THIRD COMMITTEE APPROVES DRAFT RESOLUTION
Hears Call for Priority Attention to Education of Children in Developing Countries
NEW YORK, 24 October (UN Headquarters) -- The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) this afternoon approved a draft resolution by which the General Assembly would proclaim the ten-year period beginning on 1 January 2003 as the United Nations Literacy Decade. That draft, which would be forwarded to the Assembly for adoption, reaffirmed that literacy for all was at the heart of the notion of basic education for all and that creating literate environments was essential to eradicating poverty, achieving gender equality and ensuring sustainable development.
That draft, one of seven approved this afternoon, would also have the Assembly appeal to Governments to redouble their efforts in several areas emphasized by members of the Committee as they continued their discussion of child protection, namely ensuring equal access to education for girls, eliminating gender disparities in education and combating illiteracy.
The representative of Israel said the future of humankind lay in educating children today. Ensuring adequate and equal access to education would not only enable children to overcome poverty, but by improving conventional and non-conventional instruction methods, Governments could enable the world’s children to solve one day some of the most serious problems that plagued mankind, including purifying the air and water or even repairing the ozone layer.
He went on to say that the pressing duty was to improve the education and instruction of children and adolescents by giving priority to developing countries, and especially the least developed countries. An infrastructure of technological schools for the training of trainers should be developed for them.
Other delegations this afternoon broached a host of different issues. Many spoke of the effects that armed conflicts had on children. Several speakers said that children fortunate enough to survive such situations were often left physically and psychologically damaged. During fighting, children were often recruited into battle or suffered sexual or economic exploitation. That led to situations where they were out of school and susceptible to diseases like HIV/AIDS.
Another of the drafts approved today was also relevant to the Committee’s current discussions. That text, on international cooperation against the world drug problem, would have the Assembly urge all States to develop and implement policies and programmes for children, including adolescents, aimed at preventing illicit drug use and supporting preventive policies and programmes, especially against tobacco and alcohol. It would also have the Assembly urge States to make appropriate treatment and rehabilitation accessible for children and adolescents dependent on narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances, inhalants and alcohol.
Two other draft resolutions on items related to social development were approved this afternoon, including: one on policies and programmes for youth and another on cooperatives in social development.
On items related to criminal justice, resolutions were also approved on the role, function, periodicity and duration of the United Nations congress on the prevention of crime and the treatment of offenders; the United Nations African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (UNAFRI); and action against transnational organized crime.
Also participating in the discussion this afternoon were the representatives of Nepal, Sri Lanka, Qatar, Nigeria, Canada, Belarus, Brazil and Sierra Leone.
The committee will meet next on Friday, 26 October, at 10 a.m., to continue its consideration of items related to the promotion and protection of the rights of children.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this afternoon to continue consideration of issues related to the protection and promotion of the rights of children. For details, see Press Release GA/SHC/3642 of 22 October.
The Committee was also expected to take action on draft resolutions on items related to social development, including the world social situation, youth and education, as well as crime prevention and international drug control. For details, see Press Releases GA/SHC/3643 of 23 October and GA/SHC/3635 of 16 October.
Among the resolutions under consideration this afternoon were two texts recommended for adoption by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
The first was on the role, function, periodicity and duration of the United Nations congress on the prevention of crime and the treatment of offenders (document A/C.3/56/L.4). By that text, the Assembly would also decide to continue holding the congress in accordance with the programme of action of the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme, which should follow a dynamic, interactive and cost-effective method of work.
Further by the text, the Assembly would decide that beginning in 2005, each congress should discuss specific topics and include one session of pre-congress consultations and include a high-level segment. The congress should also adopt a single declaration containing recommendations derived form the deliberations of that segment. It would request the Secretary-General to continue providing the secretariat staff for the congress, as well as the regional preparatory meetings for the congress.
The other resolution was on Action against transnational organized crime: assistance to States in capacity-building with a view to facilitating the implementation of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the adopted protocols thereto (document A/C.3/56/L.5). By that text, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to provide the Centre for International Crime Prevention of the Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention with the resources necessary to enable it to effectively promote the entry into force and implementation of the Convention and its protocols.
By the text, such effective promotion should include, among other things, providing assistance to developing countries and countries with economies in transition for building capacity in areas covered by the Convention and its protocols. The Assembly would also encourage member States to make adequate voluntary contributions to the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Fund in order to provide technical assistance for developing countries and countries with economies in transition to implement the Convention and its protocols.
Action on Drafts
The Committee began its meeting this afternoon by taking action on seven draft resolutions. Three were on items related to social development, including the world social situation, youth and education. Three were on items related to criminal justice and one was on international drug control. For details, see Press Releases GA/SHC/3643 of 23 October and GA/SHC/3635 of 16 October.
The Committee adopted without a vote a draft resolution on cooperatives in social development (document A/C.3/56/L.8/Rev.1), introduced earlier by the representative of Mongolia. That representative made two minor technical corrections to the text this afternoon.
Also without a vote, the Committee approved a draft introduced by earlier by Mongolia on a United Nations literacy decade: education for all (document A/C.3/56/L.10).
Next, the Committee took up a text, introduced previously by Portugal, on policies and programmes involving youth (document A/C.3/56/L.12/Rev.1). That draft was adopted without a vote.
The Committee next approved without vote three drafts on criminal justice and crime prevention. Two had been recommended for adoption by the ECOSOC, and the first was on the role, function, periodicity and duration of the United Nations Congress on the prevention of crime and the treatment of offenders (document A/c.3/56/L.4). The other was on action against transnational organized crime: assistance to States in capacity-building with a view to facilitating the implementation of the United nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the adopted protocols thereto (document A/C.3/56/L.5).
The third draft on that item, on the United Nations African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (document A/C.3/56/L.16) had been introduced and orally amended earlier by the representative of the Sudan.
The final resolution approved this afternoon was a four-part text on items related to international drug control. That text, introduced by the representative of Mexico yesterday, was on international cooperation against the world drug problem (document A/C.3/56/L.18).
Statements on Children’s Issues
ARJUN KANT MAINALI (Nepal) said 11 years had passed since leaders from around the world had assembled for the World Summit for Children, and had made groundbreaking commitments to reach a variety of goals by the year 2000. The Summit was a landmark in creating worldwide awareness about the plight of millions of children. Similarly, the adoption in the beginning of the 1990s of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which combined the whole range of human rights and shaped new perspectives for the protection of the rights of children was another significant step towards promoting the interest of children.
He said the almost universally-ratified convention had created an environment in which the protection of the rights of children was considered a priority issue on the global political agenda. The convention also had resulted in the widespread recognition of children’s fundamental right to develop physically, mentally and socially to their fullest potential, and to participate in decisions affecting their future. During the past decade, there had been a significant awakening at both the international and national levels for the protection and development of children. The adoption of two Optional Protocols to the Convention, on the involvement of children in armed conflicts and child pornography was an equally encouraging event that happened during the last decade. That development had resulted in concrete changes in law, policy and practice, and child education and health services in many countries around the world.
Since more than 50 per cent of the total population of Nepal comprised children below the age of 18, Nepal attached great importance to the promotion and protection of the rights of children. Nepal was one of the first countries to sign and ratify the Convention. It also had signed the two Optional Protocols to the Convention, and had taken legislative and other appropriate measures to promote and protect the rights of the child. Nepal had enacted the Children Act and Labour Acts, which incorporated fundamental principles of the Convention. The Government also gave priority to the education of children, child health care and maternal health care. It also had undertaken special measures to eliminate discrimination against girls through education, literacy programmes and dissemination of information. Free education was provided up through high school for children.
JOHN DE SARAM (Sri Lanka) said the subject of children was vast, touching almost every aspect of human existence –- cultural, economic, social, political, material and spiritual. No one country would have an unblemished record on children’s rights. As for the children of Sri Lanka, the pressures had been unusually heavy, not only from the uncertainties that lay heavily on the young the world over, but also from the additional disadvantages of being young in a developing country. In addition, a cruel and merciless armed rebellion, waged by a group number less than one-twentieth of one per cent of the multi-ethnic, multi-religious population of Sri Lanka, was a major factor for stress.
It should be made abundantly clear, he said, that the Government had not, did not and would not target children in the unfortunate internal armed conflict that had plagued Sri Lanka for so long. Government forces always had taken precautions to avoid civilian casualties and, on numerous occasions, refrained from conducting operations because of possible civilian casualties. The Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict needed to be informed further of that situation.
There was satisfaction in reporting that Sri Lanka had done very well in reaching the goals set out by the Declaration of the World Summit on Children in 1990. His Government had managed to control childhood diseases, and therefore, was reducing significantly the infant and child mortality rates. It had achieved 90 per cent literacy rates for boys and girls, and over 95 per cent of children were enrolled in and completing primary school. Further, the maternal mortality rate was down, the country had been polio free since 1990, and over 80 per cent of children used iodized salt. Much remained to be done in the areas of malnutrition, eradication of malaria, reducing the school drop-out rate and increasing the quality of education. Still, the Government was committed to the welfare and well-being of its children, and was grateful for the cooperation and collaboration it had received from the international community.
MOHAMMED AL-DEHAIMI (Qatar) said much progress had been made in the last few years to protect the rights of children. Unfortunately, violence and war had become even more deadly for children. In many of those wars, children were used as fighters, or in other cases, they were trafficked for sexual exploitation. Many of them suffered from HIV/AIDS. The international community had to provide better regional standards to protect children from those scourges, during and after wars. His Government recognized the importance of protecting children, having signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child in December 1992, and ratified it in April 1993. His Government worked together with the United Nations and the specialized agencies to implement the latest best practices to ensure the utmost protection for children.
He said the Qatar Constitution provided for education for all children, and primary education was obligatory for all children. If parents did not enroll their children, alternatives were supplied. Health care was also provided for all children. Governmental bodies had been established to protect children from violence, and there were mechanisms in place that called for redress for children who were victims of violence. Children needed to be protected at all levels, and Qatar was working to that end. It was true that the President of the Department of Children had been nominated to become a member of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
He said Qatar was concerned about the suffering of Palestinian children, who faced oppression by Israel every day. Israel’s policies were making children orphans. There was a global war against Palestinians that deprived children of their most basic rights. The Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) had called for an urgent meeting of the Security Council to address Israel’s aggression. Because of the blockades that had been in place since 1990, many children suffered from malnutrition and preventable illnesses. Also, the Afghan people should be taken care of before winter set in. Urgent action should be taken to end that war.
KATYEN JACKDEN (Nigeria) said the 1990 World Summit for Children was convened specifically to address the special needs of children. The Summit adopted the Declaration and Plan of Action setting specific time-bound goals for the survival, protection and development of Children during the 1990s. More than a decade since the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the World Summit, and despite the progress made in their implementation, children’s lives in developing countries –- particularly in Africa -– continued to remain in jeopardy. They were plagued by poverty, a heavy debt burden, malnutrition, poor sanitation, inadequate health care, HIV/AIDS and armed conflicts. Those factors combined to deprive children of the security, health and education they needed to grow into productive citizens.
She said that Nigeria was deeply concerned that Africa continued to be affected by war and armed conflicts, which had enormous and disproportionate negative impacts on civilian populations, especially women and children. Entire generations had known only brutal armed conflicts and insecurity. Millions of these children had been left disabled and psychologically scarred by traumatic experiences. The protection of children in armed conflicts was therefore an imperative. In that regard, Nigeria supported United Nations efforts aimed at the demobilization, rehabilitation and social integration of combatants under the age of 18. Nigeria also called for the strengthening of efforts to find lasting solutions to conflicts, particularly in Africa.
Ms. Jackden said trafficking in human beings, particularly women and children, had risen to an alarming proportion, especially in Africa. The report by the Secretary-General revealed that armed conflicts often led to the abduction and recruitment of children for use as soldiers, prostitutes and slaves. That phenomenon required an urgent solution. In Africa, considerable efforts were ongoing at the regional and subregional levels to address that issue, and the delegation called on the international community to provide the technical support and resources necessary to enable regional organizations to curb the trafficking of women and children and their exploitation in situations of armed conflicts.
GILBERT LAURIN (Canada) said Canada had striven to ensure that the final declaration and plan of action for the General Assembly Special Session on Children addressed the situation of children around the world who suffered violations of their human rights and were in need of special protection. These included street children, child labourers, sexually exploited and trafficked children, children with disabilities, children in conflict with the law or in the care of the State, HIV/AIDS-infected children, refugee and internally displaced children, children facing discrimination due to their religious and ethnic identities, indigenous children and war-affected children.
While much progress had been made in the decade since the World Summit for Children, much remained to be done, and new challenges now confronted the world’s children. In particular, HIV/AIDS threatened an entire generation of children –- 1,500 children were born with HIV every day, and more than three million children had already died of AIDS. In addition, approximately 600,000 women and girls died annually during pregnancy or childbirth, and more than 24 million babies were born each year with low birth weight.
To effectively address these and other problems, he said there had to be a promotion and protection of the reproductive rights of women, men, girls and boys, including by ensuring their access to sexual and reproductive health information, care and services.
Canada, he said, strongly supported the efforts of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and other United Nations agencies to ensure that all children received the best possible start in life, and to ensure that the rights of the child were integrated into all relevant United Nations programmes.
ANZHELA KORNELIOUK (Belarus) said that in 1995 Belarus had adopted a five-year plan of action for children. The Government had also taken steps to implement an array of initiatives aimed at children’s healthcare and education as well as promoting coordination with non-governmental organizations on children’s issues. She hoped her delegation would be able to inform the Committee that her Government had taken action on all outstanding child protection initiatives, including international instruments on the rights of children.
She said that in its preparations for the Assembly special session, Belarus had participated in regional activities and meetings which had highlighted a number of important issues. Those included implementation of measures aimed at early development of children, protection of mothers, and giving special attention to education issues. She added that Belarus shared the concerns of other delegations on the negative effects of globalization and other serious issues such as children's disproportionate susceptibility to the HIV/AIDS virus. Only through cooperative international action could those issues be comprehensively addressed.
ARYE GABAY (Israel) said the future of humanity lay in children’s education today. It was education that would enable them to improve the quality of life for elderly and handicapped persons. Education would also allow them to contribute to achieving equality for women and girls and equity and social justice for all societies. Moreover, the education they would receive would enable them to contribute to the world’s scientific and technical progress, to purifying the air and water and to efforts to repair the ozone layer which protected all humankind.
While not ignoring the appalling evils that befell millions of the world’s children, such as violence, pedophilia and prostitution, he said simply improving both conventional and non-conventional methods of education could help address those problems as well as underdevelopment and poverty. The pressing duty was to improve the education and instruction of children and adolescents by giving priority to developing countries, and especially to the least developed countries. An infrastructure of technological schools for the training of trainers should be developed.
Unfortunately, he said, certain speakers took the opportunity to deliberately accuse Israel of all the evils suffered by women and children. It was regrettable, and his Government sincerely sympathized with their living conditions. Still, responsibility should be sought elsewhere. The responsibilities lay in the systematic and institutionalized teaching of hatred and contempt for Jews and Israelis, and in the incitement to violence in the sermons of muftis in the mosques.
Further responsibility lay with the Palestinian media, which produced slanderous and inflamed messages, and with the cynical use of children in violent confrontations, he said. Lastly, responsibility lay with the acts of terrorism against civilian populations making priority targets of children going to discotheques or women going to lunch with their children in popular restaurants.
GELSON FONSECA (Brazil) said his country’s broad vision regarding the protection, promotion and realization of the rights of the child and the adolescent was a continuing source of inspiration for all legislators and policymakers. The preparations for the Special Session had provided the welcome opportunity to assess the achievements, as well as the chance to identify hurdles that remained.
Mr. Fonseca said that earlier this year the Government announced its decision to expand to the entire country its "Bolsa Escola" initiative -– a school grant programme providing financial help to low income families that had, in the recent past, been showing excellent results in several Brazilian cities.
In the area of health, he said significant progress had been achieved in the last decade in lowering the rates of child and infant mortality, as well as lowering the deaths associated to diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections and preventable disease. There were 184 hospitals that had been certified as "child friendly" by UNICEF.
IBRAHIM KAMARA (Sierra Leone) said Sierra Leone was emerging from a period of 10 years of war. Vast numbers of children had been directly affected. The numbers of children killed and maimed was in the thousands, and the numbers of displaced and affected children were in the millions. Those victims were targeted because they were children. They were orphaned, abducted and then exploited in the service of the various armed factions. Sadly, the legacy of violation lived on into the current period of relative peace.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) on Monday had noted with alarm the omission of concerns specific to girls from much of the recent documentation he said. His Government urged greater international concern for the predicament of girls in the country’s ongoing peace process. During the war, young girls had been repeatedly subject to sexual abuse and enslavement. Today, many of them had no families to return to, or feared rejection from their communities. Without alternative means of subsistence, many were forced into prostitution. The largest United Nations peacekeeping force stationed within Sierra Leone’s borders provided a perverse incentive.
Mr. Kamara said Sierra Leone was collaborating with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UNICEF, and local non-governmental organizations to attempt to identify displaced children, and ensure that they received assistance and protection. The fact was known that the overwhelming numbers of internally displaced children did not benefit from the protections extended under international law, putting them that much more at risk. At present, assistance offered to them included foster care until such time as they could be reunited with their families, or indefinitely, if that was not possible. Psychological care, medical services, educational assistance, including vocational training and apprenticeships, were also offered.
His Government, he said, was appreciative of the need to establish new norms raising the threshold of acceptable treatment of children. To that end, his Government had ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and was in the process of ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
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