The world is facing the worst hunger crisis, with an estimate of 149 million children — nearly one in five — chronically malnourished, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) heard today, as delegates continued their general discussion on the rights of children.
During their general debate, delegates recognized increasing global crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic, food insecurity and climate change, with many focusing on the political, economic, and social challenges faced by children in conflict.
The representative of Afghanistan decried the decline in his country since the Taliban took over by force in 2021. “Afghanistan is the worst country in the world to be a child, with high child mortality rates, poor levels of nutrition and rampant violence against children,” he said, adding that millions of children have been exposed to grave violations of human rights. They are facing food insecurity and multidimensional poverty, he added, with many on the brink of famine.
Afghanistan belongs to the list of the deadliest countries for children, with hundreds of children killed and maimed, he stressed. “Children in my country are living a nightmare,” he said, adding that Afghan girls are banned from accessing secondary education, forced into early marriages, and exposed to honour killings and sexual violence. Afghan boys face many of the same risks, while also being exposed to military recruitment. Highlighting reports of schools being deliberately set on fire, with the intention of destroying educational centres, he said such acts force children out of school and make them an easy target for terrorists to recruit.
Ukraine’s representative said more than 400 children have been killed, many have become orphans and over a half a million have been transferred from Ukraine to various regions of the Russian Federation. The only way to protect Ukrainian children is to stop Moscow’s aggression, she asserted, calling for their safe and rapid return.
Meanwhile, Syria’s representative warned against the human rights situation in north-east Syria and regions outside the control of the Syrian Government, where over 53,000 women and children — the families of foreign terrorist fighters — are held in illegal prisons. These centres reflect the worst violations of human rights, he stressed, describing a section where over 500 children are living in horrific humanitarian situations. These children might form a nucleus for future terrorism, he warned, calling for the repatriation of those families.
Every moment the international community delays acting against the terrorist military is paid for by the lives and liberty of children, underscored Myanmar’s representative. Condemning the 2021 military coup that killed over 300 children and young people under the age of 20, he detailed the military’s terrorist activities, including the bombing of a community monastery school in the Let Yet Kone village.
Turning to the phenomenon of child soldiers, the representative of Yemen warned that millions of children are in the clutches of radical terrorism. Raising concerns about the paid recruitment of children in the military, the organization of summer camps to inculcate radical ideologies, and disfiguration of children due to land mines, he reiterated his Government’s efforts to set up a special unit for the protection of children.
Violence against children and the phenomenon of children in armed conflict constitute a tragedy for the world, underscored Nigeria’s representative. Thousands of children across the globe, instead of attending school, are fighting in armed conflicts, with the vast majority of these children being abducted, drugged, brainwashed and recruited against their will, he warned, adding that Nigeria is doing everything to prevent the recruitment of children by armed groups.
Along similar lines, Senegal’s representative voiced concern over the increased vulnerability of children living in conflict zones, calling for strengthened cooperation to better recover from the pandemic and rebuild social protection systems for boys and girls. To that end, he defined new strategic plans focused on protecting children from exploitation and violence as well as combating diseases such as AIDS and malaria.
Also speaking today were representatives of Colombia, Iran, Malaysia (on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN)), Qatar, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Viet Nam, Ethiopia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Bahrain, Bulgaria, Dominican Republic, Maldives, Burkina Faso, Kuwait, Belarus, Sri Lanka, Paraguay, Rwanda, Algeria, Mozambique, United States, Monaco, Pakistan, Turkey, Brazil, Guatemala, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Bhutan, Japan, Togo, Kazakhstan, United Arab Emirates, Costa Rica, Central African Republic, Niger, Andorra, Trinidad and Tobago, Georgia, Norway, United Republic of Tanzania, Gabon, Lesotho, Timor-Leste, Côte d’Ivoire, Kiribati, Oman, Congo, Sudan, Albania, Romania, Italy, Tunisia, Ecuador, Nepal, Greece and Libya. The observers for the Holy See and State of Palestine as well as youth delegates of Luxembourg and Germany also spoke.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of the Russian Federation, India and Pakistan.
The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 11 October, to continue its debate on the rights of children.
NATHALIA SÁNCHEZ GARCÍA (Colombia), speaking on behalf of the Global South Coalition and pointing to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) data, stressed that one more year of school can increase a girl’s earnings when she’s an adult by up to 20 per cent. Some countries lose more than $1 billion a year by failing to educate girls to the same level as boys. Citing the Secretary-General’s report, she added that the consequences of the pandemic are still felt, with 11 million girls that may not go back to school, 64.3 per cent of 10-year-olds being unable to read. Further, because of school closures, 10 million more girls than previous estimates are at risk of early marriage by 2030, she said.
FATEMEH ARAB BAFRANI (Iran) said the Government continues to improve legislative frameworks to assure children’s well-being. Highlighting a mass immunization campaign starting in 2019, she said the country has been declared free of both measles and rubella. Further, infant mortality has decreased to 10.92 per 1000 live births. A law on the protection of children and adolescents, exposure to delinquency or harm such as abuse, requires the authorities to intervene. This protection extends to cyberspace, where children’s exposure to pornography and trafficking is punished, she said. To integrate stateless children, Iran passed a law extending citizenship to children born to Iranian mothers and foreign fathers, she said. Adding that unilateral sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States also affect children, she called on the international community to hold them accountable.
Mr. ANG CHENG LIANG (Malaysia), on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), stressed the importance of prevention and rehabilitation programmes targeted at children that are vulnerable to all forms of abuse and exploitation. On child participation, he pointed to the establishment of the National Council for Children and all efforts connected to care and rehabilitation. Moreover, the Government is currently developing a comprehensive national policy on children, juvenile justice, bullying, mental health, child exploitation, child marriage, climate change and child online protection, including a child protection plan in the cyberworld. The Government has taken measures to strengthen children’s institutions at the State level by increasing the number or probation officers, he added. Opposing unnecessary detention of children, he pointed to family care initiatives ensuring that children in need of care will grow up in families instead of institutions. Underscoring the role of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), he reiterated Malaysia’s commitment to giving children the life they deserve.
ALMAHA MUBARAK AL-THANI (Qatar) noted her country’s progress in advancing children’s rights through a series of procedures at the legislative and executive levels. In particular, she underlined Qatar’s investment of more that 10 per cent of its total expenditure in education. Through the Qatar Development Fund, her country earmarked $980 million to benefit millions of children through developmental and humanitarian aid implemented in more than 65 countries, she said. “Failure to observe the right to education can compromise human rights, sustainable development and the economy, especially in societies in conflict,” she said. She also emphasized that Qatar is considered one of the five pioneering countries in supporting quality education at the global level. Further, she stressed her country’s wide array of data derived from its field experiences. Recognizing the importance of the mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, she stressed that Doha has opened a Special office and a Center for Analysis and Research to build institutional knowledge on efforts to protect children.
Ms. CHAKIR, youth delegate of Luxembourg, said that the COVID-19 pandemic had a negative impact on the mental health of children and adolescents as they were deprived of circumstances to socialize. Further, complicating the lack of social structures in place as well as paediatric psychologists to address the issue, children aged 12 to 18 are often too old to receive care from paediatric psychologists but are too young to receive care meant for adults, she said.
Ms. BERTEMES, youth delegate of Luxembourg, stressed that the expansion of access to the Internet has made children particularly vulnerable to predators and called for more controls over shocking content. Highlighting the link between cyber-harassment and sexual assault, she called for action including a revised sexual education programme taking consent and care after sexual violence into account. Adding age-appropriate measures based on science and in line with gender equality would allow for children and youth to make informed decisions about sex and relationships, she said.
ABDOU NDOYE (Senegal), aligning himself with the African Group, welcomed the establishment of the United Nations Office for Youth, which underscores the determination of the international community to make young people agents in the policies that affect them. Voicing concern over the increased vulnerability of children living in conflict zones, he called for strengthened cooperation to better recover from the pandemic and rebuild social protection systems for boys and girls. To that end, he defined new strategic plans focused on protecting children from abuse, exploitation and violence as well as combatting diseases such as AIDS. Highlighting progress made over the last 30 years, he pointed to significant challenges that remain to be overcome, particularly regarding girls, childhood mortality, HIV and malaria.
VEOMANEE MEUNLUANG (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), aligning herself with ASEAN, encouraged States to take concerted and urgent actions for inclusive recovery following global challenges to protect children’s rights at all levels. Her Government has paid special attention to providing decent social services and emergency assistance for children and vulnerable groups, including adolescent and girls and children with disabilities at all levels. Underscoring efforts to improve learning and healthcare, she reported on the voluntary national review for children and youth consultations, which highlighted the importance of policies and actions for sustainable and resilient recovery in the post pandemic period. Priority is given to promoting gender equality, children’s rights, environment and biodiversity protection, she added. Pointing to additional measures to promote the rights and interests of children, she underscored the establishment of a Counseling Centre for Women and Children to provide assistance, including to those at risk of becoming victims of human trafficking, domestic violence and sexual exploitation.
TRAN NAM TRUNG DANG (Viet Nam), aligning himself with ASEAN, said his country has established a National Committee for Children, a telephone hotline for children and a National Action Plan focusing on child protection, education, and participation in issues directly affecting them, adding that the government has strengthened relevant legislation. Responding to challenges posed by the pandemic, Viet Nam made education available online and outfitted more vulnerable communities with computers and other technologies to include them. The country continues to work together with ASEAN through their policy framework to promote gender equality and eliminate violence against women and children.
Mr. LIRE (Ethiopia), aligning himself with the Group of 77” developing countries and China” and the African Group, noted that children under the age of 18 make up half the population in his country, pointing to a series of domestic measures to protect children’s rights and development, including a gender-sensitive strategy for the education sector. In this regard, he highlighted primary education expansion programmes achieving 95 per cent coverage, aimed at bringing schools as close as possible to boys and girls, particularly in rural areas. This is contributing to reducing incidents of girls’ early and forced marriage, he said, adding that as they do not have to travel far, their chances of being abducted decrease and parents are more prone to let them study. Amendments to the criminal code provide for punishment for offenders for early marriage and female genital mutilation, he affirmed.
NATALIIA MUDRENKO (Ukraine), aligning with the European Union, said the only way to protect Ukrainian children is to stop the Russian Federation’s aggression. It is impossible to implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child in this context, she said, adding that the right to life and health is violated by the shelling. More than 400 children have been killed and many children have become orphans. She said that over a half a million children have been transferred from Ukraine to various regions of the Russian Federation and that some of these children have been illegally adopted. She called on the international community to facilitate the safe and rapid return of these children.
ELIE ALTARSHA (Syria) stressed the importance of protecting children from sexual exploitation and participation in armed conflict. Pointing to the principle of providing special protection to children, pursuant to the Syrian Constitution, he said violence against children, bodily harm and sexual attacks are punished by law, including the death penalty. Children and young people constitute 70 per cent of the Syrian population, he highlighted, reiterating his Government’s commitment to providing children with basic human rights, despite the unilateral coercive measures and economic embargo imposed on the Syrian people for political reasons. In north-east Syria – in regions outside the control of the Syrian Government – over 53,000 women and children that are part of the families of foreign terrorist fighters are held in illegal prisons. These centres reflect the worst violations of human rights and the rights of children, he asserted, noting that there is a section where over 500 children are living in horrific humanitarian situations. These children, if left in this horrific situation, might form a nucleus for future terrorism, he warned, calling for the repatriation of those families.
KIM SONG (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said protecting children’s rights was all the more urgent considering the world’s unprecedented, crises and challenges. Currently, many children worldwide are suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic, armed conflict, climate change, poverty and hunger as well as violence. His Government continues to improve the legal basis for protecting the rights of the child by adopting and amending the Socialist Constitution, Law on the Protection and Promotion of Children’s Rights and the Decree on the Introduction of the 12-Year Compulsory Education System. In recent years, the Government has drawn up a state policy to provide all children with dairy products and school uniforms at the State’s expense, he said.
Ms. AL BIN KHALIL (Bahrain) stressed the work of the National Committee on Childhood as well as legislative measures and partnerships with UNICEF and non-governmental organizations. She also touched on her country’s laws focused on safeguarding the rights of children exposed to domestic violence, including within the family unit. On her country’s efforts to guarantee restorative justice for minors, she reported measures to provide support and care in the event of abuse, and stressed the establishment of a special tribunal when children are involved. Noting the negative effects of the pandemic on children, including psychologically, she pointed to additional measures to reverse them, including through investments in technology. She emphasized that the education system in Bahrain is not being impacted by the pandemic and ranks very highly among Arab States, with 100 per cent of its services back up and running.
SVETOZAR ANGELOV DIMITROV (Bulgaria), aligning himself with the European Union, pointed to national measures promoting the rights of children, particularly those focused on early childhood development and equal access to education, which assist children with disabilities, refugee and migrant children. Bulgaria has welcomed over 130,000 Ukrainian refugees, adapting the education system to include them, he said. “In May 2022, an interinstitutional coordination mechanism was created at the national and local levels for cases of unaccompanied children or foreign children separated from their families,” he said. Together with Jamaica and Luxembourg, Bulgaria co-chairs the Group of Friends of Children and Sustainable Development Goals. As of January 2023, the country will join the UNICEF Executive Board, he said.
LUZ DEL CARMEN ANDÚJAR (Dominican Republic) stressed that “the world as it is today is not a place for children”. Expressing concern over an increase in violence and child marriages in a post-pandemic and global conflict context, she called on the international community to demonstrate political will in ensuring a future for children. To this end, her country has established the Cabinet for Children and Adolescents to coordinate efforts across policies prioritizing children. The government has also passed laws prohibiting child marriages, and implemented programmes to offer holistic sexual education and reduce adolescent pregnancies. Further, the country has created 189 centres for early childhood development.
Mr. HAMID (Maldives) noted that the COVID‑19 pandemic undermined hard-won gains in terms of children’s rights — including those related to ending severely harmful practices such as early, child and forced marriage. As a result of these setbacks, the human rights of children, especially young girls, have been put in greater jeopardy. He highlighted a key piece of legislation aimed at protecting and promoting the rights of the child in his country: the Child Protection Act, prohibiting marriage to minors, the death penalty and child labour. The outbreak of the COVID‑19 pandemic significantly impacted the economy, he stressed, drawing attention to the establishment of a national emergency team with strategic mechanisms for the management of shelters for children and the elderly. On school closures during the pandemic, he said that to ensure the continuation of children’s learning, the Government facilitated virtual schooling mechanisms.
KOUDOUGOU NOANGMA (Burkina Faso), aligning herself with the African Group, said the impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic is still felt in the security, humanitarian and climate crises that have further exacerbated the vulnerability of children. In Burkina Faso, children account for over 50 per cent of the population, she noted, highlighting their struggles with poverty, gender inequality, disability and harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation. Noting that her country has gone through a major security crisis, she pointed to national policies aimed at promoting gender equality and the rights of children. Moreover, Burkina Faso has developed a strategy for the period from 2016 to 2025 to eliminate child marriages, putting in place legal instruments and broadening the definition of marriage to address traditional practices. More than 30,000 victims have been saved from child marriage, she said.
Mr. MOHAMMAD (Kuwait), expressing concern over threats to health among children, noted that due to global challenges, they are more exposed to extreme poverty and famine, endangered psychological and physical well-being, school drop-out and violent crimes. He called for “a global approach to secure their well-being”. Highlighting national efforts to secure children’s rights, he pointed to a family tribunal responsible for dealing with family disputes and a law aiming to guarantee the right to life and development within the family, which protects them from violence, including gender-based violence.
Mr. PISAREVICH (Belarus) said the interests of children are guaranteed through his country’s Constitution, which ensures that marriage, motherhood and fatherhood are all protected. Further, the country has established programmes to give children access to mediation and increase financial literacy. Underscoring the Government’s support for family values, he said that Belarus offers up to three years of parental leave, with job security and a monthly stipend, regardless of whether children are enrolled in school. Further, children with developmental challenges receive support in integrating, through sports and other activities, while mental health services are offered in all schools, he said.
GEORGE EHIDIAMEN EDOKPA (Nigeria), aligning himself with the African Group, described the rights of children as non-negotiable. Violence against children and the phenomenon of children in armed conflict constitutes a tragedy for the world, he asserted, adding that thousands of children across the globe, instead of attending school, are fighting in armed conflicts. The vast majority of these children are abducted, drugged, brainwashed and recruited against their will, he said, adding that Nigeria is doing everything to prevent the recruitment of children by armed groups. To this end, it has adopted rehabilitation programmes for children affected by armed conflict as well as programmes aimed at providing a conducive environment for learning.
PAHALA RALLAGE SANATHANA SUGEESHWARA GUNARATNA (Sri Lanka) condemned all forms of violence against children. Maintaining a zero-tolerance policy, Sri Lanka has established child and women bureaus in police stations, in addition to attaching child protection officers to all divisional secretariats across the country. He stressed that adequate nutrition is vital to ensure that children of all socio-economic backgrounds can enjoy good health. The provision of quality education and health care for all is at the core of Sri Lanka’s social protection policies and provided the foundation on which the country could mitigate the effects of the ‘global learning crisis’ during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rapid conversions to digital systems of delivery of education threatened universal access, he said, noting that Sri Lanka aims to bridge the digital divide and the educational gap triggered by the pandemic.
JOSÉ EDUARDO PEREIRA SOSA (Paraguay) noted that his country’s population is essentially young, which gives it a responsibility to protect their needs and provide them with opportunities to fulfil their rights. Pointing to a national strategy in this regard, he described it as the result of lessons learnt from previous plans and dialogues pursued between a working group and several organizations, including those focusing on parents and youth. The working group spent a year and a half developing a plan enhancing security for all, recognizing parental authority, fostering youth participation in the family and community, he said. The national plan identifies actions, expected results, measures for achievements and institutions responsible for meeting such goals. He stressed that progress in advancing children’s rights comes from the engagement of all sectors.
Ms. UMULISA (Rwanda) said her country’s Constitution sees the family as the fundamental unit for child development. The child rights policy in Rwanda guarantees that all children, especially the most vulnerable, matter, she said, adding that they can and should participate in matters directly affecting them. The Government has introduced free primary school education and enrolment now stands at 95 per cent, she said. To ensure protection and development, the Government has passed legislation to protect children online, and established a network of actors, including police and volunteers, to identify and address child abuse. Rwanda has over 1,000 Early Childhood Development Centres in schools, communities and offices, which are accessible to all children under the age of six, she said, stressing that investing in children starts at birth.
RAHMA SAMAI (Algeria), aligning herself with the African group, stressed that States bare the primary responsibility for protecting children against violence and abuse and protecting their rights in emergencies, disasters, and armed conflicts. She reported on progress made by Algeria in terms of implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, eliminating child and forced labour by 2025, and promoting children’s access to social protection, education, and health. In that context, she drew attention to national programmes on the protection of children against abuse and exploitation, raising awareness and engaging civil society. Education is key to ensuring a better future for children, she emphasized, adding that the establishment of mandatory free education for all children between the ages of 6 and 16 has led to a 100 per cent enrolment rate in Algeria.
LIGIA JOVELINA MAVALE (Mozambique), aligning herself with the African Group and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said that as an incoming member of the UNICEF Executive Council for the term 2023 to 2025, her country is committed to the protection of children’s rights. “The promotion and protection of rights of children is not an option, but rather an existential matter, as more than half of our population are under 18 years old,” she asserted, highlighting her Government’s assistance to preschool-age children in children’s community schools; the implementation of vaccination programmes to prevent diseases in children; and the training of judges, prosecutors, police, migration agents, social workers, health workers and teachers on children’s rights.
Mr. LANG (United States), noting that one in five children worldwide are chronically malnourished, said the United States recently announced an additional $2.9 billion contribution to fight global food insecurity. He said that all children deserve a secure environment regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity, underscoring that girls, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) children, face challenges around the globe. LGBTQI+ children are at greater risk of homelessness, suicide and abuse, and girls face hurdles to education, forced marriage and female genital mutilation, he said. Stressing the need to support children and youth post-pandemic, he detailed a $300 million national programme for mental health funding for schools.
ALYSON CALEM-SANGIORGIO (Monaco) said that armed conflict, particularly the Russian Federation’s aggression in Ukraine, the pandemic and food insecurity have taken a heavy toll on children. Affirming that education must adapt to the future, she said Monaco had made touch screens and laptops accessible to all its children, to ensure continued education for those who are out of school. Monaco implemented the “Civil Status for All” campaign to draw attention to children born without birth certificates, who are at increased risk of all forms of abuse and are denied opportunities to exercise fundamental rights. The Government, as part of the “Tech for Child” initiative, includes a digital tool to integrate unregistered children.
MUHAMMAD RASHID (Pakistan) said children are still vulnerable to violence and exploitation worldwide, despite tougher global safeguards. They represent the worst victims in situations of armed conflict, humanitarian crises, foreign occupation and long-standing and unresolved disputes. “From Palestine to Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, children continue to be caught in a quagmire of violence, neither of their choosing nor of their making,” he said. He pointed to 54 grave violations against 49 children this year in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, adding that the Indian security forces detained 33 boys in Jammu and Kashmir for their alleged association with armed groups or on national security grounds. Further, 34 children were killed or maimed by Indian security forces, including with pellets used by the Central Reserve Police Force, he said.
AYSE INANÇ ÖRNEKOL (Türkiye), voicing concern over multiple challenges facing girls, children with disabilities and children in vulnerable situations — including the multifaceted impacts of the COVID‑19 pandemic, climate change and conflicts — warned that the current state of the world is not fit for children. She added that progress towards most Sustainable Development Goals is behind schedule. Responding effectively to violence against children is needed more than ever, as current crises have magnified their exposure to violence. She expressed deep concern over violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law committed against children in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria and Myanmar.
ELAINE CRISTINA PEREIRA GOMES (Brazil) said her country has adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its optional protocols. The Government has focused on continued access to post pandemic practical solutions for education, food and health for the most marginalized, she added. Affirming Brazil’s commitment to the Armed Conflict Agenda, she said it has endorsed the Vancouver Principles and the Paris Commitments, highlighting a reintegration program for children in armed conflict that uses capoeira, a martial art. The country held a debate on the protection of refugees, displaced and stateless children, which underlined the lack of access to basic services suffered by these young people.
LIBNA ELUBINA BONILLA ALARCÓN (Guatemala) pointed to a national law in her country against school bullying, which also promotes a healthy coexistence across different areas of schooling and condemns violence. She further referred to a law on school meals, aimed at reducing chronic malnutrition, which is reaching an increasing number of boys and girls. In addition, she noted a legal instrument on family integration and social promotion to achieve sustainable development for children in Guatemala. Like other countries in the region and due to its geographic position, Guatemala is a country of origin, transit and destination for migrants, she said, emphasizing its high vulnerability to human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of women, young people and children. She encouraged the international community to deploy additional resources to tackle this “form of modern slavery”, expressing concern over threats and abuses of children in conflict situations.
MUHAMMAD ABDUL MUHITH (Bangladesh), stressing that children account for 40 per cent of the his country’s population, said their empowerment is essential for its progress. He pointed to a new law that provides for mechanisms for the promotion and protection of children’s rights. He also drew attention to his Government’s plan to establish a commission on children’s rights. Childcare centres have been set up across the country, he noted, highlighting the expanded social safety net to cover more children, especially orphans, and to establish rehabilitation and reintegration programs for children. To eliminate child marriage – a serious violation of children’s human rights – the Government has made investments in the socio-economic empowerment of women. Moreover, special laws have been enacted, help lines and mobile applications have also been established, to eliminate violence against children.
Ms. IBRAHIM (Brunei Darussalam) said the pandemic hindered progress but also offered new opportunities. She detailed the country’s National Framework for Child Protection, which serves as a guide for setting up strategies guaranteeing the well-being and development of children. Initiatives such as a free national hotline to signal abuses affecting children as well as an orphan scholarship programme are among related mechanisms, she added. Noting an increase in civil engagement during the pandemic, the Government created an application linking volunteers to non-governmental organizations.
SONAM CHODEN NAMGYEL (Bhutan) stated that the COVID‑19 pandemic tested education systems in unprecedented ways, accelerated innovation and accentuated deep loopholes. She said improving digital literacy in schools, including through the introduction of coding across curricula, training teachers and increasing and improving Information and Communications Technology (ICT) tools are among measures being pursued. The new national school curriculum, implemented in 2021, marked a paradigm shift from the academic-based “factory model” of education to a “humanism model”, emphasizing an individual’s inner values and innate potential. There was renewed emphasis on technical and vocational education and training as part of mainstream education, to equip children with competent skills. Education is a core fundamental human right and serves as a basis for guaranteeing the realization of other rights.
Ms. GASHU (Japan) recalled the country’s Basic Act on Child Policies, passed this year, which aims to ensure children grow up in good health, and that all young people can pursue their dreams regardless of their economic backgrounds. Recalling her country’s role as one of the founders of the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, she said Japan pledges to share its best practices through a new agency focusing on violence against children. Detailing Japan’s major contributions to guarantee education and health care as human rights, she said the country would donate $1.5 billion to education work internationally, and $1.36 billion to UNICEF for digital health services managing infectious disease vaccine information in seven countries in Africa, to bolster fragile health-care systems.
HASSANA TITIKPINA BOUKARI (Togo), aligning herself with the Group of 77 developing countries and China, and the African Group, underscored her country’s ratification of multiple international conventions to protect children’s rights, such as one setting a minimum age for work. Welcoming the Transforming Education Summit, she pointed to a national road map for the period after 2025 targeting various groups of society, including children, under the principle that inclusion and social harmony are tools to guarantee peace. To provide better care for children, her country has invested in special training for all educators, she said. Underscoring gender disparity in the education system, she cited awareness-raising campaigns among parents to promote schooling and alleviate the domestic burden girls currently carry.
Ms. LICHTSCHLAG, youth delegate of Germany, noted that during the pandemic, children and young people were repeatedly asked to act in solidarity with older generations to protect their health and lighten the burden on the health-care system. Stressing the efforts of youth in this regard and the impact of the pandemic on mental health, she asked when adults would act in solidarity with youth, enacting the full range of their rights at all levels and recognizing their participation in decision-making. Acknowledging that some countries in the Global South are disproportionately affected by the worst effects of climate change, she asked States to commit to the 1.5°C emissions target.
Ms. ISLAMULY (Kazakhstan) pointed to structural reforms aimed at political transformation, which resulted in long-lasting changes in the protection of the rights of children. The Government prioritizes measures to strengthen the rights of children and their families, with a special focus on girls, she said, pointing to the establishment of the National Fund for Children. She also introduced a project aimed at implementing several initiatives for strengthening the rights of the child, combating domestic violence and addressing suicide incidence among adolescents. Together with UNICEF, the Government implemented a national child well-being index that consists of 48 indicators, she said, also drawing attention to a national project on quality education.
REEM MOHAMED SALEH YESLAM ALAMERI (United Arab Emirates), pointing to a series of laws and policies to promote children’s rights, said her country is a global pioneer in the advancement of such safeguards. She cited decrees addressing family violence and the launch of a national day for children aimed at stressing the importance of the rights of the child. Noting that education is key in forging ahead with children rights, she detailed a Ministry of Education initiative to protect children from abuse at school and at home. Other instruments were adopted to provide children with disabilities with all possible means to address their needs and empower them in creating their future, she added. She underlined her country’s engagement to protect such rights at the international level as well, including the fight against pornography.
DANIEL ZAVALA PORRAS (Costa Rica), aligning himself with the Global Coalition for the South, said three decades have not been enough to implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Further, economic crises and protracted conflicts, including the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine, have reversed progress, he said, citing reports that an estimated 9 million children will be in the labour force this year. He emphasized that children are the cornerstone of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, but the damage from displacement in global conflict this year will be life-long. “The situation of boys and girls will not be resolved with an arms race, much less nuclear blackmail,” he said. In line with his country’s mandate with UNICEF, he stressed the need for children to receive adequate and predictable funding so that they may know freedom from violence.
BRINZ-YANNICK-MICHEL LENANGUY (Central African Republic), aligning himself with the African Group, voiced concern over the current most serious period of crises, including in the humanitarian and economic spheres, in the history of his country. He described plans to rapidly respond to any tensions, mistreatment, exploitation, trafficking, and all forms of violence, including the victimization of children. Many children have suffered from violence in both the commercial and agricultural spheres, he said, noting also the phenomenon of child soldiers. The Government’s policy to protect children has generated a number of legislative texts and led to the establishment of the National Committee for Fighting Harmful Practices, as well as the adoption of the family code.
Ms. MAMOUDOU HAMA (Niger), aligning herself with the Group of 77, China and the African Group, stressed that despite strong political will for the advancement of children’s rights, her country faces several obstacles, including sexual and physical abuse and moral deficiency. In Niger, the protection and promotion of the rights of the child are organized around the National Policy for Protecting Children 2013. The overall goal is achieving rights of the child through protection, family, community and the State. She then detailed several instruments fostering the protection of children, such as legal policies on assisting and protecting children in danger or victims of other crimes. “My delegation deplores the increase of violations of children in armed conflict,” she said, calling for strengthened efforts to safeguard them.
MERITXELL FONT VILAGINES (Andorra) expressed concern about the effects of climate change and the pandemic on children. She said that education is essential in promoting the rights of children. Andorra has a specific curriculum on peace, tolerance and inclusivity, as well as sustainability to help children become actors in the fight against climate change, she said. Allotting a budget to youth participation programmes, the country has both a young people’s parliament and a children’s council to empower their participation in democratic processes, she said, adding that “the future is being built at present and we are all responsible for that”.
DEVITA ABRAHAM (Trinidad and Tobago), aligning herself with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) said that the Children’s Authority governs the framework for the care and protection of children, adding that the new Draft National Child Policy provides long-term guidance and support for future legislation and development. The Government disseminates the already existing policy on children through its Child Rights Ambassadors Programme, which empowers children as ambassadors who educate their peers about issues affecting them and participate in processes related to them, she said. This, in addition to bilingual educational media for children in explaining the dangers of sexual grooming and drug abuse, as well as a committee on school violence, are measures meant to ensure the empowerment and security of children.
EKATERINE LORTKIPANIDZE (Georgia) expressed deep concern about the lack of protection for children living in conflict zones, including Ukraine, where youngsters are enduring unprecedented violence due to the Russian Federation’s military aggression. Such aggression is well-known to Georgia, she said, drawing attention to the situation in the Russian-occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions of the country where major concerns include restrictions on freedom of movement, infringement of the right to life and health and a ban on native-language education. The international community must urge the Russian Federation to cease its provocative and destructive actions in occupied regions of Georgia and start fulfilling its international obligations, starting with the 12 August 2008 ceasefire agreement, she said.
TRINE SKARBOEVIK HEIMERBACK (Norway) warned that COVID-19 poses a significant challenge to implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with children paying the highest price, as 2.2 billion young people experience the impact of climate change in the environmental, socio-economic and heath spheres. The pandemic has also exacerbated other threats to children’s rights and protection, she stressed, adding that the world is facing the worst hunger crisis, with an estimate of 45 million people at risk of famine. Cross-border conflicts and disregard for international humanitarian and human rights law have led to continuous challenges in protecting children living in conflict zones, she said, underscoring that United Nations actions on the ground must be adequately mandated, staffed and funded to protect children.
ALI MABKHOT SALEM BALOBAID (Yemen) underscored challenges in safeguarding children’s rights after the pandemic and also due to terrorist activities. He noted the paid recruitment of children in the military, the organization of summer camps to inculcate radical ideologies, their disfiguration due to landmines and the modification of curricula in the schools, which have become professional and extremist. Further, children’s medical care is being deprived, as militia groups do not recognize the existence of the COVID‑19 pandemic, he noted. Children are put on the labour market and subjected to exploitation, he said. Stressing his Government’s efforts to end the phenomenon of child soldiers, he pointed to several activities, including cooperation with the armed forces to stop such recruitments. Visits are organized to inspect military units, monthly meetings are held to review the plan of action and awareness is raised on protecting the rights of children. The Government is working to set up a special unit for the protection of children, which will be part of the military, to raise awareness on their rights. “Millions of children are in the clutches of radical terrorism. This is a very high price we are paying,” he said.
SULEIMAN HAJI SULEIMAN (United Republic of Tanzania), aligning with the African Group and Southern African Development Community (SADC), noted several measures and policies his country has implemented to ensure the security of the child. The free education policy increased access to schools and reduced the economic burden on parents, and the Government passed legislation criminalizing anyone causing children to leave school, including by impregnating an adolescent or soliciting marriage from a primary school girl, he said. Both crimes are punishable by prison sentences and fines. Other protections include “One Stop Centres” and gender and children’s desks in police stations, as well as income security for the most impoverished families.
ROBERT DAVID MURPHY, observer for the Holy See, cautioned that poverty, which increased for the first time in many years due to the COVID‑19 pandemic, poses a serious risk to children’s enjoyment of their human rights. Poverty can result in early school drop-out and a higher risk of child labour and exploitation. Girls who are not in school are also at a higher risk of sexual abuse and child marriage. Children, especially those from extremely poor households and those without parental care, also account for about one third of detected victims of trafficking in persons, especially in the poorest countries, where trafficking is often linked to the broader problem of child labour, he underscored. To this end, he stressed the importance of educating girls and boys, supporting families in need, including through social protection systems, and educating communities about the risks of child labour, child marriage, and child trafficking.
CHRISTOPHE NANGA (Gabon), aligning himself with the African Group, said that the rights of children, including equal access to health services and education, must be guaranteed without any distinction. Noting the immense challenges posed by Covid‑19, he said that many schools were closed for months, adding that achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and promoting the rights of children are two inseparable tasks. “Children are an important link to building a more safe and more just future,” he said. The criminal code of Gabon has been updated to reflect the provisions of the Palermo Protocol, he highlighted, stressing measures in the sectors of education, health and social security to protect the rights of children. These include preventing violence, as well as rapid interventions in cases of violence in schools. He also said his country has banned child marriages and established two committees specifically focused on the rights of children.
MAOZIEL MERIAM SEKAMANE (Lesotho) said the Government has strengthened the legislative framework to ensure children a secure and dignified life, citing the Legal Capacity of Married Persons Act, Sexual Offences Act and Land Act as examples. Affirming education’s central role in sustainable development, he highlighted the country’s Free and Compulsory Education law as well as its work with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Lesotho to increase enrolment. Affirming a holistic approach in protecting children against child labour, gender-based violence, genital mutilation and malnutrition, he called on the international community for cooperation in improving conditions for all children, especially in developing countries.
KARLITO NUNES (Timor-Leste) stressed that 46 per cent of Timor-Leste’s population is under the age of 18, which presents “an enormous opportunity for youth engagement and a significant challenge to protecting the country’s most vulnerable people”. Pointing to his country’s Constitution and its early ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), he underscored the establishment of a National Commission on the Rights of the Child, promoting awareness-raising initiatives on the prevention of violence and abuse against children. Noting progress in enhancing youth protection and participation, he said that “the Government needs key partners and resources in the development of child protection systems”, promoting and safeguarding the rights of all children in Timor-Leste. In this regard, he underscored the “pivotal role” of UNICEF in assisting relevant government institutions, including the national police, to develop child-friendly investigation materials.
GBOLIÉ DÉSIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Cote d’Ivoire), aligning with the African Group, pointed to progress made since the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, particularly the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) efforts on the ground. Despite progress, the situation for children is worsening, especially in developing countries. Using A World Worthy of Children as a guide, his Government has made education free and compulsory, increasing enrolment of children aged six to 16 to 91.3 per cent in 2019 and 43 per cent for girls in secondary education in the same year. The country has also established a national action plan and a National Committee of Surveillance to fight trafficking and child labour as well as criminalize early or forced marriage and female genital mutilation.
JOSEPHINE MOOTE (Kiribati), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, said humanity is still not yet entirely free from violence and suffering 76 years after the founding of the United Nations. She voiced concern over the impact of climate change on children in small island developing States and the nuclear legacy on children in islands that were ravaged by nuclear blasts with energy outbursts several thousand times more powerful than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs. The causes of conflict and violence are rooted in the mindsets of people having power over the lives of others, she cautioned, reiterating her country’s continued support for the new international movement promoting the role of conscience in the making of a new world envisioned by the founding fathers of the United Nations.
Ms. SALEM, observer for the State of Palestine, detailed her country’s domestic legislation and participation in international instruments to promote and protect the fundamental rights of children. These include a Decree-Law for the Protection of Palestinian Juveniles (2016) and a Decree-Law on Public Education (2017) that stipulates the adoption of a policy on inclusive education, with a special focus on girls and children with disabilities. “The ongoing Israeli occupation constitutes a serious obstacle to the implementation of the rights enshrined in the Convention (on the Rights of the Child)”, she said, adding that it has led to grave violations of Palestinian children’s rights, such as restrictions to children’s freedom of movement, displacement, arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, attacks on schools and hospitals, and denial of access to humanitarian aid.
KYAW MOE TUN (Myanmar) said last year’s attempted military coup killed over 300 children and young people under the age of 20. Further detailing the military’s terrorist activities, he said that a three-year-old was given a three-year prison sentence, a community monastery school was bombed in the Let Yet Kone village, the bodies of the dead not returned and those who survived were imprisoned. The Junta has arrested teachers and deployed soldiers in schools, violating the right to education, among others, he said. While the National Unity Government has worked to ensure children’s inalienable rights, including protection for detained minors, aid for those injured during protests and support for the imprisoned, the Junta continue to enjoy impunity. Expressing verbal condemnations and concern has failed to stop the Junta, he stressed, calling on the international community to act decisively, including by recognizing the National Unity Government as the legitimate one and protecting Myanmar’s children. Every moment the international community delays acting against the terrorist military is paid for by the lives and liberty of children, he said.
Ms. AL-SINANI (Oman) emphasized that the protection of children is in line with the values and norms of her country. Oman acceded to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1996, she said, adding that the rights of the child are of utmost priority. She further pointed out that educational institutions are the frontline for protecting children and their development. In cooperation with civil society institutions and the private sector, her Government aims at protecting children and their rights, she underlined, pointing to continuous legislative actions, a five-year development plan, the Oman Vision 2040 as well as the national strategy for children.
Mr. ETSAN (Congo) detailed several initiatives to advance the promotion of children’s rights. In particular, he pointed to a decree establishing a list of employment and age limits for children who work; a tool identifying specific conditions on the entry and departure of children from the country; and a legislative text protecting children from bullying. A recent trial led to the conviction of some policemen for beating children, which led to years of forced labour, he noted. He also said his country has put in place special structures to support the deaf, blind and students with other disabilities. In addition, he highlighted an education continuity programme with UNESCO to overcome the effects of the pandemic as well as projects reaching populations in rural areas.
NUSAIBA HASHIM MOHAMED ALI IDRES (Sudan), aligning with the African Group, said that the transitional Government has stressed its commitment to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is working in close collaboration with the office of Children in Armed Conflict to create relevant legislation to rehabilitate children exposed to armed conflict. He said Sudan still feels the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic through school closures, the digital divide, inequitable access to learning platforms and limited access for those living in extreme poverty, displacement camps or those who are internally displaced persons. He called for more involvement from UNICEF, and all United Nations offices ensuring the wellbeing of children.
ENIAN LAMCE (Albania) voiced concern over cross-border conflicts and disregard for the basic principles of international humanitarian and human rights law that have led to a worsening in the situation for children, especially those living in conflict or post-conflict settings. Grave violations against children continue to be perpetrated on a large scale, he warned, describing the situation as even more dramatic for children deprived of parental care. Unaccompanied children constitute the most vulnerable group, as they are exposed to the greater risk of becoming victims of sexual and gender-based violence, child recruitment and child marriage. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has undermined hard-won gains, including in terms of child, early and forced marriage, compromising the ability of States to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, he said, calling on the international community to take decisive actions to improve the situation of children worldwide.
CORNEL FERUȚĂ (Romania), aligning herself with the European Union, noted that children in Ukraine have been raped, tortured, unlawfully confined, killed and injured in indiscriminate attacks with explosive weapons, highlighting the negative impact of the exposure to repeated explosions, crimes, forced displacement and separation from family members on children’s well-being. Further, she reported that more than 2.4 million Ukrainian citizens have entered Romania, and that more than 81,000 of these refugees have remained, mostly women and children. She pointed to the country’s partnership with UNICEF and other authorities to provide families and minors with psychological and legal support. Emphasizing her country’s commitment to facilitate access to the education of refugee children, she stressed that the Russian Federation’s unjustified military aggression against Ukraine has pushed the number of people worldwide who are forced to flee because of conflicts, violence and a fear of persecution to over 100 million.
GIANLUCA GRECO (Italy) emphasized that children continue to be disproportionately affected by armed conflicts, suffering violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. “It’s unbearable that children have become front-line targets for widespread killing, trafficking, sexual violence, abductions and other violations under the eyes of the international community,” he said. Stressing that all children have the right to enjoy their childhood in stable and peaceful societies, he noted that attacks against school facilities and children are increasing. Further, children on the move, refugees and forcibly displaced children, often unaccompanied minors, are exposed to suffering from trafficking, military recruitment, sexual exploitation, abduction and harmful practises, such as child and early marriage. To break the violence against children cycle, he invited an approach encompassing prevention, accountability and reintegration, reaffirming the Italian endorsement of the Paris Principles and Vancouver Principles.
Ms. RYM (Tunisia), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, stressed that childhood is a priority in all of her country’s institutions, adding that education is free and mandatory. A “Second Chance” programme offers reintegration to school or the labour market for children who have dropped out. Underlining that discrimination from programmes and services is illegal, she said unaccompanied refugee children are integrated into social frameworks. Turning to cybercrime and ICT, she said the country has implemented several laws protecting minors, as well as a national mechanism to control and combat trafficking. After the pandemic, special heed was paid to the victims of domestic violence, as well as the mental health of women and children, she said, noting that the Government created a hotline to address feelings of isolation.
NASEER AHMAD FAIQ (Afghanistan), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, pointed to the political, economic and social challenges faced by children in his country, as they have been the main victims of the conflict. The situation has further declined since the Taliban took over by force in 2021, making Afghanistan the worst country for children, as noted by UNICEF and Save the Children. Millions of children have been exposed to grave violations; they are facing food insecurity and multidimensional poverty, with many on the brink of famine. Afghanistan belongs to the list of the deadliest countries for children, with hundreds of children killed and maimed. “Children in my country are living a nightmare,” he said, adding that Afghan girls are banned from accessing secondary education, forced into early marriages and exposed to honour killings, domestic abuse and sexual violence. Meanwhile, Afghan boys face many of the same risks, while also being exposed to military recruitment, conflict and sexual exploitation. Both girls and boys are exposed to hazardous labour practices. Economic hardship has led many families to sell their children and marry off their young daughters out of desperation. “Children must spend time at their school desks, not married or fighting,” he said, citing reports of deliberately setting schools on fire, with the intention of destroying educational centres. Such acts force children out of school and make them an easy target for terrorists to recruit, he warned, adding that the de facto authorities are actively abusing children. “Afghanistan is the worst country in the world to be a child, with high child mortality rates, poor levels of nutrition and rampant violence against children,” he said, calling on States to put pressure on the Taliban to form an accountable system based on the rule of law and justice.
ELIZABETH NORALMA MENDEZ GRUEZO (Ecuador), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, stressed the role families, communities and States play in facilitating the promotion and protection of children’s rights. She affirmed her country’s commitment to regain ground lost in education due to the pandemic, especially in rural communities, the marginalized or those in lower economic sections of society. Coming from poor families or backgrounds of extreme poverty exacerbates the risk of children of being vulnerable to violence, she emphasized. Other strategies are aimed at fostering the prevention, identification and treatment of mental health issues, promoting the development of children reducing child pregnancies, eradicating child begging and promoting universal health care.
KRISHNA ARYAL (Nepal) said his country’s Constitution guarantees the fundamental rights of children and that education is compulsory and free, with textbooks and educational materials provided. The National Child Rights Council advises on policy and capacity-building programmes and operates cross-sectorial child‑protection services that offer rescue, protection and accompaniment of victims, he said. The country’s Street Children Free Kathmandu Valley initiative has rescued 2,000 children. Nepal has invested in the health of children by implementing equitable immunization programmes and early childhood development programmes, which has increased enrolment for pre-school aged children. To include all children in education, the Government produced textbooks in 24 languages to encourage indigenous students to practice and retain their mother tongue.
MARIA THEOFILI (Greece), aligning herself with the European Union, pointed to her country’s first National Action Plan on the Rights of the Child (2021), aimed at combating child poverty and its effects, building a child-friendly justice system, protecting children in the context of migration and refugee flows, ensuring the rights of children to health and education and supporting children with disabilities. A National Action Plan of Greece for the Protection of Children against Sexual Abuse and Exploitation is currently under elaboration, she said. Placing particular emphasis on unaccompanied children among migrants and refugees, her country has established a special secretariat in the Ministry of Migration and Asylum and a National Strategy for the Protection of Unaccompanied Minors. She also pointed to her country’s cooperation with UNICEF, including a five-year country programme for Greece, which addresses issues affecting all children, shifting from a humanitarian to a development perspective.
YOUSEF S. I. SALAH (Libya) said his country signed and ratified the Convention on the Rights of the child and all optional protocols, as well as the African and Arab conventions on human and children’s rights. He pointed to Libyan laws protecting marriage and minors and prohibiting marriage under 20 years old. In 2017, a special committee to further develop legislation protecting children worked with civil society and non-governmental organizations to prevent all forms of violence, abuse and harassment and provide for the reintegration of victims into society.
Right of Reply
The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, recalled the 2014 coup. He said the Ukrainian Government deprived Russian-speaking children the right to speak their language and attacked dissenters in the Donbas region. They effectively started a civil war, exposing children to “unselective bombardment”. Adding that the “Angel’s Alley” is a monument to this event, he said Ukraine killed children in September, recalling his statement on two refugee convoys targeted by Ukrainian forces. He underlined that these attacks occurred with weapons from the United States and other Western countries, stating that they were all complicit. Further, he said the Russian Federation is not deporting children but saving them from the bombardment of Ukrainian forces and giving them a normal life.
The representative of India, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, referred to Pakistan’s statement. He said it was “false and malicious propaganda”, which he dismissed and condemned. He then said Pakistan was attempting to divert the attention of the international community from serious human rights violations being perpetrated in that country against minorities, women and girls. Calling on Pakistan to “stop cross border tourism so our citizens, especially children, can exercise their rights to life and liberty”, he said the focus of the discussion should be on promotion of children’s rights.
The representative of Pakistan, responding to the delegation of India, said the figures he presented were quoted from the annual report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict. “Is that report being called false and malicious propaganda?” he asked. While children have also been killed and subjected to violence in Pakistan in recent years, this was largely due to terrorist attacks, he said. “It’s unfortunate that children have lost their lives both in Pakistan and in the occupied territory of Jammu and Kashmir, but the difference is that the violence perpetrated in Indian-occupied territory is by the State machinery of India, whereas children in Pakistan are victims of terrorism,” he said.
Source: United Nations