Holy See Statement at U.N. on Children´s Rights

Hopes for Further Protections

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NEW YORK, OCT. 25, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of an address by Archbishop Renato R. Martino, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, before the Third Committee of the 56th Session of the General Assembly on Item 115, «The Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children.»

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23 October 2001

Mr. Chairman:

The Holy See welcomes this opportunity to participate in the discussion on the promotion and protection of the rights of the child and looks forward to continue to share in those discussions and negotiations which will lead to the adoption of the Declaration and Plan of Action «Creating a World Fit for Children», during the Twenty-seventh Special Session of the General Assembly on Children.

For many people the scenes on television and in the print media of the World Trade Center disaster and the armed response against Afghanistan have had a lasting and profound impact. Fortunately television will be the closest that a majority of the world´s people will ever come to experience war and armed conflict.

Unfortunately, too many of the world´s children are affected by war and conflict every day of their lives. They all bear the physical and psychological scars which might be the result of direct involvement as combatants and child soldiers or through abduction, abuse, separation from family, malnutrition, and lost educational opportunities.

The same might be said for those children who are victims of exploitation or abuse. For these children unimaginable horrors are an everyday occurrence. These also suffer physical and psychological trauma which leaves scars that may never be healed.

With its almost universal ratification, the Convention on the Rights of the Child continues to guide governments in their actions regarding the well-being of children through the recognition of their dignity and the acknowledgment that «the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including legal protection, before as well as after birth».

Having been the fourth State to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child and responding to the call by the Secretary General as well as the appeal of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, tomorrow, on behalf of the Holy See, I will deposit the instruments of ratification of the 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.

The Holy See does this not only because it is the next step after the signing but because the Holy See has always recognized the fundamental importance of protecting the human rights of children and promoting their well being. This is most evident through the thousands of schools, hospitals and care centres under the auspices of the Catholic Church, as well as in the work of the Church among children who are refugees and displaced, those living in poverty or who are separated from parents or their family. Another of the ways this recognition is carried-out is certainly realized in protecting children from the atrocities of armed conflict and exploitation.

The Holy See is pleased to note that the number of ratifications required for the Optional Protocol on the Sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography to enter into force, has been reached and that the Holy See will now join with those States in what my Delegation hopes will also be a universal ratification of such an important instrument.

My Delegation is also pleased to note that with its ratification only three more states must ratify the Protocol on Child Soldiers before it too may enter into force.

In depositing its instruments of ratification, the Holy See encourages all other States to join in furthering the legal protection of children by ratifying or acceding to the protocols.

At the same time, however, the Holy See acknowledges the fact that while codification is a legal guarantee, it does not give certainty of protection. True protection comes from the genuine love, care and concern that each person is called to give in recognizing all children as a precious gift from God.

As my Delegation has read in «We the Children», the Report of the Secretary General, much progress has been made but at the same time, action still needs to be taken in order to achieve the goals set during and since the World Summit for Children, especially those regarding immunization, nutrition, safe sanitation and drinking water, maternal and under-five mortality, adequate shelter, access to education and health.

There are many challenges in the world. Each and every action that the United Nations system can take helps to chip away at the problems that continue to hamper the realization of the rights and assurance of the well-being of children. Parents and the family must be strengthened and helped in their role of providing the best for their children. Continuing to create a world fit for children can only be possible with real cooperation and solidarity in our actions.

The Holy See has always recognized the human dignity of children which in turn has empowered its centuries-old tradition for their protection and care and affirms its determination to join with all others who do the same.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[text distributed by Holy See mission]

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