Human Rights Council
12 March 2014
The Human Rights Council this afternoon held a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence and against children, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict.
Marta Santos Pais, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence and against children, said that there had been a clear increase in the number of countries with a policy agenda to prevent and address violence. Nonetheless, progress had been too slow, too uneven and too fragmented for a genuine breakthrough to take place. There was clearly no ground for complacency; instead the gains which had been made ought to be consolidated.
Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict, said that the intensity of armed conflict had a disproportionate and intolerable effect on children. In all countries affected by armed conflict children formed the majority, or close to majority, of the population. If nothing was done to protect them, the future of those countries was in danger. In crisis situations education was too often viewed as a secondary need – the essential and protective role that education could play in times of armed conflict had to be recognized.
In the ensuing dialogue speakers commended positive results in the demobilization of children in armed conflict through the work of the United Nations, regional organizations and other actors, as well as the new Children, not Soldiers campaign. However, deep concerns were voiced about the devastating impact of armed conflict on children as well as the increasing trend of attacks on schools and hospitals. On delegation called for a panel discussion on violence against children to be held at the next session of the Council.
Speakers said that sexual violence against children deserved zero tolerance, whether in peace or in war time. States had to live up to their commitment of providing education to all children – a fundamental right – including during conflict, speakers said. A concerted approach to encourage States to ratify and implement relevant regional and international human rights instruments was called for, and States were urged to mainstream norms for protection of children into national laws and policies.
Speaking in the discussion were Ethiopia on behalf of the African Group, Yemen on behalf of the Arab Group, Costa Rica on behalf of Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, European Union, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Croatia in a joint statement with Austria and Slovenia, Algeria, Austria, Estonia, Paraguay, Montenegro, United Nations Children’s Fund, Romania, Portugal, Australia, Italy, Slovenia, Georgia, Norway, Latvia, Qatar, Sri Lanka, and Azerbaijan.
China and Saudi Arabia spoke in a right of reply.
Tomorrow, Thursday 13 March, the Council will hold its annual Full-Day Discussion On The Rights Of The Child, starting at 9 a.m. The Council will also hold a meeting between noon and 3 p.m. in which it will conclude this clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Representatives of the Secretary-General on violence against children, and on children and armed conflict.
The Council has before it the annual report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, Marta Santos Pais (A/HRC/25/47).
The Council has before it the annual report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui (A/HRC/25/46).
Statement by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children
MARTA SANTOS PAIS, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, said the recently issued Global Survey on Violence against Children was the first comprehensive review of progress since the 2006 United Nations Study on Violence against Children. The Global Survey confirmed that children’s protection from violence was gaining increasing recognition on the international, regional and national agendas. At the international level, there was an ever-growing ratification and incremental implementation of treaties on children’s protection from violence. In that context, the 2013 United Nations Treaty Event was devoted to the rights of the child and provided a successful platform to promote accelerated progress in the ratification of the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Child-friendly versions of those two protocols had been issued in order to promote their dissemination and understanding among young people.
The Global Survey Special paid attention to normative, policy and institutional developments at the national level. There had been a clear increase in the number of countries with a policy agenda to prevent and address violence, from 47 in 2006 to more than 80 today. Nonetheless, progress had been too slow, too uneven and too fragmented for a genuine breakthrough to take place. The risk of violence against children remained present in every setting, including those where children should be safest – in schools, in care and justice institutions and also within their homes. Child maltreatments, exploitative work, early and forced marriages, and trafficking in children all remained worrying and wide-spread occurrences. Vulnerable children, including disabled and children living on the street, were at special risk of exposure to violence. There was clearly no ground for complacency; instead the gains which had been made ought to be consolidated.
Violence in the community, violence associated with criminal activities and violence perpetrated in the privacy of the home were all deeply interconnected. Violence caused fear, insecurity and harm to families and communities, and particularly to children. One of the most important lessons of the Millennium Development Goals’ review had been that countries affected by violence tended to lag behind: in those countries, people were more likely to be malnourished and to live in poverty, rates of child mortality were huge and children were three times more likely to be out of school. The human dignity of children and their rights to protection from violence had to be at the heart of a global effort, just as they had to be at the core of national strategies. In the year of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child it was an opportunity not to be missed.
Statement by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict
LEILA ZERROUGUI, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict, said that less than a week ago the Security Council held a public debate on the fate of children in armed conflict. That was evidence that the fate of those children called for a reaction from the international community and should be a source of concern for it. The intensity of armed conflict had a disproportionate and intolerable effect on children. In Syria, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan and many more countries, thousands of children were recruited, killed, raped, mutilated and forced to commit atrocities. Because of their association with armed groups they were often detained without guarantees of a fair trial. In all countries affected by armed conflict children formed the majority, or close to majority, of the population. If nothing was done to protect them, the future of those countries was in danger.
All hope was not lost. Some countries that had experienced similar tragedies had been able to find a way out and found peace, reconciliation and development. At field visits that had allowed direct contact with national authorities, every opportunity had been taken with donors to mobilize support for action plans, and also political support. The campaign Children, Not Soldiers was launched last week, in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund. It was important to continue commitments to work with non-State armed actors to put an end to serious violations against children. Multidimensional strategies could support that comprised political, military and judicial areas of work. In crisis situations education was too often viewed as a secondary need and everything in our power had to be done to recognize the essential and protective role that education could play in times of armed conflict.
Clustered Interactive Dialogue
Ethiopia, speaking on behalf of the African Group, noted with satisfaction the positive results achieved in terms of the demobilization of children in armed conflict, notably through the synergies of the work of the United Nations, regional organizations and other actors. The African Group was concerned about the recruitment and use of child soldiers, killing and maiming, and violence in school. It called for a concerted approach including ratification and implementation of relevant regional and international human rights instruments. Yemen, speaking on behalf on the Arab Group, said juvenile justice was an important issue which was unanimously accepted by organs around the world, but its implementation had to be tailored to national conditions of every country. It drew the Council’s attention to the proposal presented by Algeria during the session to convene a discussion on violence against children. Costa Rica, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) deplored the fact that the progress in fighting violence against children had been slow; good governance and management of good economy required grounding in national laws and strategies. CELAC was concerned about the devastating impact of armed conflict on children and appealed on the international community to strengthen the international humanitarian law protection.
European Union was particularly concerned by the increasing trend of attacks on schools and hospitals. It raised alarming situations in Syria, and the recruitment by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the Great Lakes region and armed groups in the Central African Republic. It asked about prospects for restorative justice programmes where rule of law, juvenile delinquency and deeply rooted social norms posed a serious challenge. Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said that as the international community considered the future global development agenda beyond 2015, violence against children should be recognized as a priority and restorative justice mechanisms should be put in place. Pakistan urged States to mainstream norms for protection of children into national laws and policies. It noted progress in fighting violence against children in Syria, South Sudan, Congo and Yemen.
Croatia, in a joint statement with Austria and Slovenia, stressed that sexual violence against children deserved zero tolerance, whether in times of peace or war. It was a widely under-reported crime, due to the stigma associated with sexual abuse. Croatia, Austria and Slovenia thus firmly supported the United Kingdom’s Initiative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict. States had to live up to their commitment of providing education to all children, including during the conflict. Algeria spoke about restorative justice and said it intended to submit a draft resolution calling for a panel discussion on violence against children at the next session of the Council, in June. It asked about operational strategies to fight the use of schools for military purposes. Algeria noted that its minimum age for recruitment to armed forces was 18. Austria said it placed a strong focus on diverting juvenile offenders away from the justice system, and thanked Ms. Santos Pais for valuable recommendations in that regard. Along with Thailand, Austria proposed an inter-governmental process to elaborate practical measures to prevent violence against children in crime prevention and criminal justice.
Estonia said sharing expertise through practical cases, which illustrated some of abusive practices, would help better address violence against children and promote the child-interest approach. Estonia’s Plan for Reducing Violence 2010 to 2014 aimed to stop violence against children and the actions of juvenile offenders. Estonia was glad to see the emphasized role of the International Criminal Court and other ad-hoc tribunals for children in armed conflicts. Paraguay expressed its concern over the six grave violations of children’s rights in armed conflict, but was pleased to see the increasing number of States parties to the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Paraguay had signed the third Optional Protocol and started the process of ratification. It was also increasing investments in children and adolescents to seven per cent of its gross domestic product. Montenegro saw violence against children as a growing problem, which often went unseen, unheard and unreported. Montenegro encouraged new ideas to focus on collective actions to ensure the rights of child to live free from violence, and had undertaken many steps in that regard. There was a need to establish a mechanism for monitoring the number of cases and scope of abuse, negligence and maltreatment.
Australia welcomed the launch of the Children, Not Soldiers campaign to end recruitment and use of children by Government forces by 2016 and expressed concern that 46 non-State actors still used the practice. Australia would use its term in the United Nations Security Council to strengthen the protection framework for children affected by armed conflict. United Nations Children Fund said it would continue to work together to end and prevent child recruitment and use both by State forces and armed groups, to support children in their reintegration into their families and communities and to stop other grave violations against children. United Nations Children Fund subscribed to the Special Rapporteur’s eight key steps for accelerating progress in the protection of children from violence and welcomed her emphasis to place children at the centre of the post-2015 global development agenda. Romania was deeply concerned that in many countries in the world there were still children living in exceptionally difficult conditions and that all forms of violence against children persisted on a large scale.
Portugal appreciated the work on preventing and eliminating violence against children in the justice system and on developing the concept of restorative justice and its ability to rehabilitate and reintegrate young offenders. Italy expressed concern about the spread of sexual violence committed against children in armed conflict and stressed that only the certainty of accountability for perpetrators could significantly improve their protection and dissuade armed groups from recruiting child soldiers. Slovenia welcomed the Children, Not Soldiers campaign: although much had been achieved, children were still recruited and used by armed forces and groups. Slovenia asked the Special Rapporteur on violence against children how the Council could contribute to her efforts to make human rights education more available to children.
Latvia said violence against children had serious and longstanding consequences. It was widely understood that every interaction a child had each day influenced the actions and decisions of the adult that the child would become. Latvia was concerned about reports on continuous attacks on schools and the use of schools for military purposes. Qatar condemned any form of violence against children and called for an end of all such violence, nationally or internationally. It highlighted the tragic situation of children in the occupied Palestinian territories. Sri Lanka said notwithstanding the complexities and unpredictability of the protracted terrorist conflict, it paid particular attention to safeguarding the rights and needs of children by capacity building and mainstreaming local structures and services to children and pregnant mothers in conflict-affected areas, including some areas under the control of terrorists.
Georgia said numerous cases of violations of the rights of children continued in occupied regions of the country. The occupying regime deprived local populations of their native languages and teachers that disobeyed directions were often subject to harassment by the occupying regime. The least that could be done was to establish a human rights monitoring mechanism on the ground. Azerbaijan said that the promotion and protection of the rights of children, particularly in armed conflict, was highly sensitive and at the same time of high importance. Azerbaijan asked for more attention to be paid to the atrocities committed in Azerbaijan, and made reference to Armenia. Norway said the role of regional organizations had not been mentioned in this urgent cause, and asked what role they could play in a consolidated global effort to address and end violence against children. Education was a powerful instrument for preventing children’s interaction with armed groups.
Right of Reply
China, speaking in the right of reply, categorically rejected the point made today by Canada that it had sanctioned representatives of Falun Gong in relation to abducting followers and removing their organs for sale. The Government had always seen the people who had been deceived by those sects as victims and fully protected their rights with greatest patience. Medical institutions had to have the permission of the owners for transplantation of organs.
Saudi Arabia, speaking in the right of reply, responded to the statement made today by Canada on the freedom of religion. It said its Kingdom professed the Muslim religion, and as guardians of the two most holy sites in the world, exercised that function with great care and caution. Residents in Saudi Arabia were free to exercise their religion, including the many pilgrims and the labour-force of diverse beliefs. They were only asked to respect the law. It was prohibited to build places of worship other than Muslim ones, because Saudi Arabia supported more than 1.5 billion Muslims around the world.
For use of the information media; not an official record