Statement delivered by Mr. Javed Faizal, Second Secretary/Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, on Agenda Item 65: Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children, Third Committee, 14 October 2011

Thank you Mr. Chairman for giving me the floor,

The Maldives would like to take this opportunity to thank the Secretary-General and his Special Representative on violence against children; and the Special Representatives for Children and Armed Conflict, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; the Executive Director of UNICEF; for their reports.

We would also like to reiterate that all of the efforts we are making here at the United Nations are for naught, if not for the betterment of the next generation and the generations that follow, and we deeply appreciate the chance to specifically address the concerns faced by young people in the Maldives and around the world.

Mr. Chairman,

In the Maldives, young people comprise of forty‐four percent of our population. As such, we have long been a supporter of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, having ratified the Convention 20 years ago in 1991 and founding our National Council for the Protection of the Rights of Children one year later.

Last year, the Maldives was extremely honoured to begin serving on the Human Rights Council, and have taken up our duties on that distinguished body, fully cognizant of the responsibility entrusted upon us.  We appreciate the trust placed in our hands by so many members of the international community and vow to continue to serve with full knowledge of the important role we have been asked to play, especially regarding the rights of children.

As a member of the Human Rights Council, we, along with the other main sponsors –- played an important role in Geneva, in adopting the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to provide a communication procedure which will allow child victims to directly report incidents of abuse. The Optional Protocol was adopted by the HRC in June of this year, and we fully support its adoption here by the General Assembly, after which it will be open for signature in 2012.  The Maldives, like others, believes that it is high time that we gave voice to the victims of human rights violations under the CRC by providing them with appropriate international remedial measures.

Mr. Chairman,

After transitioning to a fully democratic system of government in 2008 the Maldives has continued to work diligently to strengthen our national institutions to protect the rights of children from abuse and exploitation. We have made progress in many areas and are currently undertaking a thorough review of our existing frameworks for the protection of children to identify and fill any gaps that may exist. We are thankful for the valuable assistance provided by UNICEF in the drafting of legislation that will ensure we are in full compliance with our obligations under the CRC.

In response to the growing concern over sexual abuse and exploitation of children in the Maldives, the government has drafted a bill to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation and has undertaken a comprehensive public awareness programme to help remove the historical stigma associated with victims of sexual abuse, and to provide victims with the necessary information on where they can receive assistance.  We have also severely increased penalties for perpetrators of sexual violence against children, who may now face up to 25 years imprisonment for their crimes.

In the area of violence against children in the home, our Government has also taken action, recently drafting a Domestic Violence Bill and establishing a Domestic Violence Helpline and a confidential Child Helpline which received over 400 calls in its first month of service alone. In addition, the Government has drafted a number of laws strengthening the protection of children including a Juvenile Justice Bill, a Gang Violence Act and an Anti-social Behavior Act. We are also working to reinforce our child protective services and have decentralized operations through the Local Family and Children’s Service Centers staffed by UNICEF trained social workers in 20 outlying atolls. We are also striving to strengthen cooperation and collaboration with the civil society in the Maldives, in recognizing the valuable role they play.

Unfortunately, Mr. Chairman, change in some areas has come more slowly than any of us would prefer, and like many countries today, our institutions and social service systems do not yet have the capacity to adequately provide our youth with the full range of assistance they require. In addressing the areas of relative weakness, the Maldives is committed to taking into account the recommendations made during the most recent Universal Periodic Review.

Mr Chairman,

While our government has made universal access to primary education a reality, we must continue work to improve our secondary- and higher-education system. Without a proper education, it is difficult for our young men and women to find employment in an ever-evolving and technically more advanced economy.

In addition, the Maldives continues to be embattled by high rates of drug addiction by its youth, and in response, the Maldives has made the prevention of narcotic and drug addiction one of its Top Five Key Pledges by the Government with five guiding policies including reducing the supply of narcotics into the country, establishing rehabilitation centers and services, increasing education and awareness, increasing cooperation with NGOs and civil society, and enhancing coordination between all stakeholders.  By improving many of the social support systems, we hope to resolve many of the issues facing our youth in this respect.

Mr Chairman,

The Maldives strongly believes that regional frameworks for cooperation provide an important avenue to further collaborate with our partners in promoting and protecting the rights of children. In this regard, the Maldives has actively participated in the South Asian Initiative to Eliminate Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC), which was established following regional consultations on the Global Study on Violence Against Children in 2005. Furthermore, given the myriad of socio-economic, cultural and religious dimensions that exist in the region, we believe that regular and consistent interaction with our partners is paramount to ensure that efforts to strengthen regional mechanisms on child protection remains a high priority.

Mr. Chairman,

The situation of children in armed conflict is very serious and saddening. Maldives supports every effort being made to eradicate the problem of child soldiers and the efforts being made to help rehabilitate the victims of this atrocious practice.  Likewise, the issue of trafficking in young women and children, and sexual exploitation that is often linked with trafficking is of deepest concern to us. In our national capacity and in our role as a responsible member of the International Community, we will continue in our efforts to combat these outrageous actions that destroy the lives of their victims.

Lastly, Mr. Chairman,

While the challenges that lie ahead are complex, the Maldives is committed to working collectively with the international community in promoting human rights for all.  We will continue to implement policies that safeguard the rights of our children to ensure they are protected and provided the full spectrum of rights to which they are entitled, including providing them a safe and sustainable environment.

Thank you, Mr Chairman