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Answer – Funding sanitation facilities – E-006753/2016

As underlined by the Honourable Members, ensuring universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene is an essential core element of global sustainable development and poverty eradication, contributing also to gender equality and woman empowerment. Since 2007, the Commission has engaged more than EUR 2.5 billion on water and sanitation action in 62 countries, including in projects funded through EU regional blending facilities which have also triggered private investments.

The project in Senegal referred to by the Honourable Members is an illustration of the type of successful actions that have been supported. The Commission is committed to continuing engaging in this important area.

The disproportionate impact on women and girls of the lack of sanitation and safe water being one of the negative effects that keeps girls out of school and limits the economic productivity of women is well recognised. Gender equality is one of the main priorities of the Commission in its development cooperation policy and action, including in the water and sanitation sector. It is also promoted in ongoing programmes, where water and sanitation is a focal sector in 13 partner countries (Angola, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Cook Islands, Djibouti, Lesotho, Palestine, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Sao Tome et Principe, Senegal, Solomon Islands and Togo) and in a number of regional programmes.

Sanitation facilities will also be financed in the framework of wider interventions in the Republic of the Congo, Republic of Guinea, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nepal, Pakistan, Peru, Sierra Leone, Timor Leste, Uzbekistan and Zimbabwe.

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Worldwide, resistance and alternatives to free trade

29/11/2016

European Parliament, Brussels, 7 December 2016, 14:30, room ASP1G2 | Followed by three workshops for the follow-up, on 8 December at 09:30 and a short plenary from 11:30 to 13:00.

Worldwide, resistance and alternatives to free trade

Worldwide, resistance and alternatives to free trade

European Parliament, Brussels, 7 December 2016, 14:30, room ASP1G2

(Interpretation: FR, DE, IT, NL, EN, DA, EL, ES, PT, FI, SV, CS)

Introductory words: Gabi Zimmer, President GUE/NGL

Panel 1:  Why we oppose free trade deals, lessons from different parts  of the world:

Moderated by MEP Stelios Kouloglou, Greece

- Jane Nalunga, Southern & Eastern Africa Trade Information & Negotiations Institute (SEATINI), Uganda

- Celeste Drake, AFL-CIO - America’s Unions, USA

- Luciana Ghiotto, Attac:TNI, Argentina

- Toni Salvador, Philippine campaign, The Philippines

Panel 2:   Building alternatives to FTAs:

Moderated by MEP Eleonora Forenza, Italy

- Emiliano Brancaccio, Sanio University, Italy

- Manuel Perez-Rocha, Institute for Policy Studies, Washington

- Representative of the Consumers Union of Japan

- Sergi Corbalan, Fair Trade Advocacy Office

Panel 3:  The way forward to consolidate alternatives

Moderated by MEP Helmut Scholz, Germany

-  Ana Cazzini, Campact anti-TTIP campaign, Germany

- Jorge Marchini, Fundación para la integración Latinoam. /CADTM AYNA, Argentina

-  Delmah Ndhlovu, Zimbabwe Small holder Organic Farmers Forum, Via Campesina

-  Adriana Espinosa, Universidad Carlos III, Spain

Concluding words

-  Brid Brenan, Transnational Institute (TNI), Amsterdam

Followed by three workshops (see registration form) for the follow-up, on 8 December at 09:30 and a short plenary from 11:30 to 13:00.

Conference

The current debate over CETA and TTIP in Europe, the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, and the federal election campaign in the United States, among others, have highlighted how many people, in the both Southern and Northern  countries as well, are deeply concerned about free trade.

Deals like TTIP, CETA, TPP, TiSA, the EPAs, and EU bilateral free trade deals with Japan, Tunisia, Singapore, Mercosur (...) are facilitating an unprecedented level of power for multinational companies; the concentration of wealth among ‘the one per cent’; the liberalisation of public goods and services; an absurd division of labour; the ‘race to the bottom’ of endless and senseless competition; and favouring foreign investors. The neoliberal model of trade and economics is offering no future for those who cannot fit into this model or those who don’t accept exploitation and environmental destruction.

The more these deals and their consequences are imposed on people, the more opposition grows. While the far right is attempting to capitalise politically on this discontent without providing any credible and democratic solutions, progressive organisations and individuals are building real alternatives and fairer approaches to trade are rapidly expanding.

Across all continents, social movements and progressive political forces are organising more and more effectively against free trade agreements, the power of corporations and speculative investors. Millions of people are standing up to defend public health; public services; democracy; cultural diversity; sustainable and autonomous energy; small, medium and cooperative farming; the precautionary principle; the commons; the right of all countries to protect sensitive sectors of their economies; and the free movement of people. Millions of fair and sustainable alternatives based on principle of democracy and solidarity are emerging to replace the current unfair trade model.

GUE/NGL is organising this Conference to facilitate dialogue and coordination among the organisations and individuals who are resisting free trade and building better alternatives for people and for the planet.  

Registration: HERE                       Contact : paul-emile.dupret@europarl.europa.eu

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Human Rights Crucial, but Exploited for Political Aims, Interference in Internal State Affairs, Third Committee Told as It Debates United Nations Mandate Holders

While conflict, climate change and chaotic migration had reinforced the world’s need for the United Nations human rights machinery, that system was at risk of abuse due to the many pressures arising from concurrent crises, delegates warned the Third Committee today (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), as they debated the Organization’s special procedures and mandates today.

Canada’s representative said exceptional or unique circumstances continued to erode the universal nature of human rights, a trend that often led to greater inequality, injustice, violence and death.  Egypt’s representative, too, said the world was witnessing an escalation of human rights violations, with huge numbers of people fleeing conflict and crossing borders.  But countries failing to protect human rights were using related instruments for political aims, and intervening in States’ domestic affairs.

The politics surrounding human rights instruments was also addressed by India’s representative, who noted that nearly half of the thematic mandate holders came from one region, while the reliance on voluntary funding to support the Special Procedures system privileged some mandates over others, and could have adverse impacts on their perceived independence.  He expressed concern that the United Nations human rights machinery had divided States and was being used as a political tool.

Turning from the broader political context in which it was operating to the specific situations that United Nations special procedures sought to address, the European Union’s representative singled out events in Syria for attention.  Excessive and disproportionate attacks against civilians, humanitarian and health care personnel and infrastructure must be brought to justice.  She condemned mass killings and other atrocities by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) terrorists.  “Religious belief should not justify the use of terrorism and violence,” she said, encouraging religious leaders to do all in their power to prevent such acts.

The observer for the Holy See, meanwhile, cautioned that “religion becomes a source of discrimination when it is used and abused to define national identity and unity”.

Espousing a practical, rather than ideological approach to realizing human rights, Singapore’s representative noted that a one-size-fits-all approach could not address human rights issues, adding “just as no two people are exactly alike, no two societies, communities or States are exactly alike”.

Along those lines, China’s representative urged respect for countries’ choice of rights protection modalities that were tailored to their national circumstances.  He opposed double standards on human rights issues, and interference in State affairs under their pretext.  Dialogue should be conducted on the basis of equality and mutual learning pursued in an open, inclusive manner.

Also speaking were representatives of the United States, Colombia, Russian Federation, Libya, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Brazil, Norway, Viet Nam, Qatar, Iraq, Cyprus, Myanmar, Greece, Eritrea, Nepal, Japan, Rwanda, Kazakhstan, Iran, Australia, Algeria, Palau, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Serbia, Bangladesh, Ukraine, Liechtenstein, Cuba, Venezuela, Azerbaijan, Malawi, Morocco, Kuwait, and Philippines, as well as an observer of the State of Palestine.

An official of the Food and Agriculture Organization also addressed the Committee.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of Bahrain, Turkey, Russian Federation, China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ukraine, Cyprus, Israel, and Japan.  An observer of the State of Palestine also spoke.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 1 November, to begin its discussion on racism and self-determination.

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its debate on the promotion and protection of human rights.  For further information, see Press Release GA/SHC/4172.

Statements

JOANNE ADAMSON, European Union, stressing that the Syrian regime had the primary responsibility to protect civilians, condemned the excessive and disproportionate attacks against them, as well as humanitarian and healthcare personnel and infrastructure.  The perpetrators of such war crimes must be brought to justice.  In the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Government deprived its people of political, economic, social and cultural rights, while refusing to engage with the international community.  She urged the Government to implement recommendations by the Commission of Inquiry.  On Burundi, she expressed regret over the Government’s decision to suspend cooperation with the Office of the High commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and intention to withdraw from the Rome Statue.

She went on to remind China of its international human rights obligations, notably to allow human rights defenders and lawyers to pursue their activities and ensure an enabling environment for civil society.  In the Russian Federation, the space for independent civil society was shrinking while human rights defenders and independent journalists faced harassment.  Turning to Da’esh, she condemned the atrocities, mass killings, use of sexual violence and other abuses perpetrated by the terrorist group against civilians.  “Religious belief should not justify the use of terrorism and violence,” she said, encouraging religious leaders to do all in their power to prevent such acts.

SARAH MENDELSON (United States) deplored human rights violations in a number of countries, including in Syria and called on the Syrian Government to stop such violations and attacks immediately.  Further, she called on other countries in conflict to guarantee humanitarian access, also urging them to better protect minorities and civil society.

MIGUEL CAMILO RUIZ BLANCO (Colombia), recalling his country’s achievements in ending its protracted conflict said peace had resulted in less displacement and greater education and development.  Further, redress had been provided to victims of the conflict and the rule of law had been strengthened.  No amnesty had been granted to perpetrators of serious crimes

Ms. SHLYCHKOVA (Russian Federation) said the disproportionate use of force by police and the issue of solitary confinement were among those that the United States had yet to address.  Those authorities had been silent amid an increase of neo-Nazi groups.  In the European Union, there had been an increase in “Waffen-SS legionnaires” and memorials to Holocaust victims had been desecrated.  The Russian Federation had seen an increase in child trafficking, sexual violence, child pornography, domestic violence and the baseless removal of children from mixed families, she said, adding that in Norway, the rights of children to freedom of belief was being violated, with Muslims being forced to eat pork and attend church.  In the United Kingdom, violence against children had increased, while in Ukraine and the Baltic States, Germany and the United Kingdom, the freedom of speech had been violated.

IBRAHIM K. M. ALMABRUK (Libya) said that despite difficult circumstances, his country was keen to protect human rights, citing its commitment to international instruments as the guiding principle.  During the transitional period, Libya had felt instability and therefore urged the Human Rights Council to provide further support to the relevant bodies, which would help Libya promote its legal frameworks, and thus, justice.  Libya had become a transit country for migrants crossing to Europe and it was making every effort to prevent illegal trafficking, supporting activities whereby migrants could be voluntarily repatriated.  But Libya could not achieve any of those objectives without international cooperation

Ms. YOTDAMNOEN (Thailand), associating herself with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said progress had been made in mainstreaming human rights at the national level, in line with international obligations.  Achievements included laws on anti-trafficking and access to justice.  She attached great importance to the follow‑up of recommendations by the Universal Periodic Review, expressing support for increased regional and international cooperation, particularly of technical nature, and capacity building.

Mr. RAFEE (United Arab Emirates), outlining measures being taken at the national level to promote human rights and tolerance, pointed to achievements in economic development and women’s empowerment.  The Government attached great importance to gender equality and had strengthened women’s political participation, including at the ministerial level.  Progress had been made in protecting children’s rights, he said, citing an increase in school enrolment.

CARLOS SERGIO SOBRAL DUARTE (Brazil), stressing that human rights were crucial for the implementation of all Sustainable Development Goals, said universal enjoyment of human rights meant that no one was left behind.  However, serious human rights violations persisted, including around gender identity, migration and privacy.  He urged updating protection of the right to privacy in collaboration with the private sector to take into account the latest technological advances.

IHAB MOUSTAFA AWAD MOUSTAFA (Egypt) said the world was witnessing an escalation of human rights violations, with huge numbers of people fleeing conflict and crossing borders.  Countries failing to protect human rights were using human rights instruments for political aims, intervening in States’ domestic affairs.  The United States, for example, had abused the use of force, not only against migrants, but against citizens of African origin.  It also had the largest number of detainees and there was racial discrimination in the criminal justice system.  He expressed deep concern at the European Union’s practices in defiance of international humanitarian law, using force against refugees in certain countries.

MAY-ELIN STENER (Norway) stressed that “conflicts and crisis can never be an excuse for ignoring human rights violations”.  Impunity must end, while efforts to address violent extremism must be in line with international legal obligations.  Freedom of expression was necessary for realizing other human rights and a prerequisite for democracy and good governance.  She expressed dismay that the situation for human rights defenders continued to be difficult and, in some places, was worsening, urging States to protect those who protected the rights of others.  Education was a fundamental human right and Norway had initiated the independent Commission on Financing Education Opportunity, which had submitted its report to the Secretary‑General this year.  Norway also had hosted the sixth World Congress against the Death Penalty in June and urged all States to take a stand against that practice.

BERNARDITO AUZA, Observer of the Holy See, expressed regret that the right to life continued to be debated rather than prioritized.  He welcomed the report by the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate living standard and reiterated his opposition to the death penalty, which he said fostered vengeance, not justice.  The report of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief had shown that the freedom of religion was being trampled on and ridiculed in many parts of the world, including by religious communities themselves.  “Religion becomes a source of discrimination when it is used and abused to define national identity and unity,” he said, calling for renewed and sustained action to protect and promote freedom of religion or belief.

NGUYEN PHUONG NGA (Viet Nam), while noting that political, economic, social and cultural rights must be treated equally, said promoting such rights at the international community required respect for States’ sovereign rights and greater mutual understanding, trust and cooperation.  At the national level, Viet Nam had done its best to preserve the environment of peace and stability, promote sustainable development and safeguard human rights.  Placing people at the centre of policies, the Government had strengthened the legal system and institutions.  However, Viet Nam suffered from the impact of drought, salinization and floods, hindering people’s right to food, health, education and adequate housing, she said, calling for international assistance.

TERRENCE TEO (Singapore) noted that a one-size-fits-all approach could not address human rights issues, adding “just as no two people are exactly alike, no two societies, communities or States are exactly alike”.  His Government’s approach had been to build a fair and inclusive society preserving social harmony, and taking a practical, not ideological, approach to realizing human rights.  At times, the Government had had to intervene for the common good, taking steps unpopular with a section of the community.  Singapore was determined to foster a multi-racial, fair and just society and was therefore tough on racial and religious extremists.  Its laws stressed that freedom of expression came with accompanying responsibilities.  Race and religion remained very sensitive matters, and now, more than ever, the Government must engage with different groups and their competing interests deeply and pragmatically.

ALANOUD QASSIM M. A. AL-TEMIMI (Qatar) said her country’s vision of human rights was underpinned by the international conventions to which it had acceded, stressing that Qatar ranked first among Arab States on the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) human development index.  Qatar recognized its challenges as opportunities rather than obstacles.  She expressed concern at tension in Palestinian territories, as the occupying Power continued to confiscate lands and deprive Palestinians of the right to practice their religion.  The Syrian people had endured atrocities for the past five years as a result of the Syrian regime’s violation of all aspects of international law, and continued policy of torture, detention and killing.

MICHAEL GRANT (Canada) said crises and “exceptional” or “unique” circumstances continued to erode the universality of human rights.  That trend often led to greater inequality, injustice, violence and death.  Impunity was a major impediment to the realization of human rights and achievement of sustainable development, he said, expressing concern about a growing lack of recognition and appreciation for diversity, as well as an increasing number of restrictions imposed on civil society.

Mr. AL-HUSSAINI (Iraq) said the Government had allowed international media to establish offices in the country, and women were permitted full rights in the political and diplomatic fields.  Iraq had also taken measures to implement the rights of the child and had acceded to two voluntary protocols.  The right to belief was assured in Iraq, and at a time when it was working to promote human rights, it was also waging war against the Da’esh terrorist group.  That war, however, did not distract from providing for all citizens, he said, thanking those who had supported Iraq’s membership of the Human Rights Council

MENELAOS MENELAOU (Cyprus), associating with the European Union, said that protecting cultural heritage was imperative in protecting human rights.  He recalled that the International Criminal Court’s decision in Prosecutor v. Al Mahdi had established the precedent of prosecuting attacks on religious sites as war crimes.  He also expressed concern about rights violations against Cypriots living under Turkish occupation, where textbooks were censored, churches and cemeteries vandalized and worshippers intimidated.  The issue of missing persons was a major concern, as more than two thirds of the 2,001 missing persons were still unidentified.  He called on Turkey to provide full access to all areas and to release information concerning deliberate removal of the remains of missing persons.

THANT SIN (Myanmar), associating himself with ASEAN, said every country had the right to choose its economic and social path, although collective effort was needed to face common challenges and seize opportunities in dealing with human rights issues.  The international community’s work to promote and protect human rights should be carried out through dialogue in a fair and equal manner with objectivity, impartiality and respect for national sovereignty.  As a nation emerging from internal strife, Myanmar believed that conflict, discrimination and injustices would only end when rule of law and justice flourished.  In that respect, the Government was reviewing outdated laws, and in September, had abolished provisions of the Ward and Village Track Administration Law, which had required citizens to report overnight guests to authorities.  The Government also had prioritized ratifying several core international human rights treaties and their protocols.

GEORGIOS POULEAS (Greece), endorsing the European Union’s position, stressed the importance of a strong multilateral human rights system that encouraged cooperation.  Greece had adopted a human rights-based approach to sustainable economic growth, prioritizing the most vulnerable people.  Greece would continue its coordinated response to the migrant/refugee crisis, he said, while emphasizing the need for burden sharing and addressing root causes.  He expressed great concern over the human rights situation in Cyprus, particularly the situation of missing persons and violations of property rights.  The widespread looting and destruction of cultural sites in the occupied part of the island was a grave concern.  Recent events had reinforced Greece’s position that full withdrawal of the Turkish occupation forces and elimination of the anachronistic system of guarantees were fundamental conditions for resolving the issue.

ZEBIB GEBREKIDAN (Eritrea) said his country had strengthened its partnership with OHCHR, and in May, signed an agreement with the United Nations to enhance its national capacity in the implementation of Universal Periodic Review commitments.  Human rights must be addressed through genuine dialogue and engagement, he said, calling country-specific mandates politicized, confrontational and counterproductive.  He voiced concern over double standards in the region and globally, noting that States which had harassed Eritrea over its human rights record had given the green light to a regime in the region to commit grave human rights violations.  Discussions on human rights could not be meaningful without addressing poverty, instability, occupation and unjustified sanctions.

ILLA MAINALI (Nepal) said her country had implemented comprehensive national policies and action plans to protect the rights of children and persons with disabilities.  A zero tolerance policy was in place for violence against women, and efforts to protect civil society and human rights defenders had been strengthened.  Further, the Government had created the Commission of Investigation on Disappeared Persons, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  Recognizing the importance of the Universal Periodic Review, Nepal had made progress in implementing its recommendations, she said, stressing the need to protect migrants’ rights.

JUN SAITO (Japan), noting that the human rights situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea had not improved, said his country and the European Union would table a draft resolution on that issue for the twelfth year.  The abduction of foreign nationals was among the most serious human rights violations of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.  The deteriorating humanitarian and human rights situation in Syria was also of deep concern, as was the situation in Yemen, amid alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws.  Japan supported United Nations efforts to mediate in that conflict and bring about peace and stability.

JEANNE D’ARC BYAJE (Rwanda) expressed concern about human rights violations that had arisen from the high number of migrants and displaced persons.  Recalling the grave human rights violations experienced during the genocide against the Tutsi, she attached great importance to the protection of all human rights.  Rwanda had made progress in realizing the right to development and providing basic social services, as well as in promoting the right to freedom of expression, with a significant increase in the number of newspapers and radio stations in the country.  The number of online media outlets had grown, she said, citing other gains made in strengthening the freedom of association of civil society organizations, human rights defenders and political parties.

Ms. IZANOVA (Kazakhstan), underscoring that the Government worked closely with the international human rights mechanisms, stressed the importance of realizing the right to freedom of expression.  Kazakhstan had implemented recommendations of the special procedures, she said, emphasizing the importance the Government attached to promoting and maintaining interreligious and interethnic peace.

MAYANK JOSHI (India) reiterated the need for mandate holders to remain independent and to focus on strengthening national capacities.  They also must represent diverse geographic areas, per Human Rights Council resolution 5/1.  Regrettably, nearly half of the thematic mandate holders came from one region, while the reliance on voluntary funding to support the Special Procedures system privileged some mandates over others and could have adverse impacts on their perceived independence.  He expressed concern that the United Nations human rights machinery had divided States and was being used as a political tool.  He welcomed the establishment of a new mandate on the right to development, which was essential for the enjoyment of all other human rights.  Special procedures also had a moral and legal obligation to strengthen national and international accountability for eliminating poverty in a time-bound manner, as there was no point in pursuing freedom from fear without achieving freedom from want.  Finally, he emphasized the impact of fair and equitable international trade, finance, investment and intellectual property on human rights, which could only be achieved if developing countries could participate in global decision making and norm setting on an equal footing with developed countries.

Mr. GHAEBI (Iran) cited rampant human rights violations by the United States, including involuntary disappearances, secret CIA detention centres, the Guantanamo centre and drone strikes.  The devastating impact of unfair migration policies also could not be overlooked, while inside the country, the justice system was plagued with systematic incarceration of a disproportionate number of minorities.  Anti-immigrant sentiment and xenophobia were prevalent in European countries, he said, expressing alarm at the lack of safeguards in asylum procedures.  Thousands of migrant children were at grave risk of sexual abuse and trafficking.

GILLIAN BIRD (Australia) said that, if elected to the Human Rights Council, her country would continue to demonstrate its strong commitment to promoting and protecting human rights.  Expressing concern about growing violence and rights violations based on a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, she said that while such matters were sensitive for many, no one should face stigmatization, discrimination or violence on any grounds.  Working with a range of partners was important to address international rights violations.  Australia had supported the application of the Youth Coalition of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights during a recent session of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations.  While it was regrettable that the matter had been brought to a vote, its passage had shown the commitment by many to increase civil society engagement in the United Nations.

IDRISS BOUASSILA (Algeria) reaffirmed the need to realize all human rights and fundamental freedoms, notably the right to development.  For those deprived of the rights to food, health and education, the invocation of civil and political rights was an empty slogan.  Noting that rights violations persisted worldwide, he said the right to development implied the full realization of the right to self-determination, including full sovereignty over all their natural wealth and resources.  Substantial progress had been made in Algeria to broaden the space for human rights through a series of economic, social and institutional reforms, including laws criminalizing violence against women and children and protecting divorced women.

CALEB OTTO (Palau) said the right to health was enshrined in a number of instruments, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The world had committed to achieving universal health coverage through the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, yet efforts to promote mental health lagged.  In too many countries, resource allocation for mental health and psychosocial services represented a small percent of total health expenditures.  Palau challenged the international community to a global commitment toward ensuring that persons needing mental health services received them.

RWAYDA IZZELDIN HAMID ELHASSAN (Sudan) said the importance her country attached to human rights was visible in its accession to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, among other instruments.  Further, national legislation was in line with such international commitments.  For example, Sudan had established legislative and institutional frameworks to promote human rights domestically.  Military law now included a provision against recruiting children, while bodies to protect women and children in armed conflict had been created.  Foreign debt undermined efforts to ensure human rights for all.  Only human rights which enjoyed consensus could be taken into consideration, she said, and the Universal Periodic Review was the best way to understand State concerns in that regard.

MADHUKA WICKRAMARACHCHI (Sri Lanka) said the country was working to advance the transitional justice process and cited efforts to coordinate with the international human rights mechanisms in that context.  A Task Force had been set up to ensure the participation of civil society, as well as accountability and mechanisms for reparations.  Further, a Permanent and Independent Office on Missing Persons had been set up as an essential element in the truth-seeking process.  The Government was working on a Constitution that reflected the country’s diversity, he said, and had worked with the special procedures to address involuntary disappearances, ensure non-recurrence and protect minorities.

Mr. TUMBARE (Zimbabwe) said the country had made progress in promoting economic rights through various measures, including by broadening access to means of production, which allowed more citizens to participate in the mainstream economy.  Recalling that the promotion and protection of human rights was the Government’s primary duty, he reiterated his rejection of interference with State sovereignty under the veil of human rights protection.  He also stressed the importance of respecting countries’ cultures and traditions in the realization of human rights.

RI SONG CHOL (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said that “human rights mean the sovereignty and the right to independence of countries”.  However, human rights were misused to infringe on State sovereignty, notably in the campaign conducted against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by the United States.  The July report of the Department of State and subsequent special list of sanction targets was “the most hostile act ever” committed by that country.  The United States would use economic sanctions to stifle the rights of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s overseas workers, even though those people worked in line with labour laws of his own country and those of the country concerned.  People enjoyed full rights under the warm care and love of Comrade Kim Jong Un.  The United Nations should prioritize actions of the United States vassal forces, which had plunged the Middle East into chaos under the guise of human rights and democracy.

ANA ILIĆ (Serbia) reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to cooperate with United Nations human rights mechanisms, noting that Serbia had welcomed visits by Special Rapporteurs, cooperated with treaty bodies and was fulfilling its reporting requirements.  She expressed regret that there had been no progress in the protection of the rights of ethnic communities in the Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija.  Serbia was committed to dialogue with Pristina, but was concerned that the latter was not engaging in good faith.  In Croatia, too, the Serbian minority was under more frequent attack.  She expected that Croatia would take seriously the criticism of the Council of Europe Advisory Committee opinion on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, and implement its recommendations.  For its part, Serbia would continue to advance legislation that promoted the status of its minorities, non-discrimination and human rights.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh) said his country’s commitment to human rights flowed from the Constitution, which embodied the principles and provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The legal and institutional framework in Bangladesh sought to ensure that people enjoyed their rights.  However, like many other least developed countries, Bangladesh faced challenges such as poverty, which prevented people from achieving their economic, social and cultural rights.  Government efforts, such as social safety nets, microfinance and programmes for women’s empowerment and education, had broadened the spectrum of rights to be enjoyed by all.  Citing the principles of universality, non-selectivity and impartiality, he said country-specific resolutions did not improve human rights situations in developing countries.  Rather, the Universal Periodic Review generated dialogue and cooperation.

IHOR YAREMENKO (Ukraine), recalling the aggression his country had been subjected to by the Russian Federation, expressed concern about the detention and interrogation of Ukrainian citizens and the violence and torture they had been made to suffer.  He voiced grave concern about the human rights situation in the Russian Federation, notably the expanded use of surveillance and crackdown on both civil society and the press.  He called for the immediate release of all political prisoners.

KATHRIN NESCHER (Liechtenstein), speaking also on behalf of Australia, Iceland, New Zealand and Switzerland, said the Sustainable Development Goals and indicators were linked to international human rights obligations.  She pointed out that the right to development shared a number of commonalities with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Both recognized the centrality of people in development and sought to create an enabling environment for the full realization of all human rights.  They also reaffirmed States’ responsibility to ensure equal opportunities for all citizens.  She called for realizing the right to development in all its facets, stressing that opportunities could be found in exploring the relationship between human rights and sustainable development.

KATHRIN NESCHER (Liechtenstein), speaking also on behalf of Australia, Iceland, New Zealand and Switzerland, said the Sustainable Development Goals and indicators were linked to international human rights obligations.  She pointed out that the right to development shared a number of commonalities with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Both recognized the centrality of people in development and sought to create an enabling environment for the full realization of all human rights.  They also reaffirmed States’ responsibility to ensure equal opportunities for all citizens.  She called for realizing the right to development in all its facets, stressing that opportunities could be found in exploring the relationship between human rights and sustainable development.

VILMA THOMAS (Cuba) said the United Nations must be objective in its approach to human rights.  The statement by the United States delegate was arrogant and confrontational, an approach that did not promote or protect human rights.  Cuba’s rights record, by contrast, had been exemplary.  In Cuba, unlike in the United States, the Government did not stifle protesters with teargas or execute people of colour.  Cuba did not abandon homeless people and all of its inhabitants were guaranteed medical care.  The international community must prioritize ending extreme poverty, which had been exacerbated by an unjust global order.  Reaffirming Cuba’s commitment to human rights for all, she said cooperation was needed to bring about the principles of universality and non-selectivity, and to ensure genuine dialogue among countries of the North and South.  In that regard, it was important to do away with double standards in country resolutions.

ROBERT ALEXANDER POVEDA BRITO (Venezuela) said the Government promoted respect for human rights through its legislative and legal practices.  In recent years, it had strengthened the legal order and human rights system.  This year, it would present its Universal Periodic Review, he said, noting that Venezuela had also been re-elected to the Human Right Council — a recognition of its achievements.  Eradicating poverty was a particular focus and the Government had made strides toward that goal.  It had increased school enrolment, reduced maternal mortality and combatted malaria and HIV.  He reiterated the importance of objectivity, non-selectivity and non-politicization in the protection of human rights, condemning country-specific resolutions and reports.

HABIB MIKAYILLI (Azerbaijan) focused on the detrimental effects of armed conflict on cultural heritage and the enjoyment of cultural rights.  He expressed his concern that religious and cultural heritage was often targeted during armed conflict and condemned all such intentional destruction.  The protection and preservation of cultural heritage was not only a legal obligation but also a moral one.  Expressing concern about the increased police killings of African-Americans in the United States, he urged that country to collaborate with relevant international human rights mechanisms.

NECTON D. MHURA (Malawi) said his country had a longstanding commitment to human rights, reflected in its customary laws and teachings. Recognizing the role of good governance and democracy in the realization of human rights, the Government had integrated a rights-based approach in its laws and policies.  It also had recognized the importance of nutrition and quality education in that context, he said, noting that climate change had profoundly affected the economy.  Among other efforts, Malawi had introduced a progressive disability law and addressed attacks on people living with albinism through amendments to the Anatomy Act and Penal Code.

Mr. EL KADDOURI (Morocco) said the Government was committed to promoting and protecting human rights in their universality and totality.  Morocco had undertaken far-reaching reforms as part of a gradual process to establish a culture of rights.  The country had integrated international law into its Constitution, which recognized and enshrined respect for local cultures and criminalized torture.  In 2011, Morocco had set up an inter-ministerial delegation for the coordination of public policy on human rights.  It also had carried out structural reforms and consolidated and multiplied democratic reforms.

WU HAITAO (China), stressing that cooperation must respect States’ sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, said he opposed the politicization and double standards on human rights issues, as well as interference in internal State affairs under the pretext of human rights.  Dialogue should be conducted on the basis of equality and mutual learning pursued in an open, inclusive manner.  Stressing the right to inclusive development, he said States should capitalize on the opportunity provided by implementation of the 2030 Agenda, prioritizing assistance to developing countries to eliminate poverty and realize the rights to life and development.  In addition, the international community must respect people’s choices, understanding that there was no universally applicable development pathway or human rights standard.  Respect should be given to countries’ autonomous choice of human rights protection modalities that were tailored to their national circumstances.

NADYA RIFAAT RASHEED, observer of the State of Palestine, reiterated her strong support for the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied since 1967 and called for United Nations action to hold Israel accountable and address its long record of non-cooperation.  The persistence of that situation, without consequence or remedy, had inflicted immense human suffering and undermined efforts to realize a just peace based on a two-State solution.  Given Israel’s unwillingness to investigate its violations, she called upon the international community to end the culture of impunity, which sent the message that Palestinian lives did not matter.  Seventy years had passed since the question of Palestine was placed on the agenda and it was high time for action to compel Israel to respect its international legal obligations.

Ms. ALZOUMAN (Kuwait), sharing achievements, said the Government had acceded to a number of international human rights instruments and engaged with the related mechanisms.  She deplored the rights violations perpetrated against Palestinians, in breach of international human rights and humanitarian law.  Expressing grave concern about the conflict in Syria, she said Kuwait expressed its support for Syria by hosting refugees and by holding donor conferences.

LOURDES O. YPARRAGUIRRE (Philippines) stressed the need to protect migrants’ rights and maintain the momentum generated by the adoption of the New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants.  The Global Compact take a human rights-based approach to ensure safe and regular migration, as well as a long-term developmental perspective.  On the concerns expressed about alleged extrajudicial killings in connection with drug-related offenses, she said expressed the Government’s commitment to uphold the rule of law, underscoring the threat that illegal drugs posed to society.

CARLA MUCAVI, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), while recognizing achievements in reducing hunger, drew attention other food-related challenges, such as obesity and malnutrition.  The right to food was a foundation for realizing other human rights, she said, noting that discrimination against women, which restricted their access to land, had detrimental effects on food security.  For its part, FAO provided support to States to improve food systems and to ensure food security.

Right of Reply

The representative of Bahrain, responding to remarks by the United States delegate, reaffirmed her Government’s commitment to the highest standards of human rights protection and cooperation with the United Nations.  Bahrain was committed to an open democratic process that promoted a strong sense of national identity, but had put in place measures to protect the political arena from sectarianism.  Revocation of citizenship occurred in accordance with law.  No person, including those named, had been prosecuted for freedom of expression.

Turkey’s representative, responding to comments by Greece’s delegate, rejected the latter’s recollection of history as selective and one-sided.  Turkish Cypriots had been forced out of Government institutions in 1963 and Turkey had intervened in 1974 to protect Turkish Cypriots from a military coup initiated by Greece.  While supporting the Secretary-General’s efforts to reach a just settlement, he said Greece was exploiting a humanitarian issue for political purposes.  The Immovable Property Commission provided recourse to Greek Cypriots, while cultural heritage issues were addressed by a joint committee.  To the United States delegate, he said his Government had followed due process in addressing the fallout from the coup attempt, and he called for the extradition of the coup’s leadership, who were living abroad.

The representative of the Russian Federation regretted that the representative of the United States had introduced issues to the Third Committee that were not part of its mandate.  The people of Crimea had acceded to the Russian Federation by referendum.  Ukraine’s delegate would be more honest to mention the Ukrainian radicals who had carried out an economic blockade of Crimea, or the situation of the Tatars, who had been ignored by authorities throughout Ukraine’s independence.  She urged the delegates of the United States and the European Union to familiarize themselves with her Government’s position on East Aleppo.

China’s representative opposed the politically motivated and groundless allegations and attacks on the human rights situation in his country by his counterparts from the United States and the European Union, who were using human rights as a geopolitical tool, while remaining silent about their own abuses and those of their allies.  In the United States, guns were ubiquitous, police used force on ethnic minorities, race-based hate crimes continued and the Government violated citizen privacy through surveillance.  Meanwhile, in the European Union, racism against migrants was a serious concern.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, rejecting allegations by the United States and the European Union representatives, said the United States had slaughtered children and women abroad under the guise of democracy.  The same applied to the European Union, where refugees were discriminated against and exploited.  To comments by Japan’s representative, he said the issue of abducted citizens had been addressed.  Japan should address its own crimes and apologize.

Ukraine’s representative drew attention to international agreements regarding the unlawfulness of occupation.

The representative of Cyprus expressed concern about the Turkish occupation of territories in Cyprus and called on Turkey to end the occupation immediately.

Israel’s representative deplored the choices made by Palestinians, including the hosting of a terrorist organization and discrimination against women.  Palestinians should promote health and education, rather than incite hate.

Japan’s representative said the question of abducted citizens had not been resolved and called on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to implement relevant agreements immediately.  Japan was a democratic Government committed to the rule of law.

An observer of Palestine, in response to comments by Israel’s delegate, dismissed claims of incitement.  The cause of violence was the occupation.  It was an outrageous claim that Palestinian children were taught to hate.  The human rights violations outlined were not a Palestinian story, but rather, recognized by the international community.

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea’s delegate rejected comments by Japan’s delegate, urging Japan to apologize for its crimes against humanity and to end rights violations against Korean residents of Japan.

Japan’s delegate responded that his country had no intention of breaking the Stockholm Agreement.  It was regrettable that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had not responded to the concerns raised by the Special Rapporteur.

Israel’s representative, responding to comments by the observer of the State of Palestine, said she looked forward to reciting the findings of Palestinian non-Governmental organizations and courts on the use of children for terror.

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Country-specific, Thematic Issues Dominate Meeting, as Third Committee Takes Up Five Texts on Children’s Rights, Other Aspects of Social Development

Experts on the human rights situations in Myanmar and Iran, as well as on thematic topics such as trafficking in persons, were among those presenting reports to the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today, as delegates began general debate on those reports and introduced five draft resolutions on other aspects of social development.

Vijay Nambiar, Special Adviser on Myanmar, presented the Secretary-General’s report on the human rights situation in that country in the context of its ongoing peace process and democratization.  He described “significant” political changes that had taken place following the historic November 2015 elections, including the presence of Daw Aung Sun Suu Kyi at the General Assembly’s seventy-first session.  While there was “cautious optimism” about Government efforts to improve the situation in Rakhine State, recent violence there had created cause for concern.

In the ensuing dialogue, Myanmar’s representative underscored the serious efforts underway to find a fair and durable solution to the situation in Rakhine.  The Government was also cooperating with the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Given its progress, it was time for the United Nations to assist Myanmar in its democratic transition, based on regular modes of engagement without any special human rights procedures, a point later echoed by Mr. Nambiar, who encouraged States to consider other options of engagement to support the transition.

Delegates welcomed the positive direction the new Government had taken to achieve peace.  Several expressed concern about recent attacks in Rakhine and rights violations against minorities, among them, Egypt’s representative, who, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, drew attention to the deteriorating situation of the Rohingya community and restrictions on their rights.

In an interactive dialogue Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, delegates reiterated concern about rights violations in those territories and the ongoing occupation.  In response, Mr. Lynk said that the occupation was only becoming more entrenched, mainly due to Israel’s settlement expansion.  Palestinians were not on path to self-determination, which should be a concern to the international community.

Rita Izsak-Ndiaye, Special Rapporteur on minority issues, described rights violations faced by minorities during humanitarian crises, such as displacement and discrimination. Delegates shared those concerns, with representatives of Hungary and Norway requesting more support for minorities and more data on their situations. In her response, Ms. Izsak-Ndiaye stressed the need to ensure the full inclusion of minorities in all sectors of society.

Elisabeth da Costa, presented the final report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, noting that, while Iran’s engagement had improved over the past five years, he had never been granted access to the country.  Children were at risk of early and forced marriage, while ethnic and religious minorities were subject to arbitrary arrest, detention and prosecution.  The rights to freedom of expression and association were severely restricted.  Iran was still the country with the highest number of executions per capita.

Iran’s delegate responded that recent legal reforms had been ignored and, along with other delegates, decried the politicized, duplicative and partial nature of the mandate.  Other delegates called on Iran to meet its international human rights obligations and expressed concern about the detention of individuals with dual citizenship.

Heiner Bielefeldt, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, also presented their reports.

In other business, the representatives of Thailand, on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, Mongolia and Canada, introduced five draft resolutions on issues related to social development and the protection of the rights of children.

Speaking in the general debate were representatives of the Dominican Republic (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Indonesia (on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations), Finland (also on behalf of Sweden), Argentina and Switzerland.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 31 October, to continue its discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) continued discussions today under its agenda item on the promotion and protection of human rights.  For further information, see Press Release GA/SHC/4172.

Dialogue on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

The Third Committee opened with a continuation of its discussion of the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, which had begun the previous day with a statement by Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur for human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.  Several delegates expressed support for the Special Rapporteur’s mandate, commending him on including the issue of the right to development in his report.  Many sought his opinion on measures the international community could take to ensure that Israel was held accountable for its rights violations.  Israel’s delegate objected that the mandate was biased.  The Human Rights Council, under which the Special Rapporteur’s mandate rested, had been taken over by some of the world’s worst human right violators and had fixated on “the only democracy in the Middle East” while ignoring other violations around the world.

Mr. LYNK replied that the occupation was not lessening; to the contrary, it was becoming more entrenched.  The Palestinians were not on path to self-determination, and that reality should be of concern to the international community.  The occupation existed because of Israel’s settlement project, without which there would be no need for it.  It was a tribute to the international community that it had devoted so much attention to the Palestine question.  However, the occupation was almost 50 years old and the occupying Power had faced virtually no consequences.  Thus, to questions about measures that could help end the occupation, he answered, in turn, with a question:  “Does the occupying Power need to realize that its status in the international community depends on allowing Palestinians to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and on ending the occupation?”  Further, he raised the question of whether there should be a resolution at the United Nations or an advisory opinion at the International Court of Justice on whether the occupation was illegal.

Also participating in the discussion were representative of Jordan, Senegal, Indonesia, Cuba, Qatar, Norway, South Africa, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Maldives and Turkey, as well as the State of Palestine and the European Union.

Dialogue on Human Rights in Myanmar

VIJAY NAMBIAR, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Myanmar, introduced the Secretary-General’s report (document A/71/308), which provided an overview on the peace process, democratization and development in that country. The report considered the significant political changes that had taken place after the historic November 2015 elections, he said, stressing that the presence of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at the General Assembly’s seventy-first session had garnered great interest.  The process of democratization, reform and reconciliation in Myanmar started with the 2010 general election which, he said, despite its flawed character, had replaced the military junta with a putative civilian Government. 

Dialogue and cooperation had flourished since then, he said.  Daw Suu’s decision to contest the April 2012 by-elections and her subsequent victory had changed the political paradigm and path of the country.  Despite such progress, democratic governance must be consolidated further, he said, noting that the coordinated engagement of the United Nations’ good offices had been a key factor in the positive changes achieved in recent years.  On the situation in Rakhine, he said the Government had taken steps towards a peaceful settlement, notably by establishing a Central Committee for the Implementation of Peace, Stability and Development in Rakhine state, and an Advisory Commission.  While there was cautious optimism that the Government was working to improve the situation, recent violence had created cause for concern.  More must be done to protect minorities in the country, in close collaboration with civil society.  Steps taken to promote reconciliation included the strengthening of women’s participation in the peace process and the signing of a joint action plan with the United Nations to end the use of child soldiers.

The representative of Myanmar, noting that the Government had prioritized peace and national reconciliation, expressed appreciation for the international support in that regard.  The inclusive Union Peace Conference in August had marked a vital step towards lasting peace.  The Government was making serious efforts to find a fair and durable solution to the situation in Rakhine.  In response to attacks on police posts there, it had taken all its actions within the law and provided food and basic supplies to affected communities.  Myanmar also had cooperated with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, held annual human rights dialogues and was a member of the Human Rights Mechanism of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).  Given such progress, it was time for the United Nations to assist Myanmar in its democratic transition based on regular modes of engagement without any special human rights procedures.

Delegates welcomed the progress made in Myanmar, and at the same time, expressed concern about recent attacks, asking what could be done to better protect minorities, and more broadly, support peace and democratization.

Mr. NAMBIAR replied that humanitarian access to Rakhine state would be granted next week and that the situation was being closely monitored.  He encouraged the international community to monitor the security situation and remind the Government to address any concerns about its security presence in country’s north, stressing that the effects of security operations on local communities must be monitored to prevent human rights violations.  Noting that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations country team had supported the transition, he said hate speech and incitement to violence must be tackled, while minorities must be protected.  The Organization should continue its high level of engagement with Myanmar, including through a local presence for OHCHR.  It was also important for the Special Rapporteur on the situation to continue her work.

Participating in the dialogue were representatives of Singapore, Norway, Egypt (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), China and the United Kingdom, as well as the European Union.  

Dialogue on Freedom of Religion or Belief

HEINER BIELEFELDT, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, dedicated his last thematic report (A/71/269) to an overview of violations of that right, which could originate from States, non-State actors or a combination of both.  Some infringements remained largely under-reported, including criminal legal provisions which, on the surface, did not touch on religion or belief — such as anti-extremism laws — but which imposed unreasonable burdens on certain religious communities.  Education was another area warranting systematic monitoring.  Religious intolerance did not originate from religions themselves; there was scope for interpretation in all of them.  Human beings were ultimately responsible for open-minded or narrow-minded interpretations.  “Theocratic” regimes typically stifled any serious intellectual debate on religious issues.  Hence, it was no coincidence that opposition against those regimes always included critical believers of the very same religion the Government pretended to protect.

Some Governments violated freedom of religion or belief in the interest of exercising political control over society as a whole, he said.  Massive violations of that right were currently taking place in countries characterized by systemic political mismanagement, such as corruption, cronyism and ethnocentrism.  While States remained the duty-bearers for the implementation of human rights within their jurisdiction, the international community must live up to its obligations, too, and it had largely failed to protect the rights of refugees and internally displaced persons.  While some States had opened their borders and shown solidarity, others had indicated they would merely be willing to accommodate refugees from religious backgrounds close to their own predominant religious traditions.

In the ensuing dialogue, delegates expressed support for the Special Rapporteur’s mandate and asked for recommendations on ways to promote diversity, accountability, and to address the root causes of violations of religion and belief.

Mr. BIELEFELDT began by addressing the treatment of minorities, which was indicative of the climate in a society.  While the representatives of the United States and Yemen had raised the issue of the Bahá’ís, he said nonbelievers and followers of non-traditional beliefs were also vulnerable.  While extra attention to minorities was well justified, one should not take freedom of religion and belief to be in the interest of minorities alone.  Majority religions should be more involved in issues of freedom of religion and take responsibility for protecting minorities, not simply because it was the right thing to do but because it was in their own interest. 

He called for greater dialogue between members of the same faith groups, noting that there were many examples of good practices in his report.  Further, religiously colorized hatred was not a natural law.  There were situations in which Shiites and Sunnis lived together peacefully, despite some peoples’ beliefs that conflict between the two faiths was inevitable due to age-old animosities.  To the contrary, conflict between the two stemmed from an artificial attempt to poison relations.  Finally, he emphasized that it was impossible to work on freedom of religion without addressing gender.

Also participating in the discussion were representatives of Poland, Denmark, Iran, Germany, Norway, United Kingdom, Ireland and Canada, as well as the European Union.

Dialogue on Trafficking in Persons

MARIA GRAZIA GIAMMARINARO, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, presented her report (document A/71/303) and highlighted that trafficking was a systemic outcome of conflict.  Welcoming increased international interest in that linkage, she noted that trafficking victims were entitled to the same rights, due diligence, protection and prevention against such abuse during times of conflict as otherwise.  Her report highlighted conflict-related trafficking from three perspectives, the first of which was trafficking of persons fleeing conflict.  For example, unaccompanied children from Afghanistan and Sudan in refugee camps in Calais and Dunkirk, both in France, had been illegally traded for sexual exploitation by people who had promised them passage to the United Kingdom.

On her second point, trafficking during conflict, she underlined that trafficking of migrant workers into conflict zones was a hidden issue, which often resulted in women and girls being subjected to both labour and sexual abuse.  On her last point, trafficking in post-conflict situations, she emphasized that peacekeeping operations continued to be the occasion for “shameful incidents” of sexual violence, abuse and exploitation.  A large, militarized and predominantly male international presence fuelled the demand for goods and services produced through trafficking for labour or sexual exploitation.  Recommendations from her report included six measures, among them that appropriate procedures should be established at reception centres for migrants and implemented by trained personnel in cooperation with civil society organizations. 

When the floor opened for questions, several delegates asked about best practices on how to address trafficking and protect victims.  Germany’s representative wanted to know how States could sensitize the media without infringing on press freedom, while the delegates of the European Union and Switzerland asked for recommendations on integrating human trafficking into the Global Compact on Migrants and Refugees, which States would soon negotiate.

Ms. GIAMMARINARO highlighted that trafficking was a systematic outcome of conflict and must be addressed within that context.  Anti-trafficking should be fully integrated into the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Global Compact.  In places with large movements of migrants, it was important to establish anti-trafficking procedures in cooperation with non-Governmental organizations and others capable of interviewing migrants and identifying indications of exploitation and trafficking. Member States should also help at-risk people find employment.  Those measures must be integrated across actions.  The International Labour Organization Alliance, as part of Sustainable Development Goal 8.7, was an example of good practice; it engaged businesses to ensure that self-regulatory tools were implemented, especially in the supply chain.

Also participating in the dialogue were representatives of the United States, United Kingdom, Lichtenstein, South Africa, Morocco and Eritrea.

Introduction of draft resolutions

Under the agenda item on social development, the representative of Thailand, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced drafts on “Implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly” (document A/C.3/71/L.5); “Follow-up to the Twentieth Anniversary of the International Year of the Family and Beyond” (document A/C.3/71/L.6); and “Follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing” (document A/C.3/71/L.7).

The representative of Mongolia introduced a draft on “Literacy for life: shaping future agendas” (document A/C.3/71/L.9).

Under the Committee’s agenda item on promotion and protection of the rights of children, Canada’s representative, also speaking on behalf of Zambia, introduced a draft on “Child, early and forced marriage” (document A/C.3/71/L.13).

Dialogue on Human Rights of Minorities

RITA IZSÁK-NDIAYE, Special Rapporteur on minority issues, focused on the human rights of minorities in humanitarian crises, stressing that those populations were particularly vulnerable and often targeted because of their identity.  There was a correlation between crises and minority status.  In humanitarian crises, for example, minorities were more likely to be displaced and subjected to discrimination.  Further, a lack of accurate and disaggregated data made a much-needed analysis of their situations more difficult, she said, underscoring the need to gather more detailed information.

She went on to say that minorities often lived in fear and therefore were more hesitant to share information about their situations.  They faced numerous challenges in humanitarian crises, including attacks and threats to their lives, marginalization, a lack of access to basic services and issues related to land rights and security of tenure. She recommended that Member States build resilient minority communities and provide timely and adequate assistance to minorities during humanitarian crises.  In addition, the Secretary-General should develop a comprehensive United Nations strategy to ensure the systematic integration of minority rights into all programming.

When the floor opened, Austria’s representative asked whether the Special Rapporteur saw synergies between her mandate and the work of other treaty bodies or special procedures.  The European Union’s representative shared the concern that minorities faced greater problems during crises, and asked how the international community could better address that issue.  Several delegations queried the Special Rapporteur about disaggregated statistical data.

Ms. IZSÁK-NDIAYE emphasized that people who collected data must understand why they were doing it, and that they must be members of the minority groups’ own communities.  Guarantees also should be in the system to ensure that the information was not abused.  To the question about synergies, she said the participation of non-governmental organizations should be encouraged, reminding delegations that there was a voluntary fund to enable minorities to travel and participate in the deliberations of the Forum on Minority Issues.  Regarding other aspects of her work, she said she had done research on Universal Periodic Review recommendations and was currently looking into research on the second cycle.

As she was nearing the end of her mandate, she then provided a few general observations on its six years.  It was difficult to look at past and current conflicts and not see ethnic and minority identity dimensions, she said, adding that identity was emotive and important to all.  It involved everything in people’s lives and limitations on how they lived, making it a symbol of not having dignity or having one’s rights respected.  Dignity had to be equally guaranteed for everyone, and that lay at the heart of protection of minorities.  She urged the United Nations to recognize that every part of the system should promote minority rights. 

Also participating in the interactive dialogue were representatives of Hungary, United States, Russian Federation, and Norway. 

Dialogue on Human Rights in Iran

ELISABETH DA COSTA, presenting the final report of AHMED SHAHEED, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, highlighted progress and challenges in that country.  The Government’s engagement with United Nations rights bodies had improved over the past five years.  However, the Special Rapporteur had not been granted access to the country throughout his mandate, which was now coming to an end.  While Iran had made positive legal reforms to strengthen the rights of the accused, those changes had not contributed to sufficient progress in the human rights situation, in part because there was a gap between the law and State-sanctioned practices that violated fundamental rights.  Further, national laws and practices restricted the rights to freedom of expression and association and peaceful assembly, and journalists and human rights defenders had been persecuted by Government agencies.  Iran executed more individuals per capita than any other country, she pointed out.

In addition, laws, policies and practices continued to institutionalize the “second class status” of women and girls, she said, noting that the age of majority was 9 for girls and 15 for boys, effectively depriving children above those ages of protections under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Moreover, the minimum age for marriage was 13 for girls and 15 for boys, placing girls at risk of early and forced marriage.  Ethnic and religious minorities were also subject to abuses, such as arbitrary arrest, detention and prosecution.  She encouraged the international community to continue to engage Iran on human rights, as such efforts had shown positive potential thus far.

When the floor was opened, several delegates expressed concern about use of the death penalty in Iran, the targeting of dual citizens, and the rights of women, children and minorities.  Delegates of the United Kingdom and European Union expressed concern about the severity of punishment for drug-related offences in Iran, asking how the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights could engage the Government on alternative punishments for such crimes.  Some asked the Rapporteur for his opinion on the role that the international community could play in bringing about tangible improvements in those areas.

Several delegates voiced opposition to the Rapporteur’s mandate, saying it violated the principles of non-selectivity, impartiality and objectivity, and argued that the Universal Periodic Review was a more appropriate instrument for investigating human rights violations in specific countries.

Mr. SHAHEED responded that the whole idea of the country mandate had come about in the 1950s and 1960s, when the United Nations felt the need for a protection mechanism.  The Iran mandate had shown the efficacy of those mechanisms.  In most cases, the Government had responded positively to issues he had raised.  To those who believed country-specific mandates were a form of political pressure, he clarified that his mandate was not an instrument for condemning Iran, but rather for engaging the Government constructively. 

Once his mandate had begun, he said Iran’s response rate to United Nations communications had increased to about 40 to 50 per cent.  Domestic discourse on human rights had also improved, thanks, perhaps, to the efforts of the Third Committee.  Moreover, revision of the country’s capital punishment law could result in a decline in the number of death penalty cases.  He saw Hassan Rouhani’s election to the Presidency as a sign of a new approach and a healthier discourse on rights issues.

On the issue of drug trafficking, he suggested the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime be invited to consult Iran on human rights issues.  He called for greater engagement with Iran, including greater investment, though he emphasized that investors must avoid accentuating discrimination in the country.

In response, Iran’s representative expressed strong disagreement with the Special Rapporteur’s assessment of the impact of his mandate.  Rather than encouraging progress in the human rights sphere, the mandate had been destructive.  Iranian society was vibrant and progressive, yet sensitive to foreign interventions. 

Also speaking during the interactive dialogue were representatives of Venezuela (also speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), United States, Syria, Germany, Switzerland, Zimbabwe, Norway, Canada, Russian Federation, Belarus, Czech Republic, Japan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Cuba, China, Eritrea and Pakistan.

Statements

MILDRED GUZMÁN MADERA (Dominican Republic), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said historic and contemporary migratory flows had created the region.  There should be greater international understanding of migration patterns.  Migratory flows within a region should be safe and well-regulated, and the dignity of migrants and their families should be protected.  She urged States in transit and destination areas to work together in seeking solutions.  International migration required an integrated approach, and the human rights and fundamental freedoms of children needed to be protected. 

She went on to stress that irregular migration should be approached from a human rights perspective in line with international agreements.  Rejecting the criminalization of irregular migration, as well as xenophobia against migrants, she urged the international community to protect migrants from criminal groups.  In addition, migrant workers must be protected, she said, stressing that the right of migrants to a voluntary return to their countries of origin was also important.  Countries implementing selective policies toward migrants must end them.  The United Nations was the best forum to discuss the issue of migration.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia), on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), reiterated the bloc’s strong commitment to human rights and the Committee’s work.  Human rights should be treated in a balanced, impartial manner, he said, stressing that ASEAN continued to strengthen its collaboration with the United Nations in a number of areas, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

He went on to share achievements in advancing human rights, noting that States continued to mainstream human rights, raise awareness among young people and strengthen women’s and children’s rights.  They also had increased civil society’s participation in relevant human rights bodies, as well as developed regional action plans on human rights protection and on supportive legal frameworks.  Efforts were also underway to promote the rights of persons with disabilities and to end violence against children.

KAI SAUER (Finland), also speaking on behalf of Sweden, said access to information was one explanation for the success of those countries in creating prosperity and welfare for their citizens.  But around the world, the space for civil society had shrunk and new threats to freedom of expression and media had undermined the foundations of democracy.  Together with their Nordic and Baltic neighbouring countries, Finland and Sweden were training journalists to support free and independent media in areas affected by disinformation and propaganda.  He reviewed the history of national legislation protecting freedom of the press Sweden and Finland, noting that the Swedish Parliament had passed the world’s first Freedom of the Press Act 250 years ago.  However, developments in the wider world had shown the need for more work to advance freedom of expression globally. 

He went on to say that female journalists and researchers were regularly subjected to online harassment, including rape threats, cyberstalking, and blackmail, citing the “Gamergate” events in which several women in the global video game industry had been targeted.  The 2030 Agenda’s Target 16.10, which called on States to “ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms,” was relevant to achieving all the other Goals.  Everyone needed equal access to an open, free, secure and equal Internet where individuals could exercise their right to freedom of opinion, expression, association and assembly.  Human rights, he underlined, applied online as well as offline.  All States must respect and protect the right to privacy in digital communication, and international cooperation was crucial to ensuring those objectives.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) associating himself with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said development and human rights were mutually reinforcing.  Violations of the rights of older persons had increased, and an international agreement was needed in that context.  Reiterating his call to protect people regardless of their sexual orientation, he rejected the execution of and discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation or gender, stressing that all people must be protected.  He called on the international community to protect migrants and refugees from discrimination and attacks.

Ms. LAISSUE (Switzerland) expressed concern over persistent human rights violations in a number of countries, often under the pretext of security concerns, as well as over restrictions imposed on civil society and reprisals and violence against human rights defenders.  She called for increased international efforts to protect civil society actors, stressing that rights violations often preceded violence and therefore must be addressed.  She also encouraged States that had not done so to abolish the death penalty, as it violated the right to life, and called on all States to cooperate with all international human rights mechanisms, as special procedures must be able to access areas under their mandate.

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Child Migrants, Refugees Especially Vulnerable to Violence during Humanitarian Crises, Speakers Tell Third Committee, as Debate on Children Concludes

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) concluded its general discussion on the rights of children today, with delegates describing progress and challenges on a range of issues pertaining to child health, education and protection.

While several delegates shared progress their Governments had made in improving legislative and social mechanisms to prevent violence against children, many were concerned by the growing threat posed by humanitarian emergencies, and in particular, the migrant and refugee crisis.

The representative of Bulgaria, which was both a transit and host country for thousands of refugees and migrants, reminded Member States that “a child is first a child, and after that, a refugee or migrant”.  As such, they had rights that must be protected by all.  Guatemala’s delegate was particularly concerned by the vulnerability of unaccompanied children migrating across the Americas.  Her Government had established consular services in Mexico and the United States to help protect those youth, but she also urged States to stop detaining minors.  Similarly, El Salvador’s speaker called for a human rights-based approach to dealing with the situation of child migrants.  Echoing those concerns, the representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reminded authorities of their obligations under international law to prevent family separation and to avoid detaining children.

A number of delegates addressed the situation of children living under occupation, with Ukraine’s delegate stressing that despite his country’s efforts to improve opportunities for children, many Ukrainian children living under Russian occupation had been denied their rights.  Similarly in Georgia, the Russian occupation was denying children the right to education in their native language and freedom of movement, said that country’s delegate.

In the Middle East, Palestinian children had been deliberately targeted by the Israeli army, said the State of Palestine’s observer.  She asked when the international community would react to those rights violations.  Iran’s delegate expressed dismay that political pressure had compromised the independence of the Secretary-General’s 2016 report on children and armed conflict.  He proposed the United Nations at least impose an arms embargo on Governments engaged in mass killing of children.

The Russian Federation’s delegate, exercising his right of reply, called on Georgian authorities to discuss issues including children’s rights in a dialogue directly with the powers of the sovereign nations of Abkhazia and Ossetia.  To his Ukrainian counterpart, he said the politicized statement was an attempt to deflect attention from human rights violations in Ukraine itself.

In other business today, the Committee approved a decision to invite the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, to present an oral update.  She would be orally introduced as a member of the former Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea.

Also speaking were representatives of Algeria, Angola, Bahrain, Kuwait, Bangladesh, Botswana, Cameroon, Monaco, Central African Republic, China, Eritrea, Burkina Faso, Dominican Republic, Fiji, Guinea, Congo, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Jamaica, Japan, Lebanon, Panama, Madagascar, Morocco, Haiti, Mozambique, Armenia, Myanmar, Palau, Malaysia, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sudan, Kyrgyzstan, Timor-Leste, Togo, Azerbaijan, Tonga, Ukraine, United Republic of Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and the observer of the Sovereign Order of Malta.

Officials of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) also addressed the Committee.

Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Israel, the State of Palestine and Ukraine.

The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Monday, 17 October, to begin consideration of the rights of indigenous peoples.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to conclude its debate on the promotion and protection of the rights of children.  For information, see Press Release GA/SHC/4169.

Statements

CÉCILE MBALLA EYENGA (Cameroon) expressed concern about the conditions for children around the world, especially in Africa, due to armed conflicts and humanitarian crises.  Cameroon had made education a pillar of its social policies.  Protection of children’s rights was as essential.  Children recruited by terrorist groups, such as Boko Haram, were of great concern.  She welcomed collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and other United Nations agencies, stressing that with such assistance, Cameroon had implemented programmes to combat child mortality, focusing on systematic vaccination programmes. 

VALÉRIE S BRUELL-MELCHIOR (Monaco) said that while UNICEF aimed to help all children, after 70 years of action, numerous obstacles had yet to be overcome.  Two conditions were essential to ensure children had a good start to life:  health and education.  She observed that 250 million children lacked good nutrition, adding that children’s access to health care must include nutrition goals.  Quality education without distinction was the way to break the vicious cycle of poverty.  Children should be taught to reflect in a manner that would allow them to reject extremism.

MARÍA JOSÉ DEL ÁGUILA CASTILLO (Guatemala), endorsing the statement of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said investing in childhood was crucial to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  Her country had been affected by El Niño and El Niña, and appreciated the United Nations’ support in responding to their devastating effects.  The situation of migrant children was of great concern and her Government had established consular services in Mexico and the United States to support unaccompanied migrant children.  States must stop detaining minors.  Finally, she welcomed the Secretary-General’s report on the protection of children from bullying.

TAMTA KUPRADZE (Georgia), addressing the vulnerability of children in armed conflict and the need for more efforts to protect their rights, said the Russian Federation’s occupation of Georgian territory had deprived Georgian children of their rights to education in their native language and freedom of movement.  Those violations were particularly concerning given the absence of international monitoring mechanisms inside those territories.  Committed to increasing opportunities for its children, Georgia had improved its education system, health and social services and ensuring children’s protection from violence.  Its Parliament had adopted a new amendment to the Civil Code requiring parental consent for marriage under age 16 and other measures to prevent human trafficking.

MAJDA MOUTCHOU (Morocco) said her country had ratified all children’s rights instruments, demonstrating the country’s commitment to combating rights violations.  Various measures had strengthened Morocco’s legal framework, such as a law ensuring that the best interests of all children were considered.  A ministerial unit responsible for family, childhood, and disabled persons had set out a public policy to protect children against abuse over the Internet and from trafficking.  As new forms of crime required that reliable data systems be created for monitoring, and Morocco had partnerships with internet service providers to protect children against sexual exploitation, as well as an awareness-raising campaign for parents for their children’s safe use of the internet.

NICOLE ROMULUS (Haiti), associating herself with CELAC and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the States had major work to do to promote and protect children’s rights.  The number of children not in school had increased since 2011, while 250 million children lived in countries affected by armed conflict.  Governments were obliged to ensure that all children could live up to their potential.  She spoke about Haiti’s policies towards schools, noting that the President had urged all to work for a full, successful school year, and to join together to bring about a more unified Haitian society through quality education.  Haiti had ensured that children’s rights were a priority and had taken various measures to protect children’s rights. 

MANSOUR T J ALMUTAIRI (Saudi Arabia) said children’s rights were a priority for the Government, which recognized the right to life for children even during pregnancy.  The Government’s concern for children ran so deep that it required parents to choose proper names for them.  Saudi Arabia also ensured children’s protection from difficult or forced labour, while child abuse was punished in accordance with Sharia law.  Reiterating the Government’s commitment to the Convention and other international instruments, he said it would strengthen cooperation with international organizations.  Finally, he expressed concern about the plight of Syrian children and the need to end the war in that country.

MAYANK JOSHI (India) noted that, despite progress made, more than 47 per cent of the world’s children still lived in poverty and they were particularly vulnerable during times of conflict and natural disasters.  Political will, resource mobilization and investments were needed to protect and promote children’s rights.  For its part, India had adopted a rights-based approach through its National Policy for Children, which promoted children’s literacy, education and health care.  The Integrated Child Development Scheme, a universal programme, provided health care, food, immunization and pre-school education, he said, stressing that India would continue its efforts to protect children against violence and exploitation, in particular, the girl child.

RWAYDA IZZELDIN HAMID ELHASSAN (Sudan) associated herself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and with the African Group, stressing that the protection of children’s rights was a top priority.  Sudan had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its optional protocols, among other international instruments.  Expressing support for the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign, she said that the recruitment of children under the age of 18 was prohibited.  Special units in the ministry of the interior protected children, and a special investigator had been set up to investigate crimes against children in Darfur.  Further, Sudan had signed an action plan with the United Nations regarding children in conflict zones.  The root causes of children’s recruitment - including unilateral economic sanctions against countries - must be addressed.

MADINA KARABAEVA (Kyrgyzstan) said her country stood firmly on the path to becoming a State where children’s protection was a key value.  A programme to develop justice for children aimed to create a legal system which would protect children in conflict with the law, as well as children who were witnesses.  The Government was protecting children’s rights and reacting to each individual child’s needs, she said, adding that about 60 centres offered help for families in difficult living situations.  Policies for children included the protection of childhood and motherhood.  Extreme poverty had decreased in the country, as had infant mortality.

STEPHANIE GEBREMEDHIN (Eritrea) said the country’s culture and laws guaranteed children’s rights, noting that new penal and civil codes referenced corporal punishment and other forms of abuse.  The justice system did not allow children under 12 to be treated as criminals, while those between the ages of 12 and 18 were treated as juvenile offenders.  There were also efforts with civil society to raise awareness about violence against children and child trafficking.  The country’s efforts to provide more equitable health care had allowed it to achieve Millennium Development Goal 5 on child mortality.  The number of births attended to by a skilled health worker had also increased, she said, adding that girls’ elementary school enrolment had reached 99 per cent, with pre-primary enrolment also increasing.

MYRIAM AMAN SOULAMA (Burkina Faso), associating with the African Group, described measures taken at the legislative, education, and social levels to improve children’s rights.  Education policies had led to an increase in girls’ school enrolment.  To address child abuse, the Government had set up a support hotline for victims.  Maternal and neonatal mortality had declined, thanks to the provision of free health care for children under age five and pregnant women.  The incidence of female genital mutilation also had steadily decreased.

MILDRED GUZMÁN MADERA (Dominican Republic), stressing that countering violence against children was a priority, said the Government had enhanced its social policies and systems for the protection of children, families and communities.  It also had established a comprehensive care centre for children with disabilities and a new centre for early childhood care.  A national council for children and adolescents provided temporary protection for children under threat.  In addition, a national roadmap for the prevention of violence against children had been developed with guidance from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General.  The Dominican Republic was striving to improve parenting through awareness-raising and training for parents, teachers and community leaders.

ELLEN AZARIA MADUHU (United Republic of Tanzania) associated herself with the Group of 77 and China, the African Group and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The Government issued a new National Action Plan on addressing violence against women and children for the period 2016 – 2021. Additional measures were undertaken to protect children, including the translation and dissemination of the 2009 National Child Act and the establishment of a Child Helpline for reporting acts of violence and abuse. The Government also attached great importance to the child’s right to education and ending child marriage. Public schools were directed to ensure that all primary and secondary education is free for all children. Furthermore, a campaign against early marriages was launched in 2014. The “Kigali Declaration” provided the framework for action to end early and forced marriages.

MASNI ERIZA (Indonesia) said efforts to promote children’s rights had been underpinned by the national action plan to eliminate violence.  The President had convened the education commission, which financed education.  Indonesia was a “pathfinder country” in the newly-launched partnership to end violence against children.  The most basic unit of society was the family, which had the responsibility for nurturing children, he said, pressing Governments to enact family-friendly policies.  Indonesia had allocated a sizable share of its budget for children, providing them with free education and health care, which had led to lower illiteracy rates.  Stressing the imperative to end violence against children, he expressed Indonesia’s commitment to engage internationally to protect and promote their rights.

HELGA VALBORG STEINARSDÓTTIR (Iceland) said her country was committed to the protection and promotion of children’s rights at home and abroad and had recently codified a new framework agreement with UNICEF.  Iceland had incorporated the Convention into national law, she said, and urging States seek the treaty’s integration into policymaking.  Protecting the rights of girls would require eliminating all forms of discrimination, violence and harmful practices.  It was a stain on the global community that every day, almost 40,000 girls were subjected to early and forced marriage.  Girls must be provided with the sexual and reproductive health care they needed, including comprehensive sexual education.

YASUE NUNOSHIBA (Japan) said her country’s “Learning Strategy for Peace and Growth” focused particularly on providing education for girls.  For instance, Japan had assisted in building girls’ middle schools in the United Republic of Tanzania, where early marriage and pregnancy prevented them from completing their education.  Japan also had funded a programme through UNICEF that supported the release and reintegration of children from armed groups in African countries.  It had contributed $6 million for the reintegration of child soldiers and the protection and empowerment of children in armed conflict.  Locally, the Government provided administrative services to every family in need, in particular for families in difficult situations, such as single-parent households.

MAYA DAGHER (Lebanon) said between the seventieth and seventy-first sessions of the General Assembly, millions of children had become victims of armed violence and terrorism, noting that many had been “swallowed” by the Mediterranean Sea.  Lebanon had supported many initiatives last year, including resolutions in the Assembly and the Security Council which all aimed to create a world fit for children.  Lebanon paid attention to education, particularly as a means through which to combat extremism.  Education for all was at the heart of its policies, she said, noting that the country was hosting over one million refugees.

DAYANARA EDITH SALAZAR MEDINA (Panama), associating herself with CELAC, said her country had faced waves of child migrants, underscoring that, through an interdisciplinary team, the Government was present in communities where shelters for migrants had been established.  The goal was to respect migrants’ rights, she said, adding that boys and girls should not be criminalized for being migrants.  All should have the same opportunities.  Investing in quality education and reducing neonatal mortality were crucial towards ensuring each boy and girl’s future.  She noted that the region continued to face challenges, adding that Panama sought to address the challenges of indigenous children and children with disabilities. 

YIN PO MYAT (Myanmar), noting that peace and reconciliation were prerequisites for the success of development policies, said the Government had strengthened its education programs to better protect children from exploitation and violence.  She welcomed the “Children, Not Soldiers” initiative, stressing that Myanmar had signed a Joint Action Plan with the United Nations Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting on the use of children in the military in 2012. As a result, the recruitment process was centralized and children had been released from the military, if found.  She said 810 children had been released from the military since signature of the related Action Plan, noting that support had been provided to assist with their reintegration and education.  Also, 81 military officers and 321 officers of other ranks had been penalized by military and civil laws. Given such progress, it was time that Myanmar was delisted from the Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict.

HAMIDEH HASSANI NEJAD PIRKOUHI (Iran), noting that the 2030 Agenda included numerous references to children, said millions of children still lived in poverty without adequate nutrition, sanitation, or vaccinations against disease.  He expressed dismay that children’s interests had been compromised under unjustified political pressure in the Secretary-General’s report on Children and Armed Conflict.  “An arms embargo on Governments that engage in mass killing of children is the least that the United Nations can advocate for,” he said, stressing the importance of the family as the fundamental group of society.  In Iran, 460,000 children attended school free of charge, an enormous burden on the education system, and donors had failed to meet their commitments.

MARIA HELENA LOPES DE JESUS PIRES (Timor-Leste) encouraging support for the office on violence against children, expressed particular concern about cyberbullying and bullying in schools.  There was a collective responsibility to protect children in conflict and attacks on schools and hospitals could not be tolerated.  She urged parties to conflict to respect children’s rights and refrain from recruiting child soldiers, calling for adequate assistance for reintegrating those who had been recruited.  Timor-Leste was committed to ensuring access to education to all its children, with special attention given to those with disabilities.  To improve retention of girls in schools, legislation had been passed to support integration of teenage mothers in the educational system.  Health campaigns had resulted in a sharp decline in child mortality, while immunization campaigns had been greatly expanded, she added.

PARK JEE WON (Republic of Korea) underlined the importance of a comprehensive and coordinated approach in promoting children’s rights, welcoming the Organization’s efforts to expand partnerships with civil societies.  Education should be further expanded to include the most vulnerable and marginalized, she said, noting the some 58 million children lacked access to education.  Education was a building block of a sustainable, inclusive society based on human rights, equality, rule of law and respect for diversity.  Girls were more susceptible to violence and discrimination.  Last year, the Republic of Korea had launched a “Better Life for Girls” initiative to support girls’ health, education and vocational development in developing countries, to which it would provide $200 million over five years.

MS. AL JAWDAR (Bahrain) said Government programmes had improved children’s lives in recent years.  The country had adhered to its commitments under international conventions and had ratified the Convention in 1992.  In June, Bahrain’s representative had been re-elected to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. Its human development indicators were high, thanks to its focus on children and youth.  Further, health care reforms had led to lower child and maternal mortality, she said, citing the provision of health care for newborns, vaccines for children under five and social and psychological service for children.

FAHAD M E H A MOHAMMAD (Kuwait) shared the concerns about threats children faced on the internet, including exposure to violent ideologies and sexual abuse.  Recalling that more than one billion children had been exposed to some form of violence over the past year, he urged all countries to implement the provision concerning violence against children under the 2030 Agenda.  Kuwait’s constitution recognized the family as the basis of society.  Based on that principle and its international commitments, Kuwait had enacted national laws to protect the family and the child, including a family court and several articles dealing with the family and children.  The State recognized the child’s right to live in a family environment.  It was impossible to address the issue of children without referring to the suffering of Palestinian children who lived under Israeli occupation.

IRENE SUSAN BARREIRO NATIVIDAD (Philippines), associating herself with ASEAN, said the Government recognized its duty to provide a safe and enabling environment for children.  A child’s right to education was of paramount importance and 20.9 per cent of the country’s 2017 national budget would go to education.  Further, the Government had passed an Anti-Bullying Act, as well as adopted a comprehensive approach to protecting children from sale, prostitution and child pornography and developed mechanisms to respond to child abuse.  Ending conflict was essential to creating the proper environment for children, she said, stressing the Government’s commitment to dialogue, and ultimately, forging peace with various armed groups.

EMMANUEL NIBISHAKA (Rwanda), while noting the progress in the reports, observed that child neglect, trafficking, abuse, exploitation, genital mutilation and child marriage persisted.  Rwanda believed in the primary role of Governments, supported by partners, including the United Nations, in promoting and providing protection to children.  The 1994 genocide in Rwanda had left many negative repercussions, along with post-conflict issues, that had affected Rwanda’s children, who represented a high percentage of the population.  The Government had made primary and secondary education free and compulsory, prohibited corporal punishment and opened rehabilitation centres for street children.  Further, Rwandan law condemned child prostitution, slavery and abduction, he said, urging the international community to continue establishing frameworks to protect children in armed conflicts.

NORA IMANE BELLOUT (Algeria) said her country had achieved all objectives on education of the Millennium Development Goals before the deadline.  Moreover, the education budget had increased tenfold over 15 years and provided free education to more than eight million students in nearly 23,000 schools, including refugee children in the Tindouf camps.  Significant results had been achieved in the quality of education and the fundamental rights of children.  The new law on child protection focused on protecting at-risk children; rules relating to child offenders; and specialized child protection centres, among other things.

COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), associating himself with CELAC and CARICOM, said his country had taken a comprehensive approach to realizing children’s rights.  For instance, the Government had guaranteed tuition-free education as a way to improve access.  It also had signed on to the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children and been designated a “pathfinder country”.  Moreover, the Ministry of Education had created and provided a safety and security manual to schools as a way to address bullying.

MAHE’ULI’ULI SANDHURST TUPOUNIUA (Tonga) said that, in recognition that children were his country’s most important assets, Tonga had acceded to the Convention on their rights and was amending its laws appropriately, ensuring protection against violence, as well as access to education, free health care and other necessities.  National consultations were underway under Tonga’s strategic development framework, and awareness events were being held in conjunction with UNICEF, focusing on children’s growth, the implications of digital media on children and other areas of social protection.  There was no social welfare scheme for children as yet.

HANTASOA FIDA CYRILLE KLEIN (Madagascar), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, and with SADC, noted that the population of her country was young.  The Government was pursuing numerous policies to ensure respect for children’s rights, and the goals had been laid out in a regional and communal framework plan.  Public establishments and teaching personnel had received training on protecting children in school environments, she said, stressing that combating sexual tourism was extremely important.  Climate change impacted Malagasy children, and the effects of El Niño and drought had been severe.

GENE BAI (Fiji) said his country was strongly committed to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The Constitution protected a child’s right to nutrition, clothing, shelter and health care, and provided protection against abuse, neglect, violence, inhumane treatment, punishment and exploitative labour.  It also prohibited all forms of corporal punishment.  Access to quality education was paramount, and in 2015, for the first time, primary and secondary school education had become free.  Fiji was also committed to supporting gender equality and sought to limit the marginalization and exclusion of children with disabilities.

GEORGI VELIKOV PANAYOTOV (Bulgaria), associating himself with the European Union, said that the Government had established a set of measures for promoting the rights and well-being of all children, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized.  Ending violence against children was a top priority.  The current humanitarian crisis was of an unprecedented scale, requiring immediate action.  Calling it a “children’s crisis”, he advocated a child-based approach to address it.  “We should remember that a child is first a child, and after that, a refugee or migrant,” he said.  As a transit and host country for thousands of migrants and refugees, Bulgaria was doing its utmost, in cooperation with the European Union, UNICEF and other partners, to protect the human rights of those fleeing war, in particular migrant and refugee children.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh) reaffirmed his commitment to advance children’s rights, including in the areas of education and child labour.  Further, a new Child Marriage Restraint Act had been drafted which contained pragmatic guidelines to prevent child marriage.  A national, toll-free helpline had been set up to support efforts to report and prevent child marriage, and to report sexual harassment.  Bangladesh also had adopted a five-year action plan to reduce child labour.

IBRAHIMA KOMARA (Guinea) associated himself with the African Group and with the Group of 77 and China, adding that it would be a success for the United Nations to see the Convention reach universal ratification.  Guinea was among the countries that had unreservedly ratified the Convention almost 30 years ago, as well as its relevant optional protocols.  But results for children around the world remained discouraging, and many remained marginalized, such as disabled children.  Awareness that children were the future was manifested in legal codes, he said, noting that Guinea’s free education system and its improved vaccine programme were other actions that underscored the Government’s commitment to realizing children’s rights.

LAURIA NGUELE MAKOUELET (Congo) said various challenges hindered children’s full enjoyment of their rights.  Congo had a new Constitution which had strengthened a strategic framework for children, and the country also had set up a children’s parliament with offices in Congo’s 12 administrative departments.  The Government had invested resources to respond to children’s needs, providing hundreds of technical aids to disabled children.  It also had cooperated with the World Food Programme (WFP) to ensure that all children received quality nutrition.  No effort would be spared to ensure the full implementation of the Convention of the Rights of the Child.

NKOLOI NKOLOI (Botswana) associated himself with the Group of 77 and China, the African Group and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). He expressed concern about ongoing armed conflicts, particularly in Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and South Sudan, drawing attention to their severe effects on children.  Urging Governments and parties to armed conflict to respect international human rights law and international humanitarian law, he welcomed new initiatives, including the Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action, the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign and related action plans.

The Committee Chair said she and the Bureau had held consultations since 4 October on the pending organizational issue.  She proposed that the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, be invited to present an oral update to the Third Committee.  Ms. Keetharuth would be orally introduced as a member of the former Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea.  If needed, additional time would be allocated for her to make her presentation.

The Committee then approved that decision without a vote.

The representative of Eritrea said the proposal had been accepted in the interests of moving forward.  Eritrea maintained its readiness to engage with any delegation, and the matter had been resolved within the African Group.  But Eritrea’s goodwill had been faced with a “flip-flop” position of the other side. Discussion over the past two weeks had shown the politicization of the human rights situation.  Countries with contempt for international law had presented themselves as champions of Third Committee Rules of Procedures; countries which had massacred people and were using light ammunition against peaceful protesters had spoken on the matter.  Eritrea’s position was that human rights could only be promoted through dialogue.

IGOR YAREMENKO (Ukraine), aligning himself with the European Union, reiterated Ukraine’s commitment to children’s rights, as evidenced by its adherence to numerous international conventions and protocols.  Priorities covered health, recreation, disabilities, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, drug abuse, child abandonment, support to families and protection for orphans.  Despite its efforts, the country faced great challenges as a result of Russian aggression.  Since the start of the conflict, 68 children had been killed and 186 had been wounded in eastern Ukraine.  The number of internally displaced people had reached 1.8 million, including more the 200,000 children.  The situation of children in the Donbas region had not received enough attention in the Secretary-General’s reports, he said, urging that that omission be rectified.  Greater international assistance was also needed to overcome the negative effects of the Chernobyl disaster, which had affected children most of all.

SAHAR ABUSHAWESH, observer for the State of Palestine, said that Palestinian children had been deprived all their rights, as killing and maiming continued with impunity.  Those actions had evolved into a deliberate Israeli strategy and she asked when the international community would react to those human rights violations.  The Israeli blockade had stifled any life or development in the occupied territory, with devastating impacts on children.

RUBEN IGNACIO ZAMORA RIVAS (El Salvador), associating himself with CELAC, shared achievements in his country, pointing out that the normative framework had advanced, and the comprehensive protection of children had improved.  Councils had been established to protect children at the local level.  Children’s health care had improved, and efforts had been made to ensure health care access for all children.  The growing numbers of unaccompanied child migrants must be addressed from a human-rights perspective, bearing in mind the best interests of children and their families.  Family reunification must remain a priority.

CALEB OTTO (Palau) quoted extensively from the 2030 Agenda’s paragraphs concerning children, before quoting from the Convention on the Rights of the Child’s articles concerning the child’s social, spiritual and moral well-being.  Those provisions, he said, highlighted two issues of great importance.  The first was the right of children to be reared by their parents.  Children in focus group discussions in Palau had said they would like their parents to spend more time with them, rather than try to appease them with gifts and food.  The second, he said, was that children should be provided an environment that addressed mental health and well-being and was free from bullying, shaming and demeaning treatment, at home and in school.

NEOW CHOO SEONG (Malaysia), associating himself with ASEAN and with the Group of 77 and China, said his country had made significant progress since acceding to the Convention in 1995, including by creating the Child Act of 2001.  That Act formed part of the protective legal architecture for children in Malaysia.  Efforts must be made to put in place accountability mechanisms, in order to break the cycle of impunity for violations of children’s rights.  Malaysia, as Chair of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, reaffirmed its strong commitment to the promotion and protection of the rights of children. 

ADDO MAMAN TCHALARE (Togo) shared his country’s experience in advancing the protection of children, noting that a decree had been drafted for the national Commission of the Child to prepare guidelines for those working in the area of children’s protection.  Health care, education and training initiatives all had improved children’s situations.  At the regional level, a program had been launched to protect child migrants and trafficking victims, while education for children with disabilities had improved.

YASHAR ALIYEV (Azerbaijan) said child protection efforts must be stepped up. While progress had been made in the protection of children affected by armed conflict, including with the release of children from armed forces, the issue of children and armed conflict must receive adequate attention in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

ANTÓNIO GUMENDE (Mozambique), associating himself with the African Group and with SADC, said Government efforts to address children’s needs at the legislative, institutional and community levels aimed to ensure that all Mozambicans could help resolve the issues hampering children’s ability to realize their potential.  Mozambique’s national action programme on children, among other results, had increased access to water and sanitation.  Challenges remained, however, notably caused by climate change and communicable diseases.  Creating a world fit for children demanded that States redouble their commitments and implement existing international instruments.

LILIT GRIGORYAN (Armenia) said that through the national strategic programme on child protection, and cooperation with development partners such as UNICEF, her country had reached vulnerable children and made reforms.  As a nation which suffered from aggression by Azerbaijan, Armenia condemned attacks on civilians including children.  From the beginning of Azerbaijani aggression, she said, attacks on children and the elderly had been indiscriminate.  Such barbaric acts constituted violations of core international instruments including the Convention against Torture and Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

MÉLANIE CORINE NINA GOLIATHA (Central African Republic) reiterated her commitment to the relevant Conventions, expressing her strong disapproval that an increasing number of children had been victims of armed violence, natural disasters and human rights violations.  She noted with concern the increasing number of killed and maimed children, as well as children displaced by conflicts and attacks by armed groups.  A concerted effort must be made to reunite children with their families, she said, emphasizing that a comprehensive response required governance and security sector reforms.

CHU GUANG (China) said his country had the world’s largest population of children – 280 million - and the Government worked to implement the Convention and its relevant Protocols.  Great progress had been made in pre-school education, with some provinces having established a 15-year free education system by including pre-school and high school in public funding.  Countries must implement the 2030 Agenda, which required developed countries to honour their commitments by increasing financial and technological assistance to developing countries in order to protect children’s rights and interests.  Developing countries, meanwhile, must share their experiences with one another.

FREDERICK MUSIIWA MAKAMURE SHAVA (Zimbabwe), associating himself with the African Group and SADC, said the promotion of children’s rights could not be viewed in isolation from broader development goals.  Children thrived when raised in a strong and secure family environment, and his country continued to implement interventions designed to assist families in coping with harsh economic conditions.  All international conventions to which Zimbabwe was party had been incorporated into domestic law under the new Constitution.  Zimbabwe had several laws to protect children, and had established a victim-friendly system to support survivors of sexual violence and abuse.  The Government was committed to ending child marriages and had set the legal marriage age at 18 years.

NDEYE OUMY GUEYE (Senegal), associating herself with the African Group, supported the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign and the work of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.  The campaign had led to the release of children from armed groups in Senegal. The Government had redoubled efforts to eliminate female genital mutilation, she said, noting that children’s rights had been taken into account in the development of health care and education policies.  Senegal also had seen increases in school enrolment and drafted a national declaration to advance children’s rights.

Mr. VON HAFT (Angola) recalled that at the General Assembly Special Session on children in 2002, Member States had committed to time-bound goals for children and young people.  Those goals had been followed by the 2030 Agenda and it was essential to maintain focus on children when budgeting for sustainable development.  He listed several international instruments to which Angola was party, noting that his country had also adopted child protection legislation consistent with international standards.  Successful programmes included one that had established free birth registration, and an SOS call centre for children facing violence.  He urged States to review ways in which the new Agenda could reduce inequality among children.

MIRIAMA HERENUI BETHAM-MALIELEGAOI (Samoa) said children’s rights were the utmost priority for her country, as reflected in national policies.  Underscoring the importance of children’s nutrition and education, as well as safety from violence, exploitation, and abuse, she said Samoa had ratified the Convention’s three Optional Protocols and called on other States to do likewise.  The family and community were at the forefront of child rearing practices.  Children were a priority focus of Samoa’s health sector plan 2008-2018, and children under five years of age received free primary health care, including immunizations.  The 2009 Education Act stipulated compulsory education, and the Government had taken initial steps towards implementing free education.  Further, Samoa had passed legislation outlawing corporal punishment, and proposed amendments to prohibit the sale of children and restrict the use of children to sell goods on the street.

ANN DEER, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said daily events in the Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, the Americas, the Gulf of Aden and elsewhere had shown the ongoing suffering of migrants and their families, and too often their needs had gone unmet by the international community.  Migrant children were particularly vulnerable, and for those whose age was uncertain, the individual must be presumed to be, and treated as, a child.  She reminded authorities of their obligations under international law to prevent family separation, underscoring that States’ assessment of the protection and assistance to be offered should be based on vulnerabilities and needs, rather than the location of family members.  ICRC engaged in confidential dialogue with States to ensure they fulfilled their obligations to protect migrant children, and reminded States that detention of any children should be avoided.

MICHAEL ESPIRITU, Permanent Observer of the Sovereign Order of Malta, affirmed the Order’s commitment to mothers and babies, as evidenced by its maternity centres in the West Bank, Madagascar, Togo, Uganda and United Republic of Tanzania, and its efforts to fight malnutrition around the globe.  With the number of displaced persons on the rise, the Order had greatly bolstered its humanitarian aid and medical assistance.  In joint operations with the Italian Coast Guard, its doctors had delivered three babies at sea last week.  It had provided care to 170,000 Syrian refugees in the Middle East and 44,000 in Europe, among its medical services to refugees worldwide.  He pledged the Order’s continued commitment to work with the United Nations and Member States to ensure that children everywhere were cared for, educated, nurtured and protected.

FLORENCIA GIORDANO, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, expressed concern about the mass migration of children, stressing that it had led to increased numbers of unaccompanied children who were at much higher risk of violence and child marriage.  Describing gaps in the implementation of child protection programmes, she cited a lack of age- and gender-disaggregated data for children and said a more comprehensive analysis of needs and vulnerabilities was necessary.  Further, support for the family, family tracing and alternative care arrangements must be stepped up, with children’s best interests always the primary consideration in actions affecting them.

VINICIUS PINHEIRO, Special Representative and Director of the International Labour Office (ILO) for the United Nations, said that his Office was committed to the protection of children through the eradication of child labour.  ILO provided expertise and contributed to the growing knowledge base that helped inform policy formulation.  Several ILO conventions provided essential protections for children worldwide, including conventions on minimum age of entry into employment and prohibition of forced labour.  Additionally, ILO’s new recommendation on the transition from the informal to the formal economy tackled an area where not only child labour but also most violations of labour, human and child rights occurred.

Right of Reply

The representative of Israel, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that instead of advancing the Committee’s agenda, the Palestinian representative had made baseless accusations against Israel, sending a message of hate and incitement.  Those accusations would not bring the international community closer to resolving the core challenges facing the region.

The representative of Russian Federation, responding to statements by the delegations of Georgia and Ukraine, called on Georgian authorities to discuss issues including children’s rights in a dialogue directly with the powers of the sovereign nations of Abkhazia and Ossetia.  To his Ukrainian counterpart, he recalled that the annexation of Ukraine to the Russian Federation had been in accordance with international law.  Those events were of a historical nature and adhered to the will of the people of Crimea.  The Russian Federation had done quite a bit to improve the lives of those living in Crimea.  The politicized statement by the Ukrainian representative was an attempt to deflect attention from human rights violations in Ukraine itself.

The representative of Azerbaijan rejected the false allegations of his Armenian counterpart, noting that Azerbaijan’s statement had focused on children, while that of Armenia had focused on Azerbaijan.  The Armenian delegation could have chosen another agenda item to speak about killing of elderly people.  The reality was that Azerbaijani territories were under occupation, and both Assembly and Council resolutions had been ignored by Armenia.  That Government had resettled Armenians from Syria in the occupied territories.  He asked Armenia about recent military exercises, and what Armenian officers were doing in a certain region.  If Armenia was interested in peace, withdrawing forces from occupied areas of Azerbaijan would suffice.  Armenia should end its provocations, as the conflict could only be solved through the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.

The representative of Armenia, exercising her right of reply, rejected the accusations made by her Azerbaijani counterpart, noting that Azerbaijan’s goal was the extermination of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan’s aggression had shown the unsustainability of a military solution.  A peaceful solution must be found, she said, in line with existing agreements.

The observer of the State of Palestine noted the “distorted” reality presented by Israel’s representative, stressing that ignoring war crimes committed by Israel constituted a complete denial of human rights and self-determination.  There was a long list of human rights violations committed by Israel.  The views expressed by that Government were dehumanizing and had shown the true nature of the occupying power.  She condemned human rights violations against all children, stressing that all attacks must stop.

The representative of the Ukraine provided an overview of the history and situation of Crimea, drawing attention to early plans by the Russian President to attack Crimea, which had been documented.  The Russian representative had made contradictory statements regarding the status of Crimea.

The representative of Georgia said children in the occupied territories of Georgia were deprived of their right to receive their education in their native Georgian language, and that there was discrimination and harassment of the Georgian population living in the occupied territories.  The absence of international monitoring meant the Russian Federation had no credibility whatsoever.  The conflict had two parties, Georgia defending itself and Russian Federation’s aggression.

The representative of Azerbaijan said barbarism had been committed by Armenian forces in occupied territories of Azerbaijan, and high-ranking officials of Armenia had admitted their responsibility for that carnage.  The President of Armenia had said he had no regrets for Azerbaijani civilian casualties. 

The representative of Armenia said that as far as the right to self-determination was concerned, Azerbaijan had recognized that self-determination should be part of the solution for the Nagorno-Karabakh region.  Armenia was not surprised Azerbaijan put forward false allegations on cease-fires related to the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

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Urgent Action Needed to Protect Children from Forced Labour, Other Forms of Exploitation, Special Mandate Holders Tell Third Committee

The migration crisis, forced marriage, forced labour and sexual slavery were only some of the problems facing the children around the world, speakers told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today as it moved into its second day of discussion on the rights of children.

The day featured interactive dialogues with Special Mandate Holders and United Nations officials charged with ensuring adherence to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the broader protection of children’s rights throughout the world.

Benyam Dawit Mezmur, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, provided an update on the implementation of the Convention and its three Optional Protocols on, respectively:  involvement of children in armed conflict; the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; and a communications procedure.  He said barriers to the full realization of child rights included violence, poor health, justice and the migration crisis, noting that poverty was not only a challenge in low-income countries.

Global recognition of the need to eradicate child, early and forced marriage as a human rights priority was reflected in the inclusion of a specific target in the Sustainable Development Goals, said Charles Radcliffe, Chief of the Equality and Non-Discrimination Section of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), as he introduced the Secretary-General’s report on child and forced marriages.

Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, said children who had been sold or engaged in forced labour were often isolated, distrusted police, feared retaliation and lacked documentation.  As such, they needed child-sensitive access to justice and redress, she said.

When the floor was opened for general debate, nearly 50 speakers outlined policies and plans to end violence against children, with Myanmar’s representative stressing, on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), that young people’s full participation was essential not only for themselves, but also to help build child-sensitive legislation and strategies.

Delegates also addressed the need to protect child migrants and refugees, with the representative of Dominican Republic, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), stressing that migrant children must not face punitive measures solely based on their status.  Egypt’s representative underscored that migrant and refugee children required special care.  Speaking to the scale of the problem, the European Union’s representative said that one in four asylum applicants in Europe was a child, and that 31 per cent of the 1 million refugees who had arrived in Europe in 2015 were children.  Niger’s representative, meanwhile, on behalf of the African States, underlined that political will was needed to identify long-term solutions to mitigate displacement’s root causes and structural factors.

Also speaking today were representatives of Barbados (on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Zimbabwe (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), United States, Paraguay, Switzerland, Poland, South Africa, Italy, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Cuba, Russian Federation, Nicaragua, Libya, Peru, Viet Nam, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Brazil, Kenya, Norway, Syria, Liechtenstein, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Spain, Zambia, Chile, Thailand, Singapore, Israel, Turkey, Croatia, Costa Rica, Qatar, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Canada, Iraq, Nigeria, and Ethiopia.  A representative of the Holy See also spoke.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 14 October, to conclude its debate on the rights of children.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to continue its debate on the promotion and protection of the rights of children.  For information, see Press Release GA/SHC/4168.

Interactive Dialogues

CHARLES RADCLIFFE, Chief of the Equality and Non-Discrimination Section of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), introduced the Secretary-General’s report on child and forced marriages (document A/71/253).  Global recognition of the need to eradicate child, early and forced marriage — as a development and a human rights priority — was exemplified by the inclusion of a specific target in the Sustainable Development Goals.  The report pointed to persistent differences in the legal age of marriage for girls and boys and discrepancies in marriage provisions in plural legal systems, where lower ages were often allowed for customary or religious marriages.  Very few initiatives to eliminate discriminatory provisions in such areas as access to land, divorce and custody had been discussed in the submissions for the report.

He said that successfully tackling child, early and forced marriage required moving beyond small-scale initiatives towards well-defined, rights-based and locally relevant holistic strategies based on evidence and including legal and policy measures.  Holistic strategies required adequate human, technical and financial resources and should be coordinated at the local, regional and national levels and across sectors such as education, health, justice and social welfare, with the involvement of women and girls, among others.  Measurement, evaluation and learning, including data collection and disaggregation, were needed to identify vulnerable populations and to assess progress.  A rights-based approach to child and forced marriage was essential to work towards a future where not only marriage was delayed, but the choices of girls and women were expanded beyond marriage.

BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), provided an update on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols.  While he was pleased to announce that the Convention itself had been ratified or acceded to by 196 States, he expressed regret that the Optional Protocol on a communications procedure had been ratified by only 29 States.  The Committee was increasing its engagement with States through informal meetings and solicitation of inputs on draft versions of General Comments. 

He went on to address some of the barriers to the full realization of child rights, namely poverty, violence, poor health, justice and the migration crisis.  Poverty was not only a challenge in low-income countries, he pointed out.  In addition to State-sanctioned forms of violence, he expressed concern about the sexual exploitation and abuse of children by peacekeepers.  Another negative development was the introduction of bills and laws by several States that had reduced the minimum age of criminal responsibility to below 18 years.  He expressed hope that States’ commitments to the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development would encourage them to implement the Convention’s provisions and optional protocols.

When the floor opened, delegates inquired about the status of the Convention’s Optional Protocol on a communications procedure and about the negative impact of the migration crisis on children’s rights.

Mr. MEZMUR, responding to a question by the representative of the European Union, said he had not anticipated there would be only 29 ratifications to the Optional Protocol on a communications procedure.  That Optional Protocol was about providing children access to justice, and thus, it was central for moving children’s rights from rhetoric to remedies.  As there had been enthusiasm about the document, it was unknown why the ratification rate had been slow.  He suggested that States that had ratified the Optional Protocol inform those that had not about measures they had taken on the ground. 

He said General Comment No. 19 (2016) on public budgeting for the realization of children’s rights was important because it articulated issues of planning and enacting follow-up.  Turning to the issue of children’s rights and the media, he said that exposure sometimes led to risk, but it was when risk led to harm that children’s rights came into the picture.  He said the Committee wanted to strengthen coordination with States, singling out the need for election meetings to contain more substance.  Finally, he noted that if the full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child was an Olympic sport, no State would manage a medal.  The international community needed to create a world fit for children.

Participating in the interactive dialogue were representatives of the European Union, Mexico, and Ireland.

MAUD DE BOER-BUQUICCHIO, Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, said children were particularly vulnerable to being sold and trafficked for forced labour in wars and armed conflicts.  Children had been abducted in Nigeria by Boko Haram for sexual slavery and forced labour.  Yazidi girls had been sold by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) in slave markets in Iraq for sexual slavery and forced domestic labour.  More recently, in April, 159 children had been abducted in Ethiopia’s Gambella region, 68 of whom were still missing.  Children also had been sold and forced to work in various other sectors, including agriculture, manufacturing, forced begging, forced criminal activities and servile marriage.  The latest global estimate had found that 5.5 million children were victims of forced labour, with girls representing the greater share of the total.

In combatting the sale of children for forced labour, States must regulate the practices of intermediaries, she said.  Promoting and monitoring fair recruitment processes for decent work conditions, and deterring intermediaries from delivering or selling children for labour exploitation were vital for such regulation.  Effective and well-resourced labour inspection was essential, as forced labour was part of the exploitative situations labour inspectors were meant to monitor through their unannounced visits to private premises.  There were also initiatives aimed at filling the inspection gap by offering a social label or certification on the production of goods to ensure that no child labour had been used in production.  Finally, access to an effective remedy was also crucial in preventing the phenomenon.  Children who had been sold and were engaged in forced labour were often isolated, distrusted police, feared retaliation and lacked documentation.  Consequently, they needed child-sensitive access to justice and redress.

Delegates expressed concern about a lack of clarity in the terminology used when discussing children’s rights and inquired about efforts to develop definitions.  Some asked what could be done in partnership with the private sector to strengthen oversight and accountability throughout the supply chain, while others asked about best practices for complaint mechanisms and remedies available to victims.

Ms. DE BOER DE BUGUICCHIO replied that it was important to distinguish between trafficking and forced labour when formulating an appropriate legal response and accountability.  Legislation must be clear and its scope defined.  Victims must not be penalized, even if they had participated in criminal activities.  Cooperation with the International Labour Organization (ILO) was crucial, taking into account all relevant international human rights mechanisms.  Definitions of terminology were developed in an inter-agency working group, along with guidelines on their appropriate use.  Regarding the use of the term pornography, she expressed her hope that that question would be addressed during renewal of the Special Rapporteur mandate. 

She went on to say that the term might be inappropriate and that child abuse would be more appropriate.  The same consideration applied to use of the term child prostitution.  “Children did not prostitute themselves, they were forced to do so,” she said.  Regarding migration, she expressed her hope for the integration of children’s rights in the relevant legal instrument, also taking into account the related issues of trafficking, sale of children and forced labour.  Complaint mechanisms and remedies must be child-friendly and easily accessible, she said, adding that the creation of an Ombudsman for children could be useful.  Regarding partnerships with the private sector, she encouraged stronger oversight, monitoring and unannounced assessments.

Participating in the interactive dialogue were representatives of the European Union, United States, South Africa, Slovenia, Mexico, Nigeria, Georgia, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and Morocco.

Statements on Rights of Children

MILDRED GUZMAN (Dominican Republic), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said the region faced important challenges.  Children with disabilities were among the most marginalized and excluded, disproportionately subjected to abuse and violence, and therefore required particular protection.  Indigenous children also deserved special attention.  He expressed the region’s commitment to strengthening the protection of vulnerable children, voicing concern about mass migration and its effects. 

In that context, he encouraged States to use the best practices developed by OHCHR, stressing that migrant children must not face punitive measures solely based on their status.  He also expressed concern about bullying and called for appropriate measures to address that issue.  Further, he attached great importance to international cooperation, including North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation, stressing the need for programs focused on early childhood, which yielded the best results.  He also emphasized the need to maintain education and ensure food security.

ABDALLAH WAFY (Niger), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that numerous challenges continued to hinder free, universal and compulsory primary education for all children.  Children caught up in conflicts in some African States had been forced to drop out of school.  The Group supported achievements consolidated by the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign, commending States that had ended and prevented the recruitment of children by security forces.  Protecting displaced children and providing for their health care and education were important steps, but political will was needed to identify long-term solutions to mitigate displacement’s root causes and structural factors.

He went on to note that the African Union had declared a silencing of guns by 2020, pledging not to bequeath the burden of conflict to the next generation and committing to create an annual platform for policy dialogue that covered developments, constraints and measures geared towards achieving Agenda 2063.  He urged continued advocacy and support for the elimination of female genital mutilation and forced child marriage.  Partnerships must be strengthened to realize a “world fit for children”.

KEITH MARSHALL (Barbados), speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and endorsing the statement of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said the Secretary-General’s reports were “critical to our work”.  The state of the world’s children had much improved.  Deaths of children under 5 years of age, the percentage of underweight children, maternal mortality and the number of out-of-school children had all declined sharply.  Still, in too many instances, the rights of children were still not respected.

HAU DO SUAN (Myanmar), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and his own country, noted that the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Right of Women and Children was established in 2004.  In order to strengthen regional efforts for promoting the cause of women and children, the Strategic Framework and Plan of Action for Social Welfare, Family and Children (2011-2015) was adopted.  At its February 2016 meeting in Jakarta, the Commission had reviewed ASEAN Early Childhood Care, Development and Education Quality Standards, particularly for childcare services, focusing on children from birth to 4 years old and pre-school services.

On the technology front, he said the Network of Social Service Agencies had set up a website with links to the ASEAN and the Commission websites, serving as a platform for the 33 ASEAN social service agencies to share information, knowledge and expertise on matters relating to violence against women and children.  ASEAN also collaborated with United Nations agencies and other development partners.  The Commission had carried out projects supported by the European Union and the United States as well as those collaborated by UNICEF and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women).

He said CARICOM Member States had committed to adopt comprehensive early childhood development policies, harmonize national legislation with the Convention, and formulate broad policies and plans to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against children and adolescents.  Expressing concern over the threats to migrant and refugee children, he welcomed the inclusion of that topic in the draft resolution on the rights of children to be considered by the Third Committee this year.  CARICOM had also established an informal regional working group to discuss the impact of migration on children and develop recommendations for action.  It was necessary to make data more available, address the most disadvantaged boys and girls, and incorporate children and adolescents into decision-making.

FREDERICK M. SHAVA (Zimbabwe), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), associated himself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group.  The commitment to children’s rights was underpinned by the fact that all SADC Member States had ratified the Convention and acceded to the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.  National laws and action plans had facilitated the implementation of those instruments, he said, noting that this year, the bloc’s Parliamentary Forum had adopted the first-ever model law on child marriage in the region.  It would require Member States to harmonize their national laws to prevent child marriage. 

Violence against children and the effects of armed conflict on them were challenges, he said.  Children deserved to live in the protection of a caring family.  The family structure provided better outcomes against exploitation, trafficking, child labour and early marriages and other forms of physical, sexual and emotional abuse.  It was through the family that children found love and attention.  The HIV/AIDS pandemic remained a heavy burden on the region, compounding already high unemployment and inadequate safety nets.  SADC Member States were committed to the promotion and protection of children’s rights, a task that required concerted effort and enormous resources.

JOANNE ADAMSON (European Union) said the 2030 Agenda could advance the rights of millions of children who lacked health care, water and sanitation, social services, quality education, or had been exposed to violence.  One in four asylum applicants in Europe was a child, and 31 per cent of the 1 million refugees who had arrived in Europe in 2015 were children.  The bloc was committed to achieving a more humane, fair, and efficient common European asylum policy, a better-managed migration policy, and to provide enhanced procedural guarantees to vulnerable asylum-seekers, particularly unaccompanied children.  The Convention was an integral part of the Union’s fundamental rights policy, he said, stressing the importance of the third Optional Protocol on a communications procedure.

Expressing concern about the exploitation of migrants and refugees by criminal or terrorist groups — such as ISIL/Da’esh — she said cooperation among countries was essential to protect child victims of trafficking.  Education in emergencies and protracted crises remained a top priority.  As a growing number of children were being recruited and used by armed forces, groups and gangs, the European Union promoted a comprehensive approach by supporting the identification, demobilisation and reintegration of former child soldiers and to prevent their recruitment.

KELLY L. RAZZOUK (United States) said all over the world, children’s rights continued to be violated.  In Syria, half the casualties were children.  One deadly air strike had targeted a maternity hospital.  UNICEF had named Syria the most dangerous place in the world to be a child.  At the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees, the President had spoken about a 5 year-old from Aleppo, who had endured unbearable things, she said, noting that the United States had provided nearly $15 million to UNICEF to send refugee children to school.  Domestically, the United States had invested more than $1 billion in early childhood education.  She urged redoubled efforts to ensure that children inherited a world they deserved.

FATMAALZAHRAA HASSAN ABDELAZIZ ABDELKAWY (Egypt) said the family was the protector of children and held the main responsibility for providing for them.  Children could not develop without the respect of their parents, culture and language, among other factors, she said, pressing the international community to reconsider the recommendations of the 1996 “Graca Machel” report, which detailed the needs of children in armed conflict.  Advocating special care for migrant and refugee children, she commended the cooperation between Egypt and UNICEF, expressing hope for further joint efforts in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Egypt was committed to implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international instruments to which it was party.

MARCELO SCAPPINI (Paraguay), associating himself with CELAC, said investments in children and adolescents were essential for the country’s development.  As such, it was paramount to implement child protection programs to guarantee their human rights.  Noting that the Government had focused on the special situation of street children, he said food had been provided to school children as a way to support attendance and performance.  Physical punishment and other degrading treatment were prohibited by law, he said, advocating rights-based policies to address poverty and violence, which were major concerns.

Ms. JOUBLI (Switzerland) called upon States that had not yet done so to ratify the Convention and its Optional Protocols.  For its part, Switzerland planned to ratify the Third Protocol.  The 2030 Agenda provided a framework for addressing many problems facing children around the world.  Switzerland would fund a post within the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva to facilitate the launch of a global study on children deprived of liberty, as called for by General Assembly resolution 69/147.  Despite progress achieved since the 1996 adoption of resolution 51/77, many challenges remained.  Switzerland was especially concerned by adverse consequences of long-running conflicts for civilians and children’s rights.  In particular, the systematic nature of attacks on hospitals and schools in Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria suggested those attacks were part of a deliberate strategy by certain parties.  She reiterated that those attacks constituted a serious violation of international humanitarian law.

PAWEŁ RADOMSKI (Poland), associating himself with the European Union, recognized that while progress had been made, emerging challenges, such as cyberbullying and other risks related to new technologies, persisted.  More must be done to protect unaccompanied migrant children, work which should include legal representation, decent living conditions and appropriate social services.  Above all, he said, the priority must be to reunite children with their families.

MAHLATSE MMINELE (South Africa), associating himself with the African Group and SADC, said children continued to be abducted and forcibly conscripted or recruited into service as sex slaves, helpers, guards and armed fighters, which violated their rights.  Many had died, while others had been displaced, disabled and allowed to suffer untold emotional, developmental, physical, mental and spiritual harm.  Armed conflict destroyed the State structures that provided social services, situations that demanded immediate as well as long-term collective action.  Expressing his country’s full commitment to the implementation of the Convention, its Optional Protocols and other human rights instruments, he stressed that “sustainable societies can only have a prosperous future when their children are safe, free from harm and thrive in environments that prioritize the promotion, protection and fulfilment of the rights of the child”.

JESSICA CUPELLINI (Italy), endorsing the position of the European Union, said that her country placed the highest premium on advancing children’s rights in both legislative terms and actual reality.  In January, Italy had ratified the third Optional Protocol, allowing children to bring claim of rights violations to an international body if they had been inadequately addressed through national courts.  Italy had also adopted a fourth National Action Plan on the Rights and Development of the Child to combat child poverty, support early childhood development and schools systems, and support parenting.  Finally, the situation of children and adolescent migrants was of particular concern, as Italy had received more than 21,000 unaccompanied minors in 2016.  The Government promoted a migration compact within the European Union and a “humanitarian corridor project” aimed at saving the most vulnerable migrants.  Migrant and refugee children must be treated “as children first and foremost”, she asserted.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina), associating himself with CELAC, said his country continued to work towards the realization of children’s rights, as enshrined in the Argentinean Constitution.  Children were defined as “subjects of law”, and as such, entitled to all rights.  Stressing that Argentina had taken measures to improve maternal health, children’s health services and education, he said commercial sexual exploitation was a more appropriate term to be used in the mandate of the Special Rapporteur who had briefed the Committee this morning.

Ms. CASTILLO (Mexico), stressing that children’s rights were first and foremost human rights, said her country had adopted a law on the rights of children and adolescents, which recognized that minors were holders of rights and should be involved in decisions affecting their development.  Mexico, with others, was preparing a draft resolution on the rights of migrant children.  It called for global solidarity with migrant children, recognizing that they suffered disproportionately from xenophobia and lack of access to health care and education.  They often were victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation.  Noting that Mexico would present a resolution entitled “Protection of Children against Peer Bullying”, she said bullying was an underappreciated problem that was of great concern to nine out of ten children, according to a UNICEF survey.

MIGUEL CAMILO RUIZ BLANCO (Colombia), endorsing the position of CELAC, welcomed the greater protection of children against violence, as had been seen during the peace process in Colombia.  Noting that efforts had been taken to change harmful attitudes and behaviours, he called for a comprehensive framework on child protection, stressing the need to prioritize the needs of unaccompanied minors.  Ending bullying was another important responsibility for policymakers and those efforts must consider the experiences of victims.  For its part, Colombia had implemented programs in schools to prevent and punish bullying, he said.

CEPERO AGUILAR (Cuba) said that, in his country, no children were on the streets, nor had they been economically exploited.  Thanks to political will and Government efforts, the promotion and protection of children’s rights was a top priority, he said, adding that hunger, illiteracy, insalubrity, and discrimination against boys and girls were just bad memories.  “These achievements are the results of free and universal national health care and education systems,” he said, noting that the Parliament allocated more than 50 per cent of the State budget on health, education and social assistance.  Among other things, he stressed that all Cuban children had been vaccinated at birth against 13 communicable diseases, and the country was the first to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS and syphilis.

KRISTINA SUKACHEVA (Russian Federation), stressing that children were vulnerable and must be protected, said the family played an important role in that regard.  In her country, the Ombudsman for children promoted and protected children’s rights, represented their interests and contributed to the development of new laws.  She expressed her concern about distinguishing between the interests of children and those of their parents, emphasizing that the rights of parents — and their primary role in raising children — must be upheld.

MARIA CLARISA GOLDRICK (Nicaragua), associating with CELAC, appealed to countries that had not done so to ratify the Convention.  She reviewed a number of programmes that the Government had instituted to promote and protect children’s rights, among them, a campaign against bullying, which sought to prevent situations that would lead to conflict or hurt young people’s self-esteem.  On migration, she called on the international community to approach the challenge from a humanitarian perspective.  Protecting children’s rights was a matter of joint responsibility between the State and society, she said, and her Government’s ministries were working with families in that endeavour.

JASEM K. S. HARARI (Libya), associating himself with the African Group, drew attention to the impact of crises on children, stressing the need to ensure zero tolerance for violence against children.  The root causes of such abuse must be tackled, he said, stressing the need to develop a culture of non-violence so that children could grow up in peace and become productive members of society.

Ms. SALAZAR (Peru) said the 2030 Agenda provided an opportunity to harmonize national laws with the Convention, noting that her country was working closely with UNICEF in a number of areas.  Peru had made significant progress in terms of recognizing and protecting the rights of children and adolescents.  The 2012-2021 national action plan aimed to reduce infant mortality and malnutrition and to increase access to education and reduce violence against children.  The Government had also devised a national strategy to prevent child labour.  Recognizing the important role of human development for national growth, she said the country was committed to investing in quality public education and preparing its citizens for the modern world.

NGUYEN DUY THANH (Viet Nam), associating himself with ASEAN, described a number of national laws, policies and mechanisms to safeguard children’s best interests.  Among them was the Child Law, which set out a legal framework to ensure that all children were treated equally and their rights were protected, and the National Programme of Action on Prevention and Elimination of Child Labour.  Noting that the Government paid particular attention to poor children, children with disabilities and those from ethnic minorities, he said the full participation of young people was essential not only for themselves but also to help build child-sensitive legislation and strategies.  Viet Nam had universalized primary education and moved towards universal secondary education, and had virtually eliminated gender inequality in access to education.  Infant and child mortality had been halved since 1990.

KARIMA BARDAOUI (Tunisia) said a number of national measures had been taken to protect children from violence and exploitation, noting that infrastructure had improved and awareness was being raised about the need to protect and promote children’s rights in order to avoid marginalization.  Further, “web radios” had been set up to reach children in remote areas, she said, stressing that children had hopes for a better world.

Mr. AL MEHAIRI (United Arab Emirates) recalled that the number of refugee children had surpassed 10 million and they risked falling prey to terrorists and extremists.  As part of the Government’s commitment to upholding children’s rights, it recently had adopted a law with 75 articles to protect children.  It also had been involved in a number of international efforts to reduce maternal and child mortality, including the “Every Woman, Every Child” movement, and to provide quality education to low-income countries.

ALEX GIACOMELLI DA SILVA (Brazil), noting that between 2004 and 2014, extreme poverty had fallen 60 per cent, and said children had been the priority target of cash-transfer programmes.  Some 14 million families had benefitted from the Family Allowance Programme, and an estimated 8 million children had been lifted from poverty in the last decade as a result of public investments.  This week, Brazil had launched a $100 million social programme to ensure that children received proper care in nutrition, health and education.  It aimed to reach 750,000 children by 2017.  Further, Brazil had achieved, ahead of schedule, the Millennium Development Goals target on equality in the educational system.  The country also had initiated a national programme to combat sexual violence against children and adolescents.

SUSAN W. MWANGI (Kenya), associating herself with the African Group and the Group of 77, described her country’s progress in realizing children’s rights, notably in the areas of survival, development, protection and participation.  Noting that Kenya’s Constitution recognized the right to education, she said the Government had introduced free primary education.  As children had the right to the highest health standards, the Government provided health services to children during antenatal and post-natal periods through their lifetime.  Advances made in halting HIV/AIDS and malaria over the last decade could be wiped away if resources for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission and other interventions were not sustained, he said, describing Kenya’s efforts to eliminate female genital mutilation, child marriage and the sexual exploitation and trafficking of children.

MAY-ELIN STENER (Norway) stressed the importance of the right to education during times of peace and conflict, as it was essential to economic development.  Norway had doubled its aid to education, and today, more girls could attend primary school.  Education also reduced the likelihood of falling prey to trafficking, child labour and sexual exploitation, she said, stressing that female genital mutilation was harmful and that early and forced marriages deprived girls of their childhood.  She expressed deep concern about the pervasiveness of violence against children, noting that Norway had developed an “escalation plan” for combatting violence against women and encouraging States to ban corporal punishment.

AMJAD QASSEM AGHA (Syria) said Syrian children had been victims of a ruthless, aggressive terrorist campaign that targeted the nation’s social fabric.  As a result, they had been forced to set sail over rough seas to escape.  He also expressed concern about groups’ efforts to indoctrinate children with extremist ideologies — a practice that could create a generation of people who loved violence and terrorism.  Recalling a video of a Palestinian boy whose head had been severed by a terrorist group in Aleppo, he said some had referred to that group as “moderate opposition”.  Some States that now cried about the children of Aleppo were partners in spilling their blood.  He expressed hope they would learn from their mistakes in Viet Nam, Afghanistan, Nicaragua and elsewhere.

KATHRIN NESCHER (Liechtenstein), noting that some 28 million children had fled violence, said children lived in a world where generations grew up in situations of conflict and displacement, which presented a major threat to the protection and realization of human rights.  Liechtenstein had created mechanisms to ensure that children could enjoy their rights and that perpetrators were held accountable.  Expressing deep concern about attacks against schools and hospitals in Aleppo, she said those facilities were protected by international humanitarian law, and thus, such attacks constituted war crimes.  A lack of access to education was a gross human rights violation, she said, underscoring great risks facing unaccompanied children.

Ms. IBRAHIM (Maldives) said that in addition to the rights guaranteed to children under its Constitution, her country had enacted laws to further protect children, including disabled children.  Substantial progress had been made in reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other communicable diseases.  It was imperative that national laws fully comply with international human rights standards.  For its part, Maldives had enacted the Child Sexual Offense Act and the Anti-Trafficking of Persons Act, criminalizing sexual and other activities against children, and providing additional procedural rights to child victims.  Further, the “Ahan”, or “Listen”, campaign aimed to change attitudes, perceptions and behaviours towards children, while a child helpline operated as a nationwide toll-free mechanism for reporting child abuse.  Measures to combat bullying also had been taken. 

MADHUKA WICKRAMARACHCHI (Sri Lanka), associating himself with the Group of 77, said his Government guaranteed equality to all its citizens and made special provisions for the advancement of women, children and persons with disabilities.  Describing national policies to strengthen children’s rights and protections — including the Domestic Violence Act, the Employment of Women, Young Persons and Children (Amendment) Act, and child labour laws that increased the minimum employment age from 12 to 14 years — he emphasized that early marriage in Sri Lanka could not be viewed as a “traditional” or customary practice.  The General Marriage Ordinance set the marriage age at 18 years, while a 1995 reform stated that sex with a girl under 16 years constituted child abuse and statutory rape.  Sri Lanka was among five countries with a law in place that prohibited bullying in schools.  It also had enacted measures to protect children of migrant workers. 

Mr. NUNO (Spain), endorsing the position of the European Union, said his country had ratified the Convention and its three Optional Protocols.  The Government had passed two legislative reforms to improve its education system and protection mechanisms, including increasing the minimum age for marriage and sexual consent and strengthening penal laws for the exploitation and abuse of children and adolescents.  In response to recommendations from the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Government, with support from the UNICEF National Committee, had established a new website to disaggregate and make available data on children.  It had also established a commission to ensure that all policies were in line with the best interests of children and Spain’s commitments under the Convention.  On migration, he underscored that children, regardless of their place of origin, were children, with rights that must be protected by all.  “We can and we must do more,” he concluded.

MWABA P. KASESE-BOTA (Zambia), noting that half her country’s population was younger than 18 years old, said the Government was strengthening all its child-related legislation.  Once fully implemented, national policy would enhance children’s access to education, health, water and sanitation, and shelter, as well as enhance the accountability of ministries.  Children, however, still faced such challenges as poverty, disease, limited access to education, alcohol and drug abuse, and child trafficking.  Zambia had enacted a free education policy at the basic level, and a re-entry policy for girls who had become pregnant.  Noting that a five-year strategy had been adopted to reduce early and forced marriage, she expressed concern about antimicrobial resistance, which undermined health systems, and she called on development partners to help in that regard.

BERNARDITO AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said 50 million children around the world were running from conflict, extreme poverty and various forms of abuse and exploitation.  Expressing concern about their increasing numbers, he noted that refugee and migrant children were prime targets of traffickers and exploiters and most vulnerable to extreme weather.  “These harrowing situations of children remind us to commit ourselves to fighting the root causes of their sufferings,” he said, emphasizing that today’s mass displacement of people was man-made.  Since human choices provoked conflicts and wars, it was well within the international community’s power and responsibility to address them.

GLORIA CID CARREÑO (Chile), associating herself with CELAC, said her country had appointed a national council on children, which coordinated work among all bodies charged with child protection responsibilities.  Progress had been made in establishing political and normative conditions conducive to those efforts, she said, noting that children’s potential depended on their surroundings, meaning that the social and cultural environment should focus on creativity and inclusivity.  Chile had also engaged families and communities in its efforts to protect children.  She expressed support for more research on violence against children, with a view to addressing its root causes.

The youth delegate from Thailand said young people must play a significant role in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, which were linked with children’s rights.  The right to education was an intrinsic one that would enable young people to realize boundless opportunities.  All children in the country, regardless of their nationality or legal status, were entitled to 12 years of free education.  The Child Support Grant Scheme provided a monthly cash allowance for parents of new-borns to 3 year-olds living in impoverished households.  The UNICEF Country Programme Document aimed to support such efforts, and Thailand had worked closely with the Fund to strengthen the capacity of relevant Government agencies.  National efforts were also under way to combat violence against children, eradicate child labour and guarantee active youth participation.

TAN WEE ZI (Singapore) underscored the importance of ensuring quality and affordable childcare, noting that her country had set up the Early Childhood Development Agency in 2013 with a view to raising such standards.  Further, Singapore had introduced a pilot system, aiming to coordinate and strengthen support for low-income and vulnerable families with children aged 6 and below.  Under that programme, young children were identified and provided access to health, learning and development support.  It was crucial to protect children in family disputes.  To mitigate the impact of divorce on children, Singapore had amended its legislation in February, which now required couples with minor children to attend a parenting programme before they filed for divorce.

MS. HALEVI, youth delegate from Israel, said too many children were being denied their right to grow up in safety and security.  Inequality had taken a high toll on children, she said, noting that education and children’s rights were among the main pillars upon which the Israel had been built.  Children in Israel enjoyed State-funded education, access to health care and nutrition.  Also, the Government had partnered with civil society to establish mixed schools for Jewish and Arab children.  The most important role of education was to provide children truth and hope so that they could dream and aspire.

Mr. CARAY (Turkey) said his country had improved the legal and institutional frameworks for children’s rights, as reflected in the 2010 Constitutional amendment and the national strategy and action plan for 2013–2017.  Of particular importance was the education of girls.  Turkey’s development and humanitarian assistance programmes supported children in various emergency conflict and post-conflict situations.  Greater collective determination was needed to address the situation of children in armed conflict.  Noting that Turkey was host to more than 3 million Syrian and Iraqi refugees, he said it was doing its best to provide them education and health care, but had only managed to provide half of them education.  He called upon the international community to assist those efforts, in line with the principle of responsibility and burden sharing.

DANIJEL MEDAN (Croatia), associating himself with the European Union, stressed the interlinkage of the right to education with achieving sustainable development, noting that Croatia had been among the “champion countries” of the Global Education First Initiative.  It was important that the Human Rights Council retain its tradition of an annual day of discussion on the rights of the child.  Croatia was currently holding a conference with UNICEF to address the unprecedented migration flows and the plight of people affected by armed conflict.  Among its objectives was to exchange innovative solutions and examples of good practices in responding to the needs of migrant children.

Ms. GARCIA (Costa Rica), endorsing the position of CELAC, focused on violence against children.  As children from marginalized communities were the most vulnerable to poverty and inequality, their protection must be a national and a global priority.  She expressed particular concern about the treatment of children recruited into armed militias, who were too often treated as threats by the State upon their release.  Their reintegration must be prioritized, and in that regard, she welcomed wide support for the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign, expressing hope it would reduce the use of children by militias and State armed forces.  She urged solidarity with the plight of migrants, especially unaccompanied minors, reminding States of their joint responsibility to protect them.

MS. AL-KHATER (Qatar), noting that children’s protection was among the Sustainable Development Goals, said the reports presented today were a reminder that significant challenges remained amid widespread, blatant violations of children’s rights.  More than half of refugees worldwide were under age 18.  Qatar was troubled by information in the reports, she said, underlining the need to protect the young generation.  For its part, Qatar had made education a priority, and at the national level, the country was persevering under the 2030 Agenda.

VILATSONE VISONNAVONG (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) said his country had strengthened its legal and policy framework to protect women and children from violence, including with the passage of laws on juvenile criminal procedure and on the prevention and combatting violence against women and children.  The new national action plan of action 2014-2020 to address all forms of violence was being implemented.  Further, nutrition strategies and vaccination campaigns were being executed, while free school meals had been launched in some rural and remote areas.  At the regional level, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic had participated in the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children.

Mr. JELINSKI (Canada) expressed deep concern about children’s human rights throughout the world.  Migrant, internally displaced and refugee children were vulnerable, as they were at high risk of being sexually exploited and trafficked.  The growing number of child migrants was a global priority which could not be left unanswered.  Reviewing national achievements, he singled out Canada’s $1 million contribution to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.  Governments were obliged to ensure that children’s rights were respected, protected, and fulfilled.

Mr. AL-HUSSAINI (Iraq) said his country had approved measures to protect children’s rights, including the establishment of an office to address child marriage and child labour.  The terrorist threat could not be ignored, as children in the grips of terrorist organizations like Da’esh continued to suffer.  That situation was compounded by the poverty of families, he said, citing cases of recruitment and kidnapping.  He called on States to protect children by monitoring information and communications technology use for terrorist and criminal purposes, and by setting up an international intelligence agency to track terrorist activities.

Mr. ADEOYE (Nigeria) reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to the Convention and highlighted areas in which it had invested in child well-being, including education, nutrition, and protection.  He addressed the threat to children posed by Boko Haram and other terrorist groups, noting that Nigeria was building schools as part of its Safe School Initiative.  He announced that today, 21 Chibok girls had been freed and that the Government was providing psychosocial therapy for their reintegration.  He assured the Committee that the Government treated those children captured by Boko Haram as victims and not terrorists.  Nigeria was committed to strengthening its institutions and policies to end child, early and forced marriage.

MEKDELAWIT TAYE ALEMAYEHU (Ethiopia), associating herself with the African Group, said it was encouraging that States had implemented most of the Millennium Development Goals, adding that the 2030 Agenda would address remaining challenges such as extreme poverty, violence, extremism, among other issues.  As children constituted a large part of Ethiopia’s population, the country had established numerous policy and legislative frameworks and institutional mechanisms.  For example, the national child policy focused on development and growth, prevention and protection, and rehabilitation, care and support.  Ethiopia remained ready to implement the Sustainable Development Goals and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda to achieve inclusive, equitable and sustainable development for present and future citizens.

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