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With Millions Lacking Food, Education, Shelter, Targeted Approaches Needed to Meet Needs of Most Vulnerable, Mandate‑Holders Tell Third Committee

Millions of people across the world were without access to food, education and housing, with poverty the main obstacle to realizing their basic human rights, special mandate‑holders told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today.

In a series of presentations, six experts called for targeted approaches to address the unique needs of vulnerable populations, underscoring throughout the primary responsibility of Governments to protect the fundamental freedoms of all citizens.

Hilal Elver, Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Food, said addressing food insecurity in countries affected by conflict had become her priority.  Some 70 million people in 45 countries required emergency food assistance, up 40 per cent from 2015, she said, also quoting a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) finding that 489 million undernourished people were living in conflict zones.

Deaths in those areas were typically caused by hunger and disease, not combat, she said.  Yet, the international community had never called for an international criminal trial against Government officials or non‑State actors for creating, inflicting or prolonging famine.  While parties to armed conflict must meet the needs of populations under their control, such basic State functions were being passed over to the international humanitarian system, she noted.

Koumbou Boly Barry, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, asserted that it was up to Governments to ensure the right to education was realized.  With 263 million children and young people lacking access to schooling, education systems must adapt to meet the needs of all pupils.  States must also recognize that particularly vulnerable populations, including displaced persons, required increased assistance.  All students should view schools as safe environments fostering a sense of belonging, she said.  Enshrining those principles into education systems would promote peace and stability.

In that context, Leilani Farha, Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, also stressed the need for targeted approaches to meet the needs of specific vulnerable groups.  Her report focused on the enjoyment of the rights under her mandate by persons with disabilities, as they were commonly homeless, institutionalized and subjected to neglect, abuse and discrimination for no reason other than their disability.  “Housing is absolutely central to dignity and equal rights for persons with disabilities,” she said, adding that the housing conditions of more than 1 billion persons with disabilities had made clear the need for States to realize the right to housing.

Alleviating poverty was at the heart of realizing basic human rights, said Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights.  The poor disproportionately experienced human rights violations.  Addressing the needs of those living in poverty called for improved data collection from all relevant actors.  There was little systematic data on the socioeconomic background of victims of civil and political rights violations, he said.

In the interactive segment of his presentation, he said his report focused on the need to separate the poor as a specific category, as they faced the overwhelming majority of violence, and were the leading victims of civil and political rights violations.

Also presenting before the Committee were Léo Heller, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, and Dainus Pūras, Special Rapporteur on the Right of Everyone to the Enjoyment of the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health.

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 24 October, to continue its discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights.

Background

The Third Committee met today to continue its debate on the promotion and protection of human rights.  (For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/4205).

Interactive Dialogues ‑ Right to Food

HILAL ELVER, Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Food, said her fourth report contextualized food insecurity in countries affected by conflict by discussing human rights law, international humanitarian law, and international criminal law in order to raise awareness about States’ non‑compliance with existing norms.  A follow‑up report, which would be presented to the Human Rights Council in March 2018, would address the humanitarian system’s response to food crises in disasters, she said, noting that 70 million people in 45 countries required emergency food assistance, up 40 per cent from 2015.  The Rohingya people of Myanmar faced serious starvation and violations of their right to food.

A Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report titled “The 2017 State of Food Security and Nutrition” stated that 489 million undernourished people were living in conflict zones, she said, noting that deaths in those areas were usually caused by hunger and disease, not combat.  The report warned that achieving a world without hunger and malnutrition by 2030 would not be reachable.  “The human right to food is a fundamental right,” she said, with freedom from hunger accepted as part of customary international law.  Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare was prohibited unconditionally in both international and non‑international armed conflicts.  Parties to an armed conflict had a responsibility to meet the needs of the population under their control, but in many of today’s conflicts, the humanitarian system was asked to take over such basic State functions.

She said many legal doctrines supported indictments for genocide and crimes against humanity, but the international community had never called for an international criminal trial against Government officials or non‑State actors for creating, inflicting or prolonging famine.  Protection of the right to food could not be achieved on a voluntary basis; international legal standards should reinforce the norm that deliberate action to cause starvation was a war crime or a crime against humanity which should be referred to the International Criminal Court.  International attention must focus on eliminating the causes of famine, and not just at addressing the visible symptoms of the latest food emergency.

In the interactive dialogue, the representative of the European Union welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s focus on the right to food in emergency situations.  Famine could only be prevented if people could move freely to obtain aid, he stressed, asking about measures to ensure that food assistance reached those in need in conflict situations.

The representative of Morocco said there was a worrying link between conflict and access to food.  Referring to the Special Rapporteur’s call for a world conference to create a framework to combat famine, she asked about the feasibility of a new international binding treaty on the matter.

The representative of Norway agreed that national legislation should provide a framework to uphold international obligations to provide food access, especially in situations of famine and armed conflict.

The representative of Indonesia asked for information on the nexus between food security and armed conflict, and on the proposed creation of an exploratory group to pursue a legal framework on the matter.

The representative of Cuba said full realization of the right to food for all remained elusive.  Cuba would submit a draft resolution on the right to food affirming that hunger was a violation of human dignity.

The representative of Syria urged the Special Rapporteur to fully comply with her mandate in a transparent and neutral fashion.  He asked why she had disregarded constant efforts by Syria to address all food issues in the country.  He was “puzzled” by the Special Rapporteur’s decision to leave the situations arising from the blockades on Palestine and Cuba out of her report.

The representative of Cameroon asked for information on the next steps to be taken towards an international legal instrument on the right to food.

The representative of Turkey said the most vulnerable populations were disproportionately affected by conflict, with food depravation used as a weapon of war in some conflict zones.  Noting efforts to establish early warning mechanisms for famine in conflict, he asked what role the United Nations could perform in such a system.

The representative of Myanmar said her Government was committed to ensuring the food security of all people in Rakhine State.  Noting that nobody could truly understand the situation in Myanmar like the Government, she expressed its commitment to finding a solution to the situation.

The representative of Saudi Arabia said it was regrettable that the Special Rapporteur’s report used newspapers as a source of information.  The report falsely claimed Saudi Arabia had destroyed means of production in Yemen.  She assured that all necessary assistance was being provided to the people of Yemen, and other countries around the world.

Ms. ELVER, responding, said it was politically complicated to address the right to food, underscoring her efforts at being objective.  In conflict situations, sometimes one could not clearly determine the different players and underlying geopolitical conditions, yet people continued to suffer.  She said she tried to use United Nations and related reports as information sources, adding that she did not use newspaper information or that from obscure non‑governmental organizations, and that she had cited all the reports she had used.  She suggested that anyone saying the report was wrong should check the citations.  She had not been able to access Syria, Yemen or Myanmar, she noted, and so had relied on international organizations.

What was needed was guidance that any player — including countries and terrorist organizations — could understand, she said, conveying the message that violating the right to food was a crime against humanity for which they would be individually responsible.  When they blocked food supplies and destroyed agricultural areas, they should understand there would be accountability, she said.  Noting that every conflict had powerful friends behind it, she suggested the Human Rights Council should organize a study group on the above topics.  Early warning systems against famine were also important, she said, as famine did not just simply appear.  The international community needed more systematic accountability: with conflicts happening everywhere, it would not be able to stop either famine or hunger.  “Zero hunger in 2030, it’s almost impossible,” she said, adding that the major reasons were conflict‑related.

Right to Education

KOUMBOU BOLY BARRY, Special Rapporteur on the right to education, said much progress on ensuring access to education had been made, especially in Africa.  Yet, 263 million children and young people around the world lacked access to schooling, most in sub‑Saharan Africa and Southern Asia.  Vulnerable groups faced difficulties that called for greater assistance.  While all pupils should have access to quality education, some required further assistance, she said, stressing that equitable education must focus on inclusion, especially for pupils with disabilities and older pupils who had been out of the education system for some time.

All pupils must feel safe and have a sense of belonging, she said, adding that supportive environments could directly combat discrimination.  Those principles must be incorporated into school structures.  Schools must adapt to the needs of all children, with teaching provided in second languages for people belonging to linguistic minorities, particularly migrants and refugees.  Displaced populations required support systems not typically part of the standard education system, she said, adding that States must promote education that addressed the needs of those populations.  The responsibility to implement the right to education was on Governments, she concluded.

The representative of Hungary expressed concern about the impacts on minorities of a recently adopted education law in Ukraine, saying that if implemented, the law would have a devastating effect on Hungarian language educational institutions in the Carpathians.  The law contravened United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) conventions and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  He asked the Special Rapporteur how she would facilitate better compliance of States with their international commitments.

The representative of Norway said the right to education was a fundamental right, noting that his country supported equitable educational policies.  Individuals with disabilities were at risk of being excluded and he asked about practical measures States could take to identify vulnerable groups.

The representative of Qatar said 213 students had been prevented from continuing their studies in countries which had boycotted Qatar.  He asked about measures taken for refugees in terms of education.

The representative of Mexico underscored the need to address structural discrimination keeping people from enjoying their right to education.  The report mentioned the importance of quality in education, and he asked the Special Rapporteur about strategies States had adopted to promote qualified teachers in rural areas, and further, best practices that considered the views of civil society.

The representative of the Russian Federation expressed concern about a discriminatory education law in Ukraine, which violated the rights of Russian speakers to receive schooling in their native language.  He called on the Special Rapporteur to focus to the situation in Ukraine and the need for the Ukrainian authorities to observe international conventions, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European Charter for Regional Languages, among others.

The representative of the European Union expressed concern about the Special Rapporteur’s assessment that millions more girls than boys of primary school age would not have the opportunity to learn to read or write.  Also, he said States must provide refugees with education and asked about best practices for short‑term measures aimed at providing refugees with access to education.

The representative of South Africa asked for the Special Rapporteur’s views on the situation of child laborers.

A representative of UNESCO inquired about effective Government incentives to encourage stakeholders to ensure equitable education as a collective enterprise.  She further asked how Governments could proactively ensure an enabling environment and support capacity‑building and competence, to ensure that every actor was accountable for learning outcomes.

The representative of Ukraine explained national legislation on education, saying that 735 schools provided education in minorities’ own languages.  Children’s failure to pass exams in Ukrainian often led to their discrimination, preventing them from later becoming civil servants, or receiving higher education and medical treatment.  Education in Ukrainian had been expanded so children could speak their own national language.

Also participating in the interactive discussion were representatives of Burkina Faso, Iraq, Morocco, Cuba, Indonesia and Maldives.

Ms. BARRY replied that the world had shown its commitment to promoting equitable and inclusive education.  Referring to questions on how to ensure quality education, she pointed to research that found that the first year of education should be conducted in a child’s native language.  To accomplish needed reforms, education systems must be decentralized, with decisions made at the community level, she said, noting that inclusion could promote peace and stability.

Training teachers in rural communities required visits to schools in those areas, she said, and engagement with rural communities.  Innovative tools and new technologies could lead to excellent results in improving the quality of teaching in rural areas, she said, urging States to formally recognize the work of teachers in those communities.

Turning to questions related to the needs of refugees, girls and other particularly vulnerable groups, she again called for decentralization, with grassroots‑led efforts taking priority in decision‑making.  When relevant stakeholders took charge of participatory education reforms, greater success was possible, she stressed.  Still, Governments must provide the necessary resources to address the needs of vulnerable groups.

Extreme Poverty

PHILIP ALSTON, Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, said his report sought to demonstrate four things: that the poor experienced violations disproportionately and differently from others, and that their civil and political rights were neglected by mainstream human rights and development actors.  Thirdly, the resulting situation undermined the principle of the indivisibility of human rights, and finally, human rights and development communities must ensure respect for all human rights of those living in poverty.  Attention focused on material deprivation and a lack of resources, while solutions sought to increase disposable income, rather than restore the basic rights of poor people.  He identified some assumptions explaining the situation, including by the development and human rights communities, which each assumed that the other would address challenges relating to the enjoyment of civil and political rights by those living in poverty.

Moreover, both social sciences and human rights fact‑finding tended to disaggregate civil and political rights violations by age, gender, race and ethnicity, but not according to economic class, he observed.  The civil and political rights of those living in poverty were denied or restricted by, for example, restricting the access of the poor to public places by criminalizing homelessness.  His report had found, among other things, that there was little systematic data on the socioeconomic background of victims of civil and political rights violations.  Several recommendations followed from his diagnosis of the challenge, he said, including a call to adapt and adjust solutions so that the factors rendering the poor particularly vulnerable were taken into account.

The representative of China said poverty reduction was the hallmark of his Government and urged the Special Rapporteur to conduct his mandate with respect and objectivity.  He requested recommendations for eliminating poverty in developing countries.

The representative of Iraq asked if the Special Rapporteur had taken into account terrorist activity and conflict as causes of extreme poverty, and if so, what measures had been taken to address that issue.

The representative of the European Union said extreme poverty kept individuals from accessing civil and political rights.  With the Special Rapporteur calling for new approaches to ensure those rights, he asked how indicators could be modified to better account for civil and political rights violations.

The representative of Cuba agreed that if civil and political rights were protected, respect for social and economic rights would follow automatically.  He emphasized that human rights would be protected through deep consideration of the causes of poverty.

The representative of the United States acknowledged poverty was a multi‑dimensional concern that called for addressing education and gender gaps across the world.  She asked how Member States could enhance access to rights by women and girls in the lowest income brackets.

Also speaking was the representative of Morocco.

Mr. ALSTON, responding, expressed agreement with China’s delegate that lifting 700 million people from poverty was an extraordinary achievement.  In China, rural areas were no longer the main concern, but there was significant poverty in urban areas, especially among the 200 million migrant workers.  Regarding compliance with the code of conduct, he said it was not his understanding that Special Rapporteurs were prevented from meeting with anyone without the Government approval, or that they should be followed everywhere, or that individuals should be prevented from meeting with the Special Rapporteur.  He expressed concern over events that had unfolded after his visit including Jiang Tianyong, a human rights lawyer.  The relationship between terrorism and poverty could be examined from a number of angles, he added, noting that exclusion could fuel terrorism.

He expressed deep concern about rising inequality, noting that when capital and income were held overwhelmingly by the few, civil and political rights would be subverted in the interests of the “supremely powerful”.  Even the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had expressed concern, he said, from the perspective of economic growth.  As for indicators that could enable better understanding of the civil and political rights violations suffered by the poor, his report focused on the need to separate the poor as a specific category, as the overwhelming majority of violence was directed at them, and they were the leading victims of civil and political rights violations.  Current trends toward privatization and reducing the role of the State invariably had moved the burden of care to women, he said, adding that neoliberal economic policies were premised on failing to address the specific needs of women and girls.

The representative of China, noting the Special Rapporteur’s reference to problems surrounding China’s hukou system of household registration, said reforms to that system meant migrant workers could have equal access to employment and other rights regardless of where they lived.  Secondly, to the Special Rapporteur’s comments about individuals who had violated Chinese law, he said that the individual’s sentencing had nothing to do with the Special Rapporteur, who should not associate everything he witnessed with himself.  Reminding Mr. ALSTON he must abide by the Code of Conduct and the Charter of the United Nations, and respect the territorial integrity of a Member State, he recalled that his mandate was focused on reducing poverty, rather than the civil and political rights of citizens.  That was the purview of other Special Rapporteurs.

The representative of Iraq again noted that his country respected minorities, noting that the Constitution provided equal rights for minorities represented in Parliament.  Terrorism had come in from different countries.  Those were not Iraqi elements, they were from abroad.

Mr. ALSTON, responding again to Iraq’s delegate, said he accepted the activities of foreign terror groups in the territory of a country had major implications on that country’s ability to address poverty and respect for human rights.  In response China’s delegate, he said he was pleased to hear of reforms to the hukou system, adding that while there was still a way to go, China had been assiduous in focusing on problems once they were identified.  He said he understood why there was a Special Rapporteur on poverty, if that person would talk about civil and political rights.  The point was that those living in poverty actually had a different experience.  It would be unproductive for the Special Rapporteur on poverty to say he was unconcerned with civil and political rights, or with other rights, as an integrated approach was needed.

Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation

LÉO HELLER, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, presented her second report which assessed how funding by France, Japan, the European Union, the World Bank and the Inter‑American Development Bank and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had helped to realize the human right to water and sanitation.  She examined how funders had incorporated those rights into the four stages of the human rights development cycle, namely: the funders’ policy framework; operational tools; project selection, design and implementation; and project assessment and monitoring.

She observed that while the policies of some funders had incorporated that cycle, others had only done so sporadically.  There were also significant gaps in the cycle’s application during project implementation, even when it had been adequately incorporated.  The report also found that funders used a variety of operational tools which had varying degrees of relevance to the human rights to water and sanitation.  As such, she recommended that funders develop and systematically produce thorough assessment and monitoring, based on the human rights development cycle, both during and after project implementation.  They should improve project assessment protocols by adjusting their scope, data collection methods and indicators.  Funders should monitor long‑term project outcomes, with indicators based on the human rights development cycle, as well as assess all stages of their activities during the cycle.

In the interactive dialogue, the representative of Brazil asked how the Third Committee could contribute to the discussion on the rights to safe drinking water and sanitation.

The representative of the European Union asked what could be done to ensure that safe drinking water and sanitation projects were sustainable.

The representative of Germany asked why there had been gaps in applying the human rights framework to projects, and about best practices to ensure its application.

The representative of South Africa asked how the private sector could play a bigger role in ensuring the rights to safe drinking water and sanitation.

The representative of Switzerland inquired about roles the private sector and civil society could play in ensuring safe access, and about viable financing for water and sanitation services.

The representative of Maldives asked how sustainable, affordable services could be established in small island states.

The representative of France asked how access to safe, affordable drinking water and sanitation could foster sustainable development.

Representatives of Spain, Iraq, Norway and Morocco also spoke.

Mr. HELLER, responding, said two main issues had emerged from the discussion: one was the importance of development cooperation for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and another was that in his research, he had identified several gaps which were not specific to the six cases.  Some funders had good policies in place, yet gaps persisted.  Other funders had no specific policy for water and sanitation.  Instead, those issues had been subsumed into other areas, such as food or health, which had no explicit human rights commitment.

Discussion about the Third Committee’s role was also pivotal, he acknowledged, as the gap between the Goals and human rights must be bridged.  To questions about why gaps persisted in the application of the human rights development cycle, he said one explanation was that most funders had other priorities.  Regarding queries about human rights conditionality, he said the international community must align development cooperation with the human rights framework (human rights development cycle), notably by involving local authorities and civil society.

Adequate Housing

LEILANI FARHA, Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing as a Component on the Right to an Adequate Standard of Living and on the Right to Non‑Discrimination in this context, said her report focused on the enjoyment of that right by persons with disabilities, as they were commonly homeless, institutionalized and subjected to neglect, abuse and discrimination for no reason other than their disability.  “Housing is absolutely central to dignity and equal rights for persons with disabilities,” she said.  There was a need to merge the disability human rights paradigm, developed under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, with jurisprudence and commentary on the right to housing under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Stressing that dignity, autonomy and freedom to choose were critical dimensions of the right to housing, she said the lack of choice of where and with whom to live was experienced by persons with disabilities as an assault on their dignity and autonomy.  The Convention highlighted the right to non‑discrimination and equality, and recognized accessibility as wide‑ranging and expansive.  It also recognized the right to participate as integral to implementation of the right to housing for persons with disabilities.  Indeed, housing conditions for many of the 1 billion persons with disabilities made clear that States must realize the right to housing for persons with disabilities.  They must ensure that those persons lived free from institutionalization and urgently address the issue of homelessness.  States should also support organizations for persons with disabilities so they could participate in all areas of housing policy, as well as guarantee access to justice and accountability mechanisms for claims to adequate housing by persons with disabilities.

In the interactive dialogue, the representative of Brazil highlighted the need for a change in culture to create policies that met the needs of persons with disabilities.

The representative of Iraq asked for new ideas to ensure that houses were built to suit the climate.

The representative of South Africa asked about corporate sector’s role in providing adequate housing.

The representative of the European Union asked how a focus on human rights could ensure access to housing for persons with disabilities.

The representative of Palestine asked the Special Rapporteur to what could be done to prevent Israel from demolishing Palestinian homes.

The representative of the Maldives also spoke.

Ms. FARHA, responding, agreed with Brazil’s representative on the need for cultural change to ensure the right to adequate housing for persons with disabilities, underscoring that it was necessary for the international community to move forward.  On whether housing should match a certain climate or place, she said the right to adequate housing was intended to meet the needs of people wherever they were, no matter the climate.  Housing in post‑natural disaster or post‑conflict situations was a concern, as conflict had an incredibly detrimental impact on people with disabilities.  Human rights law applied to States and all levels of Government, she said; the onus was on States to work with the private and corporate sector to ensure they were respecting the rights of persons with disabilities.

On the issue of data collection, she suggested that the Washington Group on Disability Statistics collect that information.  Regarding the benefits of a human rights approach to housing for persons with disabilities, she said the Sustainable Development Goals required the eradication of homelessness by 2030.  A disproportionate number of people with psychosocial disabilities were homeless.  The New Urban Agenda required States to develop housing strategies that were rooted in human rights, she said, noting that international human rights law was clear that States were accountable to the people, and that a human rights approach offered measurable timelines and goals.  To the question by the representative of the State of Palestine, she said it was clear in all her work how she felt about house demolitions, whether they occurred in Palestine or any other State.

Enjoyment of the Highest Physical, Mental Health

DAINIUS PŪRAS, Special Rapporteur on the Right of Everyone to the Enjoyment of the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health, said his report examined the effects of corruption on the right to health, which was among the most corrupt sectors, given its vulnerability to power asymmetries, uncertainty in selecting, measuring and delivering services, and complexity of systems.  Corruption undermined the State’s obligation to realize the right to health “to the maximum of its resources”.  Thus, strengthening health care systems so that all segments of the population trusted primary services would be an effective anti‑corruption measure, as it would mitigate the tendency for patients to bypass primary care and use specialized services.

He said the report also considered the mental health sector, which was particularly affected by corrupt practices and use of biased evidence.  Mental health policies and services illustrated how a lack of transparency and accountability in the relationships between the pharmaceutical industry and health sector, including academic medicine, could lead to institutional corruption.  He recommended that States implement the United Nations Convention against Corruption, and ensure that anti‑corruption laws integrated the right to health as a standard.  Sufficient checks and balances should also be put in place when health sectors were decentralized or handed over to the private sector.  States should also raise awareness among providers against unethical practices, and press relevant stakeholders to address, through legal and policy measures, corrupt practices taking place in all stages of the pharmaceutical value chain.

In the interactive dialogue, the representative of Lithuania asked what measures could be taken by States to ensure that mental health policies were driven by a human rights‑based, non‑biased approach.

The representative of Cuba asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate how corruption could take place in the private health care sector.

The representative of the European Union inquired about best practices for involving stakeholders in decision‑making on health care issues.

The representative of Indonesia asked how an international cooperation could combat corruption in health care systems.

The representative of the Maldives suggested the Special Rapporteur publish a report on the health care challenges of geographically dispersed countries.

The representative of South Africa also spoke.

Mr. PŪRAS, responding, recommended applying an analytic framework developed by his predecessors.  Simplified approaches had failed, he said, because social and underlying determinants had been ignored.  The global understanding now worked to better address social and other determinants of mental health, and to provide treatments such as psychosocial support; it was clear that biomedical interventions had been overused.  The Human Rights Council had passed a resolution last year on mental health which emphasized over‑medicalization and over‑institutionalization as ineffective investments which might be harmful.  The justiciability of the right to health was an important issue, as was the role of primary care in preventing corruption.

People in many parts of the world liked specialists more than primary care health workers, he observed, adding that what people needed was good primary care, which saved resources and brought transparency to health care.  People in villages and in local communities contributed a lot to the effective provision of health care services.  To a question on good practices, he extended his gratitude to countries which had accepted his mandate’s visit, noting that in Armenia and Indonesia, the commitment by health care professionals towards developing effective policies was evident.  On international cooperation, he said one important element was international assistance, noting that rich countries could help developing countries formulate community‑based mental health care.  Around the world, many people had mild or common mental health issues, and there were simple, inexpensive solutions, such as community nurses providing psychosocial support.  The public and private sectors should cooperate, but the private sector should be supervised and controlled to avoid corruption.

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Child Migrants, Refugees Especially Vulnerable to Violence during Humanitarian Crises, Speakers Tell Third Committee, as Debate on Children Concludes

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) concluded its general discussion on the rights of children today, with delegates describing progress and challenges on a range of issues pertaining to child health, education and protection.

While several delegates shared progress their Governments had made in improving legislative and social mechanisms to prevent violence against children, many were concerned by the growing threat posed by humanitarian emergencies, and in particular, the migrant and refugee crisis.

The representative of Bulgaria, which was both a transit and host country for thousands of refugees and migrants, reminded Member States that “a child is first a child, and after that, a refugee or migrant”.  As such, they had rights that must be protected by all.  Guatemala’s delegate was particularly concerned by the vulnerability of unaccompanied children migrating across the Americas.  Her Government had established consular services in Mexico and the United States to help protect those youth, but she also urged States to stop detaining minors.  Similarly, El Salvador’s speaker called for a human rights-based approach to dealing with the situation of child migrants.  Echoing those concerns, the representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reminded authorities of their obligations under international law to prevent family separation and to avoid detaining children.

A number of delegates addressed the situation of children living under occupation, with Ukraine’s delegate stressing that despite his country’s efforts to improve opportunities for children, many Ukrainian children living under Russian occupation had been denied their rights.  Similarly in Georgia, the Russian occupation was denying children the right to education in their native language and freedom of movement, said that country’s delegate.

In the Middle East, Palestinian children had been deliberately targeted by the Israeli army, said the State of Palestine’s observer.  She asked when the international community would react to those rights violations.  Iran’s delegate expressed dismay that political pressure had compromised the independence of the Secretary-General’s 2016 report on children and armed conflict.  He proposed the United Nations at least impose an arms embargo on Governments engaged in mass killing of children.

The Russian Federation’s delegate, exercising his right of reply, called on Georgian authorities to discuss issues including children’s rights in a dialogue directly with the powers of the sovereign nations of Abkhazia and Ossetia.  To his Ukrainian counterpart, he said the politicized statement was an attempt to deflect attention from human rights violations in Ukraine itself.

In other business today, the Committee approved a decision to invite the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, to present an oral update.  She would be orally introduced as a member of the former Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea.

Also speaking were representatives of Algeria, Angola, Bahrain, Kuwait, Bangladesh, Botswana, Cameroon, Monaco, Central African Republic, China, Eritrea, Burkina Faso, Dominican Republic, Fiji, Guinea, Congo, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Jamaica, Japan, Lebanon, Panama, Madagascar, Morocco, Haiti, Mozambique, Armenia, Myanmar, Palau, Malaysia, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sudan, Kyrgyzstan, Timor-Leste, Togo, Azerbaijan, Tonga, Ukraine, United Republic of Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and the observer of the Sovereign Order of Malta.

Officials of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) also addressed the Committee.

Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Israel, the State of Palestine and Ukraine.

The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Monday, 17 October, to begin consideration of the rights of indigenous peoples.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to conclude its debate on the promotion and protection of the rights of children.  For information, see Press Release GA/SHC/4169.

Statements

CÉCILE MBALLA EYENGA (Cameroon) expressed concern about the conditions for children around the world, especially in Africa, due to armed conflicts and humanitarian crises.  Cameroon had made education a pillar of its social policies.  Protection of children’s rights was as essential.  Children recruited by terrorist groups, such as Boko Haram, were of great concern.  She welcomed collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and other United Nations agencies, stressing that with such assistance, Cameroon had implemented programmes to combat child mortality, focusing on systematic vaccination programmes. 

VALÉRIE S BRUELL-MELCHIOR (Monaco) said that while UNICEF aimed to help all children, after 70 years of action, numerous obstacles had yet to be overcome.  Two conditions were essential to ensure children had a good start to life:  health and education.  She observed that 250 million children lacked good nutrition, adding that children’s access to health care must include nutrition goals.  Quality education without distinction was the way to break the vicious cycle of poverty.  Children should be taught to reflect in a manner that would allow them to reject extremism.

MARÍA JOSÉ DEL ÁGUILA CASTILLO (Guatemala), endorsing the statement of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said investing in childhood was crucial to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  Her country had been affected by El Niño and El Niña, and appreciated the United Nations’ support in responding to their devastating effects.  The situation of migrant children was of great concern and her Government had established consular services in Mexico and the United States to support unaccompanied migrant children.  States must stop detaining minors.  Finally, she welcomed the Secretary-General’s report on the protection of children from bullying.

TAMTA KUPRADZE (Georgia), addressing the vulnerability of children in armed conflict and the need for more efforts to protect their rights, said the Russian Federation’s occupation of Georgian territory had deprived Georgian children of their rights to education in their native language and freedom of movement.  Those violations were particularly concerning given the absence of international monitoring mechanisms inside those territories.  Committed to increasing opportunities for its children, Georgia had improved its education system, health and social services and ensuring children’s protection from violence.  Its Parliament had adopted a new amendment to the Civil Code requiring parental consent for marriage under age 16 and other measures to prevent human trafficking.

MAJDA MOUTCHOU (Morocco) said her country had ratified all children’s rights instruments, demonstrating the country’s commitment to combating rights violations.  Various measures had strengthened Morocco’s legal framework, such as a law ensuring that the best interests of all children were considered.  A ministerial unit responsible for family, childhood, and disabled persons had set out a public policy to protect children against abuse over the Internet and from trafficking.  As new forms of crime required that reliable data systems be created for monitoring, and Morocco had partnerships with internet service providers to protect children against sexual exploitation, as well as an awareness-raising campaign for parents for their children’s safe use of the internet.

NICOLE ROMULUS (Haiti), associating herself with CELAC and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the States had major work to do to promote and protect children’s rights.  The number of children not in school had increased since 2011, while 250 million children lived in countries affected by armed conflict.  Governments were obliged to ensure that all children could live up to their potential.  She spoke about Haiti’s policies towards schools, noting that the President had urged all to work for a full, successful school year, and to join together to bring about a more unified Haitian society through quality education.  Haiti had ensured that children’s rights were a priority and had taken various measures to protect children’s rights. 

MANSOUR T J ALMUTAIRI (Saudi Arabia) said children’s rights were a priority for the Government, which recognized the right to life for children even during pregnancy.  The Government’s concern for children ran so deep that it required parents to choose proper names for them.  Saudi Arabia also ensured children’s protection from difficult or forced labour, while child abuse was punished in accordance with Sharia law.  Reiterating the Government’s commitment to the Convention and other international instruments, he said it would strengthen cooperation with international organizations.  Finally, he expressed concern about the plight of Syrian children and the need to end the war in that country.

MAYANK JOSHI (India) noted that, despite progress made, more than 47 per cent of the world’s children still lived in poverty and they were particularly vulnerable during times of conflict and natural disasters.  Political will, resource mobilization and investments were needed to protect and promote children’s rights.  For its part, India had adopted a rights-based approach through its National Policy for Children, which promoted children’s literacy, education and health care.  The Integrated Child Development Scheme, a universal programme, provided health care, food, immunization and pre-school education, he said, stressing that India would continue its efforts to protect children against violence and exploitation, in particular, the girl child.

RWAYDA IZZELDIN HAMID ELHASSAN (Sudan) associated herself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and with the African Group, stressing that the protection of children’s rights was a top priority.  Sudan had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its optional protocols, among other international instruments.  Expressing support for the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign, she said that the recruitment of children under the age of 18 was prohibited.  Special units in the ministry of the interior protected children, and a special investigator had been set up to investigate crimes against children in Darfur.  Further, Sudan had signed an action plan with the United Nations regarding children in conflict zones.  The root causes of children’s recruitment – including unilateral economic sanctions against countries – must be addressed.

MADINA KARABAEVA (Kyrgyzstan) said her country stood firmly on the path to becoming a State where children’s protection was a key value.  A programme to develop justice for children aimed to create a legal system which would protect children in conflict with the law, as well as children who were witnesses.  The Government was protecting children’s rights and reacting to each individual child’s needs, she said, adding that about 60 centres offered help for families in difficult living situations.  Policies for children included the protection of childhood and motherhood.  Extreme poverty had decreased in the country, as had infant mortality.

STEPHANIE GEBREMEDHIN (Eritrea) said the country’s culture and laws guaranteed children’s rights, noting that new penal and civil codes referenced corporal punishment and other forms of abuse.  The justice system did not allow children under 12 to be treated as criminals, while those between the ages of 12 and 18 were treated as juvenile offenders.  There were also efforts with civil society to raise awareness about violence against children and child trafficking.  The country’s efforts to provide more equitable health care had allowed it to achieve Millennium Development Goal 5 on child mortality.  The number of births attended to by a skilled health worker had also increased, she said, adding that girls’ elementary school enrolment had reached 99 per cent, with pre-primary enrolment also increasing.

MYRIAM AMAN SOULAMA (Burkina Faso), associating with the African Group, described measures taken at the legislative, education, and social levels to improve children’s rights.  Education policies had led to an increase in girls’ school enrolment.  To address child abuse, the Government had set up a support hotline for victims.  Maternal and neonatal mortality had declined, thanks to the provision of free health care for children under age five and pregnant women.  The incidence of female genital mutilation also had steadily decreased.

MILDRED GUZMÁN MADERA (Dominican Republic), stressing that countering violence against children was a priority, said the Government had enhanced its social policies and systems for the protection of children, families and communities.  It also had established a comprehensive care centre for children with disabilities and a new centre for early childhood care.  A national council for children and adolescents provided temporary protection for children under threat.  In addition, a national roadmap for the prevention of violence against children had been developed with guidance from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General.  The Dominican Republic was striving to improve parenting through awareness-raising and training for parents, teachers and community leaders.

ELLEN AZARIA MADUHU (United Republic of Tanzania) associated herself with the Group of 77 and China, the African Group and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The Government issued a new National Action Plan on addressing violence against women and children for the period 2016 – 2021. Additional measures were undertaken to protect children, including the translation and dissemination of the 2009 National Child Act and the establishment of a Child Helpline for reporting acts of violence and abuse. The Government also attached great importance to the child’s right to education and ending child marriage. Public schools were directed to ensure that all primary and secondary education is free for all children. Furthermore, a campaign against early marriages was launched in 2014. The “Kigali Declaration” provided the framework for action to end early and forced marriages.

MASNI ERIZA (Indonesia) said efforts to promote children’s rights had been underpinned by the national action plan to eliminate violence.  The President had convened the education commission, which financed education.  Indonesia was a “pathfinder country” in the newly-launched partnership to end violence against children.  The most basic unit of society was the family, which had the responsibility for nurturing children, he said, pressing Governments to enact family-friendly policies.  Indonesia had allocated a sizable share of its budget for children, providing them with free education and health care, which had led to lower illiteracy rates.  Stressing the imperative to end violence against children, he expressed Indonesia’s commitment to engage internationally to protect and promote their rights.

HELGA VALBORG STEINARSDÓTTIR (Iceland) said her country was committed to the protection and promotion of children’s rights at home and abroad and had recently codified a new framework agreement with UNICEF.  Iceland had incorporated the Convention into national law, she said, and urging States seek the treaty’s integration into policymaking.  Protecting the rights of girls would require eliminating all forms of discrimination, violence and harmful practices.  It was a stain on the global community that every day, almost 40,000 girls were subjected to early and forced marriage.  Girls must be provided with the sexual and reproductive health care they needed, including comprehensive sexual education.

YASUE NUNOSHIBA (Japan) said her country’s “Learning Strategy for Peace and Growth” focused particularly on providing education for girls.  For instance, Japan had assisted in building girls’ middle schools in the United Republic of Tanzania, where early marriage and pregnancy prevented them from completing their education.  Japan also had funded a programme through UNICEF that supported the release and reintegration of children from armed groups in African countries.  It had contributed $6 million for the reintegration of child soldiers and the protection and empowerment of children in armed conflict.  Locally, the Government provided administrative services to every family in need, in particular for families in difficult situations, such as single-parent households.

MAYA DAGHER (Lebanon) said between the seventieth and seventy-first sessions of the General Assembly, millions of children had become victims of armed violence and terrorism, noting that many had been “swallowed” by the Mediterranean Sea.  Lebanon had supported many initiatives last year, including resolutions in the Assembly and the Security Council which all aimed to create a world fit for children.  Lebanon paid attention to education, particularly as a means through which to combat extremism.  Education for all was at the heart of its policies, she said, noting that the country was hosting over one million refugees.

DAYANARA EDITH SALAZAR MEDINA (Panama), associating herself with CELAC, said her country had faced waves of child migrants, underscoring that, through an interdisciplinary team, the Government was present in communities where shelters for migrants had been established.  The goal was to respect migrants’ rights, she said, adding that boys and girls should not be criminalized for being migrants.  All should have the same opportunities.  Investing in quality education and reducing neonatal mortality were crucial towards ensuring each boy and girl’s future.  She noted that the region continued to face challenges, adding that Panama sought to address the challenges of indigenous children and children with disabilities. 

YIN PO MYAT (Myanmar), noting that peace and reconciliation were prerequisites for the success of development policies, said the Government had strengthened its education programs to better protect children from exploitation and violence.  She welcomed the “Children, Not Soldiers” initiative, stressing that Myanmar had signed a Joint Action Plan with the United Nations Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting on the use of children in the military in 2012. As a result, the recruitment process was centralized and children had been released from the military, if found.  She said 810 children had been released from the military since signature of the related Action Plan, noting that support had been provided to assist with their reintegration and education.  Also, 81 military officers and 321 officers of other ranks had been penalized by military and civil laws. Given such progress, it was time that Myanmar was delisted from the Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict.

HAMIDEH HASSANI NEJAD PIRKOUHI (Iran), noting that the 2030 Agenda included numerous references to children, said millions of children still lived in poverty without adequate nutrition, sanitation, or vaccinations against disease.  He expressed dismay that children’s interests had been compromised under unjustified political pressure in the Secretary-General’s report on Children and Armed Conflict.  “An arms embargo on Governments that engage in mass killing of children is the least that the United Nations can advocate for,” he said, stressing the importance of the family as the fundamental group of society.  In Iran, 460,000 children attended school free of charge, an enormous burden on the education system, and donors had failed to meet their commitments.

MARIA HELENA LOPES DE JESUS PIRES (Timor-Leste) encouraging support for the office on violence against children, expressed particular concern about cyberbullying and bullying in schools.  There was a collective responsibility to protect children in conflict and attacks on schools and hospitals could not be tolerated.  She urged parties to conflict to respect children’s rights and refrain from recruiting child soldiers, calling for adequate assistance for reintegrating those who had been recruited.  Timor-Leste was committed to ensuring access to education to all its children, with special attention given to those with disabilities.  To improve retention of girls in schools, legislation had been passed to support integration of teenage mothers in the educational system.  Health campaigns had resulted in a sharp decline in child mortality, while immunization campaigns had been greatly expanded, she added.

PARK JEE WON (Republic of Korea) underlined the importance of a comprehensive and coordinated approach in promoting children’s rights, welcoming the Organization’s efforts to expand partnerships with civil societies.  Education should be further expanded to include the most vulnerable and marginalized, she said, noting the some 58 million children lacked access to education.  Education was a building block of a sustainable, inclusive society based on human rights, equality, rule of law and respect for diversity.  Girls were more susceptible to violence and discrimination.  Last year, the Republic of Korea had launched a “Better Life for Girls” initiative to support girls’ health, education and vocational development in developing countries, to which it would provide $200 million over five years.

MS. AL JAWDAR (Bahrain) said Government programmes had improved children’s lives in recent years.  The country had adhered to its commitments under international conventions and had ratified the Convention in 1992.  In June, Bahrain’s representative had been re-elected to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. Its human development indicators were high, thanks to its focus on children and youth.  Further, health care reforms had led to lower child and maternal mortality, she said, citing the provision of health care for newborns, vaccines for children under five and social and psychological service for children.

FAHAD M E H A MOHAMMAD (Kuwait) shared the concerns about threats children faced on the internet, including exposure to violent ideologies and sexual abuse.  Recalling that more than one billion children had been exposed to some form of violence over the past year, he urged all countries to implement the provision concerning violence against children under the 2030 Agenda.  Kuwait’s constitution recognized the family as the basis of society.  Based on that principle and its international commitments, Kuwait had enacted national laws to protect the family and the child, including a family court and several articles dealing with the family and children.  The State recognized the child’s right to live in a family environment.  It was impossible to address the issue of children without referring to the suffering of Palestinian children who lived under Israeli occupation.

IRENE SUSAN BARREIRO NATIVIDAD (Philippines), associating herself with ASEAN, said the Government recognized its duty to provide a safe and enabling environment for children.  A child’s right to education was of paramount importance and 20.9 per cent of the country’s 2017 national budget would go to education.  Further, the Government had passed an Anti-Bullying Act, as well as adopted a comprehensive approach to protecting children from sale, prostitution and child pornography and developed mechanisms to respond to child abuse.  Ending conflict was essential to creating the proper environment for children, she said, stressing the Government’s commitment to dialogue, and ultimately, forging peace with various armed groups.

EMMANUEL NIBISHAKA (Rwanda), while noting the progress in the reports, observed that child neglect, trafficking, abuse, exploitation, genital mutilation and child marriage persisted.  Rwanda believed in the primary role of Governments, supported by partners, including the United Nations, in promoting and providing protection to children.  The 1994 genocide in Rwanda had left many negative repercussions, along with post-conflict issues, that had affected Rwanda’s children, who represented a high percentage of the population.  The Government had made primary and secondary education free and compulsory, prohibited corporal punishment and opened rehabilitation centres for street children.  Further, Rwandan law condemned child prostitution, slavery and abduction, he said, urging the international community to continue establishing frameworks to protect children in armed conflicts.

NORA IMANE BELLOUT (Algeria) said her country had achieved all objectives on education of the Millennium Development Goals before the deadline.  Moreover, the education budget had increased tenfold over 15 years and provided free education to more than eight million students in nearly 23,000 schools, including refugee children in the Tindouf camps.  Significant results had been achieved in the quality of education and the fundamental rights of children.  The new law on child protection focused on protecting at-risk children; rules relating to child offenders; and specialized child protection centres, among other things.

COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), associating himself with CELAC and CARICOM, said his country had taken a comprehensive approach to realizing children’s rights.  For instance, the Government had guaranteed tuition-free education as a way to improve access.  It also had signed on to the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children and been designated a “pathfinder country”.  Moreover, the Ministry of Education had created and provided a safety and security manual to schools as a way to address bullying.

MAHE’ULI’ULI SANDHURST TUPOUNIUA (Tonga) said that, in recognition that children were his country’s most important assets, Tonga had acceded to the Convention on their rights and was amending its laws appropriately, ensuring protection against violence, as well as access to education, free health care and other necessities.  National consultations were underway under Tonga’s strategic development framework, and awareness events were being held in conjunction with UNICEF, focusing on children’s growth, the implications of digital media on children and other areas of social protection.  There was no social welfare scheme for children as yet.

HANTASOA FIDA CYRILLE KLEIN (Madagascar), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, and with SADC, noted that the population of her country was young.  The Government was pursuing numerous policies to ensure respect for children’s rights, and the goals had been laid out in a regional and communal framework plan.  Public establishments and teaching personnel had received training on protecting children in school environments, she said, stressing that combating sexual tourism was extremely important.  Climate change impacted Malagasy children, and the effects of El Niño and drought had been severe.

GENE BAI (Fiji) said his country was strongly committed to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The Constitution protected a child’s right to nutrition, clothing, shelter and health care, and provided protection against abuse, neglect, violence, inhumane treatment, punishment and exploitative labour.  It also prohibited all forms of corporal punishment.  Access to quality education was paramount, and in 2015, for the first time, primary and secondary school education had become free.  Fiji was also committed to supporting gender equality and sought to limit the marginalization and exclusion of children with disabilities.

GEORGI VELIKOV PANAYOTOV (Bulgaria), associating himself with the European Union, said that the Government had established a set of measures for promoting the rights and well-being of all children, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized.  Ending violence against children was a top priority.  The current humanitarian crisis was of an unprecedented scale, requiring immediate action.  Calling it a “children’s crisis”, he advocated a child-based approach to address it.  “We should remember that a child is first a child, and after that, a refugee or migrant,” he said.  As a transit and host country for thousands of migrants and refugees, Bulgaria was doing its utmost, in cooperation with the European Union, UNICEF and other partners, to protect the human rights of those fleeing war, in particular migrant and refugee children.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh) reaffirmed his commitment to advance children’s rights, including in the areas of education and child labour.  Further, a new Child Marriage Restraint Act had been drafted which contained pragmatic guidelines to prevent child marriage.  A national, toll-free helpline had been set up to support efforts to report and prevent child marriage, and to report sexual harassment.  Bangladesh also had adopted a five-year action plan to reduce child labour.

IBRAHIMA KOMARA (Guinea) associated himself with the African Group and with the Group of 77 and China, adding that it would be a success for the United Nations to see the Convention reach universal ratification.  Guinea was among the countries that had unreservedly ratified the Convention almost 30 years ago, as well as its relevant optional protocols.  But results for children around the world remained discouraging, and many remained marginalized, such as disabled children.  Awareness that children were the future was manifested in legal codes, he said, noting that Guinea’s free education system and its improved vaccine programme were other actions that underscored the Government’s commitment to realizing children’s rights.

LAURIA NGUELE MAKOUELET (Congo) said various challenges hindered children’s full enjoyment of their rights.  Congo had a new Constitution which had strengthened a strategic framework for children, and the country also had set up a children’s parliament with offices in Congo’s 12 administrative departments.  The Government had invested resources to respond to children’s needs, providing hundreds of technical aids to disabled children.  It also had cooperated with the World Food Programme (WFP) to ensure that all children received quality nutrition.  No effort would be spared to ensure the full implementation of the Convention of the Rights of the Child.

NKOLOI NKOLOI (Botswana) associated himself with the Group of 77 and China, the African Group and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). He expressed concern about ongoing armed conflicts, particularly in Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and South Sudan, drawing attention to their severe effects on children.  Urging Governments and parties to armed conflict to respect international human rights law and international humanitarian law, he welcomed new initiatives, including the Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action, the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign and related action plans.

The Committee Chair said she and the Bureau had held consultations since 4 October on the pending organizational issue.  She proposed that the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, be invited to present an oral update to the Third Committee.  Ms. Keetharuth would be orally introduced as a member of the former Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea.  If needed, additional time would be allocated for her to make her presentation.

The Committee then approved that decision without a vote.

The representative of Eritrea said the proposal had been accepted in the interests of moving forward.  Eritrea maintained its readiness to engage with any delegation, and the matter had been resolved within the African Group.  But Eritrea’s goodwill had been faced with a “flip-flop” position of the other side. Discussion over the past two weeks had shown the politicization of the human rights situation.  Countries with contempt for international law had presented themselves as champions of Third Committee Rules of Procedures; countries which had massacred people and were using light ammunition against peaceful protesters had spoken on the matter.  Eritrea’s position was that human rights could only be promoted through dialogue.

IGOR YAREMENKO (Ukraine), aligning himself with the European Union, reiterated Ukraine’s commitment to children’s rights, as evidenced by its adherence to numerous international conventions and protocols.  Priorities covered health, recreation, disabilities, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, drug abuse, child abandonment, support to families and protection for orphans.  Despite its efforts, the country faced great challenges as a result of Russian aggression.  Since the start of the conflict, 68 children had been killed and 186 had been wounded in eastern Ukraine.  The number of internally displaced people had reached 1.8 million, including more the 200,000 children.  The situation of children in the Donbas region had not received enough attention in the Secretary-General’s reports, he said, urging that that omission be rectified.  Greater international assistance was also needed to overcome the negative effects of the Chernobyl disaster, which had affected children most of all.

SAHAR ABUSHAWESH, observer for the State of Palestine, said that Palestinian children had been deprived all their rights, as killing and maiming continued with impunity.  Those actions had evolved into a deliberate Israeli strategy and she asked when the international community would react to those human rights violations.  The Israeli blockade had stifled any life or development in the occupied territory, with devastating impacts on children.

RUBEN IGNACIO ZAMORA RIVAS (El Salvador), associating himself with CELAC, shared achievements in his country, pointing out that the normative framework had advanced, and the comprehensive protection of children had improved.  Councils had been established to protect children at the local level.  Children’s health care had improved, and efforts had been made to ensure health care access for all children.  The growing numbers of unaccompanied child migrants must be addressed from a human-rights perspective, bearing in mind the best interests of children and their families.  Family reunification must remain a priority.

CALEB OTTO (Palau) quoted extensively from the 2030 Agenda’s paragraphs concerning children, before quoting from the Convention on the Rights of the Child’s articles concerning the child’s social, spiritual and moral well-being.  Those provisions, he said, highlighted two issues of great importance.  The first was the right of children to be reared by their parents.  Children in focus group discussions in Palau had said they would like their parents to spend more time with them, rather than try to appease them with gifts and food.  The second, he said, was that children should be provided an environment that addressed mental health and well-being and was free from bullying, shaming and demeaning treatment, at home and in school.

NEOW CHOO SEONG (Malaysia), associating himself with ASEAN and with the Group of 77 and China, said his country had made significant progress since acceding to the Convention in 1995, including by creating the Child Act of 2001.  That Act formed part of the protective legal architecture for children in Malaysia.  Efforts must be made to put in place accountability mechanisms, in order to break the cycle of impunity for violations of children’s rights.  Malaysia, as Chair of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, reaffirmed its strong commitment to the promotion and protection of the rights of children. 

ADDO MAMAN TCHALARE (Togo) shared his country’s experience in advancing the protection of children, noting that a decree had been drafted for the national Commission of the Child to prepare guidelines for those working in the area of children’s protection.  Health care, education and training initiatives all had improved children’s situations.  At the regional level, a program had been launched to protect child migrants and trafficking victims, while education for children with disabilities had improved.

YASHAR ALIYEV (Azerbaijan) said child protection efforts must be stepped up. While progress had been made in the protection of children affected by armed conflict, including with the release of children from armed forces, the issue of children and armed conflict must receive adequate attention in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

ANTÓNIO GUMENDE (Mozambique), associating himself with the African Group and with SADC, said Government efforts to address children’s needs at the legislative, institutional and community levels aimed to ensure that all Mozambicans could help resolve the issues hampering children’s ability to realize their potential.  Mozambique’s national action programme on children, among other results, had increased access to water and sanitation.  Challenges remained, however, notably caused by climate change and communicable diseases.  Creating a world fit for children demanded that States redouble their commitments and implement existing international instruments.

LILIT GRIGORYAN (Armenia) said that through the national strategic programme on child protection, and cooperation with development partners such as UNICEF, her country had reached vulnerable children and made reforms.  As a nation which suffered from aggression by Azerbaijan, Armenia condemned attacks on civilians including children.  From the beginning of Azerbaijani aggression, she said, attacks on children and the elderly had been indiscriminate.  Such barbaric acts constituted violations of core international instruments including the Convention against Torture and Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

MÉLANIE CORINE NINA GOLIATHA (Central African Republic) reiterated her commitment to the relevant Conventions, expressing her strong disapproval that an increasing number of children had been victims of armed violence, natural disasters and human rights violations.  She noted with concern the increasing number of killed and maimed children, as well as children displaced by conflicts and attacks by armed groups.  A concerted effort must be made to reunite children with their families, she said, emphasizing that a comprehensive response required governance and security sector reforms.

CHU GUANG (China) said his country had the world’s largest population of children – 280 million – and the Government worked to implement the Convention and its relevant Protocols.  Great progress had been made in pre-school education, with some provinces having established a 15-year free education system by including pre-school and high school in public funding.  Countries must implement the 2030 Agenda, which required developed countries to honour their commitments by increasing financial and technological assistance to developing countries in order to protect children’s rights and interests.  Developing countries, meanwhile, must share their experiences with one another.

FREDERICK MUSIIWA MAKAMURE SHAVA (Zimbabwe), associating himself with the African Group and SADC, said the promotion of children’s rights could not be viewed in isolation from broader development goals.  Children thrived when raised in a strong and secure family environment, and his country continued to implement interventions designed to assist families in coping with harsh economic conditions.  All international conventions to which Zimbabwe was party had been incorporated into domestic law under the new Constitution.  Zimbabwe had several laws to protect children, and had established a victim-friendly system to support survivors of sexual violence and abuse.  The Government was committed to ending child marriages and had set the legal marriage age at 18 years.

NDEYE OUMY GUEYE (Senegal), associating herself with the African Group, supported the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign and the work of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.  The campaign had led to the release of children from armed groups in Senegal. The Government had redoubled efforts to eliminate female genital mutilation, she said, noting that children’s rights had been taken into account in the development of health care and education policies.  Senegal also had seen increases in school enrolment and drafted a national declaration to advance children’s rights.

Mr. VON HAFT (Angola) recalled that at the General Assembly Special Session on children in 2002, Member States had committed to time-bound goals for children and young people.  Those goals had been followed by the 2030 Agenda and it was essential to maintain focus on children when budgeting for sustainable development.  He listed several international instruments to which Angola was party, noting that his country had also adopted child protection legislation consistent with international standards.  Successful programmes included one that had established free birth registration, and an SOS call centre for children facing violence.  He urged States to review ways in which the new Agenda could reduce inequality among children.

MIRIAMA HERENUI BETHAM-MALIELEGAOI (Samoa) said children’s rights were the utmost priority for her country, as reflected in national policies.  Underscoring the importance of children’s nutrition and education, as well as safety from violence, exploitation, and abuse, she said Samoa had ratified the Convention’s three Optional Protocols and called on other States to do likewise.  The family and community were at the forefront of child rearing practices.  Children were a priority focus of Samoa’s health sector plan 2008-2018, and children under five years of age received free primary health care, including immunizations.  The 2009 Education Act stipulated compulsory education, and the Government had taken initial steps towards implementing free education.  Further, Samoa had passed legislation outlawing corporal punishment, and proposed amendments to prohibit the sale of children and restrict the use of children to sell goods on the street.

ANN DEER, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said daily events in the Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, the Americas, the Gulf of Aden and elsewhere had shown the ongoing suffering of migrants and their families, and too often their needs had gone unmet by the international community.  Migrant children were particularly vulnerable, and for those whose age was uncertain, the individual must be presumed to be, and treated as, a child.  She reminded authorities of their obligations under international law to prevent family separation, underscoring that States’ assessment of the protection and assistance to be offered should be based on vulnerabilities and needs, rather than the location of family members.  ICRC engaged in confidential dialogue with States to ensure they fulfilled their obligations to protect migrant children, and reminded States that detention of any children should be avoided.

MICHAEL ESPIRITU, Permanent Observer of the Sovereign Order of Malta, affirmed the Order’s commitment to mothers and babies, as evidenced by its maternity centres in the West Bank, Madagascar, Togo, Uganda and United Republic of Tanzania, and its efforts to fight malnutrition around the globe.  With the number of displaced persons on the rise, the Order had greatly bolstered its humanitarian aid and medical assistance.  In joint operations with the Italian Coast Guard, its doctors had delivered three babies at sea last week.  It had provided care to 170,000 Syrian refugees in the Middle East and 44,000 in Europe, among its medical services to refugees worldwide.  He pledged the Order’s continued commitment to work with the United Nations and Member States to ensure that children everywhere were cared for, educated, nurtured and protected.

FLORENCIA GIORDANO, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, expressed concern about the mass migration of children, stressing that it had led to increased numbers of unaccompanied children who were at much higher risk of violence and child marriage.  Describing gaps in the implementation of child protection programmes, she cited a lack of age- and gender-disaggregated data for children and said a more comprehensive analysis of needs and vulnerabilities was necessary.  Further, support for the family, family tracing and alternative care arrangements must be stepped up, with children’s best interests always the primary consideration in actions affecting them.

VINICIUS PINHEIRO, Special Representative and Director of the International Labour Office (ILO) for the United Nations, said that his Office was committed to the protection of children through the eradication of child labour.  ILO provided expertise and contributed to the growing knowledge base that helped inform policy formulation.  Several ILO conventions provided essential protections for children worldwide, including conventions on minimum age of entry into employment and prohibition of forced labour.  Additionally, ILO’s new recommendation on the transition from the informal to the formal economy tackled an area where not only child labour but also most violations of labour, human and child rights occurred.

Right of Reply

The representative of Israel, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that instead of advancing the Committee’s agenda, the Palestinian representative had made baseless accusations against Israel, sending a message of hate and incitement.  Those accusations would not bring the international community closer to resolving the core challenges facing the region.

The representative of Russian Federation, responding to statements by the delegations of Georgia and Ukraine, called on Georgian authorities to discuss issues including children’s rights in a dialogue directly with the powers of the sovereign nations of Abkhazia and Ossetia.  To his Ukrainian counterpart, he recalled that the annexation of Ukraine to the Russian Federation had been in accordance with international law.  Those events were of a historical nature and adhered to the will of the people of Crimea.  The Russian Federation had done quite a bit to improve the lives of those living in Crimea.  The politicized statement by the Ukrainian representative was an attempt to deflect attention from human rights violations in Ukraine itself.

The representative of Azerbaijan rejected the false allegations of his Armenian counterpart, noting that Azerbaijan’s statement had focused on children, while that of Armenia had focused on Azerbaijan.  The Armenian delegation could have chosen another agenda item to speak about killing of elderly people.  The reality was that Azerbaijani territories were under occupation, and both Assembly and Council resolutions had been ignored by Armenia.  That Government had resettled Armenians from Syria in the occupied territories.  He asked Armenia about recent military exercises, and what Armenian officers were doing in a certain region.  If Armenia was interested in peace, withdrawing forces from occupied areas of Azerbaijan would suffice.  Armenia should end its provocations, as the conflict could only be solved through the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.

The representative of Armenia, exercising her right of reply, rejected the accusations made by her Azerbaijani counterpart, noting that Azerbaijan’s goal was the extermination of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan’s aggression had shown the unsustainability of a military solution.  A peaceful solution must be found, she said, in line with existing agreements.

The observer of the State of Palestine noted the “distorted” reality presented by Israel’s representative, stressing that ignoring war crimes committed by Israel constituted a complete denial of human rights and self-determination.  There was a long list of human rights violations committed by Israel.  The views expressed by that Government were dehumanizing and had shown the true nature of the occupying power.  She condemned human rights violations against all children, stressing that all attacks must stop.

The representative of the Ukraine provided an overview of the history and situation of Crimea, drawing attention to early plans by the Russian President to attack Crimea, which had been documented.  The Russian representative had made contradictory statements regarding the status of Crimea.

The representative of Georgia said children in the occupied territories of Georgia were deprived of their right to receive their education in their native Georgian language, and that there was discrimination and harassment of the Georgian population living in the occupied territories.  The absence of international monitoring meant the Russian Federation had no credibility whatsoever.  The conflict had two parties, Georgia defending itself and Russian Federation’s aggression.

The representative of Azerbaijan said barbarism had been committed by Armenian forces in occupied territories of Azerbaijan, and high-ranking officials of Armenia had admitted their responsibility for that carnage.  The President of Armenia had said he had no regrets for Azerbaijani civilian casualties. 

The representative of Armenia said that as far as the right to self-determination was concerned, Azerbaijan had recognized that self-determination should be part of the solution for the Nagorno-Karabakh region.  Armenia was not surprised Azerbaijan put forward false allegations on cease-fires related to the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

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