Statement by Ms. Feda Abdelhady Nasser, First Secretary, before the Third Committee, Agenda Item 110: Promotion and protection of the rights of children, 13 October 2000, United Nations, New York:

Madame Chairperson,

As this is the first time I am addressing this esteemed Committee, I would like to join my colleague in congratulating you and the members of the Bureau upon your election of leadership of this important Committee.

Madame Chair,

There are numerous issues that must be addressed with regard to the rights of children. Today, however, I would like to focus on one issue - the systematic denial and violation of the rights of Palestinian children, which essentially precludes the true enjoyment and exercise of all rights to which they are entitled as innocent children of the world.

Madame Chair,

I address this Committee today as a representative of a people, who in recent days has witnessed the brutal and willful killing of more than 20 of its children and the wounding and injuring of more than 1000 children. The wanton killing on 30 September 2000 of a 12 year-old Palestinian boy by Israeli forces, a violent and horrific scene captured by camera for the eyes of the world to see, represents in one stark photograph the tragedy of the Palestinian child living under Israeli occupation. That boy, Mohammed Jamal Al-Durra, was an innocent, defenseless child, whose life his father desperately pleaded for but could not protect from the lethal onslaught of Israeli bullets. Yet Mohammed has not suffered this tragic fate alone. In just the past two weeks, so many other Palestinian families have had to bury their young sons and daughters.

Madame Chair,

How is it possible for children to fully enjoy their rights to education, to a healthy childhood, to play and recreation, to healthy physical and social development, when they are confronted daily with the extremely negative consequences of armed conflict and foreign occupation? Is it possible for children to enjoy these rights when their living conditions are often characterized by a lack of even the most basic needs under the harsh realities of armed conflict and foreign occupation? Is it possible for them to enjoy the benefits of the rights to which all children are entitled as human beings when their very protection and survival are at stake?

As we are all aware, the answer to all of these questions is a resounding no. A climate of peace that ensures the protection of children is a necessary prerequisite for the full enjoyment of their rights and their ability "to develop physically, socially, mentally, morally, and spiritually in a healthy and normal manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity" (Declaration on the Rights of the Child). As stated in the preamble of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, "…conditions of peace and security based on full respect of the purposes and principles contained in the Charter and observance of applicable human rights instruments are indispensable for the full protection of children, in particular during armed conflicts and foreign occupation".

Madame Chair,

The Palestinian people, including Palestinian children, continue to suffer from the oppressive Israeli occupation. The recent excessive use of force by the Israeli occupying army has resulted in the grave loss of life, serious injuries, the destruction of homes and properties, and the rapid deterioration of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem. The living conditions of the Palestinian people have deteriorated dramatically in recent days. Currently, in areas throughout the occupied territory, many families are without electricity, schools have been closed, and movement of persons and goods is severely restricted. All of these serious developments have very detrimental effects on the overall welfare of Palestinian children.

Madame Chair,

With regard to the various human rights instruments relevant for the promotion and protection of the rights of children, it is clear that over the decades, and until today, Israel, the occupying Power, has been violating the rights of the Palestinian child. Israeli policies and practices have prevented or seriously debilitated the enjoyment by Palestinian children of many of even the most basic rights guaranteed by these instruments. Such instruments include, inter alia, the Declaration on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children, the Declaration on the Protection of Women and Children in Emergency and Armed Conflict, and the Optional protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict. Moreover, the policies and actions of Israel are in grave violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 1949, which is applicable to all the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem. It is high time that Israel complies with this Convention as well as with all other human rights instruments. Such a measure would surely help to secure the promotion and protection of the rights of Palestinian children.

Madame Chair,

I had hoped to address this Committee under different circumstances. I had hoped to discuss the flourishing of peace in our region of the world, with the achievement of a final settlement between the Palestinian and Israeli sides, after so many decades of occupation, strife and conflict. I had hoped to discuss the different efforts of the Palestinian people at the local and national level to promote and protect the rights of Palestinian children. I regret that the situation is one in which I must draw the attention of this Committee instead to the ongoing difficulties of the situation of the Palestinian children due to the continuing violation of their rights.

We remain committed to peace, Madame Chair. However, at the same time, we urge the international community to uphold its commitments, as declared in the World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children, to, inter alia, work to ameliorate the plight of millions of children who live under especially difficult circumstances, including those living as victims of foreign occupation. These children, as stated in the Plan of Action for implementing the Declaration, deserve special attention, protection and assistance and we urge the international community to undertake its responsibilities in this regard.

Thank you, Madame Chair.