UNGA 77 – Third Committee
Item 64: Promotion and protection of the rights of children
The Holy See welcomes the discussion on the promotion and protection of the rights of children, since they deserve special care and protection as the youngest members of society. The foundation for children’s wellbeing is the family, which, as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is the “fundamental group unit of society.” The mother and father – the parents – supported by other family members and the broader community, are their children’s first providers, protectors, and advocates. It is broadly acknowledged that children without parental care are more likely to experience exclusion, violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Parents are also the primary educators of their children. In this regard, the “family is a kind of school of deeper humanity” and, as Pope Francis stresses, “the first place where the values of love and fraternity, togetherness and sharing, concern and care for others are lived out and handed on.”
Efforts to promote and protect the rights and wellbeing of children must therefore go hand in hand with measures to support and strengthen the family. This must include ensuring that the home is a place of safety and peace. In this regard we can never stress enough that any form of violence against children is an affront to their dignity. When such acts take place within the family, it represents not only a crime, but a violation of the special duty of care owed to the child. Encouraging and supporting parents can also help prevent child abuse and neglect, while ensuring that children receive the many benefits of a wholesome family environment.
Poverty, which increased for the first time in many years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, also poses a serious risk to children’s enjoyment of their human rights. Poverty can result in early school leaving and higher risk of child labor and exploitation. Girls who are not in school are also at higher risk of sexual abuse and child marriage. For families struggling to survive and support their children, these outcomes are often the result of desperation. Children, especially those from extremely poor households and those without parental care, also account for about one third of detected victims of trafficking in persons, especially in the poorest countries, where trafficking is often linked to the broader problem of child labor. It is essential to promote the importance of educating girls and boys alike, support families in need, including through social protection systems, so that they do not have to deny education to any of their children, and educate families and communities about the risks and harms of child labor, child marriage, and child trafficking.
Effectively promoting and protecting the rights of children also requires the rejection of all practices that reduce the human person to an object. This mentality undergirds the practice of abortion, which treats children as discardable, including in instances of sex-selective abortion or abortion on the basis of disability. Moreover, child pornography is a particularly heinous and grave crime. As Pope Francis has noted, it is a mistake to “think that a society where an abnormal consumption of internet sex is rampant among adults could be capable of effectively protecting minors.” Yet the objectification of children is not limited to child pornography. It also occurs in practices such as surrogacy, which turns a child into the mere object of an absolute desire to be satisfied and cannot be justified by sympathetic motivations. “A child is not something owed to one, but is a gift.”
Children are first and foremost human beings with dignity and rights. Each child deserves to be nurtured and cherished, receive an education and realize his or her potential. We must work together to make this a reality for all children around the world.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, art. 16(3).
 Gaudium et Spes no. 52 (1965).
 Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti no. 114 (2020).
 Pope Francis, Address to the participants in the Congress on “Child Dignity in the Digital World” (6 October 2017).
 Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2378.