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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York


Fifty-eighth General Assembly
Third Committee
19th & 20th Meetings (AM & PM)
GA/SHC/3748
21 October 2003

DELEGATIONS STRESS URGENCY OF FIGHTING TRAFFICKING IN CHILDREN, CHILD LABOUR, AS THIRD COMMITTEE CONCLUDES REVIEW OF CHILDREN’S RIGHTS

Draft Resolutions Introduced on Crime Prevention, Drug Control, Family Issues


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Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) continued its consideration of the promotion and protection of children’s rights.

For further background information please see Press Release GA/SHC/3746 of 17 October.

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Statements on Children’s Rights

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RANIA AL HAJ ALI (Syria) said children’s issues were a priority for Syria, and this was reflected in its national action plan.  Her Government had created a Committee for the Child, which aimed to promote the rights of children.  Syria had signed the Optional Protocol on children in armed conflict, as well as the protocol on trafficking in children, child prostitution and child pornography.  It had also acceded to International Labour Organization measures and was cooperating with UNICEF to eliminate child labour.

She said her Government’s health care strategy was based on the expansion of early health care, especially in remote rural areas, with a focus on improving the quality of life for women and children.  Compulsory education and health care were provided free of charge.  There were also education courses designed to introduce the importance of services for children.

She noted that despite such achievements, the Government had been unable to help all Syrian children since many of them were living under Israeli occupation in the Golan Heights and suffered every day from abuses by the occupying forces.  Children in the occupied territories were denied educational opportunities and were routinely displaced from their homes as a result of property confiscation by the occupying forces.  She reiterated Syria’s regret that the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict had to date been unable to visit the occupied territories and to produce a report on acts perpetrated by Israeli forces.

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ZE’EV LURIA (Israel) said protecting children and providing them with the best possible opportunities in life, was at the very top of the agenda for all parents.  The Government of Israel had enacted more than 20 comprehensive bills relating to child rights.  Every child in Israel was guaranteed the right to health insurance, as well as the right to education.  Furthermore, the correlation between children’s rights and human rights had been established.

The Israeli Government conducted its policy on these issues in cooperation with the effective NGOs that worked in Israel on the rights of the child, he said.  In light of Israel’s undertaking to implement the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a public committee had been established to examine general principles concerning children and the law, and their implementation in legislation.

To advance equality between children from different sectors, the State had a double duty, he said.  First, it must prohibit discrimination of any kind between various children.  Second, it must take all appropriate measures to ensure the advancement of equality.  Israel was a multicultural society, and attention must be given to cultural differences in order to respect the cultural characteristics of children from different sectors.  To respect and encourage social diversity in Israel was the guiding principle of the Government.

Israel was facing a particularly difficult security situation, with Palestinian terrorist organizations launching suicide bombings murdering innocent citizens, including many children, indiscriminately.  The death of any child – Palestinian or Israeli – was a terrible tragedy, he said.  Due to these attacks, Israel had been forced to develop extensive expertise in order to deal with trauma, as it affected children.  It was imperative that children were not drawn into this conflict.

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NADYA RASHEED, Observer for Palestine, said each year, millions of children suffered the negative and debilitating consequences of armed conflict.  Palestinian children knew all too well the grave effects that conflict situations imposed, in particular foreign occupation, for they had lived their entire lives under Israeli occupation – a brutal and cruel occupation.  This occupation had robbed them of their most basic and inalienable human rights.  The impact of the Israeli occupation had been extremely detrimental, negatively affecting their well-being, safety and development.  Palestinian children aged 18 and under represented 53 per cent of the population.  Forty-two per cent of these children lived in refugee camps, commonly the sites of Israel’s concentrated and brutal military attacks. 

Palestinian children had suffered both physical and psychological trauma as a result of the incessant violent military assaults, human rights abuses and home demolitions, she said.  The continuous traumas and hardships endured by Palestinian children – the future of the nation – would have lasting and devastating effects.  The intensified Israeli military presence in Palestinian villages, towns and refugee camps and the prevalence of violent incidents in close proximity to children had even encroached upon the last remaining symbols of safety – the home, school and the family. 

In addition, Palestinian children had extensively suffered injuries as a result of excessive and indiscriminate force used by the occupying forces, she said.  Many of these children had been permanently disfigured or disabled, living with constant reminders of the cruelty and brutality of this oppressive occupation.  Palestinian children needed to be free to live peacefully in their own independent State, enjoying all the rights to which they as children were entitled.  She urged the international community and this Committee to take real and necessary measures to end Israel’s aggression against a captive Palestinian population and its children. 

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S. SHAHID HUSAIN, of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) said that out of the 140 countries that had, reportedly, taken concrete actions to translate commitments into national action plans or had integrated them into existing plans and policies, a substantial number of them were OIC member States.  The OIC shared the view expressed by Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, that while there had been significant increases in advocacy and awareness, the situation for children remained grave and precarious in war zones.  Among the OIC members, the repercussions of conflict had been visible in Somalia, Sierra Leone, the Israeli occupied Palestinian territories, the Syrian Golan and in the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir.

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Statements in Exercise of Right of Reply

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A representative of Israel responded to a statement made by the Observer for Palestine in the exercise of right of reply, and said that unfortunately, since the outbreak of Palestinian violence, Israel was facing a difficult situation of Palestinian children and youth being used in acts of violence against innocent Israelis.  Palestinian children had also been used as human shields protecting terrorists.  Such abuse of children should be of great concern to the international community, yet, the Palestinian Authority had taken no action to end the abuse of the Palestinian children by terrorists. 

The problem was education in the Palestinian areas, with textbooks inciting hatred towards Israelis, he said.  More than 100 Israeli children and youth had been killed, and many more had been wounded and maimed permanently since the outbreak of the violence.  Palestinian and Israeli children were growing up in a region of conflict. 

He pointed out that these were the children who would design the future of the region.  The death of any child  -- Palestinian or Israeli – was a tragedy.  The Palestinian Authority must put an end to this cynical use of children.  Israel had urged time and again that children must not be drawn into the conflict. 

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The Observer for Palestine, exercising her right to reply, said that the kind of rhetoric just expressed by Israel represented nothing but deeply ingrained racism on the part of the occupying force.  Blaming the victim of the violence as opposed to the real perpetrators of violence was a mere attempt to dehumanize the Palestinian people. 

She stressed that Palestinian children had been dominated in every way and could not expected to feel happy about the occupation.  Hateful feelings were not genetic but were socially constructed.  In the case of Palestinian children, their feelings of hate could only be explained by the continuing Israeli occupation. 

The policy of the Palestinian Authority was that it was the Israeli occupation and the destruction of three Palestinian generations that had led to the suicide bombings, she said.  Israel must not use its own victims to justify its policies of occupation, oppression and aggression.

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