Statement delivered to the UN’s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian & Cultural Affairs) on Item 65 – Rights of the Child, during the 66th meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.
The United States welcomes this opportunity to discuss the pressing issues facing the children of our own country and children around the world. Although many gains have been achieved, it is unacceptable that in 2011 children still live in fear of violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect. The United States views with deep concern the continuing reports of children being killed, maimed, raped, sexually abused, forced to bear arms as unlawful child soldiers, forced into sexual slavery, and used for exploitative labor purposes.
The focus of many child-oriented initiatives in the General Assembly and Human Rights Council has rightly been on preventing and protecting against the violence, abuse, and exploitation of children.
A little over a decade ago, the General Assembly convened a special session on children to review the progress since the 1990 World Summit for Children. Out of this session came the document entitled “A World Fit for Children,” which called attention to several issues facing children around the world. These included providing access to education, health and nutrition, as well as protection from violence, abuse, and exploitation. Over the past decade, the United States has implemented several national reforms to strengthen our own efforts to address these problems.
In the United States, an extensive network of federal, state, and local programs protect children on varied issues such as child pornography, commercial sexual exploitation of children, forced child labor, and to promote access to health care, foster care, and education.
In 2009, President Obama signed the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act, which provided substantial resources to states and territories to strengthen their existing programs and extend coverage to an estimated 11 million children.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires public schools to make available to all eligible children with disabilities a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment suited to their individual needs. Additionally, the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Education (TEACH) Grant Program helps fund the education of individuals pursuing undergraduate and master’s degrees that will prepare them to teach in high-need fields at schools that serve low-income families. These teachers commit to working in identified high-need fields, including working to teach students with disabilities, bilingual or non-English speaking students, or those students struggling with science and math.
The United States agrees with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children that “education has a unique potential to create a positive environment.” We are committed to providing equal educational opportunities to all children, regardless of their individual circumstances, race, national origin, ethnicity, sex, or disability and call on all states to enforce their laws and to meet their international legal obligations to protect children and promote the rights of the child.
The United States appreciates the on-going discussions of the rights of the child, and thanks the many UN bodies and independent experts who have contributed to the debate through reports and interactive dialogues. We consider the theme for this year’s right of the child resolution, “children with disabilities,” especially important. The United States is proud of its record in promoting the welfare of children domestically and internationally, and hopes to continue to work closely with the international community to further strengthen the protection of all our children.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman
The United States condemns the continued atrocities and abductions committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) across central Africa. We remain committed to supporting our regional partners’ efforts to mitigate and eliminate the threat to civilians and regional stability posed by the LRA. Since 2008, the United States has provided over $40 million in critical logistical support, equipment and training to enhance counter-LRA operations by regional militaries. We continue to join regional governments in calling on LRA fighters to peacefully disarm and return home.
With the consent of the Government of Uganda, and as notified to Congress, the United States has sent a small number of U.S. military advisors to the region to assist the forces that are pursuing the LRA and seeking to bring top commanders to justice. These advisors will work with our regional partners and the African Union in the field to strengthen information-sharing, enhance coordination and planning, and improve the overall effectiveness of military operations and the protection of civilians. These advisors will not engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense.
This is one component of an ongoing, comprehensive U.S. strategy to address the LRA threat, in accordance with the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Act signed into law in 2011. This strategy includes efforts to help increase the protection of civilians, encourage and facilitate defections of lower-level LRA fighters, and provide continued humanitarian relief.
In May 2010, President Obama signed into law the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, which reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to support regional partners’ efforts to end the atrocities of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in central Africa. For more than two decades, the LRA has murdered, raped and kidnapped tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children. Since 2008 alone, the LRA has killed more than 2,400 people and abducted more than 3,400. The United Nations estimates that over 380,000 people are displaced across Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and South Sudan as a result of LRA activity.
The United States’ comprehensive, multi-year strategy seeks to help mitigate and end the threat posed to civilians and regional stability by the LRA. The strategy outlined four strategic objectives for U.S. support: (1) the increased protection of civilians, (2) the apprehension or removal of Joseph Kony and senior LRA commanders from the battlefield, (3) the promotion of defections and support of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of remaining LRA fighters, and (4) the provision of continued humanitarian relief to affected communities. The United States’ decision, announced today, to send a small group of military advisers to assist the forces that are countering the LRA forms part of our continuing effort to achieve these strategic objectives.
To summarize the lines of effort in which the United States has been engaged:
Increasing Civilian Protection: The protection of civilians is central to the U.S. strategy. The United States is working with the governments in the region, the UN, and other partners to reduce the vulnerability of communities and increase the capacity of communities to make decisions related to their own safety. We also strongly support the UN peacekeeping forces in DRC and South Sudan, and we continue to work with the UN to augment their efforts in the LRA-affected region. In the DRC, the State Department and USAID are funding projects to help communities develop protection plans and bolster early warning capabilities. These projects include high frequency radios and cell phone towers.
Countering the LRA: Over the last year, the United States has worked with partners at the UN Security Council and African Union to maintain momentum and enhance coordination to counter the LRA. We have also continued to engage frequently and at a high-level with the governments in the region on the importance of their continued military efforts to pursue the LRA and protect local communities. We have provided significant support for those efforts. Since 2008, the United States has provided over $40 million in critical logistical support, equipment and training to enhance counter-LRA operations by regional militaries.
Today’s announcement forms part of our support for the international community’s efforts to counter the LRA. As notified to Congress, with the consent of the Government of Uganda, we have sent a small number of U.S. military advisors to assist the forces that are pursing the LRA. These advisors will work with the forces in the field to strengthen information-sharing, enhance coordination and planning, and improve the overall effectiveness of military operations.
Providing Humanitarian Assistance: The United States is the largest provider of humanitarian assistance to LRA-affected populations in CAR, DRC and South Sudan. In Fiscal Year 2011, the United States provided more than $18 million to support food security, humanitarian protection, health, and livelihoods initiatives for internally displaced persons, host community members, and other affected populations. We also continue to support efforts across the affected countries to demobilize and reintegrate former LRA fighters and all those victimized by this conflict back into normal life.
SUBJECT: Certification and Determination with Respect to the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008
Pursuant to section 404 of the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 (CSPA) (title IV, Public Law 110-457), I hereby: certify that the Government of Chad has implemented measures that include an action plan and actual steps to come into compliance with the standards outlined in the CSPA, and has implemented policies and mechanisms to prohibit and prevent future government or government-supported use of child soldiers and to ensure that no children are recruited, conscripted,or otherwise compelled to serve as child soldiers.
I hereby determine that it is in the national interest of the United States to waive the application of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the CSPA with respect to Yemen; and further determine that it is in the national interest of the United States to waive in part the application of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the CSPA with respect to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to allow for continued provision of International Military Education and Training and non-lethal Excess Defense Articles, and issuance of licenses for direct commercial sales of military equipment; and I hereby waive such provisions accordingly.
You are authorized and directed to submit this determination to the Congress, along with the accompanying Memorandum of Justification, and to publish the determination in the Federal Register.
Remarks delivered during an interactive Dialogue with the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Children in Armed Conflict Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy
Thank you, Madame President.
The United States thanks Special Representative Coomaraswamy for her excellent report and for her efforts to protect children around the world from the trauma of armed conflict. The United States is deeply committed to protecting children from abuse, exploitation, and the terrible suffering they endure as a result of armed conflict.
UNESCO’s 2011 Education for All Global Monitoring Report estimates that two million children were killed and six million disabled in armed conflicts between 1998 and 2008. Approximately 300,000 children are reportedly being exploited as unlawful child soldiers. We are appalled. Children continue to be forcibly recruited into armed forces, killed and maimed in violation of applicable international law, abducted, subjected to sexual violence, denied humanitarian aid, and deprived of education, health care and access to justice in the context of armed conflict. This is unacceptable.
The United States is deeply disturbed by information the Special Representative has presented regarding attacks on schools and hospitals in areas of armed conflict, including in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Schools, teachers and students, especially girls, have been regularly targeted by anti-government elements. In response to these vicious attacks on innocent students, Afghanistan and the United States, together with 40 other co-sponsors, adopted a joint resolution by consensus at the HRC in 2010. We welcome such efforts by the international community to advocate for the youngest and most vulnerable members of society.
The United States would like to ask Special Representative Coomaraswamy for her opinion on what can be done to improve the situation of children in armed conflict, especially children at particular risk such as girls and children with disabilities. We would like to inquire if she can suggest specific actions to be taken in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The United States recognizes that some progress has been made since the entry into force of the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We note in particular the Special Representative’s report that some parties in Nepal, Philippines, Chad, South Sudan, and Afghanistan have committed to action plans to stop unlawful recruitment of child soldiers and to release those already unlawfully in their armed forces. We are also pleased to learn that the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia has committed to work towards an action plan to release girls and boys now in government forces and allied militias.
More can and needs to be done to protect children in armed conflict. We commend the Special Representative for her tireless efforts to mobilize Member States to support and ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. The United States calls upon all nations to increase their efforts to protect children in armed conflict. Children are innocent and unable to protect themselves. Failing these children is NOT an option.
Thank you, Madame President.
The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 adds additional measures to prevent and deter human trafficking. These measures include technical assistance to foreign governments to increase their capacity to investigate an inspect businesses where they might be trafficked or child labor; technical assistance to foreign governments to provide immigrant groups with information on their rights; and technical assistance to help foreign governments develop legal frameworks to protect and regulate labor.
In addition, Title IV of the reauthorization incorporates the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008. The Child Soldier Prevention Act defines a child soldier as anyone under the age of 18 who takes “direct part in hostilities as a member of governmental armed forces,” who has been forcibly recruited into the governmental armed forces, or who has been recruited by a non-state army. A child soldier is also anyone under the age of 15 who has been voluntarily recruited into governmental armed forces. Finally, the classification can apply to anyone under the age of 18 who is involved in combat in a support role, such as a cook, porter, or sex slave. The legislation calls on the United States to condemn the use of child soldiers; establish, support and uphold, international standards related to the use of child soldiers; and expand services to help child soldiers. In addition, the legislation calls on diplomatic missions to develop a plan for helping child soldiers, and prevents the United States from providing military assistance to any foreign government that uses or permits the use of child soldiers.
The Child Soldiers Accountability Act of 2008 prohibits the recruitment and use of child soldiers and provides for penalties in the form of fines and up to 20 years in prison for U.S. citizen or Legal Permanent Resident offenders.