live ammunition to the head or chest, exposing Israel’s “shoot-to-kill” policy.   

SAMBA THIAM NIASSE (Senegal), aligning himself with the African Group, said that the Sustainable Development Goals are essential to ensuring the effectiveness to promote and protect the rights of children.  Unfortunately, UNICEF reports that only 11 countries representing 6 per cent of children worldwide have hit 50 per cent of the goals of the SDGs for children.  At this rate, only approximately 20 countries will have reached the goals by 2030, meaning that around 1.9 billion children will be left behind.  Action is needed at the forthcoming Summit of the Future, he said, stressing the importance of a healthy environment, good education and protecting children against all forms of violence.  More than 20 per cent of his country’s budget is dedicated to education, and there is support from multilateral and bilateral partners.  In terms of governance, he highlighted the existence of an ombudsman for children and a parliamentary representative for children. 

MORIKO TIEMOKO (Côte d’Ivoire), aligning himself with the African Group, recalled that, in 1990, United Nations Member States, meeting at the World Summit for Children, committed to creating a world fit for children. This Summit led to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  He welcomed the crucial role of dedicated agencies of the UN system, particularly UNICEF and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), whose work contributes to improving  conditions of children in vulnerable situations.  However, he voiced concern over the living conditions of children, particularly in developing countries, pointing to the increasing number of child soldiers.  Likewise, persistent food crises cause severe malnutrition among children from vulnerable families, resulting in death or stunted growth.  He further underscored that a low level of vaccine coverage left millions of children unprotected against some of the most serious childhood diseases.  Accordingly, he underlined the need to strengthen political support and resources for the benefit of all children.

AMA ANIMA CORQUAYE (Ghana), aligning with the African Group, noted that children today continue to face unprecedented challenges, including poverty, conflict, and climate crises.  She called on the international community to recommit to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and ratify the Paris Principles and Paris Commitments.  Child well-being must be put at the centre of COVID‑19 pandemic recovery plans, she said, adding that child protection and enforcement laws provide a useful framework when they address child labour, marriage, trafficking and abuse.  However, Governments must commit to their enforcement, she stressed.  On a national level, Ghana remains resolute in safeguarding the rights of children through a multisectoral approach, including legislation such as the Family Welfare Policy, which focuses on combating violence and exploitation of children.  The nation is also intensifying efforts to address child marriage and street children through shelters and providing vocational training programmes.

SOFIA ARONA (San Marino) said that the principle “no one should be left behind” requires the adoption of specific measures to support people in vulnerable situations.  San Marino is particularly concerned about the high number of grave violations against children reported this year in the Secretary-General's report.  Armed conflicts continue to devastate children's lives and to compromise their fundamental rights.  “We are witnessing an increase in attacks on schools and hospitals; this is unacceptable,” she stressed.  Health care and education are fundamental children's rights and must always be preserved.  San Marino is also very concerned about the recruitment and use of child soldiers. “We've always been very active in the safeguard of children and in particular children with disabilities,” she noted.  San Marino was among the first countries that ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol, she also recalled. 

LÉA BEUZIT (Monaco) said armed conflicts and child trafficking in the form of illegal deportation posed threats to children.  The return to Ukraine of children who had been transferred to the Russian Federation and Belarus is of key importance.  Child protection in the digital realm is also of concern.  As part of its response, Monaco has taken steps to raise awareness amongst children about the responsible use of digital tools.  To support child education and health in Haiti, the Prince Albert School is now celebrating its tenth anniversary.  Monaco has also helped more than 500 children in medical need from developing countries.  The Princess Grace of Monaco Foundation contributes to improving the hospitalization conditions for children and supports a number of paediatric research projects.  Monaco official aid also takes part in many international programmes to support the Strategic Development Goals in protecting child health, she said. 

ANNA KONARA MOKONO (Papua New Guinea), quoting Nelson Mandela, said:  “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way it treats its children.”  Noting that her country’s legislation, policies and strategic plans ensure that better protection measures are put in place to protect children’s rights, she emphasized that education is a right that belongs to all children.  Through its 2021–2029 National Education Plan, the Government ensures that childhood education is available to all, she stressed, pointing to its tuition fee policy to ensure that education costs will not become a barrier to children’s learning.  Together with UNICEF and other development partners, Papua New Guinea is working to increase and strengthen infant and young child survival programmes that — conforming to its 2021–2030 National Health Plan — include an increase of immunization coverage in the country’s 22 provinces.

ROBERT DAVID MURPHY, observer for the Holy See, said he welcomed the discussion about children’s rights, adding that policy-makers should provide programmes that support mothers and fathers rather than replace them.  At a time when medicine can provide life-saving treatment, it is also used to end the lives of 73 million annually through abortion, he said.  Assisted reproduction, particularly in the form of surrogacy, reduces children to objects, he said, stressing that the practice is incompatible with respect for the dignity and rights of the child.  He also condemned the production, distribution and use of child pornography that victimizes actual children.  Moreover, he noted with concern that generative software allows the creation of simulated images of child sex abuse, which further drive the demand for such materials and make it harder to identify victims and prosecute offenders. 

CLAUDY AHUKA LUTUNDUL, Youth delegate of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, aligning himself with the African Group and SADC, underscored the importance of sovereignty and non-interference in the affairs of States.  He strongly condemned the armed groups and international actors who fuel conflicts around the world, as well as those who engage in the exploitation of his country’s natural resources to the detriment of its population.  Calling for lasting peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo, he said peace is not only the absence of conflicts, but also the presence of justice, stability, national reconciliation and sustainable development. Accordingly, he urged the international community to support his country’s efforts to achieve a peaceful and lasting solution.  However, the ongoing peace process is being deliberately blocked by Rwanda and the M23 (March 23 Movement), he stressed.  Highlighting the critical situation of young people in his country, he stressed the need to invest in education, restore security and promote employment.

MERITXELL FONT VILAGINES (Andorra) said the Convention on the Rights of the Child is the flagship international tool in the area. The international community must remain steadfast in ensuring the needs of children are met, including nutrition, climate security and education.  Children are the future, after all, she said.  Last September, Andorra presented its report to the treaty’s Committee, she recalled.  Internationally, the Principality works with UNICEF and is continuing its yearly donation to Bhutan of €300,000 going to its quality services for children. Nationally, with a multilingual school structure, Andorra has a high level of children who make their voices heard, especially in Parliament, she said.  The Principality will continue to strengthen mental health services, she added, noting that “the future is something that we build today”.

ZULEIKHA RUTHA TAMBWE (United Republic of Tanzania), associating herself with the African Group, said her Government has been able to establish multisectoral child protection services and has launched community development plans to ensure care for vulnerable children and to provide them with a holistic package of services.  “Education is an essential tool for the well-being of children,” she added, noting that the Government provides free education from nursery to the high school level.  The Government has also adopted a reentry policy for pregnant schoolgirls to ensure they continue to access formal education.  She went on to note that the United Republic of Tanzania has made great headway in addressing maternal and child mortality.  “We have reduced the mortality rate of newborns to 7 out of 1,000 live births,” she reported.  Moreover, immunization for children under 5 years is at 90 per cent, she added. 

İSMAIL AYDİL (Türkiye) said his country’s National Program for Combating Child Labour is highlighted by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children in her latest annual report, noting that the programme contains measures to eliminate child labour.  It focuses on children working in the streets and children employed in migratory and temporary agricultural work.  Further policy additions include the Child Rights Strategy Document and Action Plan,, which addresses services for children affected by disasters and emergencies.  She voiced deep concern over the Secretary-General’s report titled “Children and Armed Conflict”, noting that verified cases of recruitment and use of children by the Syrian Democratic Forces, dominated by the Kurdish Workers’ Party/Democratic Union Party Syrian extension, increased almost threefold during the reporting period.  Underscoring the country’s commitment to the rights of the girl-child, he said that ensuring education, closing the gender gap and ending early and forced marriages remain central priorities.

HEBA KHALID AL JARADI (Oman) said children are the “backbone of the future” and the main foundation for achieving sustainable development.  Oman’s National Committee to Care for Children aims to protect children’s health and educational rights, as well as preventing child labour and threats to children’s mental and physical health.  Protection of the rights of children with disabilities ensures they have equal opportunities for education and training.  She also expressed concern for children in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly the systemic violations of their rights by Israeli occupation forces and settlers.  She urged the international community not to ignore the cries of the children of Palestine and to hold the Israeli authorities accountable for their practices, which violate the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.

CELINE PIERRE FABRE (Haiti) said that the future belongs to the children and the young people of today.  As such, in December 2021, her Government, through the Ministry of Education, launched a call to mobilize for education — “Education Cannot Wait” — aiming at incentivizing the population to reopen schools.  Committed to improving the justice system for children, Haiti intends to decentralize essential services for their protection, she said, pointing to the importance of restoring security of the country.  To this end, the adoption of the Security Council resolution 2699 (2023) authorizing the deployment of a security support mission is a decisive and significant step towards restoring peace and stability, she stressed, emphasizing that it is a condition without which her country will not be able to address the issues relating to the rights of the child.

DJENEBA DABO N’DIAYE (Mali), aligning herself with the African Group, thanked the delegation of Monaco for all its support to the children of Mali.  The rights of the child are a key priority, she said, spotlighting her country’s ministry devoted to children and a youth parliament, as well as other infrastructure for children.  Despite the complex security situation, the Government is doing all it can to ensure that children’s rights are protected, she said.  As in Haiti, the Malian Government, to ensure school attendance and access to nutrition, has set up school cafeterias, with a focus on rural areas, she said, adding that such efforts are being supported by partners when it comes to health and nutrition.  The Government is also providing vaccines to children and is combating child marriage, genital mutilation and trafficking as well, she reported.

MICHAEL M. ESPIRITU, observer for the Sovereign Order of Malta, said sexual exploitation of children is an abhorrent violation of human rights, which calls for urgent action from the international community.  Every child deserves to live in a safe environment.  Tragically, millions of children continue to suffer at the hands of traffickers and predators, he said, adding that human trafficking lies at the heart of this problem, driving the heinous trade in child prostitution and pornography.  In this context, he underlined the need to strengthen international cooperation and law enforcement efforts, prioritize the identification of rescue victims, and confront the growing challenge of online exploitation.  Also, innovative measures must be implemented to address the scourge of the unregulated use of AI.

Right of Reply

The representative of Pakistan, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, responded to India, noting that country deployed weapons of mass disinformation against Pakistan, minorities in India and the people of Kashmir.  This helps Hindu extremists but will not bring peace to South Asia.  Jammu and Kashmir is not a part of India and shall never be.  United Nations maps attest to the fact that the region is disputed territory.  India has recognized that, she said, recalling a Security Council resolution stipulating that the fate of the region would be determined through a UN-supervised plebiscite.  India must withdraw its army of 900,000 soldiers occupying Kashmir and allow Kashmiris to freely decide their future.  She also expressed deep concern over threats to Muslims and Christians in India at the hands of Hindu fundamentalists. 

The representative of Azerbaijan said Armenia’s accusations of ethnic cleansing are unfounded.  Armenia’s own Prime Minister said that rumours of mass casualties are untrue and that there is no direct threat against civilians in the Karabakh region.  Though Armenia started the war against Azerbaijan and carried out ethnic cleansing, Armenia suddenly cares about international law, she observed. Further, though it is prohibited by international law, she recalled that 92 children were taken hostage by Armenia. Azerbaijan is firm in its determination to reconstruct its conflict-affected territories and reintegrate ethnic Armenians of the Karabakh region, she said. 

The representative of Armenia, responding, said that the delegation of Azerbaijan is “trying to somehow whitewash this vile atrocity” that occurred in Nagorno-Karabakh.  There was indeed an ethnic cleansing.  Nagorno-Karabakh, which had more than 100,000 civilians living there, is now empty, he said, adding:  “It didn't happen out of thin air.”  It happened because Azerbaijan attacked these people and, prior to that, kept them under blockade for 10 months, keeping them hungry, “under starvation”, which is prohibited under international humanitarian law, he said.

For information media. Not an official record.