Rights of Children - Statement of Iceland
H.E. Ambassador Gréta Gunnarsdóttir
GA67 / 3rd Committee
Item 65: Promotion and protection of the rights of children
19 October 2012
First of all Iceland would like to join the European Union in voicing its support for UNICEF, the Special Rapporteurs and Representatives and the Committee on the Rights of the Child 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 much has been achieved. The Convention and its optional protocols constitute the cornerstone of our work to protect and promote the rights of the child worldwide. With almost universal ratification of the Convention, we urge those states, which have not yet become parties to the Convention and the Optional Protocols, to do so.
Iceland would like to highlight three issues. First, the recent verdicts on child soldiers by the ICC and the Special Court for Sierra Leone; secondly, the Millennium Development Goal of universal education; and thirdly, violence against children, especially in the juvenile justice system.
Iceland would like to begin by welcoming the two milestone verdicts recently reached by the ICC and the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which have established leading jurisprudence on the war crime of recruitment and use of children in armed conflict. By issuing the verdicts, the two courts have sent a powerful message to perpetrators that the recruitment of child soldiers will not go unpunished.
Additionally, vital new practices were developed in these two cases on the participation of children, both as victims and witnesses, in judicial proceedings before international courts. We strongly support these new and innovative approaches in child-friendly judicial procedures to protect the children from trauma and re-victimization.
In fact, the Icelandic Government Agency for Child Protection has since 1998, operated the “Children’s House”, where child protection services, the medical professions, law enforcement, prosecution and even judges work in a coordinated and complementary manner, investigating cases of suspected sexual abuse and other violence against children. The Children’s House, which has become a model internationally for a child friendly justice environment, has contributed to more child-friendly judicial processes, making the legal justice system in Iceland more accessible and effective for children. We would be pleased to share our experiences on this system with interested Member States.
Iceland is strongly committed to the right to education and it is a primary objective in the coalition agreement of the Icelandic Government. We place great emphasis on the role of the educational system in encouraging and preparing young people’s participation in society. Free and universal education is key to social equality and a nation’s long-term prosperity. Therefore, we welcome the Secretary-Generals initiative; education first. It is a necessary effort to raise the political profile of education and strengthen the global movement to achieve quality education for all.
Fewer girls have the opportunity to attend secondary schools than boys. Thus, gender and poverty continue to be the main impediments to education. This means that being female and poor is a double disadvantage in many countries. We must therefore place great emphasis on the right of the child, including the girl child, to education, as an investment societies must make in order to thrive.
Violence against children and child abuse cannot and should never be tolerated. Impunity for such crimes is not acceptable and those who are entrusted with children and abuse that trust must always be held accountable. Violence against children goes against the very core of their human dignity and must be addressed in the work ahead of us on the development framework beyond 2015.
Iceland strongly supports the calls from UNODC, OHCHR and other bodies to address the prevention of and responses to violence against children within the justice system. As noted in the Report of the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, there is a growing tendency to lower the age of criminal responsibility and increase penalties for children.
At the same time, there is no evidence that juvenile delinquency is on the rise or that harsher treatment of young offenders improves public security. It is far more critical to prevent and reduce situations when children are deprived of their liberty. Violence as a form of punishment should always be explicitly prohibited.
Juvenile reforms need to be guided by child-and gender sensitive approaches and alternative mechanisms to criminal punishment should be developed. Depriving a child of its liberty should be a last resort.
Children and youth comprise almost half of the world population. To secure a prosperous and peaceful future for them and future generations it is vital that we collectively address the challenges they are facing, including by ensuring the realisation of their human rights. When doing so we need to recognize that children and youth have valuable views on what kind of society they want, as well as capacities and skills to contribute.
Thank you, Mr./Madame Chair