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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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MEMO: Takeaways of the Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organisation

What are the main takeaways of the 39th ICAO Assembly?

The Assembly agreed to the following points:

  1. The establishment of a Global Market Based Measure (GMBM) to offset international aviation CO2 emissions.
  2. The prevention of risks arising from conflict zones
  3. The interaction between national, regional and global rules on drones
  4. The adoption of a CO2 standard for aircraft emissions
  5. Progress towards sustainable global air transport
  1. GLOBAL MARKET-BASED MEASURE (GMBM)

What is the issue?

The global aviation industry currently accounts for around 2% of all human-induced CO2 emissions but, in view of projected growth in traffic, these emissions are expected to increase fast and are set to rise by almost 300% over the next decades, unless adequate action is taken. The objective of developing a GMBM was agreed in the ICAO Assembly in 2013, but became even more imperative after the signal sent by the international community with the adoption of the Paris Agreement last year.

What happened at the Assembly?

On 7 October, the ICAO Assembly adopted a Resolution for the establishment of Global Market Based Measure to offset CO2 emissions from international aviation and contribute to the carbon neutral growth of the sector from 2020 onwards. This is the first-ever agreement to address CO2 emissions in a global sector of the economy. ICAO will now have to follow up on the Assembly Resolution and lay down the detailed technical rules which will be the basis for all participating States to make the necessary rules to put the system in place at national level.

How will the GMBM work in practice?

The Global Market-Based Measure will compensate for the CO2 emissions generated by international aviation activities above 2020 levels. This should enable carbon neutral growth over time. In other words, an increase of emissions above the set level must be offset. The emitter (airline) would need to buy and surrender "emission units" generated by projects in other sectors that will reduce CO2 emissions.

The GMBM in practice

When will the GMBM start to operate?

During the pilot phase and Phase I (2021-2026), participation of states will be on a voluntary basis. Routes between 65 states that have already announced that they will opt-in from the beginning of Phase I will be covered. Participation of states in the GMBM will become mandatory in Phase II (as of 2027). Exemptions will then apply for some states (small islands developing states, least developed countries, land-locked developing countries and states representing a small share of aviation activities).

However, this is a system based on the aviation market size, not on the number of participants around the world. By representing a big portion of the market, the countries opting in from Phase I potentially cover 80% of all international aviation emissions.

GMBM coverage

What are the 65 States that will participate in Phase I?

These are: Albania, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Canada , China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malaysia, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Poland Portugal, Qatar, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States of America

Which states will remain exempted after 2027?

Exemptions are based on objective and commonly agreed criteria:

  • Small Islands Developing States, e.g. Cape Verde, Haiti or Tuvalu.
  • Least Developed Countries, e.g. Afghanistan, Burkina Faso or Myanmar.
  • Landlocked Developing Countries, e.g. Niger, Turkmenistan or Zimbabwe.
  • Countries with small aviation activities ('de minimis') e.g. Venezuela, Senegal, Lebanon or Pakistan.

However nothing precludes these countries to opt-in to the GMBM nonetheless.

Is the EU satisfied with the GMBM?

In line with its ambitious climate policy and the climate goals agreed under the Paris Agreement, the EU was always fully committed to reaching agreement on a robust and effective Global Market-Based Measure (GMBM) at the ICAO Assembly. This deal represents a positive first step forward to address international aviation emissions, which is imperative to keep the global temperature rise well-below 2 degrees Celsius as agreed in Paris. Now, the job is not over yet: key design elements will need to be developed, its environmental integrity fully secured, properly implemented and enhanced over time to make a meaningful contribution to climate change mitigation.

Assuming the above, the GMBM would achieve around 80% of carbon neutral growth. This means around 80% of the emissions above 2020 levels will be offset by the scheme between 2021 and 2035.

What is the consequence for the EU ETS aviation stop the clock?

The EU Emissions Trading System ("EU ETS") is the cornerstone of the EU climate policy. It is applicable since 2005 and aviation is included in its scope since 2012. However, in 2013, the scope was temporarily reduced to cover only intra-European flights in order to allow for a global agreement to be reached at ICAO ("stop the clock").

Following the agreement reached by the ICAO Assembly in Montreal on 6 October 2016, and in accordance with EU ETS legislation (Article 28a of Directive 2003/87/EC), the Commission will, in the coming months, report back to the European Parliament and the Council on the outcome of the Assembly. The Commission may, if appropriate, propose changes to the scope of the EU ETS for aviation, considering the necessary consistency with EU 2030 climate objective and policy. As Commissioner Bulc said, "The deal we have on the table is a good one – a good one for Europe - and a good one for world. It is in this spirit that we will move ahead".

What is the difference between the GMBM and the EU ETS?

While both are market-based measures addressing aviation emissions, there are some important differences between them. For instance, the EU ETS is a ‘cap and trade' scheme, which means that emissions cannot increase beyond a certain amount (cap). The GMBM on the other hand is an 'offsetting scheme' where emissions can grow without limit as far as they are compensated with offsets. The level of ambition (climate objective and associated baseline) and the type of units are other relevant differences.

  1. CONFLICT ZONES

What is the issue?

As illustrated with the tragic loss of the flight MH17 in 2014, one of the challenges civil aviation faces is the protection from the risks arising from conflict zones. This issue has an evident cross border dimension and cannot be effectively addressed by any States on its own. A need for action has therefore been recognised both at the European and global level, in the context of ICAO.

What are the main takeaways of the ICAO Assembly?

A joint position has been presented by Europe, Australia and Malaysia at the ICAO Assembly. It calls for the timely collection and rapid dissemination of information about conflict zones to ensure that airline operators are aware of the risks and avoid those zones. It also asks for States to take their responsibilities in the closure of their airspace because the safety of civil aviation operations could be endangered due to conflict zones. These proposals have been supported by the Assembly and will be implemented.

  1. DRONES

What is the issue?

The development of the drone industry has accelerated over recent years. To address this growing reality, a number of States have developed provisions regulating the use of drones. While most activities are likely to remain in a national airspace – and therefore outside of ICAO's remit - operations will eventually engage in international civil aviation. Action at global level will therefore be needed.

What initiatives have already been taken in Europe?

In the context of its Aviation Strategy, the Commission has proposed a framework to unleash the potential of drones on the EU market while ensuring the safety of operations. This framework should support innovation, boost the EU's economy and contribute to jobs creation in line with the Juncker Commission main priorities. The legislative proposal is currently being discussed by the European Parliament and the Council.

What are the main takeaways of the ICAO Assembly?

The need to act at global level was agreed as well as the importance of ensuring consistence between actions at global level and those taken at national or regional level, and to take into account actions already developed by States of group of States.

  1. CO2 STANDARD FOR AIRCRAFT EMISSIONS

What happened during the Assembly?

The Assembly formally endorsed the first ever CO2 standard for aircraft, after six years of international negotiations. By 2040, the CO2 standard could help save up to 650 million tonnes of CO₂.

How will the standard work in practice?

The stringency and applicability dates, which the CO2 standard imposes, will depend on the weight of the aircraft and whether it concerns a "new type" aircraft or an "in-production" aircraft. For large new aircraft types, the standard will apply from 2020. By 2028, existing aircraft types will also have to apply the new standard.

  1. SUSTAINABLE GLOBAL AIR TRANSPORT

What happened during the Assembly?

The Commission and ICAO signed a declaration of intent renewing their partnership to address climate change through financial assistance and capacity building projects. Through this partnership, the Commission will support the implementation of the GMBM in targeted states. The Assembly also reviewed the progress made with the assistance provided to States in implementing global air transport rules, notably in the context of the No Country Left Behind initiative.

More information

Statement by Violeta Bulc, EU Commissioner for Transport

Press release: Commission welcomes landmark international agreement to curb aviation emissions

Infographics

The Resolution on the GMBM (ICAO Website)

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Sanctions could curtail sustainable development in Zimbabwe: Mugabe

21 Sep 2016

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Robert G. Mugabe, President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, addresses the general debate of the General Assembly's seventy-first session. UN Photo/Cia Pak

Ongoing sanctions against Zimbabwe could threaten sustainable development in the country, President Robert Mugabe told the UN General Assembly on Wednesday.

World leaders are reviewing progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as part of this year's General Debate.

It seeks to transform the world by eliminating extreme poverty, promoting greater equality and tackling the challenges posed by climate change.

Dianne Penn has the story.

President Mugabe said Agenda 2030 and Zimbabwe's own national development blueprint are practically the same.

However, he said the biggest impediment to achieving its objectives is 16 years of "punitive and heinous" sanctions.

The measures imposed by the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union include travel bans and asset freezes.

"Those who have imposed these sanctions would rather have us pander to their interests at the expense of the basic needs of the majority of our people. As long as these economic and financial sanctions remain in place, Zimbabwe's capacity to fully and effectively implement Agenda 2030 will be deeply curtailed."

The President also addressed reform of the UN Security Council.

The Council consists of five permanent members—China, France, Russia, the UK and the US—and 10 non-permanent members who serve for two years.

Mr Mugabe said although the issue has been raised over the past 20 years, the international community is no closer to realising any reform of the chamber.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 1’19″

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General Assembly Adopts ‘Milestone’ Reforms, Including Improving Transparency, Accountability of President’s Office

The General Assembly today adopted a consensus resolution outlining a number of “milestone” reforms to reinvigorate its work as it moved into its eighth decade, notably to improve the transparency and accountability of its President’s Office.

By the resolution, contained in the report of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Revitalization of the Work of the General Assembly (document A/70/1003), the Assembly decided that the president-elect would take an oath of office and observe a code of ethics — each detailed in annexes I and II of the text and to be attached to the Assembly’s own Rules of Procedures.

The world body, by the text, decided that Assembly presidents would provide financial disclosures on assumption and completion of their duties, and requested both the Ethics Office and Department for General Assembly and Conference Management to provide an induction briefing to all presidents and their Office members prior to their assumption of duties.  It also requested the Secretary-General to submit proposals to review the budget allocation of the President’s Office and make staff programme budget resources available from the date of the election.

“It points to the critical need to continue to strengthen the role and authority of the General Assembly and to improve its working methods,” said Mogens Lykketoft (Denmark), General Assembly President, congratulating the Ad Hoc Working Group for delivering another landmark resolution.

The text addressed the selection and appointment of the Secretary-General and other executive heads, he said.  It was, however, in relation to the transparency and accountability of the Assembly president where the resolution had made its greatest mark.  He had placed the highest priority on that issue, particularly in how he and his staff had discharged their responsibilities.

The text included an oath of office, he said, which his successor would take later today, and a code of conduct, which would apply to Office staff members.  There were also other measures, which, taken together, formed a substantive package of actions to strengthen the integrity of the President’s Office and, by extension, the United Nations itself:  mandated record keeping; financial disclosure requirements; vetting of trust fund contributions and comprehensive induction briefings for the President’s office staff.

As his Presidency was drawing to a close, Mr. Lykketoft said he had a sense of great optimism as to what the United Nations could achieve when working together.  A Secretariat representative then outlined programme budget implications for the biennium 2018-2019 arising from the text’s adoption.

After the adoption, the European Union’s representative said the significant new elements in the text would not have been possible without the flexibility shown by all Member States in the negotiating process.  The text was a milestone in strengthening the accountability, transparency and institutional memory of the Office of the President of the General Assembly.  On 18 July, the Council of the European Union had adopted its priorities for the General Assembly, reiterating the need for reform and the reinvigoration of global governance systems.

In a similar vein, Brazil’s delegate welcomed the “breakthrough” resolution, saying that measures such as the provision of financial disclosures by the President, among others, would help in observing the highest standards of transparency.  However, the text had fallen short of expectations concerning the overdue need to provide the President’s Office with meaningful resources from the regular budget.  The Assembly could not be a rubberstamping body.  Citing advances in paragraphs 44 and 45, he said the prescription that there should be no monopolies in the senior posts had come from previously agreed language in resolutions 46/232 and 51/241.  That principle must guide the new Secretary-General’s appointments from the outset, he said, advocating improvement in the Secretariat’s function.

Several speakers also focused on the selection process of the next Secretary-General.  Estonia’s representative, on behalf of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) Group, said it would continue to advocate for the best-qualified person to be selected through a fair and transparent process.  He also called on the Security Council to live up to the expectations of the general membership concerning the new standards of openness and transparency with regard to the selection process.

Croatia’s delegate, who had served as co-chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group, called the resolution a “triumph of consensus” and a continuation of resolution 69/321.  While there was ample room for progress, creative improvements had been made in the selection and appointment of the Secretary-General and strengthening of the Assembly President’s office.  That the annexes would be immediately annexed to the Assembly’s Rules of Procedure spoke to the significance and reach of the actions taken today.

Colombia’s representative said “we’ve come a long way” in creating a more inclusive, democratic and transparent Assembly.  Recalling resolution 70/1003, which had highlighted the need for gender and geographic balance, she said there had been high female participation in the search for the next Secretary-General.  The Assembly had fine-tuned its procedures with the Security Council and Economic and Social Council so that all could function more efficiently.  She drew attention to the appeal in the text for more consistent alignment between the Assembly and the Sustainable Development Goals.

In other business, the Assembly — by a vote of 82 in favour, 9 against (Bolivia, Iran, Lesotho, Nicaragua, Russian Federation, Syria, United Republic of Tanzania, Venezuela, Zimbabwe), and 21 abstentions — decided to include agenda item 130 titled “Global awareness of the tragedies of irregular migrants in the Mediterranean basin, with specific emphasis on Syrian asylum seekers” on the draft agenda of its seventy-first session. 

Speaking before action, Syria’s representative, who had requested the vote, said item 130 had failed to look objectively at all aspects of migration throughout the world or the main reasons for large migrant movements:  terrorism, Israeli occupation of Arab lands and unilateral economic sanctions.  It had also failed to address migrants from Afghanistan, Libya and Yemen.  Some 80 per cent of those coming to Europe were of African or Asian origin.  Focusing only on Syrian refugees would not provide the widespread solutions that were needed.  His delegation rejected the use of Syrian asylum seekers as political ploys. 

The representative of the Russian Federation said the problem of illegal migrants should be considered in the General Assembly in a broad, inclusive manner taking into account all aspects, including human rights.  Focusing on Syrian migrants seemed inappropriate and politicized.  He proposed excluding the reference to Syrian asylum seekers to avoid an unnecessary rift within the General Assembly.

A number of delegations advocated support for the item’s inclusion as originally conceived on the draft agenda of the seventy-first session, including from Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Haiti, Italy, Japan, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Turkey and the United States.

Several others favoured the Russian proposal to delete the reference to Syrian refugees, arguing that the issue should be considered comprehensively, including speakers from China, Cuba, Ecuador, Iran and Venezuela.

After the vote, Albania’s delegate explained she would have voted in favour of the item’s inclusion had she not missed the action.

Syria’s delegate welcomed genuine efforts to address the issue of Syrian refugees.  Noting that Syrians accounted for only 21 per cent of all asylum seekers, he said he had voted against inclusion on the agenda.  He expressed his appreciation to those who had voted in favour of not confining the issue to a Syrian one.

Singapore’s delegate supported the item’s inclusion on the agenda from a respect for States’ rights to make such proposals.  Irregular migration in the Mediterranean basin was a global concern.  While approaches to addressing large movements of migrants and refugees might differ, the Assembly was the forum where States could discuss that issue with a view to finding durable solutions.

The Assembly will reconvene at 3:00 p.m. to close its seventieth session.

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Opening Coordination, Management Session, Economic and Social Council Adopts Seven Texts, Including on Regional Cooperation, Non-Governmental Organizations

Opening a three-day coordination and management session today, the Economic and Social Council considered a range of issues — from regional cooperation to the participation of non-governmental organizations at United Nations proceedings —adopting seven resolutions and seven decisions.

The Council reversed two previous decisions of its Non-Governmental Organization Committee, deciding to grant special consultative status to two non-governmental organizations.

By a vote of 40 in favour to 5 against with 6 abstentions, the Council adopted a resolution whereby the Committee to Protect Journalists would be granted special consultative status.

Further, by a vote of in 26 in favour to 7 against with 13 abstentions, the Council adopted a resolution whereby the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights would also be granted special consultative status.

In each case, the Non-Governmental Organization Committee had deferred the group’s application numerous times over the span of several sessions.

In introducing the resolution on the Committee to Protect Journalists, the representative of the United States expressed concern that in recent years, the Non-Governmental Organization Committee had systemically abused its authority to delay the applications of legitimate organizations, with thousands of applications having been deferred, often times because their work seemed to be critical of Governments.

“Honestly, this is outrageous”, she said, adding that such practices hurt the United Nations ability to perform its duties.

The representative of China expressed deep regret and serious concern about the Council taking up the issue at all, saying that efforts by some countries to overturn the decisions of the Non-Governmental Organization Committee were tantamount to stirring up confrontation.

The Council also went on to adopt seven decisions contained within the Report of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations on its 2016 resumed session, in each case without a vote.

In other business, the Council adopted four resolutions related to the recommendations contained in the Secretary General’s report on “Regional cooperation in the economic, social and related fields”.  Two of those texts were adopted without a recorded vote, while the resolution “Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia strategy and plan of action on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” was adopted by a recorded vote of 28 in favour to 16 against, with 3 abstentions.

Another text, titled “Committing to the effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific”, was also adopted by a recorded vote, this time with 29 in favour to 16 against with two abstentions.

In both of those instances, delegations voiced concern about the programme budget implications related to the resolutions and expressed regret that information in that regard had only been provided to Member States the previous day.  Other delegations called the lack of timely information a “clear violation of the rules and procedures”.

In other proceedings, by a vote of 42 in favour to 2 against (Australia, United States) with three abstentions (Honduras, Panama, Togo), a resolution titled “Economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan”, was adopted by the Council.

The Council also took note of four documents, including the report of the Secretary-General on the main decisions and policy recommendations of the Committee on World Food Security, the report of the Committee for Programme and Coordination on its fifty-sixth session, the annual overview report of the United Nation System Chief Executives Board for Coordination in 2015 and the documentation relating to the proposed strategic framework for 2018-2019.

The Economic and Social Council will resume its work on Tuesday, 26 July, at 10 a.m.

Regional Cooperation

AMR NOUR, Director of the Regional Commissions New York Office, introduced the report of the Secretary-General titled “Regional cooperation in the economic, social and related fields” (E/2016/15), noting that the document contained regional perspectives and efforts pertaining to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly related to selected areas of regional and interregional cooperation.  He recalled that the Regional Commissions were tasked to assist Member States in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  The Commissions were working with countries in their efforts to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals into national development planning and fiscal frameworks including assisting in conceptual understanding and analysis of cross-cutting and merging issues; proving support for the formal modelling necessary to integrate the three dimensions of sustainable development; and translating global commitments into regional transformative strategies and agendas.

The Regional Commissions were also assisting in providing follow-up and review of actions undertaken to reach the development Goals, including organizing forums which were inclusive and integrated other regional and subregional actors.  He underscored that Member States would need to enhance data and statistical capacities to successfully implement the 2030 Agenda.  In that context, the Commissions were assisting Member States by identifying gaps in measuring progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as collecting, analysing and disseminating data and statistics across Member States.  The Commissions had also supported countries with regard to the Paris Agreement and climate change financing.  Collaboration had also taken place, with the Commissions having met 10 times over the last year.  Four resolutions were being presented for endorsement by the Council, of which three related to support by the respective Commissions to their Member States and the fourth related to the venue of the next Commission session.

ACHAMKULANGARE GOPINATHAN, Inspector of the Joint Inspection Unit, introduced the report titled “Cooperation among the United Nations regional commissions” (E/2016/48), during which he highlighted that the document covered, among other areas, cooperation between the various regional commissions and the interface between regional organizations and global governance decision-making bodies.  The report sought to enhance the potential contribution of the commissions in the implementation of the new development framework, including through greater coordination between the commissions and Member States and the whole of the United Nations system.  It was noted that the commissions could make a contribution to the development agenda’s accountability framework on the regional level, most notably in the follow-up and review activities.

The review found there were very few specific mandates calling for coordination between the regional commissions, nor was there a mechanism for review of that effort on the global level, he noted.  The review called for more joint activities by the Commissions, greater information sharing and wider awareness-raising and dissemination efforts regarding their activities and accomplishments.  The review recognized the important role played by the Commissions in contributing to norm-setting, consensus building and follow-up on important global efforts, while calling for increased cooperation and coordination as well as a more proactive role for the Deputy-Secretary-General, in that regard.  Further, the report called for greater oversight by the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council on the activities of the commissions.

He recalled that the report contained seven recommendations and that there were a number of informal recommendations aimed at encouraging greater cooperation.  The report addressed, at length, the disconnect between the regional and global governance structures.  The Joint Inspection Unit hoped all parties would take a closer look at the recommendations, particularly as the regional commissions had an opportunity to reinvigorate and renew their work in the context of the 2030 Agenda.  In that regard, the Unit stood ready to contribute to the strengthening of the accountability framework for the review and follow-up work around the 2030 Agenda, particularly at the regional level.

Mr. NOUR then introduced the comments by the Secretary-General and those of the Executive Secretaries of the regional commissions on the report of the Joint Inspection Unit entitled “Cooperation among the United Nations regional commissions” (document A/70/677-E/2016/48).  He said that it aimed at assessing the relevance and effectiveness of cooperation among the regional commissions, as well as between the commissions and other United Nations system entities.

He said that cooperation among the regional commissions had gained momentum in 2014, with the appointment by the Secretary-General in November 2013.  At a meeting held in Santiago, the commissions had agreed on the criteria to guide the selection of areas for interregional policy cooperation.  Turning to recommendation 5, he said that the Economic and Social Council must review the existing legislation relating to the objectives and modalities of the Regional Coordination Mechanism.  On recommendation 7, he underscored the need for the body to invite the commissions to submit substantive and analytical reports on their activities for discussion.

The Vice-President then proposed that the Council defer action on recommendations contained in document E/2016/15/Add.1.

The representatives of Chile, Lebanon, Iraq, Pakistan and China, objecting to the proposal, stressed that the deferral would undermine the successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda at the regional level.

Algeria’s speaker asked about the reason to postpone the decision.

The representative of Australia expressed support for the decision to defer action on texts related to the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

The Council then decided to take action on the recommendations contained in document E/2016/15/Add.1.

In connection with resolution I in Chapter 1, section A, entitled “Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia strategy and plan of action on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, the representative of France, speaking on behalf of the European Union, emphasized the need to uphold the common rules of procedure.  “There is no justification for violating the rules and regulations,” he said, drawing attention to the financial request, which contained budget implications for the biennium 2016-2017.

The representative of the United States noted that the programme budget implications had been made available one day before the adoption.  He expressed regret that his delegation would vote against the text.

By a recorded vote of 28 in favour to 16 against with 3 abstentions, the Council adopted resolution I in Chapter 1, section A.

The representative of Australia, in explanation of vote after the ballot, said that his delegation had to vote against the resolution as it contained substantial budget implications.

The representative of Japan, also speaking in explanation of position after the vote, expressed regret that the text contained programme budget implications.

The Council then turned to draft resolution II in Chapter 1, section B, entitled “Committing to the effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific”.

The representative of Japan drew attention to the contractions in oral statements delivered by the Secretariat regarding the budget implications.  “It is a clear violation of the rules and procedure,” he said, and requested a recorded vote.

The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed support for the request and stressed that the bloc would vote against the draft resolution.

The representative of the United States, while expressing support for the text’s substantive context, said that it contained large programme budget implications.

The Council then adopted resolution II in Chapter 1, section B, by a recorded vote of 29 in favour to 16 against with 2 abstentions.

The representative of Australia, speaking after the vote, remained supportive of ESCAP, yet expressed concern about the additional funding.  “We cannot support a resolution which undermines due process,” he said, emphasizing that the budget implications must be made available to Member States in advance.

The representative of Japan said that the Commission must optimize existing resources rather than expanding the budget.

The Council then turned to draft resolution III in Chapter 1, section C, entitled “Establishment of the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development”.

The representative of the United States, speaking before the adoption, said that the text would make a meaningful contribution to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  However, he stressed that the Commission must cover the costs from the extra budgetary resources.

Without a recorded vote, the Council adopted the resolution.

The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking on behalf the European Union, took note of the oral statement, yet stressed that any costs should be covered by the extra budgetary resources.

The representative of Chile, welcoming the text’s adoption by consensus, said the process was open, transparent and inclusive.

The representative of Japan said that the regional follow-up and review process must be performed in a more cost-effective manner.  Costs must be covered by the extra budgetary resources, he stressed.

Without a recorded vote, the Council adopted resolution IV in Chapter 1, section C, entitled “Venue of the thirty-seventh session of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean”.

It then took note of the documentation under item 15, “Regional cooperation”.

Economic and Social Repercussions of Israeli Occupation

TARIK ALAMI, Director of the Emerging and Conflict Related Issues Section of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), introduced the report of the Secretary-General entitled “Economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan” (document A/71/86-E/2016/13).

Mr. ALAMI said that Israeli policies and practices continued to violate international humanitarian law, international human rights law and the Palestinian peoples’ right to self-determination.  In October 2015, tensions and violence erupted in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.  While addressing that issue, the Secretary-General highlighted the growing frustration felt by the Palestinian people.  The existence and expansion of Israeli settlements were at the height of discriminatory actions, including in the allocation of water, access to land, movement restrictions and a discriminatory legal system.  Israel had created two different legal systems in the West Bank.  Applications for construction permits for Palestinian people were largely rejected in East Jerusalem, while the poverty rate there among Palestinians was around 75 per cent, due to a severe lack of services and neglect.  Palestinians continued to suffer from the excessive use of force by Israeli security forces, including unlawful and extrajudicial killings.

In Gaza, 76,000 Palestinians remained homeless due to the 2014 Israeli offensive and the subsequent blockade, which had impeded reconstruction, he said.  Settler attacks continued with impunity.  The blockade of the Gaza Strip amounted to the collective punishment of 1.8 million people, including the restricted access of people and goods and deteriorating living conditions.  The blockade wall was the primary obstacle to Palestinian movement.  The repercussions of the 2014 offensive included chronic electricity shortages and an ongoing water and sanitation crisis.  Nearly 50 per cent of Palestinians needed humanitarian assistance, which was directly tied to the 50 years of occupation.  The unemployment rate stood at 38 per cent in the Gaza Strip and 18.7 per cent in the West Bank.  Food insecurity was another huge challenge, with 28 per cent of the people living in Gaza lacking access to adequate food.  The Israeli occupation had a detrimental impact on the health and well-being of Palestinians, including increases in infant mortality.  Children had restricted access to education, with those who were able to attend school doing so at great risk to their safety.

An observer of the State of Palestine spoke following the introduction of the report, saying that the facts, numbers and statistics included in the document indicated a steep and alarming deterioration of the situation on the ground in the occupied territories, which had led to a human rights crisis among the Palestinian population.  While the information contained within the report was accurate, it represented only a fraction of the violations that Israel, with its military forces and settlers, continued to perpetuate against the Palestinian people and their land with total impunity.  The international community had continued to fail to hold Israel accountable, she emphasized.  The socioeconomic, humanitarian and human devastation sown by five decades of occupation had gravely affected the living conditions of the Palestinian people, compounding socioeconomic hardships and undercutting efforts towards sustainable development.  It was unquestionable that to end the suffering of her people and make tangible progress towards peace, security and prosperity, Israel must end its prolonged occupation and comply with international law, without exception.

The representative of Syria highlighted that the report acknowledged that the occupying authorities had disregarded hundreds of United Nations resolutions that underscored the need to put an immediate end to the occupation and requested that Israel stop exploiting the natural resources of occupied Arab territories.  Those resolutions had also stressed the occupied peoples’ rights to enjoy their freedoms, just as other people of the world.  Since the first day of its occupation of Arab territories, Israel had created an environment of daily suffering for the Palestinian and Syrian people due to constant discrimination and violations of their fundamental rights, including confiscation of their lands and resources for the benefit of various settler projects.  Israel had imposed taxes and fees on local inhabitants simply for exercising their right to resist occupation, with such practices resulting in arbitrary arrests.  The Palestinians wanted international support to cope with the terrorism that threatened their security.  It was not acceptable that the international community had ended its support for those living under Israeli occupation.

The representative of Ecuador recalled that the Security Council had on 2 July convened an open debate on the Middle East, including the Question of Palestine.  At that meeting, her delegation had expressed its concern about the lack of effective action by the Council on the Palestinian issue.  She reiterated her country’s support for the Palestinian cause, saying that if the Organization had addressed the issue in a more timely fashion, a great deal of human suffering and terrorist attacks could have been avoided.

The representative of Algeria underscored the usefulness of the report, which highlighted the extensive suffering affecting all areas of life in the occupied territories.  The report confirmed previous accounts and demonstrated the mass violations of human rights that were being systemically carried out by the occupying Power.  Algeria condemned those violations.  His delegation regretted the complete impunity that existed, despite the many resolutions and texts that clearly outlined the rights of people to live freely.

The representative of Saudi Arabia noted that the Israeli occupation had wide-spread negative effects on the economic and social opportunities for Palestinians.  The report had not elaborated on the lack of travel opportunities for Palestinians, nor did it indicate the fact that the Israeli occupation had cut off various Palestinian areas from tourism revenue.

The representative of Thailand, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, then introduced a draft resolution titled “Economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan” (document E/2016/L.22).  The continuing occupation had a devastating impact on the Palestinian people, including socioeconomic and humanitarian hardships.  Drawing attention to the worsening negative trends of unemployment rates, access to basic services and aid dependency in the Gaza Strip, she said that the draft text was based on the Economic and Social Council’s 2015 resolution with updates to reflect the current realities on the ground.

By the text, the body would reiterate the call for the full opening of Gaza’s border crossings, in line with the Security Council resolution 1860 (2009).  It would demand that Israel comply with the Protocol on Economic Relations between the Government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).  By the draft, the Economic and Social Council would stress the need to preserve the territorial integrity of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and develop Palestinian institutions and infrastructure for the provision of vital public services.  Further, the body would call upon Israel to restore and replace civilian properties, vital infrastructure, agricultural lands and governmental institutions that had been destroyed as a result of its military operations.

The representative of the United States, describing the text as biased, said it failed to address the conflict in a balanced manner, and called for a recorded vote.  Expressing concern about the humanitarian situation on the ground, he said that the United States had been the largest single donor to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).  The problem must be solved through direct bilateral negotiations.

The representative of Turkey said his delegation wished to co-sponsor the draft text.

The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking on behalf of the European Union, noted that the term “Palestine” should not be interpreted as the recognition of the State.

The Council then took action on “L.22” with a recorded vote of 42 in favour to 2 against (Australia, United States), with 3 abstentions (Honduras, Panama, Togo).

The representative of Israel, speaking in explanation of position after the vote, said “the circus is back in town”.  The Palestinians were exploiting the United Nations system, he said, adding that the report was deeply biased and misleading.  It failed to report that Hamas, the terrorist group, was controlling the Gaza Strip, and broke ceasefires on multiple occasions.  According to a report produced by a non-governmental organization, 79 per cent of Palestinians perceived their Government as corrupt.

The observer of the State of Palestine, expressing concern about Israel’s ongoing occupation, said that the United Nations must safeguard international law.  Stressing that Israel was shifting attention from the realities, she noted that the report was backed by concrete facts, many of which amounted to war crimes perpetuated by the Israeli Government.  “42 votes in favour must mean something,” she said, adding “all Palestinians want to be free in their homelands.”

The representative of Israel said he was compelled to respond to the accusations made against his country, despite the fact they had been addressed numerous times in the past.  The Palestinian leadership continued to glorify terrorism and portrayed terrorists as heroes.  There was a growing correlation between terrorist attacks and the incitement of the Palestinian leadership.  No solution would be found without a return to face-to-face negotiations.

Implementation of and Follow-up to Major United Nations Conferences and Summits

Presenting the report of the Secretary-General on the main decisions and policy recommendations of the Committee on World Food Security (document A/71/89–E/2016/69), AMIRA GORNASS, Chair of the Committee, said that the intergovernmental body had continued to deliver on its mandate to ensure food security and improve nutrition for all.  Through its inclusive model, the Committee ensured that the voices of all stakeholders were heard.

Turning to the accomplishments, she said that, at its forty-second session, the Committee had endorsed the Framework for Action for Food Security and Nutrition in Protracted Crises, which aimed at improving food security and nutrition for populations affected by the risk of protracted crises.  A total of 11 principles, laid out in the Framework, represented a global consensus between countries, civil society, private sector and the United Nations agencies.  Further, the Committee had discussed and agreed upon a comprehensive set of policy recommendations that highlighted the links between water, food security and nutrition.  In addition, the Multi-Year Programme of Work for 2016-2017 had been adopted, including the themes for future reports.

The Council then took note of the report.

Then, the Council then took note of the report of the Committee for Programme and Coordination on its fifty-sixth session (document A/71/16), the annual overview report of the United Nation System Chief Executives Board for Coordination in 2015 (document E/2016/56) and the documentation relating to the proposed strategic framework for the period 2018-2019 (document A/71/6).

Non-Governmental Organizations

Starting the discussion, Chile’s delegate, also speaking on behalf of Mexico and Uruguay, said that the work carried out by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) was essential for the successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  The refusal to grant consultative status for political reasons was a “serious distortion of the procedure”, he said, stressing the need to end such discriminatory practices.  It was disturbing that several organizations from developing countries, which were devoted to the protection of human rights, were not allowed to contribute.

The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations was the only specialized body tasked with enabling the participation of civil society in the work of the United Nations.  It had a pivotal role in ensuring that the Organization benefited from the expert opinions and advice of civil society foreseen by resolution 1996/31.  “NGOs should not be perceived as a threat to the proper functioning of the United Nations or as a vehicle for subverting the will of Member States,” he said, stressing the need for the Committee to complete its deliberations in a fair and transparent manner.

The statistics from the Committee’s last session indicated that applications engaged on human rights were significantly more likely to be deferred than other applications, he said.  Of the new applicants, 60 per cent focussed on women’s human rights and 40 per cent of those concerned with the human rights of persons with disabilities had been deferred.  The case of the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, whose repeat application had been rejected alongside six other organizations dealing with similar issues, now fell to the Economic and Social Council for consideration.  In addition, he said that the voted decision by the Committee to reject a recommendation for consultative status for the Committee to Protect Journalists had drawn strong criticism, with the United Nations Secretary-General expressing his “deep disappointment”.

The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking in his national capacity, said that Member States must welcome civil society participation, and be ready to work with them to achieve shared objectives.  “We cannot afford to block the participation of legitimate and effective civil society actors from our work,” he said, stressing that the Committee must act in the best interests of the United Nations.

The representative of Germany said that the Council had much to gain from the contributions of non-governmental organizations.  “We depend on the active participation of these stakeholders,” he said, stressing the need for their “expert opinion”.  It was problematic that the applications of organizations working in the area of human rights were more likely to be deferred.

The representative of Estonia said that the involvement of civil society organizations was essential to the work of the United Nations, noting that the opposition to granting status was often based on the views of such organizations.

The representative of France said that the Committee to Protect Journalists was a respected organization, whose work was recognized by all.  Expressing support for the work carried out by non-governmental organizations, he stressed that his country co-sponsored the draft resolution.

The representative of United States then introduced the resolution titled “Application of the non-governmental organization Committee to Protect Journalists for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council”, saying that a free press was not only valuable in and of itself, but was a critical tool for protecting other rights.  The Committee to Protect Journalists worked to fight corruption, document human rights violations, provide a voice to those who were marginalized or at risk, and expose problems in societies that may otherwise go unseen.

Journalists often found themselves at risk by those who felt threatened by their work, she said.  The Committee to Protect Journalists defended the basic right of journalists to do their work without fear of reprisals.  The Committee to Protect Journalists was an independent, impartial organization with a long track record of fair reporting.  Yet, the Committee to Protect Journalists had been denied accreditation by the Non-Governmental Organization Committee for four years, during which time hundreds of journalists had been imprisoned, gone missing or lost their lives.  In recent years, the Non-Governmental Organization Committee had systemically abused its authority to delay the applications of legitimate organizations, with thousands of submissions having been deferred, often times because their work seemed to be critical of Governments.  “Honestly, this is outrageous”, she said, adding that such practices hurt the ability of the United Nations to perform its duties.

The representative of Uruguay said his delegation wished to join the list of countries sponsoring the decision.

The Vice-President then informed the Council that additional Member States, including Antigua and Barbuda, Honduras, Republic of Moldova and the United Kingdom, wished to co-sponsor the resolution.

The representative of Czech Republic, associating himself with the European Union, said his delegation was deeply concerned over the recent proceedings of the Non-Governmental Organization Committee.  He recalled that both the General Assembly and Security Council had expressed the belief that journalists deserved protection, and in that regard, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists had a critical role to play.

The representative of Greece said that the safety of journalists was a critical issue that the United Nations had addressed in many contexts.  The international community had been united in condemning the increasing prevalence of journalist being killed, detained or tortured in recent years.  He expressed regret that the Non-Governmental Organization Committee had voted not to grant consultative status to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The representative of United Kingdom recalled that the Committee to Protect Journalists already participated in United Nations conferences and panels and their expert data and research was appreciated throughout the international community.

The representative of the United States requested to know which countries had requested a vote on the resolution.

The Vice-President informed the Council that China and the Russian Federation had requested the vote.

The representative of China expressed regret and concern over the practice whereby some countries forced the Council to overturn the decisions of the Non-Governmental Organization Committee, which was an authoritative organ of the United Nations.  He recalled that in May, the Non-Governmental Organization Committee had conducted its work, which should now be adopted by the Council by consensus.  The effort of some countries to overturn the decisions of the Non-Governmental Organization Committee was tantamount to stirring up confrontation.

The representative of Afghanistan highlighted that the Committee to Protect Journalists had been working closely with many Afghan journalists unions for numerous years, helping many of those that had been victims of crimes.  Further, the Committee had come up with a comprehensive model for journalists’ safety in Afghanistan, which was now being used in other countries, further demonstrating the organization’s utility.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that the Committee had considered the application of 464 applications at its last session.  As imposing a decision on Member States would undermine the work of the Committee, there was no reason to revisit the decision.

The representative of Viet Nam said his country had attached great importance to the promotion and protection of freedom of speech.  While recognizing their key role in contributing to the development of Viet Nam, he stressed that the Committee needed more time to consider applications.

The Council then took action on “L.26” with a recorded vote of 40 in favour to 5 against (China, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe), with 6 abstentions (Algeria, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, India, Pakistan, Uganda).

The representative of Chile, describing the freedom of expression as a fundamental human right, said his country had voted in favour of the resolution.

The representative of Australia then introduced the resolution entitled “Application of the non-governmental organization Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights for consultative status with the Economic and Social Council” (document E/2016/L.27).  She said that the organization was made up of young people who were committed to promoting adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive rights at the national, regional and international levels.  Stressing that the Coalition had submitted its first application in 2010, she said that over the past six years it had been deferred 11 times.

The representative of Canada said that the application of the Youth Coalition had answered all the questions posed by the Committee.  The group was composed of several young people, who were actively engaged in numerous processes, including the negotiations of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The representative of the Czech Republic said that the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights’ application for special consultative status should not be denied simply because the topics that the organization addressed were of concern for some Member States.

The representative of Australia requested to know which countries had requested a vote on the resolution.

The Vice-President informed the Council that China and the Russian Federation had requested the vote.

The representative of the United Kingdom said that the issues dealt with by Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights were critical for the realization, promotion and protection of human rights, particularly with regard to gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.  His delegation believed that the refusal of the Non-Governmental Organization Committee to grant the group special consultative status was not based on legitimate reasoning, but rather due to prejudice about the subject matter the group dealt with.

The representative of Portugal indicated that her delegation wished to join the list of co-sponsors for the resolution.

The Council then took action on “L.27” with a recorded vote of 26 in favour to 7 against with 13 abstentions.

The representative of Chile, speaking after the vote, said his country had supported the resolution after paying special importance to what was said in the United Nations Charter, which began with the phrase, “We the peoples”, which to him, required respect for diversity.

The Economic and Social Council then took up the “Report of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations on its 2015 resumed session” (document E/2016/32 Part II).  At its 2016 resumed session, held from 23 May to 1 June and on 10 June, the Committee had considered 464 applications for consultative status, including applications deferred from earlier sessions.  Of the non-governmental organizations submitting those applications, the Committee recommended 188 for consultative status, deferred 235 for further consideration at its regular session in 2017, and closed consideration without prejudice of 39 applications that had failed to respond to queries over two consecutive sessions.

The Council then adopted, without a vote, seven decisions contained in the report.

By decision I, the Council (a) granted consultative status to 188 non-governmental organizations; (b) reclassified the consultative status of four non-governmental organizations; (c) recognized that the Committee decided to take note of the change of name of 15 non-governmental organizations; (d) recognized that the Committee took note of the quadrennial reports of 335 non-governmental organizations, including new and deferred reports;(e) closed without prejudice consideration of the request for consultative status made by 39 non-governmental organizations after the organizations had failed to respond to queries over the course of two consecutive sessions; (f) closed without prejudice consideration of the request for reclassification of status by one non-governmental organization following the failure of the group to respond to queries over the course of two consecutive sessions; (g) decided not to grant consultative status to the non-governmental organization Committee to Protect Journalists; (h) decided not to grant consultative status to the non-governmental organization Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights.

By decision II, the Council decided to withdraw the status of the non-governmental organization Human Lactation Center.

By draft decision III, the Council suspended, for a period of one year, the consultative status of 158 organizations with outstanding quadrennial reports.

By draft decision IV, the Council decided to reinstate the consultative status of 81 organizations that had submitted their outstanding quadrennial reports.

By draft decision V, the Council decided to withdraw the consultative status of 85 organizations with continued outstanding quadrennial reports.

By draft decision VI, the Council approved the provisional agenda for the 2017 session of the Committee.

By draft decision VII, the Council took note of the present report.

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