Holy See on the Rights of Children

«For Too Many Children the Right to Life Is Denied»

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NEW YORK, OCT. 16, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the statement Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See at the United Nations, delivered Thursday on the promotion and protection of the rights of children before the 64th session of the U.N. General Assembly.

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Mr Chairman,

As we consider the promotion and protection of the rights of children, we also commemorate the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, an important instrument aimed at protecting the rights and interests of children.

In the course of the past twenty years the Convention has been ratified or acceded to by almost two hundred States; the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict has been ratified by almost 130 countries; and the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography has been ratified by over 130 countries. International consensus has grown as governments have become more aware of the need to protect all children. In this regard, my delegation encourages all States that have not yet done so to join in furthering the legal protection of children by ratifying or acceding to the Convention and the Protocols and calls for a correct application of these legal instruments which entails respect for the inherent right to life of all children.

A recent UNICEF report comes with good news: the global under-five mortality has decreased steadily over the past two decades. However, statistics also tell us that in the last decade more than two million children have been killed in the course of armed conflict, six million have been left disabled, tens of thousands mutilated by antipersonnel mines, and over 300,000 recruited as child soldiers.

In our discussions on ending violence against children we cannot but call to mind that for too many children the right to life is denied; that prenatal selection eliminates babies suspected to have disabilities and female children simply because of their sex; that oftentimes children become the first victims of famines and wars; that they are maimed by unexploded munitions; that they lack sufficient food and housing; that they are deprived of schooling; that they become sick with AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis without access to medicines; that they are sold to traffickers, sexually exploited, recruited into irregular armies, uprooted by forced displacements, or compelled into debilitating work.

Eliminating violence against children demands that the state and society support and enable the family to carry out its proper responsibility. Governments must assume their rightful role to protect and promote family life because the family has obvious vital and organic links with society. Civil society also has an important role to play in supporting the family and counteracting all forms of violence against children. For its part, the Catholic Church’s over 300,000 social, caring and educational institutions work daily to ensure both education for children and provide the reintegration of abused and neglected children into their families if possible, and into society.

At times, in deliberations on the promotion and protection of the rights of the child, there can unfortunately be a tendency to speak in terms of the relationship between the child and the state while inadvertently minimizing the role of parents. In this regard my delegation cannot emphasize enough the importance of the family in the life of each and every child and that all legislation regarding children must take into account the indispensable role of parents, for children are born of a mother and father, and into the fundamental community which is the family. Not surprisingly, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has rightly affirmed that “the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State” (Article 16,3), and that, relatedly, “motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance” and “all children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection” (Article 25,2). These affirmations are not concepts imposed from the outside but instead are complementary principles derived from the nature of the human person.

This year the General Assembly continues its consideration of the right of children to express their views freely in all matters affecting them and so rightly focuses on the importance of truly hearing them. All children need to be respected fully in their inherent dignity for they are fully human beings. The Convention on the Rights of the Child does not explicitly include an article on a specific right to participate. Nonetheless, the Convention does contain articles that take into account the participation of children, for example, in expressing their views and having these views heard (Article 12). In considering the concrete application of child participation it must always be remembered, as is affirmed in the Convention, that States Parties are called to “respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents … to provide, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child, appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise by the child of the rights recognized in the Convention” (Article 5).

On this occasion the Holy See once again reaffirms its constant concern for the well-being and protection of all children and their families and continues to call all States to do the same with renewed urgency since all children deserve to grow up in a stable and healthy environment in keeping with their dignity.

Thank you Mr Chairman.

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