Statement by Ms. María Mjöll Jónsdóttir First Secretary

Children’s wellbeing is a subject we can all take to heart. Children’s issues are a major concern for my government. Through our bilateral development cooperation, the construction of schools for poor and marginalized rural children has been complemented by adult literacy projects. The gains of empowering adults to support their children in developing countries have been evident as enrollment and retention rates of primary school children have increased noticeably.

Iceland welcomes the enhanced emphasis placed by UNICEF on reaching out to the most vulnerable children. UNICEF remains a trusted partner in Iceland’s development assistance and enjoys wide public support. Serving for the first time on UNICEF’s Executive Board, Iceland is more aware than ever of the colossal tasks that remain.

There is no need to rehearse statistics. Too many children are not going to school, too many children are undernourished and too many children are needlessly dying as we speak. Therefore, we must step up our collective efforts to improve the lives of millions of children whose rights are violated every day. These goals set out in the MDGs and the Declaration of the Special Session on Children in 2002, “A World Fit for Children”, must remain the focus of our work, even as they continue to elude us.

Global health is at the core of the Millennium Development Goals, as are efforts to advance fundamental human rights of women and children, including universal access to care and equal opportunities to health and life. Iceland welcomes the initiative taken by the Secretary General in formulating the Global Strategy on Women’s and Children’s Health. This global effort should identify the policy changes needed to improve health and to save lives which in turn should facilitate poverty reduction and economic growth.

The Special Representative of the Secretary General on violence against children, Ms. Marta Santos Pais, has outlined the need for countries to develop a comprehensive strategy and introduce legislative improvements to address the often hidden and socially accepted violence against children. Measures taken should aim at protecting children from all forms of violence and provide child victims of violence, sexual exploitation and abuse with support, social services and counselling.

Iceland is deeply concerned with the persistent phenomena of the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and the closely related issue of trafficking in children. The complexity of these issues is frequently misinterpreted. A recent study on child trafficking in West-Africa, lead by Icelandic scholars in cooperation with UNICEF, shows that the concept is not straight forward and has to be put into an appropriate, culturally sensitive context. The Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Ms. Najat M’jid Maalla, calls in her report, for a better understanding and greater awareness of these complex problems for better action and implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. Iceland calls upon states to ratify and implement the relevant legal instruments to effectively address these issues.

Earlier this year, Iceland joined the 94 countries that have now endorsed the Paris Commitments and Principles on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups. With new tactics of war, children have increasingly become victims and targets in conflicts that obey no rules of war. Following the adoption of Security Council Resolution no. 1882, the Security Council now has the means to effectively address persisting impunity for grave violations against children. Iceland is confident that the measures taken on this basis, led by the Special Representative for children and armed conflict, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, will reduce the exposure of children to the horrors of war and foster the reintegration of children already affected by war into their society.

In the thirty years since the entry into force of the Convention on the Rights of the Child much has been achieved although major gaps still remain in its implementation. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the adoption of two Optional Protocols to the Convention, on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography. These instruments constitute the cornerstone of our work to protect the children of the world and a standard for promoting and protecting the rights of the child. With recent ratifications, the two Optional Protocols have now been ratified by 139 and 141 states, respectively. We urge those countries which have not done so to sign and ratify the Protocols with the aim of achieving universality by 2012.

Let us work together to make the world a better and a safer place for our children.

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