31st Plenary Meeting of General Assembly 74th Session

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20-Nov-2019 02:56:38
World not keeping promises to young people, speakers warn at General Assembly anniversary meeting commemorating child’s rights convention at 31st and 32nd plenary meetings.

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The world has not kept its promises to its children, many of whom are at risk of “being left behind”, the General Assembly heard today as it marked the thirtieth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child — also known as the most widely adopted international treaty in history.

Tijjani Muhammad-Bande (Nigeria), General Assembly President, in his opening remarks to the session that also commemorated the International Day of the Child, said that many children simply do not have access to the most basic social services, such as health care, education and protection from violence. Over the past year, an estimated 1 billion children experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence or neglect. Currently, some 265 million children do not attend school and millions of girls are forced into early marriage.

“This is a scandal,” he said, adding that children, in addition to being literate, must also be digitally savvy in order to access opportunities in today’s ever-evolving world. Member States must ensure that action towards the Sustainable Development Goals upholds the rights of all children. They must double efforts to implement the Convention and streamline its targets into national policy. Those who have not yet done so must ratify the treaty without delay, he stressed.

Amina Mohammed, United Nations Deputy Secretary‑General, spotlighted with concern that children continue to be forced from their homes by conflict or natural hazards. These children often end up living in slums or isolated villages without health clinics, adequate food or clean drinking water. They risk being recruited as child soldiers, and face sexual abuse, trafficking, imprisonment and forced labour.

The good news is that children today — engaged and passionate — are demanding action on gender inequality, human rights and economic systems that prioritize short-term gains, she said. The United Nations will continue to work with Governments, businesses and the international community to develop new programmes that keep children safe, healthy and in school.

Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said that children today are facing new challenges, such as climate change, online bullying and displacement. Hence, the historic gains of the last 30 years must be matched with a new commitment to support children in the enormously complex world. “The best pathway to a better, more sustainable future for all is to invest in children today,” she stressed.

Also delivering remarks were Virginia Gamba, the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, and Najat Maalla M’jid, the Special Representative on Violence against Children, who called for the full implementation of the standards in the Convention through the adoption of national laws and policies. The estimated financial cost of violence against children is as high as $7 trillion per year, Ms. M’jid spotlighted, calling for adequate financing and investment in children.

Maud De Boer-Buquicchio, the Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children including child prostitution, child pornography and other child sexual abuse material, said that “there are still people who sell and buy children, who exploit them and dispose of them as commodities.”

Also delivering remarks today was Michelle Bachelet, United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, who noted, via video link from Geneva, how digital tools enable the exploitation of children, including the trafficking of children for sexual purposes. Fortunately, many children are standing up to demand the right to participate in shaping solutions to these challenges.

David Beckham and Millie Bobby Brown, both UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors, also took part in today’s commemoration, spotlighting the activism of children around the world. Children are calling out for change from Indonesia to Swaziland. And UNICEF is at the forefront helping make the changes that children want to see, Mr. Beckham said.

Ms. Brown shared her experience with bullying in school and online, expressing concern that too many children do not have the resources to deal with such harassment. Bullying is never harmless and can lead to mental health problems and even suicide, she said, adding that social media does not have to be a place of bullying and harassment, but rather a place of love and support.

Following the opening remarks segment — which were also delivered by Luis Ernesto Pedernera Reyna, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, and Andrew Morley, President and CEO of World Vision International — the Assembly held an interactive segment and a panel discussion on “Leaving no child behind: For every child, every right”.

Many of today’s child advocates — themselves children and young adults — stressed that children are not a problem. Children have rights and should be part of the solution to the world’s most pressing problems. Amira Bah Ahmadou, of Cameroon, spotlighted that many children are still not registered at birth. Without birth certificates, they simply cannot register for health care coverage and are forced to leave school after a certain number of years. Another child activist, Jane Velkovski, said that he isn’t bothered by being in a wheelchair. What concerns him most are the barriers he faces, such as lack of ramps or poor transportation. Adults must do everything in their power to remove these obstacles. Volodymyr Charushyn of Ukraine said that despite being unable to hear, he still wants to be successful and useful to others, and wants to counter the notion that if a person cannot hear, his or her opportunities are limited.

In the afternoon, the Assembly began its general debate, hearing from the following representatives: Iceland (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Cameroon, Gabon, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Liberia, Spain, Tunisia (on behalf of the African Group), Viet Nam (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Grenada (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Monaco, Ukraine, Pakistan, Maldives, Rwanda, Qatar, Indonesia, Liechtenstein, Poland, Switzerland, Bangladesh, Canada, Algeria, Afghanistan, New Zealand, Hungary, Australia, Sri Lanka, Morocco, Myanmar, Timor-Leste, Croatia, Uruguay, Lebanon, China, United Arab Emirates, Nepal and Italy, as well as a representative from the European Union delegation.

The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 21 November, to conclude its general debate on the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

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