Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Third Committee

22nd Meeting (AM)

Child labour was one of the most pernicious threats that faced children today, and the full and prompt attention of the international community was needed to fully eradicate it, several speakers told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) this morning.

When children were working, they were not in school or playing or enjoying their other rights, several delegates told Committee members as they continued consideration of issues concerning children’s rights.  Instead, they were being exploited — often in virtual slavery — simply for profit.

The representative of the International Labour Organization said that, around the world, some 250 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 worked for a living.  Almost half, some 120 million, worked full time, every day, all year round.  Over 50 million children, between the ages of 5 and 11, worked in hazardous circumstances.  They worked with dangerous chemicals or machines, they were trafficked or worked as prostitutes, or they were child soldiers.

It was, she said, an abuse of power that took advantage of the young, the weak, the vulnerable and the insecure.

Still, she said, there were global indications that a coalition was building to prohibit child labour worldwide.  A few weeks ago, Estonia became the one-hundredth Member State to ratify ILO Convention 182 to eliminate the worst forms of child labour, making that Convention’s ratification rate the fastest of any ILO Convention in history.

The delegate from Pakistan, while reaffirming his Government’s commitment to abolishing child labour, disagreed with portions of a report by the Secretary-General on the elimination of child labour.  The report contended that the progressive elimination of child labour was a key to the eradication of poverty.  Pakistan, however, considered poverty as the root cause of child labour, and believed that poverty alleviation was essential to completely eradicate child labour.  The two had to go hand-in-hand.

He and others stressed that education was the key to escaping child labour, poverty, and many of the other obstacles that faced children today.  Delegates stressed to Committee members that ignorance was more expensive than education, and the better prepared youngsters were today, the more ability they would have in handling the problems of the world tomorrow.

The delegate of Tanzania spoke about her country’s efforts to make primary education universal.  Her Government was determined to see to it that no child was denied the right to schooling, regardless of the parents’ ability to pay for it.  Further, her Government was implementing special plans for girls who dropped out

— often because they were pregnant — to ensure that their education would continue even after they became mothers.

The representative of Barbados, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), agreed, saying one of the chief focuses of the international community should be improving access to quality education.  Research showed, she said, that teenage pregnancy and domestic child abuse were problems for children in the peak adolescent years, 11 to 18.  Further, a study in the Caribbean on sexual reproductive health revealed that children were having sex too early — often at 10 and 11 years of age — and teenagers had the highest incidence of HIV/AIDS.  Those were all issues that a strong educational system could help.

Representatives of the Republic of the Congo, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Croatia, Slovenia, Australia, Suriname, Guinea, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Malaysia, Syria and Ukraine also spoke during the debate.

In addition, the observer of Palestine spoke.  A representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross also addressed the Committee.

Further, the representative of Israel and the observer of Palestine spoke in exercise of their right of reply.

The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Monday to conclude its deliberations on children’s rights with an interactive dialogue with Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu.


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to continue consideration of issues related to the protection and promotion of the rights of children.  For details, see Press Release GA/SHC/3642 of 22 October.


JUNE CLARKE (Barbados, on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)) said despite the progress made to achieve many of the goals set at the beginning of the last decade, the twenty-first century had witnessed the position of women and children still threatened with deterioration.  Poverty, conflict, chronic instability and pernicious disease, such as HIV/AIDS, threatened to erode the developmental gains of many countries.  For example, globalization, one of the last century’s most powerful economic forces, had proceeded along an unequal course — expanding markets across national boundaries and increasing the incomes of a relative few, while adversely affecting the lives of the most disadvantaged.  The 2001 General Assembly special session on children was therefore planned as another great event to galvanize leadership all over the world to build upon the gains made in the recent past, and to push a new platform to meet the challenges and emerging trends of the new century.  For those reasons, CARICOM States remained committed to this event — it was a part of the commitment made at the Millennium Assembly, whose goals remained as relevant today as they were before the world had focused on terrorism.

In the region, Ms. Clarke said, research had shown that street children, teenage pregnancy and domestic child abuse were the problems in the peak adolescent years, 11 to 18.  A study in the Caribbean on sexual reproductive health revealed that children were having sex too early — often 10 and 11 year olds — and teenagers were the ones with the highest incidence of HIV/AIDS.  Governments in the region were well aware that those problems had to be tackled, and strove to continue to allocate financial resources to social development.  The struggle against AIDS highlighted the need to focus attention on adolescents, especially given the global statistics that said each day, 8,500 children and young people were infected with the disease.  One billion of the 6 billion people in the world were between the ages of 10 and 19.  That age group would have a profound and direct influence on future generations because of the role which older siblings — even as heads of households, parents and members of civil society — would certainly play.

In considering the status of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, she said the CARICOM States applauded the work of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for its protection and promotion of the human rights of children, particularly those in vulnerable situation.  These included children who were refugees or internally displaced children with disabilities, and children living and/or working on the streets.  Of special interest was the report on the prevention and eradication of the sale of children and of their sexual exploitation, including child prostitution and child pornography.  The States agreed with the Special Rapporteur that, in addressing sexual exploitation and child trafficking, the focus should be placed on improving access to education, especially for girls, as well as providing economic support to families to reduce the risk of sexual exploitation and its consequences.  Of note, also, was the special role that was seen for the private sector and its relationships to international human rights standards.

RENE NSEMI (Republic of the Congo) said the Convention on the Rights of the Child was the fundamental framework for child protection policies.  He hoped that the international community would remain focused on the important Assembly special session on children, particularly since the unique needs of African children had been taken into account in the various regional processes in preparation for that event.  For its part, Congo had, even in times of tension, paid particular attention to its children.  An office of planning and oversight had been created to collect and publish data on the protection of the child.

He said that national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) had also set goals and programmes of action for children.  Partnerships between government, specialized agencies and United Nations bodies had also been actively working to ensure the protection and promotion of the rights of children.  An inter-ministerial Committee had been set up to follow implementation of the Convention, which Congo had ratified in 1993.

He went on to say that after several years of conflict, the overall tasks to be undertaken were immense, particularly ensuring adequate health care and education.  The children of his country suffered greatly from malnutrition and lack of access to clean water.  He added, however, that as the conflicts subsided, vaccination programmes had been reintroduced.  Combating the effects of war and poverty were issues that had been given immediate attention by agencies in his country.  It was important not to forget the fact that his country, as were many others in Africa, continued to struggle with increased debt burden and decreasing in official development assistance (ODA).

CHRISTINE KAPALATA (Republic of Tanzania) said Tanzania had ratified both the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Organization of the African Unity (OAU) Charter on the Rights and Welfare of Children.  The Convention had been translated into the national language — Kiswahili — to facilitate its implementation at all levels of society.  Furthermore, a National Programme of Action concerning child survival, protection and development, had been formulated.  The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other bilateral donors had provided valuable assistance in supporting her Government’s initiative.

Ms. Kapalata said the Government was aware of the fact that child development had to go hand-in-hand with child education.  In recognition of the fact that ignorance was more expensive than education, her Government had taken the courageous step of universalizing basic primary education.  It was determined to see to it that no child would be denied the right to education just because the parents could not afford to pay for it.  Consequently, since July 2001, basic primary education had been provided free of charge to all Tanzanian children.  Her Government was committed to seeing to it that drop-outs were as few as possible, and it was taking measures to encourage children who started school to complete primary education.  Special dispensations for girls who dropped out of school for various reasons, including pregnancy, had been created in a second-chance programme which was well on its way.

She said her Government welcomed the Declaration of Commitment adopted by the heads of State and government at the recently concluded Special Session of the General Assembly on HIV/AIDS.  It was heartening to see that there had been agreement on time-bound goals in connection with children.  It was hoped that the General Assembly special session on children eventually would convene and provide the international community with yet another opportunity to renew commitments to children in combating HIV/AIDS.  It was a sad commentary that in today’s conflicts, children were not spared.  In any conflict, children remained the losers, regardless of who emerged as the winner.  For girls, the impact was worse.  Those consequences continued to traumatize the children well beyond the end of hostilities.  While the world had changed a lot in the last century, the basic needs of the child in the majority of countries of the world remained unmet.  In the new millennium, the international community needed to strengthen its resolves to invest more in children.  There was a duty to change the world for them.  It had to be the calling of the international community to create a world fit for children — both girls and boys.

CARLOS ENRIQUE GARCIA GONZALEZ (El Salvador) said that 57 per cent of his country’s population was under the age of 25.  That made it particularly important for the Government to work to ensure that youth were equipped to contribute to the consolidation of human development in El Salvador and throughout the region.  A national agency responsible for promoting social development along with other civil society actors was involved in joint efforts to ensure that children and adolescents could develop fully and participate in society, particularly through positive social activities such as sports, cultural activities and academic training.

He said several programmes, including “Food With Love” and “Healthy Schools” aimed at children as well as mothers and educators reflected El Salvador’s commitment to ensuring the country’s youth could participate in the building of a better society for all.  The Government also placed importance on involving children in efforts to elaborate and design policies and programmes which concerned them.  To that end, a National Forum on Children and Adolescents had been established to carry out broad consultation with youth.

He went on to say that that as international attention returned to the Assembly special session on children, it would be important to remember that during the preparatory process, several obstacles had emerged which undermined the achievements recognized and agreed in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. He hoped such obstacles could be overcome.  It was also important to consider that children continued to suffer from armed conflict.  It was therefore essential to continue with efforts aimed at eliminating the negative effects and risks to children by promoting international dialogue and respect for cultural diversity.

LULIT ZEWDIE G/MARIAM (Ethiopia) said children were the pillars of a bright and prosperous future.  No society could think of a successful future and sustained development without making the issue of children its priority.  How societies progressed and prospered was mainly determined by how much was invested in children today.  Children needed to be further provided with the necessary health care services, to be nurtured with quality education, and to be allowed to grow in harmony totally free from fear and anxiety.  They should be protected from abuse, neglect, exploitation, discrimination, violence and conflicts.  Children suffering from the scourge of poverty and children in especially difficult circumstances, including children with disabilities, should also be given special attention.  Hence, it was imperative that they be provided with the protection and care they needed.

She said the promotion and protection of the rights of children had been the nucleus of Ethiopia’s social development policies.  Her Government presented its National Report on the Follow-up to the World Summit for Children to the Preparatory Committee of the Special Session on Children in February 2001, which detailed the steps the Government had taken.  In response to the 1990 World Summit for Children, Ethiopia had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and had undertaken significant measures to harmonize the national laws and policies with the provisions of the Convention.  The Ethiopian Constitution specifically referred to the rights of the child.  The Family Law had been revised in line with the interest of the children’s rights, and its implementation had begun.  Revision of the Penal Code of the country was also underway.

She said widespread poverty continued to hamper the various efforts to realize national developmental policies in general, and the implementation of programmes for children in particular.  As a way out of this, Ethiopia had formulated a National Poverty Eradication Strategy which had recently been approved by the World Bank.  Substantial financial support from the international community was required more than ever to assist all national efforts to reverse those trends.  There was a need for a holistic approach to development, an urgent need for inclusion in the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs) debt cancellation scheme, and the necessity for sustained and increased assistance and support of its development partners, if the survival, protection and development of Ethiopian children was to be assured now and in the future.  The outcome document of the special session on children had to emphasize the urgent need of enhanced international cooperation in terms of considerable development assistance, the total cancellation of debt, fair international terms of trade and improved foreign direct investment.

DUBRAVKA SIMONOVIC (Croatia) said preparations for the Assembly special session on children had been instrumental in raising the level of awareness of children’s issues on national, regional and international agendas.  Though the session had been postponed, global partners should take advantage of the prolonged preparatory process and work toward creating an even stronger outcome document and plan of action that would make a real difference for all children worldwide.

She said the special session would provide an opportunity to endorse the tenets of the Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as the importance of a rights-based approach when considering the needs of children.  The Convention had already become the fundamental legislative basis for international and national action to protect and promote the rights of the child.  Croatia had taken a further step by ratifying the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 182 concerning the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour.

At the same time, she continued, much more needed to be done to bridge the gap between international norms and the actual adherence at grassroots levels.  The importance of a gender perspective must not be overlooked when policies and programmes for youth were being discussed.  She went on to say that the plight of children in armed conflict was an issue that needed urgent attention, and mandates for United Nations peace missions for restoring, maintaining and building peace should include special provisions on the protection of children.  Croatia was still witnessing the consequences of war and its tragic influence on children.  Although the Government had done much to provide material assistance, those children still needed substantial psychological care.  That care was being offered through a Government joint programme with country-wide counselling centres.

NADYA RASHEED, Observer of Palestine, said the delegation wanted to bring to the attention of the committee the ongoing systematic denial and violation of the rights of the Palestinian children living under foreign occupation.  Israel, the occupying power, had deprived Palestinian children their most basic human rights

— rights to which children all over the world were entitled.  The Israeli occupation impacted all aspects of life for Palestinian children who, as a result, experienced death, detention, psychological trauma, denial of education, and physical handicaps.  Moreover, the physical and psychological condition of Palestinian children had been negatively affected by violent confrontation, human rights abuses, home demolitions, land confiscations, curfews, school closures and administrative detentions.  Life under foreign occupation truly endangered the survival and protection of Palestinian children, thus impeding their development.

She said that since 28 September 2000, the situation on the ground had gravely deteriorated, exacerbating the already miserable living conditions of the Palestinian people, in particular, children.  Over the past year, Israel had waged a bloody military campaign against the Palestinian people.  The Israeli military campaign had resulted in the grave loss of life, serious injuries, the destruction of homes and properties, and closures which had restricted the movement of persons and goods within the territory.  Israelis had brutally and willfully killed over 700 Palestinians, one third of them children, and had injured more than 25,000 — many of whom were under the age of 18.

Those measures and actions, she said, constituted violations of international law.  Moreover, the policies and actions of Israel were in grave violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, relative to the protection of civilian persons in time of war, which was applicable to all the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem.  The international community had to exert pressure on Israel to comply with those conventions in order to secure the promotion and protection of Palestinian children.

ERNEST PETRIC (Slovenia) said the last decade had been marked with numerous armed conflicts of which defenseless children had been the principle victims.  In that regard, his Government had launched important initiatives and projects in the field of physical and psychological rehabilitation of war-affected children in the south-eastern European region.  He highlighted one project in particular, “Together:  Regional Centre for the Psychosocial Well-being of Children,” which had been established with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Slovene Philanthropy, an NGO.  That Centre would contribute to improving the mental well-being of war-affected children through the expert development of projects which linked psychosocial development with social rehabilitation.

He went on to say that Slovenia believed that social conciliation in the region depended on the psychosocial profile of younger generations.  The country wished to offer its joint expertise and experiences in the area of children’s mental health as well as its knowledge of culture and tradition in the region.  The Centre would create an international framework for providing a comprehensive and consistent approach to efforts aimed at assisting children traumatized by the effects of conflict.  The project had already received positive initial reactions within the international community, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Human Security Network.  He invited all countries and humanitarian agencies to cooperate with the Centre’s efforts.

ROSEMARY CROWLEY (Australia) said that to secure the rights guaranteed to each and every child under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the international community had to take further action.  The willingness of the international community to set new standards for the protection of children in the critical areas of child labour, involvement in armed conflict, and commercial sexual exploitation was encouraging, as was the work of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other relevant agencies within the United Nations system and the wider community.

She said the General Assembly special session for children, originally scheduled for last month, would have been the highlight of the international community’s efforts for children this year.  Its postponement had been the only course of action under the circumstances, but the preparatory work done so far would serve the United Nations well when the special session was eventually held.

It was important not to allow such senseless acts of violence, she said, to affect children around the world.  It was more important than ever that the meeting of the world’s children not be stopped by the fear of terrorism.  Instead, it was important to become inspired to work together to eradicate the world of the hopelessness so many of the world’s children faced.  Above all, it was important to pray for world peace and understanding between all nations.

IRMA LOEMBAN TOBING-KLEIN (Suriname) said the terrible events of

11 September had dramatically changed the outlook for all the youth of the world, who at that very moment were preparing for a General Assembly special session being convened on their behalf.  To refocus international attention on the situation of children, it would be important to finalize a realistic outcome document at the reconvened special session in which the youth of the world could realize a better future.

In that regard, she continued, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) “Say Yes For Children” plan for worldwide action could serve as a guide.  That plan included such principles as fighting HIV/AIDS, protecting the earth for children, education for all and eradicating the exploitation of children.  She said that the world’s children were eagerly awaiting the rescheduling of their special session.  The youth representatives that had been chosen to represent Suriname had actively participated in the Government’s preparations for that meeting.  She said that Suriname had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1995 and had established a national programme for 1998-2002, which focused on development, protection and participation of children and their families.

PAUL GOA ZOUMANIGUI (Guinea) said the international community had to answer the question — what future did it want to bequeath to its children?  Today’s children were the world leaders of tomorrow.  The commitments made in the 1990s to promote and protect the rights of children had brought success.  National mechanisms had been established; seminars and conferences were held to discuss best practices; and international norms were created, most importantly the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Like a number of regions, he said, Africa had held conferences on children’s issues.  The last one, held in Cairo, produced a document that addressed all issues relative to children, with conclusions and recommendations.  Africa was beset with problems that hindered the full protection of the rights of children.  Guinea had established public and semi-public awareness campaigns to bring to the fore the rights of the child.  The Government had increased vaccination programmes against polio, which illustrated the commitment of the Guinean authorities to protect all children.

He said the end of the cold war, together with the commitments to children, had raised hopes that spending on arms would be channeled into development efforts that could benefit impoverished children.  That hope had not been realized.  Still, the goals set in favour of children could be reached.  Common action needed to continue.  A first step was to reach consensus on the conclusion document of the General Assembly special session for children.

DONKA GLIGOROVA (The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) said that review of the reports before the Committee made clear that much remained to be done.  The international community’s determination towards pursuing key goals such as safe birth, proper nutrition and health care and equal access to education must be integrated with its efforts to address the major challenges facing children today: poverty, conflict and the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

She went on to say that bitter experiences in her country and throughout the south-east Asian region were further proof that it was imperative to ensure the full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its protocols.  Her Government had begun to review its legislation to ensure conformity with the Convention.  Her country had also signed the Convention’s optional protocol and had established an ombudsperson for children’s rights as well as a national commission for the implementation of the plan of action regarding the Convention.

She said her delegation was in favour of rescheduling the Assembly special session as soon as possible.  In the meantime, the Committee’s deliberations should focus on the eradication of the root causes of violations of children’s rights, alleviation of poverty and the creation of an atmosphere in which children could express their talents and abilities to the fullest extent.

ISHTIAQ HUSSAIN ANDRABI (Pakistan) said one of the reports of the Secretary-General contended that progressive elimination of child labour was a key to the eradication of poverty.  While reaffirming the abiding commitment to abolish child labour, Pakistan did not fully agree with that contention.  His Government considered poverty as the root cause of child labour, and believed that poverty alleviation was essential to completely eradicating child labour.  The two had to go hand-in-hand.  Regarding the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it was heartening to note that a large number of Member States had signed the two documents, including Pakistan.  The coming into force of the Protocols would lead to an effective weapon to combat child trafficking, child prostitution, and children and armed conflicts.

He said the development of children into useful and productive members of society required the focused application of all their physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual capacities and potential.  Only a natural functioning family could provide the environment for the ideal nurturing and development of a child.  Responsible parental guidance was imperative to bring out a child’s hidden potential.  Conversely, the absence of legitimate parental guidance and kinship ties made children vulnerable to negative influences — from pornography to pedophilia to drugs to satanic cults, and ultimately to crimes.  Behind most juvenile crimes was a profound weakening of the ties of familial love.  Parent-child relations and family ties were essentially different from other human relationships.  They were the strongest and most vital link, and left a lasting impact on the human personality.

He said Education for All (EFA) was a programme in Pakistan which was given the highest priority within the Government.  The thrust of the education policy was on preparing children to meet the challenges of the new millennium, with a major emphasis of science and technology.  The quality of education and its ability to develop the evolving capacity of children had not kept up with the pace of change.  Dropout rates suggested that only about half the children who enrolled in Class 1 reached Class 5.  The majority of those who dropped out were girls in rural areas.

YAHAYA ABDUL JABAR (Malaysia) said that while all were aware that children’s development was hampered by poverty and the lack of access to basic health care and nutrition, his Government was seriously concerned by the fact that children had increasingly been affected by armed conflict in recent years.  In some cases, he added, children had even been used as combatants.  The protection of all children in armed conflict should be a priority.  Their physical security should be ensured, and they should be provided with legal protection under international law.

It was undeniable and tragic, he continued, that hundreds of thousands of children had been forced to take part in armed conflicts as soldiers, sex slaves and porters — clear violations of their human rights.  Malaysia firmly believed that there should be no leniency or amnesty provided to those who committed crimes against innocent children.  Malaysia also strongly condemned the use of rape as a deliberate weapon in warfare.  That practice must not be tolerated and should be prosecuted as a war crime.  He added that while much progress had been achieved on many fronts, Malaysia was concerned by what it saw as gaps in general child protection efforts, namely protecting children under foreign occupation and those living under sanctions regimes.  He said that in the future, if sanctions must be invoked as a measure of last resort, a careful study of their potential impact on civilians, especially children, must be undertaken.

RANIA AL HAJ ALI (Syria) said special issues for her Government had been care for children and the need to bring them up in a sound environment.  That principle had been highlighted by the country’s national plans and programmes aimed at protecting and promoting the rights of children.  Despite the lack of necessary funds, the Government had actively sought to ensure children’s positive growth and well-being.  In that regard, a National Child Care Programme had been established in 1991.

She said that despite the fact that the reports before the Committee had delved deeply into issues that were affecting children, it was unfortunate that they had not mentioned the plight of children living under foreign occupation.  The Israeli occupation of Syrian Golan Heights had severely affected the children, particularly violating all of their civil and humanitarian rights.  The international community must act collectively and without selectivity if it wished to ensure the protection and promotion of those that would carry on future generations, wherever they were.  For that reason, Syria was keenly interested in the rescheduling of the Assembly special session as soon as possible.

ROKSOLANA IVANCHENKO (Ukraine) said while the treatment of children had improved in recent years, much work remained to be done.  Many children every day faced sexual exploitation, oppressive labour conditions, armed conflict, and HIV/AIDS.  There needed to be more cooperation within the international community to address those problems.  Children living in abject poverty also needed attention and prompt and effective action in order to allow them to realize their full potential.

She said the funds invested in children would return as a benefit.  In Ukraine, there were several programmes that aimed for the protection of children and broadening of their educational opportunities.  This was a challenge for a country whose economy was in transition.  Ukraine had a problem with children using drugs, especially injected drugs that led to increased rates of HIV/AIDS.  Children were also plagued because of the Chernobyl disaster, which had led to increased cancer rates.  The consequences of man-made disasters needed to be addressed, since the potential of more disasters was growing as the world advanced technologically.  She said every State and region had its own complexity, although most problems were global in nature.

DANIEL HELLE, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said that while children certainly required special attention in armed conflict situations, the ICRC deemed it just as important that efforts to ensure their protection include support for their families and communities.  It was necessary to promote all applicable humanitarian norms to promote the dignity and integrity of children, their families and communities.  Existing rules must not be promoted only among bearers of weapons but throughout the wider international community.  He said the recruitment of child soldiers was one of the most dramatic aspects of contemporary conflicts.  To effectively address that issue, global actors should focus efforts equally on prevention, demobilization and reintegration.  For its part, the ICRC helped demobilized and unaccompanied children to re-establish contact with their relatives.

MICHELLE JOHNSTON (International Labour Organization (ILO)) said child labour was one of the most pernicious threats facing children today.  The ILO estimated that, around the world, some 250 million children between the ages of

5 and 14 worked for a living.  Almost half, some 120 million, worked full time, every day, all year round.  Over 50 million children, between the ages of 5 and 11, worked in hazardous circumstances.  They worked with dangerous chemicals or machines; they were trafficked or worked as prostitutes; or they were child soldiers.  Many more were hidden from view, exploited in virtual slavery.  Child labour was neither valuable work experience nor an apprenticeship combined with schooling.  Child labour, especially in its worst forms, was abuse of power.  It was exploitation of the young, weak, vulnerable and insecure for profit.

Ms. Johnston said a few weeks ago, with the ratification of Convention 182 on child labour by Estonia, the number of ratifying States had reached 100 in two years, making it the fastest ratification rate for any ILO Convention.

In the wake of the horrific events of 11 September, she said, the continuing plight of so many of the world’s children should not be overlooked.  Although the General Assembly special session had been rightly postponed, when the preparatory process resumed, the ILO looked forward to continuing its cooperation with Member States to build upon the progress of recent months, especially in relation to child labour.  In accordance with its mandate from Member States, the ILO would continue to assist in ensuring that commitments under existing instruments were fully reflected in the important discussions which would be taking place.

Instruments such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which called for the establishment of a minimum age for employment, as well as ILO Conventions were particularly relevant to such discussions.

Rights of Reply

The representative of Israel, in exercise of the right of reply, said nothing was more dear or precious than the well-being of children.  It was of the utmost concern to protect them from violence, neglect and particularly the horrors of war.  Education was of vital importance.  Deliberately making children the targets of incitement; training them as holy warriors; and glorifying them as martyrs through Palestinian legislation was immoral and in contravention of international standards for peace.  Violence, he said, corrupted basic human fiber.  It was important for all to remember that 95 per cent of Palestinians lived not under Israeli control but under the control of the Palestinian Authority.

He deeply regretted the deaths of innocent Palestinians caught unintentionally in the crossfire.  At the same time for many years, innocent Israeli citizens, particularly children, had been slaughtered and stoned by bloodthirsty terrorists.  They had been murdered in discos, in markets and while participating in other normal, everyday activities.  Israel would continue to seek a world where children could be children — living free from fear and terror.

The Observer of Palestine, in exercise of the rights of reply, said once again, the Israeli representative’s statement was full of lies and distortions.  The occupation was the main hurdle to the development and enhancement of the Palestinian child.  When he said 95 per cent of Palestinian children lived under the Palestinian Authority, all the occupied territories were occupied, even the parts that fell under the Palestinian Authority.  Those parts were still occupied.  Just the other night, the Israeli army came in with tanks, and killed and abducted people.  They had stopped ambulances from coming in to treat victims of that assault as had been stated by the International Committee of the Red Cross.  Israel should not speak about terrorism; it was committing the ugliest terrorism in the whole world.