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Human Rights Council starts General Debate on all human rights, including the Right to Development

Human Rights Council  
MORNING

8 March 2013

Hears Presentation of Report on Private Military and Security Companies, Concludes Dialogue on Violence against Children and Sale of Children

The Human Rights Council this morning heard a presentation on the report of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the activities of private military and security companies and started a general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.  It also concluded its interactive dialogue on violence against children and the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and observed International Women’s Day.

Abdul Minty, Chairperson of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the activities of private military and security companies, presented the annual report of the Working Group and said that in the course of its session in 2012, the Working Group addressed difficult and complex issues and noted existing gaps and areas of concern in relation to the activities of private military and security companies.  The recommendations to the Human Rights Council included, inter alia, the consideration of the possibility of an international regulatory framework, including the option of elaborating a legally binding instrument.

The Council then started its general debate on all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, in which speakers raised human rights issues such as universal and non-discriminatory access to basic services, freedom of expression and freedom of the media and the situation of human rights defenders.  Other areas discussed included the right to development, preventing and combating sexual violence in conflict situations, combating discrimination on all grounds, promoting gender equality and abolition of the death penalty. 

The following delegations took the floor during the general debate: Ireland on behalf of the European Union, Bahrain on behalf of the Arab Group, Croatia on behalf of a group of States, Singapore on behalf of a group of States, Barbados on behalf of a group of States, South Africa on behalf of the African Group, United States, Argentina, Switzerland, Pakistan, Spain and Venezuela.

At the end of the meeting, the Human Rights Council observed International Women’s Day by hearing statements from representatives of the European Union and CIVICUS and viewing a video recorded at the Panel on “The Power of Empowered Women” organized on 26 February by a core group consisting of ambassadors of Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Qatar, Romania, United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union, acting on behalf of 40 women Ambassadors to the United Nations. 

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence against children and the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.  The two mandate holders presented their reports yesterday and a summary of their comments can be found here.

Marta Santos Pais, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence against children, in her closing remarks said that the world knew how to prevent violence against children effectively; prevention saved money and investments in child protection reduced social inequalities and increased social cohesion.  States should have in place a comprehensive agenda with clear coordination mechanisms; they should promote legislation and focus attention on universal access to social protection and measures aiming to improve the social integration of families in order to further the fight against violence against children.

In concluding remarks, Najat Maalla M’jid, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, welcomed the strong efforts for regional cooperation among States and noted with satisfaction the events planned, including the World Congress on Child Labour.  Sex tourism involving children was highly linked to prostitution, and very often trafficking and sex tourism were closely linked.  Therefore, the involvement of chambers of industry and of tourism and travel federations in child protection policies was important.

Speaking in the clustered interactive dialogue were the delegations of Argentina, Sudan, Thailand, Syria, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Belarus, Estonia, Benin, International Labour Organization, Burkina Faso, Kuwait, Mexico, Cuba, Slovakia, Slovenia, Togo and Libya.

The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Save the Children International in a joint statement, International Catholic Child Bureau, Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development, Pax Romana, Union of Arab Jurists in a joint statement, Liberation and African Development Link.

The Human Rights Council will reconvene at 3 p.m. this afternoon, to resume its general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.

Interactive Dialogue with Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children and Special Rapporteur on Sale of Children

Argentina said that the approval of the law on the comprehensive protection of children in 2005 ushered a new era in Argentina, and children were now recognized by law as subjects.  Regarding the law on the protection against violence, it protected the right of girls, boys and adolescents from being subjected to violent, discriminatory and harassing treatment, torture, abuse, neglect, sexual exploitation, trafficking or from being kept in degrading or cruel conditions.  The law also provided for the stripping of parental authority when that was necessary.  An appropriate treatment of boys and girls was the only way to uphold their integrity and ensure that those close to them cared for them.    

Sudan attached special importance to the protection of all children from abuse, exploitation or negligence.  Under the Child Act of 2010 numerous mechanisms had been established, including the National Council of Child Care responsible for devising national strategies for the protection of children.  Specialized courts had also been established all over Sudan.  Moreover, the State had set up a programme to ban the circumcision of girls, which had since decreased significantly.  Awareness-raising campaigns and informative training workshops were also organized.  Sudan remained committed to combating violence against children.

Thailand stressed that the ratification and implementation of core treaties on child rights was vital in providing a legal basis for tackling violence against children.  Efforts to combat violence against children must be guided by a child-sensitive approach and required multi-agency and cross-regional cooperation.  Regarding child sex tourism, Thailand believed that closer cooperation between State authorities and relevant stakeholders including the private and tourism sectors should be further encouraged.  Thailand had implemented the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism with cooperation from government agencies.   

Syria said that the report and study of the Special Representative on violence against children unfortunately did not refer to the dangerous forms of violence against children perpetrated by Israeli forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  Syria called for the inclusion of the question of children under Israeli occupation in any future study or report.  Syria noted that the current Government was facing a challenge since children were victims of practices by armed terrorist groups in the country, and called for pressure to be placed on countries that financed and supported the terrorist groups in Syria. 

Norway noted with interest the point of the Special Representative on violence against children about countering the risks associated with the use of new information and communication technologies, and asked the Special Representative to elaborate on what measures could be useful in that regard, particularly as policy-makers had to find the balance between protection of children and children’s right to information.  Norway agreed that the socio-economic determinants that aggravated the risk of neglect, maltreatment and abuse had to be addressed.

Saudi Arabia said that the question of the sale of children and violence against children was an important and urgent question and that there was a need to multiply efforts at the international level.   Saudi Arabia had taken an extensive list of measures, including adopting a law that prohibited all forms of violence against children and a law to combat the sale of children.  Based on its religious and moral values and in respect for treaties and conventions, Saudi Arabia considered the sale of children a question of prime importance that required the increased interest of international organizations, including the Council. 

Belarus said that every year the crime of child prostitution and child pornography affected two million children worldwide and the income generated by those criminal activities reached more than $ 20 billion a year.  Sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography was not only a child rights issue, but also a problem for international security.  Belarus called on all concerned countries to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur and positively respond to her request for a country visit, particularly to Canada.

Estonia agreed on the importance of having a state policy and legal framework in place for the protection of the rights of the child and that the main challenge remained coordination among different sectors.  It was indispensable to address different manifestations of violence against children throughout the cycle of a child’s age.  Violence on the Internet could have devastating consequences and Estonia asked the Special Rapporteur about her views on tackling this form of violence against children.

Benin said that humanity was having difficulty in eradicating all forms of violence against children and the scourge of the sale of children and child prostitution.  On its part, Benin had acceded to all relevant international instruments, had developed several national strategies for combating human trafficking and was in the process of strengthening its legal arsenal for the protection of the child.  Benin noted that the expertise and resources required for the implementation of measures contained in international instruments were often lacking in developing countries.

International Labour Organization said that the International Labour Organization Convention on the worst forms of child labour 182 now counted 177 ratifications, which gave strong support to the promotion of the relevant international instruments.  The World Day against Child Labour was going to be celebrated on 12 June 2013 with the theme “No to child labour in domestic work”.  The International Labour Organization’s tripartite structure gave it a special advantage in addressing sectoral issues such as tourism, while it also looked forward to joining forces with the private sector in tackling child sex tourism.

Burkina Faso said that it had taken note of the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations and expressed concern about the number of children who were victims of sexual abuse in the context of tourism, which was due to the non-existence of appropriate and effective legislation in States.  Burkina Faso was a party to the main relevant international instruments, and several provisions in the country’s criminal code guaranteed the rights of the child.  Government agencies worked closely with non-governmental organizations to prevent the physical abuse of children.

Kuwait said that Kuwait’s Constitution guaranteed the rights of the child and made the family unit the basis of the community.  Having adhered to numerous Conventions, Kuwait fulfilled its obligations in line with its commitments.  Children had to be protected from juvenile delinquency.  Kuwait’s penal code had aggravated the sentence for perpetrators of violence against children if the perpetrator was one of the family or had guardianship over the child victim.  Protection from violence against children was guaranteed by several legal protection and accountability mechanisms.

Mexico said that Mexico was particularly interested by the proposal to enhance the legal protection of children above and beyond the legal banning of various manifestations of violence.  Beyond this, it was in everyone’s interest to tackle the root causes and risk factors that contributed to such violence.  Mexico had recently adopted a Federal Law on justice for adolescents.  Its legal framework also took into account the various development stages of the child.  Could the Special Representative on violence against children explain how she planned to address the new factors of violence identified in her report?

Cuba said that prevention and programmes of national action to address violence against children were important.  Cuba agreed that children who grew up in poverty had less access to quality health services and there was a need for protection mechanisms for those children.  There was also a need to look at underlying causes and to adopt urgent measures tackling the real causes of the phenomenon of child sex tourism.  Despite the adverse consequence of the United States’ blockade, Cuba had achieved progress in the application of the rights of children. 

Slovakia completely agreed with the Special Representative’s assertion that no violence against children was justifiable and that all violence could be prevented.  Regarding the comment in the report about the ratification and effective implementation of the Third Optional Protocol, in her view, how did the Special Representative see this instrument as a contributing to her future work vis-à-vis the scope of her mandate?  What steps could the Special Rapporteur recommend to address access to children via advanced technologies, in relation to sexual tourism?

Slovenia welcomed the progress achieved in combating violence against children and noted that much still remained to be done, particularly in translating existing legal and policy frameworks into practice.  What were the best approaches to effectively tackle violence among children in school settings?  Effectively tackling the issue of child sexual tourism required cooperation of different stakeholders on different levels, said Slovenia and asked the Special Rapporteur what could be done to strengthen the role of regional organizations and improve cross-regional cooperation.

Togo said that the effective coordination between many actors was necessary to eradicate violence against children.  Female genital mutilation was a genuine violation of the rights of girls and women.  Togo had formulated policies to protect them from this harmful practice and had established reporting centres with trained staff to receive complaints and assist victims.  As a result, the prevalence rate of female genital mutilation had been reduced from 20 per cent in 1996 to two per cent in 2012.

Libya that said since joining the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Libya had taken extensive measures to enshrine in national legislation and policy provisions and measures aiming to protect the rights of the child.  Many children were killed during the old regime and the new Government had undertaken measures to improve children’s health and reorganize schools, and was taking other measures to broaden services for children.

Save the Children International, in a joint statement, stressed the importance of protecting children from abuse and degrading treatment.  The well-being of children was closely linked to the well-being of society.  By 2030 all countries should ensure that all children lived in an environment free of violence and outside conflict.  Specific goals needed to be set up at the international level and comprehensive national mechanisms should be set up to promote the protection of children without discrimination.  The allocation of sufficient resources to that goal was crucial.    

International Catholic Child Bureau said that the central financing of the mandate on violence against children should not hinder States from making voluntary contributions to the mandate.  The results of a recent world survey showed that much work needed to be done to promote the protection of children from violence.  States should be convinced to facilitate access to victims and to help the reintegration of victims, which until now was primarily the work carried out by non-governmental organizations.  How and by whom should a global study be conducted about child sex tourism?  

Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development said that the transfer of 103 children to France from Chad had been shown to be deportation of orphans for the purpose of adoption, and called on the international community to condemn the French President’s actions in that regard.  Also, it had been shown that the organization “Arche de Zoe” was not among the French charitable organizations recognized as working in Darfur.  The French judiciary had punished those responsible but the victims were still awaiting compensation for the damage which they had suffered.    

Pax Romana drew attention to increasing juvenile violence in India.  Pax Romana had received six cases of rape against Dalit and Adivasi girls.  Families of victims lived under trauma, fear and the burden of social stigma, without access to justice.  How could the mandate better protect children from religious minorities from such violence?  Pax Romana called on India to take immediate and effective measures in this regard.

Union of Arab Jurists, in a joint statement, said that in Iraq three million children were living in poverty and were extremely vulnerable to violence.  Many had fallen into the hands of traffickers.  Over the past 10 years, tens of thousands of girls had been trafficked.  There was no prosecution of criminals engaged in such practices and little support for the victims. 

Liberation said that violence against children was a phenomenon that happened in many South Asian countries.  Poverty and lack of education and awareness were some of the root causes of the increased levels of violence.  Liberation requested the Human Rights Council to put into action the findings of the report and strongly urged South Asian countries to critically address the issue of violence as a priority.

African Technology Development Link said that because of their vulnerability and innocence, children in armed conflict were converted into tools of destruction.  The Taliban were using orphans as combatants and even suicide bombers.  Adjustment to normal life after such experiences was impossible.  In Pakistan, children were participating in honour crimes and were indoctrinated in religious hatred.

Concluding Remarks

MARTA SANTOS PAIS, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence against children, in her closing remarks thanked all delegations for their efforts in addressing violence against children and for the very important information about recent developments in law, policy and institutional architecture to ensure that children were guarded from the risk of violence in their lives.  Violence was a cross-cutting concern and compromised all rights of the child.  It could be prevented and the world knew enough to do it effectively; preventing violence saved money, while investments in child protection reduced social inequalities and increased social cohesion.  Legislation was important in moving the agenda forward, but was not the only contribution that was needed: further progress was not possible without a change in attitudes and perceptions.  Turning to questions asked during the interactive dialogue, Ms. Pais spoke about good practices and mentioned the example of Sweden, where early adoption of legislation prohibiting all forms of violence against children had contributed to changing attitudes and resulted in the very minimal use of violence today; most parents found the use of violence to discipline children unacceptable.

Concerning the remaining gaps in combating violence against children, the Special Representative reminded delegations of the crucial importance of having an agenda on combating violence against children, without which the progress would happen in small steps and without a clear direction.  Coordination was indispensable and the endeavour would fail without a high-level entity to lead the efforts.  In terms of other measures, Ms. Pais noted that less that five per cent of children in the world had protection enshrined in legislation and more needed to be done in this regard.  Children most affected by poverty, marginalization and social exclusion were more likely to be victims of violence at home, school and society and more needed to be invested in social inclusion; universal access to social protection and measures aiming to improve social integration of families were crucial in this regard.  Younger and younger children had access to the Internet and other forms of media which were often used without parent supervision; more research needed to be done on this particular issue and the office of the Special Representative would be organizing a thematic workshop to discuss this phenomenon.

NAJAT MAALLA M’JID, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, in concluding remarks said that she welcomed the strong efforts for regional cooperation among States and noted with satisfaction the events planned, including the World Congress on Child Labour.  Regarding the matter of data, she said that the data in her report had been derived from surveys carried out by a number of bodies, including non-governmental organizations.  The data was not disaggregated and in some cases cooperation between police and justice had not been easy.  It was important to have a legal framework that was fully comprehensive and included extraterritoriality, and it was crucial for the legal framework to be enforced properly.  It was also necessary for police to exchange information at the international level and to update regularly the list of sexual predators.  Families should be given information and made aware so that they would gain a better knowledge of the laws and change their mindsets.  Sex tourism involving children was highly linked to prostitution, and very often trafficking and sex tourism were closely linked.  Therefore, the involvement of chambers of industry and of tourism and travel federations in child protection policies was important.  States organizing events, especially sports events, should call on companies which protected the rights of the child to participate in awareness-raising campaigns.

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the open-ended intergovernmental working group to consider the possibility of elaborating an international regulatory framework on the regulation, monitoring and oversight of the activities of private military and security companies on its second session (A/HRC/22/41).  The report contains a summary of the second session of the open-ended intergovernmental working group, which took place from 13 to 17 August 2012, together with its conclusions and recommendations.

Presentation of Report of Working Group on an International Regulatory Framework for the Activities of Private Military and Security Companies

ABDUL MINTY, Chairperson of the Working Group on an international regulatory framework for the activities of private, military and security companies, presenting the report said that Resolution 15/26 mandated the Working Group to hold one session of five working days a year for a period of two years and to then present its recommendations to the Council.  The first session was held from 23 to 27 May 2011.  The second session took place from 13 to 17 August 2012.  The issues addressed during the course of the two sessions were difficult and complex.  In spite of those complexities, discussion made clear that there was agreement among participants on the common goal of protecting human rights in the context of private, military and security company activities, and of ensuring accountability for abuses where these occurred.  Important progress was achieved during the two sessions, thanks to the open and cooperative engagement of delegations and a high degree of commitment by participants.  In particular, the Working Group noted existing gaps and areas of concern in relation to the promotion and protection of human rights regarding activities of the private, military and security companies industry.  A range of existing and potential options for addressing these areas of concern at the domestic and international levels were identified, which would require further discussion.  Some of the recommendations adopted for the Council’s consideration included the following:  the continuation of substantive discussions in the Intergovernmental Working Group with the participation of experts and all relevant stakeholders for a further two year period; the consideration of the human rights aspects of, inter alia, accountability and the provision of appropriate remedies for victims; to distinguish between the activities of private security companies and private military companies as well as other possible activity relevant to the issue; and the consideration of the possibility of an international regulatory framework, including the option of elaborating a legally binding instrument. 

General Debate on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, including the Right to Development

Ireland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, reiterated the European Union’s commitment to a robust and effective multilateral human rights system which could call all States to account.  The European Union would continue to promote economic, social and cultural rights and ensure universal and non-discriminatory access to basic services.  It was committed to actively safeguarding freedom of expression and freedom of media, to combating discrimination on all grounds, promoting gender equality and abolishing the death penalty.

Bahrain, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, welcomed the efforts of all agencies and organizations working in economic, social and cultural fields and said that there was an urgent need to achieve an international system that was fair and equitable in the distribution of wealth and benefits.  The right to development was of crucial importance, but it was not yet a reality for many.  Countries must implement their obligations to achieve the right to development which was linked to all other rights and freedoms.

Croatia, speaking on behalf of a group of States, said that stronger efforts were needed to increase awareness about the rights of women and girls and particularly about the unacceptability of gender-based violence.  Efforts to prevent and combat sexual violence in armed conflict must be strengthened and it remained crucial to bring perpetrators to justice.  Another situation that deserved action was that of children affected by armed conflict, marginalized children and children in conflict with the law.

Singapore, speaking on behalf of a group of States, said that there was no international consensus on imposing a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.  Every country had the sovereign right to decide its own criminal justice system, including whether to maintain the death penalty, and had to judge what was best for its people.  Respect for human rights must include respect for differences in systems and practices, and the Council should not advance the contested agenda of advocating the abolition of the death penalty.  

Barbados, speaking on behalf of a group of States, said that the draft resolution was not about the rights of the child and that it disingenuously misconstrued the object and purpose of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  It sought to advance a narrow agenda to abolish the death penalty by drawing a fallacious link between the rights of the child and the application of the death penalty.  Barbados believed that if a panel was formed it should respect the letter and spirit of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

South Africa, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that more time was needed for in-depth discussions in order to find common ground for action.  Domestic mechanisms, although important and necessary, were not sufficient to address the complexity of the issue, especially given the transnational character of the matter.  The African Group supported the extension of the mandate of the Intergovernmental Working Group and hoped that deliberations would take place in a constructive environment.   

United States said that there was little doubt that human rights defenders were facing increasingly grave challenges to their work.  All had to work together to support human rights defenders who were demanding that Governments uphold the freedoms and human rights that the Council promoted.  The United States also said that children and other vulnerable groups deserved utmost attention and protection.

Argentina appreciated the emphasis of the High Commissioner on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests.  It was not only sufficient to have an appropriate legal framework but ongoing efforts were also necessary for the effective implementation of those rights.  Indeed, they could not but do so, or they would be rejecting their history and experiences.

Switzerland was strongly committed to ensuring that private military and security companies respected international humanitarian and human rights law.  The Montreux Document and the International Code of Conduct for private security companies were aimed at improving the protection of potential victims in this regard. A conference would be organised in December 2013 in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross to take stock of the situation.

Pakistan said that the people of Jammu and Kashmir had been denied their right to self-determination and lived under occupation, with human rights violations taking place on a daily basis.  This required the attention of the Human Rights Council.  Pakistan strongly urged that the issue of Jammu and Kashmir be resolved in accordance with the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions and in keeping with the aspirations of the Kashmiri people.

Spain reiterated the universality of human rights and said that obstacles impeding the rights of women must be removed; gender-based violence and gender-based discrimination must be eradicated.  The situation of women with disabilities required the special attention of the international community and this was on Spain’s agenda; Spain created policies to ensure access to opportunities for women with disabilities.  Achieving universal abolition of the death penalty was another priority of Spain.

Venezuela reaffirmed the need for the Human Rights Council to adopt a binding regulatory framework for private military and security companies.  This would prevent human rights violations by those companies and improve human rights situations.  The existing documents in this regard, such as the Montreux Document,
did not have sufficient provisions to hold those companies accountable.  The issue was the privatization of the war and Venezuela strongly supported that the Intergovernmental Working Group consider the possibility of elaborating an international regulatory framework on the regulation, monitoring and oversight of the activities of private military and security companies.

Special Event on International Women’s Day
         
REMIGIUSZ A. HENCZEL, President of the Human Rights Council, said that a lot had been achieved in terms of promoting women’s rights and empowering women in recent decades, particularly in relation to the right to vote.  Women played a crucial role in today’s world. 

A video was screened; it was recorded at the Panel on “The Power of Empowered Women” organized on 26 February by a core group consisting of ambassadors of Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Qatar, Romania, United Kingdom, United States, and European Union acting on behalf of 40 women Ambassadors to the United Nations. 
 
European Union, speaking on behalf of women ambassadors that were part of the core group responsible for organizing the Power of Empowered Women event, said that women were the leading characters of their own lives and were changing a historical paradigm.  In celebrating International Women’s Day, notwithstanding the suffering of millions of women and girls around the world, it was hoped that the event could be the starting point towards ensuring that equality for women, girls, men and boys could be a reality. 

CIVICUS said women’s rights were human rights.  The world conference in Vienna had coined this milestone recognition.  The international community had come a long way; however, violence against women was still rampant.  Universality and indivisibility, freedom from want and fear, were still amiss for many women around the world.  The glass ceiling looked more like a glass pyramid.

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For use of the information media; not an official record