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