NEW YORK, 9 MAY 2002
STATEMENT BY HE MR. ANTÓNIO LOURENÇO DOS
, PORTUGUESE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND COOPERATION, ON BEHALF OF THE CHAIRMAN-IN-OFFICE OF OSCE AND MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND OF THE PORTUGUESE COMMUNITIES OF SANTOS PORTUGAL, TO THE COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE OF THE UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY'S SPECIAL SESSION ON CHILDREN
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am grateful for the opportunity to address the "Committee of the Whole" in my capacity as Chairman-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
Allow me to express first of all my appreciation for the important work the UN has been performing over the years as regards children’s rights, particularly through its specialized agency UNICEF.
For countless children around the world the rights foreseen in the UN Convention are nothing but a mirage. I believe there is no need to state here the numerous inhumane conditions and daily assaults children suffer on their dignity, be it in times of war or peace, be it in dictatorships or long established democracies, and in violation to the rights that should be guaranteed under that Convention, adopted more than a decade ago.
We at the OSCE consider that Peace and Security cannot be envisaged without upholding Human Rights. In 1990, in the Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension, participating States decided to accord particular attention to the recognition of the rights of the child.
Later, in 1999, the year of the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, at the Istanbul Summit Declaration States committed themselves to actively promote children’s rights and interests, especially in conflict and post-conflict situations.
Also in 1999 States signed the Charter for European Security where they promise to undertake measures to end violence against children as well as sexual exploitation and all form of trafficking. This Charter also includes the promotion of the adoption or strengthening of legislation to hold accountable persons that are responsible for these acts and strengthen the protection of victims. Moreover, the Charter promised to
develop and implement measures to promote the rights and interests of children in armed conflict and post-conflict situations, including refugees and internally displaced children, and prevention of forced or compulsory recruitment for use in armed conflict of persons under 18 years of age.
But OSCE commitments with respect to children are still quite limited and OSCE action in this field is still to be developed. Particularly worrisome to us at the OSCE has been the problem of trafficking. Children have been traded and forced into sexually or economically oppressive and exploitative situations for the profit of others. Children are exchanged for prostitution, for begging and soliciting, for forced labor in factories, mines, plantations, domestic service, construction, under appalling life conditions.
In this field, the OSCE has been developing public campaigns on awareness of children’s rights and also more specific projects directly related to trafficking in countries where this is more problematic. And because we greatly value the involvement of the NGO community in our efforts, those projects include the strengthening of the NGO network and its capacity to address this difficult situation.
Furthermore, we have an Anti-Trafficking Project Fund to empower OSCE field operations to develop and expand their regional and national anti-trafficking initiatives, and to enhance co-operation between the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), OSCE field missions and other local actors in combating trafficking in human beings, including children.
Children and Armed Conflict was the theme of ODIHR’s Seminar in 2000. Armed conflict has devastating consequences for children, physical and psychological. We are especially concerned about child soldiers, land-mines and post-traumatic stress disorders.
Children need our help: they are the most vulnerable group, powerless to defend themselves. It is true that the rights of children are recognized as never before, but the practical challenges are still many. Governments and civil society need to take stronger action to implement their commitments.
The OSCE has discussed and will continue to discuss how we can best enhance and improve our protection framework for children, building upon existing international standards for the protection of the rights of the child that need our efforts to become a reality.