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UN Press Release on Rights of Child

Subject: UN Press Release on Rights of Child (28 Jan 97).

			Press Release


				6-24 JANUARY 

Makes Recommendations on Reports Of Bulgaria, Ethiopia, Panama, Myanmar, 
Syria and New Zealand 

GENEVA, 24 January (UN Information Service) -- The Committee on the 
Rights of the Child concluded today its three-week
fourteenth session by adopting conclusions and recommendations on initial 
reports submitted to it by six countries. 

Bulgaria, Ethiopia, Panama, Myanmar, Syria and New Zealand, in keeping 
with their obligations as States parties to the
Convention, supplied over the course of the session lengthy written 
summaries to the Committee on their efforts to help and
protect children, and sent delegations to answer questions and hear the 
opinions of the Committee's 10 experts. 

Among the panel's conclusions was that the Government of Myanmar should 
refrain fully from recruiting under-aged children
into the military and that it should end all involvement of children in 
forced labour. Panama was urged to make greater efforts
to eradicate illiteracy and increase access to education for indigenous 
children, refugee children and rural children. 

The Committee called for measures to promote change in "persisting 
negative attitudes" towards children, particularly girls, in
Ethiopia, and for intensified efforts to abolish such traditional 
practices as female genital mutilation, early marriages and teenage

In addition, the Committee said information campaigns should be launched 
to combat prevailing discrimination against girls in
Syria, and that appropriate measures should be taken to protect children 
there born out of wedlock. 

As for the situation in Bulgaria, the panel recommended strengthening of 
sex-education programmes and launching of
information campaigns on family planning to reduce early pregnancies. 

In addition, it called for further studies and additional steps by New 
Zealand to prevent youth suicide. 

At its next session, to be held from 20 May to 6 June, the Committee is 
scheduled to review initial reports from Azerbaijan,
Bangladesh, Algeria, Ghana and Cuba, and to take up a supplementary 
report from Paraguay. 

Conclusions and Recommendations 

The Committee noted with appreciation steps taken by the Government of 
Bulgaria in the area of law reform, including
adoption of a new Constitution and acts on social welfare, education, 
homeless children, juvenile delinquency and penal
reform. It also welcomed establishment in 1995 of a national Youth and 
Children Committee. It recognized the difficulties
faced, especially by vulnerable groups such as children, during the 
country's transition to a market economy. Among its
recommendations were that Bulgaria: 

-- Conduct a comprehensive review of national legislation to bring it 
fully into line with the Convention, especially in the areas
of labour, adoption, domestic violence and administration of juvenile 

-- Adopt a law on the protection of the child; 

-- Strengthen coordination between various governmental mechanisms 
involved in children's rights, with a view to developing a
comprehensive policy on children; 

-- Improve data collection to be used as a basis for designing programmes 
to improve the situation of children, especially those
belonging to disadvantaged groups and minority groups, such as the Roma; 

-- Consider establishment of an independent mechanism to monitor child 
rights, such as an ombudsman or national

-- Make greater efforts to allocate maximum resources and budget 
appropriations to social services for children, with
particular attention to children belonging to vulnerable or marginalized 

-- Appropriate Government assistance to families to aid in child rearing 
and to prevent domestic violence and abuse and
abandonment or institutionalization of children; 

-- Strengthen sex-education programmes and launch information campaigns 
on family planning to reduce early pregnancies; 

	Press Release HR/4321 28 January 1997 

-- Increase efforts to prevent and combat corporal punishment, sexual 
abuse, exploitation and ill-treatment of children, in
institutions and detention centres and elsewhere; 

-- Appropriate measures to prevent school drop-outs; and 

-- Take measures to protect children from labour exploitation, including 
in the informal sector. 

The Committee welcomed steps taken in Ethiopia since 1991 to set up 
democratic institutions, including the adoption of a new
Constitution incorporating international standards in human rights, and 
having a specific reference to the Convention. It also
lauded the establishment of a inter-ministerial legal committee to review 
national legislation as it applied to children, and said it
was encouraged by efforts to protect children from HIV/AIDS and from 
harmful traditional practices, such as female genital

The panel acknowledged that the country faced economic, social and 
political challenges following years of civil war, and that
additional difficulties included regional and urban-rural disparities and 
traditional practices and cultures, especially in rural
areas, harmful to the health of girls. 

Among the Committee's recommendations were the following: 

-- Measures should be taken to promote change in "persisting negative 
attitudes" towards children, particularly girls, disabled
children, children born out of wedlock and children affected by or 
infected with HIV/AIDS, including intensified efforts to
abolish traditional practices damaging to the health and well-being of 
children, such as female genital mutilation; 

-- Measures also should be taken to end early marriages and teenage 

-- Steps should be taken to improve coordination between governmental 
mechanisms involving children's rights, with a view to
developing a comprehensive policy on children; 

-- An independent monitoring mechanism for child rights, such as an 
office of ombudsman or a national commission should be
set up; 

-- Reform of legislation to reflect Convention standards was called for, 
including abolition, as a matter of priority, of the
existing minimum age of marriage for girls of 15 years, sentencing of 
children to corporal punishment, 

	Press Release HR/4321 28 January 1997 

allowance of "light bodily punishment" as an educational measure within 
the family and limitation of the right of children to legal

-- Budget allocations to the maximum extent possible for children's 
programmes should be made, with particular attention to
vulnerable children and special priority to development of a primary care 
health system; 

-- An effective system of birth registration should be developed; 

-- A system for complaints for children subject to any form of violence, 
abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, maltreatment or
exploitation should be established; 

-- Measures should be taken to regulate child labour and minimum age of 
employment in accordance with Convention and
International Labour Organization (ILO) standards; 

-- The juvenile justice system should be reformed to bring it into 
conformity with Convention standards; and 

-- Arrangement should be made for a meeting of international 
organizations working in the country, including United Nations
agencies and non-governmental organizations, with competent national 
authorities, to assess needs for further international
assistance to promote and protect the rights of children. 

The report of Panama and the dialogue carried out with its delegation was 
termed constructive, but the Committee regretted
what it called "a lack of information on specific measures". Positive 
developments cited included the direct applicability of the
Convention at the national level, efforts made at law reform and recent 
establishment of a "people's defender" to monitor
human rights, including children's rights. 

Among the panel's recommendations were that: 

-- Children's issues be accorded a higher priority by the Government, and 
that appropriate budgetary provisions be made to
the maximum extent possible, particularly to help children belonging to 
vulnerable and marginalized groups; 

-- Efforts to adopt a code on children be pursued; that the Government 
define in its legislation a minimum age below which
children could not be deprived of their liberty; that legislation on the 
minimum age of marriage for girls be reviewed with a view
to raising it; and that appropriate measures be taken to protect children 
against sexual exploitation; 

-- A national strategy on children be established on an urgent basis; 

	Press Release HR/4321 28 January 1997 

-- An independent body, such as an ombudsman, be established to monitor 
child rights; 

-- Efforts be made to change attitudes towards children in general, 
including those belonging to indigenous groups; 

-- Appropriate assistance be given to families, including parental 
guidance and counselling, with a view to preventing domestic
violence, prohibiting the use of corporal punishment and preventing early 

-- Greater efforts be focused on eradicating illiteracy and increasing 
access to education of indigenous children, refugee
children and children living in rural areas; 

-- The Government carry out an effective campaign to eliminate child 
labour, especially in rural areas, and to forcefully
encourage enrolment and continuation of children in school; 

-- The Government ensure adequate protection of refugee children; 

-- All appropriate measures be taken to prevent and combat sexual abuse 
and sexual exploitation of children; and 

-- The juvenile justice system be revised to bring it into conformity 
with the standards of the Convention. 

The report of Myanmar was described as "incomplete in its appreciation of 

the situation of children in the country". The
Committee noted as positive the withdrawal by the Government of two 
reservations to the Convention and said it was
encouraged by its adoption of a National Plan of Action and its 
establishment of a National Committee on the Rights of the

The Committee recommended, among other measures, that: 

-- The Government undertake a comprehensive review of national 
legislation to ensure conformity with the Convention; 

-- The country's Citizenship Act, Village and Town Acts, and Whipping 
Acts be repealed, and laws relating to
non-discrimination, freedom of association, child labour and juvenile 
justice be adequately amended to reflect the standards of
the Convention; 

-- A multidisciplinary monitoring system be set up for child rights, and 
efforts be made to ensure promotion and protection of
the rights of the child in cooperation with United Nations bodies and 
specialized agencies, including the Special Rapporteur on
the situation of human rights in Myanmar; 

	Press Release HR/4321 28 January 1997 

-- The Government take all appropriate measures to the maximum extent of 
budgetary resources to provide social services for
children, with particular attention to children belonging to vulnerable 
and marginalized groups; 

-- Different categories of citizenship be abolished, as well as mention 
on national identity cards of religion and ethnic origin; 

-- An alternative choice of education be given to non-Buddhist poor 
children and that the State guarantee freedoms of
association and speech as well as the right to peaceful assembly; 

-- Health services be provided to all children, including those in remote 
areas and those who belong to minority groups; 

-- Efforts be made to reduce the level of school drop-outs and the school 
repetition rate; 

-- The Government prevent any occurrence of forced relocation, 
displacement and other types of involuntary population

-- All reported cases of abuse, rape and/or violence against children 
committed by members of the armed forces be rapidly
and thoroughly investigated, with appropriate judicial sanctions applied 
to perpetrators; 

-- The Government fully refrain from recruiting under-aged children into 
the military; and that all involvement of children in
forced labour be ended; 

-- Measures be taken to combat exploitation of adopted children, 
including through labour; 

-- All appropriate measures be taken to prevent child abuse, including 
sexual abuse, and the sale and trafficking of children,
child prostitution and child pornography; and 

-- In the spirit of international cooperation, the State party implement 
all recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur on
Myanmar, and the country envisage ratifying major international 
human-rights treaties in addition to the Convention. 

Among positive aspects noted in the report of Syria were full 
incorporation of the Convention into domestic law and
establishment of a Higher Committee for Child Welfare and a National 
Committee for Children. Factors impeding
implementation of the Convention included foreign occupation of part of 
the national territory, the Committee acknowledged,
adding that "the important budget devoted to military expenses and the 
insufficient budget 

	Press Release HR/4321 28 January 1997 

allocated to social expenses may contribute to hamper the enjoyment by 
children of their rights under the Convention". 

The panel recommended, among other measures, that: 

-- The country consider withdrawing its three reservations to the 

-- Further efforts be made to coordinate the actions of the high-level 
committees for children with the work of central, regional
and local administrations; 

-- Laws be made to reflect specific provisions of the Convention, 
including the minimum age of marriage for girls, the age of
criminal responsibility and the minimum age of access to employment; 

-- Information campaigns be launched to combat prevailing discrimination 
against girls, and that appropriate measures be taken
to protect children born out of wedlock; 

-- Priority be given in budget allocations to the rights of children, 
with particular emphasis on health and education; 

-- The Government accord to all children, including refugee children born 
in Syria and Syrian-born Kurdish children, the right
to be registered and to acquire a nationality, without discrimination and 
irrespective of race, religion or ethnic origin, in keeping
with the Convention; 

-- Authorities pay special attention to ill-treatment and abuse of 
children within the family and to the problem of corporal
punishment in schools; 

-- Laws regarding child employment be brought into line with the 

-- The juvenile justice system be reformed in light of the Convention and 
other relevant international standards; and 

-- The Government carry out studies, in cooperation with the United 
Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and other relevant
organizations, in the fields of health, family planning, education, early 
marriage, child abuse and sexual abuse of children within
the family. 

The Committee welcomed, among other positive factors in the performance 
of New Zealand, adoption of a Domestic
Protection Act whose application 

	Press Release HR/4321 28 January 1997 

extended to children and measures allowing the country's Human Rights 
Commission to receive complaints from children. 

Among its recommendations were that: 

-- The Government consider withdrawing reservations to the Convention and 
that the country extend application of the
Convention to the territory of Tokelau; 

-- A comprehensive policy statement on the rights of the child be 
prepared and adopted, incorporating the principles and
provisions of the Convention; 

-- The process under way of bringing existing legislation into line with 
the Convention be pursued and that -- among other
things -- the minimum ages for being charged with a serious criminal 
offence and for accession to employment be reviewed as
a matter of priority; 

-- The office of Commissioner for Children be strengthened and that 
consideration be given to making it more independent and
directly accountable to Parliament; 

-- Budget allocations be made to the maximum extent of available 
resources for children's programmes, giving particular
attention to children in disadvantaged groups, and that the Government 
undertake a study on the impact on children and their
families of the economic reform process under way for the past several 

-- A study be carried out on the needs of single-parent families, in 
light of their increasing number, and that additional measures
be taken to protect children in such families; 

-- Priority be given to studying further the possible causes of youth 
suicide and steps taken as soon as practicable to establish
additional support and intervention programmes; 

-- Efforts already made by the Government to improve the health, 
education and welfare of the Maori population be
strengthened and new efforts be made to close the remaining gap between 
Maori and non-Maori children; 

-- Policy and law in relation to child labour be reviewed and that the 
country consider ratifying ILO Convention No. 138 on
minimum age for admission to employment; and 

-- All refugee children, including asylum seekers coming to New Zealand 
from outside schemes organized by the United
Nations High Commissioner for 

	Press Release HR/4321 28 January 1997 

Refugees, be given the benefit of introduction assistance and Government 
support services. 

Convention on Rights of Child 

The Convention, adopted by the General Assembly on 20 November 1989, is 
the most widely accepted human rights treaty,
counting 189 States parties. It makes States which accept it legally 
accountable for their actions towards children. Work on its
drafting began in 1979 -- the International Year of the Child -- at the 
Commission on Human Rights. The Convention was
opened for signature on 26 January 1990. That day, 61 countries signed 
it, a record first-day response. It entered into force
just seven months later, on 2 September 1990. 

Ratifying the Convention entails reviewing national legislation to make 
sure it is in line with the provisions of the treaty. The
Convention stipulates, among other things, that: every child has the 
right to life, and States shall ensure to the maximum child
survival and development; every child has the right to a name and 
nationality from birth; and, when courts, welfare institutions
or administrative authorities deal with children, the child's best 
interests shall be a primary consideration. The Convention
recognizes the right of children to be heard. 

Furthermore, States shall ensure that each child enjoys full rights 
without discrimination or distinctions of any kind; that children
should not be separated from their parents, unless by competent 
authorities for their well-being; States should facilitate
reunification of families by permitting travel into or out of their 
territories; and States shall protect children from physical or
mental harm and neglect, including sexual abuse or exploitation. 

Also according to the Convention, disabled children shall have the right 
to special treatment, education and care; primary
education shall be free and compulsory and discipline in school should 
respect the child's dignity; capital punishment or life
imprisonment shall not be imposed for crimes committed before the age of 
18; no child under 15 should take any part in
hostilities, and children exposed to armed conflict shall receive special 
protection; and children of minority and indigenous
populations shall freely enjoy their own culture, religion and language. 

A conference of the States parties has endorsed efforts to amend the 
Convention in order to increase the membership of the
Committee, while the General Assembly has expressed support for the 
working group of the Commission on Human Rights on
a draft optional protocol to the treaty related to the involvement of 
children in armed conflict. 

	Press Release HR/4321 28 January 1997 

States Parties to Convention 

Recent accessions to the Convention by Oman and United Arab Emirates 
brings the number of States parties to 189, as
follows: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and 
Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria,
Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, 
Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and
Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, 
Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape
Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, 
Congo, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire, Croatia,
Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, 
Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic,
Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, 
Ethiopia, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Finland,
France, Gabon, Gambia, Germany, Georgia, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, 
Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti,
Holy See, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, 
Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakstan,
Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People's Democratic Republic, 
Latvia and Lebanon. 

Also, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, 
Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta,
Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, 
Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru,
Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niue, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, 
Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Panama, Papua New
Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of 
Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian
Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and 
the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome
and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, 
Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain,
Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Syria, Tajikistan, 
Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,
Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, 
Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United
Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, 
Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Federal Republic of
Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), Zaire, Zambia and Zimbabwe. 

Committee Membership 

The Convention requires that the members of the Committee have a high 
moral standing and recognized competence in the
field of children's rights. The following experts, nominated by the 
States parties to serve in their personal capacity, have been
elected to the Committee: Hoda Badran, of Egypt; Akila Belembaogo, of 
Burkina Faso; Flora Eufemio, of the Philippines;
Thomas Hammarberg, of Sweden; Judith Karp, of Israel; Youri Kolosov, of 
the Russian Federation; Sandra P. Mason, of
Barbados; Swithun Mombeshora, of Zimbabwe; Marta Santos Pais, of 
Portugal; and Marilia Sardenberg Zelner Gonçalves,
of Brazil. 

[United Nations, 28 January 1997].