Statement by Ambassador Hjálmar W. Hannesson
Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations
Commemorative high-level Plenary Meeting devoted to
the follow up to the outcome of the Special Session on Children
12 December 2007
Five years have passed since the Special Session of the General Assembly on Children at which we committed to creating ,,A World fit for Children". This commemorative high level plenary meeting of the General Assembly gives us an important opportunity to reflect on the progress made and measure the degree of implementation of the Declaration and the Action Plan.
In this context, we warmly welcome the comprehensive report by the Secretary General on Children and the Millennium Development Goals and the report by UNICEF ,,Progress for Children" which provide an excellent basis for our discussion. Both reports note that significant progress has been made during the five year reporting period in many countries, but also make it clear that much more remains to be done in protecting and promoting the rights of children.
Iceland would like to reaffirm its strong commitment to the full implementation of the Declaration and the Action Plan contained in the document ,,A World fit for Children". Iceland remains fully committed to the implementation of the Convention of the Rights of the Child and its two optional Protocols, which Iceland has already ratified. In this context, we wish to emphasize the importance of full and effective implementation of these legal instruments by all Member States.
Iceland has underlined the importance of close cooperation between the United Nations, Governments and civil society in order to promote and protect the human rights of children. In this context, I would like to emphasize the important role of UNICEF in safeguarding the rights and interests of children.
Violence against children continues to persist in all parts of the world. The study submitted last year by the independent expert on violence against children, documented the nature, extent and causes of violence against children and the destructive impact that violence has on children and society. We highly appreciate the attention the study has brought to this serious issue at a global level.
The report also identifies areas where concrete action is needed by Member States. No form of violence can be justified and we must prevent, eliminate and respond to all violence against children. We place great emphasis on the prohibition of all forms of violence against children, including all corporal punishment. We also acknowledge that violence against children has a gender dimension. Girls are by far the most vulnerable, particularly as victims of sexual violence.
We warmly welcome the decision to appoint a Special Representative on violence against children. The special representative should act as a high profile and an independent global advocate to promote the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against children.
Iceland is concerned about the serious problem of children in armed conflict. We urge all states to strengthen their efforts to ensure the safety and security of children, living in conflict areas. We fully support the notion that the most effective way of protecting children?s rights is to prevent conflict and promote peace and security.
Iceland is committed to progress in all of the major areas of "A world fit for Children".
Iceland has completely revised its legislation regarding children and child protection in 2002 and 2003 with the aim to ensure the rights of children and protection from violence and abuse and to strengthen the participation of children in matters that concern them.
Our most concentrated effort is the Icelandic National Plan of Action to improve the situation of children, young persons and their families, approved by the Icelandic Parliament in 2007. The Government has appointed an inter-ministerial coordinating body responsible for its implementation.
The priorities include an examination and implementation of our duties with regards to international conventions and recommendations, first and foremost the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child and its optional protocols, secondly, the Council of Europe?s Recommendation from 2006 (Rec(2006)19) on positive parenting and thirdly the new important Council of Europe?s Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse from 2007.
The National Plan of Action includes measures to improve the financial position of families with children and to provide support for those involved with raising children. It includes general preventive measures to improve the health and well-being of children and measures to benefit children in need of special protection, such as children with special health problems, drug-abuse problems, children of immigrants and victims of sexual offences.
The Government has also in December 2007 introduced a comprehensive new school policy and bills for legislation for pre-schools, primary- and secondary education to ensure the rights of all children in Iceland to education directed at the development of their full potential and preparation of every child for responsible life in a free society in the spirit of tolerance, peace and equality.
The best interests of children should be our priority. Children are still being denied human rights and their rights violated all over the world. We must renew our political will to intensify our common efforts towards building a world fit for children and to achieve the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.