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Friday, 10 May, 2002, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
UN faces snags over children's deal
Palestinian children stage a protest in West Bank city of Nablus
Palestinian children "are deprived of basic rights"
Differences over sex education and the plight of Palestinian children are holding up negotiations at a special United Nations session on children.

The summit in New York aims to craft a document setting out new goals to improve the lives of children worldwide over the next 10 years.


Abstinence does work all over the world

Austin Ruth, head of religious institute

But the United States delegation has found itself at odds with many other nations over issues such as sex education and abortion which it believes have no place in a document about children.

Along with Somalia, America is one of only two countries that have not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Washington is also opposed to a resolution blaming Israel for the situation of the Palestinian children.

US suspicious

"I cannot understand the way in which they [the US] are trying to dismantle the most universally ratified human rights treaty ever. I do not understand how a civilised country can say that," says 17-year-old Tom Burke of the Child Rights Caucus.

Child delegate
Some 250 children delegates are attending the summit

The BBC's UN correspondent says the US views children's rights with suspicion, seeing them as a threat to the role of parents as the true custodians of the nuclear family.

As expected, sex education and abortion have proved to be divisive issues.

"Condoms are a recipe for disaster," says Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute.

"As a matter of fact, abstinence does work all over the world. Abstinence has not even been tried in many... well certainly... European countries, but also in African countries. We ask that it be tried, simply tried."

Palestinian children

The draft General Assembly resolution which is being discussed says children under Israeli occupation "remain deprived of many basic rights".

The resolution has angered the Israelis and their main ally at the UN, the United States.

UN report on child mortality
5,500 die daily through pollution
Diarrhoea and respiratory diseases affect 150 million

It prompted an angry response from the head of the Israeli delegation, Justice Minister Meir Sheetrit, who accused the Palestinians of using children as suicide bombers.

But the US argues that an international summit on children is an inappropriate place to raise these kind of concerns.

And the resolution before the General Assembly, where every UN member state has the right to vote, has a good chance of being passed because of the large number of Arab nations, and countries sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.

Pollution-related deaths

A UN report released on Friday says 5,500 children die every day worldwide after consuming water and food polluted with bacteria.

The study says diarrhoea and respiratory infections are two of the leading causes of child mortality - which is made worse by malnutrition - and affect about 150 million children.

The study, focusing on how a degraded environment affects children, aims to raise awareness of these problems during the special session.

The three-day UN conference is a follow-up to a 1990 summit that aimed at setting guidelines in the areas of children's education and health for governments, non-governmental organisations and UN agencies.

But many of the targets have not been met, due to lack of funds.

See also:

09 May 02 | Africa
UN crackdown on refugee sex abuse
08 May 02 | Americas
Annan plea for world's children
08 May 02 | Americas
Children take centre-stage at UN
08 May 02 | Africa
Profile: Olara Otunnu
28 Aug 01 | Africa
Mandela's mission for children
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