Header image for news printout

Human Rights Council holds interactive dialogue with Special Rapporteurs on Cultural Rights and on Sale of Children

Human Rights Council 
MIDDAY

12 March 2014

The Human Rights Council in its midday meeting held a clustered interactive dialogue on the reports of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and the Special Rapporteur on cultural rights.
 
Maalla M’jid, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, said the changing nature of the sale and sexual exploitation of children and the growing scale of these phenomena revealed worrying trends.  Millions of children worldwide were still victims of sexual exploitation and see their childhood stolen.  The sexual exploitation of children on the Internet was increasing at an alarming rate.  Trafficking of children for sexual exploitation was experiencing exponential growth and sex tourism involving children was rampant in the world, with destination countries changing rapidly.  Justice was not sufficiently adapted to children, or to tackle corruption and impunity.  
 
The Special Rapporteur on cultural rights, Farida Shaheed, focused on the issue of historical and memorial narratives in divided societies, including post-conflict ones, in her report, the presentation of which was read out by Ms. M’jid in her absence.  All post-conflict and divided societies had to consider the need of establishing a delicate balance between forgetting and remembering.  Memorialization should be understood as processes that provided the necessary space for those affected to articulate their diverse narratives in culturally meaningful ways. 
 
Concerning the sale of children, speakers agreed on the need to look at the risk factors that exacerbated the vulnerability of children and asked the Special Rapporteur about the most important elements of child-sensitive justice systems with regard to victims of sexual abuse and exploitation.  States were urged to continue their efforts to adopt comprehensive approaches that contributed to building child protection systems, to address the issue of child marriage and to take into account the key role of the family.

In the discussion on cultural rights, delegations said that the principle of sharing memory must create space for victims of human rights violations to share their accounts and allow for recognition of societal responsibility for violations.  Successful memorialisation processes were strengthened by environments in which Governments fully respected freedoms of opinion and expression, association and assembly, collaborated with and promoted the participation of civil society and all interested parties.
 
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar and Benin spoke as concerned countries.
 
Speaking in the interactive dialogue were Yemen, on behalf of the Arab Group, European Union, Morocco, Argentina, Algeria, Egypt, China, United Nations Children’s Fund, Switzerland, Iran, Australia, Burkina Faso, United States, Thailand, Estonia, Serbia, Cuba, Honduras, Indonesia, Malaysia, France, Belarus, Botswana, Venezuela, Costa Rica, on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, Brazil and Costa Rica.
 
The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and Consultative Council of Human Rights of the Kingdom of Morocco also took the floor, as did the following non-governmental organizations: Associazione Comunità Papa Giovanni XXIII, International Buddhist Relief Organization, Liberation, International Catholic Child Bureau, Chinese People Association for Peace and Disarmament, Human Rights Now, Terre des Hommes Federation Internationale, Franciscans International and Human Rights Advocates.
 
The Human Rights Council is holding full day of meetings today.  Its next meeting will be a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Representatives of the Secretary-General on violence against children and on children in armed conflict.
 
Documentation
 
The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights (A/HRC/25/49).
 
The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights on the Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina       (A/HRC/25/49/Add.1).
 
The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Najat Maalla M’jid on the Mission to Kyrgyzstan (15 to 26 April 2013) (A/HRC/25/48/Add.1).
 
The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Najat Maalla M’jid on the Mission to Madagascar (A/HRC/25/48/Add.2).
 
The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Najat Maalla M’jid on the Mission to Benin (Only available in French: A/HRC/25/48/Add.3).

Presentation of the report of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
 
NAJAT MAALLA M’DJID, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, introducing her sixth and final report of her mandate, said the changing nature of the sale and sexual exploitation of children and the growing scale of those phenomena revealed worrying trends.  The problem was better known today, thanks to the combined efforts of many partners, but millions of children worldwide were still victims of sexual exploitation and saw their childhood stolen.  The sexual exploitation of children on the Internet was increasing at an alarming rate - images of sexually exploited children were in the millions, the images were increasingly violent and the children younger and younger; while online solicitations for sex such as grooming were increasing dramatically.  Trafficking of children for sexual exploitation was experiencing exponential growth, primarily affecting girls.  Sex tourism involving children was rampant in the world with destination countries changing rapidly.  With regard to child prostitution and the sale of children, including for illegal adoption, organ transfer and forced labour, the lack of quantitative data did not mean that those phenomena were declining.
 
The protection of children was still insufficient, the Special Rapporteur said, and there was a lack of mechanisms for remedies that were accessible to children.  Justice was not sufficiently adapted to children, or to tackle corruption and impunity.  Preventive measures did not take into account all risk factors.  The Special Rapporteur recommended legislation be strengthened, policies be reviewed to take into account the evolution of phenomena in an increasingly connected world.  Calling for strengthened support for her mandate, the Special Rapporteur the importance of formulating concrete recommendations focused on action.  Because of the multidimensional nature of the sale and sexual exploitation of children and its links with other phenomena such as migration and the development of the Internet, it was important that the mandate cooperated not only with human rights and child rights mechanisms but also the private sector, particularly Internet and telecommunications, and tourism and travel service providers.
 
Regarding her country missions, the Special Rapporteur noted measures by Kyrgyzstan to strengthen its legal framework and protection policies, particularly through adoption of a Children’s Code.  She encouraged full adoption of all laws and policies, strengthening of the role of the Ombudsman and fight against impunity.  During her mission to Madagascar the Special Rapporteur found that sexual exploitation and tourism had grown exponentially since 2009, and called for institutional capacity building, inter-sectorial coordination and establishment of socio-economic alternatives.  During her mission to Benin she noted the scale of sexual exploitation of children.  The great vulnerability of children due to poverty and certain prejudicial social practices was not fully known, she said, but she praised reforms already initiated.
 
Presentation of the report of the Special Rapporteur on cultural rights
 
FARIDA SHAHEED, Special Rapporteur on cultural rights, in a presentation given by NAJAT MAALLA M’JID, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, due to her absence from today’s meeting for reasons beyond her control, said her report focused on the issue of historical and memorial narratives in divided societies, including post-conflict societies.  Since the establishment of the mandate, and especially during field visits, Ms. Shaheed had repeatedly received testimonies stressing the crucial importance of historical and memorial narratives as cultural heritage and for shaping contemporary collective identities.  Entire cultural and symbolic landscapes were designed through memorials and museums reflecting and shaping social interactions, people’s self-identities, and their perception of other groups. The importance of ensuring a multi-perspective approach to narratives of the past was stressed, and it was recommended that history teaching and memorial practices fostered critical thought, analytic learning and debate.  It was further recommended that transitional justice strategies and reconciliation policies included cultural rights, as well as promoting cultural interaction, understanding between people and communities, and shared perspectives about the past.
 
All post-conflict and divided societies faced the need to establish a delicate balance between forgetting and remembering.  It was crucial that memorialization processes did not function as empty rhetoric commemorating the dead while losing sight of the reasons and the context for past tragedies and obscuring contemporary challenges.  Memorialization should be understood as processes that provided the necessary space for those affected to articulate their diverse narratives in culturally meaningful ways.  Ms. Maalla M’jid also referred to Ms. Shaheed’s mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina in May 2013, a country which faced numerous and difficult challenges in terms of memorializing the past.  Ms. Shaheed recommended that steps envisaged in the transitional justice strategy were implemented, in particular the enactment of a framework law and policy at State level to regulate issues related to memorialization processes.
 
Statements by Concerned Countries
 
Kyrgyzstan, speaking as a concerned country, expressed appreciation for the report of the Special Rapporteur, which acknowledged the efforts undertaken in the field of the rights of the child.  The report also noted positive changes that had taken place since 2010.  Kyrgyzstan had a predominantly young population, with over one million children or 38.1 per cent of the population and, for that reason, had extended an invitation to the Special Rapporteur.  Kyrgyzstan had implemented a process to transpose international commitments into national legislation, and the relevant legal and administrative codes, to ensure there was no conflict between international mechanisms and standards and the domestic legal framework.
 
Madagascar, speaking as a concerned country, was aware of its duty to establish a framework for the protection of children and appreciated the efforts and support from the Office of the High Commissioner and the Special Rapporteur.  While people in Madagascar held children in high regard, as the Special Rapporteur must have realised during her visit, challenges remained, such as poverty, and physically and morally degrading conditions, among others.  Half of the population of Madagascar was illiterate.  The Government had cited as a national priority the rule of law and the fight against impunity and corruption.  Education was now free of charge, ensuring that children were not made ‘easy prey’ and that measure was in line with her recommendations.  Madagascar had also joined relevant international instruments to protect children and ensure the effective application of the law. 
 
Benin, speaking as a concerned country, said it was grateful for the visit of the Special Rapporteur, who had been able to meet with all relevant actors; a participatory approach which made it possible to identify the challenges faced by Benin.  The right to development was a priority and, in that context, measures to protect the rights of children had been taken, such as the ratification of a number of international instruments.  A free of charge help line for children to report incidents of abuse, the organisation of child-orientated activities by authorities and civil society, the creation of game centres for children, and an information tool against child pornography were among other measures taken.  More needed to be done and the Government was ready, with the support of the international community, to implement the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur.
 
Bosnia and Herzegovina, speaking as a concerned country about the visit of the Special Rapporteur on cultural rights, stressed the importance of addressing discrimination and intolerance, in particular in the context of education, and highlighted the importance of education in the process of reconciliation.  Noting that more needed to be done, Bosnia and Herzegovina was pleased that its achievements were recognised in the report of the Special Rapporteur on cultural rights.  Concerning the protection of national monuments, decisions were enforced in accordance with the law, by a special commission, and responsibility for enforcement lay with entity governments.  Regarding minority rights, in particular of the Roma population, the Council of Ministers had established a Roma Council in fulfilment of a regional initiative for inclusion.  An action plan on the educational needs of the Roma had also been implemented.
 
Clustered Interactive Dialogue
 
Yemen, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said victims of human rights violations and their families must be enabled to speak out and achieve justice, but it was not often a part of post-conflict reconstruction.  Yemen was concerned about the increase in the sale of children and drew attention to the suffering and violations of rights of children in the occupied Palestinian territories.  European Union spoke about cultural rights, saying that successful memorialisation processes were strengthened by an environment in which Governments fully respected freedoms of opinion and expression, association and assembly, and collaborated with and promoted the participation of civil society.  The European Union asked the Special Rapporteur on sale of children about the most important elements of child-sensitive justice system with regard to victims of sexual abuse and exploitation.  Argentina said that memory was a key element in its democratization process and said that the principle of sharing memory must create space for victims of human rights violations to share their accounts and allow for recognition of societal responsibility for the violations. 
 
Synergies between different actors were needed to open a debate in which society could deal with its past, achieve reconciliation that would last and lay foundations for democracy and rule of law, said Morocco, stressing the importance of regional and international cooperation and an exchange of good practices to put an end to the scourge of the sale and sexual exploitation of children.  Algeria supported the recommendations by the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children to look at the risk factors that exacerbated the vulnerability of children and asked which indicators could be used to measure the objective of social protection of children that should be included into the post-2015 development agenda.  Egypt urged States to take serious measures to protect children from online sexual exploitation, to maintain specific focus in their efforts to combat human trafficking on protecting children from exploitation for pornographic or prostitution purposes and to fully align their minimum marriageable age laws with the definition of child under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Legal prohibition and criminalization was indispensable yet it should be accompanied with addressing the root causes, including the socioeconomic factors.
 
Iran said that children were the most precious capital of human society because they were the future, but at the same time, they were the most vulnerable members of society.  Unfortunately, the Special Rapporteur’s analysis pointed to a worsening situation of the sale and prostitution of children.  Iran underscored the importance of taking into account the key role of the family in the protection of the most vulnerable, such as children.  Burkina Faso said the Special Rapporteur had pointed out that very few legal reforms had been introduced, as required by the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.  Burkina Faso had created a National Council for Children to ensure coordination of the work of all actors in the area of children.  The criminal code was also being revised.  Australia said that child exploitation and abuse were abhorrent and unconscionable.  Australia recognised the importance of child-sensitive justice systems and provided a range of witness protections for child-witnesses.  It was interested in any further information the Special Rapporteur had on the exploitation of children for organ trafficking. 
 
United Nations Children’s Fund urged Governments to continue their efforts to adopt comprehensive approaches that contributed to building child protection systems, paying special attention to legal and policy frameworks, adequate budgetary allocations, strengthened coordination and capacities among child protection institutions and professionals for delivery of quality services, as well as more robust monitoring mechanisms, and promotion of protective social norms.
 
China spoke about cultural rights, and supported the analysis and suggestions of the Special Rapporteur with regard to the building of monuments.  The building of such monuments was not just to keep the memory of the past alive or to provide psychological reparation to victims.  Profound lessons should be drawn from history so that such tragedies did not occur again.  Switzerland said that even in recent history examples of serious and wide-scale human rights violations were numerous.  Switzerland believed that so tragic events of the past were concerned, work related to memory should not be neglected in strategies and establishment of democratic institutions, or in transitional justice.
 
United States thanked Ms. M’jid for her years of service, commended her efforts to raise consciousness, and expressed support for many of her recommendations.  While the United States had numerous programmes, there was still room to do more.  In January, a strategic action plan on services for victims of human trafficking in the United States had been developed, enabling better services for victims of trafficking.  It would improve transparency and accountability of federal agencies.  Thailand said its Government was working to ensure that all children, despite their nationality and legal status, had access to education and attended school.  A comprehensive legal framework, child-sensitive systems, strong institutions and information was needed to address root causes.  Estonia said that artists played a crucial role in the memorialization processes, including opportunities to widen the debate.  Concerning the issue of children prostitution and pornography, Estonia spoke about its strong focus on preventing online exploitation and a helpline it had established to provide advice and information.

Serbia noted that memorialization had potential for politicization, which created tension with the objective of reconciliation and guarantee of non-recurrence.  States should demonstrate a cautious approach and include other stakeholders in the process.  A holistic approach should be employed to discuss memorials and memorialization processes, particularly in post-conflict situations.  Cuba agreed on the importance of preserving historical memory and its relationship to human rights, in particularly in the context of a resurgent of fascist and neo-Nazi manifestations.  Cuba shared the concerns expressed by Ms. Maalla M’jid concerning the persistence of child prostitution and pornography and the need for international cooperation to address the phenomena.  Honduras said the phenomenon of children pornography and prostitution was increasingly complex and significant cooperation was needed among the relevant parties.  The transnational nature of the sale and exploitation of children required preventive measures in a coordinated fashion, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, in this regard, had signed a memorandum of understanding.  It asked how the private sector could contribute to efforts.
 
Belarus fully shared the views and conclusions of the Special Rapporteur on the sale and prostitution of children on the multidimensional nature of the phenomenon.  It was especially concerned with the growing demand for child prostitution and child pornography and the tolerance of society.  A cross-cutting approach was required to tackle the phenomenon.  France said there were too many victims despite the growing visibility of the phenomenon, which was becoming complex.  Strategies should focus on the global dimension of the phenomenon.  It asked about effective use of the model law developed by the John Hopkins University and the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children.  Venezuela agreed that the very close links between economic, social and political development had to be taken into account as part of the thinking about post-2015 development objectives, through the implementation of national protection systems focused on the rights of the child. 
 
Botswana spoke about cultural rights and the important role played by truth and reconciliation commissions, and in some cases the judiciary, in reinforcing the need for memorialization in their recommendations and judgments.  There was an urgent need to develop or strengthen national legislations and supportive socio-cultural structures to ensure meaningful protection of children, particularly on the use of the internet and in conflict situations.  Indonesia sought the view of the Special Rapporteur on cultural rights on how to ensure the memorialization process was not used to spread seeds of hatred but rather strengthened the sentiment of national reconciliation.  It also spoke about seminars and public campaigns conducted with relevant stakeholders on the eradication of sexual exploitation against children.  Malaysia expressed concerned with the growing cases of sexual exploitation of children online, child prostitution and sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism among other sectors.  Combating the scourge needed a comprehensive approach.
 
Costa Rica, on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean states (CELAC), reaffirmed the importance of cultural rights within the whole set of human rights as well as the merit of cultural policies to promote values like respect for life and dignity. CELAC also affirmed its commitment with respect to protection of all human rights for children. 
Brazil gave high priority to the protection of the rights of the child, particularly through sports events to raise awareness about the issue of sexual violence, exploitation and child labour.  Measures undertaken included an awareness raising national campaign with a smartphone application, training of security professionals and dissemination of guidelines for the media.  Costa Rica agreed that the protection of the rights of the children required a holistic approach due to the interrelation between those rights and the multi-dimensional character of the sexual sale and exploitation of children, and
highlighted the principle of the best interest of the child in the vulnerable age.
 
Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission believed the promotion and protection of cultural rights in societies emerging from conflict had been a neglected area, which was of particular concern in Northern Ireland.  The Commission had published a report to redress a gap in literature and guidance.  Consultative Council of Human Rights of the Kingdom of Morocco said it supported memory preservation, historical and archaeological projects, and had taken initiatives to ensure capacity building on cultural rights for local actors and mobilize funds to preserve endangered archaeological and cultural sites.
 
Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, speaking in a joint statement, said that it had raised concerns with the Government of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland Executive regarding criminal laws protecting children from different forms of sexual exploitation and that it was necessary to ensure that children received same levels of protection in all parts of the United Kingdom.  Associazione Comunità Papa Giovanni XXIII drew the Council’s attention to the issue of commercial maternal surrogacy, an emerging phenomenon that could amount to sale of children.  It called on Member States to explicitly prohibit the practice and formulate regulations that would protect the rights and best interests of children.
 
International Buddhist Relief Organization said cultural norms in a patriarchal society become a way to maintain the inequality of women.  In a caste-based society they justified discrimination against the lowest caste.  The Council should ensure the provision of basic human rights to the Dalits of India so that they could live in dignity.  Liberation said that India of today remained divided over religious and communal segments.  It urged the Council to ask the Government of India to introduce the steps to abolish the Hindu culture of casteism.  International Catholic Child Bureau, speaking in a joint statement, urged States to raise awareness of parents on the importance of birth registration in order to reduce vulnerability of children to illegal adoption.  Chinese People Association for Peace and Disarmament said that efforts were made in China to protect cultural rights of ethnic minorities and noted that the scale and quality of bilingual education in ethnic areas were still to be improved.
 
Human Rights Now drew the Council’s attention to the alarming child trafficking and labour crisis in the coal mines of Meghalaya, India, following a fact-finding mission in 2010.  The mission had revealed the extremely hazardous and inhumane conditions under which the trafficked children were forced to engage in mining work.  The Government of India was urged to take immediate action to protection those children.  Terre des Hommes Federation Internationale said that the internet had been significantly misused as a tool for the dissemination of child pornography.  The age of victims had tended to decrease and representations were becoming more graphic and violent.  The findings of the ‘Sweetie Project’ were devastating – over a period of just ten weeks the team of four researchers were contacted by over 20,000 men.  Franciscans International drew attention to the phenomenon of abduction of new-born babies from public hospitals for illegal adoption that went on unabated in Cameroon.  According to the information provided by partners on the ground, the practice was often carried out with the complicity of hospital administrative staff.  The issue of child marriage was also underscored, as a phenomenon that was culturally supported in northern Cameroon.
 
Human Rights Advocates addressed the need to investigate the strength of cultural heritage laws to protect and promote diverse cultures.  Culture could be exploited by illegal trading of antiquities, sacred objects and cultural patrimony.  Heritage laws were vital to curbing the illicit trade of cultural property.   Would further studying protecting cultural objects help States forge heritage laws?
 
Concluding Remarks
 
NAJAT MAALLA M’DJID, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, noted with regard to Madagascar that many recommendations from the Global Congress in Rio had still not been implemented. It was a crime when the consent of the children was not taken into account.  Ms. Maalla M’Djid stressed the care for the victims of sexual exploitation regardless of their status, including migrant children. On technology, she acknowledged that certain websites needed to be blocked, but there also needed to be a monitoring and reporting system and complementary cooperation with justice.  Responding to States’ questions on implementation, she listed practices in cross-border cooperation including financial coalitions, INTERPOL, trainings, projects to support bilateral campaigns, codes of conduct by the tourism and travel sector, or Brazil’s initiative in sport through the World Cup.  Indicators needed to reflect the vulnerability of children or families in which they lived, for instance birth registration, the percentage of children entitled to proper care, access to education and its quality, the percentage of victims detected, type of abuses, length of trials and access to legal aid.  Too much focus was on delivery services without assessing how effective they were and whether information was exchanged. The Special Rapporteur concluded by thanking everyone who had worked with her during her mandate.
 _________

For use of the information media; not an official record