New York, 21.10.2003
Statement by Ms. Gréta Gunnarsdóttir Deputy Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations
58th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations Third Committee Agenda Item 113
Promotion and protection of the rights of children
The Government of Iceland remains firmly committed to implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Optional Protocols, which Iceland has already ratified. Indeed, last January, the Committee on the Rights of the Child considered the second report of Iceland. The concluding observations of the Committee are currently under consideration by the Icelandic authorities concerned.
We urge those states which have not yet ratified or acceeded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to do so. At the same time we urge those States parties with reservations, in many cases far-reaching, to withdraw them as soon as possible. In particular this is important for reservations that are incompatible with the objective and purpose of the Convention. It is not enough to ratify the Convention. The situation de jure is meaningless if it isn't followed up by actions. The importance of full compliance by us, the States parties, with our obligations under the Convention is
The Convention and its rights based approach must continue to be the cornerstone of our work in this field.
We welcome the recent enlargement of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, from ten to eigtheen experts, and hope this will contribute to the efficiency of the Committee.
As to implementation work in Iceland, a committee established by the Prime Minister is currently preparing a comprehensive national inter-sectoral child rights policy.
The substantial increase in the number of children placed in institutions in many parts of the world is of great concern.
The rights of children in residential institutions as well as standards of care, have not received appropriate attention. There is evidence that children's rights in such institutions, in many parts of the world, are violated. Recent research demonstrates that children in such institutions are often subject to abuse and ill treatment.
Furthermore, it has been shown, that the conditions in which these children live are often appalling, especially in larger institutions. Iceland believes that there is a good cause for the UN to initiate, on the basis of the Convention, an effort with the aim of identifying the basic rights of children living in residential institutions. Recommendations on appropriate procedures for complaints and monitoring could also be considered.
Lately, we have witnessed an increased number of unaccompanied children in some parts of the world.
Unaccompanied children are often deported to their country of origin without an appropriate assessment of their needs. Unfortunately this practice also involves that no arrangements are made to ensure that the child be taken care of in its country of origin. This practice is in conflict with the basic principle of the best interest of the child, embodied in the Convention.
Representatives from 14 states, including Iceland, met in Stockholm in March this year to discuss the plight of unaccompanied children. These 14 states agreed that if an unaccompanied child is returned to its country of origin, there must be adequate provisions in place to care for the child. The countries committed themselves to cooperate bilaterally and multilaterally to facilitate the establishment of national contact points on issues of unaccompanied children.
Iceland believes that this important international initiative should be extended to other parts of the world to ensure an effective cooperation to secure the rights of these vulnerable children.
Finally, it is my pleasure to inform the committee that UNICEF plans to establish a national office in Iceland this november. The Government of Iceland fully supports and welcomes this initiative.
Thank you, Madam Chairperson.
New York, 21.10.2003