Vienna, 19 November - "We are shaping the world of tomorrow for the children of today. Therefore, Austrian foreign policy places a particular emphasis on the protection of children and of their means of subsistence and on the promotion of their rights", said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik on the occasion of the World Children's Day.
On 20 November 1989, the United Nations adopted the International Children's Rights Convention. The anniversary of the Convention is a particular occasion for reviewing and strengthening the measures to ensure compliance with children’s rights. Austria supported the appointment of a UN Special Envoy in combating violence against children. Plassnik: "We need an international advocate of children’s rights acting under UN mandate, who will intervene in cases of violence against children, child pornography, or the trafficking of girls. We must take uncompromising measures against these crimes."
Plassnik pointed out that the protection of children's rights is expressly incorporated in the Austrian Development Cooperation (OEZA). Several projects are dedicated to the protection and the promotion of children’s rights, or involve children as active participants. Specific projects are dealing, for instance, with the fight against the trafficking of girls in Albania, the protection of street children in Moldavia, and with education programmes for young people from Serbia. "We must give children and young people the opportunity to grow up in a peaceful society. Therefore, I am particularly keen on offering children from Western Balkan countries the opportunity to participate in the European project, and on allowing them to experience the values that have united the continent. After all, they will also shape tomorrow’s Europe", said Plassnik.
The Foreign Minister reiterated that "children’s rights are universal and must be respected. This also applies to the ban on the execution of juvenile offenders. The large number of young people who are sentenced to death in Iran is the expression of a sad reality. This reality is incompatible with our understanding of human rights. I call upon Iran to immediately put an end to this despicable practice."
Plassnik pointed out that Austria and several other states form part of a global alliance against the use of child soldiers. "In most conflicts, children are also exposed to brutal violence. They are abducted and forced to take part in armed conflicts and acts of violence. They themselves are victims of murder, rape, and mutilation. The situation of girls is particularly grave." In this respect, the Minister pointed out to the precarious situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where many girls are deprived of their right to education. In the Pakistani province of Swat, for instance, several girls' schools were attacked by extremists and had to be closed down for security reasons.
The Foreign Minister described the situation of children in Northern Uganda as "one of the most terrible examples of crimes against children". For this reason, Austria is actively involved in specific projects in this country. Plassnik: "We support the return of the children to their families and communities as soon as possible, so as to create conditions for a better future for these children." Another aspect of Austrian foreign policy involves the training of Austrian participants in international missions on how to deal with children in particular. Therefore, the Austrian contingent for Chad will be prepared by the Foreign Ministry for the particular situation and needs of the children in the region.
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