|Promotion and protection of the rights of children|
|Friday, 14 October 2011 18:00|
Statement by Ambassador H.E. Palitha T.B. Kohona
We thank the Secretary-General for his reports on this agenda item. My delegation also commends the reports and observations made by the Head of UNICEF and the special mandate holders under this theme.
The predicament of children experiencing violence, particularly disabled children, migrant children, child soldiers, etc. is tragic. The reports, observations and thematic discussions have underlined the urgency of concerted action at the national, regional and international levels to halt discriminatory practices and different forms of violence perpetrated against children, including marginalized children. We also condemn the continuing abominable practice of child recruitment.
In the case of my country, the Constitution of Sri Lanka guarantees equality to all citizens, and also allows for special provisions to be made for the advancement of women, children and disabled persons, reflecting the need for special affirmative action in the case of vulnerable groups (Articles 12 (10, (20, (3) and (4) and 27 (6)). The registration of births of all children stands at 94% (2008).
Sri Lanka has a dedicated Government agency, the National Child Protection Authority, doing work on child protection issues. We have actively participated in the South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC) and are developing an action plan under it, covering critical issues such as corporal punishment, sexual abuse and exploitation, child trafficking, child labour and early marriage. The national focal point for the initiative is the Commissioner of Probation and Child Care Services who works with the government and NGO partners in developing the action plan consistent with indicators formulated by SAIEVAC for the countries of South Asia.
The Penal Code amendment of 2006 strengthened Sri Lanka’s law regarding the sale of children and child prostitution and significantly widened the definition of human trafficking to conform with international standards. The amendment also dealt with cyber crime against children: required IT service providers to prevent the use of their facilities for the sexual abuse of children; required persons having care, control or possession of premises to inform the police if such premises were being used for child abuse. It criminalizes the soliciting of a child for sexual purposes or the recruitment of children for armed combat. In terms of reparation, an important aspect of the amendment is that it includes psycho-social and mental trauma in the definition of injuries for the purpose of awarding compensation. In a landmark judgment earlier this year the courts ordered certain service providers to shut down due to their facilities being used for child pornography.
The SRSG on Children and Armed Conflict has consistently urged Governments to adopt the principle of restorative justice and not retributive justice towards former child combatants including a rehabilitation approach and not a punitive one. Sri Lanka is happy to note that it has implemented a rehabilitation and reintegration process based on the Paris Principles. Sri Lanka successfully rehabilitated and re-integrated 594 former child combatants in 2010. These institutionally rehabilitated former child soldiers are now continuing community-based rehabilitation. The rehabilitation and reintegration of child soldiers was a priority for Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka managed this process with its extremely limited resources and in partnership with the UNICEF.
Recognizing that children formerly associated with armed groups continue to be highly vulnerable, the monitoring of the re-integrated former combatants will continue. The government recognizes that these children be, placed under the purview of the Department of Social Services.
Reuniting war-affected children with families was also a priority. Tremendous progress is being made in child tracing and family reunions by the Family Tracing Unit in Vavuniya in partnership with UNICEF. Since 2009, more than 600 children have been traced and reunited. According to a recently released UNICEF study, 64% of the missing Tamil children had been recruited by the LTTE.
The National Child Protection Authority of Sri Lanka is implementing a programme in the North to provide livelihood support to foster families of conflict-affected children. A number of similar programmes have been initiated by the Government in collaboration with NGOs and UN partner agencies to benefit children in these areas.
Significant attention is also being paid to restoring and rebuilding schools and release of schools to the educational authorities. Over 900 schools out of 1020 in the North that were abandoned during the conflict have now been rehabilitated and are functioning normally. 220,000 children attend these schools. 14,000 teachers are employed in them. The Government of India has provided computer equipment to 261 schools in the East.
Sri Lanka continues to grapple with the complex issue of addressing issues specific to children in conflict with the law as differentiated from children who come into contact with the law as needing special care and protection. The need to prevent institutionalization of children where possible is being taken seriously by the government with civil society partners cooperating in deinstitutionalization programmes. Alternatives to custodial sentences are possible under the Community-based Corrections Act of 1999 which currently only applies to adults.
The Children’s Secretariat of the Ministry of Child Development and Women’s Affairs (MoCDWA) takes the lead in policy formulation and monitoring of Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD). A National Policy on ECCD was developed in 2005, and an ECCD Network was established in 2010 comprising key government partners including the Family Health Bureau of the Ministry of Health, the Non-Formal Education Unit of the Ministry of Education, NGOs and corporate actors involved in ECCD. Legislation is being drafted to convert the policy into law. In order to identify implementation gaps and achieve greater coherence, a national survey on ECCD was carried out in 2010 including a policy and practice review examining the national framework and ground level delivery of ECCD services. Future activities planned include developing a national database, upgrading the pre-school curriculum, establishing a trust fund for pre-schools and the continued upgrading of pre-schools and day care centres.
Among the notable achievements among MDG indicators are those relating to equitable primary education, child mortality and maternal mortality (MMR). The universal primary education net enrolment rate in Sri Lanka has reached 99 per cent in 2009 for both males and females. The current infant mortality level is 9.7 infant deaths per 1,000 live births and the MMR is 39.3 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2009. With near universal access to free health care, 98.5 per cent births are attended by trained health professionals. In recognition of Sri Lanka’s dedicated efforts, UNICEF in its State of the World’s Children 2008, documented and commended Sri Lanka as the best achiever in our sub-region despite a long-standing conflict. UNICEF had also commended Sri Lanka in its publication entitled, “Progress for Children: Achieving the MDGs with Equity”, Number 9, September 2010.
The Government of Sri Lanka will continue to work to strengthen policies, institutions and civil society, private sector and other stakeholder involvement to play a pivotal role to further advance women’s and children’s rights throughout the country.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman.