Sommaire: 14 October 2009, New York - Statement on behalf of the European Union by H.E. Mr. Per Örnéus, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Sweden, 64th Session of the General Assembly Third Committee, Item 67: Rights of Children, United Nations
Mr (Madam) Chairperson,
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union. The following countries align themselves with this statement: the Candidate Countries Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
This year we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This landmark document has fundamentally changed how the international community, governments, NGOs and many other actors view children and their rights. The Convention is the most universally ratified human rights treaty. That is one significant sign of the global commitment to child rights.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two optional protocols constitute the standard in the promotion and protection of the rights of the child. Substantial progress has been made in implementing the Convention in the past twenty years. Many countries have adopted legislative reform ensuring compliance with the Convention. National strategies have been put in place and the establishment of national ombudsmen has contributed to the advancement of children's rights in many parts of the world. More children go to school than ever before. For the first time in recent history, the level of child mortality has dropped steadily over the past couple of years.
However, in spite of major achievements, we still face persistent obstacles and emerging challenges. Child poverty continues to be prevalent. Around 100 million children across the world - most of them girls - are denied their right to education. 15 million children have lost one or both parents to HIV and AIDS, 70 million women and girls alive today have been subjected to female genital mutilation or cutting. At any given time over 300,000 child soldiers, some as young as eight, are exploited in armed conflicts. Children with disabilities still face many challenges. The EU is dedicated to continue to promote the participation and individual development of children with disabilities.
The EU sees the 20th anniversary as an important milestone and a catalyst for implementation of the Convention at all levels. The Committee on the Rights of the Child plays a vital role in helping countries fulfil their obligations. The EU strongly supports the work of the Committee. We thank the Committee for their recent General Comments on a number of important issues such as indigenous children and their rights under the Convention, and the right of the child to be heard. In this anniversary year, the EU reiterates its call to states parties to withdraw any reservations contrary to the object and purpose of the Convention.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child highlights that children have the right to express their views freely and to be heard in all matters affecting them. This pertinent topic is also the theme of this year's resolution on the rights of the child which the EU introduces with GRULAC at the General Assembly. Inspired by the convention, we must redouble our efforts and build on our good practices in order to find ways to ensure child participation and involvement in all areas affecting their lives.
The promotion and protection of children's rights are the responsibility of the state. The EU calls on all states to live up to their obligations under the CRC. The EU further urges states to step up their efforts to combat abuse against children, such as trafficking. It welcomes the work of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and urges states to penalize all forms of sexual exploitation of children and to take effective measures to ensure prosecution of offenders and address the needs of the victims. The EU continues to attach particular priority to combating economic exploitation of children, and in this area efforts to improve corporate social responsibility have made important progress. The EU underlines the conclusions by the Secretary-General that progress towards eliminating child labour is still very slow. The EU welcomes the Secretary-General's call to maintain child labour high on the political agenda. In particular the EU supports the Secretary-General's view that eliminating the worst forms of child labour by the year 2016 is an ambitious but achievable goal and that this objective requires the political commitment of governments. The EU furthermore continues to emphasise the CRC's unequivocal prohibition of imposing the capital punishment for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age.
The EU attaches particular importance to the issue of violence against children, the topic of this year's EU-NGO Human Rights Forum. Children around the world continue to be subjected to various forms of violence. The physical, emotional and mental scars of violence have serious implications for a child's development, health and ability to learn. The violence continues to mainly remain hidden and is often socially sanctioned. The EU believes there is an urgent need for closer collaboration and cooperation at global, regional and local levels in order to move the issue forward. The EU welcomes the recent appointment of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence against Children. We look forward to working with her in implementing the recommendations in the UN Study on Violence against Children. By choosing this issue as its first priority within its set of Guidelines for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child, the EU is focusing its efforts on ending all forms of violence against children.
The plight of boys and girls caught in conflict zones, the continuing recruitment of child soldiers, and the killing, maiming and rape of children must end. Much work has been done since the groundbreaking report by Ms Graça Machel on the impact of armed conflict on children. The EU pays tribute to the work of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, who has vigorously championed the rights of boys and girls affected by armed conflict. The Security Council working group is also a central tool in advancing the issue of children and armed conflict. It has done invaluable work to demobilize thousands of child soldier and address the issue of impunity. The EU reaffirms its commitment to Security Council resolutions 1612, 1820 and 1882. We will work vigilantly to follow up and assess these resolutions and the political steps called for in the "Paris Principles". The EU also calls on states to sign, ratify and implement the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Our global aim is for the two Optional Protocols to enjoy the same universality as the Convention itself.
The EU stresses the importance of close collaboration between the UN system, regional organizations, NGOs, civil society and governments. The EU continues to actively support UNICEF, the Special Rapporteurs and Representatives, OHCHR, UNHCR and other relevant actors so that they can fulfil their different mandates and join forces in ensuring the protection and well-being of all children.
We are a mere five years away from the target year of 2015 for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. These goals affect children in a direct and indirect way, and their fulfilment remains critical in order to eradicate poverty, provide healthcare and education, and halt the spread of HIV/AIDS. The EU firmly believes that education is a key element to poverty eradication and will continue to work together with the UN-system and other states in order to eliminate remaining obstacles to the full realization of the right to education for girls and boys around the world.
Finally Mr Chairperson,
There is a need to translate our pledge to work on children's rights into tangible action that reaches every child with the incontrovertible message that they must be free to fully enjoy their human rights. The EU is fully committed to tackling the challenges, and stands ready to work with the UN to deliver on our collective promise for a better future for the world's children.
* Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.