Third Committee: Children in Conflict Considered

Article excerpt

The General Assembly on 12 December recommended the appointment of a Special Representative to raise awareness about the impact, of armed conflict on children. It also decided to convene a three-day special session in June 1998 to explore new ways to fight drug abuse and illicit trafficking. Acting on the recommendations of its Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), the Assembly adopted over 70 resolutions and decisions in all, covering subjects as diverse as refugees, women, racism, transnational crime and human rights.

The appointment of the Special Representative on the impact of armed conflict on children was included in a seven-part resolution on the rights of the child (51/77), adopted without a vote, which asks parties to armed conflicts to recognize the particular vulnerability of refugee and internally displaced children to recruitment into armed forces, sexual violence, exploitation and abuse. It seeks to enhance protection and assistance mechanisms, and asks States and United Nations bodies to treat children in armed conflict as a priority in all human rights, humanitarian and development activities.

The particular impact of economic sanctions on children should also be assessed and monitored, and humanitarian exemptions should be child-focused, the Assembly resolved. States and agencies should ensure the early identification and registration of unaccompanied refugee and internally displaced children, and give priority to programmes for family tracing and reunification. Countries should criminalize commercial and sexual exploitation of children and eliminate child labour.

The Assembly called on States, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations [NGOs] to ensure that girls and young women would be able to participate "as partners" with boys and young men in social, economic and political life (51/76). States should generate social support for laws on the minimum legal age of marriage and protect adolescent girls from sexual exploitation, harmful cultural practices and abuse, it stressed.

The special session on drug abuse and illicit trafficking will be convened for three days in June 1998 - ten years after the adoption of the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances - "to propose new strategies, methods, practical activities and specific measures to strengthen international cooperation" in the fight against the illicit production, sale, demand, traffic and distribution of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. Also under the seven-part text (51/64), the Commission on Narcotic Drugs was requested to act as the preparatory body for the special session, for which no special budget has been sought. Governments have been invited to make extra-budgetary contributions to meet the costs.

Advancement of women

Six texts in a cluster dealing with women's issues were also adopted without a vote. Under one, Governments were asked to criminalize trafficking in women and girls, and penalize all offenders involved, including intermediaries, while ensuring that the victims were not penalized (51/66). Expressing concern at "continuing reports of grave abuses and acts of violence" committed against migrant women workers, the Assembly encouraged States to adopt legislation on eliminating violence against such persons, while it acknowledged the economic benefits that accrue to sending and receiving States from the employment of women migrant workers (51/65).

Other texts encouraged Governments to submit more women candidates for United Nations posts (51/67), and provided for an annual appraisal by the Assembly of follow-up to the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995) (51/69).

Crime and security

An 11-article United Nations Declaration on Crime and Public Security, urging "effective national measures to combat serious transnational crime", was solemnly proclaimed by the General Assembly (51/60), in one of six resolutions dealing with crime prevention and criminal justice, all adopted without a vote. …