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Committee on the Rights of the Child
15 January 2002
COMMITTEE ON RIGHTS OF CHILD STARTS REVIEW OF REPORT OF LEBANON
War and Occupation Have Influenced Children's Conditions, Delegation Says
The Committee on the Rights of the Child this morning started its review of a second periodic report of Lebanon with a Government delegation saying that the country's social conditions have been influenced by strife and Israeli occupation.
The author of the report, Adib Nehme of the Ministry of Social Affairs of Lebanon, introduced the document, saying that his country's social conditions have been influenced by more than two decades of strife, from 1975 to 1999, and by the Israeli occupation of Lebanese territory from 1978 to 2000. He said that this period had been marked by the loss of life and property, and economic, social and political conditions continued to encounter major difficulties as a result. Lebanon was also affected by what was happening in the Middle East, he added.
Committee Experts raised a number of questions under the main clusters of general measures of implementation of the Convention; definition of the child; general principles; civil rights and freedoms; and family environment and alternative care. They asked, among other things, how the Lebanese Government was dealing with Palestinian children in the country; about early and consanguine marriages; and about the role of non-governmental organizations in promoting child rights.
The delegation was also made up of Lina Hamaoui, Secretary-General of the Higher Council for Childhood of Lebanon.
Lebanon is among the 191 States parties to the Convention and as such it is obligated to submit periodic summaries on the measures it has adopted in order to comply with its international obligations under the treaty.
When the Committee reconvenes at 3 p.m., it will conclude its discussion of the report after hearing the response of the delegation.
Report of Lebanon
The second periodic report of Lebanon is contained in document CRC/C/70/Add.8 and enumerates the various measures taken by the State since the initial report was considered by the Committee in May 1996. It says that important steps in connection with a number of fundamental rights of the child have been achieved. The country has accomplished, if not exceeded, the objectives set at world summits for the year 2000. Shortcomings, however, still remain in some fields, particularly the non-sectoral fields. Progress is particularly slow in all matters relating to public policies and concerning issues which are still sensitive for reasons unrelated to children, such as the nationality act and the distinction between women and men in the granting of nationality to children.
The report stresses that the overall result remains positive; and real progress is being made in Lebanon in fundamental areas in comparison with States in similar circumstances. Moreover, the cooperation between the governmental and non-governmental sectors is regarded as an excellent sign. The national priorities would be targeted, among other things, to eliminate the regional and social differences with regard to the basic indicators of the status of children; to emphasize equal opportunities for all on an equal footing; and to devote attention to the creation of a national and international environment that promotes the survival and development of children.
In addition, the report reviews the condition of children in situations of armed conflict; violence against children and their sexual exploitation; children and narcotic drugs, tobacco and alcohol; and juvenile delinquencies and the justice system, among other things.
Introduction of Report
ADIB NEHME, of the Ministry of Social Affairs of Lebanon and author of the report, said that his country's social conditions have been influenced by more than two decades of strife, from 1975 to 1999, and by the Israeli occupation of Lebanese territory from 1978 to 2000. The lengthy war had left deep marks on the society, as well as on the State, the economy and the people. The situation had been marked by the loss of life and property, and economic, social and political conditions continued to encounter major difficulties as a result. Lebanon was also affected by what was happening in the Middle East.
Mr. Nehme said that his country had signed the Convention in 1991 without any reservations and the provisions had been implemented at the Government and civil society level. Despite problems relating to social, economic and political conditions, the Government was trying to improve the situation of children in the country.
The members of the Committee started their review of the Lebanese report by raising questions under the main topics of general measures of implementation of the Convention and definition of the child. They asked, among other things, how the various committees and institutions intended to protect and promote the rights of the child were functioning, particularly the role of the Higher Council for Childhood; how child complaints were lodged; how the various Government agencies allocated resources to child activities; the extent of the effects of the war on children; if there was legislation defining children, such as the age of marriage and for work; the priorities in incorporating the voices of children in the mainstreaming of national policies; if there was a centralized data system; about the status of Palestinian children in Lebanon; about early and consanguine marriages; and the role of non-governmental organizations in promoting child rights.
Responding to the questions, the members of the Lebanese delegation said that the report was prepared at a time when the Government was embarking on a peaceful phase and without many sources of information on the situation of child rights. However, the Government had made every effort to compile the report.
The situation of Palestinian children was related to the war situation, the delegation said. The political, economic and social conditions of the Palestinians was dictated by the general situation of the region. The fact that the situation of Palestinian children in Lebanon was not dealt with in the report was because they themselves had opted not to be included. The Palestinians believed that they had the right to go back to their homeland and to belong to the Palestinian society; and that belief was also shared by the Lebanese Government. Further, most of the services provided to children in the country were taken care of by the private sector and not solely the Government. The war situation did not allow the Government to do more for children, even for Lebanese children.
The average age of marriage for Lebanese women was 28 and 31 for men, the delegation said. The tendency for early marriage had thus evolved within the society. Some cases of early marriages remained despite the personal status code. However, the situation of consanguine and early marriages had improved through campaigns of awareness raising among the population, the delegation added.
During the last decade, 40 to 45 per cent of Lebanon's national gross product had been allocated to public and foreign debt servicing, the delegation said. Because of the lack of resources, the social programmes which might have boosted activities designed for children had not been as fully implemented as desired.
The Ministry of Social Affairs, in collaboration with the private sector, was undertaking a series of reforms of all social aspects affecting children, the delegation said. Through partnership with non-governmental organizations, the Ministry had planned to strengthen institutions that dealt with child rights.
Asked about social and regional disparities, the delegation said that the different characteristics of the regions had been addressed by designing tailored programmes for each region. There was also a regional strategy for southern Lebanon which needed special reconstruction following the destruction that took place because of occupation. Children were able to participate in the Children's Parliament that was placed under the national parliament, the delegation said. Municipal councils also allowed children to participate in their activities through children's councils.
The Committee Experts continued to query the delegation on a number of issues under the main clusters of general principles; civil rights and freedoms; and family environment and alternative care. They asked if children had the right to freedom of expression and to privacy; if severe punishments were handed down against crimes of "honour killings" of children; the cases of incommunicado detention and torture of children; about violence against and sexual abuse of children within the family; the practice of corporal punishment; the deprivation of nationality to children born of foreign fathers and Lebanese mothers; the system used to monitor child adoption; and the nationality of Palestinian children born in camps.