Remarks at a UN Third Committee Meeting

Charles Bentley, Adviser
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
Thursday, October 10th, 2019


Madame Chair, the United States continues to place high priority on helping girls throughout the world live healthy and productive lives, including girls in rural areas who are among the most vulnerable. Today, we would like to highlight our ongoing efforts to answer some of the challenges detailed in the Secretary-General’s report.

The Secretary-General’s report recommends improving nutrition for infants and girls across the globe plagued by malnutrition. The U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) “Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy for 2014-2025” seeks to reduce malnutrition in women of reproductive age and children under five – focusing on the period from conception until a child’s second birthday – through the U.S. government’s Feed the Future and Global Health initiatives, the Office of Food for Peace development programs, resilience efforts, and other nutrition investments. Adequate nutrition for women before, during, and after pregnancy is integral to ending preventable child and maternal deaths.

The report calls for extending comprehensive water, sanitation, and hygiene services (WASH) to rural areas. We recognize that lack of access to safe sanitation facilities and sufficient water supplies contributes to poor health, absenteeism and incomplete education in schools, compromised livelihoods and productivity levels, and ultimately compromised economies. Lack of readily accessible water is also associated with an increased risk of sexual violence for girls and young women. In response to these concerns, in fiscal year 2017, USAID invested $443 million in WASH in 41 countries. It also invested about $336 million in humanitarian WASH programs in over 40 countries, focused on meeting immediate hygiene needs and rehabilitating the sanitation infrastructure. Through its Water and Development Plan, USAID aims to give at least eight million people access to sanitation by 2022, including by helping national governments and the private sector to raise and manage their own national resources for WASH.

The report suggests increasing access to high quality and inclusive education and training. USAID invests in pre-primary to higher education in more than 50 developing countries, to give girls and young women the needed literacy and life skills to be productive in their societies. On addressing violence and harassment against girls in schools, USAID programming supports the development and implementation of a Non-Discrimination and Anti-Sexual Harassment Policy for Higher Education Institutions in Afghanistan.

The report mentions child, early, and forced marriage (CEFM) and female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C). The U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally condemns both these harmful practices. The United States commits resources to prevent CEFM in regions, countries, and communities where interventions are most needed and most likely to be effective. To enhance their impact, we integrate some projects into sector specific programs such as health or education. On FGM/C, we work to enhance legal and policy frameworks by strengthening host country legislation against the practice, and we engage in public outreach activities to raise awareness.
The United States recognizes that families, communities, and civil society play the most important role in supporting girls and protecting them from violence and exploitation. In particular, the involvement of men and boys is essential. Faith leaders also plan an important role in helping to secure the lives of girls.

The report notes that adolescent girls in rural areas are at risk on contracting sexually transmitted diseases and mentions the DREAMS partnership. Girls and young women account for 74 percent of new HIV infections among adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa, and nearly 1,000 adolescent girls and young women are infected with HIV every day. To combat this, the DREAMS partnership aims to reduce these rates in the highest HIV burden countries. Working through DREAMS, USAID partners with community, faith-based, and non-governmental organizations to mobilize significant numbers of volunteers. This allows us to better address risk factors for HIV in girls.

The report notes that girls in rural areas are often compelled to work in the agricultural sector. The Department of State’s Child Protection Compact (CPC) Partnerships addresses the forced labor of children. A CPC Partnership is a multi-year plan under which the United States and another member state initiate to strengthen the country’s efforts to prosecute and convict child traffickers effectively; provide comprehensive trauma-informed care for child victims of these crimes; and prevent all forms of child trafficking. Tailored projects – including grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts –enhance efforts by government, civil society, and the private sector to stop the exploitation and trafficking of children. The Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons currently has four CPC Partnerships with the Governments of Ghana, the Philippines, Peru, and Jamaica, and is currently negotiating a potential CPC Partnership with the Government of Mongolia.

The report also describes the high numbers of children engaged in underage and the worst forms of child labor in rural areas. The U.S. Department of Labor is the largest global funder of projects to combat child labor. Since 1995, the Department has funded 332 projects in 98 countries.

Thank you.