Statement by Ambassador Hjálmar W. Hannesson
Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations
Agenda item 66
18 October 2007
Promotion and the Protection of the Rights of Children
Discrimination and violence against children continues to persist in all parts of the world, in many cases caused by armed conflict, poverty, lack of education and insufficient protection.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has proven to be an invaluable tool in our efforts to further the rights of children and the Government of Iceland remains fully committed to the implentation of it and its two optional Protocols, which Iceland has already ratified. In this context, we wish to emphasise the importance of full and effective implementation of these instruments by all Member States. We, however, remain concerned about the large number of reservations to the Convention.
The study submitted to the General Assembly last year by Mr. Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the independent expert of the UN in-depth study on violence against children, exposed the horrendous scale and impact of violence against children. We highly appreciate the work of Professor Pinheiro and the necessary attention his study has brought to this serious issue at a global level. His study has been a strong catalyst for change, identifying areas where concrete action is needed.
We warmly welcome the comprehensive follow-up report to his study, contained in document A/62/209. The report notes that significant progress has been made but also reminds us that much remains to be done regarding its recommendations. We firmly support recommendations of the report, in particular the main recommendation to establish a Special Representative on violence against children, to be appointed for a period of 4 years.
Iceland also welcomes the report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, contained in document A/62/228. The report, which is split into two parts, provides an overview of critical themes relating to children and armed conflict and highlights significant developments over the reporting period. It emphasizes the role of field visits of the Special Representative as a key element of her advocacy strategy and outlines the main findings of field visits that she has undertaken.
The report also lists commitments made by parties to conflict during the course of those field visits, stressing the need for timely and systematic follow-up to ensure their practical implementation. Iceland fully supports the conclusions and urges Member States to apply concrete and targeted measures against recalcitrant violators, particularly where they have refused to enter into dialogue or where such dialogue has failed to yield tangible protection for children.
Part two of the report presents the findings of a strategic review of the study by
Graça Machel entitled ?Impact of armed conflict on children? which marked the 10-year anniversary of that groundbreaking report (see document A/51/306 and Add.1). Iceland supports recommendations of part two of the report and fully supports the notion that the most effective way of protecting children?s rights is to prevent conflict and promote peace and security.
We take note of the report the Secretary General prepared for this meeting on the girl child which further demonstrates the scope of discrimination and violence against girls. The report underlines the need to give special attention to the situation of girls.
Last June, the Icelandic Parliament adopted a plan of action with the aim of strengthening children?s rights and support to families. The Government has already appointed an inter-ministerial coordinating body to be responsible for its implementation. The priorities to be found in this action plan include an examination and monitoring of the implementation of UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, especially with regard to the remarks made by the Committee on the Rights of the Child. Secondly, the plan of action addresses the importance of the Council of Europe?s Committee of Minister?s Recommendation, Rec(2006)19, on policy to support positive parenting and the identification of appropriate strategies for non-violent upbringing of children.
Iceland would like to use this opportunity to draw attention to the constructive nature of this approach as it involves a practical guidance for parents on the basic principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The final emphasis of the Icelandic action plan to be mentioned is that it initiates a process for the ratification of the new Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 12 July 2007. This Convention will be open for signature of the Member States later this month. It is undoubtedly one of the most significant steps in the development of international tools to protect children from all forms of sexual abuse in recent years.
Iceland has underlined the importance of close cooperation between the United Nations, NGO´s, civil society and governments in order to promote and protect the human rights of children in an effictive and comprehensive manner. UNICEF´s role in safeguarding rights and interests of children is of key importance. Iceland´s emphasis on the work of UNICEF is reflected in our substantially increased financial contributions to UNICEF. I am also proud of the fact that the people of Iceland have been particularly active and make one of the highest contribution per capita to UNICEF of national societies.
Five years have now passed since the Special Session on Children in the General Assembly. We look forward to the commemorative high-level plenary meeting that will be held 11-12 December. The meeting will provide us with an excellent opportunity to measure the degree of implementation of the Declaration and Plan of Action contained in the document ?A World Fit for Children?.
Finally, Mr. Chairman,
The children of the world are the future and it is our duty to protect them on all fronts. Violence against children is an abhorrent offence against human rights. It is never acceptable and must never be tolerated. While we have made significant progress, there is still much to be done. The international community has made many commitments to protect children?s rights and combat violence directed towards children. We must honour our commitments and turn our words into action.
Thank you Mr. Chairman