Rights of Children - Statement by Iceland
H.E. Ambassador Gréta Gunnarsdóttir
GA66 / 3rd Committee
Item 65: Promotion and protection of the rights of children
First of all, Iceland would like to join the European Union in voicing its support for UNICEF, the Special Rapporteurs and Representatives, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Human Rights Council, who all contribute to the well-being and safety of children.
Since the entry into force of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) much has been achieved, although gaps still remain in its implementation. The Convention and its optional protocols constitute the cornerstone of our work to protect and promote the rights of the child worldwide. With close to universal ratification of the treaty itself, we urge those countries which have not yet done so to join the Convention, as well as the Optional Protocols.
Iceland ratified the CRC in 1992, and ever since, the Convention has guided our legislation on children. All provisions regarding children are based on the CRC's fundamental principles, and all legislation shall be interpreted in accordance with the CRC. A legislative bill suggesting amendments to the Icelandic Children’s Act was recently submitted to Parliament. It includes provisions aimed at better reflecting the fundamental principles in Articles 2, 3, 6 and 12 of the CRC.
Iceland would like to highlight two issues. Firstly, gender discrimination in infancy and secondly, children as youth, in particular adolescent girls.
Gender discrimination is a factor even before birth. With increased access to new technologies we are experiencing a worrying development towards skewed societies where more boys are born than girls. This is based on the belief that daughters are worth less than sons.
The societal impact of this practice is staggering. Countries where this occurs see generations of young men grow old, not able to find a partner and form a family. The unintended consequences of these practices can be extremely serious: social unrest such as increased crime rates, bride trafficking and sexual violence. This practice is not brought on by poverty or lack of education although it can be a contributing factor. This problem exists on almost every continent. It affects rich and poor; educated and illiterate; of all religions.
Iceland strongly encourages governments, international organizations, NGO´s, religious leaders and others who can have an impact on this development to act in the interest of the girl-child. We need to ensure that girls have equal opportunities from the very start to provide for their basic needs, to obtain education, access to health care and to participate in developing their societies.
Iceland strongly supports the calls by the Commission on the Status of Women, the Committee on the Rights of the Child and other bodies to further protect girls’ rights and to promote their participation in developing their societies. These are necessary preconditions for the attainment of gender equality and women’s empowerment as laid down in the third Millennium Development Goal.
As the report on the girl child states, girls are inversely affected by poverty, exaggerated by the global economic crisis. There is a danger that even with signs of recovery, girls and women will be more vulnerable to the effect of the crisis; spending on girls’ education and health services may slow down with the burden shifting to the household adding to other responsibilities such as formal and informal work.
This is particularly true during adolescence when girls face increased discrimination. The report states that when girls reach adolescence, they often face new restrictions and limitations and much too often find themselves prematurely in adult roles of wife, mother, worker or caretaker, losing the special provisions and protections of childhood.
It is our duty to ensure that girls are educated, healthy and skilled so that they can support the economic development of their societies, contribute to advancing social justice and the eradication of poverty. It is crucial to invest in the rights and protection of adolescent girls, including girls living in rural areas.
On a brighter note, we see young people around the world seeking increased empowerment by expressing their willingness to participate more actively in society and insisting that their voices be heard. We have been encouraged by the calls of young people in the Middle East and North Africa for their concerns to be addressed through democratic processes. We need to ensure that young people see the benefit in actively contributing to their societies. That they are a part of society, not to be excluded.
Iceland would therefore like to welcome the enhanced emphasis by UNICEF on reaching youth and in particular adolescent girls, most recently in its “State of the World’s Children”, which focused on adolescents. The report is appropriately named an ‘Age of Opportunity’ as it rightly insists that investing in adolescents, is a powerful means to break the inter-generational cycle of poverty and inequity that threatens the rights of countless children.
Having served for the first time on UNICEF’s Executive Board in 2010, Iceland is aware of the colossal tasks that remain and is determined to do its best to contribute. Having said that, allow me, Mr. Chair, to reiterate my Government’s commitment to UNICEF. In line with that support, the Icelandic Parliament recently adopted a Strategy for Iceland’s Development Cooperation for the years 2011-2014, where UNICEF is identified as one of our four key multilateral partners.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.