Thank you Mr. Chairman,
The Maldives would like to take this opportunity to thank the Secretary-General, the Special Representative on Violence Against Children; the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, prostitution and child pornography, the Executive Director of UNICEF and the Committee on the Rights of the Child for their reports under this agenda item.
My delegation wishes to note the significant strides that have been made worldwide, since the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989. The Maldives, in which children currently account for approximately 43 percent of its total population, attaches great importance in advancing the rights of children. As a State Party to the CRC and its two Optional Protocols, the Maldives is committed to ensure that the treaty obligations under these instruments are met and implemented. In February this year, the Maldives also signed the third Optional Protocol on a communications procedure, which would allow children to file individual complaints of violation of their rights, once it enters into force. The Maldives, being among the core group of countries that supported this initiative, hopes that it would be a credible tool in protecting the rights of children throughout the world. My delegation also wishes to encourage member States who have not done so, to consider signing and ratifying this new optional protocol.
Children’s right to education are integral to the development of their personalities, talents and abilities. The Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education remains a key priority for the international community, and it is important to build on the several milestones that have been achieved, including rising enrolment in primary education, as well as primary school enrolment of girls equalling to that of boys. The Maldives currently boasts universal access to free primary education and has achieved major improvements in its efforts to expand access to secondary education and beyond.
The Maldives remains committed to further develop and sustain these achievements; especially on enhancing the quality of education, providing inclusive education, particularly for children with special needs; as well as expanding and improving early childhood care and education. In this regard, the Pre-Schools Act which came into force this year, is part of our efforts to formalize early childhood education, and to make such opportunities accessible on an equitable basis to all children regardless of economic and social status.
The Maldives further remains committed to improving the health and wellbeing of children through affordable and quality health services, and by providing better access to healthcare. Although tackling the persistently high levels of under nutrition remains a challenge in the country, child survival has improved over the years. The Maldives has given utmost priority to the Reduction in Child Mortality Rates; and is proud to note the decline in trends of both the infant mortality rates and child mortality rates during the past 10 years.
While a number of initiatives exist, awareness has improved and attitudes have begun to change, children across the world continue to suffer and witness violence, abuse, exploitation and maltreatment regardless of their culture, class, or ethnic background.
Although the children in the Maldives are protected by law from physical and psychological abuse, a National Study on Violence against Children in 2008 in the Maldives has revealed that violence against children exist not only at home, but also at schools. The Maldives has relied heavily on the United Nations Study on Violence Against Children, and have put into operation many of its recommendations, including the child helpline, which was established in 2010.
The Maldives has undertaken a number of legislative and regulatory measures, as well as policy initiatives to strengthen the protection of children in the country. In this regard, the Special Measures for Perpetrators of Child Sexual Abuse Law passed in 2009, has lead to an increase in the number of cases being prosecuted, and the proposed Evidence Bill will also make it easier to prosecute and convict perpetrators of crimes against children. We are also currently in the process of revising the Children’s Bill, to replace the existing Act on the Protection of the Rights of Children 1991 This proposed Act will ensure that Maldivian domestic law is in greater compliance with the Convention and its optional protocols.
The shooting of the 14-year old school girl in Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai, has been a horrific reminder of the urgent need to address the significant challenges faced by the international community in advancing the rights of children. Children are the most vulnerable members of our society, and there are millions of children like Malala across the world who are being denied their basic rights to education and well-being, millions of children live in poverty, become child brides, are trafficked and/or exposed to discrimination, violence, abuse and exploitation every single day.
We also remain deeply concerned by the serious situation posed by children in armed conflict. The recruitment and use of children in armed forces and armed groups, as well trafficking of children, their sale and sexual exploitation in organized crime are extremely troubling to the international community. The Maldives, in its national capacity and as a responsible member of the Human Rights Council, will continue in our efforts to combat these outrageous acts.
My delegation was pleased to co-sponsor the resolution commemorating the International Day of the Girl Child. The inaugural celebration held last week was an important milestone in highlighting the vulnerabilities of the girl child, and the need for increased global action to protect their rights.
The Maldives believes that promotion and protection of children is a shared responsibility. To make greater advances and build on the progress that has already been achieved, requires concerned efforts by national governments, stronger inter-agency collaboration amongst stakeholders at all levels, as well as greater investments internationally.
Before I conclude, let me express my Delegation’s appreciation to UNICEF, for its continued assistance and support in enhancing the national capacity and strengthening the institutional mechanism dealing with all matters relating to children. We also look forward to collaborative engagement with the international community in the promotion of children’s right to survival, protection and development.