This year we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Thanks to the Convention, the prospects for children all over the world to enjoy their fundamental human rights have vastly improved.
Over the last 20 years, children’s rights and specific needs have been put on the international agenda. Child rights violations have been investigated – in many countries for the very first time. Children’s Ombudsmen have been established in several countries, to speak up for the nation’s youngest.
Despite this, much still remains to be done. There is a widespread lack of acceptance of children as individual rights bearers. This severely limits the possibility of effectively exercising children’s rights. Children must be recognised as holding human rights in their own capacity – as children.
We need to treat children as competent individuals wishing to share their opinions. We have a lot to learn from them. Children’s participation is important in all areas of their lives.
The right of children to be heard applies in both the public and the private sphere. Within the family children should be encouraged to express their views. According to Norwegian law, children over the age of seven and younger children who are capable of forming their own views must be given the opportunity to express their views before decisions are made in cases that affect them. This may for instance occur when deciding where they will live if their parents divorce. The adults are still the ones who decide, but children should have the opportunity to be heard.
Children also have the right to express their opinion in their community and in national affairs. In Norway we have established mechanisms for children’s participation in organisations, institutions and municipalities. In schools we have pupils’ councils and coordinating committees. However, there are still various challenges that must be met if we are to achieve the full participation of children and young people in decision-making processes in our country.
The ground-breaking UN Study on Violence against Children documented how children throughout the world are at risk of violence in nearly every aspect of their lives. Violence occurs in their homes, in schools, on the street, at work, in institutions and in detention facilities.
The UN study showed that girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual and physical abuse. Girls are also negatively affected by harmful traditions such as female genital mutilation and child marriage.
The UN Study on Violence against Children concluded that there is a need for more action and for targeting policy to combat all forms of violence. In this context, Norway welcomes the appointment of Ms Marta Santos Pais as Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children.
The Norwegian Government has allocated more than half a million dollar to support the establishment of the office of the Special Representative. The fulfilment of the mandate depends on the scale of support provided. Having a sufficient level of financial support is a prerequisite for setting up a robust and efficient office. We therefore encourage all governments to provide contributions to the UNICEF administered Trust Fund so as to ensure the success of the mandate.
Norway commends the continued and tireless efforts of the Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict, to lend a voice to millions of children that otherwise would not be heard.
Norway welcomes the unanimous adoption by the Security Council of resolution 1882, calling upon the Secretary-General to expand his “list of shame” to include parties to conflict who kill, maim and sexually violate children. We are encouraged by the Security Council’s resolve to enhance communication between the Working Group and relevant Security Council Sanctions Committees to address violations and abuses committed against children in armed conflict.
The responsibility of holding perpetrators accountable rests both with Member States affected by armed conflict as well as the membership as a whole.
The Special Representative’s latest report to the General Assembly draws attention to the changing nature of conflict and its effect on children. We fully share her view that a truly effective child protection dialogue depends on the involvement of both state and non-state actors. We urge Governments to facilitate such dialogues in the interest of children.
As States Parties to the Convention we have an obligation to establish and strengthen well-functioning national systems for securing children’s rights. These should include legal frameworks, policies and services to promote these rights. Particular emphasis should be put on the promotion of children’s right to health and education as set out in the Millennium Development Goals. We believe that failing to invest in children results in a failure to achieve development. This year’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Convention reminds us of the urgency to increase our efforts.
All over the world a constructive process towards fulfilling children’s rights is underway. In moving forward we must ensure the substantive input of children. UN bodies and special procedures play essential roles in pushing ahead. Children have waited 20 years for their convention to be fully implemented. There must be no further delay.