EU-UNU Tokyo Global Forum

Children in Turmoil

Rights of the Child in the Midst of Human Insecurity



Date :







Organized by:



In Cooperation with:



Supported by:


16 January 2003


UN House

U Thant International Conference Hall (3F)

5-53-70, Jingumae,

Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan


Delegation of the European Commission in Japan

United Nations University


United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

Japan Committee for UNICEF


The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan



Children in Turmoil

Rights of the Child in the Midst of Human Insecurity


In 2001 the Delegation of the European Commission in Japan and the United Nations University started a series of conferences on legal and political issues that are particularly relevant for the development of international cooperation. The third conference of this series will be devoted to the theme “Children in Turmoil.”


The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) provides the international legal framework for the care and protection of children and their participation in society. It defines the fundamental rights of children and it encapsulates an extraordinary consensus by governments on this subject. A special session of the UN General Assembly in 2002 on children highlighted the vulnerability of the young to poverty, greed, crime, disease and exploitation. A specific article on children’s rights is also included in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.


The EU, as the largest donor of humanitarian assistance and development aid in the world, has consistently sought to underpin the goals of the UN and its agencies. Continued international cooperation and coordination among UN agencies, governments, commercial actors and civil society will be required to strengthen the effective protection of children and to promote their education and health.


The Tokyo conference will raise and confront the challenges of “making a world fit for children.” The objective is to mobilise the private and public sectors to contribute to the fullest implementation of the Convention by sending a strong message to politicians as well as to economic actors that the rights and well-being of children must be fully integrated into all policy formulation.



Protecting Children: ending crimes against children


The increasingly widespread sexual exploitation of children is a matter of grave international concern. Child prostitution, child pornography and the sale of children are all major violations of children’s rights. These crimes against children reach across national boundaries aided by modern methods of travel and communication, with perpetrators and victims in both industrial and developing countries.


The scope and unregulated nature of the Internet has created an increase in both the volume and availability of child pornography. The Internet not only acts as a mechanism for making, displaying, trading and distributing child pornography; it is becoming also a magnet for child sex abusers, putting more children at risk.


The vast majority of abused children are the victims of people they know, with predators lurking within a child's circle of trust. Abuse in the home is one of the leading causes of psychological trauma in children, and there is a high risk of drug and alcohol abuse as well as juvenile delinquency among children from violent homes.


Improving Children’s Lives: restoring joy, innocence and learning to childhood


One reason for ‘summit fatigue’ is the cynicism towards unimplemented pledges. Many of the development goals set by the 1990 World Summit for Children remain unfulfilled. Nearly 11 million children still die each year before their fifth birthday, an estimated 150 million children are malnourished and nearly 120 million are still out of school.


However, the greatest problem in realizing the rights of children is poverty. At a time of immense global prosperity, half of the world’s population remains impoverished. A more recent problem is the HIV/AIDS pandemic, affecting children both directly and indirectly in that it deprives them of parents, teachers, health workers etc. Other communicable diseases remain of great concern, alone or in combination with other diseases; malaria, for example, kills 800,000 children under five each year.



Rescuing Children: putting a stop to the theft of childhood


An estimated two million children were killed in armed conflicts in the past decade. Approximately 250 million children from the age of five to fourteen are working. These statistics testify to the denial of childhood for millions of children around the world.


Sierra Leone, Liberia, Sri Lanka, the Middle East and many other areas have experienced conflicts characterised by the use and abuse of child combatants. Children are clearly an attractive commodity for those who would seek to exploit them in this way: they are cheap, impressionable, easy to control, and often equally able to inflict terrible crimes against fellow human beings as their adult counterparts.


Globalisation has changed the face of child labour throughout the world as manufacturing industries – often multinational corporations – concentrate their production in countries with cheaper labour costs. Consumer pressure and NGO campaigns have successfully put this issue onto the international political agenda, and the UN’s “Global Compact” is making progress in promoting corporate responsibility.



Conference Objectives:


-          To put the child at the centre of the human rights agenda; to explore the wider theoretical debates and practical challenges regarding human rights through the lens of the rights of the child.

-          To consider how globalisation and socio-economic change have had both a positive and negative impact on children’s rights and the functioning of families.

-          To explore ways of improving implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.




















Opening Session, Keynote Addresses


Session 1

Protecting Children: ending crimes against children


Lunch Break


Session 2

Improving Children’s Lives: restoring joy, innocence and learning to childhood


Session 3

Rescuing Children: putting a stop to the theft of childhood