20 October 2003



Committee Concludes Discussion of Women’s Issues, Hearing 26 Speakers

NEW YORK, 17 October (UN Headquarters) -- Governments, communities, families and individuals had the duty and obligation to build a protective environment for children, said Karin Sham Poo, Deputy Executive Director of United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), as the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) began its consideration of the promotion and protection of the rights of children.

Also today, the Committee concluded its consideration of the advancement of women and the implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women and of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, entitled “Women 2000 -- gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”.

This year had shown continuing progress in children’s rights, Ms. Sham Poo said, welcoming the upcoming entry into force of the Protocol to the Convention on Transnational Organized Crime to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children.  It was hoped that this would significantly increase States’ cooperation and help to put an end to human trafficking, in particular child trafficking.

Violence, in all its forms, was too often a daily reality for children, she said.  Unless accountability mechanisms addressed crimes committed against children, they would continue to suffer, with negative consequences for future peace and stability.  The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court was therefore of great importance since it established accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, including those against children.

Bacre Waly Ndiaye, Director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, gave an introductory statement welcoming Timor-Leste’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, bringing the total number of States parties to 192.  He also highlighted recent developments within the Committee on the Rights of the Child, including its enlargement from 10 to   18 members -- reinforcing its geographical representation and its multisectoral expertise.

In a subsequent question-and-answer session, delegations raised issues of concern to them regarding children’s rights.  Delegations expressed concern about the worrisome trend of trafficking in children, and asked what UNICEF could do to tackle this violation of human rights.  Other speakers referred to the enlargement of the Committee of the Rights of the Child and the decision to split the Committee into two chambers, asking whether such an initiative would speed up its work, and whether it was a permanent decision.

Several delegates expressed concern about the devastating effects of armed conflicts on children, both when victims of war and when forced to serve as child soldiers, and stressed the need for the international community to support re-education and rehabilitation programmes. The particular vulnerability of refugee and internally displaced children was also highlighted, with one delegation suggesting that specific assistance be given to this defenceless group of children.

During the general debate on children’s rights, delegations also highlighted the particular vulnerability of children.  As expressed by the representative of Namibia, speaking on behalf of Southern African Development Community, millions of children continued to face abject poverty, hunger, malnutrition, exploitation as child soldiers, and inadequate social and economic conditions, and were increasingly vulnerable to preventable diseases, as well as to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.  A large number of children were also maimed, killed, orphaned and displaced as a result of armed conflicts.

Over the past two days, delegations shared national initiatives that had promoted the advancement and empowerment of women through economic, legal, and social reforms.  The need for increased participation and representation of women in political life and in higher echelons was also highlighted.

Several representatives raised concerns about the feminization of poverty and stressed that women were vital agents for development, urging the international community to address the empowerment of women within the broader context of development, with particular focus on rural women who were especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of globalization.  Migrant women were also vulnerable to marginalization and exploitation, delegations said, stressing that violence against women -- including trafficking of women -- was a violation of human rights.  Speakers also highlighted the added burden suffered by women as a result of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Today, the Committee also decided, in a vote of 140 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 1 abstention (Australia), to adopt a proposal of the representative of Syria, on behalf of the Arab Group, to extend an invitation to the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the occupied territories, John Dugard, to address the Third Committee.  (See Annex.)


Speaking today on women’s issues were representatives of the following countries:  Mexico, Belarus, India, Myanmar, Syria, Philippines, Armenia, New Zealand (on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum Group), Liechtenstein, Ethiopia, Mongolia, Morocco, Israel, Cambodia, Romania, Uganda, Nepal, Cameroon, Ghana, Zambia, Afghanistan, Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The representatives of Italy (on behalf of the European Union), Brazil, Switzerland, Peru, Iran, United Arab Emirates, and Norway addressed issues concerning children’s rights.

Representatives of the World Food Programme, Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme also spoke.

The Committee will reconvene on Monday, 20 October, at 10 a.m. to continue its consideration of the promotion and protection of the rights of children.


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) today is effected to conclude its discussion of women’s issues after which it will begin consideration of issues relating to the rights of the child.  (For background on women’s issues, see Press Release GA/SHC/3744 of 15 October.)

Before the Committee there is a note of the Secretary-General on the protection of children in armed conflict prepared by his Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict (document A/58/328).  The report states that progress in this field includes a significant increase in advocacy and awareness.  Children are now firmly placed on the international peace and security agenda, and norms and standards have been strengthened. Child protection has been incorporated by regional organizations, and important steps have been taken to develop systematic monitoring and reporting.  Children are being given increasing priority and are focused upon more in post-conflict programmes, and a major child protection movement has developed among non-governmental organizations.  However, the situation for children remains grave and precarious in war zones.

The report proposed an agenda for action encompassing the interrelated challenges of embarking on a campaign for the “era of application” and ensuring that the initiatives taken and gains made so far are consolidated and institutionalized.  The core task is to establish a systematic and integrated monitoring and reporting network that can provide objective, regular and accurate reports on violations being committed against children.  Such reports should, in turn, serve as “triggers for action” on the part of various international, regional and local bodies, mechanisms and actors, each employing all means and levers of influence at their disposal for the protection of war-affected children.

A report of the Secretary-General on the Status of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (document A/58/282) states that as of 2 July 2003, the Convention on the Rights of the Child had been ratified or acceded to by 192 States.  In addition, two States had signed the Convention.  Also, as of  2 July 2003, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the involvement of children in armed conflict had been ratified by 53 States and signed by 111 States, and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography had been ratified by 52 States and signed by 105 States.

Before the Committee is a letter from the Permanent Representative of Honduras to the United Nations (document A/58/272) containing a report by that State on the violent deaths of children and youths.  The report deals with the topic of the 744 young people under the age of 18 that have been murdered in Honduras, mostly in gang-related incidents, from 1998 until December 2002.  Some of the difficulties faced by the Government were the lack of a centralized database that would permit corroboration of all the information received on the number of deaths; shortages of specialized investigators; a lack of equipment and logistical support for field work; and the lack of specific legislation on gangs (“pandillas” or “maras”).

There is a note of the Secretary-General on the promotion and protection of the rights of children (document A/58/329) which draws the attention of Member States to the report of the Secretary-General on progress towards implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS (document A/58/184).

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