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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
General Assembly
14 October 2009


General Assembly
GA/SHC/3951

          Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fourth General Assembly
Third Committee
12th & 13th Meetings (AM & PM)

URGENT ACTION NEEDED BY WORLD COMMUNITY TO STAMP OUT VIOLENCE AGAINST CHILDREN,

NEWLY APPOINTED SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE TELLS THIRD COMMITTEE

Also Hears from Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict,
As It Begins Multi-Day Debate on Promotion, Protection of Rights of Child


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Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to conclude its discussion on the advancement of women, and to take up the promotion and protection of the rights of children.

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The report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (A/64/254) discusses how children are affected by the changing character and tactics of war.  In many new wars, especially in Asia and Africa, conflict takes place in peripheral areas where access is difficult. Children are increasingly targeted for violence.  The report stresses, as well, the need to tackle the root causes of child soldiering, while also demanding accountability for acts committed by children during armed conflict.  It discusses the need to fight impunity for sexual violence against children of both sexes, saying there must be systematic investigation and prosecution of such crimes at the national level.  There must be more focus on the problem by international justice mechanisms.

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A note by the Secretariat on the promotion and protection of the rights of children (A/64/182) indicates that the Marta Santos Pais of Portugal was appointed Special Representative on violence against children at the level of Assistant Secretary-General, and was to have begun her work in September.

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In the afternoon, the Committee moved to its consideration of the promotion and protection of the rights of children.

Statement by the Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict

RADHIKA COOMARASWAMY, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, said the General Assembly’s engagement and commitment to put the protection of children above partisan politics had been “key” to the work of her Office.  Since Graca Machel’s report on the impact of conflict on children, the Assembly had served as the enabler of a strategic agenda to protect children, with Member States ensuring important advances.

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Statement by the Special Representative on Violence against Children

MARTA SANTOS PAIS, Special Representative on Violence against Children, in her first appearance before the Committee since her appointment, said her agenda would build on the foundation provided by the United Nations Study on Violence against Children, developed under the leadership of Professor Paulo Pinheiro.  The study had helped to challenge the acceptance of violence against children. 

She noted that widely ratified treaties, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the ILO Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, provided the normative foundation for the prevention and elimination of such violence.  It was an area where action was urgently needed; according to UNICEF, more than 85 per cent of children between 2 and 14 years of age experienced physical punishment and/or psychological aggression.  National studies, although limited in number, confirmed similar rates.  Available research suggested that between 500 million and 1.5 billion children endured some form of violence each year.

But, there were gaps in data, she said.  To gain a better understanding of the phenomenon, she suggested joining hands with young people and listening to their views.  “Children express a strong sense of impatience when they voice their deep concern at the very high levels of violence affecting their lives and acknowledge the insufficient steps taken to address it,” she said.  “This is the message we hear time after time.”

She said the mandate of the Special Representative had been established for a period of three years.  Sound funding would be instrumental to ensuring tangible results in that short time, as were solid partnerships with United Nations agencies, human rights bodies and mechanisms, and regional organizations, civil society and children and young people. 

She added that the 12 overarching recommendations of the Study on Violence against Children provided a navigation chart on a possible strategic agenda.  In the immediate future, she would focus on the development of a national strategy in each State and the introduction of a legal ban on all forms of violence against children.  She would also promote the establishment of a national data collection system and research agenda.

Promising change was already taking place in those fields, she said.  At present, 24 countries had a comprehensive and explicit legal ban and many others were working towards the same end.  Several countries had reinforced their legislation to protect children from violence in schools, as well as child trafficking and sexual exploitation, female genital mutilation, and early and forced marriage.

“Strong political will is essential to move this process forward,” she said.  “With so many competing priorities and the increasing difficulty of securing funding at a time of financial and economic crisis, children’s rights and protection concerns run the risk of being placed in a waiting slot.”

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Question Time

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Iran’s delegate stressed that his delegation believed more studies could be made on the causes of violence, including their moral dimensions.  It was, in fact, “high time” that United Nations reports and studies addressed moral issues, especially in their focus on violence against children.  Unfortunately he had not found any specific reference to the armed conflict in the Palestinian lands.  Could Ms. Coomaraswamy’s brief on that, as well?

The representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine thanked Ms. Santos Pais for her advocacy work and asked her for her position on the “Goldstone report”, which was circulated on 15 September.  That report outlined the disproportionate and deliberate attack by Israel on the Palestinian people, including its children.  How would the Special Representative follow up on the report regarding how Palestinian children had been endangered, and how would their protection be ensured moving forward and for good?

The representative of Egypt ...

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Noting that Ms. Coomaraswamy was making her twelfth report, she said her delegation had been looking for a more comprehensive look at the impact of violence against children in armed conflict.  But, it addressed the issue of Palestinian children only superficially.  Why had certain issues been overshadowed in the current report?

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Syria’s representative asked Ms. Santos Pais’s opinion on forms of violence facing children living under occupation that were not included under the Ms. Coomaraswamy’s mandate.  Indeed, she was pleased that concerns of children under foreign occupation had been included under Ms. Santos Pais’s mandate.  To Ms. Coomaraswamy, she remarked on her visits to various places, including the Palestinian territory.  Her report contained summaries of those visits, except the one to the Palestinian territory.  Why was that the case?  The World Safe for Children report had devoted a paragraph on children under occupation, but it tended to be absent from almost all other United Nations documents.

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Responding, Ms. COOOMARAWAMY ...

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Regarding the questions on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, she noted that she had submitted an exhaustive report to the Human Right Council on the grave violations committed against children in Gaza.  That was perhaps one reason why the current report was not exhaustive.  On the “Goldstone report”, she noted that her office had been consulted and had provided information.  The published report was in complete conformity with her office’s findings.  She assured delegations that she would continue to advocate against indiscriminate discrimination and killing of children.  Further, the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories would remain on her radar.

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For information media • not an official record

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