Thank you, Mr. Chairperson.
The United States welcomes this opportunity for UN Member States to take stock of our collaborative efforts to improve the lives of children in our own countries and around the world. Protecting children against exploitation, abuse and violence remains a priority for the United States.
The Secretary General’s report rightly notes that ending exploitive child labor represents a global challenge, and international cooperation is essential if we are to find effective and lasting solutions.
The United States is strongly committed to the goal of eradicating exploitive child labor, particularly the worst forms of child labor as outlined in ILO Convention No. 182. To that end, since 1995, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has dedicated more than $720 million to support programs to combat exploitive child labor around the world. The largest share of these funds has gone to support the work of the International Labor Organization’s International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (ILO-IPEC).
As a direct result of these Department of Labor programs, approximately 1.3 million children in more than 80 countries have been withdrawn or prevented from exploitive labor. These programs offer children new hope through education and training and help families overcome reliance on the labor of their children to meet basic needs.
The Department of Labor also conducts research aimed at shedding light on the exploitation faced by millions of children. A recent report released by the Department includes a list of 122 goods — from 58 countries — made using child labor and forced labor. Through such reporting, the United States hopes to raise awareness and encourage broader action to support and sustain efforts to end abusive child labor and forced labor.
In the same vein, we welcome the “Progress for Children” report released by UNICEF in Tokyo last week which focuses special attention on child protection. Gathering reliable data on issues such as violence against children, child labor, and the sexual exploitation of children is not easy in light of the challenging and often secretive circumstances under which these abuses take place. The key information contained in this report will not only help us understand more fully the scope of the challenges we are dealing with, but aid us in devising more fitting, sustainable, and measurable solutions.
UNICEF and ILO are among is the United States’ most crucial partners in the effort to protect children’s rights worldwide. In 2009, Congress appropriated $130 million to UNICEF – our largest single voluntary contribution to any UN organization. We fully appreciate the systematic and holistic approach laid out in both UNICEF’s Child Protection Strategy and by the ILO. We also commend the valuable work carried out by UNICEF’s Child Protection Unit and the ILO’s International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor, and the joint efforts of UNICEF, the ILO and the World Bank to work collaboratively through the Understanding Children’s Work (UCW) project.
Despite progress, challenges remain and too many children continue to live childhoods defined by exploitation and abuse. The ILO estimates that some 218 million children are still engaged in child labor. Each child engaged in child labor is one less child gaining an education in school, and one less child with the bright, secure future every child deserves. For this reason, the United States will continue to champion the cause of eradicating exploitive child labor.
The United States is also committed to addressing the trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children. In this vein, the Department of Justice is funding a major nationwide study on the commercial sexual exploitation of children. We anticipate that preliminary findings will be available in Spring of 2012. This study, once completed, will provide policy makers in the U.S. with a better understanding of this phenomenon, including its scope.
A national taskforce composed of government officials and non-governmental organizations is finalizing a package of outreach materials on trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children for distribution to local law enforcement officials, service providers, schools and parents throughout the United States. This package is meant to provide information on detecting early warning signs and providing a list of local and national resources.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools hosted its bi-annual conference in August which, for the first time, included a plenary and workshop session on the topic of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children. This national conference drew over 2,400 attendees including school principals, educators, security staff and school nurses. The Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography and our obligations under it were referenced during these presentations. In January we will be submitting our second report on implementation of the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. We believe we are making progress since our last reports.
The United States is also concerned with the problem of early, forced marriage. During the spring 2007 session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, the U.S. introduced a resolution on “Forced Marriage of the Girl Child” which was adopted by consensus. In keeping with the U.S. objective to bring about concrete changes on the ground, the resolution suggests specific actions that various actors can take to combat the practice. The UN, member states, international organizations, health and social workers, teachers, law enforcement officials, military and judicial personnel, community leaders, and the media all can contribute to addressing the problem.
Finally, Mr. Chairperson, the United States is also deeply committed to protecting children from the scourges of war, as outlined in Security Council Resolution 1882 on children and armed conflict. We are determined to do more to prevent violence against girls in armed conflict, particularly sexual violence, as outlined in Security Council Resolution 1888.
The international community is engaging to protect children in armed conflict, but we can and must do more. The United States is working hard to address children and armed conflict issues. Through our support for international organizations such as UNHCR and the ICRC, we are addressing the needs of refugees and conflict victims, including children in armed conflict. We will be submitting our second report on implementation of the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict to the Committee on the Rights of the Child early next year.
At home, in 2008 the United States Congress passed the 2008 Child Soldiers Prevention Act and the Child Soldiers Accountability Act, and we are promoting these pieces of legislation as examples for countries around the world to use as a basis for drafting similar domestic legislation themselves. The Child Soldiers Prevention Act, among other things, restricts the provision of certain types of foreign assistance to countries whose armed forces or government-supported armed groups unlawfully recruit or use child soldiers and includes requirements for our missions overseas to investigate and report on the unlawful use of child soldiers.
The United States will continue to champion the causes of eradicating exploitive child labor, commercial exploitation and violence in armed conflict in all these arenas. The international community must come together in demanding that all children deserve to be educated -- not abused, exploited or the victims of violence, and in saying that even one child exploited is too many.
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