Mr Secretary General,
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries, Turkey, Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia* , the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia, and Georgia align themselves with this declaration.
Five years ago, two youth delegates addressed the Special Session on Children with a message called A World Fit for Us (prepared by over 400 children from about 100 countries who attended the Youth Forum). They said they wanted a world fit for them because a world fit for children is a world fit for all. They also said that in that world fit for them, they saw respect for the rights of the child: governments and adults having a real and effective commitment to [ ] applying the Convention on the Rights of the Child to all children.
Half a decade later, we are again gathered here to take stock of the progress the world has made in ensuring the implementation of the Outcome Document of the 2002 Special Session, but also of the difficulties that we face in achieving that aim. This is also an excellent occasion to boost synergies between all those involved with a view to identifying ways to ensure the full implementation of A World Fit for Children. Have we been able to fulfil the vision the child representatives dreamt of five years ago? How can we ensure more and quicker progress in realising the rights of the child? What are the achievements that we can be proud of and will serve us as an inspiration for future action? In which areas can and must we show more commitment and better results? What have we done for children?
We have fortunately many reasons to celebrate progress in the realisation of childrens rights and in the fulfilment of many of the promises we made in 2002. The Secretary Generals report on progress towards the goals of A World Fit for Children demonstrates the progress made in many areas, such as reducing child and maternal mortality and malnutrition. In fact, in 2006, for the first time in the modern era, the number of children dying before their fifth birthday fell below 10 million. We have also made progress in ensuring universal primary education for girls and boys, protecting children against abuse, exploitation and violence, and combating HIV/ AIDS. The world is also close to eradicating polio and is making rapid progress on measles.
States have also demonstrated commitment to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The CRC, whose 18th anniversary we recently celebrated, is the most universal human rights treaty. It brought a new vision of the child, as an individual, who requires distinct attention and is neither the property of its parents nor the helpless object of charity. The CRC has played a major role and acted as an inspiration at domestic, regional and international levels the CRCs message has therefore been reflected in many Constitutions or Child Rights Codes, and it has also encouraged the rapid rise in the number of independent national institutions for childrens rights such as childrens ombudsman offices and commissioners for children.
The CRC has also, over the past five years, been a source of inspiration for the EU Member States. The EU´s Charter of Fundamental Rights explicitly recognises childrens rights and reaffirms the obligations to act in the best interest of children and to take their views into account. Several provisions of the EUs Lisbon Reform Treaty (which will be signed later this week) refer to the rights of the child. Most significantly, its says in article 3 (which deals with the aims of the European Union) that the EU shall protect the rights of the child. Also in its relations with the wider world the Treaty stipulates that the Union shall, inter alia, contribute to the protection of human rights, in particular the rights of the child.
Also in Europe, in the framework of the Council of Europe, we adopted in 2003 the Convention on Contact concerning Children which was greatly influenced by the CRC and which sets outs rules concerning childrens need for contact not only with both parents when the child is separated from one or both of them but also with certain other persons having family ties with children. In 2007 we adopted, also in the framework of the council of Europe, the Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, which establishes the various forms of sexual abuse of children as criminal offences, outlines preventive measures and establishes programmes to support victims. In 2006, the Council of Europe began a three year programme, Building a Europe for and with Children. The main objective of this programme is to help all decisions makers and platters concerned to design and implement national strategies for the protection of childrens rights and the prevention of violence against children.
Since 2002 we also organised two Intergovernmental Conferences on Making Europe and Central Asia Fit For Children. These were held in Sarajevo in 2004 and in Palencia in 2006. Some of the issues addressed were legislation and monitoring mechanisms, violence against children, and the impact of poverty and social exclusion upon children and their families.
In 2003 the EU furthermore adopted a set of Guidelines on Children in Armed Conflict. These Guidelines are intended to highlight this problem and give more prominence to EU actions in this area. Its objective is to persuade non EU-countries and non-state actors to implement international law and to take effective measures to protect children from the effects of armed conflict. These guidelines also encourage them to put an end to the recruitment of children into armies and armed groups.
The EU yesterday adopted a set of Guidelines for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child, which are a sign of our determination to observe as a matter of priority in our external human rights policy the promotion and protection of all rights of the child, taking into account the best interests of the child and its right to protection from discrimination and participation in decision-making processes, founded on the principles of democracy, equality, non-discrimination, peace and social justice and the universality, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelatedness of all human rights, including the right to development. To allow for focused action, the EU has chosen All Forms of Violence Against Children as its first Priority Area and has adopted, together with the Guidelines, an Implementation Strategy for specific measures to be taken in that area.
A further cause for celebration is the adherence shown by UN Member States to the two Optional Protocols to the CRC on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, which now have over 100 States Party each. All EU Member States have signed and almost all have ratified or acceded to both of them.
Furthermore, and approximately two weeks ago, the General Assemblys Third Committee requested the Secretary-General to appoint a Special Representative on Violence against Children. The Special representative will act as a high profile and independent global advocate to promote the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against children, ensuring the involvement of key actors concerned, including children. We are committed to collaborating with the new SRSG in order to build a world free of violence for the children of the world.
However, despite these very positive and inspiring achievements, every year millions of children continue to die from preventable causes, to be victims of discrimination, violence, and exploitation, including from child labour and involvement in hazardous work, armed conflicts, poverty and insecurity. In a world full of promise, of new technologies, communication, wealth and opportunity, many children are still left out. Many countries continue to face constraints on their capacity to provide systems to ensure widespread, equitable access to basic services that are critical for child survival, development and protection like health care, safe clean water and sanitation, quality education and to ensure protection from violence, exploitation and abuse. Many children, in particular girls, children in rural areas, indigenous children, children belonging to ethnic minorities or migrant children, and children affected by HIV/AIDS, are victims of discrimination, poverty and exclusion. While there have been inspiring examples of greater participation by children and young people in decisions that affect their lives, such participation is seldom built into local practices and national systems.
It is nevertheless clear that by investing in children we lay the foundation for a world that cares and where passivity and indifference have no place. It is true that a lot remains to be done. But the normative and ethical framework of the Convention, together with the agenda for the decade agreed upon at SSC, as well as the results of this mid-decade review, are a strong foundation for the way forward.
As a Portuguese Poet, Fernando Pessoa, so eloquently put it: Rocks in the path? I keep them all, one day I will build a castle.”
In their Statement in 2002 the child delegates highlighted the importance of ensuring their active, full and meaningful participation, and shared a vision of a world where children would be actively involved in decision-making at all levels and in planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating all matters affecting the rights of the child.
From our side, we know that the Convention led us to look at the child at all children differently. The UNGASS back in 2002 reinforced that tendency, since children were able to express themselves and to participate – for the first time in UN history – as official delegates in the debates. Adults in governmental and other delegations were faced with childrens views, opinions, criticism and also praise. This year we are replicating this experience. We know that at the national level children have increasingly been making their voices heard in their schools, in their communities and even in national politics. We know that by enabling children to participate, we are contributing to building stronger children, and that stronger children will be able to build a better world. However, by having stronger children and by giving them the opportunity to speak out, we are also creating greater responsibilities for ourselves. Children are looking to us, and will continue to do so. They will hold us accountable and we cannot frustrate their expectations.
And now, I think it is time that we listen to our young people and, with your permission Mr President, I cede the floor to our Youth Representative, Ms Rita Sobral, born in the year of the World Summit For Children and who will address this Assembly also on behalf of the 27 EU Member States.
Statement by Ms Rita Sobral, Youth Representative
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I was born in the year 1990. In that year the WSC, here in this room, was a big step to give children a different place in international discussions and to push for progress in many aspects of our lives. Targets were set by the world leaders, action was needed and the world was expecting results.
Twelve years later, when a Special Session devoted to us took place within the General Assembly, a group of four hundred children and young people from all over the world gathered also here in NY to discuss important issues and to pass a message to the adults, and they said: we can help You must count on us to build A World fit for children
For the first time in history, we had the opportunity to be heard at the United Nations. As former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said: So far, adults have called the shots, but now it is time to build the world with the children.
I am aware that a lot has been done so far: In 2006, for the first time in recent history less than ten million children under five died, the gender gap in primary and secondary education is closing and the access to antiretroviral treatment that reduces the risk of transition of HIV/AIDS increased.
However, millions of children are still victims of hunger, violence, discrimination, of HIV/AIDS and all kinds of exploitation. Many girls, of my age, and even much younger than me, suffer immensely only because they were born girls. It is hard to believe and impossible to accept. As a young girl and citizen of the world I do have hope and I do believe that a better future for us all is possible.
But, as Im standing here, I wonder what else can I do? Ten years ago, it would have been impossible for a seventeen year old, like me, to deliver a speech at the UN General Assembly. I have to confess it is a dream that came true, and for that I am very grateful. But I also feel that I have the obligation to motivate my peers showing them that, together, we can make a difference! We have something to add, our own ideas and our perspectives on issues that affect us and of the world.
We are all in a learning process. Adults are starting to experience our participation in Fora like this one, and are learning how to best take our views into consideration, but we also have our own homework in this regard to do. We, the children, have to engage more, participate more, care more and act more at the local, national, regional and international levels, so that our voices are heard every day of the year and not only on special occasions like this one.
We want a world free of poverty and injustice, we want peace and tolerance, and a protected environment, we want our rights protected and respected.
When I return to my community, family and school I will tell all my friends and colleagues about what I heard here, as well as in the Youth Forum, and I want to give them hope, and reassure them that adults are open to build a world with and for us all and to encourage them to participate .
We must be aware of our role and mustnt be ashamed to have a voice. We are the present and the future and you must keep up with the promise of hearing our views and respecting them. It will be worth it I promise.
*Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.