I have the honour to speak on behalf of Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
In 2012 the world will celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the General Assembly’s Special Session on Children. While much has been achieved over the past decade, many fundamental challenges remain. Millions of children throughout the world continue to live in poverty stricken conditions, and experience daily the lack of adequate food, shelter and access to health and education facilities.
In the Horn of Africa, regrettably the mortality rate resulting from famine continues to rise. According to some estimates, as many as 15 children per 10,000 under the age of five die each day. To put this in perspective, of a population of 100,000 young children, this would equate to approximately 4,200 deaths per month. Clearly this is a disaster of monumental proportions, one which will require our collective resolve to address.
We recognise that children and youth experiencing homelessness are among the most vulnerable young people in society. Homelessness can have a severe impact on a child’s development, and may be the first step on a path to lifelong disadvantage. We therefore welcome the Human Rights Council’s upcoming focus, during its 19th session in March 2012, on the rights of children working and/or living on the street.
Young people are crucial to a nation’s economic and social prosperity. However, as noted in UNICEF’s “State of the World’s Children” report of February this year, globally one-third of all new HIV cases involve young people between the ages of 15 and 24, and in some countries more adolescents die from violence than do children under five from disease and ill health. The UN High Level Meeting on youth, held this July, recognised that in order to effectively address these issues, we must involve those most affected – young people. Canada, Australia, and New Zealand were pleased to have contributed to the discussion on involving youth through dialogue and mutual understanding and we call for a continuing mutual dialogue.
As noted in the recent report of the Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals and persons with disabilities, persons with disabilities experience poorer education and labour market outcomes compared to persons without disabilities. Children with disabilities who are denied access to education are therefore disproportionately likely to live in poverty. We welcome the focus on children with disabilities in this year’s resolution on the ‘Rights of the Child’.
In addition, Australia, Canada and New Zealand recognise that despite progress achieved, girls continue to face particular challenges and, as expressed in recent resolutions on the ‘Girl Child’, they are “often at greater risk of being exposed to and encountering various forms of discrimination and violence”. In recognition of this, Canada, Australia and New Zealand urge member states to support the adoption of an International Day of the Girl by the General Assembly. This will encourage all relevant stakeholders to take further action in order to address the specific challenges faced by girls. Evidence shows that investing in girls brings better development results than investing in any other demographic group.
Finally, the continued use and abuse of children in armed conflict serves as a reminder of how far we have to go in protecting children’s rights. We welcome the Security Council’s decision in July this year to expand the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism’s listing criteria for grave violations committed against children in armed conflict, to include attacks on schools and hospitals, and credible threats or attacks against schoolchildren and educational and medical personnel. We applaud the Security Council’s continued commitment to protecting children in situations of armed conflict. We also commend the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, for her tireless efforts to promote and protect the rights of children in armed conflict. Canada, Australia and New Zealand take this opportunity reiterate our unwavering support for Ms Coomaraswamy and her mandate.