Thank you, Mr. Chair. The United States welcomes the opportunity to participate in today’s discussion on the Rights of the Child. All children around the world deserve to grow up in an environment where their dignity and human rights are respected. We thank the many UN bodies and independent experts who contribute to the promotion of the rights of the child. Yet despite these efforts, all over the world, children still face serious threats to their human rights. Though we have made some gains, still in 2012, children need protection from violence, abuse, and exploitation.
Our thoughts go out today to 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai, who spoke out for the right of all Pakistanis, especially girls, to an education. In response to her bravery in standing up for the rights of herself and others, she was brutally shot by extremist thugs who believe girls do not have the right to an education. This violent attack reminds us of the challenges that girls are confronted with every day, ranging from lack of opportunities for an education, to lack of basic health care, food, and, nutrition, to discrimination and violence – all solely due to their gender.
Girls also need protection from child marriage, and we believe that equal access to education is one part of the solution. Experience shows us that elevating the status of girls is critical to achieving prosperity, stability, and security. Doing so is not only the right thing to do—it is the smart thing to do. An estimated 10 million girls are married every year before they reach the age of 18, many at ages even younger. Early marriage threatens girls’ health and education, and robs them of the opportunity to reach their full potential. We are concerned, for example, by findings of the Special Rapporteur on Iran documenting marriages of Iranian girls as young as nine years old. One of the best ways to tackle the practice of early marriage is to enroll and keep adolescent girls in school. And yet, far too many girls in the developing world fail to make the transition from primary to secondary education.
The United States is committed to addressing and preventing early or forced marriage, and we will intensify our diplomacy and development efforts to end this practice, including by promoting girls’ education.
A week ago, on October 11, Secretary Clinton joined in celebrating the first-ever United Nations International Day of the Girl Child. There, she announced a new U.S. initiative to address this threat to girls and global development. The State Department will work with the private sector to launch new programs to promote girls education and will also now report on child marriage in its annual country reports on human rights practices. The UN and private foundations are stepping forward in meaningful and powerful ways—The UN Population Fund and the Ford, MasterCard, and MacArthur Foundations have pledged a total of $94 million to the cause of girls’ education and to addressing and preventing child marriage. We urge our international colleagues here today to make a similar commitment.
This year’s rights of the child resolution has a special focus on indigenous children. The United States is home to over two million Native Americans, and we would like to thank the Secretary General for his report that addresses indigenous children. We are committed to working with tribes, individuals, and communities to address the many challenges indigenous children face, including in education, health, protection from violence and discrimination, and preservation of their cultural heritage. The United States firmly believes that a strong cultural identity provides indigenous children with a source of stability and strength.
The United States commends the Secretary General’s Special Representative on Violence against Children for her tremendous work and the goals she has set for the future. We strongly agree with the Special Representative that reducing violence against children is crucial to supporting economic development. We appreciate the work of the Special Representative in addressing issues across the full life cycle of children, starting with early childhood care and leading to fulfillment of a quality education. We will continue to invest in the protection of vulnerable children in order allow them to achieve their full potential.
Finally, we are compelled to address the tragic situation of the innocent children in Syria. Daily, Syrian children are the victims of killing and maiming, arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and ill-treatment, including sexual violence, and some have even been used as human shields. The increasing frequency of these atrocities over the past 18 months is particularly alarming, and is further evidence that the international community must do more to support humanitarian assistance and political transition in Syria.
The United States has a deep, unwavering commitment to promoting and protecting the rights of children in our own country and around the world. We will continue to work with the international community to ensure that human rights are a reality for all of our children.
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