Palestine Participates in Preparatory Committee on Children

The Preparatory Committee for the Special Session of the General Assembly on Children convened its second substantive session at United Nations headquarters in New York from 29 January to 2 February 2000. Palestine participated in the session with a 3-member delegation, led by Dr. Munther Al-Sharif, Deputy Minister of Health of the Palestinian Authority, along with two members of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the U.N.

The Special Session of the General Assembly on Children is being convened at the U.N. from 19 to 21 September 2001 for the purpose of reviewing the achievement of the goals of the World Summit for Children in 1990 and undertaking renewed commitments and future action on behalf of children in the next decade. During the second substantive session of the Preparatory Committee, the majority of delegations focused on the outcome declaration to be adopted by the Special Session, particularly what challenges, goals and commitments final outcome document would define for the international community.

For Palestine, of main concern was the omission of any reference in the draft outcome document to ‘foreign occupation’ as among the many continuing challenges from which children suffer in today’s world. The World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children, adopted by the World Summit for Children, referred to foreign occupation several times, including, inter alia, as one of the especially difficult circumstances affecting the growth and development of children. Further, in that Declaration, the international community committed itself to ameliorating the plight of children living under especially difficult circumstances, including child victims of foreign occupation. The omission of foreign occupation in the draft outcome for the Special Session and the need to include it was brought to the attention of the Preparatory Committee in Palestine’s statement during the second substantive session.

The focus of the statement was the fact that the Israeli occupation continues to negatively impact all aspects of life for Palestinian children - their education, health, social, economic and psychological development, and their very survival. Thus, the statement stressed the following: "The delegation of Palestine strongly believes that the outcome document, ‘A world fit for children’, must include references to foreign occupation as among the challenges seriously affecting the lives of children. The international community must be committed to ensuring the rights of all children, including children under occupation, in the drive to ensure their survival, protection and development… Further, ameliorating the plight of children under foreign occupation as well as the plight of victims of armed conflict, including refugees and displaced children, is a commitment that must be reaffirmed by the international community in this outcome document." The inclusion of the above is something that the delegation of Palestine will continue to work towards during the informal consultations that will be held by the bureau of the Preparatory Committee in order to ensure that the revised draft outcome to be presented to the third substantive session in June reflects these concerns.

A final issue raised in Palestine’s statement during the Preparatory Committee’s meetings was the glaring exclusion of Palestinian children from an official summary by UNICEF on The State of the World’s Children in 2001. No mention is made of Palestinian children in any of the tables or lists of the summary, despite the fact that UNICEF has a specific program on Palestinian children with the relevant data regarding their situation and needs. In this regard, the delegation of Palestine stated, inter alia: "First, Palestinian children exist and must be counted among the world’s children, with the same human rights and fundamental needs. Second, the situation of Palestinian children living under foreign occupation is one that continues to require attention and serious consideration."