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Summary record of the 26th meeting : 3rd Committee, held at Headquarters, New York, on Thursday, 28 October 1999, General Assembly, 54th session

UN Document Symbol A/C.3/54/SR.26
Convention Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Document Type Summary Record
Session 54th
Type Document

17 p.

Subjects Rights of The Child, Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, Children in Armed Conflicts, Child Labour, Family, Persons with Disabilities, Drug Control

Extracted Text

United Nations
General Assembly
Fifty-fourth session
Official Records
Distr.: General
25 February 2000
Original: Spanish
Third Committee
Summary record of the 26th meeting
Held at Headquarters, New York, on Thursday, 28 October 1999, at 3 p.m.
Chairman: Mr. Galuška . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (Czech Republic)
later: Ms. Mesdoua (Vice-Chairman) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (Algeria)
Agenda item 106: Social development, including questions relating to the world
social situation and to youth, ageing, disabled persons and the family (continued)
Agenda item 108: International drug control (continued)
Agenda item 109: Advancement of women (continued)
Agenda item 115: Right of peoples to self-determination (continued)
Agenda item 112: Promotion and protection of the rights of children (continued)
This record is subject to correction. Corrections should be sent under the signature of a member
of the delegation concerned within one week of the date of publication to the Chief of the
Official Records Editing Section, room DC2-750, 2 United Nations Plaza, and incorporated in a
copy of the record.
Corrections will be issued after the end of the session, in a separate corrigendum for each
00-22560 (E)
The meeting was called to order at 3.15 p.m.
Agenda item 106: Social development, including
questions relating to the world social situation and to
youth, ageing, disabled persons and the family
(continued) (A/C.3/54/L.9/Rev.1, A/C.3/54/L.11 and
Draft resolution A/C.3/54/L.9/Rev.1
1. The Chairman invited the Committee to
consider draft resolution A/C.3/54/L.9/Rev.1 entitled
“Implementation of the World Programme of Action
concerning Disabled Persons: towards a society for all
in the twenty-first century”, which had no programme
budget implications.
2. Ms. David (Philippines) announced that Algeria,
Austria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Chile, Congo, Côte
d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Eritrea, France, Ghana,
Guinea, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Jordan, Liberia,
Luxembourg, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Madagascar,
Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Pakistan,
Papua New Guinea, Poland, Republic of Moldova,
Romania, San Marino, Sierra Leone, Spain, Sudan,
Suriname, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great
Britain and Northern Ireland and Viet Nam had joined
the sponsors of the draft resolution. Oral revisions to
the draft resolution had been proposed at an earlier
3. Draft resolution A/C.3/54/L.9/Rev.1, as orally
revised, was adopted without a vote.
Draft resolution A/C.3/54/L.11
4. The Chairman invited the Committee to
consider draft resolution A/C.3/54/L.11 entitled
“Cooperatives in social development”, which had no
programme budget implications.
5. Ms. Enkhtsegtseg (Mongolia) announced that
Cameroon, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia,
Finland, Guatemala, Indonesia, Italy, Liberia, Pakistan,
Philippines, San Marino, Sierra Leone, Spain, Sudan
and Tajikistan had joined the sponsors of the draft
resolution and that the sponsors had proposed certain
revisions. In paragraph 2, the word “Adopts” would be
replaced by the words “Welcomes the elaboration of the
draft”. Paragraph 3 would be replaced by the following
text: “Requests the Secretary-General to seek views
from Governments on the draft Guidelines and to
provide, if necessary, a revised version for adoption;”.
In paragraph 6, the words “to disseminate and utilize
the guidelines” would be deleted.
6. Draft resolution A/C.3/54/L.11, as orally revised,
was adopted without a vote.
Draft resolution A/C.3/54/L.12
7. The Chairman invited the Committee to
consider draft resolution A/C.3/54/L.12 entitled
“Follow-up to the International Year of the Family”,
which had no programme budget implications.
8. Ms. Elisha (Benin) announced oral revisions to
the draft resolution. In the fifth preambular paragraph,
the passage starting with the words “such as the need to
develop ...” should be deleted. In paragraph 1, the word
“endorses” should be deleted. Paragraph 3 should be
amended to read “Urges Governments to continue to
take sustained action at all levels on behalf of families,
including studies and applied research to promote the
role of families in development, and to develop
concrete measures and approaches to address national
priorities to deal with family issues;”. Paragraph 4
should be amended to read: “Recommends that
Governments should develop strategies and
programmes aimed at strengthening the economic
livelihood of families, which must be sustainable, and
in this regard encourages the contribution of all
relevant actors in civil society, including research and
academic institutions;”. At the end of paragraph 5, the
following phrase should be added: “in order to promote
technical assistance focused on the less developed and
developing countries and to encourage the holding of
subregional and interregional meetings as well as
relevant research;”. Paragraph 6 should be revised to
read: “Invites the Commission for Social Development,
when adopting its next multi-annual programme of
work, to consider the possibility of undertaking a
review of the global situation of families, bearing in
mind that different types of family exist in different
cultural, political and social contexts;”.
9. She announced that Antigua and Barbuda,
Barbados, Botswana, Cameroon, Congo, Croatia,
Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea,
France, Gambia, Ghana, Greece, Ireland, Italy,
Madagascar, Malta, Mongolia, Portugal, Russian
Federation, San Marino, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint
Lucia, Sierra Leone, Spain, South Africa, Zambia and
Zimbabwe had joined the sponsors of the draft
resolution and that Bangladesh, Burkina Faso and
Nigeria had withdrawn from the list of sponsors of the
draft resolution.
10. Mr. Mowla (Bangladesh) explained that his
country had not been included among the sponsors of
the draft resolution, so that it did not need to withdraw
from the list.
11. Draft resolution A/C.3/54/L.12, as orally revised,
was adopted without a vote.
12. The Chairman suggested that the Committee
should recommend to the General Assembly that it
should take note of the report of the Secretary-General
on the implementation of the World Programme of
Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond
(A/54/59). The Committee had thus concluded the
consideration of agenda item 106.
Agenda item 108: International drug control
(continued) (A/C.3/54/L.20)
Draft resolution A/C.3/54/L.20
13. The Chairman invited the Committee to
consider draft resolution A/C.3/54/L.20 entitled
“International cooperation against the world drug
problem”, which had no programme budget
14. Mr. Campuzano (Mexico) announced that
Belize, Cambodia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Eritrea,
Georgia, Haiti, Jordan, Kuwait, Libyan Arab
Jamahiriya, Namibia, Philippines, Solomon Islands,
Swaziland and Togo had joined the sponsors of the
draft resolution.
15. Draft resolution A/C.3/54/L.20 was adopted
without a vote.
16. The Chairman said that the Committee had thus
concluded its consideration of agenda item 108.
Agenda item 109: Advancement of women
(continued) (A/C.3/54/L.16/Rev.1)
Draft resolution A/C.3/L.16/Rev.1
17. The Chairman invited the Committee to
consider draft resolution A/C.3/54/L.16/Rev.1 entitled
“United Nations Development Fund for Women”,
which had no programme budget implications.
18. Ms. Blajan (Romania) announced that Antigua
and Barbuda, Argentina, Bhutan, Cambodia, Congo,
Ghana, Haiti, Liberia, Peru, San Marino, Saint Lucia,
Senegal, Solomon Islands, Spain, Swaziland, Togo and
Venezuela had joined the sponsors of the draft
resolution. She also announced several revisions to the
text. In the fourth preambular paragraph, the order of
the phrases “non-governmental organizations” and
“United Nations organizations” should be reversed, so
that the paragraph would start with the words:
“Welcoming the contributions the Fund has made in
supporting initiatives of Member States, United
Nations organizations and non-governmental
organizations ...”. In paragraph 7, the words “and nongovernmental
organizations” should be deleted. In the
same paragraph, the words “the national level” should
be replaced by the words “all levels”, so that the
paragraph would read: “Encourages the Fund to
continue to assist Governments in implementing the
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination against Women in order to advance
gender equality at all levels, including by reinforcing
the cooperation between Governments and civil
society, especially women’s organizations;”.
19. Draft resolution A/C.3/54/L.16/Rev.1, as orally
revised, was adopted without a vote.
Draft resolution A/C.3/54/L.19
20. The Chairman invited the Committee to
consider draft resolution A/C.3/54/L.19 entitled:
“Improvement of the status of women in the
Secretariat”, which had no programme budget
21. Ms. Paterson (New Zealand) announced that
Belize, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Democratic People’s
Republic of Korea, Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Malawi,
Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Philippines, Sierra
Leone, Spain, South Africa and Togo had joined the
sponsors of the draft resolution.
22. Ms. Arbar (Antigua and Barbuda) said that,
although her country had usually co-sponsored the
resolution, it was unfortunately not able to do so on
that occasion. It hoped to be able to do so in the future.
23. Draft resolution A/C.3/54/L.19 was adopted
without a vote.
Agenda item 115: Right of peoples to self-
determination (continued) (A/C.3/54/L.25)
Draft resolution A/C.3/54/L.25
24. The Chairman invited the Committee to
consider draft resolution A/C.3/54/L.25 entitled
“Universal realization of the right of peoples to selfdetermination”,
which had no programme budget
25. Mr. Bhatti (Pakistan) announced that Bangladesh,
Lebanon and Mauritania had joined the sponsors of the
draft resolution.
26. Draft resolution A/C.3/54/L.25 was adopted
without a vote.
Agenda item 112: Promotion and protection of the
rights of children (A/54/98, A/54/265, A/54/411,
A/54/419 and A/54/430) (continued)
27. Ms. Nguyen Thi Thanh Ha (Viet Nam) welcomed
the fact that, as at 1 August 1999, 191 States had
ratified or acceded to the Convention, as well as the
recent consideration of the issue of children and armed
conflict by the Security Council and its resolution 1261
(1999). In addition, the issues of children and poverty,
children and sanctions, and exploitation or abuse of
children should be seriously addressed. In 1991, Viet
Nam had promulgated its Law on Protection, Care and
Education for Children and had made every effort to
enforce it. In addition, provisions to protect children’s
rights and interests had been incorporated in the
Labour Code, the Civil Code, the Law on Amendments
to the Criminal Code, the Law on Nationality and the
Law on Marriage and Family.
28. The highest priority was given to the promotion
and protection of children’s rights to health and
education. The programme of vaccination against the
six childhood infectious diseases had covered 100 per
cent of the nation’s communes. Within the framework
of a programme for malnutrition prevention, the rate of
malnutrition among children had been reduced by
30 per cent over the past two decades. Viet Nam had
been working to implement its policy of compulsory
primary education and to increase enrolment rates at
higher levels. Education accounted for 10 per cent of
the national budget and the Government had always
encouraged all sectors of society and international
organizations to continue to provide resources for
educational development, particularly in the remote
and disadvantaged areas.
29. The Government of Viet Nam was strongly
committed to providing assistance to children of poor
families who were roaming the streets in search of
work. The mass organizations had undertaken several
projects to assist those children financed by the
Government, the business community and international
organizations. In addition, drug abuse was reaching
alarming proportions in schools. The Government had
formulated a comprehensive national drug control
programme, which included a component of special
protection for children based on preventive and
curative measures.
30. Viet Nam had been actively implementing its
National Programme of Action for Children to the Year
2000, despite the many constraints and challenges
arising from the country’s socio-economic situation,
the regional financial crisis and the process of
globalization. Besides lingering problems such as child
malnutrition in the rural areas, school drop-outs among
children of poor families, crowded classes and poor
recreational facilities for children, the Government had
to deal with emerging problems such as child abduction
for illicit sale and abuse, drug abuse among children,
etc. That task required not only further determination
and efforts by the Government but also continued
international support and assistance.
31. Ms. Mesdoua (Algeria) took the Chair.
32. Mr. Vienravi (Thailand) said that his country’s
Constitution and national legislation reflected the great
importance which it attached to the promotion and
protection of the rights of children. The 1997
Constitution extended compulsory education from nine
to twelve years. Important laws had been enacted such
as the 1997 Act on the Prevention and Suppression of
Trafficking in Women and Children and the 1998
Labour Protection Act, which raised the minimum
working age to 15, limited working hours for children
and introduced safeguards against sexual abuse of child
employees. For the first time in Thai history, the 1997
Constitution and the 1999 Education Act provided
equal learning opportunity for children with
disabilities. Special plans were being made to provide
all schools throughout the nation with facilities for
disabled children.
33. Despite national efforts, there was still a serious
problem of trafficking in children and smuggling of
immigrant children. In order to address that problem, it
was necessary to address the problem of poverty and
lack of development in the area. Thailand needed the
help of the countries of origin of the immigrant
children, as well as of international organizations and
United Nations agencies. Preventive efforts needed to
be redoubled. The Office of the National Commission
on Women’s Affairs had in 1996 established the
National Committee on Trafficking in Women and
Children. The Committee was drafting a memorandum
of understanding to foster cooperation between
Thailand and Cambodia and, in that connection,
Thailand expressed profound appreciation to the
Government of Cambodia for its cooperation. Thailand
hoped to be able to establish similar cooperation with
other countries in the region.
34. Thailand was genuinely concerned about the
increase in child sex tourism in developing countries.
That problem also needed to be addressed from the
demand side, and it was encouraging that a number of
Governments had enacted laws to punish those who
committed child sexual abuse overseas.
35. With regard to children and armed conflicts,
Thailand provided education to children fleeing armed
conflicts in neighbouring countries, regardless of their
status or nationality. In certain places along the frontier
of Thailand with other countries, children from those
countries were allowed to commute to Thailand for the
purpose of schooling. Thailand reiterated its support
for the work of the Secretary-General’s Special
Representative and of relevant United Nations bodies.
It also supported the effort to raise the minimum age
for participation in hostilities from 15 to 18. Thailand
therefore hoped that the optional protocol would soon
be finalized and put into effect.
36. With regard to the Convention on the Rights of
the Child, Thailand had withdrawn its reservation to
article 29 in 1997 and was currently studying the
possibility of withdrawing its reservations to articles 7
and 12. Public discussions had been held to exchange
views among the parties concerned on that matter.
37. Ms. Neskorozhana (Ukraine) said that, in
addressing the issues of the sale of and trafficking in
children, one of the basic problems was the lack of
clear definitions, which resulted in confusion,
difficulties in drafting legislation and weak
enforcement mechanisms. It was therefore essential to
make progress in the drafting of an optional protocol
on the sale of children, child prostitution and child
pornography. The provisions of that document should
strengthen and complement the Convention and not
merely reaffirm existing standards. The final text of the
protocol should be a consistent document and not a
replica of existing international instruments or those
under discussion elsewhere and should enable States to
act effectively against the scourges which it dealt with.
Special attention should also be given to the problem
of child labour, since according to the statistics there
were about 250 million children working from a very
young age. In that connection, her delegation
welcomed the adoption by ILO of the Convention
concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for
the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour.
38. With regard to the impact on children of armed
conflicts and their recruitment into the armed forces,
the work of the Secretary-General’s Special
Representative dealing with that question was
appreciated, as was the work of UNICEF and the
increasing attention being paid to that problem by the
Security Council, which should be maintained.
Children without education, economic security and
family life – often the poorest of the poor whose only
security had been the gun – would not be able to build
institutions of peace when they grew up. Her
delegation supported the work of the Working Group of
the Commission on Human Rights which was drafting
an optional protocol on the involvement of children in
armed conflict.
39. The special session of the General Assembly to
be held in 2001 and other related events would provide
a unique opportunity to review the achievements,
analyse the main factors inhibiting progress and
consider the remaining challenges. It was therefore
important to have active and wide participation by all
parts of the United Nations system, under UNICEF
leadership, in the preparatory work for that session.
40. At the same time, it was the national
Governments which should play the leading role in the
effective implementation of the existing international
instruments in that area. For that reason, the
Government of Ukraine accorded top priority to the
fulfilment of its obligations under the Convention on
the Rights of the Child and implementation of the
World Declaration for the Survival, Protection and
Development of Children and the relevant Plan of
Action. A number of new programmes had been
formulated to improve the status of children in
Ukraine, which had included detailed information on
those measures and efforts in its first periodic report
submitted to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
41. Mr. Baali (Algeria) said that, despite the progress
made in improving the situation of children, 12 million
children under five years of age still died of
preventable diseases, 250 million were working in
subhuman conditions and about 300,000 were involved
in armed conflicts and, according to the latest UNICEF
report, millions of children were illiterate. However,
mention should be made of achievements such as the
adoption by ILO of the Convention on the Worst Forms
of Child Labour and the current drafting of two
optional protocols to the Convention on the Rights of
the Child, as well as the excellent work done by
Mr. Otunnu, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative
for Children and Armed Conflict.
42. Perhaps more than on any other continent, the
situation of children in Africa gave rise to concern,
since African children were seriously affected by
malnutrition, disease, illiteracy, poverty and armed
conflicts. Nevertheless, Africa had been a pioneer
when it had adopted, in 1979 at Monrovia, the
Declaration on the Rights and Welfare of African
Children, which established rules governing the
promotion and realization of the rights of children.
Similarly, the Heads of State and Government meeting
at Algiers for the thirty-fifth Conference, had appealed
for ratification of the African Charter on the Rights and
the Welfare of the Child, and decided to establish a
special committee on the situation of children in armed
43. Algeria had ratified the Convention on the Rights
of the Child in 1993, thus supplementing national
legislation designed to achieve full development of
children. The Constitution guaranteed the right to free
and compulsory education for the basic nine-year cycle
as well as for those who upon completing that cycle
were unable to pursue secondary studies. Enrolment
rates in primary schools were as high as 99 per cent for
boys and 89 per cent for girls. Children also received
free medicines and the State prohibited exploitation of
child workers, setting the minimum age for
employment at 16. Gender-based discrimination was
also prohibited and punishable.
44. The authorities had adopted various measures
including: establishment of a system to monitor the
rights of mothers and children; formulation of a
national plan to follow up the World Summit for
Children; preparation of a guide for children to
familiarize them with the Convention on the Rights of
the Child and the national legislation on the subject;
introduction of a national communications programme
in cooperation with UNICEF in the sectors of health,
education, social welfare, youth and sports; and a
course to publicize human rights, democracy and
republican values. In 1999, the Ministry of Education
had inaugurated the first class of civic education in the
culture of peace and non-violence. Lastly, Algeria had
signed the African Charter on the Rights and the
Welfare of the Children, demonstrating its commitment
to the promotion and protection of the rights of
45. Mr. Moniaga (Indonesia) said that, despite the
advances in technology, science and medicine, millions
of children throughout the world continued to live in
hazardous conditions. Poverty was at the root of many
of the problems currently facing children and often
forced them to choose between working or starving.
Indonesia was therefore deeply concerned about the
problems relating to the exploitation of child labour.
Some 80 million children under 15 years of age were
currently working and approximately 2 million children
under 18 years of age were involved in prostitution.
46. The international community, which professed
concern for the rights of children, nevertheless allowed
them to drift in poverty, unable to meet their needs.
Indonesia fully supported the efforts made seriously to
address child labour, not only through legislation but
also through specific measures. Although poverty
could not be accepted as a justification of child labour,
it had to be recognized that it was its root cause. The
Government of Indonesia had initiated comprehensive
inter-sectoral programmes to end child labour and
ratified ILO Convention No. 138, which was essential
for the effective abolition of child labour, and a
national tripartite secretariat under the coordination of
the Minister of Labour had been carefully examining
Convention No. 182 concerning the Prohibition and
Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst
Forms of Child Labour with a view to its ratification.
47. Despite the economic crisis, progress had been
made in the promotion and protection of children’s
rights and the Coordinating Ministry for People’s
Welfare was coordinating the activities of the various
government agencies, on the basis of the National Plan
of Action for implementing the World Declaration for
the Survival, Protection and Development of Children.
In addition, 79 non-governmental organizations dealt
with the protection of the rights of the child and had
established an independent national commission on
child protection, which was supported by the office of
the UNICEF representative in Jakarta and had 17
branch offices throughout the country focusing on the
establishment of trauma centres to assist children
suffering from internal displacement and civil violence.
Those centres, supported by the Government and the
non-governmental organizations and receiving
assistance from United Nations bodies, operated in the
area of recovery and were designed to reintegrate
children into a normal social environment.
48. Research conducted by the Government, in
cooperation with non-governmental organizations and
the UNICEF office, had created greater awareness of
the many cases of sexual exploitation of children and
paedophilia in certain tourist resorts. In response, the
Government and the national commission had
formulated a national action plan on the elimination of
the worst forms of child labour, mobilizing society to
focus on that problem.
49. It was encouraging to note that the Convention on
the Rights of the Child, in its tenth year, had been
ratified by 191 States; the Committee on the Rights of
the Child had contributed a great deal to its
implementation. It was regrettable that the optional
protocols to the Convention had still not been finalized.
Indonesia therefore believed that States should
contribute constructively to the negotiations on those
protocols and thereby strengthen the Convention.
50. Mr. Regma (Nepal) emphasized the important
role played by the Committee on the Rights of the
Child in creating awareness of the principles and
provisions of the Convention. Nepal supported the
medium-term plan for 1998-2000 adopted by the
Executive Board of UNICEF in September 1998, which
included among its priorities reduction of the impact of
armed conflict on children and prevention of family
separation. It also welcomed the recent adoption by
ILO of a new Convention on the Prohibition and
Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst
Forms of Child Labour.
51. Nepal had been one of the first countries to ratify
the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its
Constitution reflected its commitment to the provisions
of that instrument. Gradual arrangements were being
made for free education and labour laws had been
enacted prohibiting child labour, as well as a Children
Act. In addition, Nepal had formulated a Child
Development Action Plan with specific targets for
2000 and was fully committed to the resolutions
adopted at the Child Conference organized in 1986 by
the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.
However, those various legal provisions had not
succeeded in completely eradicating malnutrition,
illiteracy and economic and social hazards, because the
root problem of poverty and other social ills had not
been solved. A large number of children were still
dying of preventable diseases and, as shown by recent
studies, about 31 per cent of children were still
deprived of the opportunity for primary education. The
studies also showed that infant and child death rates
were still very high.
52. Aware of those realities, the Government of
Nepal had formulated policies and programmes for the
protection of children within the framework of the fiveyear
plan for the period 1997-2002. The rights of
children and their welfare and development were an
integral part of Nepal’s national development
programme, which emphasized the enforcement of
legal criteria for child labour, guaranteed primary
education and encouraged children’s involvement in
activities contributing to their self-improvement. The
role of non-governmental and social organizations was
important in that process. In addition, the institutional
arrangements for coordination, monitoring and
evaluation of those activities had been extended and
safe motherhood and vaccination campaigns had been
intensified. The Government planned to establish
juvenile benches within existing courts in the country’s
five development regions.
53. Mr. Wenaweser (Liechtenstein) noted that the
tenth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of
the Child would occur in two weeks’ time and
mentioned the impressive speed of ratification of that
instrument. Although the goal of universal ratification
established in the Vienna Declaration and Programme
of Action had not been met, 191 States had ratified the
Convention, which was an unprecedented achievement.
An important parallel development was the evolving
awareness of the rights of children and of the dismal
conditions in which children in many parts of the world
lived, and the greater attention paid to phenomena such
as child labour, armed conflict and sexual exploitation.
In that connection, mention should be made of the
important work of UNICEF, of the Special Rapporteur
and of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative.
Nevertheless, although those issues had moved higher
on the international agendas, that had not increased
respect for the rights of children. The suffering of
children worldwide continued unabated and in many
respects the situation had deteriorated.
54. In many matters on the United Nations agenda,
and particularly in the area of human rights, a wide gap
could often be observed between legal norms and
implementation. It was therefore important and timely
for an “era of application” of international norms to be
launched, to quote the words of the Secretary-General’s
Special Representative. While United Nations
specialized agencies and non-governmental
organizations could contribute to the launching of that
era, the primary responsibility lay with Member States.
The full application of existing standards of human
rights and humanitarian law would dramatically
improve the situation of children. It was therefore
necessary to achieve almost universal commitments to
those standards and participation and accountability in
that regard of non-State actors, who could have a
strong impact on the situation of children and who
often operated outside the confines of international law.
The entry into force of the Rome Statute of the
International Criminal Court would undoubtedly make
a major contribution in that respect. It was increasingly
understood that children’s rights could not be seen in
isolation but should be viewed in a larger context of
situations which posed a particular threat to those
rights. The attention which the Security Council had
given to that question and the adoption of its resolution
1261 (1999) were milestones in that respect. It would
be crucial for the Security Council to follow up that
resolution by integrating children’s issues into its daily
work and paying attention to the interests of the child
in such crucial areas as post-conflict peace-building,
child soldiers and sanctions.
55. Mr. Hadjiargyrou (Cyprus) endorsed the
statement made by the representative of Finland on
behalf of the European Union, welcomed the reports of
the Secretary-General on the item and expressed deep
appreciation for the efforts of the Secretary-General’s
Special Representative, the Special Rapporteur,
UNICEF, UNESCO and the Office of the United
Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Cyprus
also joined previous speakers who had welcomed the
tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on
the Rights of the Child and reiterated its support for the
important work of the Committee on the Rights of the
Child. It was through the concerted efforts of
Governments, international organizations and civil
society that the situation of the world’s children had
been substantially improved over the past decade. That
progress had been registered primarily in the
improvement of medical care, the elimination of or
substantial reduction of many diseases and the
reduction of infant mortality. Yet challenges still
remained and more action was needed. Cyprus
therefore welcomed the initiative of the Security
Council to debate the question of children in armed
conflict earlier in 1999. It also welcomed the
contribution made by UNESCO through the
formulation of strategies to prevent exploitation of
children on the Internet, since it was essential that the
free flow of information should not place children at
greater risk of sexual exploitation.
56. Since the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus
in 1960, the Government had consistently pursued the
welfare of children and had thus achieved significant
reduction of diseases and infant mortality, as well as
total elimination of malnutrition and of major
communicable diseases. Cyprus was considered a
child-centred society, as measured by societal values,
parental involvement in their children’s well-being and
the constant pressure exerted on the Government to
devote more resources to children. Children’s
protection had been and continued to be a priority for
the Government. Existing national legislation was
extensive and effective. Cyprus was a party to many
international agreements, had ratified the Convention
on the Rights of the Child and was one of the
signatories of the World Declaration for the Survival,
Protection and Development of Children adopted at the
World Summit for Children.
57. There was an ongoing effort to keep legislation,
policies and programmes for children in line with those
two international instruments. After ratifying the
Convention, the Government had set up a central
committee in 1991 to monitor its implementation in
Cyprus. One of the areas in which the Government had
been particularly successful was administrative
decentralization with the aim of providing a
comprehensive educational, cultural, health and social
model for children throughout the country. It was
noteworthy that there was no child exploitation or
sexual exploitation in Cyprus, that education was
compulsory until the age of 15 and free of charge, that
there were over a hundred community centres for
children, that 13.5 per cent of the national budget was
devoted to education and that the Government
subsidized children’s programmes run by nongovernmental
organizations. The Government had
recently prepared a Plan of Action for Children which
would cover a five-year period and would further
integrate the principles of the Convention in the
education system and enhance children’s awareness of
their rights. In addition, school curricula had been
revised to increase the emphasis on health education
and greater attention had been given to pre-primary
education and special education in order to promote the
integration of children with special needs, while
priority had been given to programmes to inform
children of the dangers of drug abuse.
58. Regrettably, the Turkish military occupation of
one third of the island was preventing Cyprus from
applying that Plan of Action in certain areas, especially
in the case of Greek-Cypriot children, who were
deprived of their fundamental right to education
because of their ethnic origin. Upon finishing
elementary school, the Greek-Cypriot children in the
occupied areas had no access to secondary education
and had to be separated from their parents in order to
pursue secondary studies in the Government-controlled
59. As the end of the decade approached, nine years
after the World Summit for Children, Cyprus could be
proud of the success achieved and of its initiatives,
both national and international, to promote the goals of
the Vienna Declaration and Plan of Action. However,
much more had to be done to achieve all the goals of
the Plan of Action. Progress in primary education had
not kept pace with population increases, illiteracy was
rampant in many parts of the globe and phenomena
such as malnutrition, maternal mortality, AIDS and
exploitation of children still existed and required
immediate action. Endemic poverty in many parts of
the world and new forms of exploitation and violence
against women and children presented new challenges
which the international community had an obligation to
address. Cyprus stood ready to do its part.
60. Mr. Gorita (Romania) associated himself with
the statement made by the representative of Finland on
behalf of the European Union and expressed
appreciation for the work of the various United Nations
organs on behalf of children. However, ten years after
the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the
Child, much still remained to be done both in the world
and within the international organizations. The tenth
anniversary of the Convention and the preparatory
work for the special session of the General Assembly
to be held in 2001 could result in specific measures at
both the national and international levels to achieve
practical implementation of the rights of children. That
cause would undoubtedly be greatly advanced by the
adoption of additional protocols to the Convention
concerning the involvement of children in armed
conflicts and the sale of children, child prostitution and
child pornography. Romania also welcomed the recent
adoption by ILO of Convention No. 182 on the
Prohibition of the Worst Forms of Child Labour.
61. Since 1997, when the Government of Romania
had established a Department of Child Welfare, there
had been rapid structural reforms in that area. In 1997,
a government strategy had been adopted for the period
between 1997 and 2000, based on respect for all the
rights of the child and concentrating on reform of the
legislation on child protection, decentralization of
activities in that area, restructuring and diversification
of the specialized institutions, promotion of family
placement alternatives to institutionalization,
prevention of child abandonment and strengthening of
the function of civil society. Between 1997 and 1999,
urgent measures had been taken to reorganize the
system of adoption, provide protection to children in
difficult situations, establish criteria for the
accreditation of private bodies dealing with the rights
of children and define the profession of mother’s aide
to assist families in difficult situations.
62. With regard to decentralization, child protection
commissions had been established to prevent situations
which could affect the child’s development or result in
institutionalization, as well as to facilitate children’s
return to their families. The Department of Family
Welfare had provided support, including financial
support, to that decentralization process and had
concluded agreements of association with other
government departments. Associative relationships had
also been established with non-governmental
organizations, which were essential for the effective
implementation of those policies. Another of the
Government’s important objectives was the
reorganization and diversification of welfare agencies,
which involved the creation of family-centred agencies,
maternal centres, child care centres and other social,
medical and educational facilities. Support was also
being provided to families and there had been a
reduction in the number of institutionalized and
abandoned children, with encouragement for
integration of children in their family or adoption.
Special attention was also being given to training of the
personnel implementing the reform and to the required
change in mentalities and in the role of the State.
63. Reference should be made to the financial support
received from the European Commission, the Council
of Europe, the World Bank, the United States Agency
for International Development (USAID) and other
organizations. Although the results of those policies
had not been spectacular, they had soon become
apparent since, for example, the number of children
admitted to orphanages had decreased by 30,000 in
1999 and the number of children receiving special
protection within their own families had increased. The
Romanian authorities, aware of how much remained to
be done in that area, planned to enact a special law on
the protection of children.
64. Romania was pursuing those policies with the
support of United Nations organs, especially UNICEF,
which had adopted a new programme for Romania for
the period 2000-2004. Romania attached great
importance to that programme, designed to enable the
most vulnerable and marginalized children to grow up
within a family and it was therefore ready to give
active support to its implementation. Lastly, it was to
be hoped that the United Nations and its Member
States would redouble their efforts to make the rights
of the child become an indisputable reality in the
coming millennium.
65. Ms. Al-Haddad (Kuwait) said that, since
children represented the world’s future, nations should
attach the highest importance to them, as was
confirmed by the efforts of each country to protect
children and guarantee a better future for them. Yet
children were still suffering throughout the world, and
measures at the international level were therefore also
required. Kuwait noted with appreciation the report of
the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict,
which represented a step forward in improving their
situation, and the reports of the Special Rapporteur and
of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative. The
international community should, on the occasion of the
forthcoming anniversary of the Convention on the
Rights of the Child, renew its determination to protect
the future of children.
66. Kuwait was particularly interested in those
questions because its Constitution proclaimed the role
of the family as the nucleus of society and gave special
attention to mothers and young people. Kuwait
believed that the State should protect children,
particularly those suffering from disabilities. On 1
October each year, it celebrated Arab Children’s Day,
on which government institutions organized activities
to publicize children’s problems and provide health
education, activities in public schools and courses to
make people aware of the need for children to live in
surroundings conducive to their development. In
addition, the State provided education free of charge up
to university level and universal health care. The health
of mothers and young people was a matter of concern:
efforts were made to promote a healthy environment,
hygienic conditions and regular medical visits for
women both during and after pregnancy. Lastly, she
emphasized the importance of full respect for the
international instruments concerning children and
especially the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
67. Ms. Afifi (Morocco) said that it was regrettable
that, while the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the
Convention on the Rights of the Child was being
celebrated and although it had been ratified by almost
all countries, children were still the victims of
discrimination and ill-treatment, despite the many
actions taken by the United Nations and Member
States. Each year over 12 million children under five
years of age died of disease and malnutrition, about
140 million did not have access to basic education and
over 250 million were exploited in inhuman working
conditions, especially in developing countries.
According to ILO figures, over 60 million children
under 15 years of age were working in deplorable
conditions, over 2 million children under 18 years of
age were involved in prostitution and, if current trends
continued, in Africa the number of children obliged to
work would exceed 100 million in 2015.
68. Children, moreover, were the ones most affected
by the growing number of armed conflicts in the world,
of which they were at once the targets, victims and
instruments. During the previous decade, nearly two
million children had died as a result of armed conflicts,
another six million had received serious injuries or had
become disabled and more than two million had been
made homeless. More than 10 million children suffered
from the terrible direct consequences of war, especially
from rape, being forced to provide sexual services,
maiming and social rejection. Fifty per cent of the
48 million refugees or internally displaced persons
were children. Morocco welcomed the adoption by the
Security Council of resolution 1261 (1999), which
marked an important milestone in the protection of
children in situations of armed conflict.
69. Morocco regretted the persistence of practices
such as the sale of children and their use for purposes
of prostitution and pornography. Since its
independence, Morocco had pursued a national policy
aimed at protecting and guaranteeing children’s rights.
In Islamic countries such as Morocco, respect for the
rights of all persons was a moral and religious
obligation. The principles of Islam had prohibited
slavery 14 centuries earlier and guaranteed children all
their rights, including before birth. In compliance with
those principles, Morocco had amended its laws and
established mechanisms to guarantee children the
conditions necessary for their physical and mental
development. The Ministry of Human Rights was
working to bring national laws into line with the
provisions of the Convention.
70. In addition, the Government of Morocco had
adopted such measures as the establishment of a State
Secretariat for Family and Child Welfare and had
charged the Parliament with the task of elaborating
strategies to improve the situation of children
throughout the country, in accordance with the
principles of the Convention. The Assembly had held
two sessions that year devoted to children. In Morocco,
public education was free so as to enable the largest
possible number of children to attend school and the
subject of human rights had been introduced in the
school curriculum. As part of the activities to mark the
United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education,
the Ministry of Human Rights, in collaboration with
UNESCO, had organized in February 1999 a regional
conference on the situation of children in Arab
71. Morocco was one of the first countries to have
signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child,
which it had ratified in 1993. In keeping with its
international commitments, it supported the
Programme of Action for the Elimination of the
Exploitation of Child Labour, which had been adopted
by the Commission on Human Rights, and had recently
signed ILO Convention No. 138, which prohibited the
admission to employment of minors under the age
of 15. Through cooperation with UNICEF, Morocco
had made important advances in the implementation of
its National Programme of Action for the Protection
and Development of Children and was pursuing
another programme of cooperation whose principal
objective was to promote the implementation of the
72. Mr. Oda (Egypt) said that protecting the rights of
the child was the moral duty of all countries,
irrespective of their level of scientific, economic or
social development. Egypt was one of the first States to
have acceded to the Convention and had proclaimed
the period from 1989-1999 as the National Decade for
the Protection of the Rights of the Child. It had also
established a National Maternity Council. Egypt,
moreover, attached special importance to the protection
of children in especially difficult situations, such as
orphans, the disabled and the disadvantaged. Another
matter of concern to his country was child labour.
Egypt had reservations about the attempts being made
to exploit the humanitarian aspect of that phenomenon,
which hindered the efforts of States to put an end to the
practice and to rehabilitate its victims. The problem
should be viewed from a much broader perspective and
in a global context. It was closely related to the
problem of poverty and the right of peoples to
development. Occupational training programmes
should be organized to improve the situation of
children who did not attend school and were obliged to
work. Donor countries should fund such programmes
and ILO and UNICEF should continue their efforts to
come to grips with the problem of child labour,
especially in the developing countries. In that
connection, note should be taken of the major role
played by UNICEF in the defence of children in Egypt.
73. Despite the significant gains made during the
current decade, problems still remained which affected
children, such as economic crises, the worsening debt
crisis, the spread of epidemics and, in particular, armed
conflicts. Egypt wished to reiterate its view that the
General Assembly should establish broad policies and
elaborate guidelines for the protection of children in
situations of armed conflict. It was of the utmost
importance to approve at the earliest possible
opportunity the optional protocols in that field and, in
particular, to set a minimum age for recruitment into
armed forces. It was equally important to adopt without
delay an optional protocol on the sale of children, child
prostitution and child pornography. In that connection,
note should be taken of the recent actions of the
General Assembly in follow-up to the World Summit
for Children. Lastly, Egypt appealed to international
organizations and to the international community to
continue their efforts to protect children.
74. Ms. Tomič (Slovenia) said that Slovenia
subscribed to the statement made by the representative
of Finland on behalf of the European Union. It also
wished to reiterate its support for the work of the
Special Representative and for the recommendations
which he had made in his report. Her delegation very
much appreciated the country-oriented approach which
the Special Representative had adopted. Cooperation
with UNICEF and other United Nations agencies and
organizations was necessary to ease the plight of
children in situations of armed conflict. Slovenia
strongly supported the extension of the Special
Representative’s mandate.
75. The adoption of the Convention on the Rights of
the Child was a major achievement that compelled
everyone to strive for a higher standard of legal
protection for children during and in the aftermath of
armed conflicts. Slovenia strongly supported efforts to
raise to 18 years the minimum age for the direct or
indirect participation of children in armed conflicts and
hoped that the Working Group which was drafting an
optional protocol on the involvement of children in
armed conflict would complete its work by January of
the following year. Regional activities should be
encouraged in order to give impetus to the elaboration
of an effective international normative framework for
the effective elimination of children’s participation in
76. The Slovene delegation was pleased to note some
positive developments such as the adoption of ILO
Convention No. 182. It looked forward to the early
entry into force of the Rome Statute of the
International Criminal Court and applauded in
particular the explicit exclusion of children under the
age of 18 years from the Court’s jurisdiction and the
designation of the recruitment of children as a war
crime. Slovenia looked forward to the progressive
strengthening of the Statute in any future review
process. It also welcomed the inclusion in the Statute
of specific grave forms of crimes with sexual elements,
both as war crimes and as crimes against humanity. It
was also important to recall that the provisions of
article 6, paragraph 5, of the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights should be adhered to both in
times of armed conflict and in peace time.
77. She hoped that truly universal acceptance of the
Convention on the Rights of the Child would be
achieved in the shortest time possible. States Parties
should regularly review their reservations with a view
to their possible withdrawal. In that regard, the Slovene
delegation was pleased to inform the Committee that in
March of the current year Slovenia had withdrawn its
only reservation to the Convention, namely, the
reservation concerning paragraph 1 of article 9.
78. The work of the Committee on the Rights of the
Child continued to enjoy the full support of Slovenia,
which was in the process of finalizing its second
periodic report on the implementation of the
Convention and found the Committee’s
recommendations on its initial report to have been
extremely useful. The majority of those
recommendations had been acted upon. Lastly, she
wished to announce that the Slovene Parliament had
ratified the European Convention on the Exercise of
Children’s Rights.
79. Mr. Deffray (Switzerland) said that it was
necessary first and foremost to implement the
Convention and other relevant instruments. Vigorous
measures in the social, economic and humanitarian
fields should be adopted to protect children, promote
their development and, ultimately, guarantee the
protection of the higher interest of the child, which was
one of the guiding principles of the Convention. The
situation of children affected by war caused particular
concern and was one of the greatest challenges facing
the international community. In that connection,
Switzerland supported the awareness-raising activities
being conducted by the Special Representative. It also
welcomed the fact that the Security Council had
considered the question and had adopted a resolution
containing specific measures and recommendations on
the matter.
80. It was also necessary to address certain
deficiencies in the legal framework. In that connection,
Switzerland sincerely hoped that the following year,
which would mark the tenth anniversary of the entry
into force of the Convention, would see the adoption of
the optional protocol on the involvement of children in
armed conflict and the optional protocol on the sale of
children, child prostitution and child pornography.
81. The first optional protocol to the Convention
would help to correct one of its weaknesses, since the
Convention did not prohibit the direct participation in
armed conflicts of children between the ages of 15 and
18 years. Moreover, because of their age, such children
were the most vulnerable to indoctrination or narcotic
drugs and thus most likely to become victims of grave
violations of international law. Switzerland therefore
wished to underscore the importance of raising to
18 years the age at which children could be recruited or
could participate in armed conflicts. The protocol,
moreover, would not be a provisional solution but
would become a permanent part of the Convention. The
international community should therefore not content
itself with half measures which, in any event, would be
binding only on those States that were already Parties
to the Convention. In that regard, Switzerland
supported the initiatives of the coalition of nongovernmental
organizations to prevent the use of child
soldiers, which had succeeded in mobilizing the
international community through regional conferences.
Switzerland also firmly supported the adoption of an
optional protocol on the sale of children, child
prostitution and child pornography and was convinced
that it would be a useful complement to the various
national legislative provisions, while at the same time
streamlining procedures for judicial cooperation and
82. Mr. Nikiforov (Russian Federation) noted that
the international community would shortly be
commemorating the tenth anniversary of the
Convention on the Rights of the Child, an instrument
whose importance could never be overstated, since it
was the first universal instrument to recognize the
rights of the child and the need to provide children with
special protection and assistance. Unfortunately, those
principles were not always respected in practice and
some of the harsh realities that characterized the
contemporary world were the hunger, disease and
violence that ravaged children and the wars, which
were caused by adults but affected mainly children.
Because of the new characteristics of contemporary
conflicts, more than 90 per cent of victims were
civilians, of whom at least half were children, who in
turn accounted for more than 65 per cent of refugees
and internally displaced persons. Those cold figures
masked the immense human suffering endured by the
children themselves and by the international
community, which should categorically reject the
recruitment of child soldiers. The Russian Federation
therefore welcomed Security Council resolution
1261 (1999) concerning children in armed conflicts and
was of the view that the elaboration of the optional
protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child
should be finalized as early as possible in order to raise
the minimum age of recruitment.
83. The Russian Federation shared the view
contained in the report of the Special Representative of
the Secretary-General (A/54/430) that, ultimately, the
best way to protect children was to prevent conflicts
before they occurred or to resolve them before they
assumed destructive proportions. That was precisely
the objective of the Russian Federation’s initiative to
elaborate a “concept of peace for the twenty-first
century”, which would make possible a century without
violence and give an important place to the
humanization of international relations based on
recognition of the human rights of all and on reducing
human suffering as much as possible. The Russian
Federation wished to emphasize the important role of
education in promoting respect for human rights,
peaceful settlement of disputes, tolerance and nondiscrimination,
which were no doubt essential for the
promotion and protection of the rights of children.
Abandonment, drug addiction, the sale of children and
sexual exploitation, including on the Internet, had
become bitter realities. In that connection, the Russian
Federation supported and attached great importance to
the work of the Special Rapporteur and endorsed her
proposal for the elaboration at the earliest possible date
of the optional protocol on the sale of children, child
prostitution and child pornography.
84. In the Russian Federation, the promotion of the
rights of children was based on the Convention’s
provisions. The new laws which had been promulgated
in the country included a federal act that guaranteed the
rights of children and designated the protection of
those rights as a priority area for Government action.
One of the most acute problems, which had been
unknown thus far in the Russian Federation, was that
of abandoned children, which had led to the
introduction of a federal programme and to the
promulgation of various urgent measures to be
implemented under another federal act that laid down
the principles for preventing the abandonment of
children and juvenile delinquency. Despite its
economic difficulties, the Government of the Russian
Federation was striving to provide social assistance to
the most disadvantaged sectors and to children in
particular. In view of the limited resources at its
disposal, that assistance was being provided on the
basis of the income level of families, with a view to
meeting their basic needs and ensuring the
development of children. Priority was always given in
the national budget to programmes designed to help
children, even though sufficient resources were not
always available. It was for that reason that, on 1
October 1999, the President of the Russian Federation
had given instructions for 6 million rubles to be
transferred from the Reserve Fund of the Office of the
President to children’s homes, welfare shelters,
rehabilitation centres for children and adolescents and
special centres for handicapped children.
85. In the current difficult period of Russia’s history,
international cooperation was surely more important
than ever, all the more so because such cooperation had
already yielded excellent results. For example, an
experimental project had been launched in 1998 in
collaboration with UNICEF to formally create within
the regional administration the post of officer in charge
of children’s rights. The Russian Federation had
recently submitted to the Committee on the Rights of
the Child a report on its activities in that field and it
was a source of satisfaction that, despite the fact that a
number of observations had been made which his
Government would take into account, the second
periodic report had been favourably received since,
notwithstanding its current economic difficulties, the
Russian Federation had made definite progress. As the
twenty-first century dawned, it should not be forgotten
that the future depended on children, who must
demonstrate greater goodness, wisdom and justice than
their parents had done. It was the responsibility of each
of them to defend the rights of children and thus to
make a better future possible.
86. Mr. Rabuka (Fiji) asked for more time to be
allocated in future to the dialogue between the experts
and States’ representatives when the Committee
discussed controversial issues. The tenth anniversary of
the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the
Child was an opportune time to consider what steps
had been taken to date to implement the provisions of
the Convention and the constraints that had impeded
the realization of its objectives. In implementing the
Convention, Fiji had found that the family played an
important role in teaching children the importance of
culture, moral values and discipline, since, in a rapidly
changing community and world, the role of the family
continued to be very relevant. Even though the current
emphasis was no longer on the nuclear family, parents
should instil principles of responsible citizenship in
their children and monitor their attitudes and
behaviour. Regrettably, the weakening of family units
had resulted in a high percentage of young people
being in prison or involved in drug or alcohol abuse.
An increasing number of children were also to be
found in the street. Fiji believed that the root cause of
those problems was poverty and that, unless steps were
taken to eradicate it, particularly in small island States,
it would be impossible to protect the rights of children.
Poverty struck at the nutrition and health of children as
well as their right to education, since it forced them to
drop out of school and become victims of child labour.
87. While Fiji had demonstrated its willingness to
deal with those issues within its available financial and
human resources, it regretted the lack of support from
the international community, which it therefore urged
to assist small island States by improving market
access for their products, expanding preferential
treatment arrangements and promoting institutional
capacity-building to enable them to enjoy the
opportunities of globalization. Even though States had
the primary responsibility for implementing the
Convention, given the decline in official development
assistance, the international community should assist
those States that lacked the economic and human
resources to fulfil the obligations which they
contracted under international instruments.
88. Since 1993, Fiji had taken various steps to
implement the Convention: establishment of a unit
within the Department of Social Welfare and Policy to
deal with the problem of child abuse;
institutionalization of a policy on child abuse in all
health institutions; review of existing legislation to
ensure that the special needs of children were taken
into account; coordination of training programmes by
the Ministry of Education and non-governmental
organizations to counsel secondary school students and
families about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse;
provision of free education for children up to the age of
15 years; and amendment of the Penal Code to provide
for stiffer sentences.
89. Through the Commission on the Court System,
the Government had recognized the need to, inter alia,
improve the existing Juvenile Act, prosecute juvenile
offenders only as a last resort, create a police unit to
assist juveniles, employ a mechanism of meetings with
the families of young offenders and use greater
discretion in courts in the sentencing of young
offenders. Steps had been taken to implement some of
the recommendations which had limited financial
implications, but considerably more resources were
needed to implement all of the Commission’s
90. All of that clearly showed that, despite its limited
resources, the Government of Fiji was committed to
ensuring full enjoyment of the rights of children in Fiji,
since it had put in place administrative measures and
legislation to guarantee the fulfilment of its
obligations. It was therefore disconcerting to hear Ms.
Santos’ comment about his Government’s lack of
awareness of the problem of sexual abuse of children in
Fiji. In her response to the statement made by Fiji, Ms.
Santos indicated that she had seen the pornographic
exhibits related to the Mutch case, which, presumably,
had been give to her by the prosecution. Fiji was of the
view that such information should be privy only to the
officials of the judicial system who were handling the
case. The mere existence of such allegations was not
representative and did not justify any conclusion that
commercial sexual exploitation of children was
rampant in the country, since Fiji believed that a
fundamental requirement of the judicial system was the
verification of evidence before the appropriate court.
91. The State’s duty was to ensure the protection of
not only the rights of victims but also those of the
accused, as in the case of Mr. Mutch, who should have
his day in court. It would be a sad day if Ms. Santos
were to accept as gospel truth from one source only
hearsay evidence of the sexual exploitation of children
without the verification of that evidence by a court.
Given the shortness of her stay in Fiji and the lack of
facts and figures to accurately reflect or confirm the
truth of the claim of child abuse, such a conclusion
could not be drawn without a proper evaluation. In
those circumstances, the delegation of Fiji wished to
place on record its disappointment over the report of
Ms. Santos and its doubts about the Special
Rapporteur’s integrity and her ability to objectively
carry out her mandate in the current instance.
92. Ms. Kourula (Office of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees) said that nearly half of the
world’s 21 million refugees were children, more than
50 per cent of the 240,000 Somali refugees and a
similar percentage of the 57,000 Sudanese refugees in
Ethiopia were below the age of 18 years. In Conakry,
Guinea, 140,000 of the 240,000 refugees were younger
than 18 years, while nearly half a million of the 1.2
million Afghan refugees in Pakistan were children. In
Rwanda, more than 300,000 children who were
unaccompanied or separated from their families had
been displaced and relied on assistance from UNHCR
and UNICEF. Children also accounted for a significant
proportion of the displaced persons in Kosovo and East
93. The Convention on the Rights of the Child was
the primary human rights instrument and the necessary
starting point. All of its articles were equally
applicable to refugee children, while the current
refugee instruments lacked specific provisions on
children. The task of UNHCR and its partners was to
ensure recognition that human rights law was equally
applicable to the protection of uprooted children and
that a rights-based approach was the essential basis on
which to extend protection to refugee children.
94. The root causes of refugee displacement were
invariably linked to conflict, persecution and the denial
of human rights. Refugee children, like adults, fled to
escape war and were the easiest victims of human
rights abuses, since, according to a United Nations
study, they were not just innocent bystanders caught in
the crossfire of armed conflict, but were victims of
calculated genocide, forced military recruitment,
gender-related violence, torture and exploitation on a
systematic and massive scale.
95. From the Congo to Sierra Leone, from northern
Uganda to Sri Lanka, in Afghanistan and Colombia and
on the Thai/Myanmar border, military and armed
groups actively recruited children, either to take a
direct part in hostilities or to force them to carry out
various activities. Europe also had its share of
involvement of children in armed conflict. The
recruitment of girl children as suicide bombers in Sri
Lanka, as human shields in northern Uganda or as mine
clearers in Iraq is equally preoccupying.
96. A number of States had responded to the plight of
refugee children through a range of governmental and
non-governmental activities. The reintegration of
refugee children into their communities often had its
own set of complications. The initiative for the
repatriation of children from Liberia, a collaborative
programme involving UNHCR, UNICEF and nongovernmental
organizations, provided one example of a
rights-based approach to programming. One of the key
projects under that initiative was the rebuilding of the
education system in Liberia.
97. Rights-based programming for children also
existed in Europe. The programme for separated
children in Europe, a joint UNHCR/International Save
the Children Alliance project, had been created to
address the rights of refugee children in Europe. The
detention of minor asylum-seekers in a number of
developed countries was also of concern to UNHCR.
Detention facilities were often not adapted to the needs
of detained minors, who were kept in prison-like
environments with no access to education. UNHCR had
consistently urged that detention should be used as a
last resort, in accordance with its guidelines.
98. The principle of the best interest of the child
underscored the protection of refugee children. The
Committee on the Rights of the Child had an important
role to play in monitoring that the best interest of the
most vulnerable among refugee population groups was
99. Mr. Goonetilleke (Sri Lanka) said that the
proportion of civilian victims had increased from 5 per
cent to over 90 per cent, with two million children
dying in the previous decade as a result of armed
conflicts and over one million made orphans. It had
been reported, moreover, that some 300,000 young
persons under the age of 18 years were being used as
child soldiers around the world. Those alarming figures
demanded urgent corrective measures by the
international community.
100. An examination of the root causes of the
exploitation of children showed that poverty was at the
top of the list and that it could not be eradicated by
legislation. It was the primary cause of child labour,
child prostitution and other practices that affected the
future and well-being of children. The Executive
Director of UNICEF had stated that 650 million
children were trapped in poverty and that 130 million
children in developing countries did not attend school.
Two thirds of that number were girls who would
become mothers within a few years and raise their
children in poverty. In order to eradicate child labour,
poverty must be eradicated, a task that should be the
first priority.
101. The Sri Lankan delegation had listened with great
interest to the presentations made by officials of ILO
and UNICEF, the Special Rapporteur on the sale of
children, child prostitution and child pornography and
the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for
Children and Armed Conflict and fully supported the
work of Ms. Santos.
102. In paragraph 40 of her report, the Special
Rapporteur referred to the situation in Sri Lanka. It
could not be denied that child prostitution existed in Sri
Lanka, as it did in many other countries. However, as
the Special Rapporteur herself had pointed out, the
Government of Sri Lanka was taking action to combat
the problem. The figure provided in the report,
moreover, appeared to be a gross exaggeration and the
view expressed in the document about a “sense of
fatalism” seemed to reflect a lack of proper
understanding of the situation in the country. The
Department of Probation and Child Care, in
collaboration with the Ministry of Education and the
Tourist Board, was promoting public information
campaigns to combat prostitution. The following
measures, among others, had been put in place to
protect the rights of children: the Penal Code had been
amended earlier in the year to prohibit the use for
purposes of prostitution of minors below the age of 18
years; the National Child Protection Authority had
been established in June 1999 to advise the
Government on issues relating to child abuse; and
regulations had been promulgated in 1998, making it
compulsory for parents to send their children between
the ages of 5 and 14 years to school. Primary,
secondary and tertiary education was free and the
Government provided free uniforms and text books to
children attending school.
103. On the issue of children in situations of armed
conflict, Sri Lanka supported the proposal contained in
paragraph 45 of the report of the Special
Representative of the Secretary-General to raise the
age limit for recruitment into armed forces from
15 years to 18 years. Indeed, Sri Lanka’s legislation
provided that 18 years was the minimum age for
enlistment, which was voluntary. It was a fact,
however, that rebel groups, such as the Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam, frequently recruited children as
soldiers, a situation which Sri Lanka had repeatedly
brought to the attention of the Special Rapporteur and
other United Nations officials. He shared the view
expressed in the same paragraph about the urgent need
to mobilize a major international movement to put
pressure on the armed groups that were currently
abusing children by forcing them to be combatants.
104. In paragraph 78 of his report, the Special
Representative had encouraged the development of
regional advocacy, commitments and initiatives for the
protection of children affected by armed conflict. Even
before the establishment in 1985 of the South Asia
Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the
countries of the region had identified the well-being of
children as one of the priority areas of cooperation
between them. To that end, they had held a number of
meetings on the subject of children, such as the
ministerial meetings held in India in 1986, in Sri Lanka
in 1992 and in Pakistan in 1996. Member countries had
also elaborated a draft regional convention against
trafficking in women and children for prostitution,
which was to be signed the following month in
Katmandu at the SAARC Summit of Heads of State
and Government, and a convention on regional
arrangements for the promotion and protection of child
welfare in South Asia, which was due to be considered
by the SAARC Foreign Ministers at the Katmandu
105. Finally, at its ministerial meeting held in Pakistan
in 1996, SAARC had proclaimed the objectives of,
inter alia, reducing the fertility rate to or below
replacement levels, reducing malnutrition among
children under the age of five years and eliminating the
use of child labour by the year 2010. The United
Nations must recognize that South Asia had a
programme of action to improve the situation of
children in the region. The problems were enormous,
but a modest beginning had already been made.
The meeting rose at 6.25 p.m.