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73rd plenary meeting
Thursday, 13 December 2007, 3 p.m.
In the absence of the President, Mr. Hannesson (Iceland), Vice-President, took the Chair.
The meeting was called to order at 3.15 p.m.
Commemorative High-level Plenary Meeting Devoted to the Follow-up to the Outcome of the Special Session on Children
Agenda item 66 (continued)
Promotion and protection of the rights of children
(b) Follow-up to the outcome of the special session on children
Report of the Secretary-General (A/62/259)
Draft resolution (A/62/L.31)
The Acting President : I now call on His Excellency Mr. Riyad Mansour, chairman of the observer delegation of Palestine.
Mr. Mansour (Palestine): ...
As we gather on the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration and Plan of Action, “A world fit for children” (resolution S-27/2, annex), a review of the situation of children around the world reveals that, while progress has been made in improving the lives of millions of children, unfortunately millions more continue to face serious challenges and hardships as they continue to suffer from poverty, hunger, disease and war. We are thus compelled to recall the appeal made five years ago to put children first; eradicate poverty; leave no child behind; educate every child; care for every child; protect children from harm and exploitation; protect children from war and conflict; combat HIV/AIDS; protect the Earth for children; and listen to children and ensure their participation.
All over the world, children await the fulfilment of the pledges we have made to protect, care and promote a brighter future for them. We must therefore use this occasion to reaffirm our commitment and to redouble our efforts for their realization so that all children may enjoy the inalienable rights to which they are entitled, as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all other relevant instruments of international law.
In light of time limits, we wish to focus on the grave situations of children in armed conflict, including foreign occupation, which affect all aspects of the lives of children who tragically find themselves in such situations. As stated in “A world fit for children”,
In that regard, we recall also the important study of Ms. Graça Machel on the impact of armed conflict on children, which this year underwent a 10-year strategic review and in which it was stated that
“war violates every right of a child — the right to life, the right to be with family and community, the right to health, the right to development … and the right to be nurtured and protected” ( A/51/306, para. 30).
Yet, serious human rights violations and war crimes continue to be committed against children. That must be an issue of priority concern for all, as the damage caused to children today — some of it irreparable — has detrimental short- and long-term consequences for children, women, families and societies as a whole, inevitably impacting future prospects for peace and development. Ending impunity for violations against children is paramount and all efforts must be exerted to ensure their protection, the promotion of their rights, the provision of needed assistance, redress of the injustices done to them and their rehabilitation so as to allow them to become productive members of their societies, contributing to the advancement of their nations.
Sadly, as noted in the strategic review, “many conflicts last longer than the duration of childhood” ( Sadly, as noted in the strategic review, “many conflicts last longer than the duration of childhood” ( A/62/228, para. 5 ). In the case of the Palestinian people, three generations of Palestinian children have lived as refugees, and two generations of Palestinian children in the occupied Palestinian territory have already lived knowing only a harsh, abnormal existence marked by the constant oppression, discrimination, humiliation and crimes of the 40-year Israeli military occupation. The decades of hardship, pressure and fear have left an indelible mark on Palestine’s children, who, in the occupied Palestinian territory alone, constitute over half of the population. As stated by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Coomaraswamy, in a report following her visit to the occupied Palestinian territory in April of this year, there is a palpable sense of loss and a feeling of hopelessness that places the children of the West Bank and Gaza apart from all other situations the Special Representative of the Secretary-General has visited to date.
Palestinian children continue to be the targets of excessive, indiscriminate and lethal force by the Israeli occupying forces. The killing, wounding and maiming of children in Israeli military assaults has brought grief to thousands of families and terrorized and traumatized Palestinian children. Since September 2000, nearly 1,000 Palestinian children have been killed by the occupying forces and over 3,500 have been injured, many permanently disabled. Palestinian children are also among the thousands of civilians being illegally held in Israeli jails or detention centres under inhumane conditions and subject to physical and mental ill-treatment. Palestinian children also continue to suffer from displacement resulting from the occupying forces’ wanton destruction of homes, refugee shelters and infrastructure during assaults on civilian areas; from the hundreds of home demolition orders it has handed down against Palestinian families, particularly in the occupied East Jerusalem area; and from its ongoing unlawful construction of the wall and settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory. All such violations have far-ranging, negative and traumatic consequences for children, requiring serious attention and redress.
In addition, Palestinian children suffer from the denial of humanitarian access, which, as rightly emphasized in the strategic review,
Palestinian children yearn to play, learn and live with their families in a safe, nurturing and positive environment. They yearn also for peace and freedom so that they, too, can enjoy their inalienable human rights and grow to constructively contribute to the future of their nation.
It is our deepest hope that current peace efforts will gain momentum towards the achievement of a just, lasting and peaceful settlement that will bring Palestinian children the joys of a long-awaited peace, living side by side with Israeli children in peace and security. However, the rights and needs of children living in situations of armed conflict, including foreign occupation, cannot be withheld and considered a privilege only for those who live in freedom.
On our part, we enacted in January 2005 the Palestinian Child Rights Law to give priority to children’s rights, and we continue to work cooperatively via official Palestinian institutions with United Nations agencies on the ground and other organizations providing vital assistance to Palestinian children and their families for the betterment of their lives. Yet the international community also has a responsibility to act, in accordance with international law and the declarations it has adopted, to guarantee child rights and needs in all circumstances in tandem with the ongoing struggle to bring an end to the conflict and occupation that has ravaged our region.
I wish to conclude by expressing our gratitude to all members of the international community exerting efforts to support the needs and rights of Palestinian children. We reaffirm our appreciation to the United Nations agencies providing assistance and helping to promote the rights and well-being of Palestinian children, including, among others, UNICEF, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, the United Nations Population Fund and the World Food Programme, to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for her important advocacy efforts and to the many international humanitarian organizations and non-governmental organizations also providing assistance.
In that regard, we also welcome the request by the General Assembly’s Third Committee for the appointment of a special representative on violence against children. Moreover, we urge the international community to continue to support efforts to alleviate the plight of Palestinian children and help them realize their inalienable human rights, so that one day they too can join hands with all children around the globe in celebrating a world truly fit for children.
This record contains the text of speeches delivered in English and of the interpretation of speeches delivered in the other languages. Corrections should be submitted to the original languages only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Service, room C-154A. Corrections will be issued after the end of the session in a consolidated corrigendum.