Thank you, Mr. Chair. Every year we come together during this annual debate to discuss the state of the world’s children. As Member States, we must acknowledge that often it is the innocent and vulnerable among us, our children, who suffer the most from the human rights challenges that plague our societies.
This year, yet again, all over the world, children’s rights continue to be violated due to crisis and conflict. As we sit here today, a child in North Korea is starving to death because of a regime that sees no value in taking care of its own people. As we sit here today, a child in Syria wakes up surrounded by the violent sounds of bombings and attacks. The ongoing violence has led UNICEF to name Syria as one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a child.
Children in Syria suffer daily from physical wounds, and the psychological scars they bear could take years to heal. The constant psychological strain on children in Syria has manifested itself in speech impediments, and, in some, even losing their ability to speak altogether. In January 2017, the Syrian Network for Human Rights reported that no fewer than 26,000 children had been killed in Syria since the start of the conflict. Barbaric attacks against schools in Syria account for half of all the worldwide attacks from 2011-2015, and 43 percent of Syrian children are out of school.
To support our children around the world, much more must be done to help meet their basic, immediate needs. We must continue to invest in quality education. Girls, in particular, face challenges and barriers to receiving an education, including threats of violence and access to sanitary facilities, among other critical concerns.
Children in displaced situations are particularly vulnerable to trafficking and other forms of abuse such as rape, torture, and forced marriage. Children suffered from human rights violations in situations of conflict in 14 countries last year.
Education for displaced children remains a high priority for the United States government. We are a leading advocate in ensuring humanitarian response includes access to quality education. Growing evidence shows that education in emergencies and protracted crises can save lives. Education is also a long-term investment in individual child growth, a country’s future, and sustainable peace.
As part of our efforts to provide quality and safe education for children, we must ensure global focus includes substantive discussions on bullying, including cyberbullying. Collectively, we want children to be good stewards of the world, which extends to messaging and content that children are exposed to on a daily basis. The consequences of activities like cyber bullying are severe and can include mental health concerns, substance abuse, exploitation, violent or self-destructive behavior, and even suicide.
Our children should receive the best that we, as governments, can offer them. They are the future leaders who will one day be sitting right here where we are today and we must all redouble our efforts to ensure that the world they inherit is the one they deserve.