Home » General » 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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