The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies at the international level, and the world's National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies at the national level, are profoundly concerned about the situation confronting children.
There is insufficient time in this agenda to address all the issues, but we wish today to outline some of the messages we are seeking to deliver in other contexts. It is our hope that the strength of the Red Cross and Red Crescent network can contribute to some meaningful action to restore to children their legitimate rights and with them their expectation that they will be able to inherit and manage a prosperous and harmonious world.
This must be guided at all times by the best interest of the child. The harsh reality, however, is that children's rights are being constantly and consistently violated in every country. These violations are compounded by ignorance and discrimination. The situation they face is particularly stark in two areas: the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the violence children experience - collective, interpersonal and against themselves.
The 28th International Conference of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent, held in Geneva in December 2003, drew attention to the particular vulnerability of children in the midst of the staggering effect HIV/AIDS is having on the world; they are both primary and secondary victims with few protective factors. This Declaration and other actions at the Conference linked the commitment of the International Federation and its member National Societies to a similar commitment made by governments.
Our task, in this Session of the Commission, is to find new and better ways to work with the international community and governments. We need to build a more effective set of partnerships, and to find new and stronger ways of intervention, prevention and advocacy. We have to find ways of ensuring that the rights being discussed at lofty international meetings are not abstract concepts, but real, actual and applicable to young lives as individuals, within families and within communities.
One of the core issues of the HIV/AIDS pandemic is the number of orphans it creates, and the loss of national capacity to provide safe communities to support the growth of their children to adulthood. Every effort must be made by governments, at all levels, to find ways to provide safety for such children by supporting them in their communities, and not isolating them further by institutionalizing them. Institutionalization increases their vulnerability - to violence, abuse, exploitation, and discrimination.
The International Federation strongly supports the Declaration of Commitment adopted by the UN General Assembly's Special Session on AIDS in 2001, and places special emphasis on Commitment 65 concerning children orphaned and made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS.
Another issue which must also be confronted, and which is of the highest priority to Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies, is that of violence against children. In everz country children are being physicallz, sexually and emotionally maltreated. Sexual violence is not only a major transmitter of HIV/AIDS but it also robs millions of children of their childhood and their sense of self.
The World Health Organization recently defined this as a world-wide leading public health issue. The International Federation has invited me to join its delegation to this Session because of the work my National Society, the Canadian Red Cross, is doing in Canada and in support of other National Societies on this topic.
Our program, known as RespectED: Violence and Abuse Prevention aims to reduce and prevent the incidence of abuse or assault of children and youth by developing comprehensive prevention plans with communities. Risk assessments, policy development, awareness and educational programs for all ages, evaluation and research all contribute to helping young people, adults and communities create safe environments.
The Canadian Red Cross is working within the Red Cross Red Crescent network so that other members of the International Federation can make use of the work we are doing in their own communities. It is very distressing for us to speak today about the monstrous nature of the challenges confronting the children of the world.
When we consider the debates which have already taken place in this Session on the human rights situation as created by modern adults, and when we look at the way we as adults are treating the next generation of world and community leaders, we should shudder and feel ashamed.
What, in reality, have we done to secure the rights of children since 1948 when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights inspired the adoption of specific treaties and conventions on particular priority issues, and especially since 1989 when the Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted?
What chance, in reality, do we have to achieve those parts of the Millennium Development Goals relevant to children?
How many resources are being applied to support the goals in A World Fit for Children?
When will we really listen to the tears of children?
When will we put our resources to their safety?
The answers to these questions are rooted in our commitment. It is only as we all are committed to work together at every level and prioritize children`s needs that we can stop this epidemic of violence and violation of their rights. The International Federation can offer governments and international organizations
The ability to mobilise communities
Volunteers committed to humanitarian principles
A worldwide network of National Societies
The willingness to listen to and learn from children and youth.
Only in collaboration with communities will we be able to make a difference. Only then will it be possible to build an economic, social and cultural environment which addresses the needs of children. Only then will there be a real hope of addressing the vulnerability they face, vulnerability exacerbated by the ravages of disasters, communicable diseases, crime, trafficking, armed conflict, poverty, child labour, violence, sexual exploitation…and more.
We call on all governments to work energetically, proactively and productively with their National Societies and other partners in civil society. In my country, Canada, there is a good relationship at both federal and provincial levels, and the result of this cooperation is that Canada is becoming a safer place for our children. But much more needs to be done, and we hope the Commission on Human Rights will help inspire the action that is needed.